The Positive Result of Unjust Persecution Aimed at Christians
I started thinking about this topic after reading an August 14, 2013 article in World Net Daily, a conservative news organization founded in 1997. Bob Unruh, a long-time Associated Press writer before joining WND, reports that “A … judge in California has acquitted two men (Christians – a pastor of an evangelical church and one of his associates) of charges filed after they were caught by officers reading a Bible aloud near a line of people waiting to enter a state driver’s license office in Hemet, Calif(ornia).” You can read the article and watch the video of the actual incident and arrest at the bottom of the page at this link.
After viewing the video several times, there is no doubt in my mind that those arrested knew that there was a strong possibility that they would at a minimum be confronted and likely arrested for their actions. They were clearly ready to face the opposition and suffer the consequences of their actions to draw attention to how Christians are so often persecuted. You see, our society has become so repressive of Christians that it is unnerving for the majority of Christians and most just choose to avoid circumstances that would bring on adverse consequences. For example, consider the topics of prayer in schools, the public absence of the celebration of Christmas (Happy Holidays), the removal of The Ten Commandments from public facilities, and the deletion of prayer before sporting events. Unfortunately, those in government generally support and even promote such persecution while simultaneously walking on eggshells to remain politically correct when dealing with other religious and non-religious groups.
Why is it that Christians are so often persecuted for openly practicing their beliefs? Why is it that other religious and non-religious groups are allowed, and even strongly pushed by the main-stream media, to do much the same thing without fear of persecution, provocation or reprisal? Why is it that you don’t hear from the American national news about the recent persecution of Egyptian Christians by the Muslim Brotherhood? Instead you have to go to other sources such The Gospel Herald (a global Chinese Christian news service) to find an August 15, 2013 article by Luke Leung who wrote: “52 churches in Egypt were reportedly stormed, burnt, and destroyed Wednesday by hardliner Islamists and pro-Morsi supporters, leaving the Coptic Christian community in panic and distress.” The “pro-Morsi supporters” are led by the Muslim Brotherhood (see my article On Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood published some thirty months ago). President Obama openly supported Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood as they came into power during the Arab Spring turmoil. Now both he and the media are playing down that support.
There is so much on my mind as I write this article. But instead of continuing to focus on the bad results of the persecution of Christians, I would like to emphasize that there are often very positive and even eternal results of such incidents … those ordained and under the control of Almighty God!
Scripture: (all NIV unless otherwise noted)
Acts 23:26-30 – 26 Claudius Lysias, To His Excellency, Governor Felix: Greetings. 27 This man (Paul) was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen. 28 I wanted to know why they were accusing him, so I brought him to their Sanhedrin. 29 I found that the accusation had to do with questions about their law, but there was no charge against him that deserved death or imprisonment. 30 When I was informed of a plot to be carried out against the man, I sent him to you at once. I also ordered his accusers to present to you their case against him.
The unjust persecution of Christians dates back to the time of Christ and His Apostles. Jesus Himself was falsely accused, persecuted and put to death by crucifixion. But God had a plan in all of this and saw Jesus through the persecution and torture. As a result, through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary and His glorious resurrection from the dead on the third day, Jesus paid the price for the sins of ALL mankind and conquered sin and death forever. God has promised that those who admit they are sinners in need of forgiveness, confess their sins and trust in Jesus as their Lord and Savior will have their sins forgiven … blotted out by the sacrificial blood of Jesus … and spend eternity in Heaven with Him.
Another Biblical example of persecution yielding positive results is recorded in “The Acts of the Apostles,” authored by the physician known as Luke. Inspired by God, Luke’s first hand account relates that much against the advice of his associates, Paul has arrived in Jerusalem to give testimony of his successful missionary efforts to the Gentile world. Paul is warmly greeted by “the brothers and sisters” (see Acts 21:17-20). The next day Paul and his team shared their testimony with James and the elders of the Jerusalem church who “When they heard this, they praised God.” But all was not well with the Jewish community there in Jerusalem. There was open hostility toward Paul when he went into the temple. There ” … some Jews from the province of Asia saw Paul at the temple. They stirred up the whole crowd and seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help us! This is the man who teaches everyone everywhere against our people and our law and this place. And besides, he has brought Greeks into the temple and defiled this holy place.” (Acts 21:27-28)
You would think that Paul’s good news would have led to a joyous celebration. Instead, Paul’s testimony and false accusations against him led to his arrest and a plot to kill him. The tables have really turned. Paul, once the Persecutor of Christians is now the Persecuted.
The book of Acts, chapters 21-28, provides the full account of Paul’s unjust persecution experience that began in Jerusalem and ended in Rome. I have outlined the entire passage below for your convenience, but a reading the full text in one pass will greatly enhance your understanding of Paul’s situation.
In our focus passage, Acts 23:26-30, Luke said that an “uproar” developed between the Pharisees and Sadducees as Paul testified in his own defense to the Jewish Chief Priests and Sanhedrin. Those who were Pharisees, teachers of the Law, argued “vigorously” in defense of Paul saying they could find nothing wrong with what Paul was saying. The Sadducees, on the other hand, felt just the opposite. The Roman Commander, Claudius Lysias, observing the seriousness of the situation, “was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him (Paul) away from them by force and bring him into the barracks (Acts 23:10).” Later the Roman Commander learned of a plot by the Jews to kill Paul and had him moved to the city of Caesarea at night so that he would be in the custody of Roman Governor Felix (Acts 23:12-30).
The root of Paul’s unjust persecution in Jerusalem began when Paul shared scripture and related his personal testimony to the Jews regarding his encounter with the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul testified that this one encounter with Jesus changed his life forever. He was no longer a persecutor and killer of Christians … he, himself, had become a follower of Christ … a Christian!
The opposition to Paul by the Sadducees was strong and violent, primarily because of Paul’s insistence of Jesus’ resurrection. The mounting persecution resulted in Paul’s arrest and ultimately hearings before Roman Governor Felix and his successor Festus, and the Roman appointed “King” Agrippa (Herod Agrippa II) who oversaw the area known as Chalcis, Syria and at his request had been granted “the right of superintending the Temple in Jerusalem and appointing its high priest.” Neither Felix, Festus nor Agrippa could find sufficient reason to recommend Paul’s execution. However, since Paul had previously exercised his right as a Roman citizen to have a hearing before Caesar in Rome, his imprisonment continued and he was set on a course to Rome.
The unjust persecution aimed at Paul for speaking the truth impacted him and his ministry for the rest of his life. One might think that such persecution would have discouraged Paul, but quite to the contrary, Paul continued to teach, preach and lift up the name of the resurrected Jesus in spite of his arrest, imprisonment and detention. God used the unjust persecution of Paul for His positive purpose. Paul’s impact on the Christian movement is immeasurable. What would our modern world be like without Paul’s teachings?
Christian, God can use unjust persecution aimed at you for His positive purpose. Don’t be discouraged when you are persecuted for God’s sake. God just may have something amazing in mind for you to counter that persecution!
Outline – Acts 21-28
- Paul’s Arrival In Jerusalem – Acts 21:17-22
- Paul Encounters Jewish Opposition and is Physically Attacked – Acts 21:27-32
- Paul is Arrested by the Roman Military – Acts 21:31-36
- With the Roman Commander’s Permission Paul Speaks to the Crowd – Acts 21:40-22:2
- The Roman Commander Intervenes, Plans to Punish Paul and Finds Paul is a Roman – Acts 22:23-26;29
- Paul Before the Sanhedrin – Acts 22:30-23:3; 23:9
- The Roman Commander Again Intervenes … Jesus Gives Paul Direct Encouragement – Acts 23:10-11
- The Roman Commander Sends Paul to Governor Felix – Acts 23:26-30
- Paul’s Trial Before Governor Felix – Acts 24:1-27
- Paul’s Trial Before Governor Festus – Acts 25:1-22
- Paul Appears Before King Agrippa – Acts 25:23-26:32
- Paul Sails for Rome, The Storm, The Shipwreck, Paul Ashore in Malta – Acts 27:1-28:11
- Paul’s Arrival at Rome – Acts 28:11-16
- Paul Preaches at Rome Under Guard – Acts 28:17-28
- Paul Remains in Rome for Two Years Teaching Without Hindrance – Acts 28:29-30
Related Articles of Interest:
- Verdict in for Pastor Charged with Reading Bible
- On Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood – Jim Davenport
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