by Mike Ratliff
All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:10-13 ESV)
Receiving Christ’s Word and becoming like Him in our conduct will unavoidably mean being treated by the world in the way it treated Christ. “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world” (John 17:14). The believer is privileged to participate in the fellowship of His suffering (Philippians 3:10), and it is only as we are willing to bear His reproach and suffer for His sake that we are promised that we will reign with Him (2 Timothy 2:12). Jesus Himself was blasphemously accused of being demon-possessed. They hated Him without a cause (John 15:25). The believer, like Christ, must be willing to be misunderstood and have his good works maligned. Since our best efforts in serving Christ are mingled with sin and human imperfection, it should come as no surprise that our motives and behavior will be misinterpreted because of our forthright identification with Him. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). A mark of the world is to call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20).
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! (Isaiah 5:20-21 ESV)
The contemplative, so-called Christian decries the literal interpretation of Sacred Scripture. Why? These “emergents,” or whatever they call themselves these days, know that to take God’s Word literally means they cannot do what they do, teach what they teach, and live they way do and call themselves Christian, that is, go by the same “name” as those of us who remain faithful in our Orthodoxy. Their contention that the literal interpretation of Scripture only causes fear and that cannot possibly be what Jesus wants for His children is a doctrine of demons for our Lord Himself taught just the opposite. He taught us to expect to be put into circumstances in which the hatred of the world could cause us to fear, but we are not to fear those who persecute true Christians, but we most definitely are to have a holy and very real fear of God.
Persecution Will Come “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matthew 10:16-25 ESV)
The word beware in v17 is the Greek word προσεχετε, which literally means, “hold the mind towards.” The intent of this is to be cautious and to take heed concerning the subject of the sentence. These are our Lord’s wise words and have been proven to be prophetic as we look back at the history of how the world and the worldly “man-focused” religious institutions have persecuted those who live their lives as Jesus commands. The true disciple of Christ takes up his or her cross and follows Him in self-denial. The world hates those who do this because they are living out their lives at the foot of the Cross and this reveals to all who hate the truth their utter sinfulness and inability to be reconciled to God in anything they can do in and of themselves. They will attempt to silence these who live out the Gospel and preach it to all who will hear. Jesus tells us plainly, what that will be like and that this persecution is expected for all who live as true disciples of Christ. If we carefully read this passage, we will see clearly that we could easily become paralyzed with fear if we had to do this in and of our own strength. However, in vv19-20 we see that the Holy Spirit will be right there with us giving us the right words and the strength to endure it all.
A quick word of encouragement my brethren before we continue with this passage. The enemy may be smart and know how to manipulate people and to accuse, et cetera, but those who follow him, no matter how many letters they have after their names showing what seminaries they have attended, are totally inept at using God’s Word. The reason is that they have not the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit working through us we would be the same. It is as He works through those whom He indwells that they are able to see the truth in the Word of God and use it as it should be used in the truth war. Therefore, they attack the Word of God and attempt to intimidate through deceitful lies the use of Sacred Scripture to prove what is genuine Christianity and what is not, who are genuine Christians and who are not, who are genuine Christian leaders and who are false. Yes, this is given to us in Sacred Scripture and we are to be wise as serpents, but as harmless as doves in its use. We are to preach and teach the truth and leave the results up to God. We are to minister to one another in the Love of the Lord as we pray for the apostates and heretics to repent and come into the light.
Have No Fear “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:26-33 ESV)
26 Μὴ οὖν φοβηθῆτε αὐτούς· *οὐδὲν γάρ ἐστιν κεκαλυμμένον ὃ οὐκ ἀποκαλυφθήσεται καὶ κρυπτὸν ὃ οὐ γνωσθήσεται. 27 ὃ λέγω ὑμῖν ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ εἴπατε ἐν τῷ φωτί, καὶ ὃ εἰς τὸ οὖς ἀκούετε κηρύξατε ἐπὶ τῶν δωμάτων. 28 καὶ μὴ φοβεῖσθε ἀπὸ τῶν ἀποκτεννόντων τὸ σῶμα, τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν μὴ δυναμένων ἀποκτεῖναι· φοβεῖσθε δὲ μᾶλλον τὸν δυνάμενον καὶ ψυχὴν καὶ σῶμα ἀπολέσαι ἐν γεέννῃ. 29 οὐχὶ δύο στρουθία ἀσσαρίου πωλεῖται; καὶ ἓν ἐξ αὐτῶν οὐ πεσεῖται ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν ἄνευ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν. 30 ὑμῶν δὲ καὶ αἱ τρίχες τῆς κεφαλῆς πᾶσαι ἠριθμημέναι εἰσίν. 31 μὴ οὖν φοβεῖσθε· πολλῶν στρουθίων διαφέρετε ὑμεῖς. 32 Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ὁμολογήσει ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς· 33 ὅστις δʼ ἂν ἀρνήσηταί με ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἀρνήσομαι κἀγὼ αὐτὸν ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς. (Matthew 10:26-33 NA28)
The first four words in v26, Μὴ οὖν φοβηθῆτε αὐτούς, tell us exactly what we will be able to do against all who persecute us as Christ was persecuted. It literally says, “Not then you might be afraid them.” I like the ESV rendering here, “So have no fear of them.” The word φοβηθῆτε here has a very interesting grammatical structure. It is in aorist tense, subjunctive mood, but it is used as an imperative. What this means is that our Lord is forbidding us to be afraid of the coming persecution. Why and how? If we are walking before the face of God, as we should, we will have an eternal perspective on everything. Therefore, we will know that God is being glorified as we endure in the fire under His total protection and that He is keeping score. In v28 we are given the exact same imperative plus are commanded that we should fear God instead. This command to fear God and not people appears to be from Isaiah 8:11-13.
Fear God, Wait for the Lord For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. (Isaiah 8:11-13 ESV)
Therefore, we are to walk in obedience to our Lord no matter who does not like it. We are to continue to proclaim the truth even when they descend on us with their lies and deceit in attempts to silence us through their manipulations. God loves us and is sustaining and protecting us. Now we come to the blasphemy. In vv32-33 of Matthew 10 we have what separates those who properly fear God from those who do not.
So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-33 ESV)
32 Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ὁμολογήσει ἐν ἐμοὶ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς· 33 ὅστις δʼ ἂν ἀρνήσηταί με ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ἀρνήσομαι κἀγὼ αὐτὸν ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν [τοῖς] οὐρανοῖς. (Matthew 10:32-33 NA28)
Here is the actual Greek to English, word for word translation of these two verses:
All then who might confess in me in front of the men will confess I also in him in front of the father of me the one in the heavens; who but – might deny me in front of the men, will deny I also him in front of the father of me the one in the heavens.
This is very clear my brethren. When persecution comes, that is, when pressure is applied, and our faith is tested, those who blaspheme by denying Christ have proven their disingenuousness. They may flee to some heretical form of Christianity and claim that God led them out of the bondage of interpreting the Word of God literally, but that changes nothing. They have blasphemed and, therefore, have proven that they are not in Christ. On the other hand, as the pressure is applied to the faith of the genuine believer, he or she passes the test by acknowledging or confessing Christ as their Lord and Saviour. The Lord promises to acknowledge them before the Father in Heaven. What a blessed hope! On the other hand, the disingenuous professing Christian fears men, not God.
If you are in the truth war my brethren but have not yet encountered Satan’s seed coming to attack your faith using lies, deceit, and intimidation then I want you to know that it is coming. The attacks are of a many manifold nature. They come from every direction, but they all have one core target. They will attempt to separate you from adherence to Sacred Scripture as God’s absolute truth. They will attempt to tell you that that is not true Christianity and that their Jesus does not want any of his children to be fearful of an angry God. I encounter this more and more and so do many of my friends. On the other hand, it is amazing how free from stress I have been during their attacks. It is almost laughable how easy it is to counter all of their shallow and idiotic arguments. That is because God is right there with us through it all and we are being used in the battle as warriors fighting the good fight. The closer we get to the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God with the return of our Lord the worse this will become I am sure. The forerunners of these people persecuted the Lord because they could not corner or confuse or intimidate Him. If they did that with the Lord, what will they do with those who belong to Him? Come soon Lord Jesus!
Soli Deo Gloria!