by Mike Ratliff
12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12 (NASB)
What is Christian suffering? I doubt if most Christians in the United States have a clear understanding of real persecution for their faith that is going on daily in other parts of the world. There are dear saints dying for their faith daily in parts of the world and those of us in the U.S. believe we are being persecuted if someone passes a law or ordinance restricting their religious liberties. Well, one of the reasons Christianity is not persecuted to the extent is in other parts of the world is that the ‘visible church’ here has been compromised to a great extent. What does that mean? It means that leaders within it have made friends with the world and have invited it in. There is little separation. However, this writer contends that if anyone reading this, including myself, would actually become separate from the world and its values in their daily lives and withdraw from institutions that are ungodly and not participate in any activities that are blasphemous then that persecution that is talked about in 2 Timothy 3:12 would become a reality just as it has in China, North Korea, Pakistan, and all Muslim countries.
I am convinced that persecution will come upon us in time. That’s what the Bible teaches and it is never wrong. There are those who will never compromise. There are way too many who will. Who then will be persecuted? In my own experience in the Truth War the most resistance to God’s truth being complete and infallible and found completely in God’s Word, which we call Sola Scriptura, comes from professing Christians, not pagans, not reprobates, not atheists. No, those who seem to hate God’s truth the most are professing Christians who want to be friends of the world and hate it when anyone stands up against any of their leaders.
So, what are we to do? How are we to handle it when God allows these people to cause us to suffer. Do we strike back the same way they strike us? I covered that in yesterday’s post, But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. No, we cannot do that. So what is the answer? How are we to be what Christ wants us to be in the midst of these fiery trials? We will look at 1 Peter 3:13-17.
13 Καὶ τίς ὁ κακώσων ὑμᾶς ἐὰν τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ζηλωταὶ γένησθε; 14 ἀλλʼ εἰ καὶ πάσχοιτε διὰ δικαιοσύνην, μακάριοι. τὸν δὲ φόβον αὐτῶν μὴ φοβηθῆτε μηδὲ ταραχθῆτε, 15 κύριον δὲ τὸν Χριστὸν ἁγιάσατε ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, ἕτοιμοι ἀεὶ πρὸς ἀπολογίαν παντὶ τῷ αἰτοῦντι ὑμᾶς λόγον περὶ τῆς ἐν ὑμῖν ἐλπίδος, 16 ἀλλὰ μετὰ πραΰτητος καὶ φόβου, συνείδησιν ἔχοντες ἀγαθήν, ἵνα ἐν ᾧ καταλαλεῖσθε καταισχυνθῶσιν οἱ ἐπηρεάζοντες ὑμῶν τὴν ἀγαθὴν ἐν Χριστῷ ἀναστροφήν. 17 κρεῖττον γὰρ ἀγαθοποιοῦντας, εἰ θέλοι τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ, πάσχειν ἢ κακοποιοῦντας. 1 Peter 3:13-17 (NA28)
13 And who is there to harm you if you have become zealous for what is good? 14 But if indeed you should suffer because of righteousness you are blessed, but do not fear what terrorizes them, neither be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, prepared always for a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account concerning the hope that is in you, 16 but with gentleness and reverence having a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 1 Peter 3:13-17 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
This is a fascinating passage and if we focus on what God is telling us in these few verses it will become very clear what our role is in these daily conflicts with those all around us who are outside of the grace of God and hate the very idea of submitting to Christ as Lord. In v13 Peter makes a rhetorical statement, “who is there to harm you if you have become zealous for what is good?” In my earlier years I would say say that it would be very unusual for people to mistreat those who are zealous for good. However, this is 2019 and since the 2016 elections here in the U.S. It is as if certain people in our country have dedicated themselves to tearing everything down that is good while promoting everything that our Lord calls evil proclaiming that those things are good. When those who know God’s truth stand against this then we are called evil and threatened. It is as if a large part of our population have escaped from an insane asylum at times while those in power seem to cheer them on. If this continues we need to prepared for these people to proclaim everything God says that is good as evil and everything He says that is evil as good and if you disagree with them then you are an enemy of society and will be persecuted.
I love v14. If we do indeed suffer because we are righteous in Christ then we are blessed. This means that we have honor or privilege in the Kingdom of God. What does it mean that we are not to fear what terrorizes them? If we are in Christ then we are righteous in the eyes of God. Our role in this life is to live lives that reflect that by walking in repentance and becoming living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). When we do that will our conscience condemn us or terrorize us? No, of course not. What about those who are the enemies of everything good and hate God? What will their conscience be like within them. It will be accusing them continually. I am convinced that many of the continual false accusations coming from those in politics against their perceived enemies these days are actually projections of their own sins upon those they hate. Therefore, if we are innocent before God and this happens to us how are we to react. We take it to the throne of grace and seek His peace and hope and then stand against these people by the grace given us. We do not let their evil consciences condemn us for all they are trying to do is make us guilty for their own sins.
How do we walk in peace and hope when this happens? We, “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, prepared always for a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account concerning the hope that is in you.” The verb tenses here are all present tense. That means this is talking about continual action. We daily, hourly, minute-by-minute sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts as we walk through our daily fiery trials. Yes, this is the key verse in this passage. The heart is the sanctuary in which He prefers to be worshipped. Live in submissive communion with the Lord Jesus, loving and obeying Him–and you have nothing to fear. Along with this we then humbly and gently be ready to give a defense of the hope we have in us. The world has no understanding of our salvation. However, God will use these fiery trials and our testimonies in these situations to bring glory to Himself and perhaps the salvation of those doing the persecuting.
What is the source of this hope that is within us? We were sinners dead in our sins, Christ was born of a virgin, He lived a sinless life, He was crucified and died for our sins, He was put in the grace, but was resurrected on the third day, and 40 days later He ascended into Heaven. He will return us at the end of this age. That is our hope.
How are we to present this to those persecuting us? Is it arrogantly? Is it with spite? No, it is with humility, gentleness, and reverence. We given them no room to do other than slander us. We may go to our deaths, we may not. It does not matter. God is glorified. We will be with our Lord forever.
Soli Deo Gloria!