Today’s selected reading is found in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi. More specifically today’s passage is found in the first nineteen verses of the first chapter of this New Testament book. “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1-2).
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:3-11).
“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; so that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; and many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:12-19).
When you come to the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi you will find the second of three epistles which were known as the “Prison Epistles.” The epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippian saints—much like the epistles written unto the Colossian saints and the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints—was written while the apostle was in prison in the city of Rome. In fact when you begin reading this epistle you will in the very beginning of the epistle the apostle Paul address this congregation using and referencing his name as well as Timothy. In the opening verse of this epistle the apostle Paul uses his name as well as Timothy and speaks of them as “bondservants of Jesus Christ.” There is a part of me that can’t help but read the words which are found in the opening verse of this epistle and wonder if Timothy wasn’t in prison at the same time as the apostle Paul. There are quite honestly a couple of possibilities that surround the first and opening verse of this epistle and both how and why Timothy was part of the greeting used by the apostle Paul unto these saints. The first—of course—is that Timothy was indeed in prison together with the apostle Paul much like Silas was in prison with the apostle Paul in the city of Philippi as was mentioned in the New Testament book of Acts. The second possibility is that Timothy routinely and regularly visited the apostle Paul in Rome where he was in prison and actually transcribed the epistle as the apostle Paul dictated the words which would find their way in the four chapters of this epistle. The epistle doesn’t contain a reference at the end of it where it was written as did some of the other epistles written by the apostle Paul and quite honestly we are left to speculate as to Timothy’s presence with the apostle Paul at the time this epistle was written.
I have to admit that the idea of Timothy being with the apostle Paul at the time of the writing of this epistle—specifically in prison in the city of Rome—is quite captivating and compelling when you think about it. If you turn and direct your attention to the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that when the apostle Paul came unto the Macedonian city of Philippi which was a colony of this region he was accompanied by Silas and Timothy. The sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts begins an opens with the apostle Paul coming unto Lystra and Derbe after purposing and determining to visit some of the churches and brethren he had labored among and ministered to during his first apostolic and missionary journey. It would be during this trip the apostle Paul would come unto Lystra and Derbe and would encounter a young lad by the name of Timothy. It’s actually quite compelling to read the words which Luke writes concerning Timothy for Luke describes him as a disciple among the brethren who was in good standing and well spoken of by the brethren. Moreover Luke also goes on to write concerning Timothy that his mother was a Jew while his father was a Greek—something that made him somewhat of a hybrid during those days. Much like the Samaritans were considered half-breeds and hybrids so also might Timothy have been considered a hybrid during those days as his mother was indeed a Jew while his father was a Greek. What’s more is that when you come to the two epistles written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy you will uncover additional information concerning Timothy which Luke did not record in the New Testament book of Acts. This is something worth thinking about and considering when you take the time to read the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi for you will recall that Timothy was present in Philippi when the apostle Paul experienced the opposition and affliction of certain in the city.
If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find that when the apostle Paul came unto the city of Philippi which was a Macedonian colony he would not only teach and preach the gospel during those days but he would also labor among them. During the time the apostle Paul, Timothy, Silas and perhaps others were present in Philippi there was a certain damsel which was possessed with an unclean spirit who would follow the apostle Paul, Silas and Timothy and would provoke him by declaring and proclaiming his preaching and proclaiming the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul would experience the provoking of this damsel day after day until he was eventually provoked within his spirit and agitated beyond measure that he turned to the young damsel and commanded the unclean spirit to come out of her. Immediately the unclean spirit departed from this damsel which would in turn provoke her masters. Luke writes that this young damsel—in addition to having an unclean spirit—would make her masters a great fortune and some of money through her soothsaying. It would be as a direct result of the unclean spirit possessing this young damsel she was able to make her masters great wealth and prosperity through her soothsaying. When, however, the unclean spirit departed from her any and all hope of making her masters any gain or prosperity through soothsaying would be altogether gone. This would anger and infuriate these masters and they would seize the apostle Paul and Silas and bring them before the rulers and leaders of the city. Eventually Paul and Silas would be beaten before being imprisoned there in the city of Philippi and secured in the innermost prison with their feet fastened in stocks.
It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words and language which is found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. I am absolutely convinced that if you want to truly understand the words and language that is found within this epistle there is a great need to consider the following words which are presented in the New Testament book of Acts. The words we find in this New Testament book serve as the backdrop for the forming and creation of a congregation of believers and fellowship of saints therein Philippi. The very fact that the apostle Paul would write an epistle “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi” as well as “with the bishops and deacons” suggests that a church had indeed been formed and created in the midst of that city. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth of how not only was the gospel preached and received through much affliction but so also was a church and congregation formed out of, in spite of and through that affliction. Despite the beating of the apostle Paul, despite the imprisoning of the apostle Paul, and despite that which surrounded their time in the midst of this Macedonian colony there would indeed be a church and congregation of believers that would be established there in the midst of the city. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight for there is something to be said about the gospel that is preached and received through much affliction as well as men and women believing despite much opposition and affliction surrounding the preaching of the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Having said this I now invite you to turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts beginning with the first verse:
“Then he came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethren who were at Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted to have him go on with him. And he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in that region, for they all knew that his father was Greek. And as they went through the cities, they delivered to them the decrees to keep, which were determined by the apostles and elders at Jerusalem. So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Acts 16:1-5).
“Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, Come over to Macedonia and help us. Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:6-10).
“Therefore, sailing from Troas, we ran a straigh course to Samothracia, and the next day came to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a colony. And we were staying in that city for some days. And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatria, who worshipped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay. So she persuaded us” (Acts 16:11-15).
“Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortune telling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation. And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out that very hour. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. And they brought them to the magistrates, and said, These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe. Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (Acts 16;16-24).
“But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, Do yourself no harm, for we are all her. Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. And he brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? So they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and hr rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:25-34).
“And when it was day, the magistrates sent the officers, saying, Let those men go. So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace. But Paul said to them, They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out. And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans. Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city. So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed” (Acts 16:35-40).
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the words which are found in the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts as well as the words which are found in the epistle written unto the Philippian saints for both suggest that there was a church and congregation of saints of God and disciples of Christ that was established there in the midst of the city of Philippi. There is absolutely no denying the fact that there was indeed a congregation that was established there in the midst of the city—and not only was a congregation established but there were also elders and deacons which were established within the church. The opening verses of the epistle written by the apostle Paul seems to suggest that this church—at and by the time of the writing of this epistle—was well established with bishops and deacons being ordained and appointed among them. This is something which is truly captivating when you take the time to think about it for it draws and calls our attention to the fact that despite the affliction and persecution the apostle Paul and Silas experienced in the midst of this city the gospel was not only preached to those present in the midst of the city but it was also received. The New Testament book of Acts reveals that this woman named Lydia who worked with purple cloth from Thyatira believed and worshipped God and had her heart opened to hear the word of the Lord. What’s more is that after the jailer rushed into the prison and after he brought Paul and Silas out and asked them what he needed to do to be saved both he and his household would believe and be baptized. This is something we must needs acknowledge when reading the epistle written unto the Philippian saints for we might very well consider the fact that part of the congregation of saints there in the midst of Philippi was this jailer together with his entire household.
Scripture doesn’t reveal how many were in the household of the jailer and we are indeed left to speculate as to there being a wife, children, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, grandparents and the like. To put this into perspective I would call your attention to the Old Testament book of Genesis when Jacob and his household departed from the land of Canaan and traveled down to the land of Egypt where Joseph had been appointed the second highest in the land of Egypt second only to Pharaoh himself. Joseph agreed to care for and look after his father Jacob, his brethren as well as their children and their children’s children. Moses writes in the Old Testament book of Genesis that altogether in the household of Jacob were seventy souls who made the journey to the land of Egypt. The reason I mention this is because when we read of the jailer in this Philippian prison we find that he and his household not only believed but also were baptized. This is truly interesting when you take the time to think about the church and congregation there in the midst of the city of Philippi for in the midst of the city we find a congregation of saints and fellowship of believers which were present in the midst of the city. I would dare say and would suggest that part of this congregation of saints and fellowship of believers which was present in the midst of this Macedonian colony was indeed this jailer and his household. What’s more is there is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if this jailer himself or a member of his household which believed and had been baptized was appointed and ordained a bishop and/or an elder in the midst of the church. It is possible that this jailer played an integral part within the congregation and fellowship of the saints and brethren which was present within the city of Philippi? Is it possible that this jailer and his household were an integral part of the congregation here in Philippi because he was not only witness to the earthquake which struck the prison, was not only witness to the prison doors being opened, was not only witness to every man’s chains and shackles being loosed but was witness to the mighty and miraculous supernatural power of the living God.
I cannot help but think about the words and language we find in the New Testament book of Acts for within this book we find the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ being preached—and not only preached but also received through much affliction, opposition and persecution. The apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy, Luke and others would walk throughout Philippi and would teach and preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. There would be a woman named Lydia there in Philippi who was a seller of purple from Thyatria who not only worshipped God but also whose heart the Lord opened to heed the things which were spoken of by the apostle Paul. Luke writes that Lyda and her entire household were baptized and would ultimately play host for the apostle Paul and his companions during their time in the city of Philippi. This is truly interesting when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to two distinct households in the midst of the city of Philippi that would have comprised and helped make up the congregation of the spiritual body of believers which was present in the midst of the city. Within the sixteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts we find two households in the city of Philippi believing on the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord and being baptized. When we think about the reality of a church and congregation being present in the midst of this city we must needs recognize that Lydia and her household as well as the jailer and his household would have undoubtedly made up part of this church and congregation. This is something truly astonishing when you take the time to think about it for it helps us to recognize the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the body of believers which was present in the midst of this city of Philippi within the region of Macedonia.
The more I think about the words found in this passage of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the tremendous and incredible truth surrounding the word and gospel being preached and received in spite of and through certain affliction, persecution and opposition. Luke writes how as the apostle Paul and those with him went to prayer a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met them—a slave girl who brought her masters much money by fortune telling. This certain girl followed the apostle Paul and those who were with him and cried that these men were the servants of the Most High God who proclaimed unto them the way of salvation. Luke goes on to write and record how this slave girl did this many days until the apostle Paul—greatly annoyed—turned and commanded the spirit to come out of her in the name of Jesus Christ. Immediately that same hour the spirit came out of her and her masters saw and were aware of what happened. When her masters realized the spirit of divination had departed from her and when they realized their hope of profit and wealth was gone they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to the authorities. It would be there in the presence of the magistrates the apostle Paul and Silas would be accused of troubling the city and teaching customs which were not lawful for them being Romans to receive or observe. As a direct result of this the multitude rose up together against them and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. After they had been beaten with rods and after many stripes had been laid upon them they threw them into prison commanding the jailer to keep them securely. The jailer—receiving such a charge—put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.
I find the words which are presented in this passage of Scripture to be incredibly unique and powerful when you consider it for within the city of Philippi the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ was indeed faithfully preached by the apostle Paul and those who were with him. What we must needs recognize and understand is that the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ was indeed preached there in the midst of this city and it would ultimately be preached in the midst of affliction, opposition and even persecution. There in the midst of the city of Philippi we find those in Philippi hearing the word and preaching of the apostle Paul and his companions and eventually they would be witness to the masters of this damsel and slave girl seizing Paul and Silas and bringing them into the market place unto the authorities. It’s important to note that the only reason Paul and Silas were dragged into the marketplace unto the authorities was because the masters of this slave girl recognized and understood their hope of profit and financial gain was gone. Moreover there in the midst of the marketplace—when the magistrates were brought unto them—Paul and Silas would be accused of troubling the city and teaching customers which were not lawful for Roman citizens to receive or observe. Please pay close attention to this for it calls and draws our attention to the incredible reality that there in the midst of the city of Philippi—not only were the apostle Paul and Silas seized by the masters of this damsel, not only were they accused before the magistrates, not only were they beaten with many stripes being laid upon them but they were also cast into prison, thrust into the innermost prison and had their feet fastened and secured in stocks.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found in the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippian saints and I am brought face to face with the fact that not only was the gospel preached and received in the midst of this city but it was also received in spite of and in the midst of suffering, persecution, affliction and opposition. Undoubtedly there were those who believed who would witness the apostle Paul and Silas being seized by the masters of this slave girl after also witnessing the spirit of divination coming out of her. There is not a doubt in my mind that there were those who witnessed the unclean spirit coming out of this slave girl and her being completely and utterly set free and delivered from its oppression within and over her life. What’s more is I would dare say that there were those in this city who believed who witnessed and beheld the apostle Paul and Silas being wrongly and falsely accused there in the midst of the city. What makes this truly interesting is that despite the fact the masters of this slave girl accused Paul and Silas of teaching customs which weren’t lawful for them as Roman citizens to receive or observe there were those in the midst of the city who—despite being Roman citizens—would not only hear but also receive the “customs” the apostle Paul and his companions would preach. Not everyone who was present in the midst of the Philippian city and not everyone who was present in the marketplace on this particular day agreed with the accusation of the magistrates. I would dare say there were many who were present in the midst of this city who received and believed the word and name of the Lord Jesus—despite their being Roman citizens. There were those who despite their being Roman citizens would believe the word the apostle Paul preached and would not only believe but would also be baptized.
The reason I mention and speak of hearing, receiving and believing the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of affliction, opposition, suffering and persecution is because there is something to be said about those who not only hear the word and name of the Lord Jesus in much affliction but who also receive it despite and in the midst of such affliction and opposition. There is something to be said about those who hear the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of tremendous affliction, opposition, suffering and persecution and determine that it’s true and believe within their hearts. Despite the opposition, the affliction, the persecution and the suffering that surrounds the preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus they believe it with their hearts and commit themselves to walking with and following the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a great need to recognize and pay close attention to that which is found in the first chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi for I would dare say that there were those who were part of this congregation at the time of the writing of this epistle who remembered the affliction, the opposition, the persecution and suffering the apostle Paul experienced while he was present among them. Now he was writing this epistle to them while in prison which was something they were very familiar with as the apostle Paul and Silas would be imprisoned there in the midst of the city of Philippi after being beaten rods and after many stripes were laid upon them. How absolutely incredible it is to read the words found in this passage of Scripture and how even in spite of the affliction and opposition the apostle Paul experienced while present among them he would now write unto them from a place of affliction and suffering.
There is something to be said about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for not only did the apostle Paul preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ unto those who were present in the city of Philippi but they would witness he and Silas being seized by the masters of this slave girl. Those in the city of Philippi would witness Paul and Silas being dragged unto the marketplace where they would be brought before the authorities and wrongly and falsely accused. Both those who believed and those who did not believe would witness as Paul and Silas would be wrongly and falsely accused of teaching customs which were not lawful for Roman citizens to receive or observe. Not only this but they would witness and observe the apostle Paul and Silas being beaten with rods and many stripes laid upon them before they were thrown into prison and put in the inner prison with their feet fastened in stocks. Of course we know and understand the apostle Paul and Silas were only in prison for a short period of time for the supernatural power of God would cause a great earthquake to not only shake the prison where Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to the living God but also every man’s prison doors being opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. Those in the city of Philippi would witness those things which happened to the apostle Paul and might have also been made aware of what had happened in the prison the night before. I can’t help but wonder what the word and testimony was like the day after Paul and Silas were thrown into prison as the jailer might very well have borne witness—not only of he and his household believing and being baptized but also of the earthquake which shook the very foundations of the prison. I am absolutely convinced that even after the apostle Paul, Silas, Timothy, Luke and others departed from Philippi that which happened during those days was still talked about after their departure. Undoubtedly the jailer would bear witness of the great earthquake and how just as he was about to take his life the apostle Paul cried out to him thus saving and sparing his life from certain death.
I have to admit that I find the words which are found within the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippian saints so incredibly captivating when you take the time to think about it for there were undoubtedly many saints present in the midst of this congregation who received the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ through and in spite of much affliction, suffering, opposition and persecution. What’s more is that although Scripture doesn’t speak to or reveal this I can’t help but wonder if after the departure of the apostle Paul and his companions there were those in the midst of the city of Philippi who would themselves teach and preach the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Is it possible that there were those who—after the departure of the apostle Paul and his companions—would teach and preach the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and would do so in the midst of and in spite of affliction, opposition and persecution? Is it possible that even after the apostle Paul and his companions departed from the city of Philippi the opposition and resistance to the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ was still present in the midst of the city. There is something to be said about those in the city of Philippi hearing and receiving the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of suffering, affliction and persecution. The reason this is so incredibly important is because we in our Western culture and society have largely received the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in peace, in rest, in safety and security. There have been very few within this nation as a whole who have heard, received and even believed the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ absent peace and rest before and all around them. There are countless men and women among us in this nation who have heard the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and have received and believed it without experiencing any suffering, affliction, persecution and opposition.
I sit here today thinking about and considering the words found in the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Ephesus and I am brought face to face with the tremendous truth that there is something about hearing, receiving and even believing the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus in spite of persecution, in spite of suffering, in spite of affliction, and in much trials, troubles and tribulation. In fact if you read the words which are found in the first chapter of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Philippi you will find him referencing and speaking of those things which he suffered and experienced among them—and not only among them but also in the various other cities and places he journeyed. We know in the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Corinth that he spoke of and recounted those things he suffered and faced throughout the undertaking of the ministry entrusted unto him. Throughout this second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints you will find the apostle Paul writing and speaking unto them of the very many things he suffered as a result of and for the sake of the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. What’s more is that when we look at and examine the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples we see that He never promised that the preaching of the word, the gospel and the name of Jesus would be received, welcomed and embraced by those who would hear it. In fact I would dare say the Lord Jesus warned, prepared and made ready His disciples to be hated, to be ostracized, to be marginalized, to be despised, to be rejected and to even be persecuted and put to death. What’s more is I find it absolutely necessary for us to consider the words which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah as well as the words which are found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John. What’s more is I find it necessary to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew concerning the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus. With this being said I would like to call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the tenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Matthew, the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, the words which are found in the fourteenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke as well as the words which are found in the fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John.
Concerning the suffering, the persecution and the ultimate crucifixion of the Lord Jesus we find the following words which were found concerning His being despised and rejected by his own and those He came to seek and to save:
“Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; he was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne out griefs and carried our sorrows; yet esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions ,He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people he was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked—but with the rich at His death, because He had done no violence, nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When you 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 the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge my righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, 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. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became 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 bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, This was He of whom I said, He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me. And of his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:1-18).
“From that time Jesus began to show to his disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, Far be it from you, Lord; this shall not happen to you. But He turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:21-23).
“Now while they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, The Son of man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up. And they were exceedingly sorrowful” (Matthew 16:22-23).
Having witnessed and beheld the prophetic words concerning the suffering, the affliction, the persecution, the despising, the rejection and ultimately the death and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the various chapters mentioned above. I am absolutely convinced that the word which Jesus spoke is indeed true and that the servant is not above his master nor the student above his Teacher. Jesus made it perfectly clear that if they have called the ruler and master of the house Beelzebub they would indeed speak the same or similar words concerning those who were of this household. The more you read the words which are found within the New Testament gospel narratives the more you will find that Jesus didn’t prepare His disciples and followers to be loved, to be welcomed, to be received and even to be embraced. Oh there would indeed be those who would hear and receive the word, the gospel and the name of the Lord Jesus with gladness, however, we must needs understand the parable of the sower and the seed. Within this parable Jesus speaks of a single sower who had a bag full of seed which he would go out and sow into the ground. As this sower went out to sow the seed in his bag he would sow the same seed as he went—seed which fell on different types of soil and ground. It’s worth noting that the seed which was sown was not in any way different but rather the soil and ground in which the seed was sown was different. With this being said it’s important to recognize and understand that with the different types of soil the seed was sown in the seed would have different results. The seed which was sown by the wayside would not have the same result as the seed which sown on the stony ground. Moreover the seed that was sown among thorns would not have the same result as the seed that was sown in the good soil.
When we think about and consider the words which are found within these passages of Scripture we must needs recognize that Jesus did in fact teach and preach unto His disciples that they would indeed experience suffering, persecution, affliction and opposition in this life. Jesus did not promise His disciples and followers a life of ease, a life of comfort, a life of peace and the like. In fact Jesus would declare that he did not come to bring peace upon the earth but a sword. This is something we must needs understand and acknowledge when reading the words found within the four gospels for within these gospels we encounter and come face to face with the fact that we have indeed been promised that we would be hated of all nations for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover it was the apostle Paul who would emphatically declare that all who would live godly in Christ Jesus in this life would indeed suffer and experience persecution. Moreover it was the apostle Paul who would declare that we must through many trials and tribulations enter into the kingdom of heaven. This is something that warrants strong consideration within our hearts and minds as and when we read the gospel accounts of Jesus teaching and speaking unto His disciples for He would indeed prepare and make them ready for those things which they would face in this life. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to declare that there are many “Christians” among us within our churches who are neither ready nor prepared for those things which they are about to face in this world. There are countless men and women among us within our churches which are not ready and have not been prepared for those things which they have faced within this life. I am absolutely convinced that we are indeed about to enter into a tremendous season of suffering, persecution, affliction and opposition and there are countless men and women who are not ready and who have not been prepared for that which they are about to face in this life. It is with this in mind I invite you to first consider the words which are found in the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ before transitioning to the words which our Lord spoke unto His disciples and followers in the New Testament gospel narratives written by the gospel authors:
“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write, These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life: I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Revelation 2:8-11).
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, These thigns says He who is holy, He who is true, he who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens: I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept my word, and have not denied my name. Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God. And I will write on Him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:7-13).
DO NOT FEAR ANY OF THOSE THINGS WHICH YOU ARE ABOUT TO SUFFER! THE DEVIL IS ABOUT TO THROW SOME OF YOU INTO PRISON THAT YOU MAY BE TESTED! YOU WILL HAVE TRIBULATION TEN DAYS! I ALSO WILL KEEP YOU FROM THE HOUR OF TRAIAL WHICH SHALL COME UPON THE WHOLE WORLD! TO TEST THOSE WHO DWELL ON THE EARTH! Please don’t miss and lose sight of the words which are found in these two passages of Scripture for unto the church in Smyrna and unto the church in Philadelphia the Lord Jesus Christ speaks of a time of suffering, a time of affliction, a time of persecution and a time of intense tribulation and trial that will come upon the world. When speaking unto the church which was in Smyrna Jesus made it personal and and declared unto them that they were about to suffer certain things in the coming days. Moreover Jesus would go on to declare that the devil was about to throw some of them into prison that they might be tested. Not only this but Jesus also declared unto this church that they would have tribulation ten days and instructed them to be faithful unto death. If they were indeed faithful unto death He would give them the crown of life in the next life when they passed from this realm of time and space into eternity. When speaking unto the church of Philadelphia Jesus would speak of an hour of trial which would come upon the whole world to test those who dwell upon the earth. This is something we must needs recognize for when speaking unto the church in Philadelphia Jesus spoke of something that was about to take place within the world itself that would test those who dwell within and upon the face of the earth. In both cases Jesus prepared these two churches for that which was about to take place—the same way He prepared and made ready His disciples for the suffering, the persecution and the affliction they would face in this life. This is something which warrants strong consideration for it brings us face to face with the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding Jesus preparing His saints for that which would come upon the face of the earth.
It is absolutely necessary we recognize and understand the words which are found in these two messages unto these individual churches for just as the Lord prepared these churches for what was about to take place in the coming days so also did He prepare and make ready His disciples for that which come in the latter days. Even as early as the Sermon on the Mount Jesus prepared His disciples to be persecuted and to experience affliction and opposition in this life that they might truly know and understand what it means to be a disciple. This is why I believe hearing, receiving and even believing the word, the gospel and name of the Lord Jesus in the midst of affliction, opposition and persecution is so incredibly vital to and for the Christian life. Hearing and receiving the word and gospel of the Lord Jesus in the midst of persecution reveals and makes plain to those who would hear it what it truly means to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. I would dare say there are many among us within our churches today who have absolutely no clue or idea what it truly means to be a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am convinced there are many men and women among us within our churches today who are not prepared nor are they ready for the hour which is about to come upon the whole world. What’s more is I can’t help but wonder how many within our churches would fare if they experienced even ten days of persecution and suffering as our Lord revealed and spoke unto the church in Smyrna. How many of the saints of God in our churches today would not be able to stand with Jesus one hour in prayer and intercession much less ten days in the midst of suffering. It’s incredibly interesting that when Jesus returned to the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane he asked them if they could not watch and pray with Him one hour. He would then instruct them to watch and pray lest they enter into temptation—something that warrants strong consideration when reading the words spoken unto the church in Philadelphia.
When you read the words which Jesus spoke unto Peter, James and John in the midst of the garden of Gethsemane you will find Him asking if they could not watch and pray with Him one hour. Jesus would then go on to not only instruct them to watch and pray lest they enter into temptation but would also declare unto them how the flesh was indeed weak but the spirit was willing. What makes this all the more interesting is when you read the words which the Lord spoke unto the church in Philadelphia. The Lord spoke and revealed unto them that there would come “the hour of trial” which would come upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth. There is a part of me that wonders how many “Christians” and how many “saints of God” will be found sleeping during this hour not aware that their flesh is indeed weak but the spirit is willing. How many “Christians” will indeed enter into this hour of tribulation and this hour of trial and could not watch and pray with our Lord during that hour? How many men and women among us during this hour will be found sleeping and slumbering and much like the five foolish virgins will sleep and slumber and awake to the cry of the bridegroom and realize they have no oil? I am absolutely convinced that when this hour and trial arises there will not only be men and women who will be found sleeping and slumbering instead of watching and praying but there will also be men and women who will realize they did not have any oil that their lamps might be lit and might sine forth. Oh there would be many within our churches who would like to think and believe they are and will be able to stand in the midst of trial, trouble and tribulation and yet I firmly believe there will be countless who will not only be found sleeping but there will be countless who will be offended at the Lord and with the Word. Moreover during this time there will be countless men and women who like those in Capernaum will turn back and walk no more with Jesus because their love will grow cold and their hearts have grown callous and hard.
It is with this being said I invite you to turn and direct your attention to the following words which are found in the New Testament gospel narratives written by the apostle Matthew, the beloved physician Luke and the apostle John. Within these passages we encounter and come face to face with the truly awesome and wonderful reality surrounding what it means to be a disciple and follower of the Lord Jesus Jesus Christ. Beginning with the Sermon on the Mount in the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew we discover what it means to be a disciple and who walking with and following the Lord Jesus may very well mean that we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for the sake of His name which we believe, which we are called by and which we call upon. This is something we must needs understand for it helps us to know and understand whether or not we are truly those who will be able to stand and endure in the hour of trial which is coming upon the whole world. What’s more is I would dare say there are very few among us who would be able to endure and stand fast during one hour of suffering and trial let alone ten days as was mentioned to the church in Smyrna. I very much doubt many within our churches today are able and will be able to endure one hour watching and praying in the midst of trial and tribulation let alone ten days—especially if many will be persecuted and put in prison. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in these three gospel narratives of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ beginning with the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew:
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of you Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light:; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, Him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:16-39).
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26).
“Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosever does not bear his cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see 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, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. So likewise, whoever, of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dung hill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 14:25-35).
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for my name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both me and my Father. But his happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, They hated me without a cause” (John 15:18-25).
“These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whosever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor me. But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you” (John 16:1-4).
It is at this juncture I now invite you to consider the following words which are found in the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew beginning with the fourth verse:
“And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for small these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judaea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetops not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been seen since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. Then if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ! Or, There! Do not believe lit. For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, Look, He is in the desert! Do not go out; or, Look, He is in the inter rooms! Do not believe it” (Matthew 24:4-26).
As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it necessary to return to the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Philippian saints. The apostle Paul writes unto these saints how he thanked God for every remembrance of you always in every prayer of his making request for them with all joy for their fellowship in the gospel from the first day until then. Moreover the apostle Paul emphatically declared that he was confident of one very important thing—namely that He who had begun a good work in them would complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. What we must needs realize when reading this epistle is that even though the apostle Paul was in chains at the time of this epistle he maintained his joy in the Lord, he was patiently enduring hardship as a good soldier in Christ and he was exhorting these dear saints to be those who faithfully endured and who stood strong in the midst of the world in which they were living. The apostle Paul prayed a prayer which I believe is relevant for us today as the saints of God for he prayed that their love would abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that they would approve the things that are excellent, that they would be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ and that they would be filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ. What we must needs realize and recognize within the first chapter of this epistle is that there is a great need for Christ to be magnified in our body whether through life or death. The apostle Paul emphatically declared that to live is Christ and to die was gain and how he was torn between two different opinions. The apostle Paul recognized that to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord, however, being present with the Lord meant he would not be able to engage in nor partake in the work of the ministry among them. He stated that he was hard pressed between the two having a desire to depart and be with Christ which was far better, however, to remain in the flesh was needful for them. What we as the saints of God must recognize is that so long as we live and dwell in the flesh in this earthly tent we are to glorify God with our bodies and must needs strive and work to fulfill the work of the ministry among the saints in the earth that the earth might indeed be filled with the knowledge and glory of the living God.