SOTM: Matthew 5:10 (Persecution)

SOTM

(Mat 5:10-12 ESV) 10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

These two Beatitudes are essentially one. Jesus promises the persecuted not only the kingdom of heaven but also great rewards in heaven. In fact, this is the first time Jesus promises more than the blessings available to all who are part of the Kingdom. The persecuted will be rewarded with an extra measure. Their suffering doesn’t earn them salvation, but it does earn them a greater reward in heaven.

I have no idea what this means in particular, but it’s clearly a part of Jesus’ teaching —

(Luk 6:35 ESV)  35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

(Luk 12:42-44 NIV)  42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?  43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.  44 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.”

(Luk 19:16-17 ESV)  16 The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’  17 And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’

It’s interesting that Jesus compares his disciples to the prophets of the OT. The prophets had a message from God they were to communicate even at the cost of their own lives. Jesus sees us Christians in the same light.

This is a map of the nations where it’s most dangerous to be a Christian.

'Not Forgotten': The Top 50 Countries Where It's Most Difficult To Be A Christian

According to Christianity Today,

Researchers calculate that 4,344 Christians were “killed for faith-related reasons” in 2014, which is “more than double the 2,123 killed in 2013, and more than triple the 1,201 killed the year before that,” reports World Watch Monitor (WWM). (Measuring martyrdoms has drawn debate in recent years, and Open Doors is usually on the conservative end of estimates.) By far the largest number of deaths occurred in Nigeria, where 2,484 Christians were killed; the next deadliest country for Christians was the Central African Republic (CAR), with 1,088 deaths. The remaining three deadliest countries were Syria (271 deaths), Kenya (119 deaths), and North Korea (100 deaths).

In addition, 1,062 churches were “attacked for faith-related reasons” in 2014. The majority of attacks took place in five countries: China (258 churches), Vietnam (116 churches), Nigeria (108 churches), Syria (107 churches), and the Central African Republic (100 churches). Last year’s highest-profile incident: a government campaign to “de-Christianize” the skyline of one of China’s most Christian cities. (The Pew Research Center also recently tallied the countries with the most government destruction of religious property.)

But it wasn’t increased violence that primarily drove persecution to record levels in 2014, but rather increased “cultural marginalization,” according to Open Doors. In other words, the “more subtle ‘squeeze’ dimensions of persecution” which make “daily life … harder and harder” for Christians. A substantial study by the Pew Research Center found that nearly 75 percent of the world’s population now lives in countries with high levels of social hostility involving religion. [CT compared how both groups rank the world’s worst persecutors.]

“Even Christian-majority states are experiencing unprecedented levels of exclusion, discrimination, and violence,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. “The 2015 World Watch List reveals that a staggering number of Christians are becoming victims of intolerance and violence because of their faith. They are being forced to be more secretive about their faith.”

And yet Christianity is growing in many of these countries.

Now, here in the United States, we suffer nothing like the kind of persecution as our brothers and sisters in the Eastern Hemisphere. It’s easy to forget. Prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters is not nearly as common as it should be. Moreover,

(1Co 12:26 ESV) 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

(Rom 12:14-15 ESV) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

We are commanded weep for the persecuted among us, to feel the suffering of those who suffer. And that would seem to require us to pay attention, to keep up with the bad news. And we should be busy praying for an end to persecution. After all, not only is that often the best thing possible, it’s the best thing imaginable.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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29 Responses to SOTM: Matthew 5:10 (Persecution)

  1. John says:

    I believe that the child of God who truly is in the practice of examining self will try to determine if what he or she is going through is actually persecution, or a reaction from others when self is in the wrong. To be totally honest, I can look back on my days of legalism and how easy it was to feel persecuted when someone strongly disagreed with me. The truth is, they were not persecuting me; they were coming from their passion the way I was from mine…and I was the one who was wrong.

    I see the same thing happening today with believers who step out voicing their hard line beliefs and lack of compassion. When someone takes them to task, they cry “persecuted!!!” But real persecution is when we suffer while loving as Jesus loved. A number of years ago the “battle cry” of many youth rallies and meetings was “What would Jesus do?” The truth is it was used simply to keep kids from sex, drugs alcohol and keep them going to church. It never really became a widespread challenge to engage in the love, compassion and embracing shown in the actual person of Jesus.

    We are not being persecuted when our beliefs and statements are brought into the light of love and reason. On the other hand, when Jesus’ disciples were asked, “Why does your master eat with sinners and tax collectors”; there we see the seeds of persecution. When we are being ridiculed for living Paul’s cry to “Owe no one anything but to love one another”, which should even reach beyond our own tribe, what we see and hear then will also be the seeds of persecution.

  2. Johnny says:

    When judgement day comes I wonder who will be looked on with the most favor, those who had all the right doctrines down pat but were never once even uncomfortable in their practice of their faith. Or those who were wrong on some doctrinal issues but were willing to be beheaded before they would renounce the Lordship of the Christ.

  3. Chris says:

    Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:12 that everyone who wants to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Jesus said that if the world hated Him, they will hate you also.

    Also, Romans 8:16-18
    “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

    Far from the material comfort and ease that many Christians in America have come to expect from following Jesus (and popular prosperity preachers promote), it appears to me that scriptures reflect that persecution is the norm, rather than the exception for following the Messiah.

  4. Kevin says:

    I listened to a good John Piper sermon on suffering some time ago (available on Youtube “John Piper at Passion 06 – Suffering and the glory of God”). I’m no Calvinist & disagree with Piper on many things, but I do appreciate some of him lessons. Only about 35 minutes; worth your time.

  5. Ray Downen says:

    I surely agree with what Jay wrote, what John wrote and Johnny wrote, and what Christ comments. We need to tell others about Jesus and His love for every person. Some will resent hearing the truth about Jesus and the Father. And some will listen and learn and turn to Jesus and be saved. But it’s good to realize that it’s the LOVE of God which is the message we’re to carry to others. And, as is pointed out, it’s the LOVE of God which should fill our hearts as we serve Jesus daily.

  6. Alabama John says:

    Many of us rejoice in those turning and loving Jesus from our teaching the love of Jesus for them..

    We of the old coC school still have sorrow and pray for forgiveness and am sorry for all those we ran off by beating them to death with the law and scriptures condemning them. Many died outside of God because of us. Many of those faces are remembered well.

  7. Ray Downen says:

    Alabama John lovingly is concerned about those who were “run out” of some of our legalistic congregations. Many of them bettered themselves when they were pushed out of a legalistic congregation, and found fellowship with others who also loved Jesus and sought to serve Him in freedom. Those who turned against Jesus because of legalism and failed to seek fellowship with lovers of Jesus surely are to be pitied.

  8. Alabama John says:

    Ray, also pitied is those of us that pushed them hard in that thinking. The Jesus and God we presented was not very loving.

  9. Larry Cheek says:

    Alabama John and Ray,
    As I read and understand the message from Jay on the blog, I have been trying to decide who in my community I should be attempting to teach, Jay makes a point that seems to be correct, that the only way out of the condition of being saved is through the same entry point we entered, only in reverse. Therefore, it appears to me that those we have driven away from us by our teachings are no more separated from salvation than they were while they were in association with us. Yes, the family is separated but, neither is condemned as we once believed. Neither the individuals driving or the individuals that were driven. Very different than what I was taught and evidently not fully believable to you either. We’re all safe unless we rebel from Jesus.
    Now, let’s think again about whom we should be teaching.
    First of my thoughts, as I observe those in my community I have determined that probably 90% of all in this community are believers, do all of those go to an assembly, no but will they commit to believing and faith in Jesus, yes. Are they lost, surely not because they have not rejected Jesus.
    Second thought, I see assemblies with many different names attached to identify the group meeting there, sometimes names I would never have connected with Christianity, yet they will identify themselves as being followers of Jesus. Are they lost, I must not consider them to be unless I can prove that they are rebellious to Jesus.
    Third thought, we have on this blog communicated very heavily about, well I’ll just identify an instance, Muscle and Shovel and how wrong much of the context is, especially dividing and splintering the body of Christ from both sides. If it is true that belief and faith saves and the only out is in reverse, than doctrine does not matter as long as no one rebels against Jesus.
    Aren’t all still saved.
    Fourth thought, if we notice a believer committing an act that we have seen called sin in scriptures and we do nothing to council with him, could that cause us to be lost, would that be a representation of our rejecting Jesus instructions for us to help a brother, thus identify we are going out the door backwards?
    Fifth thought, I finally found an Atheist or non believer even one who claims to be a Pagan. Great, now expose him to the message of Jesus, and he says surely you cannot understand what Jesus wants me to do you can’t even come close to agreeing with others who say they believe in Jesus as to what you must be doing. Oh but, Jesus is the same in all of us. He says really? That is not what I see. At least I have some agreement with those whom I associate.
    I guess then the only message left would be, you must believe and have faith in Jesus which will save you, then you can be as confused as we are on other matters of doctrine.

  10. Ray Downen says:

    Larry, regardless of what anyone believes or teaches, we are NOT saved by faith alone. Anyone who believes in salvation by faith alone either is ignorant of what Jesus and His apostles taught or does not believe what they taught.

    Jesus specifies that a NEW BIRTH of water and spirit is essential for entry into His Kingdom where the saved abide. The apostles make clear that this NEW BIRTH is by turning away from sin and turning to JESUS AS LORD (which is more than just believing, it’s REPENTING, changing both mind and intentions) and being baptized as Jesus commands is to be done for every new believer. Many choose to ignore these simple truths. Ignoring them won’t make them go away.

    Apostles make clear that faith in Jesus is essential for salvation. So of course if there is no faith, there is no salvation. That obvious truth doesn’t erase the need for obeying the gospel in order to ENTER the Kingdom of Christ. It’s easier to leave Jesus than it is to enter into a relationship with Him. That is, no longer believing in Him as Savior takes a person OUT of the church and on the road to Hell. But faith ALONE does not bring a person INTO CHRIST (Galatians 3:27).

  11. Ray Downen says:

    If this analysis is correct, we’re in serious trouble. Larry suggests,

    Jay makes a point that seems to be correct, that the only way out of the condition of being saved is through the same entry point we entered, only in reverse.

    In fact, leaving is much simpler than entering the kingdom of Christ. JESUS SAID entry was by way of NEW BIRTH. His apostles define this new birth as being repenting and being baptized. I’m sure no one is IN CHRIST who has not been baptized into Him, since the apostles affirm that’s the new birth of water of which Jesus spoke.

    Faith in JESUS AS LORD is essential for salvation. There’s no question about that! So of course if a person no longer believes in Jesus, that person is surely not “in Christ.” But the actual point of NEW BIRTH is in baptism, and that doesn’t need to be reversed in order for a person to turn away from Jesus. Death is easier than being born, in life as is the Way of Jesus Christ. All it takes to die spiritually is to no longer believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. In that analysis, anyone is correct. One who no longer believes in Jesus is no longer saved.

    But to affirm that entry into the kingdom is by some way other than a new birth of water and spirit is to misunderstand Bible truth. Faith alone does not save. We could mention a million times that faith in Jesus is essential for salvation and that would not succeed in changing the truth that faith alone is dead. The ONLY WAY to enter the kingdom of Christ is by way of new birth of water and spirit. The apostles say that’s by repenting and being baptized. I believe them. I’m sorry that some claim to be lovers of Jesus and yet choose to teach a false gospel and promise salvation based on faith alone.

  12. Alabama John says:

    Larry,

    By many different circumstances I have seen those come to Jesus and not have it all just right. Most if not all of just might fit in there somewhere too.

    Some for coming to Christ too late in life to have time to hear and understand what is required so didn’t obey as we would like. Emphasis on WE.

    Some for physical reasons believe but cannot be baptized and some that are so new to the gospel they just didn’t understand it and died.

    I believe that’s why God will do the judging instead of us as He has wisdom we cannot
    comprehend.

    Arguing back and forth about these things is a waste of time and may be judged by God as a sin.

    Best to teach as best we can and baptize who we can and leave the exceptions to God.

    Patience, Patience!

    Good points you made though, but nothing new about that!!!

  13. Alabama John says:

    Ray,

    I sure agree with you and in ideal situations we should sure try to fit the pattern we believe in.

    Hopefully we, individually, have it all just right and if not in some point or action, acting upon what we believe as the only right way is our only option. You are doing a great job at that and should be commended and I do commend for your stance on your belief!

    If we had something wrong, and it surely makes sense we do in something, in the final judgment God will accept our error just as He will others.

    I pray for that everyday.

  14. Dwight says:

    Ray, I don’t know of a place where Larry has suggested that “faith alone” saves.
    If I understand the ‘church’ of Christ, the church exist and is made up of all believers who are in Christ and we often make a distinction ourselves of who is in and who is out, with in our limited view. There might be people that do everything right and who we deem as perfect, who go through the motions without a real connection to God. Then there are those who seem flawed and do crazy things, but place a complete trust in God that are better off. The point is that God sees all and knows all and is the keeper of the names who are His, we are not. If we see someone sin, then we should strive to understand and then correct if they are truly in sin, many times we do this with a morose gusto. If we see someone who has never known of God, then we should tell them of God, this is harder to do, but is really our prime directive.
    I’m not sure that God will accept our error, but will accept us despite our faults if we desire God and desire to do His will. God calls us to perfection or completion in Christ. We are to be Holy as God is Holy. God has given us a goal and this is what we should keep in sight even as we weakly and humbly work towards it.
    AJ, Simon the sorceror is prime example of what you speak of. He was baptized because of his belief and faith in Jesus and yet still had faults that showed up directly after this and yet even as he was corrected, he was not condemned, but told he would be condemned if he followed this faulty way of thinking. Simon asked for forgiveness, but he was never not told to be rebaptized or considered not a saint. We have tendency to often focus on Simon as a failure, but in reality he was a success who had faults as he sought to confront and correct those faults.

  15. Larry Cheek says:

    I see that Jay has directed our attention again to his post on FAQ and it might be good for all of us to review his material, I believe I fully understand his confirmation that baptism is an important part of Christ’s instructions. My belief is also that baptism is a vital part of the saving experience. As many here including Jay believe that God can and will save when it is not physically possible and some believe that he will save someone who has believed and obeyed a teacher who taught that baptism was not necessary. We have heard about all that can be said on both sides of this situation, therefore I am not desirous of opening that box again. What I am saying is that there is a problem that I believe all who are reading this either has or will encounter.
    If I or we accept that individuals who have not been taught baptism and have not been baptized as our Christian brothers and sisters do we then have a responsibility to Christ and God to attempt to teach them a more complete knowledge of the Word as Priscilla and Aquila did for Apollos. Is this a responsibility that is similar to Paul’s? Is he really believing that had he not declared the whole counsel of God, he would be accountable for the blood of those whom he only delivered a portion?
    Act 20:26-30 ESV Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, (27) for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. (28) Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (29) I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.

    If we willfully neglect to teach about baptism as it is taught in the scriptures, will we be guilty of not declaring the whole counsel of God? Paul would consider himself guilty, are we of lesser responsibility than he was? Can we just turn our faces and ignore the example of Priscilla and Aquila?
    What will you do, I would like to hear comments either way.

  16. Alabama John says:

    Larry,
    In my experience in prison hospital work, in every case, those who accepted Christ were taught and believed they should be baptized by total immersion in water and looked forward to the opportunity to come their way.
    Unfortunately, several died before the opportunity presented itself.

    Same thing happened in the USMC as has been told to me by several that experienced that same thing.

    The old story of one being hit by a train on the way to the water really happens under different circumstances so the question is to many of us a real one, not simply an old, old, old, debate point.

  17. Dwight says:

    The big Question: but can we judge in the place of God? Meaning can we make the judgment that one who is not baptized is saved, even while we are told to be baptized. I think sometimes we place the exception before the rule as to make the exception the rule. God expects us to do His will if we CAN do His will, but doesn’t condemn us when we can’t do His will because it is beyond out control. We will all err, but God doesn’t accept error, but God does accept us who do err, but do ultimately follow God. David, the man after God’s own heart, erred big time and yet followed God because he kept God in sight and realized his weakness and humbled himself towards God’s ultimate will. God places the promise before us, just as He did the Israelites, and the promised existed, but many were called and few were chosen, because they turned from God to themselves. Those that keep God in front will see God because we are looking for Him.

  18. Larry Cheek says:

    Alabama John,
    You have experienced some events that i have not, but I noticed that in each of those events that you describe the actions were not your desires. That is exactly what I am driving towards, our duties will be to teach what should be done. When events as you described take place, we must leave the judgement in God’s hands. If we assume what God will do then begin teaching our assumptions (which can be true) we have altered the message from God. As we do that we become the judge, and that is not what God authorized us to be.

  19. Ray Downen says:

    I agree with Dwight that what we’re told to do is to preach, baptize, and teach rather than to debate and try to decide what God will do other than what He has clearly told us He will do. He speaks to the heart of our discussion.

  20. Ray Downen says:

    It’s good to see that Larry also agrees with Dwight. I hope we all are in agreement that judging is in God’s hands rather than our own, and that our call is simply to teach, baptize, and teach as Jesus calls for us to do.

  21. Alabama John says:

    When looking at a man dying while you are holding his hand, it is OK to do some judging for the loving God we have. Saying God will be merciful and have grace might be a lie but I told it anyway as that is how I want to believe God is. if that is wrong, God help ALL of us.

    It would be hard to tell that man looking you in your eye for an answer that you just don’t know how God will judge you but you’ll soon find out, now die happy and comforted looking forward to seeing God and being in heaven at Jesus feet.

    The story of the workers coming at different times and getting the same wages is one they like to hear. Prodigal son too.

    I didn’t realize there were still so many that would see God being that unloving.

    Thought all that was behind us liberal, progressive brethren. How many times in the past have I heard preachers and elders, when their death was near say about going to heaven “I hope so” and in most cases added “hope I have been good enough”.

    What a way to live and worship!

  22. Ray Downen says:

    John says that sometimes it’s O.K. to speak for God to say things God did NOT say. I figure it’s never our place to try to replace God. Or to disagree with what He has said. Jesus calls for us to tell others about Him and to BAPTIZE those who believe. Some think He was wrong. With great bravery they assure us that He didn’t mean baptism was necessary.

  23. laymond says:

    “Saying God will be merciful and have grace might be a lie but I told it anyway as that is how I want to believe God is.”
    If you tell a lie knowing, or believing it to be a lie, as Paul said even if you think it is for good it is still a lie and God hates a lie.
    AW you can say what you think without lying , knowing you and what you believe I don’t believe it is a lie for you to say “I believe,God will be merciful and show grace, on your soul” It would be a lie if I were to say it, because I believe many will not make it to heaven. (The gate is narrow, and many will not find it) God is also a God of justice.
    Now I do believe in death-bed confessions, and I know you don’t have to live a perfect life, else no soul would pass through the gate. If a person asks about God’s judgment, well that should show they believe in God.

  24. Alabama John says:

    God bless you laymond

    I will continue to teach and tell God will be merciful and extend grace while judging as that is what I believe about our God. If that turns out to be wrong (I should of used wrong instead of lie), then so be it and I too will go to hell for sure.

    Those that will not teach God is understanding in His judgment won’t be called to many death beds.

    Maybe taking that not knowing for sure about Gods position toward us is seen as being judgmental and against scripture teaching and will be a mark against those that teach that in the final judgment.

  25. Dwight says:

    AJ, on the flip side of this I have spent time with dying people who claimed Christianity and yet had done some things that I’m not sure that they ever accounted for or accepted that they did any wrong in hurting others. I thank God I am not the judge and yet when on the deathbed, the only thing we can hope for is mercy from God for really all of us, but this doesn’t speak to those are not on death’s door and are able to do and act in accordance to God’s will. God won’t judge us on what we can’t do, but what we can do, but don’t when we know better and have the time. Faith often doesn’t come at death’s door, but panic/worry/discomfort in realization that you have squandered God’s grace on self. Those who have lived in Christ can die and should die in peace and comfort. When Jesus called for people to come to Him, He didn’t say, “But you can take your time and do it later.” Jesus wanted people at the call, because the future is too uncertain to wait.

  26. Dwight says:

    Now I am not against death-bed confessions of faith and will provide comfort to those passing away. What I am arguing is that there is an undeniable uncertainty involved in this as opposed to being in Christ and living in Christ which offers surity. It is our job to encourage a person towards the surity of Christ and away from the uncertainty of waiting. There are many more people who will not die on a death bed, but in a car, at the scene, instantly. We can be hit by a car in our house while watching TV…hmmm, maybe I should start reading my bible more in my house.

  27. Alabama John says:

    Dwight
    Since this is a COC site, what I’m speaking to is the change in thinking from what the COC has always taught as one of their strongest principles. No Baptism, for whatever reason, go to hell. Only two exceptions were mentally unable to understand or under the age of accountability. Interesting that the word mentally was always inserted as those not able to understand for lack of exposure were not included.

    Today, many of us, still not the majority around here, believe there are exceptions and God will consider them and if judged valid, will open the door to heaven for those.

    You are right, those who die while rejecting God will be judged differently from those wanting to totally obey but are prevented from doing so.

    I’m happy that is so as we want to obey as best we understand but sure differ on many things. All of us have probably missed something and will need the same type of exception judgment as the ones not able to be baptized.

  28. Dwight says:

    Question: Are there those who are mentally unable to have faith? And if so, then faith is not what saves? The only real answer is that Jesus saves, but we to the best of our abilities are to follow Christ in faith and baptism. There might be exceptions as you say, but we are not the ones to lay those exceptions on the table, as if they are first in line, which is what many seem to do.
    If one is not able to have faith due to some possible condition, then do we have an “exception judgment” for that person and does this not negate faith as what God will accept. I don’t believe we should think in these terms of “exceptions”, but rather think in terms of being exceptional and this needs to be passed along. Peter might have acknowledged exceptions, but he didn’t put them forth when asked about salvation. He told them what to do and the people did, unless they couldn’t and yet it is hard to imagine that a person could not allow themselves to be baptized by another for some reason. Fear of drowning in water? Peter knew the fear of being able to drown in water well and yet he didn’t make it an exception.
    Can we, dare we say, “No Faith, for whatever reason, go to hell.” as well. Are we that cruel to think that God would not accept one who could not for one reason or another meet the conditions of having faith? Is faith to something to get hung up on as the one real requirement? I mean God can do whatever He wants, right?

  29. Larry Cheek says:

    Search your Bibles thoroughly and I do not believe that you will find an example where any of God’s servants in NT was involved in an emergency salvation action.

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