DELIVERED TO THE COURTS, SCOURGED IN THE CHURCHES

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament book of Acts—the account of the spiritual body of Christ—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in the twenty-sixth chapter of this New Testament book. “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth the hand, and answered for himself” (Acts 26:1).

 

            “I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews: Especially because I know thee to be expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? II verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities. Whereupon as I went to Damascus with authority and the commission from the chief priests, at midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying, in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou,  Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:2-23).

 

            “And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and sober ness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. And when he had thus spoken, the king rose up, and the governor, and Bernice, and they that sat with them: and when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, This man doth nothing worthy of death or of bonds. Then said Agrippa unto Festus, This man might have been set at liberty,  if he had not appealed unto Caesar” (Acts 26:24-32).

 

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul in Caesarea having been brought before kings and governors. I have to admit that when I read the words presented in this passage of Scripture I am absolutely gripped and captivated with the tremendous truth that is found within it. As I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture I am brought face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth of Jesus’ words which He had spoken unto His disciples. You cannot read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the beauty and magnitude of the words which the Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples—words which would speak of their being brought before kings, governors and even the Gentiles. If you take the time to read the words which are found in the four New Testament gospels you will find Jesus preparing His disciples for the incredible possibility of their being brought before kings, before governors, before rulers and before those whom they would have to give testimony. This is something we must needs recognize and understand as it calls and draws our attention to the fact that what we find in chapters twenty-two through twenty-six is the apostle Paul standing before kings and governors as he would give a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ unto and before them. The apostle Paul would never have an audience with Caesar himself in the capital city of Rome, however, his testimony before kings and governors here in Caesarea would indeed bring him all the way unto the city of Rome where he would give and speak testimony concerning the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is important for us to recognize and understand for not only do we find the apostle Paul walking in the footsteps of his Lord but we also find him fulfilling the words which are found in the four gospels which are Lord Himself spoke.

 

            I am absolutely convinced that if you want to truly understand the words which are found in these passages of Scripture it is necessary to turn and direct our attention to the words which our Lord spoke as He prepared and made ready His disciples for the days in which they would walk and experience. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the truth surrounding His preparing the disciples for the affliction, the suffering, and the persecution they would experience. If there is one thing we must needs recognize when considering the words which our Lord spoke it’s that He didn’t prepare His disciples to be loved, to be received or even to be welcome. In fact I would dare say the opposite is true as our Lord prepared and made ready His disciples for their being despised, their being rejected, their being ignored, their being vilified, their being persecuted and even their being put to death. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for almost from the very beginning of the disciples walking with and following the Lord Jesus He prepared and made them ready for the suffering, the affliction and the persecution they would experience. You cannot read the four New Testament gospel narratives without encountering and coming face to face with the incredible reality of the Lord Jesus preparing His disciples for the intense suffering and persecution they would indeed experience after His departure. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand as it calls and draws our attention to the fact that the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs recognize what they are truly signing up for when they agree to walk with and follow Him.

 

            If I am being honest with you who are reading these words I would dare say that there are many who have made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ and yet they do so based on faulty assumptions and misconceptions that were presented unto them by various preachers and ministers. I am absolutely convinced there are countless men and women who are present among us in our churches today who have made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus and yet they have done so—not because they expect suffering, persecution, affliction and the like but because they were simply looking for a get out of hell free card. There are many among us who have made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ because they expect to walk throughout life in a relative place of peace, quietness, and rest. In fact I would dare say there are many among us who neither anticipate nor expect to experience suffering or affliction within and throughout their lives. Such individuals have come to the Lord Jesus praying “the sinner’s prayer” which I have in previous writings written concerning my issue with “the sinner’s prayer.” The apostle Paul emphatically declared that if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe with our hearts that God raised Him from the dead we shall be saved. The apostle Paul wrote unto the saints which were at Rome and the apostle Peter declared unto those who were in Jerusalem that all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. I can’t help but wonder how many ministers and preachers have led men and women in “the sinner’s prayer” and yet the prayer has done absolutely nothing for them because it hasn’t been tempered and meted and measured with suffering, affliction and persecution.

 

            There have been countless men and women throughout the years who have prayed what I would call “the sinner’s prayer” and yet I am and have been convinced that in addition to “the sinner’s prayer” there must also be what I would call “the sufferer’s prayer.” Please note that when I reference and speak of “the sufferer’s prayer” I am not speaking of a formula or prescription anymore than I am speaking about the sinner’s prayer as a formula and prescription. When I speak of the sufferer’s prayer what I am speaking of is indeed the absolutely tremendous and incredible reality of a willingness within the heart and soul of that man or woman who has made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus to be willing to suffer with the Lord Jesus Christ. I am convinced there are and there have been men and women who have made declarations such as the apostle Peter and the other apostles while Jesus was still present among them stating they would be willing to go to prison and even die for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such individuals sound incredibly noble and sincere when they make such declarations, however, what we must needs recognize is that even when the apostle Peter made the declaration that he would go to prison and even die for the sake of the Lord—especially stating such in direct opposition to Jesus’ words concerning all them being offended—Jesus would declare unto Him that before the rooster crowed twice he would deny Him three times. Simon Peter’s words sounded incredibly noble and sincere when you take the time to think about them, however, when we take the time to think about them we are brought face to face with the incredibly powerful truth that Jesus not only declared that all the disciples would be offended on the night of His betrayal but they would all be scattered. Not only this but Jesus would declare concerning Simon Peter that he would deny him before the rooster crowed twice.

 

            I am sitting here today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding many men and women who may very well have made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus and yet when the Shepherd is struck and smitten through the persecution of man they are not only offended but also scattered. What’s more is that was as if this weren’t enough such disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ turn back and walk no more with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am convinced there are many men and women who might very well have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and yet when persecution, suffering and affliction rises up for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus they are not only offended but they turn back and walk no more with Jesus. What’s more is that Jesus even spoke and declared this would happen and would indeed take place as he declared of the disciples on the night in which He was betrayed that they would all be offended and would be scattered. Not only this but when delivering the Olivet discourse the Lord Jesus would declare concerning many in the Last Days who would indeed be offended when persecution and suffering does in fact rise because of and on account of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is with this in mind I invite you first and foremost to consider the words which our Lord spoke concerning those who would consider and count the cost before they make the decision to walk with and follow Him. Consider if you will the following words which are found in each of the New Testament gospels concerning Jesus’ words of counting the cost before coming after and following Him:

 

            “And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that beheld it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty-thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciples. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dung hill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:25-35).

 

            The words which we find here in this passage of Scripture call and draw our attention to the absolutely tremendous truth surrounding the Lord Jesus’ words unto His disciples and those who would walk with and follow Him. If you turn your attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find Luke writing how great multitudes went with Jesus. It would be in the midst of these great multitudes Jesus would turn Himself and begin speaking unto them something very specific. Turning Himself into the midst of the crowd the Lord Jesus would declare that if any man came to him and hated not his father, nor his mother, nor his wife, nor his children, nor his brethren and sisters—even his own life—he cannot be his disciple. Moreover the Lord Jesus would go on to declare that those who do not carry their cross and come after Him cannot be His disciples. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it brings us face to face with the incredible truth surrounding those who make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus and yet do not consider the cost of what walking with and following Him truly and does in fact mean. Oh I am absolutely convinced there are countless men and women who might have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and might very well have made a “decision” to walk with and follow Jesus and yet in all reality they have not counted nor considered the cost of what it truly means to walk with and follow Him. There are men and women among us who might very well worship with us in the pews of our churches and yet I would dare say there are some among us who worship next to us in the pews of our churches who when persecution rises for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus who by and by will be offended.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the following words which are found in this passage of Scripture for I am brought face to face with the absolutely astonishing truth surrounding many who might worship next to and with us in the pews of our churches and yet such individuals have no courage, no boldness, nor any fight within their hearts and spirits for when persecution and affliction arises. There are countless men and women among us within our churches who have absolutely no courage nor commitment to be able to withstand the days when persecution, when suffering and when affliction arises on account of and for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we must needs recognize and pay close attention to as it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely necessary truth that when we make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus we must needs recognize and understand what we have signed up for. There are countless men and women among us who might very well have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” and yet such a prayer was not met, meted nor measured with the reality of “the sinner’s prayer.” Oh I would absolutely love to know how many men and women among us in the pews of our churches are truly willing to go to prison, to suffer, to endure affliction and persecution and even be put to death for the sake of the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus. How many among us who worship in our churches are truly committed and devoted to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and are willing to stand in the midst of suffering, affliction and persecution as Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael who were not only unwilling to bow down and worship the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar built but who also stood before the king and spoke of the power of their God to deliver them from the fiery furnace. What makes their courage and commitment so incredibly unique and captivating is when you consider the fact that they would go on to declare that even if the living God did not determine to deliver them from the fiery furnace they would not bow down and worship the golden image which he had set up.

 

            I write these words and I can’t help but be reminded of the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples and those who would walk with and follow Him in the Sermon on the Mount. I am absolutely convinced that if we are to truly understand that which we read in the final chapters of the New Testament book of Acts we must needs recognize that which is desperately needed within our hearts and lives concerning our walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a great need for us as the men and women who walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ to recognize and understand that there are many who although they might very well have prayed “the sinner’s prayer” are those who by and by can and will be offended when persecution, when suffering and affliction arises for the sake of and on account of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws us into the place where we acknowledge the purpose and reason for why we have agreed to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus. Perhaps the single greatest we must needs ask ourselves is why we made the decision to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus. If you are willing to truly examine and take a look at yourself would you be able to answer the question of why you made the decision to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus Christ? Have you made the decision to walk with and follow Jesus simply and solely to avoid and escape the horrors and dangers of hell? Have you made the decision to walk with and follow Jesus simply because of the blessings which He offered unto you in this life—or perhaps blessings you expect and even anticipate receiving as a result of walking with and following Him? Did you make the decision to walk with and follow Jesus because you expected a life of quietness, of rest and of peace in this life absent and apart from any suffering, affliction and/or persecution? Oh consider if you will the following words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples which are found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew;

 

            “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into th e fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:13-27).

 

            Please don’t miss the incredible significance and importance of the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we find Jesus instructing the multitudes who had gathered themselves unto Him to enter in at the strait gate. These words would be followed by Jesus declaring that wide was the gate and broad was the way which led to destruction and many there were which went in there at. Moreover Jesus would go on to declare that strait is the gate and narrow is the way which led unto life and few there were that found it. Jesus would then go on to warn and caution His disciples to beware of false prophets which came to them in sheep’s clothing but inwardly were ravening wolves. Jesus also gave them a powerful litmus test whereby they would be able to discern false prophets who came unto them in sheep’s clothing—namely their being known by the fruit they bear. Oh this is something we must needs recognize and understand for us as false prophets can and will be known by their fruits so also can and will we be known by our fruit or the lack thereof. If you want to truly understand the nature of another person you need look at and examine the fruit within their lives—or the absence and lack of fruit thereof. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely astonishing truth that there are men and women who might very well have received the word with joy and gladness and even believed for a certain period of time bearing fruit, however, there would come a point within their lives when the fruit began to dissipate and disappear from their lives. I have previously written that as the fruit goes within one’s life so also does the person themselves go. There is not a doubt in my mind that fruit and one’s own being are intrinsically linked and connected and that if/when the fruit might in fact disappear and dissipate within the life of an individual so also does that person themselves begin to crumble and fall back.

 

            Jesus Himself declared that we shall and would be known by our fruit and yet when delivering the parable of the seed and the sower He would speak of the seed being sown in different places. If there is one thing we must needs recognize concerning the seed which is spoken of in this parable it’s that the seed would have undoubtedly been the same seed. What so amazes me about this parable is that it was not a matter of different seed being sown in different places but it was the same seed which was sown in different places. The difference that is found in this parable is not that one type of seed was sown by the wayside while another seed was sown on the stony ground and another seed was sown among thorns while another seed was sown among the good ground. Within the parable it was the same sower who went forth with seed and it was that same seed which was sown into the various different types of soil. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for what we find here in this particular parable is not only different types of soil but also different results from the sowing of the seed. I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and understand the tremendous truth which is found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the seed which was sown among the different types of soil and the results which were delivered based on the seed itself being sown. Oh I firmly believe that we must needs recognize and acknowledge that we must needs understand that as and if the fruit goes within the heart and life of a certain individual among us within our churches so also does that person begin to crumble and falter and eventually—if left unchecked—will crumble, collapse, turn back and walk no more with Jesus. Consider now if you will the following words which are found in the thirteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew concerning the parable of the seed and the sower and the interpretation of the parable which Jesus spoke unto His disciples:

 

            “The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deep ness of earth: and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had not root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but the other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixty fold, some thirty fold. Who hath ears to ear, let him hear” (Matthew 13:1-9).

 

            “And the disciples came and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitful ness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:10-23).

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and how the Lord Jesus would indeed bring the apostle Paul and call him to stand before kings, governors and rulers during those days. The apostle Paul would indeed stand before kings and governors in Jerusalem and Caesarea and would ultimately be called and sent forth unto the capital city of Rome itself which was in the very heart of the Roman Empire. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the words which our Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples concerning their walking with and following Him. I continue to believe that two of the greatest treasures that can be found within the hearts and lives of those who walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ in these last days is fruit and endurance. If you read and consider the words which are found in Jesus’ interpretation of the parable of the seed and the sower you will find Him speaking of that one who heard the word and anon initially received it with joy. Jesus would go on to describe how this one had not root in himself and endured for a while but when tribulation or persecution arose for the sake of the word he was offended. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for I am absolutely convinced that fruit and endurance are intrinsically linked and connected. This parable would indeed suggest that this one who heard and received the word with joy would indeed endure for a while and would undoubtedly show signs of bearing fruit during that time. When, however, persecution and tribulation arose for the sake of the word they would not only be offended but I would dare say the fruit which was present within their life would begin to disappear and dissipate.

 

            When we read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts we find the apostle Paul standing trial before Festus the governor and even Agrippa the king. The apostle Paul would indeed stand trial before the Jews who sought to kill, destroy and put him to death in Jerusalem and would indeed stand trial in Caesarea before appealing unto Caesar. The apostle Paul was indeed given the chance to return to Jerusalem to stand trial in the midst of the city before those who would accuse him and yet the apostle Paul would appeal to Caesar on his behalf. After conferring and consulting with his rulers and council Festus agreed to send the apostle Paul unto Caesar where he would stand trial. Of course we know and understand that this would not have moved the apostle Paul for the Lord and already appeared unto him declaring that as he testified of Him in Jerusalem so must he also testify of Him in the city of Rome. The apostle Paul would indeed stand trial before kings and governors in both Jerusalem and Caesarea and in both places would give a powerful and profound witness and testimony concerning the person of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is that after the apostle Paul had finished giving a testimony before Agrippa the king would himself declare unto Paul that he was almost persuaded to become a Christian and follower of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something which warrants strong consideration for before the apostle Paul would indeed be sent forth to Rome to stand trial before Caesar he would stand before kings and governors in the land of Judaea in both Jerusalem and Caesarea. What makes this all the more astonishing when you take the time to think about it is when you consider the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples concerning the suffering, the affliction, the persecution and affliction they would experience in this life.

 

            I continue to be absolutely gripped and captivated with the incredible truth of the words which our Lord had indeed spoken unto His disciples and followers concerning the days which would be ahead. The Lord would indeed speak unto His disciples and followers and prepare them to be hated of all nations and all men for the sake of His name. We must needs understand that the person of the Lord Jesus didn’t prepare nor did He make ready His disciples to be received, loved and welcomed—even embraced—by those whom they would be sent to. The Lord Jesus prepared His disciples to love their enemies and even to love their neighbors and yet in the midst of that He would prepare them to be hated of all men and of all nations for His name’s sake. This is something which warrants strong consideration for there are those who make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus expecting blessings, prosperity and the like to follow them all the days of their lives. Moreover there are those who go forth as men and women who preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ expecting success wherever they would journey. There are those who go forth preaching the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus expecting to be received, to be welcomed, to be embrace and even to be accepted and yet the truth of the matter is that Jesus never prepared His disciples for such realities within their lives. Jesus did indeed and did in fact send forth His disciples and followers into the world as sheep among wolves and instructed them to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. There is a great need to recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that the only thing Jesus called us to do was to be witnesses unto Him unto the uttermost parts of the earth. Jesus never promised continued or sustained success and growth and in fact spoke of our being hated of all men and all nations for His name’s sake.

 

            The more I think about and consider the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts concerning the apostle Paul the more I am brought face to face with the words which our Lord had spoken. The apostle Paul would indeed stand before kings and governors for the sake of and on account of the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and we must needs recognize and understand this and how absolutely incredible it truly is. Our Lord Jesus proclaimed unto His disciples that they would indeed experience trials, troubles, tribulation, affliction, suffering and even persecution in this life. Jesus declared unto His disciples that in this world they would have [and experience] many trials but to not fear for He had overcome the world. I am absolutely convinced we must needs understand the significance of what is found within these words and how absolutely incredible they truly are. The Lord Jesus called our attention and the attention of His disciples and followers to the fact that in this life they would experience much trials and much tribulation on acoustic of and for the sake of His word, the gospel and His name. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for I am convinced that we as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs have our understanding and expectations of walking with and following Jesus meted and measured according to the words which Jesus Himself spoke. We dare not be such individuals who make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus simply and solely based on seeking blessing and prosperity. We dare not and must not be such individuals who walk with and follow the Lord Jesus expecting continued and sustained success when preaching and teaching in His name unto those whom we have been called and sent. What’s more is that we dare not and must not make the decision to walk with and follow the person of the Lord Jesus expecting to live a life absent and free from suffering, persecution, trials and troubles. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the various New Testament gospels concerning the suffering, the affliction and the persecution which we can and will experience in this life:

 

            “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (matthew 5:10-12).

 

            “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the mater of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (matthew 10:16-33).

 

            “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He hat loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-39).

 

            “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:24-28).

 

            “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:4-14).

 

            “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).

 

            “And he said to them all, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s and of the holy angels. But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:23-27).

 

            “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killers you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And those things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged” (John 16:1-11).

 

            I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and understand the tremendous significance of what is found in these passages of Scripture for within them we find the Lord Jesus preparing His disciples and those who would walk with and follow Him to take up their cross—and not only to take up their cross but to take up their cross daily. Moreover we find Jesus declaring that any who loved father, or mother, or brother, or sister, or son or daughter more than Him was not worthy of Him. In addition to this the Lord Jesus would also declare unto His disciples and followers that if any man was ashamed of Him and of His words in this life He would be ashamed of them before His Father in heaven. As if this weren’t enough the Lord Jesus would go on to declare unto the disciples that whosoever would confess Him before men they themselves would He confess before His Father which was in heaven. Conversely, however, those who denied Him before men in this life would themselves be denied before His Father and all the holy angels in heaven. Jesus did indeed prepare His disciples and followers to be those would be hated of all nations and all men for His name’s sake and He prepared them to suffer persecution and affliction in his life rather than experience a life of peace, of quietness, of ease and comfort. This is something we must needs recognize and understand as it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely astounding truth that the Lord Jesus would indeed prepare and make ready His disciples to suffer affliction, persecution and suffering in this life. Perhaps the question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are indeed ready and willing to not only deny ourselves and take up our cross—and do so daily—but also whether or not we are willing to lay down our lives for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. We as the saints of God must needs make a deliberate and conscious decision whether or not we are such who are willing to commit and devote our lives unto and before the Lord regardless of what might come our way and/or regardless of what degree and measure of suffering, persecution and affliction we experience in this life.

 

            THEY WILL DELIVER YOU UP TO THE COUNCILS! THEY WILL SCOURGE YOU IN THEIR SYNAGOGUES! YE SHALL BE BROUGHT BEFORE GOVERNORS AND KINGS FOR MY SAKE! FOR A TESTIMONY AGAINST THEM AND THE GENTILES! WHEN THEY DELIVER YOU UP, TAKE NO THOUGHT HOW OR WHAT YE SHALL SPEAK! IT SHALL BE GIVEN YOU IN THAT SAME HOUR WHAT YE SHALL SPEAK! IT IS NOT YET THAT SPEAK BUT THE SPIRIT OF YOUR FATHER WHICH SPEAKETH IN YOU!

            There is something truly astonishing about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture as what we have here is Jesus declaring unto His disciples that they would not only be delivered up to the councils but they would also be scourged in the synagogues. Moreover Jesus would declare unto His disciples that they would be brought before governors and kings for HIs sake for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. Immediately after this Jesus declared unto them that when they were delivered up they were to take no thought how or what they would speak for it would be given them in that very same hour what they would speak. With this being Jesus would also declare unto them that it would not be them which spoke but their the Spirit of the Father which would speak in them. This is something I am absolutely convinced must needs be considered—particularly and especially when reading the words found in the New Testament book of Acts. If you take the time to read the words which are found and presented within this book you can and will encounter and come face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the apostles standing before the Pharisees, before the chief priests, before the elders, before the rulers of the people and the like. In the fourth and fifth chapters of this New Testament book we encounter and come face to face with the apostles standing before those who would seek to silence them—and not only those who would seek to silence them but also those who would seek to stifle the word and message which they preached and proclaimed. You cannot read the fourth and fifth chapters of this New Testament book without encountering and coming face to face with this and how absolutely incredible it truly is. There is a great need for us to recognize and pay attention to the words presented in the New Testament book of Acts for in chapters four and five we find the apostles standing before the religious and political figures of that day while in the seventh chapter we find Stephen—one of the seven—standing before the Sanhedrin forced to defend himself against the false accusations which were raised up against him. In chapters twenty-two through twenty-six we find the apostle Paul standing before Festus the governor, Agrippa the king, the chief captain of the Temple and those who would seek to accuse him.

 

            If there is one common theme and one common denominator that is found in each of these passages of Scripture it’s that neither the apostles, nor Stephen, nor even the apostle Paul stopped to consider that which they would speak as they stood before those who would seek to accuse them and those who would seek to silence them. Perhaps one of the greatest truths that is found in the New Testament book of Acts is that the religious and political leaders which were present during those days did indeed and did in fact seek to silence the voices of the apostles and those who would walk with and follow the Lord Jesus. In the fourth and fifth chapters of this book we do not find any false accusations being brought against the apostles, however, we do find the religious and political leaders seeking to silence their voices as they commanded them to no longer preach in the name of Jesus of Nazareth. Moreover the religious and political leaders called upon them to no longer preach the gospel and word of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. This is something we must needs recognize and understand as it calls and draws our attention to the incredible reality of those whom the religious and political leaders would silence. Moreover we find in this New Testament book those who would raise themselves up against Stephen—one of the seven—and even against the apostle Paul and his companions wrongly and falsely accusing them. In all reality I cannot help but read the narrative of the spiritual body of Christ and see a powerful picture of those who would seek to silence the church, those who would seek to wrongly and falsely accuse the church, and those who would seek to lift up their hand against it to afflict and persecute it. It is absolutely impossible to read the words presented in this passage of Scripture and not encounter the tremendous reality of those who would seek to silence and afflict the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact when you read the words which our Lord spoke unto Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus you will find Him declaring that He was Jesus whom he was persecuting.

 

I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and I am brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding how the religious and political leaders of that day sought to silence and cancel the voice of the apostles and the voice of the early church. It would be in the fourth and fifth chapters where we find the religious and political leaders seeking to silence and cancel the apostles—and not only the apostles but also the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the sixth chapter we don’t find the religious and political leaders seeking to silence and cancel Stephen—one of the seven—but we do find those who would seek to bring false accusation against him. It would be those who opposed and those who were envious of Stephen who would seek to wrongly and falsely accuse him and it would be their accusations coupled with the words he spoke that would ultimately lead to his defense before them all—including the Sanhedrin—and ultimately his being stoned to death. The words which the Lord Jesus spoke declared that those who walked with Him and followed Him declared that they would indeed be brought before king and before governors for His sake. What makes this truly intriguing when you take the time to think about it is when you read the words which Jesus spoke concerning the disciples being delivered up to the councils—and not only delivered up to the councils but also scourged in their synagogues. What makes this truly interesting is when you consider the councils to represent courts and synagogues representing churches, thus suggesting the possibility of being delivered up to the courts and scourged in the churches.

 

DELIVERED TO THE COURTS, SCOURGED IN THE CHURCHES! I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and can’t help but think about the apostles and Stephen who were delivered unto the councils and how the apostle Paul would stand before the governor Festus and the king Agrippa. The more I think about and consider this the more I am brought face to face with the reality that in the days in which we are and have been living it is very possible for men and women to be delivered into the courts and even scourged in the churches. We would be incredibly naïve to think that it is not possible for those who walk with and follow the Lord Jesus to be delivered unto the courts to be tried, to be accused, and to even be forced to give a defense for the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Permit me to ask you how you would respond and what you would say or do if you were brought before a court of law or even a national court accused of wrongdoing simply because you preached the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus. How would you respond if you did in fact get called to appear before a court because you believed on the word and name of the Lord Jesus? Would you be able to stand and would you be able to endure in the midst of such a trial—even if and especially if you were being wrongly and falsely accused? Would you trust and rely upon the Holy Spirit to give you the words which you would speak before your accusers and even before those whom you stood trial? What we find in the twenty-sixth chapter of this New Testament book is an incredibly powerful truth surrounding the apostle Paul being brought before Agrippa the king after it was requested of Festus to hear the words which he would speak. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to whether or not we are ready, willing and able to stand before kings, before governors, before governments, before rulers, before courts and the like.

 

            As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely astounding that the apostle Paul would stand before Agrippa the king and not only speak to the resurrection of the dead but would also preach Jesus of Nazareth and his own conversion experience. The apostle Paul would recount his history as an ardent and vehement persecutor of the church prior to his conversion and how while traveling on the road to Damascus he would encounter Jesus of Nazareth whom he was persecuting. What’s more is that while the apostle Paul was in Damascus a disciple by the name of Ananias would come unto him being instructed of the Lord in a vision that he might lay hands on him to receive his sight and receive the Holy Spirit. This is something which must needs be carefully considered when reading the words presented in the twenty-sixth chapter for what we find here is an incredibly unique and powerful picture of the apostle Paul standing before a king and governor and testifying concerning Jesus of Nazareth. It was the Lord Jesus who instructed His disciples and followers not to think about what they would speak in that hour for the precise words they would need to speak would indeed be given unto them by the Holy Spirit. The Lord would declare unto His disciples that it would not be them who spoke but the Holy Spirit of their Father which was in heaven would indeed speak. There is a great and tremendous truth found in the New Testament book of Acts for within it we find the apostles and even Stephen being unwilling to waver or falter in their walk with Jesus of Nazareth. Despite the fact that the religious and political leaders sought to silence and cancel the apostles for preaching the word and name of Jesus they refused to cease doing so and would ultimately find themselves both imprisoned and even beaten. Stephen gave his defense before the Sanhedrin and it would be as a direct result of his defense he would be stoned to death and would become the church’s first martyr.

 

I read the words which are found in this particular truth and I am brought face to face with the truth surrounding the reality of the apostle Paul standing before Festus the governor, Agrippa the king and all those who had come unto Caesarea to hear him speak. After he had finished speaking Festus the governor would declare unto Paul that he was beside himself and was possibly even mad while Agrippa declared unto Paul that he was almost persuaded to become a Christian. As we read the words found in this passage of Scripture we are indeed brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding those who would seek to silence and cancel the voice of the church and would seek to silence their preaching the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am absolutely and completely convinced that in these Last Days there is a great need for us as the saints of God and the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to be those who not only possess endurance and courage to stand but would also possess the fruit that is needed as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We as the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs be those who not only deny ourselves and take up our cross daily but also those who are not ashamed of the name of the Lord Jesus and those who are willing to confess the name of Jesus before courts, before governments, before kings, before governors and even before those who would seek to silence and cancel us from doing so. We are indeed preparing to enter into unprecedented times and there must be a great understanding within our hearts and spirits that we are to be men and women who are full of faith, full of the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom and full of courage as we prepare ourselves to be those who would hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We must needs be those who are watching and praying while also possessing the courage, the endurance, the stamina and the fortitude to stand in the midst of the trials, the troubles and the tribulations we can and will face in this life as disciples and followers of Jesus.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s