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Sep 21

The Beatitudes – Part 3

Sermon on Mount - BeatitudesIn the last two posts, we have been studying the “beatitudes” and have considered 7 of the eight presented by Jesus.  We believe the beatitudes were spoken by our Lord very early in His earthly ministry and were part of His sermon on the mount, recorded for us in Matthew chapters 5-7.  In our study, we have been stressing the importance of knowing the teachings of Christ because, if we are to wear His name (“Christian”), we must adorn His doctrine; we must believe, obey, and advocate His teachings.  Otherwise, we have no right to consider ourselves as Christians.

Thus far, Jesus has promised great blessings to all who would conduct themselves in a specified way.  He has said:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit… (Matt 5:3)
  • Blessed are they that mourn… (Matt 5:4)
  • Blessed are the meek… (Matt 5:5)
  • Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness… (Matt 5:6)
  • Blessed are the merciful… (Matt 5:7)
  • Blessed are the pure in heart… (Matt5:8)
  • Blessed are the peacemakers… (Matt 5:9)

These, Jesus said, will reap a great reward.  Today, let us consider the last of these beatitudes:

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

I have read that the original Greek “tense and voice fo the verb” suggests that those being persecuted have allowed themselves to be persecuted; that they have “endured” persecution.  I immediately think of Jesus Who, though He had the power to deflect any and all persecution, chose to suffer willingly.  Jesus is promising a blessing to all who will willingly submit to it.

The word “persecuted” is from a Greek word meaning “to pursue, to press toward, to follow after” (as one does a fleeing enemy); “to vex, to oppress” someone because of their religion or their beliefs.  Those being persecuted are enduring such “for the sake of righteousness”; because they are living upright, promoting godly ideals, and standing up for what is right.

Being persecuted for wrong-doing doesn’t count (1 Pe 3:17).  Suffering because you have done wrong is simply a just retribution for your sins and does not glorify God (although punishing evil-doers lawfully does glorify Him because you are magnifying God’s righteousness).

The reward?  “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.  If you suffer persecution because of your faith, you will be blessed.  The apostle Peter confirmed this in 1 Pe 3:14.

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”  (Matt 5:11)

To revile means to defame, rail at, chide, taunt; to cast in teeth, reproach, upbraid.  To “revile” is to call someone by evil and contemptuous names; to ridicule them because they are Christians.  Jesus was reviled on a number of occasions (Jn 8:48; Jn 10:20; Matt 27:39-44).  Our Lord’s response was recorded as an example for our conduct (1 Pe 2:23; 1 Pe 4:12).  Our duty is more than just belief in Him.  Our duty is to suffer for Him (Php 1:29).

When men shall “…say all manner of evil against you falsely…” Let us underscore the word FALSELY.  Blessings here are not promised to Christians who endure the evil words of others when they deserve it.  It is when Christians don’t deserve it, they will be blessed for taking it patiently (1 Pe 3:13-18).

Paul was accused by the Jews of defiling the temple, being a traitor to God, a traitor to the Roman Empire, and being a leader of sedition as he made his defense in Caesarea (Acts 24:5-6).  It was obvious he was guilty of none of those things.  Although he suffered patiently, and with dignity, he still exercised his rights of Roman citizenship in His defense.

Herod the king went as far as killing James with the sword (Acts 12:1-2).  He sought to do the same to Peter, but God delivered him.  Jesus warned his disciples they would suffer these things (Matt 10:16-23; Jn 15:18-19; Jn 16:1-2; Mk 13:9).

Christians can expect persecution.  Why?  Because darkness doesn’t mix with light.  Jesus was the True Light of the world (Jn 1:4-9).  When He entered the world, He entered a very dark place (spiritually speaking).  His teachings were met with resistance for that very reason (Jn 3:19-21).  They were in sharp contrast to the moral standards of the world.  And, that is why Christians are often persecuted.  Unbelievers often hate Christians with a passion.  If we adorn (garnish our appearance with) the teachings of Jesus Christ in our lives, we will certainly meet resistance and persecution.  The Bible tells us so (Acts 14:21-22; Php 1:29-30; 2 Tim 3:12).

The Bible tells us, “Don’t be afraid” (1 Pe 3:14).  Remember, suffering for Christ is only temporary; suffering for evil doing is ETERNAL!  (Rom 8:18)  When we suffer for our faith, God is with us (1 Pe 4:14; Rom 8:31; Rom 8:35-39).

How can we faithfully endure persecution?  By sanctifying the Lord in our hearts (1 Pe 3:14-15).  To “sanctify” means to “set apart”.  We can endure persecution by setting Jesus apart to a special place in our hearts; by letting Him rule on His “throne” in a central place in our hearts.  We do this by letting His will come first,  before our own, and before the will of others.  If we fail to do this, we will be afraid of what people can do to us.  If we remember that Jesus is watching over us, and will help us, we will not fear man (Heb 13:5-6).

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

Rejoice – be of full cheer.  We must regard persecution, not as something to mourn over, but rather a great privilege.  When the Christian suffers persecution they should realize they are in GOOD COMPANY.  The faithful prophets of old were persecuted; the early disciples and apostles were persecuted.  Isaiah is said to have been sawn asunder; Jeremiah was thrown into a dungeon and threatened with death; Elijah was hunted by Ahab and Jezebel.

When facing persecution, our first inclination is to retaliate.  But, Jesus does not want us to mar our Christian reputation, nor dishonor God by taking revenge.  He wants us to endure it patiently.  If we do, He will reward us abundantly.  “…Great is your reward in heaven…” (1 Cor 2:9-10).

We hope you will continue to join us in our study of the teachings of Jesus, and we invite you to visit with us at the church of Christ in Chattahoochee, FL.

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