Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. More specifically today’s passage is found in c halters five and six of this New Testament epistle. ““For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were disssolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon saith our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would b e unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life. Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the e Arnett of the Spirit. Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:1-8).
“Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. For we commend not ourselves again unto. You, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, t hat they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Wherefore henceforth know we know man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not mouthing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be re reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:9-21).
“We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) Giving no offense in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: but in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distress., in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; by pure ness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, b y love unrefined, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers and. Yet true; as unkown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:1-10).
“O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompense in the same, (I speak as unto my children,) be ye also enlarged. Be ye not inequality yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial/ OR what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:11-18).
When you come to the fourth chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find one of the most distinct chapters in the epistle regarding the conflicts, the struggles and the afflictions the apostle Paul faced. If you take the time to read this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find the apostle Paul devotes a considerable amount of time to the struggles and the conflicts he faced while serving as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ who was called according to the will of God. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the words which are found in this epistle for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the apostle Paul and the various conflicts and struggles he faced throughout his time of serving the Lord as His apostle. In fact if you turn and direct your attention to the New Testament book of Acts written by the beloved physician Luke you will find three distinct places where the conversion of Saul is recounted by this beloved physician. In each of these three places within this book you will find the Lord Jesus making it very clear unto the apostle Paul those things which he must needs suffer for the sake of the word and name of Jesus in the earth. This one who had previously persecuted the church and discovered that he was actually persecuting Jesus Himself would now find himself in a place where he would experience persecution. What’s more is it was the Lord Jesus Christ who would declare unto Ananias when sending him to Saul of Tarsus in the house of Judas at the street called Straight that Saul would suffer many things for the sake of the word and name of Jesus. This is something we must needs understand for if there is one thing we must recognize concerning the life of the apostle Paul after conversion it’s that he knew and understood those things which he must needs suffer for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus.
Perhaps one of the greatest realities surrounding the apostle Paul and his conversion on the road to Damascus before he would receive his sight, would be baptized and would receive the Holy Spirit in the city of Damascus is that he knew and understood those things which he must needs suffer for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is something about the conversion of the apostle Paul and that is that when he was baptized and received the Holy Spirit there in the midst of Damascus he didn’t do so expecting a life of comfort, a life of ease, a life of rest and even a life of peace. If you take the time to read and study the narrative of the apostolic ministry of the apostle Paul you will find that he was a man whose Christian life was indeed marked by tremendous suffering, tremendous affliction and tremendous persecution. It is absolutely impossible to read the words surrounding the life of the apostle Paul and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely incredible truth surrounding his understanding of those things which he must needs suffer for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul received the Holy Spirit, was baptized and even began preaching in Damascus after his conversion knowing full well that his life would be marked with suffering, affliction and persecution. In fact I would dare say the apostle expected and anticipated suffering, affliction and persecution and did not for a single moment think that he would somehow be exempt or immune from it. The Lord made it perfectly clear when revealing Himself unto Ananias and sending him unto the apostle Paul that he would suffer great things for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul knew exactly what walking and following the Lord Jesus Christ would indeed mean for him in advance and ahead of time and he was still firmly committed to faithfully serving Him—even in the midst of the suffering, the persecution and the affliction.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the narrative of the life of the apostle Paul and I am brought face to face with the tremendous reality that he was a man who recognized and understood that he would indeed suffer a very many things for the sake of the word, the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. 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 of what it means to consciously and deliberately make the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus despite and regardless of those things which we might suffer as a result of doing so. I cannot help but read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts and think about how many men and women among us made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus because of the ease, the comfort, the blessing, the rest and the prosperity Jesus can offer and afford them. I am convinced there are very few men and women among us in many of our churches today who have made the decision to walk with and follow Jesus knowing full well that it might very well lead them into a place of suffering, affliction and persecution. There are men and women among us in our churches today who would be completely and utterly shocked when suffering, affliction and persecution rose up against them in this life and might very well become offended with the person of the living God. What’s more is I would dare say there would be men and women who would be offended with the Lord Jesus Christ if persecution, suffering and affliction rises up in this life and touches their life in a way they neither expected nor anticipated.
The more I think about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the reality of men and women women in us within our churches today who have absolutely no context or framework for any type of suffering, persecution and affliction within their lives. What’s more is I would dare say there are men and women who are and will continue walking with and following Jesus so long as it doesn’t effect their liberties and their freedoms. There are men and women among us who have made the decision to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus solely because of the rest, the peace, the comfort and the ease they anticipate and expect in this life. I am absolutely convinced there are countless men and women among us in our churches who would be completely and utterly offended if suffering and persecution touched their lives in a very personal way. What’s more is I would dare say there are men and women who are okay with the suffering and persecution of Christians so long as it remains in other countries of the world and does not touch them personally. There are men and women among us in our churches today who are perfectly fine with suffering, affliction and persecution of Christians so long as they aren’t one of the Christians who is touched and affected by it. This is something incredibly tragic about western Christianity for I would dare say there are countless men and women in our churches today who have such a warped view of what it truly means to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. There are men and women who have such an idea and expectation of walking with and following the Lord Jesus absent suffering and persecution in their lives and have absolutely no willingness to walk through and endure suffering and affliction themselves.
It is with this having been said so far I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention—first and foremost to the words which our Lord spoke unto the disciples which the apostle Matthew recorded for us in the gospel bearing his name. In the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus speaking about those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. What’s more is in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus also speaks of those who are despitefully used, those who are hated and those who are cursed for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus. In addition to this you will find when Jesus called the twelve disciples unto Himself and ordained them as apostles and ambassadors for the kingdom He did in fact give them power to heal sickness, power to cast out demons and unclean spirits, power to preach the word and gospel of the kingdom and to be an extension of His work and ministry in the earth. What we must needs recognize, however, is that directly associated with this sending forth of the disciples as apostles for the kingdom of heaven in the earth Jesus didn’t prepare them to be received in the towns, villages, cities and houses they would enter. In fact I would dare say that Jesus actually prepared them for the opposite—prepared them to be hated, prepared them to be rejected, prepared them to be despised and prepared them to be abhorred by those to whom they were sent. Much like the prophets in the generations of their fathers were persecuted, afflicted, despised and rejected so also would they themselves be persecuted, afflicted, despised and rejected. Not only this but just as the Lord Jesus was Himself despised, rejected, afflicted and persecuted so also would they as His disciples experience the same treatment. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah as well as the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried away our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for out transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death: because he hath done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall blear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he b are the sin of man, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1-12).
Before I present you with the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew I find it absolutely necessary to turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle john. It is in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find that Jesus became the Word made flesh which dwelt among us. In the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah we find the prophet witnessing and beholding a suffering and afflicted Messiah and Christ who was afflicted and stricken among men. The prophet saw the Messiah who was despised and rejected and who came unto His own and yet His own received Him not. Perhaps more than any other prophet the prophet Isaiah saw the suffering of the Messiah and Christ and saw those things which He would face in this life. Despite the fact that He was sent to bear the transgression and iniquities of us all He would be despised and rejected by men—even those whom he came to bring salvation, redemption and forgiveness of sins. The law came through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ and yet truthfully there were countless religious Jews who chose the Law with all its commands, statutes and precepts over grace, truth and mercy which was offered unto them by the person of the Lord Jesus. In fact the twenty-third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew presents us with a powerful picture of how the scribes and Pharisees chose the Law and bondage to the law through legalism, religion and hypocrisy rather than the kingdom of heaven and the grace and mercy that came as a direct result of the person of the Lord Jesus. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:
“IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him” (John 1:1-18).
We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of the absolutely wonderful reality that is found within this passage of Scripture for it brings us face to face with the tremendous suffering, affliction and persecution the Lord Jesus experienced. In fact if you take the time to read the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will find that during those three and a half years Jesus walked among us as the Word made flesh and was manifested as the Messiah and Christ he experienced tremendous persecution and suffering at the hands of the Jews. In fact as early as the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find the Jews not only persecuting Him because He had broken the sabbath according to their own tradition and laws but they also sought to kill and put Him to death because He made the claim that He was the Son of God thus making God His Father. Time and time again within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John you will not only find the religious Jews but also the religious and political leaders of the Jews persecuting Jesus and ultimately seeking to destroy Him and put Him to death. You cannot read the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John without encountering how incredibly Jewish-centric it is—and not only how Jewish-centric it is but also how it seemed to be centered upon the feasts of the Jews as well as the city of Jerusalem and the Temple. What’s more is in the seventh chapter of this gospel you will find that Jesus could no longer walk in Jewry because they desired to kill and put Him to death—something which we must needs recognize and understand if we want to truly recognize what it means to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus.
I write these words and I am brought face to face with the tremendous reality of the Lord Jesus Christ and how while He walked upon the face of the earth He experienced tremendous suffering, affliction and persecution at the hands of the religious Jews—and not only at the hands of the religious Jews but also at the hands of the religious and political leaders of the Jews themselves. The scribes, the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, the chief priests and those who were entrusted with the care of the people were the main proponents of the affliction, the suffering and the persecution toward the Lord Jesus. You cannot read the four gospel narratives surrounding the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ without encountering the tremendous affliction, persecution and suffering Jesus faced at the hands of the religious Jews who not only took issue with His works—particularly healing on the Sabbath—but also His works. Moreover you cannot read the four gospel narratives without reading of the tremendous persecution of the religious and political leaders of that day seeking to destroy and put to death Jesus that they might remove Him from their culture and society. For three and a half years the religious Jews together with their religious and political leaders sought to destroy and put to death the person of the Lord Jesus. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for when Jesus called his disciples unto Himself and ordained them as apostles for the kingdom of heaven in the earth he didn’t prepare them to be received, welcomed, embraced and even treated well and treated fairly. When Jesus sent His disciples out into the midst of the cities, towns and villages He sent them forth with the commandment to love their neighbor, however, with this being said He prepared them to be hated and even despised and rejected in return. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the fifth, tenth, sixteenth and twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as the words which are found in the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John:
“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).
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right check, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).
Within these passages of Scripture we find Jesus speaking of being persecuted for righteousness’ sake and declaring that such who are persecuted in this manner will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Jesus would go on to describe those as blessed when men revile them, and when men persecute them and when men shall say all manner of evil against them falsely for His sake. Jesus would admonish them to rejoice and be exceeding glad for great was their reward in heaven for so their fathers had persecuted the prophets in the generations which were before them. As if this weren’t enough the Lord also admonished His disciples and the multitudes who gathered to hear and listen to Him speak at the mount of Beatitudes to love their enemies and bless those who cursed them. Moreover Jesus also instructed them to do good to those that hated them and pray for those who despitefully used them and persecuted them that they may be the children of their Father which is in heaven. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous reality that walking with and following the Lord Jesus doesn’t mean that we cannot and will not experience suffering, affliction and persecution in this life. In fact I would dare say that walking with and following Jesus ought of necessity mean that we can and will experience persecution, affliction and suffering in this life. It was the apostle Paul who would write and declare that all who would live godly in this life will suffer persecution and would also declare that we shall through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of heaven. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for if we would truly wish to walk with and follow the Lord Jesus we must needs be those who anticipate and even expect persecution, suffering and affliction in this life.
If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew and the apostle John you will find that Jesus prepared his disciples for suffering, for affliction and for persecution. Jesus did not prepare His disciples and those who walked with and followed Him for a life of ease, a life of comfort, a life of convenience and a life of peace. In fact it was Jesus who emphatically declared that He did not come to bring peace upon the earth but a sword and came to set men against one another. If you read the four New Testament gospels you will find the Lord Jesus prepared and made ready His disciples to experience and walk through pain, suffering, affliction, persecution and to even lay down their lives for the sake of the word and name of Jesus in the earth. You cannot read the words which are found in the gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with the absolutely astonishing reality that walking with and following the Lord Jesus might very well mean our being delivered unto the courts and scourged in the churches. Perhaps the single greatest question I find myself asking is whether or not men and women who worship in our churches today are truly and indeed prepared and ready for suffering, affliction and persecution if and/or when it arises. I firmly believe there are countless men and women among us in our churches who are neither ready nor prepared—emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually—for persecution, for suffering and affliction when it rises. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary and even imperative in the generation in which we are living for men and women to prepare and make themselves ready to endure suffering and hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. This was precisely what the apostle Paul wrote unto his spiritual son Timothy and something we as those who would walk with and follow the Lord Jesus must needs acknowledge within our own hearts and lives. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narratives written by the apostle Matthew and the apostle John even more:
“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 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 farting? 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:? 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: 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 wash 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).
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall ble shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christ, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect form the four winds, form one end of heaven to the other. Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (matthew 24:11-42).
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looked not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites:there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (matthew 24:36-51).
Having considered these words which were recorded by the apostle Matthew in his gospel account of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ I find it absolutely necessary to now call your attention to the following words which the apostle John presented us with in his gospel account of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus:
“These things I command you, that ye love one another. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me. If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin. He that hateth me hateth my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have both seen and hated both me and my Father. But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with. Me from the beginning” (John 15:17-27).
“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 killest h 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 these 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).
“Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:32-33).
Please pay attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for not only do we encounter the tremendous persecution of the Lord Himself but we also uncover something incredibly unique—namely that because He was persecuted in this world so also would those who walk with and follow Him be persecuted. Jesus held no punches and made no mistake about it when speaking with His disciples for He emphatically declared unto them that because they persecuted Him and because they sought to destroy Him so also would they persecute and seek to destroy them. In fact Jesus would declare unto them that in this world they would have tribulation but to be of good cheer for He had overcome the world. Moreover Jesus would declare unto them that they would be put out of the synagogues and the time would come that whosoever killed them will think they did God a service. These things Jesus told them that they might not be offended—and not only that they might not be offended but that they might be prepared and ready for when they actually came. What we must needs recognize and understand is that almost immediately after the apostles began teaching and preaching in the name of the Lord Jesus they would experience persecution from the religious and political leaders of the Jews there in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. In the fourth and fifth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts we find the apostles being persecuted by the religious and political. Leaders of the Jews in Jerusalem before we read of a great persecution breaking out against the whole church in the city of Jerusalem in the eighth chapter. Not only this but we would read of Saul of Tarsus wreaking havoc upon the church and entering houses and homes dragging men and women who were followers of this way and committing them to prison—even unto death.
It is at this juncture I find it absolutely necessary we return to the life of the apostle Paul for when the Lord Jesus undertook the process of bringing about his conversion He would make it abundantly and perfectly clear that he who once persecuted the church would himself experience much suffering, affliction and persecution for the sake of the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that when the apostle Paul began walking with and following the Lord Jesus he was well aware of the suffering, the affliction and the persecution he would endure within this world. The apostle Paul walked with and followed the Lord Jesus knowing full well and knowing in advance that he would suffer a great and many things for the sake of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus. What we must recognize is the apostle Paul anticipated and expected this suffering, this affliction and this persecution and was not caught off guard nor taken by surprise when it rose up against him. What’s more is that almost immediately after the apostle Paul began preaching the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ he would experience this suffering and persecution as in the city of Damascus the Jews would seek to kill and put Him to death. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for the apostle Paul’s journey of faith and his walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ would indeed mean that he would experience a life of suffering, affliction and persecution rather than ease, rest, comfort and peace. The apostle Paul would know what it truly meant to suffer for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as he would not only experience suffering and persecution at the hands of his own countrymen—the Jews—but also from the Gentiles as well. Having said this I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts for there are three distinct places where we read of the conversion of the apostle Paul and his understanding of those things which he must needs suffer for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus:
“And Saul, yet breaking out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Sal arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damscus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for behold he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this. Man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, 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. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ” (Acts 9:1-22).
“Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defence, which I make now unto you. (And when they heard that he spake in the Hebrew tongue to them, they kept the more silence: and he saith,) I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to b ring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished. And it came to pass, that as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, LordA? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And the same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all. Men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. 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 haste, get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: and when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 23:1-21).
“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 out 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? I 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 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 received 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 the 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).
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand about this conversion it’s that when Saul was baptized, when he received the Holy Spirit and when he began teaching and preaching that Jesus was indeed the very Christ and Son of the living God he understood those things which he must needs suffer for the sake of that gospel he preached. Although he might not have known all the details concerning those things he would indeed face he knew that he would suffer a great and very many things for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the reality that Saul anticipated and expected that walking with and following the Lord Jesus would indeed mean that he would suffer for the sake of His word and name. The apostle Paul had absolutely no expectation of a life with Jesus that would be characterized by ease, rest, peace, comfort and convenience. The apostle Paul would indeed know what it would mean to walk with Christ—to deny himself, to take up his cross and follow Him. The apostle Paul knew that he would suffer many things as a direct result of walking with and following the Lord Jesus—and not only did he know that he would suffer a great many things but he knew that his life would be marked with and by such suffering, affliction and persecution.
If you read the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find him speaking of the ministry he received according to the divine mercy of God that he faint not. Moreover the apostle Paul would go on to describe how he renounced the hidden things of dishonesty not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully but by manifestation of truth commending themselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. The apostle Paul would go on to speak of their gospel and if it was somehow hidden from those to whom they preached it was hid to those who were lost in whom the god of this world had blinded their minds of them which believe not lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ—who is the image of God—should shine unto them. The apostle Paul would write and declare unto the Corinthian saints that they preached not themselves but Christ Jesus the Lord and themselves as their servants for the sake of the Lord Jesus. This is something we must needs recognize for when we seek to preach we must recognize that we have neither been called nor have we been sent to preach ourselves—our exploits, our victories, our triumphs, and those things pertaining to our life. When we preach we have been commanded by the living to preach the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. If you read and study the New Testament book of Acts you will find that from the apostle Peter, to the apostle John, to Stephen, to Philip, to the apostle Paul and to others they did not preach themselves but they preached the word and name of the Lord Jesus. That which the apostles and those who were part of the early church preached was the suffering which Jesus endured in the flesh and His ultimate sacrifice as he was put to death and crucified in the place of the skull. The apostle Paul determined to know and preach nothing among men save Jesus and Him crucified and raised from death to life on the third day according to Scripture.
With this being said it is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand that as the apostle Paul continued writing in this epistle he wrote of this treasure in earthen vessels. The purpose of this treasure in earthen vessels was that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. The apostle Paul taught and preached that we as the saints of God are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed. What’s more is the apostle Paul would go on to write and speak of how both he, his companions and those who were godly in this life bore about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. Not only this but the apostle Paul would go on to write how those which live were always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. The apostle Paul would go on to write how death worked in them but life in them and how they believed knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus would raise them up also by Jesus and present them together as blameless in the sight of the living God. The apostle Paul goes on to further describe how though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. He would go on to write how our light affliction which is but for a moment works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen for the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal.
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw our attention to the words the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture for while it is true that he speaks of this treasure we have in these earthen vessels he goes on to describe the way that treasure is exposed and witnessed—namely through the breaking of the vessel. I am absolutely and completely convinced that more often than not the true way to expose and bring about the treasure which we have in these earthen vessels—the life and nature of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ—is through pressure and through breaking. Much like the oil from an olive is not released and exposed without and apart from the breaking and the crushing under a millstone so also is the character and nature of the eternal Christ not released and manifested in our lives without and apart from pressure, from breaking and from those things we experience. I firmly believe that suffering, affliction and persecution are indeed the means whereby the living and eternal God brings forth the hidden oil of our lives—the person of the Holy Spirit and the character of the only begotten Son of the Father. There would be those who would think that this can somehow be produced absent breaking, absent pressure and absent suffering and persecution. The truth of the matter is the greater the pressure and the greater the breaking the greater the yield is of the treasure which is present within our lives. Perhaps the question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to be those individuals who are willing to yield ourselves to the pressure and to the breaking of suffering, of affliction and persecution. I am convinced that more often than not the only true way to expose and bring forth this treasure which is in our earthen vessels is through much suffering, persecution and affliction. Not only this but I would dare say that one of the greatest ways to experience growth and maturity within our hearts and lives is through this breaking and through this shattering of our vessels that the treasure might be exposed, revealed and manifested unto the world in this generation in which we are living.