Why does the persecution come upon believers?

by Mike Ratliff

26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning. John 15:26-27 (NASB) 

We live in a time of biblical ignorance. Much of the ignorance is intentional. There are some “so-called” Christians who seek to separate Jesus from Holy Scripture. Those who are immersed in the Word of God as they walk before the face of God in their sanctification see this movement with a great deal of incredulity. How can anyone learn about Jesus and what is expected of His disciples if all understanding of Him comes extra-biblically?

Those who seek to do this are within a movement called the New Evangelism. The radicals in that movement demand that no one should teach that the very words of Jesus from the Gospels are commands for us today. They also say that those teachings do not reflect the character or nature of Jesus. They say that any one who teaches otherwise from what they say are guilty of holding doctrine higher than Christ. Let’s take a look at how we learn the truth about our Lord, our salvation, and how to live this life.

1 “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling. 2 They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God. 3 These things they will do because they have not known the Father or Me. 4 But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.
5 “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. John 16:1-11 (NASB) 

Did you notice how our Lord tied persecution together with the work of the Holy Spirit? Why does the persecution come upon believers?

20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. John 15:20 (NASB) 

The world hates the Jesus of the Bible. Many may love their own Jesus, but that Jesus is not this one. Their Jesus is all love and unity at all cost. The Biblical Jesus is very different from their man-made one. The Biblical Jesus preached about Hell and obedience and how His disciples must die to self, deny self, take up their crosses and follow Him. He taught that those who obey Him would be persecuted by those who believe they are serving God, but don’t know the Father at all. (John 15:21) This persecution takes many forms, but most of it is verbal and peppered with enough biblical words to cut like a knife.

The Holy Spirit has come. These passages are an account of the words of our Lord on the night of His arrest prior to His trial and crucifixion. However, Jesus did not remain in the grave. Three days later He rose from the dead. On the feast of Second First-Fruits (Pentecost) the Holy Spirit did come and the Church was born. Jesus calls Him the Counselor. The KJV uses the word “Comforter” here. The Greek word here is “parakletos.” This word means, “to call hither, toward, or to speak to, to speak cheerfully, to encourage. It is used as an adjective to describe those who are helpers. The Greeks also used this word to describe legal advisors, pleaders, proxies, or advocates. It is describing one who comes forward on behalf of and as the representative of another. Jesus Christ is described with this word in 1 John 2:1 when He is termed our substitutionary, intercessory advocate. Jesus called the Holy Spirit, “Paraclete” in John 14:16. He also called Him “allos,” which means another of equal quality. Therefore, our Lord tells us that the Holy Spirit is equal with Him.

The Holy Spirit’s works includes witnessing about Jesus Christ (John 14:26; 16:7,14) and glorifying Him. He is Paraclete because He undertakes Christ’s office in the world while Christ is away from it as the God-Man. He also acts as Christ’s substitute on earth. The Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus Christ as Messiah and Son of God. In this, He confronts the world. He works through God’s people in this task of confrontation. Many may deem this work as not of Christ or disruptive to unity, but much of the Church is populated with tares and goats. They have brought the world into the Church corrupting the message of the Gospel and the person of Jesus Christ Himself. The Holy Spirit will convict and move believers to confront sin as He convicts from within. The nature of this is uncompromising. This combination of conviction and unwillingness to compromise is what causes the persecution to come.

On the other hand, the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of wicked people actually turns some from hostility and rebellion against God into belief regarding Jesus as Savior and Lord. Therefore, God’s people are called to patiently endure the persecution while never compromising. No one can bear the fires of persecution without the Comforter coming along side to encourage and strengthen.

The work of the Holy Spirit is to convict men and guide believers into all truth. His guidance is one of encouragement. That is why we know that when we are being accused in a mean sarcastic way that that is not coming from the Holy Spirit. Therefore, those of us who do confront the apostates and heretics polluting the Church we must do so in the power of the Holy Spirit, not by Human Reason or for any motive other than obedience to our Lord. When the accusations come with the intent of intimidating and discouraging us, we must examine ourselves and make sure we are not using the enemy’s weapons in this battle. If so, then we must repent. If not, then we must remain in the thick of the battle in the power of the Holy Spirit as He leads.

The Holy Spirit guides believers into the truth and in the direction God wills for them to go. These are the Spirit-filled. They permeate their lives with the Word of God, confess their sins, and obey God in all things. The Holy Spirit fills their spiritual sails with His sanctifying wind driving them to walk before the face of God in His power and their humility. (Ephesians 5&6)

Today it seems that many hold that the Holy Spirit’s role is to make people laugh uncontrollably, bark like dogs, flop around on the ground, and empower TV evangelists to make lots of money. The reason there is so much false teaching about the Holy Spirit is that there is little focus on the genuine Gospel. Christianity has become focused on peripheral things, unimportant things, religiosity, or how much freedom can we extract from our salvation. This is not what Christianity is about nor is this what the Holy Spirit is about. He is about glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ, leading God’s people into the truth and repentance and obedience while convicting the world of its sin. We must repent of our self-focused religiosity and get in step with Him, our Paraclete.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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