Today’s selected reading continues in and concludes the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. More specifically today’s passage is found in the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of this New Testament book. “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 an 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 the 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 chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, 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).
“Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you: though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crazy, I caught you with guile. Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you? I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? Walked we not in the same spirit? Walked we not in the same steps?” (2 Corinthians 12:14-18).
“Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? We speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying. For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envying, wrath’s, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: and lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed” (2 Corinthians 12:19-21).
“This is the third time I am coming to your. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. I told you before, and for tell you, as if I were present, the second time: and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare: since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, which to you-ward is not weak, but is mighty in you. For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth. For we are glad, when we are weak, and ye are strong: and this also we wish, even your perfection. Therefore I write these things being absent, lest present I should use sharpness, according to the power which the Lord hath given me to edification, and not to destruction” (2 Corinthians 13:1-10).
“Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. Greet one another with an holy kiss. All the saints salute you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen” (2 Corinthians 13:11-14).
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul bringing the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints to a close. If there is one thing that makes this particular passages so incredibly intriguing—and not only this passage but the entire epistle itself—it’s that throughout the epistle the apostle Paul describes the struggles and conflicts he faced in this life. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must realize and recognize concerning the apostle Paul is that he was absolutely no stranger to suffering, to affliction nor to persecution. If you take the time to read the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the ninth chapter you will find that almost immediately after the apostle Paul began preaching the gospel of Jesus he would suffer persecution from those who would seek to kill and destroy him. The apostle Paul would begin teaching and preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus in Damascus after being baptized, after calling on the name of the Lord and after receiving his sight and the Holy Spirit and Luke writes and records how the Jews which were present there in the midst of the city sought to destroy and put him to death. It would be there in the midst of Damascus the apostle Paul would anger and infuriate the Jews who would themselves seek to destroy and put him to death because he would begin arguing and contending that Jesus of Nazareth was not only the Son of the living God but was also the Christ. You will recall—mainly from the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John—that the religious Jews and the unbelieving Jews rejected and despised the idea and understanding that Jesus was the eternal and only begotten Son of the living God. What’s more is the Jews would reject the claims which were made that Jesus was indeed the Christ and the long-awaited Messiah whom the Law and the prophets had spoken of.
The more you read the four gospel narratives written concerning the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus the more you will encounter and come face to face with the awesome and incredible reality that the religious and political leaders of Jesus’ day and generation despised and rejected Him. This takes on an entirely different meaning when you consider the fact that the prophet Isaiah—that prophet who perhaps saw more concerning the Messiah than any other Hebrew prophet—and the apostle John would write and speak of the rejection and despising of the Messiah in the earth. In the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah you will find the song of the suffering Servant which was written to describe the suffering and ultimately the death the eternal and only begotten Son of the living God would experience in this life. What’s more is the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John would indeed describe the Jew’s rejection of the Word which became flesh and dwelt among us. Despite the fact that Jesus would come unto His own His own would receive Him not and would utterly and completely despise Him. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it helps us to understand the rejection of the Jews when the apostles and early church began teaching and preaching in the name of Jesus of Nazareth the resurrection from the dead. Moreover this helps us to understand the rejection of the Jews when the apostles and the early church would teach and preach that Jesus of Nazareth was not only the Messiah and Christ but was also the Son of the living and eternal God. 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 truth surrounding the Jews’ rejection of the teaching and preaching of the apostles who would declare that it was through their unbelief and through their hardness of heart they delivered Jesus up to be crucified and put to death.
I am absolutely convinced we must needs consider the words which are found in the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah—and not only this passage but also the words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John. It is within these passages we encounter the incredible and undeniable reality that the Lord Jesus would indeed suffer rejection and would be despised by His own. Despite the fact that He would take upon Himself the form of a servant and despite the fact that He would take upon Himself the seed of Abraham the seed of Abraham would despise and reject Him. What’s more is I would dare say we must needs consider the words which are found in the second chapters of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippian saints as well as the epistle written unto the Hebrews. Within each of these epistles—together with the gospel written by the apostle John—we discover the Messiah taking upon Himself the form of a servant and taking upon Himself the seed of Abraham that He might indeed walk among us. Moreover these passages help us to understand that Jesus did indeed come in the flesh and it was in that flesh He would be despised and rejected—and not only despised and rejected but would also be delivered by His own unto the Romans for the purpose of suffering and death. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it would be the Jews themselves who would deliver Jesus into the hands of sinners that He might suffer in the flesh and ultimately be killed and crucified. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following passages which were previously mentioned beginning with that which is found in the fifty-third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah:
“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 our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our 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 had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; and 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 bear 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 bare the sin of man, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1-12).
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the b GE inning 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 b ear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which ligtheth 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).
“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 lowliness 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 b e came 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” (Philippians 2:1-11).
“For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and dust set him over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me. Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:5-18).
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and pay attention to each of these passages of Scripture for within them we encounter and are brought face to face with the fact that Jesus of Nazareth took upon Himself the seed of Abraham. What’s more is that not only did Jesus take upon Himself the seed of Abraham but He also took upon Himself flesh and blood that He might suffer in the flesh and ultimately be put to death and crucified. What we must needs understand and recognize concerning this, however, is that the purpose of Jesus coming in the flesh was about more than just His own suffering and ultimately His being put to death according to Scripture that He might be raised from death to life and therefore destroy the works and power of the devil. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews makes it perfectly clear that the Lord Jesus took upon Himself the form of a servant and took upon Himself the form of flesh and blood that He might be a faithful and merciful high priest. It was because Jesus came in the flesh—and not only because He came in the flesh but because He suffered in the flesh He is able to be touched with our infirmities. For—as the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote—we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities but was in all ways tempted as we are and yet was without sin. We do indeed have a faithful and merciful high priest who came in the flesh and who suffered in the flesh that He might succour, strengthen and uphold those who themselves suffer in the flesh. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of the suffering of the Lord Jesus in the flesh that He might indeed accomplish and fulfill that for which he had been sent. With this in mind I would like to call your attention to the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints of Rome as well as the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostles John:
“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation workieth patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Romans 5:1-11).
“Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is now law. NEverhtless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. But not as the offense, so also is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification. For if by one man’s offense. Death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:12-21).
“After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water. For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever diseases he had. And a certain man was there, which had an infirmities thirty and eight years. When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole? The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me. Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk. And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath. The Jews therefore said unto him that was cured, It is the sabbath day: it is not lawful for thee to carry thy bed. He answered them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed, and walk. Then asked they him, What man is that which said unto thee, Take up thy bed, and walk? And he that was healed wist not who it was: for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. The man departed, and told the jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole” (John 5:1-15).
“And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but a said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man” (John 5:16-27).
We must needs acknowledge and understand the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they further illustrate the incredible reality that Jesus did in fact come in the flesh and took upon Himself the seed of Abraham. What’s more is that it was the apostle Paul who—when writing unto the saints which were at Rome—would write concerning Jesus that He was the second man Adam who would suffer in the flesh that we who suffer as His disciples and followers might have hope, might have confidence and might have assurance that He is able to strengthen, stablish, and succour us in the midst of anything we face. What’s more is that in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we not only find the persecution of the Jews toward and against Jesus but we also read of the Jews seeking to kill and put Jesus to death. What’s more is this would not be the first time within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John where we read of the Jews seeking to put Jesus to death that they might rid themselves of His person, His teaching, His doctrine and His works. Time and time again within the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find the Jews rejecting and despising Jesus of Nazareth—not only because of His claims to be the Son of God but also because of their familiarity with who He was and who [as it was supposed] His father was along with his mother.
The New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John is replete with example after example of the rejection of the Jews toward and against the person of the Lord Jesus as they not only refused to acknowledge and accept that He was the Son of the living God but they rejected any claims that were made that He was the Son of David, that He was the Son of man and that He was indeed the Christ and the Messiah. What’s more is that throughout the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John—and not only within this gospel but within the other three Synoptic gospels—we find the religious and political leaders raising themselves up against the Lord Jesus. Time and time again the religious and political leaders of that generation persecuted Jesus and continually tried to trap and ensnare Him in His words that they might have ground to accuse Him that they might deliver Him unto the death. Throughout the four New Testament gospel narratives concerning the Lord Jesus Christ we find example after example of the Jews together with their religious and political leaders persecuting Jesus and seeking to bring about His death. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to consider it is that the persecution and suffering of Jesus would not be limited to Him alone. While He was among us as the Word made flesh the persecution and suffering would be limited and confined to Him so to speak. The disciples themselves—and those who walked with and followed Jesus—would themselves be shielded from the persecution which would be directed against Jesus. Most of the brunt of the persecution during the days in which Jesus walked among us as the Word made flesh would be directed toward and against Him and the disciples would bear witness and watch as this suffering and persecution would unfold.
It is important for us to recognize and understand this for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the Lord Jesus and how the Lord Jesus would indeed be the target of the suffering and persecution of the Jesus together with their religious leaders. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible truth that although Jesus suffered in the flesh and although Jesus was persecuted and afflicted and ultimately put to death it would not stop with Him. Once the Jews had delivered the Lord Jesus unto the Romans to torture and put to death there might have been the idea and understanding that the persecution and affliction would stop there. What we must needs recognize is that the disciples themselves—and those who gathered themselves together with the disciples who walked with and followed Jesus—believed that they themselves would and could be targeted by the fury of the Jews. In the final chapters of the four New Testament gospels we find the disciples remaining and abiding in Jerusalem, however, they would remain in an upper room with the door locked. Undoubtedly the disciples and those who had walked with and followed Jesus were fearful of the retaliation of the Jews and that just as the Jews had persecuted and delivered Jesus unto the hands of sinners to be killed and crucified so also would they experience and suffer a similar fate. What lends even more credence to this is when you consider the words which Jesus spoke unto His disciples. While Jesus was among them He emphatically declared unto them that in this world they would indeed suffer persecution, affliction and in some cases would even be put to death.
It might very well be said that while the Lord Jesus was among the disciples and those who walked with and followed Him the suffering, the affliction and persecution would be limited to Him alone and the disciples would themselves be shielded and protected from it. What we must needs recognize, however, is that when Jesus departed from this world and ascended unto the right hand of the Father He would indeed send the person and promise of the Holy Spirit. While it is indeed true the person and presence of the Holy Spirit would indeed be a Comforter who would remind them of the words which Jesus spoke unto them and guide them into all truth His presence would mean something entirely and drastically different—namely the suffering, the affliction and the persecution of the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus. What would begin with persecution, affliction and the suffering of the apostles in chapters four and five of the New Testament book of Acts would eventually culminate in the death of Stephen as the first martyr of the early church and ultimately the great persecution which would break out against the early church in the city of Jerusalem. With this in mind we must needs recognize and understand that while Jesus walked among us as the Word made flesh He prepared, made ready, cautioned and even warned His disciples and those who would walk with and follow Him that the days would come when they would themselves experience suffering, persecution and affliction—and not only these three but also death itself as those who killed them would believe they were doing God a service. 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, the physician Luke and 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 cheek, 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 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 enemie. 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).
“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 disciples 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 spake ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which k ill 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:? 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 there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dung hill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:25-35).
“These things ai 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. For 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 have they 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 killers you will think t hat 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 er 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).
The words which we find in these passages of Scripture call and draw our attention to the absolutely tremendous truth that while Jesus walked among us as the Word made flesh the suffering, the affliction and persecution would be directed toward and against Him. It might very well be said that while the master of the house was present among the brethren the persecution, the suffering and the affliction would be directed toward and against Him. Each of the four gospel narratives presents us with the tremendous reality that while the Lord Jesus walked among us as the Word made flesh the Jews would direct their rage, their fury, their animosity and even their hatred toward and against Jesus. While Jesus was still present among them the Jews would not turn their hatred toward the disciples but would hate the Son who was sent from the Father which is in heaven. This is precisely why Jesus would reference the Scripture that described how they hated Him with a cause. Moreover this is why Jesus would declare how those who hated Him hated the Father who sent Him for the Son was in the Father and the Father was in the Son. Oh there is a tremendous truth surrounding the Lord Jesus Christ and how while He was present among us he would experience the animosity, the fierceness, the ferocity, the persecution and the affliction of the Jews who would seek to destroy and put Him to death. In all of the four New Testament gospels we read of the religious and political leaders among the Jews raising themselves up against Jesus to persecute and afflict Him while in the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we read of the unbelieving Jews who would not only persecute the Lord Jesus but would also seek to destroy and put Him to death. It would be in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John we find the beginning of this persecution of the Jews toward and against the person of the Lord Jesus.
We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how incredible it truly is for while the Lord Jesus would indeed walk among us as the Word made flesh the Jews together with their religious and political leaders would persecute the Lord Jesus. There would come a time when the Lord Jesus would declare unto the disciples that when the Shepherd would be struck the sheep would scatter and would all go unto their own way. This would indeed happen in the garden of Gethsemane when Judas led a band of soldiers and guard into the garden against Jesus as He would betray Him into their hands. Initially Simon who was called Peter would draw the sword and strike off the ear of a servant of the high priest, however, the Lord Jesus declared unto Simon that those who lived by the sword would also die by the sword. There is something truly captivating and astonishing about what we find within the four New Testament gospels for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the words which Jesus would speak unto His disciples when He was preparing to depart from this earth and return unto the Father. It is indeed true that from the time Jesus delivered on the Sermon on the Mount He suggested the persecution of His disciples and those who would walk with and follow Him. It would be in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew we find Jesus declaring those who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake as being blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Moreover Jesus would go on to declare that those who were persecuted for righteousness’ sake ought to rejoice because their fathers persecuted the prophets which were of old.
I am sitting here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in these passages of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the fact that while Jesus did in fact send His disciples out to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves he would also instruct them to beware of men. This instruction and command to beware of men would be centered upon the reality that men would raise themselves up against them and would deliver them unto the death. Jesus declared unto the disciples and those who would walk with and follow Him that they would experience persecution, affliction, suffering, tribulations, trials and troubles in this life. There were what I would call glimpses of this teaching throughout the three and a half years Jesus walked among us as the manifested Word made flesh, however, it would be when Jesus was preparing to depart from this world and return unto His Father in heaven He would not only remind them of the words which He had spoken unto them but would prepare and make them ready to suffer persecution, to experience affliction and to even be put to death. Jesus would prepare and make ready His disciples to be put out of the synagogues and even to be brought before governor and kings for His name’s sake and for a witness unto them and the Gentiles. Jesus knew that after His departure the person and promise of the Holy Spirit would indeed come as a Comforter who would guide them into all truth, however, He also knew that after His departure men would raise themselves up against His disciples and followers. The apostle Paul knew that after he departed from Ephesus savage and grievous wolves would come in among them not sparing the flock and would seek to deceive many and draw and entice them away unto themselves and false doctrine. Jesus knew and understood that after His departure from this world and His return unto the Father which was in heaven His disciples and followers would suffer and experience tremendous suffering and persecution. Jesus knew and understood that after hIs departure from this world men would raise themselves up against His disciples and followers and would put them out of the synagogues and persecute them beyond measure.
It is this reality that brings us back to the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints. Within this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints we find him writing and speaking about the conflicts, the struggles, the troubles and the affliction and persecution he experienced for the sake of the gospel. In fact I would dare say you cannot read this particular epistle written by the apostle Paul and not encounter and come face to face with the tremendous amount of affliction and suffering he endured within this life for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus. The second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints is perhaps the one epistle written by the apostle Paul that describes in great detail the afflictions, the suffering, the persecution, the trials, the tribulations and those things the apostle Paul would suffer in the flesh. This particular epistle emphatically describes and presents us with the incredible truth surrounding the struggles and conflicts the apostle Paul would indeed experience in the flesh for the sake of the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is indeed true that in other epistles the apostle Paul would write and speak of his bonds and his chains as he would be a prisoner of Christ in chains, however this particular epistle describes in great detail the struggles and the conflicts the apostle Paul would experience in this life for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Within this epistle the apostle Paul would indeed describe the absolutely wonderful and powerful reality of those things he would indeed suffer in the flesh for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the absolutely wonderful truths contained within these Scriptures and how they bring us face to face with the struggles and conflicts the apostle Paul would face in this life. The apostle Paul would indeed describe in great measure and great detail those things which he suffered in the flesh and the apostle Paul recognized that his life would indeed be marked with and by suffering. The more I read the writings of the apostle Paul and the more I consider the account of his life as recorded in the New Testament book of Acts the more I am brought face to face with the fact that the apostle Paul anticipated and even expected suffering in this life. If there is one individual who was not surprised, nor shocked nor even caught off guard by suffering and affliction it was the apostle Paul for it was revealed very early on that he would suffer many things for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for the apostle Paul knew and understood that all who would live godly in Christ Jesus would suffer persecution, would suffer affliction and would experience great distresses in this life. Moreover the apostle Paul knew that we must through many trials and tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven—a reality which he would declare at the conclusion of his first apostolic and missionary journey with Barnabas. The apostle Paul was one who was not surprised nor caught off guard by suffering and affliction in this life and grew to expect and even anticipate it. What’s more is as you read the words presented within this epistle you will find the apostle Paul actually boasting of his afflictions, and boasting of those things which he suffered in this life. Not only this but it would be in the epistle written unto the Philippian saints the apostle Paul declared that He desired to partake of the fellowship of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ that he might be counted worthy of the mark of the prize of the high calling that was in Christ Jesus.
Having said and written these words I now find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in this particular epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. What you will find when reading the words found in this epistle is an incredibly strong and powerful declaration of the suffering, the affliction and the persecution the apostle Paul would experience in this life. The apostle Paul would experience much tribulation, many trials and troubles as a direct result of walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul would indeed be molded and shaped by the suffering and persecution he would face and experience in this life and would be changed and transformed by it as a mighty servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is absolutely astounding and remarkable for the apostle Paul was one who would and could not be offended nor even angered by those things which he would suffer in the flesh. The apostle Paul would and could never be angered at nor offended by the living God for those things which he would suffer in the flesh for those things which he suffered in the flesh were marks of discipleship and marks of walking with and following the Lord Jesus. It was the apostle Paul who would emphatically declare unto the saints which were at Rome that there was a great need to present our bodies a living sacrifice holy and acceptable in the sight of God which was our reasonable service. The apostle Paul knew that our lives belonged to Christ, that we were bought with a price and that we were to be poured out as drink offerings before the Lord. The apostle Paul recognized and understood that he was one who would indeed suffer a great many things for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ and that suffering, affliction and persecution was going to be a regular and common occurrence within his life. The apostle Paul did not try to avoid, escape from nor even evade suffering, persecution and affliction but embraced it willingly as a faithful soldier of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in this particular epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints:
“Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of call comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 1:3-11).
“Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. For we are unto God a sweet favour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: to the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, 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 no 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 spirt 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 things 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).
“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, 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 with 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 be 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 earnest 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).
“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 distresses, 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, by love unfeigned, 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 unknown, 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).
“Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man. I speak not this to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die and live with you. Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation. For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears. Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more” (2 Corinthians 7:2-7).
“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: but I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, w high think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled” (2 Corinthians 10:1-6).
“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 of. 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, a 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 through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands” (2 Corinthians 11:23-33).
“And lest I should be salted above measure through the abundance of the 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” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the fact that the apostle Paul was one who not only expected and anticipated suffering, affliction and persecutions but he also rejoiced in them. The apostle Paul was one who knew that his life in Christ would not be characterized by rest, by comfort, by convenience and ease but would instead be marked by suffering, afflictions, persecutions, trials, troubles and tribulations. The apostle Paul recognized that walking with and following the Lord Jesus would indeed mean that he would suffer many things for the sake of the word, the name and the gospel of his Lord whom he served faithfully. Not only this but the apostle Paul would rejoice and boast in those things which he suffered for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ knowing that he was ordained and appointed to such suffering. This is something which we as the saints of God and those who would live godly in Christ Jesus must recognize within our own lives for all who would live as such must expect and anticipate suffering, afflictions and persecutions in this life. What’s more is it was the Lord Jesus who declared unto the disciples that all who left father, or mother, or brother, or sister, or house, or brethren, or anything in this life for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus would in this life receive a hundredfold more—with persecutions. There is a great need for men and women to truly recognize and understand that walking with and following Jesus can in fact mean suffering, affliction and persecutions. Moreover there is a great need for men and women to come out from the shadow of thinking and believing they are somehow immune and exempt from suffering and persecution and ready and prepare themselves for the days which are ahead. There is a great need for men and women among us to both anticipate and expect suffering and persecution and to ensure they are such men and women of endurance, strength and fortitude to stand in the midst of such suffering, persecution and affliction in the days which we are about to enter.