Suffering: Grooming & Molding Disciples For Centuries

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 physician Luke. More specifically today’s passages begins with the twenty-third verse of the twenty-third chapter and continues through to the twenty-seventh verse of the twenty-fourth chapter. “And he called unto him two centurions, saying, Make ready two hundred soldiers to go to Caesarea, and horsemen three-score and ten, and spearmen two hundred, at the third hour of the night; and provide them beasts, that they may set Paul on, and bring him safe unto Felix the governor. And he wrote a letter after this manner” ()Acts 23:23-26).

 

            “Claudius Lydia’s unto the most excellent governor Felix senders greeting. This man was a taken of the jews, and should have been. Killed of them: then came I with an army, and rescued him, having understood that he was a Roman. And when I would have known the cause wherefore they accused him, I brought him forth into their council: whom I perceived to be accused of questions of their law, but to have nothing laid it to his charge worthy of death or of bonds. And when it was told me how that the Jews laid wait for the man, I sent straightway to thee, and gave commandment to his accusers also so say before thee what they had against him. Farewell” (Acts 23:26-30).

 

            “Then the soldiers, as it was commanded them, took Paul, and brought him by night to Antipatris. On the morrow they left the horsemen to go with him, and returned to the castle: Who, when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor had read the letter, he asked of what providing he was. And when he understood that he was of Cilicia: I will hear thee, said he, when thine accusers are also come. And he commanded him to be kept in Herod’s judgment hall” (Acts 23:31-35).

 

            “And after five days Ananias the high priest descended with the elders, and with a certain orator named Tertullus, who informed the governor against Paul. And when he was called forth Tertullus began to accuse him, saying” (Acts 24:1-2).

 

            “ASeeing that by thee we enjoy great quietness, and that very worth deeds are done unto this nation by thy providence, we accept it always, and in all places, most noble Felix, with all thankfulness. Notwithstanding, that I be not further tedious unto thee, I pray thee that thou wouldest hear us of thy clemency a few words. For we have found this man a pestilential fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes: who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law. But the chief captain Lydia’s came upon us, and with great violence took him away out of our hands, commanding his accusers to come unto thee: But examining of whom thyself mayest take knowledge of all these things, whereof we accuse him. And the Jews also asssented, saying that these things were so” (Acts 24:3-9).

 

            “Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to spread, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: neither can they provide the things whereof they now accuse me. But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: and have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection fo the dead, both of the just and unjust. And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience voice of offense toward God, and toward men. Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings. Whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude, nor with tumult. Who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me. Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, Except if be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day” (Acts 24:10-21).

 

            “And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he differed them, and said, when Lysisa the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter. And he commanded a centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty and that he should forbid none of his acquaintance to minister or come unto him. And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled and answered, Go thy way for this time: when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. He hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul, that he might loose him: wherefore he sent for him the oftener, and communed with him. But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room; and Felix, willing to shew the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound” (Acts 24:22-27).

 

            When you come to this particular passage of Scripture you will find the transition of the apostle Paul from the city of Jerusalem where he had been seized upon by the Jews and rescued from the angry mob by the hands of the chief captain. In order to truly understand the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you must needs recognize and understand the knowledge which the apostle Paul would have concerning his journey unto the city of Jerusalem. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the twentieth chapter of this New Testament book you will find the apostle Paul knowing that he went bound in the spirit unto the city of Jerusalem not knowing [specifically] what would befall him there. The only thing the apostle Paul knew concerning his journey unto the city of Jerusalem was that bonds and afflictions awaited and abode him there in that place. These were words which the apostle Paul would speak on a beach in Miletus unto the Ephesian elders after he had called them unto himself. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth that despite the fact the apostle Paul knew that bonds and afflictions awaited and abode him there in the city of Jerusalem he was not willing to avoid the city altogether. The apostle Paul did not know what would come upon him in a specific manner, however, he did in fact know that bonds and afflictions awaited and abode him there in the midst of the city. Oh it is incredibly important to recognize and understand this for the words which the apostle Paul will set up more perfectly the words which would be spoken unto the apostle Paul after he departed from Miletus and would come unto Caesarea in the coasts of Judaea and Galilee. Before we get into the words which are found in the twenty-first chapter of this book I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the twentieth chapter of this New Testament book:

 

            “And from. Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church. And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am purse from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you and inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no mans’ silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with James. I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, I this more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:17-35).

 

            AND NOW, BEHOLD, I GO BOUND IN THE SPIRIT UNTO JERUSALEM NOT KNOWING THE THINGS THAT SHALL BEFALL ME THERE. SAVE THAT THE HOLY GHOST WITNESSETH IN EVERY CITY, SAYING THAT BONDS AND AFFLICTIONS ABIDE ME. BUT NONE OF THESE THINGS MOVE ME, NEITHER COUNT I MY LIFE DEAR UNTO MYSELF, SO THAT I MIGHT FINISH MY COURSE WITH JOY, AND THE MINISTRY, WHICH I HAVE RECEIVED OF THE LORD JESUS, TO TESTIFY THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD!

 

            It is absolutely necessary that we pay attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for within it we find that knowledge which the apostle had concerning his journey unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul knew and understood that after he departed from. Miletus and bid farewell to the elders of the Ephesian church he would see their faces no more. What’s more is that if you read these words you will find the apostle Paul declare that he was going bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem—a statement which meant that just as the Holy Spirit had led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil so also would the Spirit lead the apostle Paul unto the city of Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit would bear witness unto the apostle Paul that he must needs journey unto the city of Jerusalem—and not only that he must needs journey unto the city of Jerusalem but also that bonds and afflictions abode him there. That which we find in this passage of Scripture calls and draws our attention to the fact that not only did the apostle Paul know in advance and ahead of time that bonds and afflictions abode him in the city of Jerusalem he was neither moved nor dissuaded from going up unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul knew and understood that bonds and afflictions abode him there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem and yet he would sincerely and genuinely declare unto the elders of the Ephesian church that these things had no sway upon him nor did they move him. Moreover the apostle Paul would also declare that he did not count his life as dear unto himself that he might finish the course with joy and the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God. It is with this in context I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to certain words which the apostle Paul would both write and speak. I find it necessary and imperative to call and draw your attention to that which the Lord Jesus revealed unto the apostle Paul and Ananias while in Damascus as well as that which the apostle Paul would speak unto the brethren which were in Antioch. I would also like to call and draw your attention to the words which the apostle Paul would write unto the Philippian saints as well as the words which he would write in the second epistle unto the Corinthian saints:

 

            “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake(Acts 9:15-16).

 

            “And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance; and saw him saying unto me, Make hast, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me(Acts 22:17-18).

 

            “And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purposed, 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” (Acts 26:15-18).

 

            “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22).

 

            The apostle Paul clearly knew from the beginning that he must needs suffer a great many things for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was not only revealed unto the apostle Paul but also unto Ananias the great things he must needs suffer for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This one who had previously persecuted the spiritual body of the Lord Jesus Christ would now himself be persecuted in every city whereunto he journeyed and traveled. In fact there are very few instances with in the New Testament book of Acts where you find the apostle Paul not experiencing suffering, persecution, affliction, trials and tribulation. There are countless examples and accounts of the apostle Paul suffering afflictions and experiencing tremendous suffering and persecution throughout the New Testament book of Acts beginning as early as the ninth chapter and within the very city of Damascus. The apostle Paul would indeed begin to experience suffering as early as Damascus and even after he would depart from Damascus and could unto the city of Jerusalem the Grecians would seek to destroy and put him to death there in that place. It is with this all of this in mind I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the second and third chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi as well as the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the fourth, eleventh and twelfth chapters of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. Consider if you will the following words which are found in these passages of Scripture beginning with the third chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints:

 

            “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, built that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, where to we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing” (Philippians 3:7-16).

 

            “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded., having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in law lines of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputing: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me” (Philippians 2:1-18).

 

            Consider if you will the following words which are found in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth beginning with the fourth chapter of this particular book concerning the view(s) the apostle had concerning suffering, affliction and persecution—both his own suffering and affliction as well as the suffering and affliction which the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ can and will experience:

 

            “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully: but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine un to them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath sinned in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).

 

            “But we have this treasure in earthen vessel, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the thigns which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).

 

            “Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, ad night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended and I burn not?  If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not. In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: and though a window in a basket was I let down by the all, and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:23-33).

 

            “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth) how that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me. And lest I should be exalted  above measure through the abundance of revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chief east apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in sights, and wonders, and mighty deeds. For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong” (2 Corinthians 12:1-13).

 

            IN PERILS BY MINE OWN COUNTRYMEN! IN PERILS BY THE HEATHEN! It is clear from these passages of Scripture the apostle Paul did not count his life as dear unto himself for he recognize and understood those things which he must needs suffer for the sake of the name of his Lord. The apostle Paul did not count his life as dear unto himself but was willing to lay it down on the sacrifice and service of the faith of the churches and the brethren. The apostle Paul had considered his life as being dead with Christ and having been buried in baptism with the Lord Jesus through death that he might be a new creation in his Lord. Moreover the apostle Paul desired that he might partake of the fellowship of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ that he might be counted worthy to attain unto the resurrection of the dead and obtain the prize which was before him. In addition to this the apostle Paul would write unto the Corinthian saints  concerning being troubled on every side yet not distressed, perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not forsaken, cast down but not destroyed and always bearing about in the body the dying to the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus. Might be made manifest in the body. The apostle Paul would also go on to declare that we are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life also of Jesus Christ might be made. Manifest in our mortal flesh. The apostle Paul was well aware of the suffering, the affliction and the persecution he would experience in this life knowing that it was unto suffering he had indeed been called. The apostle Paul was one who would be groomed, molded and shaped by suffering and affliction within his life that he might indeed be found worthy of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is with this in mind—before delving into the times which the apostle Paul would experience suffering in the flesh as mentioned in the New Testament book of Acts—I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the first epistle written unto the suffering and scattered saints. Consider if you will the following words which are found in this first epistle beginning to read with and from the twelfth verse of the fourth chapter:

 

            “Beloved, think it not strange  concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murder, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a cChristian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glory God on this b half. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:12-19).

 

            “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:1-11).

 

            It is with all of this being said I find it absolutely necessary to present you with the various affliction(s), suffering and persecution(s) the apostle Paul experienced throughout his time of walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. It was revealed unto Ananias those great things which the apostle Paul would indeed and must needs suffer for the sake of the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for if you want to truly understand the words and language that is found in the final chapters of the New Testament book of Acts as the apostle Paul would not stand before Ananias the high priest, Felix the governor, Agrippa the king and religious and political leaders alike you must needs understand the progression of the suffering and affliction which the apostle Paul experienced throughout his walk and journey before and with the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul recognized that he must needs journey unto the city of Jerusalem and yet he was neither moved by the knowledge of bonds and afflictions awaiting him in the midst of the city of Jerusalem nor was he deterred from going up unto the city itself. Despite the fact that Agabus would come unto Caesarea and speak unto the apostle Paul of being bound by the Jews and delivered and handed over into the hands of the Gentiles he would not be deterred nor would he be swayed by such manifestations within his life. The apostle Paul was not moved by distresses, by afflictions, by suffering, by trials, by troubles, by suffering, nor by persecutions for he was willing to lay his life down as a sacrifice before and unto the living God. Having said this I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts which lead us up to the apostle Paul in the midst of the city of Jerusalem where he would be seized and come upon by the Jews who sought to destroy and put him to death. Consider if you will the following words which are found in this New Testament book beginning with the ninth chapter and the apostle Paul in the city of Damascus:

 

            “And after many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: but their laying away was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached b oddly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:23-31).

 

            “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God. And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those thigns which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have sets thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was published throughout all the region. But the Jews stirred up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men of the city, and raised persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them out of their coasts. But they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13:42-52).

 

            “And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles, and made their minds evil affected against the brethren. Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. And when there was an assault made both of the Gentiles, and also of the Jews with their rulers to use them despitefully, and to stone them. They were ware of it, and fled unto Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and unto the region that lieth round about: and there they preached the gospel” (Acts 14:1-7).

 

            “And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.  Howbeit as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city: and the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perna, they went down into Attalia: and thence sailed to Antioch, Frelimo whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. And there they abode long time with the disciples” (Acts 14:19-28).

 

            .…And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, and brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks” (Acts 16:19-24).

 

            “Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: and Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a grat multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things. And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go” (Acts 17:1-9).

 

            “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Sailas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. But when the Jews of Thessalonica had knowledge that the word of God was preached of Paul at Berea, they came hither also and stirred up the people. And then immediately the brethren sent away Paul to go as it were to the sea: but Silas and Timotheus abode there still. And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens; and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all spread, they departed” (Acts 17:10-15).

 

            “After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; and found a certain Jew Named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome) and came unto them. And because he was of the same crafty, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit,a nd testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. And Cripsus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak, and hold not thy peace: for I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:1-11).

 

            “And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the crafstmen; whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye k now that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuade and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made without hands: so that both only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificent should be destroyed whom all Asia and the world worshippeth. And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the threaten. And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not. And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre. Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together. And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defense unto the people. But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. And when the town clerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter? Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly. For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another. But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. For we are in danger to be called into question for this day’s uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse. And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly” (Acts 19:23-410.

 

            There is a great need for us to recognize and understand the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely incredible truth surrounding the various afflictions, trials, troubles and tribulations the apostle Paul would experience. Beginning with Damascus, continuing unto Jerusalem and then continuing in virtually every city the apostle Paul and his companions would enter there would be suffering, affliction, persecution, trials and troubles. It is impossible to read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture and not see a full and complete picture of that which the apostle Paul wrote and spoke about when writing unto the Corinthian saints. In the eleventh chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints he gave a detailed description of those things which he suffered in the flesh for the sake of the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and here in these chapters we find and encounter the tremendous reality of what that did in fact look like. From being beaten, to being stoned, to being imprisoned and to having the Jews continually and vehemently oppose and blaspheme against him and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ the apostle Paul would indeed suffer a great many things for the sake of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. We dare not miss and lose sight of this for if there is one thing we must needs understand it’s that the apostle Paul was indeed groomed and molded by suffering and affliction. In fact I would dare say the apostle Paul was indeed molded, shaped, groomed and transformed by and through the suffering and the affliction which he had experienced during this walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is I would dare say this is precisely what the apostle Paul was referencing when speaking unto the Ephesian elders and declaring unto them that he was willing to be imprisoned and even give his life for the sake of the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which our Lord Jesus spoke unto His disciples—both in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as the sixteenth and twenty-fourth chapter of the same gospel:

 

            “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 he shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour 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 master 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 your 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 that 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? 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).

 

            “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive e 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).

 

            The words and language we find in these passages of Scripture bring us face to face with the words which the Lord Jesus spoke and delivered unto His disciples as He prepared them for the suffering, the affliction, and even the persecution they would experience. Jesus of Nazareth would indeed prepare his disciples for suffering and affliction in this life—and not only for suffering and persecution but also for death itself. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for Jesus sent His disciples into the world as sheep among wolves while at the same time instructing them to be wise as serpents and yet harmless as doves. Not only this but the Lord Jesus would indeed prepare and make ready His disciples to be hated of all nations and all men for the sake of His name, for the sake of His gospel and for the sake of His word. Jesus sent His disciples out into the world to love their neighbor and to love their enemy, however, with this being said He never prepared them to be accepted, to be received, nor even for that love to be reciprocated. This is something which warrants strong consideration when thinking about the narrative of the apostle Paul for what we find in the account of his life is a man who would indeed experience much suffering, affliction, trials, troubles and tribulation for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. It is absolutely impossible to read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and not encounter the tremendous suffering and affliction the apostle Paul experienced—both from his own countrymen (the Jews) as well as from the Gentiles. In virtually every city the apostle Paul journeyed to he would indeed prepare, anticipate and expect suffering, affliction, persecution, trials, troubles and tribulations. Even when the apostle Paul made his way unto Jerusalem he knew that bonds and afflictions abode and awaited him there. Regardless of how many times he had indeed journeyed unto the city of Jerusalem this time would be one of the defining moments of his walk with the Lord Jesus as during this time the apostle Paul would indeed be seized upon by the Jews who would raise themselves against him.

           

If you read the words which are found in the twenty-first chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that Jews from throughout Asia were in the city of Jerusalem at the time of the feast. With this being said there would have been a number of Jews who were aware of who Paul is—and not only of who the apostle Paul but also of his doctrine and word which he preached unto both the Jews and Gentiles. It is necessary for us to recognize and understand for this not only would the Jews raise themselves up against the apostle Paul but they would also form a riotous mob intent on destroying and putting the apostle Paul to death. In fact—were it not for the intervention of the chief captain of the guard the apostle Paul might have been put to death by the Jews. It would be the chief captain of the guard who would come to the rescue and defense of the apostle Paul and would indeed be used as an instrument and vessel of the living and eternal God to protect the apostle Paul for his time and hour had not yet come. What’s more is that the more we read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more we are brought face to face with just how much the hand of the Lord was indeed upon the apostle Paul as even when the Jews conspired together against the apostle Paul to kill him their treachery and conspiracy was made known by his nephew who would indeed come and warn the chief captain not to give in to the words which the Jews would speak unto him for their intent was to kill and destroy him. As if this weren’t enough it is also necessary to consider the personal presence of the Lord Jesus here in the life of the apostle Paul for the Lord Jesus would indeed speak unto the apostle Paul there in Jerusalem and instruct him to be of good courage for as he had testified of Him there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem so also must he testify of Him in the city of Rome itself.

 

As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the tremendous presence of the Lord Jesus in the life of the apostle Paul—regardless of what suffering, what affliction, what trials, what tribulation and what suffering he experienced.  The apostle Paul would reveal how the Lord appeared to him in Jerusalem at the first and instruct him to depart from that place for the Jews would not receive his word and he would be sent unto the Gentiles. Moreover it would be in the midst of the city of Corinth the Lord Jesus would indeed appear unto the apostle Paul again and instruct and command him to not fear but to be of good cheer for he had much people within the city. The Lord Jesus would indeed speak unto the apostle Paul and command him to continue to speak boldly and freely for no man would set upon him to harm him. As if this weren’t enough there is also the account of the Lord Jesus appearing unto the apostle Paul while he was in Jerusalem at this time instructing him to be of good cheer and to be of good courage for as he testified of Him in the midst of the city of Jerusalem so also must he testify of Him in the city of Rome. Consider also the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints as the apostle Paul would recount the Lord Jesus speaking directly unto him and declaring that His grace was sufficient for him and that his grace was sufficient for him. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for even in the midst of the suffering, even in the midst of the affliction, even in the midst of the trials, the troubles and the tribulations he face. Perhaps the single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are those who are willing to lay down our lives for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Are we as the saints of God ready, willing and able to devote ourselves to the suffering, to the trials, to the troubles and to the affliction for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ? What’s more is are we truly willing to even lay down our lives for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ?

 

When writing unto his spiritual son in the faith—Timothy—the apostle Paul spoke of fighting the good fight of faith, running the race and finishing his course with joy. I am absolutely convinced this is something which warrants strong consideration within our hearts and lives for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding our own lives as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Are we indeed willing to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and walk with and follow the Lord Jesus? Are we willing to lay down our lives upon the altar as we present our bodies as living sacrifices? There is a great need for endurance, for commitment, for courage, for boldness and for those who are willing to even endure the fiery furnace as Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael did in the midst of Babylon when they refused to bow down to the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Moreover there is a great need for there to be men and women like Daniel you refused to cease praying—even though a decree and edict from the king was signed into law preventing men and women from praying to any other god beside the king. Daniel knew of the decree and yet three times a day he still opened his window toward Jerusalem and prayed before and unto the living God knowing that doing so would possibly get him cast into the den of lions. Perhaps the single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves—especially in these days is whether or not we are willing to be such who give ourselves fully and completely unto the Lord Jesus Christ and are willing to lay down our lives for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. Moreover if and should persecution rise up in this nation for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus would be those who stand firm and endure or would we be those who are offended and choose to turn our backs on and walk with the eternal and only begotten Son of the living God. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for I am convinced that what is needed in this generation more than ever before is endurance, is boldness, is courage, is discernment and for men and women to be as the sons of Issachar who understand the times and understand what must needs be done. Oh that we would indeed be men and women who recognize and understand the level, the measure and the degree of commitment, courage and boldness within our lives and that we would indeed ask the Holy Spirit to increase our faith, to make us men and women of prayer, to make us men and women who watch and men and women who are willing and able to stand in the midst of anything that might very well come our way in the coming days within the generation in which we are living.

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