The Persecution of the Originals
Review: SCMD – Persecution
2 Timothy 3:10-16 (NIV) You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
• If you want to live a Godly life, you will face persecution.
• We are called to continue in the truth by holding fast to the Word of God.
What is Christian persecution?
Being treated cruelly and unfair, even suffering, as a result of your faith in Christ Jesus.
• There are various levels of persecution but all come from one source: Satan’s opposition to Jesus.
• The focus of Christian persecution is primarily on Jesus, not us.
While most of us will not experience the extreme level of persecution we see in other countries, there are other forms of persecution that we will face as we remain true to our faith and the early church’s beliefs.
• This may include being shunned by family, the loss of a promotion at work, mocking, ridicule, condescension or other forms of opposition.
What persecution is not:
• You are not being persecuted for Christ when you act foolishly and are persecuted for your own impulsiveness or lack of wisdom or self-control.
What Jesus promised about persecution.
Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV) Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
• Blessed describes a joy and untouchable peace when we walk in the righteousness of Christ under the power of the Holy Spirit.
• It’s the kind of joy that is completely independent of the circumstances of life.
Matthew 10:16-18 (NIV) “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles.
• Be wise and creative without compromising truth, respond with innocence and peace.
How the early church responded to persecution.
Acts 4:1-4 (NIV) The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
Acts 14:1-7 (NIV) At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. 4 The people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews, others with the apostles. 5 There was a plot afoot among both Gentiles and Jews, together with their leaders, to mistreat them and stone them. 6 But they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian cities of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding country, 7 where they continued to preach the gospel.
• The early church preached the gospel in spite of danger.
• When trouble came, they stood on truth, prayed for more boldness and trusted God with their lives.
• Many received the good news, many rejected it. Some responded with anger and vitriol.
People oppose Jesus and the gospel because Satan has blinded them and the gospel confronts their sin.
What should our response be to persecution?
Romans 5:1-5 (NIV) Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;
4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
• Suffering and persecution for Christ produces the character of Christ in us.
1 Peter 3:13-16 (NIV) Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
• Know the gospel, live the gospel, share the gospel with gentleness and respect.
• Where are you facing persecution now? Is it real, or perceived? Could some of your prior past choices contribute to the ‘persecution’?
• If you are being opposed or mistreated because of your devotion to Christ, are you going to quit and throw in the towel? Or are you going to seek the strength, love, grace and forgiveness Christ gives us to respond with gentleness and respect?
• Who do you think the real ‘enemy’ is? Where does the opposition stem from? Given that, how do we ‘fight?’ (Ephesians 6)
• How will you apply grace to your truthful responses to opposition or differing views of others? Jesus was both grace and truth.
Small Group Discussion:
Genesis 39:1-23 (Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife); Genesis 41:38-40, James 1:2-4, Matthew 13:20-21
1. How did Joseph fight for the right things?
2. How do you know when to speak up and when to just remain faithful in following Jesus and let your actions speak for you?
3. How did Joseph gain favor in the eyes of the leaders of the day?
4. How do you think God is asking us to represent Him accurately in today’s culture?
5. Knowing that suffering is common, and even an expectation, for Christians, does that change your perspective about our current culture? How?
6. What areas of your life do you think you are growing in the discipline of resilience?
7. How is God asking you to be more bold for Him?