Blasphemy and Persecution

by Mike Ratliff

10 Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! 12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:10-13 (NASB) 

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, even 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).

20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness;
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And clever in their own sight! Isaiah 5:20-21 (NASB) 

The temporally focused, so-called Christian decries the literal interpretation of Sacred Scripture. Why? These “social justice warriors,” or whatever they call themselves, 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.

16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
23 “But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! Matthew 10:16-25 (NASB) 

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.

26 “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:26-33 (NASB) 

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, “Therefore do not be afraid of them” I like the NASB rendering here, “Therefore do not fear 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.

11 For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying,
12 “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy,
And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.
13 “It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear,
And He shall be your dread. Isaiah 8:11-13 (NASB) 

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.

32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 (NASB) 

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 my translation of these two verses:

32 Therefore, everyone who confessed Me before men, I also will confess him before my Father who in in heaven. 33 And whoever will deny me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:32-33 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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 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!