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Matthew 05.10-12

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May 27, 2007 at FBC, Comanche; Expositional studies: Matthew

Text: Matthew 5:1-12; Matthew 5:10-12

10 Blessed are the persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” [KJV]

“The Beauty of Being Persecuted”

Introduction:

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness” sake: for theirs

is the kingdom of heaven” (v. 10). The Christian life is one that is full of

strange paradoxes which are quite insoluble to human reason, but which

are easily understood by the spiritual mind. God’s saints rejoice with joy

unspeakable, yet do they mourn with a lamentation to which the worldling

is an utter stranger. The believer in Christ has been brought into contact

with a source of vital satisfaction which is capable of meeting every

longing, yet does he pant with a yearning like unto that of the thirsty hart.

He sings and makes melody in his heart to the Lord, yet does he groan

deeply and daily. His experience is often painful and perplexing, yet would

he not part with it for all the gold in the world. These puzzling paradoxes

are among the evidences which he possesses that he is indeed blessed of

God. But who by mere reasoning would ever conclude that the persecuted

and reviled are “blessed”! Genuine felicity, then, is not only compatible

with hut is actually accompanied by manifold miseries in this life.

“It is a strong proof of human depravity that men’s curses and Christ’s

blessings should meet on the same persons. Who would have thought that

a man could be persecuted and reviled, and have all manner of evil said of

him for righteousness’ sake? And do wicked men really hate justice and

love those who defraud and wrong their neighbors? No; they do not dislike

righteousness as it respects themselves: it is only that species of it which

respects God and religion that excites their hatred. If Christians were

content with doing justly and loving mercy, and would cease walking

humbly with God, they might go through the world, not only in peace, but

with applause; but he that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer

persecution (<550312>2 Timothy 3:12). Such a life reproves the ungodliness of

men and provokes their resentment” (Andrew Fuller). It is the enmity of

the Serpent—active ever since the days of Abel (<620312>1 John 3:12)—against

the holy seed.

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“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” The

connection between this and all that has been before us must not be

overlooked. It is not every sufferer, nor even every sufferer for religion,

who is entitled to appropriate such consolation. This antagonism is not in

return for wrong-doing or in response to what has given just cause for

offense. They who are morose, haughty, selfish, or evil-speaking, have no

right to seek comfort from this Beatitude when people retaliate against

them. No, it is where Christliness of character and conduct is assailed,

where practical godliness condemns the worldly ways of empty professors

and fires their enmity, where humble yet vital piety cannot be tolerated by

those who are devoid of the same. The wicked hate God’s holy image and

those who bear it, His holy Truth and those who walk in it. This

pronouncement of Christ’s signifies, Blessed are the spiritual which the

carnal detest; blessed are the gentle sheep, whom the dogs snap at.

How many a Christian employee who has refused to violate his conscience

has suffered at the hands of an ungodly master or mistress! Yet such

persecution, painful though it may be, is really a blessing in disguise. First,

by means of the opposition which they encounter, the Lord’s people

become the better acquainted with their own infirmities and needs, for

thereby they are made conscious that they cannot stand for a single hour

unless Divine grace upholds them. Second, by persecution they are often

kept from certain sins into which they would most likely fall were the

wicked at peace with them: the rough usage they receive at the hands of

world lings makes impossible that friendship with them which the flesh

craves. Third, such persecution affords the believer opportunity to glorify

God by his constancy, courage, and fidelity to the Truth.

This searching word “for righteousness’ sake” calls upon us to honestly

examine ourselves before God when we are being opposed:

“But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an

evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters”

(<600415>1 Peter 4:15).

The same qualification is made in the verse which immediately follows the

last quoted: “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed;

but let him glorify God on this behalf”: this is a most necessary caution,

that the believer see to it that he is buffeted for right doing and not on

account of his own misconduct or foolish behavior. It is to be observed

that persecution is often so speciously disguised that those guilty thereof

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are not conscious of the same, yea, so deceitful is the human heart, they

imagine they are doing God a service (<431602>John 16:2). But “Blessed are

they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is [not “shall

be”] the kingdom of heaven “; its privileges and blessings (<451417>Romans

14:17) are theirs even now: though hated by men, they are “kings and

priests unto God” (<660106>Revelation 1:6).

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and

shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake”

(<400511>Matthew 5:11).

In verse 10 the Lord enunciates the general principle; here He makes

special application of it to His servants. Note carefully the change from

“them” throughout verses 5-10 to “ye” and “your” in verses 11 and 12:

opposition is the general lot of God’s people, but it is the special portion of

His ministers. If faithful to their calling, they must expect to be fiercely

assailed. Such has ever been the experience of the Lord’s servants. Moses

was reviled again and again (<020511>Exodus 5:11; 14:11; 16:2; 17:2; etc.).

Samuel was rejected (<090805>1 Samuel 8:5). Elijah was despised (<111817>1 Kings

18:17) and persecuted (<111902>1 Kings 19:2). Micaiah was hated (<141817>2

Chronicles 18:17). Nehemiah was oppressed and defamed (Nehemiah 4).

The Savior Himself, the faithful witness of God, was put to death by the

people to whom He ministered. Stephen was stoned, Peter and John cast

into prison, James beheaded, while the entire course of Paul was one long

series of bitter and relentless persecutions.

“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” (vv. 11 and 12). In these words the

Lord Jesus faithfully warns His servants what they may fully expect to

encounter, and then defines how they are to respond thereto, how they are

to conduct themselves under the fire of their enemies. That blessedness

which worldly leaders value and crave is to be flattered and feted, humored

and honored; but the felicity and glory of the officers of Christ are to be

made conformable to the Captain of their salvation, who was “despised and

rejected of men.” Yet instead of being downcast over and murmuring at

the hostility they meet with, ministers of the Gospel are to be thankful to

God for the high honor He confers upon them in making them partakers of

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the sufferings of His Son. Because that is so difficult for flesh and blood to

do, the Lord here advances two reasons as encouragements.

It is true that persecution of both ministers and saints is today in a much

milder form than it assumed in other ages; nevertheless, it is just as real.

Through the goodness of God we have long been protected from legal

persecution, but the enmity of the Serpent finds other ways and means for

expressing itself. The words of Christ in John 15 have never been repealed:

“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” (vv.

19 and 20). Let it be carefully noted that it was the professing and not the

profane “world” that Christ was alluding to: it was from religious leaders,

those making the greatest spiritual pretensions, that the Redeemer Himself

received the worst treatment. And so it is now: members and officers of the

“churches” stoop to methods and use means of opposition which those

outside would scorn to employ.

Let us carefully note the qualification made by Christ in the verses we are

now considering. This benediction of His is pronounced only on them who

have all manner of evil spoken against them falsely: they have themselves

given no just occasion for the same. No, far from it, it is not for any lawful

ground of accusation in themselves, but for “My sake”—for their loyalty

and fidelity to Christ, for their obedience to His commission, for their

refusal to compromise His holy Truth. To be “reviled” is to suffer personal

abuse: said Paul,

“We are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of

all things” (<460413>1 Corinthians 4:13).

“Persecution” may involve acts of ill-treatment or ostracism. To have “all

manner of evil said against” us is to suffer defamation of character: <520202>1

Thessalonians 2:2, clearly implies that even the moral reputation of the

apostle was attacked. All these are efforts of the Devil to destroy the

usefulness of God’s ministers.

The Lord Jesus here pronounced blessed or happy those who, through

devotion to Him, would be called upon to suffer. They are “blessed”

because such are given the unspeakable privilege of having fellowship with

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the sufferings of the Savior. They are “blessed” because such tribulation

worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and such

a hope that will not make ashamed. They are “blessed” because they shall

be fully recompensed in the Day to come. Here is rich comfort indeed. Let

not the soldier of the Cross be dismayed because the fiery darts of the

wicked one are hurled against him. Remember that

“The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared

with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (<450818>Romans 8:18).

“Rejoice and be exceeding glad”: this too is spoken specially to ministers.

Those afflictions which faithfulness to Christ brings upon them are to be

endured not only with patience and resignation, but thanksgiving and

gladness, and that for a threefold reason.

First, that they come upon them for Christ’s sake: if He suffered so

much for them, should they not rejoice to suffer a little for Him?

Second, they shall be richly recompensed hereafter: “great is your

reward in heaven”—not as of merit, but purely of grace, for there is no

proportion between them.

Third, they bring them into fellowship with a noble company of

martyrs: “for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you”

—they too were ill-treated by members of the outward Church: what

an honor to share, in our measure, the lot of those holy men! Verily

there is cause to rejoice, no matter how fierce the conflict may be. Oh,

to emulate the apostles in <440541>Acts 5:41, and <441625>16:25. May Divine

grace enable all the oppressed servants and saints of God to draw from

these precious words of Christ the comfort and strength they need.[1]


9. (5:10-12) Persecuted (diōkomenoi): to endure suffering for Christ; to be mocked, ridiculed, criticized, ostracized; to be treated with hostility; to be martyred. (See notes—§ Luke 21:12-19; note 1—§ 1 Peter 4:12 and Deeper Study #1—1 Peter 4:12; note—§ 1 Peter 4:14.) Note several significant points.

1.  There are three major kinds of persecution (diōkomenoi) mentioned by Christ in this passage:

Þ  Being reviled: verbally abused, insulted, scolded, mocked (cruel mockings, Hebrews 11:36).

Þ  Persecuted: hurt, ostracized, attacked, tortured, martyred, and treated hostily.

Þ  Having all manner of evil spoken against: slandered, cursed, and lied about (cp. Psalm 35:11; Acts 17:6-7; cp. "hard speeches," that is, harsh, defiant words, Jude 15).

2.  Who are the persecuted?

a.  The person who lives and speaks for righteousness and is reacted against.

b.  The person who lives and speaks for Christ and is reviled, persecuted, and spoken against.

3.  Persecution is a paradox. It reveals that the true nature of the world is evil. Think about it: the person who lives and speaks for righteousness is opposed and persecuted. The person who cares and works for the true love, justice, and salvation of the world is actually fought against. How deceived is the world and its humanity, to rush onward in madness for nothing but to return to dust, to seek life only for some seventy years (if nothing happens before then)!

4.  Believers are forewarned, they shall suffer persecution.

a.  Believers shall suffer persecution because they are not of this world. They are called out of the world. They are in the world, but they are not of the world. They are separated from the behavior of the world. Therefore, the world reacts against them.

 "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" (John 15:19).

 b.  They shall suffer persecution because believers strip away the world's cloak of sin. They live and demonstrate a life of righteousness. They do not compromise with the world and its sinful behavior. They live pure and godly lives, having nothing to do with the sinful pleasures of a corruptible world. Such living exposes the sins of people.

 "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you....If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin" (John 15:18, 22).

"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12).

 c.  They shall suffer persecution because the world does not know God nor Christ. The ungodly of the world want no God other than themselves and their own imaginations. They want to do just what they want—to fulfill their own desires, not what God wishes and demands. However, the godly believer dedicates his life to God, to His worship and service. The ungodly want no part of God; therefore, they oppose those who talk about God and man's duty to honor and worship God.

 "But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me" (John 15:21).

"And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me" (John 16:3).

 d.  They shall suffer persecution because the world is deceived in its concept and belief of God. The world conceives God to be the One who fulfills their earthly desires and lusts (John 16:2-3). Man's idea of God is that of a Supreme Grandfather. They think that God protects, provides, and gives no matter what a person's behavior is, just so the behavior is not too far out, that God will accept and work all things out in the final analysis. However, the true believer teaches against this. God is love, but He is also just and demands righteousness. The world rebels against this concept of God.

 "They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me" (John 16:2-3).

"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" (John 15:20).

"These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not know the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you" (John 16:1-4).

"That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto" (1 Thes. 3:3).

"For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake" (Phil. 1:29).

"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12).

"Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you" (1 John 3:13).

"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified" (1 Peter 4:12-14).

 5.  Persecutions can erupt from the most devilish imaginations of men (see Deeper Study #1—1 Peter 4:12 for a description of some of the sufferings of God's dear people).

6.  What is to be the believer's attitude toward persecution?

a.  It is not to be retaliation, pride, spiritual superiority.

b.  It is to be joy and gladness (Matthew 5:12; 2 Cor. 12:10; 1 Peter 4:12-13).

7.  The persecuted are promised great rewards.

a.  The Kingdom of Heaven—now.

Þ  They experience a special honor (Acts 5:41).

Þ  They experience a special consolation (2 Cor. 1:5).

Þ  They are given a very special closeness, a glow of the Lord's presence (see note—§ 1 Peter 4:14).

Þ  They become a greater witness for Christ (2 Cor. 1:4-6).

b.  The Kingdom of Heaven—eternally (Hebrews 11:35f; 1 Peter 4:12-13; see Deeper Study #3—Matthew 19:23-24).[2]


Matthew 5:10

That have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake (οἱ δεδιωγμενοι ἑνεκεν δικαιοσυνης [hoi dediōgmenoi heneken dikaiosunēs]). Posing as persecuted is a favourite stunt. The kingdom of heaven belongs only to those who suffer for the sake of goodness, not who are guilty of wrong.

Matthew 5:11

Falsely, for my sake (ψευδομενοι ἑνεκεν ἐμου [pseudomenoi heneken emou]). Codex Bezae changes the order of these last Beatitudes, but that is immaterial. What does matter is that the bad things said of Christ’s followers shall be untrue and that they are slandered for Christ’s sake. Both things must be true before one can wear a martyr’s crown and receive the great reward (μισθος [misthos]) in heaven. No prize awaits one there who deserves all the evil said of him and done to him here. [3]


 

Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (5:10–12)

Of all the beatitudes, this last one seems the most contrary to human thinking and experience. The world does not associate happiness with humility, mourning over sin, gentleness, righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, or peacemaking holiness. Even less does it associate happiness with persecution.

Some years ago a popular national magazine took a survey to determine the things that make people happy. According to the responses they received, happy people enjoy other people but are not self-sacrificing; they refuse to participate in any negative feelings or emotions; and they have a sense of accomplishment based on their own self-sufficiency.

The person described by those principles is completely contrary to the kind of person the Lord says will be authentically happy. Jesus says a blessed person is not one who is self-sufficient but one who recognizes his own emptiness and need, who comes to God as a beggar, knowing he has no resources in himself. He is not confident in his own ability but is very much aware of his own inability. Such a person, Jesus says, is not at all positive about himself but mourns over his own sinfulness and isolation from a holy God. To be genuinely content, a person must not be self-serving but self-sacrificing. He must be gentle, merciful, pure in heart, yearn for righteousness, and seek to make peace on God’s terms-even if those attitudes cause him to suffer.

The Lord’s opening thrust in the Sermon on the Mount climaxes with this great and sobering truth: those who faithfully live according to the first seven beatitudes are guaranteed at some point to experience the eighth. Those who live righteously will inevitably be persecuted for it. Godliness generates hostility and antagonism from the world. The crowning feature of the happy person is persecution! Kingdom people are rejected people. Holy people are singularly blessed, but they pay a price for it.

The last beatitude is really two in one, a single beatitude repeated and expanded. Blessed is mentioned twice (vv. 10, 11), but only one characteristic (persecuted) is given, although it is mentioned three times, and only one result (for theirs is the kingdom of heaven) is promised. Blessed apparently is repeated to emphasize the generous blessing given by God to those who are persecuted. “Double-blessed are those who are persecuted,” Jesus seems to be saying.

Three distinct aspects of kingdom faithfulness are spoken of in this beatitude: the persecution, the promise, and the posture.

The Persecution

Those who have been persecuted are the citizens of the kingdom, those who live out the previous seven beatitudes. To the degree that they fulfill the first seven they may experience the eighth.

“All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Before writing those words Paul had just mentioned some of his own “persecutions, and suffering, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra” (v. 11). As one who lived the kingdom life he had been persecuted, and all others who live the kingdom life can expect similar treatment. What was true in ancient Israel is true today and will remain true until the Lord returns. “As at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also” (Gal. 4:29).

Imagine a man who accepted a new job in which he had to work with especially profane people. When at the end of the first day his wife asked him how he had managed, he said, “Terrific! They never guessed I was a Christian.” As long as people have no reason to believe that we are Christians, at least obedient and righteous Christians, we need not worry about persecution. But as we manifest the standards of Christ we will share the reproach of Christ. Those born only of the flesh will persecute those born of the Spirit.

To live for Christ is to live in opposition to Satan in his world and in his system. Christlikeness in us will produce the same results as Christlikeness did in the apostles, in the rest of the early church, and in believers throughout history. Christ living in His people today produces the same reaction from the world that Christ Himself produced when He lived on earth as a man.

Righteousness is confrontational, and even when it is not preached in so many words, it confronts wickedness by its very contrast. Abel did not preach to Cain, but Abel’s righteous life, typified by his proper sacrifice to the Lord, was a constant rebuke to his wicked brother-who in a rage finally slew him. When Moses chose to identify with his own despised Hebrew people rather than compromise himself in the pleasures of pagan Egyptian society, he paid a great price. But he considered “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26).

The Puritan writer Thomas Watson said of Christians: “Though they be never so meek, merciful, pure in heart, their piety will not shield them from sufferings. They must hang their harp on the willows and take the cross. The way to heaven is by way of thorns and blood. … Set it down as a maxim, if you will follow Christ you must see the swords and staves” (The Beatitudes [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971], pp. 259–60).

Savonarola was one of the greatest reformers in the history of the church. In his powerful condemnation of personal sin and ecclesiastical corruption, that Italian preacher paved the way for the Protestant Reformation, which began a few years after his death. “His preaching was a voice of thunder,” writes one biographer, “and his denunciation of sin was so terrible that the people who listened to him went about the streets half-dazed, bewildered and speechless. His congregations were so often in tears that the whole building resounded with their sobs and their weeping.” But the people and the church could not long abide such a witness, and for preaching uncompromised righteousness Savonarola was convicted of “heresy,” he was hanged, and his body was burned.

Persecution is one of the surest and most tangible evidences of salvation. Persecution is not incidental to faithful Christian living but is certain evidence of it. Paul encouraged the Thessalonians by sending them Timothy, “so that no man may be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know” (1 Thess. 3:3–4). Suffering persecution is part of the normal Christian life (cf. Rom. 8:16–17). And if we never experience ridicule, criticism, or rejection because of our faith, we have reason to examine the genuineness of it. “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake,” Paul says, “not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Phil. 1:29–30). Persecution for Christ’s sake is a sign of our own salvation just as it is a sign of damnation for those who do the persecuting (v. 28).

Whether Christians live in a relatively protected and tolerant society or whether they live under a godless, totalitarian regime, the world will find ways to persecute Christ’s church. To live a redeemed life to its fullest is to invite and to expect resentment and reaction from the world.

The fact that many professed believers are popular and praised by the world does not indicate that the world has raised its standards but that many who call themselves by Christ’s name have lowered theirs. As the time for Christ’s appearing grows closer we can expect opposition from the world to increase, not decrease. When Christians are not persecuted in some way by society it means that they are reflecting rather than confronting that society. And when we please the world we can be sure that we grieve the Lord (cf. James 4:4; 1 John 2:15–17).

When (hotan) can also mean whenever. The idea conveyed in the term is not that believers will be in a constant state of opposition, ridicule, or persecution, but that, whenever those things come to us because of our faith, we should not be surprised or resentful. Jesus was not constantly opposed and ridiculed, nor were the apostles. There were times of peace and even popularity. But every faithful believer will at times have some resistance and ridicule from the world, while others, for God’s own purposes, will endure more extreme suffering. But whenever and however affliction comes to the child of God, his heavenly Father will be there with him to encourage and to bless. Our responsibility is not to seek out persecution, but to be willing to endure whatever trouble our faithfulness to Jesus Christ may bring, and to see it as a confirmation of true salvation.

The way to avoid persecution is obvious and easy. To live like the world, or at least to “live and let live,” will cost us nothing. To mimic the world’s standards, or never to criticize them, will cost us nothing. To keep quiet about the gospel, especially the truth that apart from its saving power men remain in their sins and are destined for hell, will cost us nothing. To go along with the world, to laugh at its jokes, to enjoy its entertainment, to smile when it mocks God and takes His name in vain, and to be ashamed to take a stand for Christ will not bring persecution. Those are the habits of sham Christians.

Jesus does not take faithlessness lightly. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:26). If we are ashamed of Christ, He will be ashamed of us. Christ also warned, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). To be popular with everyone is either to have compromised the faith or not to have true faith at all.

Though it was early in His ministry, by the time Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount He had already faced opposition. After He healed the man on the Sabbath, “the Pharisees went out and immediately began taking counsel with the Herodians against Him, as to how they might destroy Him” (Mark 3:6). We learn from Luke that they were actually hoping Jesus would heal on the Sabbath “in order that they might find reason to accuse Him” (Luke 6:7). They already hated His teaching and wanted Him to commit an act serious enough to warrant His arrest.

Our Lord made it clear from His earliest teaching, and His opponents made it clear from their earliest reactions, that following Him was costly. Those who entered His kingdom would suffer for Him before they would reign with Him. That is the hard honesty that every preacher, evangelist, and witness of Christ should exemplify. We do the Lord no honor and those to whom we witness no benefit by hiding or minimizing the cost of following Him.

The cost of discipleship is billed to believers in many different ways. A Christian stonemason in Ephesus in Paul’s day might have been asked to help build a pagan temple or shrine. Because he could not do that in good conscience, his faith would cost him the work and possibly his job and career. A believer today might be expected to hedge on the quality of his work in order to increase company profits. To follow His conscience in obedience to the Lord could also cost his job or at least a promotion. A Christian housewife who refuses to listen to gossip or to laugh at the crude jokes of her neighbors may find herself ostracized. Some costs will be known in advance and some will surprise us. Some costs will be great and some will be slight. But by the Lord’s and the apostles’ repeated promises, faithfulness always has a cost, which true Christians are willing to pay (contrast Matt. 13:20–21).

The second-century Christian leader Tertullian was once approached by a man who said, “I have come to Christ, but I don’t know what to do. I have a job that I don’t think is consistent with what Scripture teaches. What can I do? I must live.” To that Tertullian replied, “Must you?” Loyalty to Christ is the Christian’s only true choice. To be prepared for kingdom life is to be prepared for loneliness, misunderstanding, ridicule, rejection, and unfair treatment of every sort.

In the early days of the church the price paid was often the ultimate. To choose Christ might mean choosing death by stoning, by being covered with pitch and used as a human torch for Nero, or by being wrapped in animal skins and thrown to vicious hunting dogs. To choose Christ could mean torture by any number of excessively cruel and painful ways. That was the very thing Christ had in mind when He identified His followers as those willing to bear their crosses. That has no reference to mystical devotion, but is a call to be ready to die, if need be, for the cause of the Lord (see Matt. 10:35–39; 16:24–25).

In resentment against the gospel the Romans invented charges against Christians, such as accusing them of being cannibals because in the Lord’s Supper they spoke of eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood. They accused them of having sexual orgies at their love feasts and even of setting fire to Rome. They branded believers as revolutionaries because they called Jesus Lord and King and spoke of God’s destroying the earth by fire.

By the end of the first century, Rome had expanded almost to the outer limits of the known world, and unity became more and more of a problem. Because only the emperor personified the entire empire, the caesars came to be deified, and their worship was demanded as a unifying and cohesive influence. It became compulsory to give a verbal oath of allegiance to caesar once a year, for which a person would be given a verifying certificate, called a libellus. After publicly proclaiming, “Caesar is Lord,” the person was free to worship any other gods he chose. Because faithful Christians refused to declare such an allegiance to anyone but Christ, they were considered traitors-for which they suffered confiscation of property, loss of work, imprisonment, and often death. One Roman poet spoke of them as “the panting, huddling flock whose only crime was Christ.”

In the last beatitude Jesus speaks of three specific types of affliction endured for Christ’s sake: physical persecution, verbal insult, and false accusation.

Physical Persecution

First, Jesus says, we can expect physical persecution. Have been persecuted (v. 10), persecute (v. 11), and persecuted (v. 12) are from diōkō, which has the basic meaning of chasing, driving away, or pursuing. From that meaning developed the connotations of physical persecution, harassment, abuse, and other unjust treatment.

All of the other beatitudes have to do with inner qualities, attitudes, and spiritual character. The eighth beatitude speaks of external things that happen to believers, but the teaching behind these results also has to do with attitude. The believer who has the qualities required in the previous beatitudes will also have the quality of willingness to face persecution for the sake of righteousness. He will have the attitude of self-sacrifice for the sake of Christ. It is the lack of fear and shame and the presence of courage and boldness that says, “I will be in this world what Christ would have me be. I will say in this world what Christ will have me say. Whatever it costs, I will be and say those things.”

The Greek verb is a passive perfect participle, and could be translated “allow themselves to be persecuted.” The perfect form indicates continuousness, in this case a continuous willingness to endure persecution if it is the price of godly living. This beatitude speaks of a constant attitude of accepting whatever faithfulness to Christ may bring.

It is in the demands of this beatitude that many Christians break down in their obedience to the Lord, because here is where the genuineness of their response to the other beatitudes is most strongly tested. It is here where we are most tempted to compromise the righteousness we have hungered and thirsted for. It is here where we find it convenient to lower God’s standards to accommodate the world and thereby avoid conflicts and problems that we know obedience will bring.

But God does not want His gospel altered under pretense of its being less demanding, less righteous, or less truthful than it is. He does not want witnesses who lead the unsaved into thinking that the Christ life costs nothing. A synthetic gospel, a man-made seed, produces no real fruit.

Verbal Insults

Second, Jesus promises that kingdom citizens are blessed … when men cast insults at them. Oneidizō carries the idea of reviling, upbraiding, or seriously insulting, and literally means to cast in one’s teeth. To cast insults is to throw abusive words in the face of an opponent, to mock viciously.

To be an obedient citizen of the kingdom is to court verbal abuse and reviling. As He stood before the Sanhedrin after His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was spat upon, beaten, and taunted with the words “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?” (Matt. 26:67–68). As He was being sentenced to crucifixion by Pilate, Jesus was again beaten, spit upon, and mocked, this time by the Roman soldiers (Mark 15:19–20).

Faithfulness to Christ may even cause friends and loved ones to say things that cut and hurt deeply. Several years ago I received a letter from a woman who told of a friend who had decided to divorce her husband for no just cause. The friend was a professed Christian, but when she was confronted with the truth that what she was doing was scripturally wrong, she became defensive and hostile. She was reminded of God’s love and grace, of His power to mend whatever problems she and her husband were having, and of the Bible’s standards for marriage and divorce. But she replied that she did not believe the Bible was really God’s Word but was simply a collection of men’s ideas about God that each person had to accept, reject, or interpret for himself. When her friend wanted to read some specific Bible passages to her, she refused to listen. She had made up her mind and would not give heed to Scripture or to reason. With hate in her eyes she accused the other woman of luring her into her house in order to ridicule and embarrass her, saying she could not possibly love her by questioning her right to get a divorce. As she left, she slammed the door behind her.

The woman who wrote the letter concluded by saying, “I love her, and it is with a heavy heart that I realize the extent of her rejection of Christ. Painful as this has been, I thank God. For the first time in my life I know what it is to be separate from the world.”

Paul told the Corinthian church, whose members had such a difficult time separating themselves from the world, “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9). Paul drew the expression “become a spectacle” from the practice of Roman generals to parade their captives through the street of the city, making a spectacle of them as trophies of war who were doomed to die once the general had used them to serve his proud and arrogant purposes. That is the way the world is inclined to treat those who are faithful to Christ.

In a note of strong sarcasm to enforce his point, Paul continues, “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor” (v.10). Many in the Corinthian church suffered none of the ridicule and conflict the apostle suffered because they prized their standing before the world more than their standing before the Lord. In the world’s eyes they were prudent, strong, and distinguished-because they were still so much like the world.

God does not call His people to be sanctified celebrities, using their worldly reputations in a self-styled effort to bring Him glory, using their power to supplement His power and their wisdom to enhance His gospel. We can mark it down as a cardinal principle that to the extent the world embraces a Christian cause or person-or that a Christian cause or person embraces the world-to that extent that cause or person has compromised the gospel and scriptural standards.

If Paul had capitalized on his human credentials he could have drawn greater crowds and certainly have received greater welcome wherever he went. His credentials were impressive. “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more,” he says. He was “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee” (Phil. 3:4–5). He had been “caught up to the third heaven, … into Paradise” (2 Cor. 12:2, 4) and had spoken in tongues more than anyone else (1 Cor. 14:18). He had studied under the famous rabbi Gamaliel and was even a free-born Roman citizen (Acts 22:3, 29). But all those things the apostle “counted as loss for the sake of Christ, … but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7–8). He refused to use worldly means to try to achieve spiritual purposes, because he knew they would fail.

The marks of authenticity Paul carried as an apostle and minister of Jesus Christ were his credentials as a servant and a sufferer, “in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city; dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Cor. 11:23–27).

The only thing of which he would boast was his weakness (12:5), and when he preached he was careful not to rely on “superiority of speech or of wisdom” (1 Cor. 2:1), which he could easily have done. “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,” he told the Corinthians. “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (vv. 2–5).

We live in a day when the church, more than ever before, is engaged in self-glorification and an attempt to gain worldly recognition that must be repulsive to God. When the church tries to use the things of the world to do the work of heaven, it only succeeds in hiding heaven from the world. And when the world is pleased with the church, we can be sure that God is not. We can be equally sure that when we are pleasing to God, we will not be pleasing to the system of Satan.

False Accusation

Third, faithfulness to Christ will bring enemies of the gospel to say all kinds of evil against [us] falsely. Whereas insults are abusive words said to our faces, these evil things are primarily abusive words said behind our backs.

Jesus’ critics said of Him, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax-gatherers and sinners” (Matt. 11:19). If the world said that of the sinless Christ, what things can His followers expect to be called and accused of?

Slander behind our backs is harder to take partly because it is harder to defend against than direct accusation. It has opportunity to spread and be believed before we have a chance to correct it. Much harm to our reputations can be done even before we are aware someone has slandered us.

We cannot help regretting slander, but we should not grieve about it. We should count ourselves blessed, as our Lord assures us we shall be when the slander is on account of Me.

Arthur Pink comments that “it is a strong proof of human depravity that men’s curses and Christ’s blessings should meet on the same persons” (An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950], p. 39). We have no surer evidence of the Lord’s blessing than to be cursed for His sake. It should not seriously bother us when men’s curses fall on the head that Christ has eternally blessed.

The central theme of the Beatitudes is righteousness. The first two have to do with recognizing our own unrighteousness, and the next five have to do with our seeking and reflecting righteousness. The last beatitude has to do with our suffering for the sake of righteousness. The same truth is expressed in the second part of the beatitude as on account of Me. Jesus is not speaking of every hardship, problem, or conflict believers may face, but those that the world brings on us because of our faithfulness to the Lord.

It is clear again that the hallmark of the blessed person is righteousness. Holy living is what provokes persecution of God’s people. Such persecution because of a righteous life is joyous. Peter identifies such experience as a happy honor.

And who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.” (1 Pet. 3:13–18)

With those words, the apostle extols the privilege of suffering for holiness, and thus of sharing in a small way in the same type of suffering Christ endured. In the next chapter, Peter emphasizes the same thing.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. … If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. … Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (4:12–14, 16, 19)

When we are hated, maligned, or afflicted as Christians, the real animosity is not against us but against Christ. Satan’s great enemy is Christ, and he opposes us because we belong to Jesus Christ, because He is in us. When we are despised and attacked by the world, the real target is the righteousness for which we stand and which we exemplify. That is why it is easy to escape persecution. Whether under pagan Rome, atheistic Communism, or simply a worldly boss, it is usually easy to be accepted if we will denounce or compromise our beliefs and standards. The world will accept us if we are willing to put some distance between ourselves and the Lord’s righteousness.

In the closing days of His ministry Jesus repeatedly and plainly warned His disciples of that truth. “If the world hates you,” He said, “you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but 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 slave 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 the One who sent Me” (John 15:18–21).

The world went along for thousands of years before it ever saw a perfect man. Until Christ came, every person, even God’s best, were sinful and flawed. All had feet of clay. To see God’s people fail and sin is often taken as an encouragement by the wicked. They point a finger and say, “He claims to be righteous and good, but look at what he did.” It is easy to feel smug and secure in one’s sinfulness when everyone else is also sinful and imperfect. But when Christ came, the world finally saw the perfect Man, and all excuse for smugness and self-confidence vanished. And instead of rejoicing in the sinless Man, sinful men resented the rebuke that His teaching and His life brought against them. They crucified Him for His very perfection, for His very righteousness.

Aristides the Just was banished from ancient Athens. When a stranger asked an Athenian why Aristides was voted out of citizenship he replied, “Because we became tired of his always being just.” A people who prided themselves in civility and justice chafed when something or someone was too just.

Because they refused to compromise the gospel either in their teaching or in their lives, most of the apostles suffered a martyr’s death. According to tradition, Andrew was fastened by cords to a cross in order to prolong and intensify his agony. We are told that Peter, by his own request, was crucified head down, because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. Paul presumably was beheaded by Nero. Though John escaped a violent death, he died in exile on Patmos.

The Promise

But compared to what is gained, even a martyr’s price is small. Each beatitude begins with blessed and, as already suggested, Jesus pronounces a double blessing on those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, which is for His own sake. The specific blessing promised to those who are so persecuted is that theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The citizens of the kingdom are going to inherit the kingdom. Paul expresses a similar thought in 2 Thessalonians 1:5–7-“This a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.”

I believe that the blessings of the kingdom are threefold: present, millennial, and eternal. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29–30).

First, we are promised blessings here and now. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, was falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife, and was imprisoned. But the Lord raised him to be the prime minister of Egypt and used him to save His chosen people from starvation and extinction. Daniel was thrown into a den of lions because of his refusal to stop worshiping the Lord. Not only was his life spared, but he was restored to his high position as the most valued commissioner of King Darius, and the king made a declaration that “in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever” (Dan. 6:26).

Not every believer is rewarded in this life with the things of this life. But every believer is rewarded in this life with the comfort, strength, and joy of His indwelling Lord. He is also blessed with the assurance that no service or sacrifice for the Lord will be in vain.

As a sequel to his book Peace Child, Don Richardson has written Lords of the Earth (Glendale, Calif.: Regal, 1977). He tells the story of Stan Dale, another missionary to Irian Jaya, Indonesia, who ministered to the Yali tribe in the Snow Mountains. The Yali had one of the strictest known religions in the world. For a tribe member even to question, much less disobey, one of its tenets brought instant death. There could never be any change or modification. The Yali had many sacred spots scattered throughout their territory. If even a small child were to crawl onto one of those sacred pieces of ground, he was considered defiled and cursed. To keep the whole village from being involved in that curse, the child would be thrown into the rushing Heluk River to drown and be washed downstream.

When Stan Dale came with his wife and four children to that cannibalistic people he was not long tolerated. He was attacked one night and miraculously survived being shot with five arrows. After treatment in a hospital he immediately returned to the Yali. He worked unsuccessfully for several years, and the resentment and hatred of the tribal priests increased. One day as he, another missionary named Phil Masters, and a Dani tribesman named Yemu were facing what they knew was an imminent attack, the Yali suddenly came upon them. As the others ran for safety, Stan and Yemu remained back, hoping somehow to dissuade the Yali from their murderous plans. As Start confronted his attackers, they shot him with dozens of arrows. As the arrows entered his flesh he would pull them out and break them in two. Eventually he no longer had the strength to pull the arrows out, but he remained standing.

Yemu ran back to where Phil was standing, and Phil persuaded him to keep running. With his eyes fixed on Start, who was still standing with some fifty arrows in his body, Phil remained where he was and was himself soon surrounded by warriors. The attack had begun with hilarity, but it turned to fear and desperation when they saw that Start did not fall. Their fear increased when it took nearly as many arrows to down Phil as it had Stan. They dismembered the bodies and scattered them about the forest in an attempt to prevent the resurrection of which they had heard the missionaries speak. But the back of their “unbreakable” pagan system was broken, and through the witness of the two men who were not afraid to die in order to bring the gospel to this lost and violent people, the Yali tribe and many others in the surrounding territory came to Jesus Christ. Even Stan’s fifth child, a baby at the time of this incident, was saved reading the book about his father.

Stan and Phil were not rewarded in this life with the things of this life. But they seem to have been double-blessed with the comfort, strength, and joy of their indwelling Lord-and the absolute confidence that their sacrifice for Him would not be in vain.

There is also a millennial aspect to the kingdom blessing. When Christ establishes His thousand-year reign on earth, we will be co-regents with Him over that wonderful, renewed earth (Rev. 20:4).

Finally, there is the reward of the eternal kingdom, the blessing of all blessings of living forever in our Lord’s kingdom enjoying His very presence. The ultimate fruit of kingdom life is eternal life. Even if the world takes from us every possession, every freedom, every comfort, every satisfaction of physical life, it can take nothing from our spiritual life, either now or throughout eternity.

The Beatitudes begin and end with the promise of the kingdom of heaven (cf. v. 3). The major promise of the Beatitudes is that in Christ we become kingdom citizens now and forever. No matter what the world does to us, it cannot affect our possession of Christ’s kingdom.

The Posture

Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (5:12)

The believer’s response to persecution and affliction should not be to retreat and hide. To escape from the world is to escape responsibility. Because we belong to Christ, we are no longer of this world, but He has sent us into this world to serve just as He Himself came into this world to serve (John 17:14–18).

His followers are “the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matt. 5:13–14). For our salt to flavor the earth and our light to lighten the world we must be active in the world. The gospel is not given to be hidden but to enlighten. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (vv. 15–16).

When we become Christ’s salt and Christ’s light, our salt will sting the world’s open wounds of sin and our light will irritate its eyes that are used to darkness. But even when our salt and light are resented, rejected, and thrown back in our face, we should rejoice, and be glad.

Be glad is from agalliaō, which means to exult, to rejoice greatly, to be overjoyed, as is clear in the King James Version, “be exceeding glad.” The literal meaning is to skip and jump with happy excitement. Jesus uses the imperative mood, which makes His words more than a suggestion. We are commanded to be glad. Not to be glad when we suffer for Christ’s sake is to be untrusting and disobedient.

The world can take away a great deal from God’s people, but it cannot take away their joy and their happiness. We know that nothing the world can do to us is permanent. When people attack us for Christ’s sake, they are really attacking Him (cf. Gal. 6:17; Col. 1:24). And their attacks can do us no more permanent damage than they can do Him.

Jesus gives two reasons for our rejoicing and being glad when we are persecuted for His sake. First, He says, your reward in heaven is great. Our present life is no more than “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14); but heaven is forever. Small wonder that Jesus tells us not to lay up treasures for ourselves here on earth, “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Matt. 6:19–20). Whatever we do for the Lord now, including suffering for Him-in fact, especially suffering for Him-reaps eternal dividends.

God’s dividends are not ordinary dividends. They are not only eternal but are also great. If God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20), how much more abundantly is He able to grant what He Himself promises to us?

We often hear, and perhaps are tempted to think, that it is unspiritual and crass to serve God for the sake of rewards. But that is one of the motives that God Himself gives for serving Him. We first of all serve and obey Christ because we love Him, just as on earth He loved and obeyed the Father because He loved Him. But it was also because of “the joy set before Him” that Christ Himself “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). It is neither selfish nor unspiritual to do the Lord’s work for a motive that He Himself gives and has followed.

Second, we are to rejoice because the world persecuted the prophets who were before us in the same way that it persecutes us. When we suffer for Christ’s sake, we are in the best possible company. To be afflicted for righteousness’s sake is to stand in the ranks of the prophets. Persecution is a mark of our faithfulness just as it was a mark of the prophets’ faithfulness. When we suffer for Christ’s sake we know beyond a doubt that we belong to God, because we are experiencing the same reaction from the world that the prophets experienced.

When we suffer for our Lord we join with the prophets and the other saints of old who “experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (Heb. 11:36–38). Though the world is not worthy of their company, every persecuted believer is. To be persecuted verities that we belong to the line of the righteous.

Our assurance of salvation does not come from knowing we made a decision somewhere in the past. Rather, our assurance that the decision was a true decision for Jesus Christ is found in the life of righteousness that results in suffering for the sake of Christ. Many will claim to have preached Christ, cast out demons, and done mighty works for His sake, but will be refused heaven (Matt. 7:21–23). But none who have suffered righteously for Him will be left out.

The world cannot handle the righteous life that characterizes kingdom living. It is not understandable and acceptable to them, and they cannot stomach it even in others. Poverty of spirit runs counter to the pride of the unbelieving heart. The repentant, contrite disposition that mourns over sin is never appreciated by the callous, indifferent, unsympathetic world. The meek and quiet spirit that takes wrong and does not strike back is regarded as pusillanimous, and it rasps against the militant, vengeful spirit characteristic of the world. To long after righteousness is repugnant to those whose fleshly cravings are rebuked by it, as is a merciful spirit to those whose hearts are hard and cruel. Purity of heart is a painful light that exposes hypocrisy and corruption, and peacemaking is a virtue praised by the contentious, self-seeking world in words but not in heart.

John Chrysostom, a godly leader in the fourth-century church preached so strongly against sin that he offended the unscrupulous Empress Eudoxia as well as many church officials. When summoned before Emperor Arcadius, Chrysostom was threatened with banishment if he did not cease his uncompromising preaching. His response was, “Sire, you cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.” “Then I will slay you,” Arcadius said. “Nay, but you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God,” came the answer. “Your treasures will be confiscated” was the next threat, to which John replied, “Sire, that cannot be, either. My treasures are in heaven, where none can break through and steal.” “Then I will drive you from man, and you will have no friends left!” was the final, desperate warning. “That you cannot do, either,” answered John, “for I have a Friend in heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ ” Chrysostom was indeed banished, first to Armenia and then farther away to Pityus on the Back Sea, to which he never arrived because he died on the way. But neither his banishment nor his death disproved or diminished his claims. The things that he valued most highly not even an emperor could take from him.[4]


8. Those Who are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake

Lastly, the Lord Jesus calls “blessed” those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (verse 10). He means those who are laughed at, mocked, despised and badly treated because they endeavor to live as true Christians. Blessed are all such! They drink of the same cup which their Master drank. They are now confessing him before men, and he will confess them before his Father and the angels on the last day. Great is their reward (verse 12).

These are the eight foundation stones which the Lord lays down at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Eight great testing truths are placed before us. May we mark well each one of them, and learn wisdom.

Let us learn how the principles of Christ are entirely contrary to the principles of the world. It is vain to deny it: they are almost diametrically opposed. The very characters which the Lord Jesus praises the world despises; the very pride, and thoughtlessness, and high tempers, and worldliness, and selfishness, and formality, and unlovingness, which abound everywhere, the Lord Jesus condemns.

Let us learn how the teaching of Christ is sadly different from the practice of many professing Christians. Where shall we find men and women among those who go to churches and chapels, who are striving to live up to the pattern we have read of today? There is too much reason to fear that many baptized people are utterly ignorant of what the New Testament commands.

Above all, let us learn how holy and spiritually minded all believers should be. They should never aim at any standard lower than that of the Sermon on the Mount. Christianity is eminently a practical religion: sound doctrine is its root and foundation, but holy living should always be its fruit; and if we want to know what holy living is, let us often think about who Jesus calls “blessed.”[5]


10Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

5:10 All of these characteristics which Jesus labels as blessed are usually not welcomed in the world at large. Hostility may well arise against Jesus’ followers, but even persecuted people are seen by Christ as fortunate. This persecution, however, must be the result of righteous living and not due to individual sin or tactlessness (cf. 1 Pet 3:14; 4:14–15). What is even more tragic is when one Christian persecutes another, allegedly “because of righteousness,” when the persecution actually stems from too narrow a definition of Christian belief or behavior.

11“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

5:11–12 These verses repeat, amplify, and personalize v. 10 by shifting from third-person to second-person address. “Falsely” is missing from a few of the earliest manuscripts (most notably D, the Latin and Syriac versions) but probably belongs in the original text and is in any event a correct interpretation. “Because of me” provides another key qualification. As in v. 10, the only persecution that is blessed is that which stems from allegiance to Jesus and living in conformity with his standards. Because this life is just a fraction of all eternity, we can and must rejoice even in persecution. The joy commanded here, as elsewhere in Scripture (esp. Jas 1:2), is not an emotion but an attitude.

“Reward” (more literally wages) is more a promise of “future recompense for a present condition of persecution and reproach” than a reward for piety. There is no comparison here between those with a lesser reward and a greater reward. So the reward should be thought of as heaven itself and not some particular status in the life to come. Jesus offers a poignant reminder that the great men and women of Old Testament times often suffered a similar fate. The prophet Jeremiah provides the classic example. The same is true of Christian history. When we suffer, we must avoid the trap of thinking that we are the only ones who have ever experienced such problems.

The upshot of the Beatitudes is a complete inversion of the attitude popularly known in our culture as “machismo.” In fact, this attitude is not limited to a particular culture but characterizes humanity’s self-centered, self-arrogating pride which invariably seeks personal security and survival above the good of others. We are enabled to invert these natural, worldly values only when we recognize that God will in turn invert our marginalized status and grant eternal compensation. This is not to promote works-righteousness; Jesus is addressing those already professing discipleship (5:1). But, like James among the Epistles, Matthew is the one Gospel to emphasize most the changed life that must flow from commitment to Christ.[6]


Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom. The progress from one beatitude to the next is obvious here. Being a peacemaker by practicing justice and love and living by kingdom standards is initiating a confrontation with society which can be taken as a judgment. To will God’s will is to be different from those who will their own will. This is the way of the Cross in which God’s will cuts across the will of humanity. The kingdom is breaking into time, calling persons to be disciples of Christ, living by His mercy and love. The response of humanity is either repentance and faith, or rejection and persecution. The King Himself came as the “suffering servant,” as one who identified with humanity in its problems without altering His own relation with the Father, thereby calling us to the kingdom of the Father. This confrontation led to the Cross, a fact which led Paul to say, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12, kjv).

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you for My sake. This beatitude is often merged with the preceding one. However, it has the direct focus of persecution for the person of Christ. One can stand for religious ideals or for moral principles and be accepted in a society that is pluralistic. However, when one affirms that in Christ alone we are truly related to God, the very exclusiveness of this claim subjects one to persecution. And this is our message: “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, kjv).

Later Jesus informed His disciples that they would be persecuted because of identification with Him. Is it not strange that in most universities we can speak freely of Freud, or of Marx, but cannot find open discussion of Christ and His teachings? In the first centuries of the Christian church the disciples met emperor worship with the words, “Caesar is not Lord; Jesus Christ is Lord.” And to this day the issues of nationalism, of secularism, and of materialism confront us with the same issue. These principalities and powers are not Lord; Jesus is Lord. Notice how Jesus picks up this issue near the conclusion of the sermon in chapter 7, verses 21–23, in a manner which interfaces word and deed. The witness to His lordship is expressed in our being His servants.

In summary of this review of the Beatitudes, we see, as Dr. Richard C. Halverson says, that “the way of the Kingdom of God is antithetical to the way of our contemporary culture.” God says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” but we say blessed are the achievers. God says, “Blessed are those who mourn,” but we say blessed are the self-fulfilled. Jesus says, “Blessed are the meek,” but we say blessed are the powerful. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,” but we say blessed are the unrestrained. Jesus says, “Blessed are the merciful,” but we say blessed are the manipulators. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” but we say blessed are the uninhibited. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” but we say blessed are the strong. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,” but we say blessed are the expedient. Jesus said we are blessed when persecuted for His sake, but we say blessed are the aggressors. Jesus challenges the very selfishness that determines so much of our social behavior.[7]


Ver. 10.—Which are persecuted; which have been persecuted (Revised Version); οἱ δεδιωγμένοι. “Those who are harassed, hunted, spoiled. The term is properly used of wild beasts pursued by hunters, or of an enemy or malefactor in flight” (Wetstein). Our Lord, by the use of the perfect, wishes to indicate (1) the fact that they have endured persecution, and still stand firm; and probably (2) the condition of temporal loss to which they have been reduced by such persecution. They have “suffered the loss,” possibly, “of all things,” but they are “blessed.” For righteousness’ sake (ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης). No article (contrast ver. 6), either as indicating that for even a part of righteousness persecution can be undergone, or, and more probably, simply dwelling on the cause of persecution without idealizing it. St. Peter also says, perphaps with a reference to our Lord’s words, that they who suffer διὰ δικαιοσύνην are μακάριοι, (1 Pet. 3:14). For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The same promise that was given to “the poor in spirit” (ver. 3) is here given to the persecuted for righteousness’ sake. In the former case, poverty in the sphere of the spirit obtains the fullest possessions; here the same promise is given to temporal loss produced by faithfulness to the cause of righteousness. In ver. 3 our Lord removed all occasion for intellectual and spiritual pride. Here he comforts for temporal and social losses (cf. especially 2 Cor. 6:10; further see ver. 3, note). Clement of Alexandria, ‘Strom.,’ iv. 6 (p. 582, Potter) (1) confuses this and the preceding Beatitude; (2) gives a curious reading of some who alter the Gospels: “Blessed are they who have been persecuted through righteousness (ὑπὸ τῆς δικαιοσύνης), for they shall be perfect; and blessed are they who have been persecuted for my sake, for they shall have a place where they shall not be persecuted” (cf. Westcott, ‘Introd. Gospp.,’ Appendix C).

Vers. 11–16.—Some critics (e.g. Godet, Weiss) think that vers. 13–16 are no part of the original sermon, but only an interweaving of sayings which were originally spoken at other times. This is possible, but external evidence exists only in the case of vers. 13 and 15 (for vers. 14 and 16 are peculiar to Matthew); and even in the case of these verses it is by no means clear (vide infra) that the occasions on which, according to the other Gospels, the savings were uttered are the more original. Weiss’s assertion (‘Life,’ ii. 144), “The remarks in Matt. 5:13–16, bearing on the calling of discipleship, … cannot belong to the sermon on the mount, carefully as they are there introduced, for the prophesied sufferings of his followers might have made them disloyal,” is wholly gratuitous. In fact, the sufferings have been much more strongly spoken of in vers. 11, 12.

The disciples are now addressed directly. and are urged to “walk worthily of the vocation wherewith they are called.” The mention of those who have endured persecution leads our Lord to warn his disciples not to faint under persecution in any of its forms; they are but entering on the succession of the prophets; their work is that of purifying and preserving and of illuminating; they must therefore allow their character as disciples to appear, as appear it must if they are true to their position. There is a purpose in this, namely, that men may see their actions, and glorify their Father which is in heaven.

Vers. 11, 12.—Parallel passage: Luke 6:22, 23.

Ver. 11.—As ver. 10 spoke of the blessedness of those who had suffered persecution and had endured it, so this verse speaks of the blessedness of those who are suffering from it at the moment, whether it be in act or word. Whilst Christ still keeps up the form of the Beatitudes, he speaks now in the second person, this and the following verse thus forming the transition to his directly addressing those immediately before him. His present audience was not yet among of οἱ δεδιωγμένοι, but might already be enduring something of the reproach and suffering now referred to. Revile (ὀνειδίσωσιν); Revised Version, reproach; as also the Authorized Version in Luke 6:22. “Revile” in itself implies moral error in the person that reviles. Not so ὀνειδίζειν (cf. ch. 11:20; Mark 16:14). Our Lord purposely uses a word which includes, not only mere abuse, but also stern, and occasionally loving, rebuke. Falsely, for my sake. The comma in both the Authorized (Scrivener) and the Revised Versions after “falsely” is opposed to that interpretation (Meyer) which closely connects ψευδόμενοι with both καθ᾽ ὑμῶν and ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ. Ψευδόμενοι is really a modal definition of εἴπωσιν (Sevin, Weiss), and ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ goes with the whole sentence “when men,” etc. For my sake. In ver. 10 he had said ἕι εκεν δικαιοσύνης: here he directly speaks of himself. In Luke 6 the phrase is transitional, “for the Son of man’s sake.” In ch. 4:19 he had claimed to be the Source of power for service; here he claims to be the Object of devotion. His “Messianic consciousness” (Meyer) is, at even this early stage of his ministry, fully developed (cf. also vers. 17, 22). It is possible that Heb. 11:26 (vide Rendall, in loc.) and 1 Pet. 4:14 refer to this expression.

Ver. 12.—Rejoice, and be exceeding glad (χαίρετε καὶ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε). Our Lord uses no weaker expressions than those which describe the joy of the saints over the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7). The first word expresses joy as such, the second its effect in stirring the emotions; this thought St. Luke carries still further in σκιρτήσατε. (For joy felt under persecution, cf. Acts 5:41.) For great. The order of the Greek, ὅτι μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολύς, does not bear out the emphatic position assigned to “great” in the English Versions from Tyndale downwards (except Rheims), including Revised Version. Is your reward. The doctrine of recompense, which has so large a place in Jewish thought (for a not offensive example, cf. ‘Ab.,’ ii. 19, Taylor) comes also in Christ’s teaching. In ch. 20:1–16 reward is expressly divested of its merely legal side, and exhibited as ultimately dependent on the will of the great Householder. But here it is mentioned without reference to the difficulties involved in the conception. These difficulties centre round the thought of obligation from God to man. But it may be doubted whether these difficulties are not caused by too exclusively regarding the metaphor of contracting, instead of considering the fact indicated by the metaphor. In God’s kingdom every action has a corresponding effect, and this effect is the more certain in proportion as the action is in the sphere of morality. The idea of “quantity” hardly enters into the relation of such cause and effect. It is a question of moral correspondence. But such effect may not unfitly be called by the metaphors “hire,” “reward,” because, on the one hand, it is the result of conditions of moral service, and, on the other, such terms imply a Personal Will at the back of the effect, as well as a will on the part of the human “servant.” (For the subject in other connexions, cf. Weiss, ‘Bibl. Theol.,’ § 32; cf. also ver. 46; ch. 6:1, 2, 4, 5, 6.) In heaven. Our Lord says, “your reward is great,” because the effect of your exercise of moral powers will be received in a sphere where the accidents of the surroundings will entirely correspond to moral influences. The effect of your present faithfulness, etc., will be seen in the reception of powers of work and usefulness and enjoyment, beside which those possessed on earth will appear small. On earth the opportunities, etc., are but “few things;” hereafter they will be “many things” (ch. 25:21). For. Not as giving a reason for the assurance of reward (apparently Meyer and Weiss), but for the command, “rejoice, and be exceeding glad,” and perhaps also for the predicate “blessed.” Rejoice if persecuted, for such persecutions prove you to be the true successors of the prophets, your predecessors in like faithfulness (cf. Jas. 5:10). So. By reproach, e.g. Elijah (1 Kings 18:17), Amos (7:12, 13); by persecution, e.g. Hanani (2 Chron. 16:10), Jeremiah (37:15); by saying all manner of evil, e.g. Amos (7:10), Jeremiah (37:13), Daniel (6:13). Which were before you. Added, surely, not as a mere temporal fact, but to indicate spiritual relationship (vide supra).[8]


5.11     [ψευδόμενοι] {C}

It is uncertain whether ψευδόμενοι should be included or omitted from the text. On the one hand, the absence of the word in the Western tradition (D it, , , , syr geo Tertullian al) can be accounted for as the result of scribal accommodation of the passage to the Lukan form of the beatitude (Lk 6.22). On the other hand, more than one scribe would have been tempted to insert the word in order to limit the wide generalization in Jesus’ teaching, and to express specifically what was felt to be implied by the very nature of the case (compare 1 Peter 4.15 f.). In order to represent the balance of transcriptional probabilities, the Committee decided to include the word in the text, but to enclose it within square brackets.[9]


Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [Matt. 5:10].

The application of this beatitude to our day and to the remnant of Israel during the Great Tribulation is easy to see. But can it apply to the kingdom which is to be established? Won’t all evil be removed in the kingdom? Well, many Scriptures show that in the millennial kingdom there will still be evil in the world because it will be a time of testing. The outbreak of rebellion at the end of the Millennium reveals that evil will be prevalent during the Millennium (see Rev. 20:7–9).[10]


"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake."  This intimates clearly that the instruction set forth here is intended not, as many have insisted, for the millennial kingdom of Christ when there will be no persecution for the sake of righteousness.  Rather, this instruction is intended for the disciples of Christ during the time of His rejection, when His followers are exposed to the hatred of a godless world.

"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you . . . and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."  We all shrink from false accusation, but we may find comfort as we remember that our Lord Himself was not exempt from this.  There is blessing as we go through these experiences in fellowship with Him, not even attempting to justify ourselves, but leaving it to Him to clear us in His own way and time.

"Rejoice, and be exceeding glad," instead of giving way to depression of spirit, "for great is your reward in heaven."  God is taking note of all that His people suffer at the hands, or by the lips, of a godless world or false brethren.  He will make up for it all in His own way when we see His face.  His prophets in every age have been called upon to endure similar treatment, but He has observed it all and will reward according to the lovingkindness of His heart.[11]


The Bliss Of The Sufferer For Christ (Matt 5:10-12)

5:10-12 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you."

 One of the outstanding qualities of Jesus was his sheer honesty. He never left men in any doubt what would happen to them if they chose to follow him. He was clear that he had come "not to make life easy, but to make men great."

It is hard for us to realise what the first Christians had to suffer. Every department of their life was disrupted.

(i) Their Christianity might well disrupt their work. Suppose a man was a stone-mason. That seems a harmless enough occupation. But suppose his firm received a contract to build a temple to one of the heathen gods, what was that man to do? Suppose a man was a tailor, and suppose his firm was asked to produce robes for the heathen priests, what was that man to do? In a situation such as that in which the early Christians found themselves there was hardly any job in which a man might not find a conflict between his business interests and his loyalty to Jesus Christ.

The Church was in no doubt where a man's duty lay. More than a hundred years after this a man came to Tertullian with this very problem. He told of his business difficulties. He ended by saying, "What can I do? I must live!" "Must you?" said Tertullian. If it came to a choice between a loyalty and a living, the real Christian never hesitated to choose loyalty.

     (ii) Their Christianity would certainly disrupt their social life. In the ancient world most feasts were held in the temple of some god. In very few sacrifices was the whole animal burned upon the altar. It might be that only a few hairs from the forehead of the beast were burned as a symbolic sacrifice. Part of the meat went to the priests as their perquisite; and part of the meat was returned to the worshipper. With his share he made a feast for his friends and his relations. One of the gods most commonly worshipped was Serapis. And when the invitations to the feast went out, they would read:

     "I invite you to dine with me at the table of our Lord Serapis."

     Could a Christian share in a feast held in the temple of a heathen god? Even an ordinary meal in an ordinary house began with a libation, a cup of wine, poured out in honour of the gods. It was like grace before meat. Could a Christian become a sharer in a heathen act of worship like that? Again the Christian answer was clear. The Christian must cut himself off from his fellows rather than by his presence give approval to such a thing. A man had to be prepared to be lonely in order to be a Christian.

     (iii) Worst of all, their Christianity was liable to disrupt their home life. It happened again and again that one member of a family became a Christian while the others did not. A wife might become a Christian while her husband did not. A son or a daughter might become a Christian while the rest of the family did not. Immediately there was a split in the family. Often the door was shut for ever in the face of the one who had accepted Christ.

     Christianity often came to send, not peace, but a sword which divided families in two. It was literally true that a man might have to love Christ more than he loved father or mother, wife, or brother or sister. Christianity often involved in those days a choice between a man's nearest and dearest and Jesus Christ.

     Still further, the penalties which a Christian had to suffer were terrible beyond description. All the world knows of the Christians who were flung to the lions or burned at the stake; but these were kindly deaths. Nero wrapped the Christians in pitch and set them alight, and used them as living torches to light his gardens. He sewed them in the skins of wild animals and set his hunting dogs upon them to tear them to death. They were tortured on the rack; they were scraped with pincers; molten lead was poured hissing upon them; red hot brass plates were affixed to the tenderest parts of their bodies; eyes were torn out; parts of their bodies were cut off and roasted before their eyes; their hands and feet were burned while cold water was poured over them to lengthen the agony. These things are not pleasant to think about, but these are the things a man had to be prepared for, if he took his stand with Christ.

     We may well ask why the Romans persecuted the Christians. It seems an extraordinary thing that anyone living a Christian life should seem a fit victim for persecution and death. There were two reasons.

     (i) There were certain slanders which were spread abroad about the Christians, slanders for which the Jews were in no small measure responsible. (a) The Christians were accused of cannibalism. The words of the Last Supper--"This is my body." "This cup is the New Testament in my blood"--were taken and twisted into a story that the Christians sacrificed a child and ate the flesh. (b) The Christians were accused of immoral practices, and their meetings were said to be orgies of lust. The Christian weekly meeting was called the Agape (<G26>), the Love Feast; and the name was grossly misinterpreted. Christians greeted each other with the kiss of peace; and the kiss of peace became a ground on which to build the slanderous accusations. (c) The Christians were accused of being incendiaries. It is true that they spoke of the coming end of the world, and they clothed their message in the apocalyptic pictures of the end of the world in flames. Their slanderers took these words and twisted them into threats of political and revolutionary incendiarism. (d) The Christians were accused of tampering with family relationships. Christianity did in fact split families as we have seen; and so Christianity was represented as something which divided man and wife, and disrupted the home. There were slanders enough waiting to be invented by malicious-minded men.

     (ii) But the great ground of persecution was in fact political. Let us think of the situation. The Roman Empire included almost the whole known world, from Britain to the Euphrates, and from Germany to North Africa. How could that vast amalgam of peoples be somehow welded into one? Where could a unifying principle be found? At first it was found in the worship of the goddess Roma, the spirit of Rome. This was a worship which the provincial peoples were happy to give, for Rome had brought them peace and good government, and civil order and justice. The roads were cleared of brigands and the seas of pirates; the despots and tyrants had been banished by impartial Roman justice. The provincial was very willing to sacrifice to the spirit of the Empire which had done so much for him.

     But this worship of Roma took a further step. There was one man who personified the Empire, one man in whom Roma might be felt to be incarnated, and that was the Emperor; and so the Emperor came to be regarded as a god, and divine honours came to be paid to him, and temples were raised to his divinity. The Roman government did not begin this worship; at first, in fact, it did all it could to discourage it. Claudius, the Emperor, said that he deprecated divine honours being paid to any human being. But as the years went on the Roman government saw in this Emperor-worship the one thing which could unify the vast Empire of Rome; here was the one centre on which they all could come together. So, in the end, the worship of the Emperor became, not voluntary, but compulsory. Once a year a man had to go and burn a pinch of incense to the godhead of Caesar and say, "Caesar is Lord." And that is precisely what the Christians refused to do. For them Jesus Christ was the Lord, and to no man would they give that title which belonged to Christ.

     It can be seen at once that Caesar-worship was far more a test of political loyalty than anything else. In actual fact when a man had burned his pinch of incense he received a certificate, a libellus, to say that he had done so, and then he could go and worship any god he liked, so long as his worship did not interfere with public order and decency. The Christians refused to conform. Confronted with the choice, "Caesar or Christ?" they uncompromisingly chose Christ. They utterly refused to compromise. The result was that, however good a man, however fine a citizen a Christian was, he was automatically an outlaw. In the vast Empire Rome could not afford pockets of disloyalty, and that is exactly what every Christian congregation appeared to the Roman authorities to be. A poet has spoken of

"The panting, huddled flock whose crime was Christ."

     The only crime of the Christian was that he set Christ above Caesar; and for that supreme loyalty the Christians died in their thousands, and faced torture for the sake of the lonely supremacy of Jesus Christ.

The Bliss Of The Blood-stained Way (Matt 5:10-12 Continued)

When we see how persecution arose, we are in a position to see the real glory of the martyr's way. It may seem an extraordinary thing to talk about the bliss of the persecuted; but for him who had eyes to see beyond the immediate present, and a mind to understand the greatness of the issues involved, there must have been a glory in that blood-stained way.

     (i) To have to suffer persecution was an opportunity to show one's loyalty to Jesus Christ. One of the most famous of all the martyrs was Polycarp, the aged bishop of Smyrna. The mob dragged him to the tribunal of the Roman magistrate. He was given the inevitable choice--sacrifice to the godhead of Caesar or die. "Eighty and six years," came the immortal reply, "have I served Christ. and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" So they brought him to the stake, and he prayed his last prayer: "O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy well-beloved and ever-blessed son, by whom we have received the knowledge of thee ... I thank thee that thou hast graciously thought me worthy of this day and of this hour." Here was the supreme opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty to Jesus Christ.

     In the First World War Rupert Brooke, the poet, was one of those who died too young. Before he went out to the battle he wrote:

"Now God be thanked who has matched us with his hour."

     There are so many of us who have never in our lives made anything like a real sacrifice for Jesus Christ. The moment when Christianity seems likely to cost us something is the moment when it is open to us to demonstrate our loyalty to Jesus Christ in a way that all the world can see.

     (ii) To have to suffer persecution is, as Jesus himself said, the way to walk the same road as the prophets, and the saints, and the martyrs have walked. To suffer for the right is to gain a share in a great succession. The man who has to suffer something for his faith can throw back his head and say,

"Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod."

     (iii) To have to suffer persecution is to share in the great occasion. There is always something thrilling in even being present on the great occasion, in being there when something memorable and crucial is happening. There is an even greater thrill in having a share, however small, in the actual action. That is the feeling about which Shakespeare wrote so unforgettably in Henry the Fifth in the words he put into Henry's mouth before the battle of Agincourt:

"He that shall live this day and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his friends,
And say, 'Tomorrow is Saint Crispian':
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say, 'These wounds I had on Crispin's day.'
......
And gentlemen in England now abed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."

     When a man is called on to suffer something for his Christianity that is always a crucial moment; it is the great occasion; it is the clash between the world and Christ; it is a moment in the drama of eternity. To have a share in such a moment is not a penalty but a glory. "Rejoice at such a moment," says Jesus, "and be glad." The word for be glad is from the verb agalliasthai (<G21>) which has been derived from two Greek words which mean to leap exceedingly. It is the joy which leaps for joy. As it has been put, it is the joy of the climber who has reached the summit, and who leaps for joy that the mountain path is conquered.

     (iv) To suffer persecution is to make things easier for those who are to follow. Today we enjoy the blessing of liberty because men in the past were willing to buy it for us at the cost of blood, and sweat, and tears. They made it easier for us, and by a steadfast and immovable witness for Christ we may make it easier for others who are still to come.

     In the great Boulder Dam scheme in America men lost their lives in that project which was to turn a dust-bowl into fertile land. When the scheme was completed, the names of those who had died were put on a tablet and the tablet was put into the great wall of the dam, and on it there was the inscription. "These died that the desert might rejoice and blossom as the rose."

     The man who fights his battle for Christ will always make things easier for those who follow after. For them there will be one less struggle to be encountered on the way.

     (v) Still further, no man ever suffers persecution alone; if a man is called upon to bear material loss, the failure of friends, slander, loneliness, even the death of love, for his principles, he will not be left alone. Christ will be nearer to him than at any other time.

     The old story in Daniel tells how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the furnace heated seven times hot because of their refusal to move from their loyalty to God. The courtiers watched. "Did we not cast three men, bound, into the fire?" they asked. The reply was that it was indeed so. Then came the astonished answer, "But I see four men, loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods" (Dan 3:19-25).

     As Browning had it in Christmas Eve and Easter Day:

"I was born sickly, poor and mean,
A slave; no misery could screen
The holders of the pearl of price
From Caesar's envy; therefore twice
I fought with beasts, and three times saw
My children suffer by his law;
At last my own release was earned;
I was some time in being burned,
But at the close a Hand came through
The fire above my head, and drew
My soul to Christ, whom now I see.
Sergius, a brother, writes for me
This testimony on the wall--
For me, I have forgot it all."

     When a man has to suffer something for his faith, that is the way to the closest possible companionship with Christ.

     There remains only one question to ask--why is this persecution so inevitable? It is inevitable because the Church, when it really is the Church, is bound to be the conscience of the nation and the conscience of society. Where there is good the Church must praise; where there is evil, the Church must condemn--and inevitably men will try to silence the troublesome voice of conscience. It is not the duty of the individual Christian habitually to find fault, to criticise, to condemn, but it may well be that his every action is a silent condemnation of the unchristian lives of others, and he will not escape their hatred.

     It is not likely that death awaits us because of our loyalty--to the Christian faith. But insult awaits the man who insists on Christian honour. Mockery awaits the man who practises Christian love and Christian forgiveness. Actual persecution may well await the Christian in industry who insists on doing an honest day's work. Christ still needs his witnesses; he needs those who are prepared, not so much to die for him, as to live for him. The Christian struggle and the Christian glory still exist. [12]

Their calling 5:11–16

Jesus proceeded to clarify His disciples’ calling and ministry in the world to encourage them to endure persecution and to fulfill God’s purpose for them.

“Some might think that verses 11–12 constitute the concluding Beatitude, since these verses begin with the words ‘blessed are you”. But it is noteworthy that only here in the Beatitudes do we meet a verb in the second person (i.e., ‘blessed are you’). In addition there are 36 (Greek) words in this Beatitude compared to a maximum of 12 words (verse 10) in the preceding eight Beatitudes. It is reasonable to conclude that verses 3–10 are a self-contained introduction to the Sermon, while verses 11–12 commence the body of the Sermon.”

5:11–12 These two verses expand and clarify the last beatitude (v. 10; cf. 6:12, 14–15).

Verse 11 broadens the persecution to include insult and slander. It also identifies Jesus with righteousness.

“This confirms that the righteousness of life that is in view is in imitation of Jesus. Simultaneously, it so identifies the disciple of Jesus with the practice of Jesus’ righteousness that there is no place for professed allegiance to Jesus that is not full of righteousness.”

The prophets experienced persecution because they followed God faithfully. Now Jesus said His disciples would suffer similar persecution because they followed Him (cf. Dan. 9:24–27). His hearers could not help concluding that He was putting Himself on a par with God. They also realized that they themselves would be the objects of persecution.

This persecution should cause the disciples to rejoice rather than to despair. Their reward for faithfully enduring would be great when the kingdom began. This fact also shows the greatness of Jesus. These are the first claims to messiahship that Jesus made that Matthew recorded in his Gospel.

The phrase “in heaven” (v. 12) probably means throughout eternity. Kingdom reward (v. 10) would continue forever. Some believe it means that God prepares the reward in heaven now for future manifestation. This promise should be an incentive for Christ’s disciples to view their opposition by the ungodly as temporary and to realize that their reward for persevering faithfully will be eternal (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3–9).

“One of the curious features of Jesus’ great speeches is that they contain sayings that seemingly are without relevance for the characters in the story to whom they are addressed. Time and again, Jesus touches on matters that are alien to the immediate situation of the crowds or the disciples. This peculiar phenomenon—that Jesus speaks past his stipulated audience at places in his speeches—compels one to ask whether Jesus is not to be construed as addressing some person(s) other than simply the crowds or the disciples in the story. . . .

“If in his great speeches Jesus periodically speaks past his story-audience of crowds or disciples, whom in addition to the latter is he addressing in these instances? From a literary-critical standpoint, he is addressing the implied reader(s).”[13]


 


June 10, 2007 at FBC, Comanche; Youth Falls Creek: “One Question”

Luke 9:18-27, 20

20 He said unto them, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter answering said, “The Christ of God.” [KJV]

“Who is your Messiah?”

Introduction: 

1.  The Interrogation [“you are the Christ of God”]

A.     The Myth—what are others saying?

B.    The Meaning—what does “messiah” mean?

1)     Protector

2)     Provider

@ 

2.  The Declaration / The Confession [“you are the Christ of God”]

A.     To Say [λέγω 1 to say, to speak. 1a affirm over, maintain. 1b to teach[14]]

B.    To Share [Acts 4:12-13; 2 Cor 2:14-17]

@  “Why do you call me ‘Lord,’ and do not the things I say?” Luke 6:46-48

3.  The Explanation [vv. 21-22; “the Suffering Servant”]

21 But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”

A.     The Timing

Preparation and presentation for the Gospel ministry / anniversary 6.8.1977

!!    Young people responding at Falls Creek, and my prayer for them.

B.    The Testimony

1)     Suffering [Matthew 5:10-12; 2 Timothy 3:12]

2)     Surrounding [hostile environment and hostile enemies]

!!    The vultures were circling when we first entered the Arbuckle Mountains at Falls Creek looking for meat to feed on.  Satan and his minions will continue until they are subjected to

Ministry, doing God’s work to meet the needs of others for God’s glory and by God’s power, will cost you every time.  The supreme sacrifice is called for.

4.  The Implication / The Expression [“whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it”; vv. 23-27; Matt 16:24-27; Mark 8:34-38]

A.     Following

B.    Forsaking

C.    Forfeiting

D.    Feeling

Conclusion and Application:  As followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, it is our responsibility to live in submission and loving obedience to God.  If we walk with Him daily, listen carefully to and for His voice, and then respond appropriately, we won’t have to worry about being in the right place at the right time or how to make the “big” decisions of life.  We will be in the center of His will at all times, available and ready to be used by Him, even in the most ordinary and seemingly insignificant or boring moments of life.

·        Impossible to learn, understand, or communicate

·        Inadequately or improperly prepared

·        Waste of time if you don’t prepare yourself to hear God’s Word

Conclusion and Application:  How do you know you are in God’s Kingdom?

Ø    You are His obedient and faithful child

Ø    You are submitted to His perfect Word and will

Ø    You are growing to be more like Him

Ø    You are hearing Him and doing what pleases Him


----

[1] Pink, A. W., The Sermon on the Mount

[2] Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary

[3] Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament. Vol.V c1932, Vol.VI c1933 by Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. (Mt 5:1-11). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

[4] MacArthur, J. (1989). Matthew (219). Chicago: Moody Press.

[5] Ryle, J. C. (1993). Matthew. Originally published: New York : R. Carter, 1860. The Crossway classic commentaries (26). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.

[6] Blomberg, C. (2001, c1992). Vol. 22: Matthew (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (100). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[7] Augsburger, M. S., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Vol. 24: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 24 : Matthew. Formerly The Communicator's Commentary. The Preacher's Commentary series (18). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.

[8]The Pulpit Commentary: St. Matthew Vol. I. 2004 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.) (150). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[9] Metzger, B. M., & United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (10). London; New York: United Bible Societies.

[10] McGee, J. V. (1997, c1981). Thru the Bible commentary. Based on the Thru the Bible radio program. (4:31). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[11] H.A. Ironside Expository Commentary

[12] Barclay's Daily Study Bible

[13]Tom Constable. (2003; 2003). Tom Constable's Expository Notes on the Bible (Mt 5:10-11). Galaxie Software.

[14] Strong, J. (1996). The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

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