October 10, 2021 Persecution


Oct. 10, 2021



Read Matthew 10:16-25.


The apostles are like sheep in the sense that they are harmless, but also that they are easy prey. Their persecutors are like wolves in that they are ruthless and don’t care about the lives of those who they will devour. This would not only be the experience of the early disciples, but all disciples throughout history, including now.


Because of this they are to be as wise as serpents. That is, snakes know when to get out of trouble. We need to be like them in that respect. We avoid trouble when we can. Yet, without compromising the truth of the gospel.


We are to be innocent as doves. Doves don’t try to eat or harm other animals as do snakes. Hence, they are the perfect balance in depicting our disposition in ministry.


Jesus tells them to beware of the authorities. “Beware” means to be wary of danger and to take steps to avoid the danger. This hearkens to the comparison to snakes in the previous verse – being wise enough to avoid trouble…when it can be avoided. But, when they (and we) are standing before courts, they (and we) do not shrink back from testifying to the truth. We boldly proclaim it!


This passage shows us that the whole world is under the usurping hand of God’s enemy and our enemy. Satan influences the world in a great way. It is easy for him to do so because man’s fallen nature runs after rebellion and opposes those who seek to follow the Lord.


In the days of the apostles, the entire world, whether the Jewish world or the Gentile world, opposed the kingdom of God. In our day this is still true. We can say that both the religious world and the non-religious world both oppose God.


Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, [1]


This shows that the whole nation had been powerfully influenced by Satan. The nation belonged to God in name but not in actuality. The same is true today. The USA is “under God” in name only. The Pledge of Allegiance proclaims, “…”one nation under God.” I am confident that, both in our origin and through much of our history, we were a nation under God. That is, our leaders and the populace sought to live for God. This is no longer true. Like Israel in the days of Christ, our nation no longer belongs to God. God divorced Israel and he will cast away America unless we repent. Every kind of perversion and sin has now become legal. Not only legal, but even promoted by both the government and the media. We are still being blessed by God even now, but it is only because of our godly heritage and the Lord’s grace. The “residue” of blessing will soon expire.


The court is the Sanhedrin, the council of Israel’s religious leaders. The synagogues were places that were established to teach the world of God. Yet, these places opposed Christ’s emissaries. Opposition and persecution comes first from those who claim to follow God. Nothing has changed in 1900 years. Every time these has been a move of God’s Spirit, those who opposed it were clergy. Consider the Great Awakening. In the 1700’s there was a mighty move of the Spirit of God where many hundreds of thousands of people were saved and where there were manifestations of the Spirit’s working. It was opposed by a large number of so-called pastors. The same thing happened again in the early 1800’s in what has come to be known as the Second Great Awakening. Thos who opposed it were the religious leaders.


Even the Jesus Movement of the 60’s and 70’s was opposed, although many thousands of people were genuinely saved in that time.


I tell you, whenever you are filled with the Spirit and begin to live for the Lord in a more consecrated way, you will experience criticism and even persecution from within the church! And not just from leaders; even the average church member will find things to criticize. Do not be discouraged. This was the experience of the apostles and every faithful person in the Bible and throughout history. You are in good company!


Keep serving the Lord, keep loving the Lord, and let the naysayers nay.


and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.[2]


God’s own people persecuted the apostles, but so would the Gentiles. The infant church would experience persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire, even martyrdom. It would not be until Constantine, 300 years later that the persecution would finally come to an end.


We, too, will experience persecution from unbelievers. But, only if we speak about our faith. If you don’t say anything, then you will seldom be bothered. Frankly, if you are never criticized by those with whom you speak then that just means you are talking about other things besides the Lord. You are talking about political leaders that you and your friends both don’t like. You are talking about hobbies. You are talking about your problems. But, if you are not experiencing persecution or criticism, then you are not talking about the Lord.


When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. [3]


In reading our Lord’s directions to his apostles, we need to discern which commands apply only to them and which apply to them and to all disciples down to our present age. What about this one? The command not to be anxious, of course, applies to us equally. But, what about “how we are to speak” and “what we will say”?


We should remember that the apostles were given a unique ministry supernaturally empowered by the Holy Spirit in a greater measure than anytime following the apostolic age. We still possess supernatural empowerment today because the Holy Spirit is a supernatural being and we have him! But we do not have the same measure as the apostles.


Rather than not being prepared to speak, we ought to be prepared to speak:


But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,[4]


Today, it is necessary for the disciple of Christ to prepare himself to defend the faith to his friends, family members, coworkers, and even before magistrates. The church will help you get prepared. But you still must apply yourself to study and memorize. Those who are too lazy to do so disobey Peter and, of course, in so doing they disobey the Lord Himself because the apostle speaks and commands on his behalf.


Notice that the apostle says, always being prepared. It is not that we wait until we are going to have coffee with our coworker that we study, rather we prepare ourselves all the while and then, when we know we are going to talk to a certain person, we review what we already have learned to have it fresh in our memory.


When we speak to others it is not that we are left to ourselves. It is still the “Spirit of your Father” who will speak through you (vs. 20). He will bring things to our remembrance. In other words, the Spirit works with and through our preparation. If you do not prepare, do not expect the Spirit to speak.


Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, [5]


This verse, shows what evil lies in the hearts of people.  Even members of one’s own household will turn against them if they live for Christ. This is still true in Jewish households to this very day. It is especially true in Muslim families. Fathers will murder their own children if they become Christians. But, it is even true of nominal Christians. Those that may have been raised in a Christian home or those who think they are Christians will persecute a member of their own family if they become a follower of Jesus Christ. They observe their commitment to Christ and seem to either be jealous or possibly come under conviction for their own lack of devotion. Usually, those who oppose us from within our families have never been born anew and harbor ill will for followers of Christ. Often, we must separate ourselves from our original families in order to fully serve Christ. However, spouses do not have this option (I Cor. 7:12-16).


and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.[6]


This important truth is stated by Jesus and the other inspired authors of the NT several times. We must endure to the end in order to be saved. I am sorry to report to you that Evangelicals have it exactly backwards. Evangelicals, and that includes Baptists, by and large think and teach that he who starts the right way will be saved. There is no question about this. That is what so many preachers preach. I have seen this idea promoted especially at funerals. There will be a person who dies living in outright sin: fornication, drug use, drunkenness, etc., and the preacher conducting the funeral will say something about how that person made a profession of faith as a youth and so we can be sure that they are in heaven now. False! Professions of faith do not save! Only genuine faith saves. And genuine faith is made known not by words but by obedience to Christ. He who endures to the end will be saved! The only ones who endure to the end are those who possess true genuine faith. And, all those who have genuine faith will persevere to the end!


When things get tough, don’t give up! When the pressure of life forces you down, get back up. Endure! And you can, because you have the Spirit of the Living God within you if you belong to Christ.


When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. [7]


This principle still applies. If you experience persecution in one place, don’t stay there. But neither get discouraged. Just go on to the next place! Jesus then says that his disciples would not finish going through all the towns of Israel “before the Son of Man comes.” Some have charged that Jesus was wrong about this since they did, eventually, go though all the towns of Israel, but Jesus didn’t come back. This objection completely misunderstands what Jesus was saying.


The word “comes,” as it pertains to Christ, has more than one meaning. It can mean his second coming back to the earth. Those who object to Jesus’ statement here are taking it in that sense. However, the word “comes” in that sense is parousia. Here, the word is the very common word for comes, erkomai. Jesus is not referring to his second coming.


Here, Jesus is referring to his coming in judgment upon the nation of Israel. This use of the word “coming,” for judgment, is used many times in the Bible. Jesus is saying that before Jerusalem is destroyed his disciples will not have finished preaching in all the towns of Israel.[8]


“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. [9]


Beelzebul is another name for Satan.[10]  They called the Son of God a devil! The Lord said that they would call his followers similar or worse names. You must expect this.


What if everyone speaks well of you? Then something is wrong!


“Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets. [11]

Why is it that false prophets are spoken well of and true prophets are spoken evil of? It is because false prophets tell people what they want to hear and true prophets tell people what they need to hear – the truth about their sin and about judgment to come.


What do you say? The things that people want to hear? Or, do you speak that which people need to hear? If you are not sure, simply consider what people say about you. If people don’t object to what you say then you are either telling them what they want to hear or you are simply talking about unimportant things like the weather, sports, or fashion. When you speak the truth about God and his law, many will not like it.


One of my favorite bands is Deep Purple. If you appreciate classic rock music then you must recognize their incredible musicianship. But, being unregenerate, the lyrics to many of their songs are either about very insignificant things or they are outright wrong. In one song (Ted the Mechanic) they have a line that says, “And another thing I won’t discuss is religion. It always causes a fight.” Religion is just a term that means “God” in most people’s minds. Not only should we be talking about God, He is the only thing worth talking about!


Why was Jesus called names? Because he spoke the truth about God and the truth about people’s sins! All Jesus ever talked about was “religion.” I submit to you that Jesus is a better source of how to speak than Deep Purple!


We are not here to win a popularity contest! We are here to speak the truth! All of us!


Our Lord warned his disciples that they would suffer persecution. They did. If you are not then it is time to reassess your living and our speaking. Be bold! Don’t shrink back from proclaiming the truth that you already possess!


Here is a sober reality: if we shrink back from speaking now, we will shrink back upon the Lord’s return. God is faithful. If you will just be faithful enough to open your mouth the Lord will be faithful enough to empower you!


The Lord has gained much in you over the years. It is now time to trust him for this part of your life!





[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:18). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Pe 3:14–15). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:22). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:23). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] His “coming” may possibly be referring to his coming to the Father upon his enthronement in heaven (Daniel 7), which happened after his ascension in Acts 1.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 10:24–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] Originally, the name of a Philistine god who was seen by the Hebrews as a demon masquerading as a deity. Then, seen as a ruling demon. Finally, just another name for Satan.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 6:26). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.