Christian Universe ™
Blessed Are Series, Part 8: The Persecuted Righteous
December 24, 2006
This sermon was presented before the Load, Kentucky, church of Christ, on December 24, 2006. The apostle Paul wrote that Christians shall suffer persecution. Jesus stated that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the righteous who are persecuted. Bernie Parsons
Blessed Are…They Which Are Persecuted
by Bernie Parsons
Presented to the Load church of Christ 12/24/2006
Matthew 5:1: “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
3: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4: Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5: Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6: Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7: Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
We have previously studied the blessings that Jesus pronounced upon the poor in spirit, the mournful, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers. Today we study the final lesson in this series, Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
God’s people have suffered terrible persecution from time to time throughout the ages. Often, this has been the result of their disobedience to the will of God, in which the Lord allowed their destruction. On other occasions, the people suffer unfairly at the hands of their oppressors. As Christians, we can expect to be persecuted, and to suffer.
Matthew 5:38: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40: And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
41: And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
42: Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
43: Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45: That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46: For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47: And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
Under the Law of Moses, it was an eye for an eye. If a man had his eye gouged out in a fight, the man who did it would be judged, and his eye would be gouged out, as well. Jesus taught differently. He taught that we must turn the other cheek, love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do go to those who hate us, and pray for those who persecute us. The apostle Paul refers to this doctrine, as well.
Romans 12:14: “Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.”
2 Corinthians 4:8: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9: Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10: Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
11: For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
12: So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”
Paul points up the distinctive mark of a Christian—when troubled from every direction, we are not distressed; when puzzled by what happens to us, we do not despair; when we are persecuted, we know that God is aware of our plight, and does not forsake us; and when we are cast down, we are not destroyed.
Life is difficult, but our problems and troubles are not unique. For every difficulty we face, we can be assured that others have gone on before us who have faced the same, or very similar, difficulties. We are not the first to face ill health, financial straits, family problems, or persecution.
People whine and cry, “I can’t be happy because…” and they proceed to tell what specific thing prevents their rejoicing. Yet, Jesus said to rejoice in the midst of our persecution. I have long heard it said that “Christians are supposed to be the happiest people in the world.” Why not drop that part about “supposed to be”, and actually be?
We are not to rejoice only when life is good, and we sail along smoothly. We are to rejoice when we suffer. Our rejoicing comes from the hope of eternal life in heaven with God, our Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord. If not in this life, at least we can rejoice in the judgment.
The righteous are delivered to the death for the name of Jesus. We have the present danger from the Muslim persecution of Christians around the world—who knows when they will persecute us, even execute us? Add to that kind of religious persecution the onslaught of the atheists who would love to see Christianity wiped out, and we quickly realize that many would happily see us dead.
Peter warned of such persecution.
1 Peter 2:20 “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
21: For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
22: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
23: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
24: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
25: For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”
If we commit crime, or sin, and are punished, then we have gotten what we deserve. As Christians, we do not want to be punished as evildoers. Rather, we desire that any punishment be unwarranted. We have Jesus as our example. The pure Lamb of God died to take away our sin. He did not deserve to die. We are to walk in His footsteps. Where did they lead? To Calvary, and the crucifixion! If we walk in His footsteps, where will we find ourselves? He told us to take up our cross, and follow Him. Note that He did not ask us to hide behind, carry, or cling to His cross. Instead, He asked that we each carry our own cross—that instrument to which we will be nailed, as He was.
1 Peter 3:14: “But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled;
15: But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:
16: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
17: For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
18: For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:”
Any persecution and suffering that come our way are to be the result of our righteous living. If we have been accused, let if be falsely. We must not be terrified of those who would destroy us. Terrorists win when we are terrorized. Sometimes the just die at the hands of the unjust, and we must arm ourselves spiritually for such an eventuality.
1 Peter 4:12: “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:
13: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
14: If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
15: But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.
16: Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
17: For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
18: And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
19: Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”
Why do Christians find it strange that we suffer? Why are we shocked and surprised, and why do we wring our hands and moan? We know that we shall suffer persecution. Again, any such suffering should be the result of our righteous living, rather than due to some sin or crime that we have committed. If we suffer because we do well, then we can rejoice, or glory, in such suffering.
2 Timothy 3:10: “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience,
11: Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me.
12: Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Persecution and suffering because of godly living is pretty much a given for the Christian.
Romans 8:18: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19: For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20: For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21: Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22: For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23: And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
24: For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
25: But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
26: Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27: And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
We must set our affection on things above, and think on heavenly things. We must prepare ourselves to face persecution, and be ready to face death. We know that death comes to all of us, one way or another. We never know when that shall be.
In the end, everything works out correctly for those who love God. It may not be what we anticipate or hope for, but it shall be what is best for us. We must learn to trust God, knowing that He will do right by us. The right thing may be that we die, even if we do not think that the time is right for us to move on from this world. In this country, we are taught to hang on to life to the bitter end, using all means and expense to prolong our earthly lives. A walk through any old cemetery will show graves of those who died everywhere from one day old, or even stillborn, to those who were in their nineties, and every age in between.
Let us prepare ourselves to meet God, rejoice in our suffering, and look forward to being with Him when this life is finished. It is this hope of eternal life in heaven that motivates the Christian, and allows us to rejoice during persecution and suffering.