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 Vol. 8, No. 10 

October 2006

Since You Asked

~ Page 20 ~

Image Names may be included at the discretion of the Editor unless querists request their names be withheld. Please check our Archive for the answer to your question before submitting it; there are over 1,000 articles in the Archive addressing numerous biblical topics. Submit a Question to GGO.

Persecution of Christians

By Louis Rushmore

Brother Rushmore, An teacher in my bible class was trying to parallel between early Christian suffering and today's Christians, when a member in my church asked the following  question, "Because I became a Christian, am I going to suffer?" Willie Moore

Fortunately, at this time in many places in the world, including the United States of America, a Christian is not likely to suffer for no other reason than that he or she is a Christian, in any way comparable to the suffering endured by Christians in the first century (and following centuries) Roman Empire. In some places in our contemporary world, though, even now one who professes to be a Christian may suffer severe repercussion, including death.

As Islam continues to exert itself with warlike ferocity, anyone professing to be a Christian nearly anywhere on the planet is a potential victim of either organized or disorganized fanatical Moslem zeal. Secondly, the ongoing efforts within western civilization to secularize itself to the expulsion of God from every public venue is setting the stage for incrementally heightened degrees of opposition and punishment of anyone either professing to be a Christian or attempting to act out Christian values in his life (including interaction with others); for instance, the transformation of homosexuality from psychological defect (secularly) and sinfulness (spiritually) to a legally protected and socially accepted minority category has profound ramifications (e.g., hate speech laws [Bible preaching and teaching], non-discrimination laws [housing, employment and benefits], etc.).

However, more directly to the question posed, there is a definitive correlation between the degree to which one faithfully practices his Christianity in an ungodly world and the corresponding degree of resistance by the ungodly world: "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12). I see neither a time nor a date stamp on this verse of Scripture that automatically removes it from consideration outside of the first century Roman Empire. For instance, by way of example, a youth who pushes another youth in a lunch line at school is quite likely to be pushed back (more likely retaliated against more fiercely than what was received) immediately. Though faithful Christians are not instigators of trouble, their godliness nevertheless troubles a world troubled already by sin; the world perceives that it has been "pushed," and hence, it "pushes back." The harder the ungodly world thinks that it has been "pushed," owing to the degree of Christianity exhibited, precipitates the degree to which the ungodly world "pushes back." "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 4:14). "And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of" (2 Peter 2:2).

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament says of "shall be persecuted" in 2 Timothy 3:12 that it means "shall be hunted as wild beasts." Of course, the manner in which persecution manifests itself varies. Of 2 Timothy 3:12, David Lipscomb penned in his commentary, "This truth is universal. A man that is faithful to God in all things will be opposed and persecuted. The persecution takes different forms in different ages and countries." J.W. Shepherd amended brother Lipscomb's comments with this further observation: "...a decided, earnest Christian spirit and life will always evoke some form of opposition from the ungodly."

I concur with the following excerpts from the Presbyterian commentator Albert Barnes.

It follows from this: (1) that they who make a profession of religion, should come prepared to be persecuted. It should be considered as one of the proper qualifications for membership in the church, to be WILLING to bear persecution, and to RESOLVE not to shrink from any duty in order to avoid it. (2) They who ARE persecuted for their opinions, should consider that this MAY BE one evidence that they have the spirit of Christ, and are his true friends. They should remember that, in this respect, they are treated as the Master was, and are in the goodly company of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs; for they were ALL persecuted. Yet, (3) if we are persecuted, we should carefully inquire, before we avail ourselves of this consolation, whether we are persecuted BECAUSE we "live godly in Christ Jesus," or for some other reason. ...(4) Let those who have never been persecuted in any way, inquire whether it is not an evidence that they have no religion. If they had been more faithful, and more like their Master, would they have always escaped? And may not their freedom from it prove that they have surrendered the principles of their religion, where they should have stood firm, though the world were arrayed against them? It is easy for a professed Christian to avoid persecution, if he YIELDS every point in which religion is opposed to the world. (emphasis added)

Likewise, I find the comments of the Methodist commentator Adam Clarke right on the mark, too. "So opposite to the spirit and practice of the world is the whole of Christianity, that he who gives himself entirely up to God, making the Holy Scriptures the rule of his words and actions, will be less or more reviled and persecuted. 'If religion gives no quarter to vice, the vicious will give no quarter to religion and its professors'" (emphasis added). B.W. Johnson noted about 2 Timothy 3:12, "In that age persecution was inseparable from a devoted Christian life. The same has been true, to a certain extent, in all ages. If the church was less worldly it would be more persecuted (emphasis added).

We need only believe the words of Jesus Christ himself to realize that what Paul by inspiration penned in 2 Timothy 3:12 is to be expected, in the first century and now. "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22). "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..." (John 15:20).

While Christians should not "look for a fight," and they should not adopt a spirit of asceticism to the point that they actually invite mistreatment by the world, enough persecution in some form will occur owing to one's exhibition of Christianity. The more enthusiasm Christians muster in the execution of their faith, the more fanatically the world will respond negatively. "We can expect opposition if we are aggressively living for Christ. ...If we continue in a comfortable life with little or no opposition, we should re-evaluate our efforts to live for Him, If we have so adapted ourselves to the spirit of this present age of materialism and sensuality that we suffer no opposition, then we are no better than Lot in Sodom; indeed, we are worse!" (DeWelt 243 emphasis added).

The following statement by Burton Coffman is a satisfactory summary of 2 Timothy 3:12 respecting its application to the day in which we live, some nearly 2,000 years from the time it was penned.

The absence of persecution, in any active sense, from the lives of most Christians of this era is generally due to the watered-down version of their Christianity and not to any subsidence of the savage hatred of the darkness for the light. Besides that, persecutions today are manifested much more indirectly. Promotions are withheld, invitations are denied, and a snickering unpopularity are the daily portion of many precious souls working in a hostile, atheistic environment. Given the right conditions, such oppositions would be just as deadly as the great Roman persecutions. (emphasis added).Image

Works Cited

Adam Clarke's Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.

Barnes' Notes. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.

Coffman, James Burton. James Burton Coffman Bible Study Library. CD-ROM. Abilene: ACU P., 1989.

DeWelt, Don. Paul's Letters to Timothy and Titus. CD-ROM. Joplin: College P., 1975.

Johnson, B.W. People's New Testament with Explanatory Notes. St. Louis: Christian Publishing, 1891. CD-ROM. Seattle: Wordsearch, 2005.

Lipscomb, David. A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles: I, II Thessalonians, I, II Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Edited with additional notes by J.W. Shepherd. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1989. CD-ROM. Austin: Wordsearch, 2005.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman P., 1985. CD-ROM. Seattle:  Biblesoft, 1997.

It Is Difficult for Me
to Believe That God Wants...

By Louis Rushmore

When I was 16 yrs old, I got married. That was about 40 yrs ago. After about four months of marriage, my husband left. I tried to reconcile, but to no avail. As far as I know there was no other woman involved. He divorced me. I finished high school and met my current husband and we married. Now 38 yrs, two grown married daughters, four grandchildren and one on the way, my husband's plans on divorcing me because he says we were never married and that I am still married to my first husband (who is remarried and has a family also). He gave me your name to contact and said you would stand by his position. Is this correct? I need an answer. I am devastated. Our children have severed their relationship with him. He has not left our home yet because I have been ill. I would appreciate any info you can give me on this. I've read the scriptures on this but it is difficult for me to believe that God wants my husband to walk out on his family. Respectfully, Patricia

I feel for your circumstances, including whatever present illness you may be experiencing. Especially with only encapsulated or minimal information, I am hardly in a position to make definitive, forever life-altering decisions for you or anyone else. Further, of course, it is not my prerogative to enforce God's laws on others; we have a lawgiver for that, who lest we fool ourselves will certainly decide all cases, yours and mine (howbeit with finality in Judgment after which it will be too late make any course alterations respecting eternity). "There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?" ( James 4:12).

However, because waiting for Final Judgment can be fatal to one's eternal disposition, let us provide some food for thought. If we are interested in biblical, factual information, we must attempt to use the Scriptures objectively to ascertain the will of God. That being said, some information provided is immaterial to the biblical answer for the question at hand. First entering into marriage at the age of 16 is immaterial. How long ago either the first marriage ended or a second marriage occurred is immaterial, too. That children and grandchildren came from the second marriage likewise is immaterial to finding a biblical answer for your inquiry. Finally, because one is emotionally or psychologically vulnerable to one's investment also is immaterial to finding a biblical answer.

Jesus provides one exception for marriage, divorce and remarriage (by the innocent spouse). "And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" (Matthew 19:9). Under Judaism, Ezra 10 records the obligation of God's people in that dispensation to put away the strange wives that biblically they had not been allowed to marry, as well as the children born to them. In addition, a large number of articles addressing several passages respecting the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage appear in the archives of Gospel Gazette Online; they can be located through use of the search engine on the Archive page.

God's law is not so difficult to understand, but we humans have often done (perhaps in ignorance) whatever we opted to do before consulting the Word of God for direction. Given our current society, no area of biblical inspection is more neglected or more painful to observe after the fact than biblical instruction about marriage, divorce and remarriage. Jesus has restored the ideal of the original marriage law (Matthew 19:9). The reference to Ezra 10 illustrates the principle that God's law trumps emotional investment, even when marriage and children are involved. If you or your current husband upon examining biblical instruction realize that from a purely biblical perspective, without the emotional element attempting to override divine law for the Gospel Age, that you are not permitted biblically to be married to each other, for the salvation of your respective souls, you must conform to what Jesus said, as painful as it may be.

Yet, your husband has a moral obligation toward the family (wife and children) that resulted from the marriage (1 Timothy 5:8). Outside of the sexual aspect of marriage and the sleeping arrangements (plus any appearance of impropriety), there are many aspects of the relationship sustained between you two and your children that may not have to change substantially. When it has not been known outside of the confidence of the husband and wife, with adjustments just mentioned, some have continued to rear the children already born to them, etc.

If the situation is as your husband and you represent, both of you need to acknowledge repentance to God, make necessary adjustments to bring your continued association into compliance with the Word of God, and continue to satisfy any mutual obligations toward each other as well as your offspring.Image

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