Today’s selected reading continues in the second New Testament epistle of the apostle Paul written unto t he Corinthian saints. More specifically today’s passage begins with the first verse of the fourth chapter and continues through to the tenth verse of the fifth chapter. “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully: but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).
“But we have this treasure in earthen 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 by not forsaken; cast down but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body othe dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also fo Jesus might be m are manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ s are, that the life also of Jesus might be made m a nicest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which amuse 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 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” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).
In order to truly understand the words and language that is found in this particular portion of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints I believe it is necessary to begin in the first and opening chapter of this epistle. In the opening two verses the apostle Paul provides his customary greeting using his name and then describing himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God and Timothy his brother which was written unto the church of God which was at Corinth with the saints which were in all Achaia. If you begin reading with and from the third verse of this passage you will find the apostle Paul speaking of God being blessed—God who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is the apostle Paul doesn’t merely write and speak of God as being the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and thus being Father to us who are joint-heirs with Christ through the free gift of salvation and righteousness but he also speaks of God as being “the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort.” This is something which is truly captivating and astonishing when you take the time to think about it for not only does the apostle Paul write and speak of God as being the Father our Lord Jesus Christ but he also writes of God as being the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. What we must needs recognize when reading these words is not merely the language of God as being our Father but also that which he wrote concerning Jesus for the apostle Paul used both the word “Lord” and “Christ.” In the first and opening verse of this chapter the apostle Paul speaks of Jesus as being “Jesus Christ” while in the second verse the apostle Paul speaks of Jesus as being “the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now here we are in the third verse and we find the apostle Paul once more speaking of and referring to Jesus as “the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is something we must needs recognize and understand for when we think and speak of Jesus we must needs recognize that He is not only Christ who was and is the fulfillment of the Jewish Messiah but He is also Lord. Consider if you will the following words which were written in the Scripture concerning Jesus of Nazareth who was the Word which was made flesh and dwelt among us here upon the earth:
“For. Chris is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.l For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heavens? (That is, to bring Christ down from above) Or, Who shall descend into the deep? (That is, to bring up Christ sin from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher and how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:4-18).
“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 became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-11).
“And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eight, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. And the ten horns which thou Sayest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. And he saith unto me, The waters which thou Sayest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou Sayest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And the woman which thou Sayest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:11-18).
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doeth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and crane. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he that treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thighs a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:11-16).
These passages are absolutely and incredibly necessary when seeking to understand the words and language the apostle Paul used in the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints—and not only this epistle but even the other epistles the apostle Paul wrote. It would be in the epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome the apostle Paul wrote that if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God raised Him from death to life we will be saved. Thus the apostle Paul emphatically declared that part of us experiencing salvation within our lives is centered upon our willingness to not only acknowledge and call Jesus Lord but also live our lives in the fullness of the reality that He is indeed more than simply Savior but is also Lord. When writing unto the Philippian saints the apostle Paul would go on to declare of Jesus that because of His humility—even His humility and obedience in suffering in the flesh and offering Himself as a sacrifice upon the cross for our sins—God has given Him a name that is above all other names. What’s more is the apostle Paul goes on to describe how there is coming a time when every knee will bow—of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Thus there is coming a day when every knee will bow before Jesus as the Lord and every tongue will indeed confess Him as Lord for the glory of God the Father. This is what makes the words found in the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus so incredibly unique and powerful for when the apostle John speaks of the rider on the white horse he speaks of Him as being Lord of lords and King of kings. Not only this but the apostle John also writes of the rider on the white horse as having a name written on his vesture and on his thighs KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. Oh there is a great need for us to recognize and pay attention to the fact that Jesus is indeed the King of all kings and is Lord of all lords and Lord over all lords in heaven and in the earth and under the earth.
When we return to the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints we find the apostle referring to God as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—and not only as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ but also as the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible this truth truly is for with and through these words the apostle Paul writes and speaks of God as being the author of both mercies and comfort. What’s more is that not only does the apostle Paul speak of God as being the author of mercies and comfort but as being the author of ALL comfort. The apostle Paul writes and speaks of God as being the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort—something which has striking similarly to that which the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote. If you turn and direct your attention to the fourth chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews you will find the author speaks of a throne that is in heaven—and not only a throne that is found in heaven but a throne that has sitting upon it the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. In reading the words presented in this particular epistle you will find the following words contained within this epistle by the author of the Hebrews unto those Jews who were scattered throughout Asia and Asia Minor: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:12-16).
IN the fourth chapter of the epistle written by the author unto the Hebrews we not only read of a high priest which can in fact and is indeed touched with the feeling of our infirmities but we also read of a throne for grace whereby we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. 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 throne of grace which exists where we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. This is something which warrants strong consideration when reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. The apostle Paul writes of God as being the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and as being the Father of mercies and the God of call comfort. Notice the apostle Paul doesn’t speak of God as being the God of comfort or the God of some comfort but as the God of all comfort. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it brings our attention to where we recognize that in God is the source of all our comfort—all the comfort that we would ever need. When we speak of God we must needs recognize and understand that He is the Father of mercies and sits upon the throne of grace whereby we might obtain mercy. The apostle Paul emphatically declares unto the Corinthian saints that God is the Father of mercies and the God of call comfort—and not only the God of all comfort but the God who comforts us in all our tribulation. Pause and consider how absolutely incredible that truly is for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding God who is not only the God of all comfort—whatever comfort we need at whatever time we need it—but He also comforts us in all our tribulation regardless of what tribulation that is. It makes absolutely no difference what tribulation we face for the God of all comfort comforts us in all our tribulation.
The more I read the words which are found in the first chapter of the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints the more I am brought face to face with the comfort we receive from the God of all comfort. The apostle Paul speaks of God as being the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our tribulation and yet the apostle Paul goes on to deliberately reveal that the comfort we receive in any and all our tribulation is not meant for our consumption and receipt alone. We would like to think the comfort we receive from the living and eternal God is solely for our own edification, comfort and that which helps us in whatever we are facing. The truth of the matter, however, is that the comfort we received from the living God—regardless of what comfort that is and regardless of what tribulation we might face—is meant to flow unto us and then through us. One of the greatest things we must needs recognize and understand concerning the comfort we receive from the living God is that there is comfort for whatever we are facing and there is a ready supply of comfort regardless of what we are going through. It is incredibly important to note how the apostle Paul declared that God is the God of all comfort—any comfort we need at any time we need it within our lives the living and eternal God is the author and source of that comfort. How absolutely wonderful and incredible this truly is for not only is God the God of ALL comfort but He also comforts us in all our tribulation. This is truly astonishing when you consider that there is not a single tribulation we walk through or face within our life that there is not comfort that’s available to and for us. It makes absolutely no difference what you face within this life for there is comfort that is indeed available to you and for you whenever you need it that you might obtain and lay hold of that comfort.
With this being said, however, we must needs recognize and understand the responsibility that is directly associated with the comfort we have received within this life. We as the saints of God must needs understand that God is the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our tribulation, however, the apostle Paul doesn’t stop there. If you continue reading the words which the apostle Paul writes in this passage of Scripture you will find him writing concerning the comfort we receive as being the means whereby we comfort those who are in any trouble. Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—would it shock and surprise you if I told you that you were never intended on hoarding the comfort you received from the living and eternal God? Would it surprise you if I told you that the comfort you received from the living God was meant to flow through you and not merely to you? There are those who would like to think the comfort they receive from the living and eternal God is solely for their own consumption and for their own benefit and yet the truth of the matter is this simply is not the case. We dare not be those who think and believe that the comfort we receive from the living and eternal God is solely for our own benefit. If there is one thing the words the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthian saints reveals it’s that God is indeed the author and source of all comfort and does in fact comfort us in all our tribulation, however, the comfort we receive from the living and eternal God is meant to be that which flows through us unto others. In fact it might very well be said that we are comforted and we receive comfort—not that we might be able to enjoy that comfort alone but that we might be vessels of that comfort. It might very well be said that God pours out upon us and pours into us His comfort that the same comfort we received from Him might indeed flow to and unto others. Imagine what it would look like if the comfort God poured into me flowed through me into another member of the body of Christ and then flowed through them to another member and continued on going touching countless members of the body of Christ as it went? Consider if you will the following words which the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints as well the eleventh chapter of the second epistle written unto the same congregation:
“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.l For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I hav Eno need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, 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’s, in perils by the heaven, 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 watching 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).
IT’s absolutely necessary we recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for within them we encounter the tremendous reality surrounding the ministry of the body—something many within the churches of this generation desperately need to recognize and understand. If there is one thing we as the saints of God must recognize it’s the incredible need for us as the saints of God and us as the disciples of Christ to not only understand our place within the spiritual body of Christ but also the ministry of the body among its members. We weren’t placed in the spiritual body of Christ solely to occupy some place or space in the midst of it whereby we might received from the Head of the body which is Christ. We weren’t placed in the body of Christ solely to be a place saver and occupy a seat in a pew or in a row of chairs that were nicely lined up in front of a platform or podium. Each and every one of us was placed in the body of Christ that we might be given and give ourselves to the ministry of the body. We were placed in the body of Christ in a unique and specific place whereby we might be as the house of Stephanas mentioned in the final chapter of the first epistle written unto the Corinthian saints who “addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” What we find within this passage of Scripture is truly astonishing when you take the time to think about it for the apostle Paul writes that the God of all comfort has comforted us in all our tribulation that we might comfort those which are in any trouble with and by the same comfort we ourselves received of God. Please do not miss and lose sight of this for there is something to be said about not only comforting others in their trouble because we ourselves were comforted in our tribulation but also comforting others with the comfort we have received from the living God. There is something to be said about the comfort we have received from the one true and living God and how that comfort is meant to flow through us and unto those who find themselves in their own trouble. The comfort we received from the living God wasn’t meant to flow through us and fill up some type of reservoir which remains within our lives alone and does not touch the lives of others.
If you continue reading in this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find that he goes on to write of the suffering of Christ abounding in us so that whereas the sufferings of Christ abound in us so also does the consolation by Christ abound in us. The apostle Paul goes on to describe how whether we be afflicted it is for the consolation and salvation which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which are suffered by the saints of God. There is something we must needs recognize when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture and it’s not only that we have been called to comfort others with the same comfort we have received ourselves but as the sufferings of Christ abide and abound in us so also does the consolation of Christ abound in us. In fact it might very well be said that the greater the sufferings of Christ within us the greater the consolation of Christ abounds and abides within us. I would dare say that the greater the sufferings and afflictions of Christ abide in us the greater the consolation of Christ abides and abounds within us. What’s more is the apostle Paul makes a very interesting statement when writing unto the Corinthian saints for he speaks of their being afflicted and it being for the consolation and salvation of others that they might endure the same sufferings. What we must needs recognize and understand is that when the apostle Paul preached the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the various cities, towns and villages whereunto he traveled he did not preach in favorable circumstances. There were countless times when the apostle Paul would preach the gospel through and in spite of the resistance, the blasphemy and the opposition of the Jews. There were times when the apostle Paul would preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ through much afflictions that their trust and their hope might rest on nothing else but the strength, the comfort and the mercies of the living God.
PREACHING THROUGH SUFFERING! PREACHING THROUGH AFFLICTION! PREACHING THROUGH TRIBULATION! Perhaps one of the greatest truths and realities surrounding the apostle Paul is that he not only preached without and absent eloquent speech and words of wisdom but in the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit but He also preached through and in spite of suffering, affliction, tribulation and much trouble. If you take the time to read the New Testament book of Acts you will find that almost as soon as the apostles Paul began preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in Damascus the Jews sought to kill and put him to death. The apostle Paul would indeed be radically converted and transformed by the power and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ and almost immediately after he began preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus he would be a marked man. Even when speaking unto Ananias the Lord Jesus declared that the apostle Paul would suffer many things for the sake of His name and for the sake of His honor in the midst of the earth. He who once greatly persecuted the church of Christ in the midst of the earth would find himself a marked man as he would suffer many things—both at the hands of his own countrymen as well as at the hands of Gentiles. In chapters thirteen through fifteen we find the apostle Paul suffering a great many things at the hands of the Jews who raised themselves up against him in persecution, in affliction and in tribulation. If there is one thing I so love about the apostle Paul is that not only did he preach absent and without eloquent words and the wisdom of men but he also preached in the midst of and through much tribulation and affliction that the gospel might not be hindered by false pretense and false promises.
I sit here today thinking about how much of the modern gospel preached in many of our churches today is hindered and oftentimes crippled because of and by the wisdom of man which is paraded and masqueraded as the gospel. I can’t help but think about how the true gospel is indeed marred and disfigured by a false gospel that is centered upon the wisdom of man, the eloquence of man’s speech and even man’s charismas and personality. There are very few among us within our western world today who are truly receiving and hearing the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In all reality I would dare say that much of what is being preached and much of what has been preached among us within our modern generation is nothing more than a false gospel that offers false hope, false promises and false blessings which were never offered by the living and eternal God. I find myself wondering how many of the preachers of America and how many preachers in America would still be able to preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ if they had to do so in the midst of and in spite of tribulation, trials, troubles, affliction, suffering and persecution. One of the greatest truths surrounding the word and gospel which the apostle Paul preached—and not only the apostle Paul but the apostles of Christ as well—it’s that they preached the gospel in the face of an in spite of much affliction, much suffering, much persecution and many trials. It was more than simply their experiencing trials, troubles and tribulations but they would preach the gospel directly in the face of such persecution, suffering and affliction. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when reading the words found in the New Testament for I am convinced that those who heard and received the gospel during the days of the early church. Those who heard and received the gospel during the days of the apostles and early church did not do so in the same way we hear and receive the gospel in our modern context. Much of the gospel that is heard and preached in our generation today is heard and received without opposition, without resistance, without affliction and without suffering. There is very little resistance and opposition to the preaching of the gospel within this nation and the closest any preachers and ministers came within this the western world in preaching the gospel was when the churches were closed because of COVID during the pandemic.
I write these words and I am brought face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding much of the gospel that is being and has been preached during these days in our modern generation and how a lot of it is nothing more than a false gospel. If you read the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts you will find that those who heard the gospel would have been very much aware of the call of Jesus to partake in His sufferings and His afflictions for they would witness the direct opposition and resistance to the word and gospel the apostles would themselves receive. Think about and consider the apostles preaching the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the city of Jerusalem and how the religious and political leaders not only imprisoned them but would also lay stripes upon and beat them to try and silence the word and name of the Lord Jesus from being preached. Consider how those who heard the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus being preached in the midst of the city of Jerusalem during the days of the early church would hear it in much suffering and much affliction. This is something we dare not miss and lose sight of for there is something to be said about those who not only hear the preaching of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ but who also hear it with the witness and testimony of suffering, affliction and persecution. Those who heard the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ during the days of the apostles and the early church did so in the midst of suffering, affliction, trials and persecution. The Jews who believed and the Gentiles who believed would witness the resistance, the blasphemy and the persecution of the Jews toward the apostle Paul in the various cities, towns and villages he journeyed and preached the gospel. What’s more is I would dare say the apostle Paul was willing to endure the suffering and affliction he did for the sake of the gospel that it might not be hindered. The apostle Paul was willing to endure much suffering, affliction and persecution—not only that the gospel might be hindered and might go forth with power but also that men and women who heard the gospel might themselves recognize those same sufferings could not only be faced by them in this world but also that they have been called to partake in the same sufferings of Christ.
The words which are found in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul are incredibly unique and powerful when you take the time to think about it for they call and draw our attention to the suffering, the affliction and the persecution that surrounded the preaching of the word of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was not a single man, woman or child who heard the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ who could say and believe that neither were associated with suffering, affliction and persecution. In fact the very heart of the gospel was the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ in the flesh and His being delivered into the hands of the Romans by the religious and political Jews that He might be crucified and put to death. The very heart of the gospel of Jesus was His suffering and death before ultimately being raised from death to life on the third day and ascending unto the right hand of the Father which was in heaven. With this being said it must be understood that Christ didn’t suffer in the flesh that we might not suffer ourselves. Christ didn’t experience and walk through suffering in the flesh that we ourselves might somehow be exempt and immune from suffering within our own hearts and lives. If there is one thing the New Testament book of Acts demonstrates and reveals it’s that the word and gospel was preached in the midst of it and oftentimes in spite of persecution, affliction and great suffering. There was not a single person who heard the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ who would not recognize and understand that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ would mean suffering and affliction for them. If they witnessed the apostles and those leaders of the early church suffering and experiencing persecution and affliction for the sake of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ then they themselves would also experience suffering, affliction and persecution for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I am absolutely gripped and captivated with this tremendous truth for I am convinced there are many men and women among us in our modern generation who are not only receiving and hearing a false gospel but who are also being ill-prepared and ill-equipped to walk through suffering, affliction and persecution. If we are being honest with ourselves and with the living God we must admit that many of us within our generation today would not be able to stand in the midst of persecution and suffering in this life. In all reality I feel as though many among us within our churches aren’t being prepared and aren’t being equipped to stand in the midst of suffering, affliction and persecution if it presented itself within this nation. Pause for a moment and ask yourself what you would do—or what you think you would do—if suffering, if affliction and if persecution ever came to the shores of this nation. How would you respond if the same type of suffering and persecution our brothers and sisters experience in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia, Somalia, Libya and many others came to this nation? Would you yourself—even with all your so-called Bible knowledge—be able to stand in the midst of such suffering, such affliction and such persecution? What’s more is have you even heard or has it even been preached in the church building you gather together on a Sunday morning for “church” that walking with and following Christ requires you to deny yourself, to take up your cross and follow Him? When was the last time you heard a sermon preached about how walking with and following Christ might very well require more than you were told you have to give and even more than you might be willing to give? I personally feel there are very few preachers in our western civilization who are preparing men and women for the possibility of suffering and persecution in this life. I would dare say there are very few ministers, preachers, teachers and leaders within our churches today who are truly and adequately preparing men and women for what it means to walk with and follow Jesus the way the apostles and early church understood it.
If you read the words which are found in the first chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will find him writing of the sufferings of Christ abounding in himself and in his traveling companions. With this being said it must also be understood that the sufferings of Christ which abound in them was that the consolation of Christ might also abound in them. The purpose of the suffering and affliction was their consolation and salvation which was effectual in the enduring of the same affliction s and sufferings that the comfort of God might be manifested within their hearts and lives. In all reality I would dare say that there is indeed the witness of suffering and the witness of affliction that accomplishes something much greater within the hearts and spirits of those who hear the gospel for not only do they hear of how Christ suffered in the flesh but they also see and understand that those who wish to live godly in this life can and will experience suffering, affliction and persecution. It was the apostle Paul who not only preached the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus but also declared that we must through many trials enter the kingdom of heaven. This is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture for there is a witness of suffering and affliction when it accompanies the preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ for it demonstrates the true cost of walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the tenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew as well as the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle John. Consider first the words which our Lord spoke in the Sermon on the Mount as it was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew:
“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, 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,a nd 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 5:43-48).
“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 scrounge 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 the 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 your. 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 revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 10:16-33).
“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 10:34-37).
“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).
“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 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 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, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:17-27).
If you read the words which are found within the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints you will encounter and come face to face with the tremendous amount of suffering and affliction the saints of God can and will face within this life. It is absolutely impossible to read the words which are found in this epistle and not come face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth that surrounds the suffering, the affliction and the persecution those who walk with and follow the Lord Jesus Christ can and will experience in this life. In fact I would dare say that if you make the decision to make Jesus not only your Saviour but also your Lord you can very well expect to experience suffering, persecution and affliction in this life. What’s more is I would dare say the closer we all to Christ and the closer we are in fellowship and relationship to Him the further we get from the world and the more we open up and expose ourselves to suffering, persecution and affliction in this life. One of the underlying problems that is facing many within our western civilization today is that many neither expect nor anticipate suffering, persecution and affliction in this life. There are countless men and women who would not only be surprised if suffering, affliction and persecution arose for the sake of the word and name of the Lord Jesus but would indeed be offended if it touched their life. I am convinced there are countless men and women who are walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ so long as their freedoms and liberties remain in tact but the minute they are taken away and removed from them they will crumble and fold like a house of cards. Much like the foolish man who heard the words and sayings of Christ and yet did not put them to practice was likened unto one who built their house on the shaky and unsettled ground of sand would experience the collapse of their house, so these individuals would experience the complete and utter unraveling of everything they thought, knew and believed.
WHEN PERSECUTION EXPOSES! WHEN AFFLICTION REVEALS! If there is one thing I can’t help but think about and consider when reading these words of the apostle Paul it’s that there are times when the Spirit of the living God can and will cause persecution, suffering and affliction to arise to reveal those whose houses have been built upon the firm foundation and those who have built their houses on a shake foundation. If there is one thing that is so intriguing about the parable which Jesus delivered at the end of the Sermon on the Mount it’s that both the wise man who built his house upon the rock and the foolish man who built his house upon the sand experienced a storm. Scripture is unclear whether or not it was the same storm which both individuals experienced, however we know from Scripture that the result and outcome for each was drastically different. Scripture does not reveal whether or not both of these individuals experienced the same storm at the same time, however, one thing is absolutely certain—the storm revealed that which the house was built upon. Storms can and will more often than not reveal and expose the foundation of our lives and that which we have built our lives upon. With this being said I am absolutely convinced that persecution, suffering and affliction can indeed be used to reveal the true foundation that exists within one’s heart and life. Consider if you will the parable of the seed and the sower and how there was seed which was sown on the rocky ground. Initially the seed which was sown on the rocky ground would bring forth fruit and would seem to indicate that a harvest would be abundant, however, because there was no root that which sprang up on the stony ground would wither and die. Jesus would describe the seed which fell on stony ground as those who heard and received the word with joy and for a season bore and brought forth fruit, however, when persecution and affliction arose for the sake of the word they were offended. Although they showed signs of bearing and bringing forth fruit that fruit would be short-lived because there was no root or depth within them.
The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth that in the days in which we are living the Spirit of the sovereign Lord might very well use and allow persecution, suffering and affliction in the lives of men and women to not only expose the foundation upon which their lives were built but also see who can and will endure unto the end. Jesus made it very clear that those who endure unto the end will be saved and the question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we have the endurance, the fortitude and the stamina to endure unto the end. The words which we find in this second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthian saints describes the conflict, the suffering, the struggles, the affliction and the persecution he faced as an apostle of the Lord Jesus but also that which we as the disciples and followers of the Lord Jesus Christ can experience simply by walking with Him. I am absolutely convinced that if we take the time to read the words found in this passage of Scripture we must needs recognize and understand whether or not we are indeed men and women who possess the commitment, the dedication and the passionate resolve to remain firm and stand strong in the midst of suffering, affliction and persecution. There is not a doubt in my mind that the living and eternal God cannot and will not allow and use persecution, suffering and persecution to reveal those who are truly able to stand—and not only those who are truly able to stand but those who are truly His. If there is one thing persecution, suffering and affliction reveals and manifests within our generation it’s those who are truly committed and those who are truly walking with and following the Lord Jesus. The most important question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are truly those who are walking with and following the Lord Jesus. Are we those who have built the house of our life and our faith upon the foundation of stone which is Jesus Christ and His words and teaching or have we built the house of our life and faith on shifting and sinking sand? The storm(s) we face can and will reveal all and we must needs prepare and brace ourselves for the storm(s) which are about to come upon in this hour. I am absolutely convinced we are preparing to enter into a season of storms that may very well include suffering, affliction and persecution and only those whose houses have been built on the foundation of stone will be those who will stand, abide and remain firm during the days. It is with this being said I leave you with the following words which are found in the fourth chapter of this second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints:
“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 not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesu 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 m a nicest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which were not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18).