Category Archives: Persecution

BLAMELESS CONDUCT

If the Thessalonians emulate the apostolic example, they will receive the “crown of glory” at Christ’s return 1 Thessalonians 2:1-20.

Opposition from the local synagogue had compelled Paul to leave Thessalonica prematurely. Though initially, some members of that group had welcomed his message, they turned against him once large numbers of Gentiles began to embrace the gospel. And even after he left the city, some of the synagogue leaders pursued him as he preached elsewhere in Macedonia.

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TO THE ASSEMBLY

The Thessalonians received the gospel in tribulation but remained faithful in anticipation of the arrival of Jesus 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10.

Opposition to the new faith forced Paul to leave Thessalonica before his work was completed. When he attempted to return to the city, he was thwarted “by Satan.” Because of anxieties about the congregation, he sent Timothy to investigate. His first letter is his thankful response after receiving good news about the congregation’s faithfulness.

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CHRIST-LIKE RESPONSE TO PERSECUTORS

When Christians react in kind to hostility, whether from government, society, or individuals, Satan triumphsMatthew 5:12.

The reality of persecution in this life raises several questions. How should Christians react to their persecutors, especially when persecuted by governing authorities? Should they respond with indignation, civil disobedience, and public protests? Or should disciples of Jesus follow his example and that of the early church?

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AFFLICTED DISCIPLES

In this life, the disciple of Jesus will endure “tribulation” and persecution for his sake 1 Thessalonians 3:1-4.

Our tendency is to avoid trouble and conflict. Understandably, we prefer to live lives characterized by peace, acceptance, and prosperity, and devoid of all affliction and persecution. And the New Testament does promise believers peace now and everlasting life later. Yet it also teaches us to expect afflictions in this life, and how to react when they do occur.

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DISCIPLES AND PERSECUTION

To follow Jesus means self-denial and the willingness to suffer for him. For the disciple, persecution is the highest honor Matthew 5:10-12.

For disciples of Jesus, retaliation and violence are NOT appropriate reactions when they are persecuted. Rather than respond-in-kind, they must meet threats with humility, mercy, even love. That is what it means to “deny oneself” and to “take up his cross.” Praying for one’s “enemies” is contrary to the “wisdom of this age,” but it epitomizes the paradigm of Christ crucified.

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PERSECUTING BEAST

The “Dragon” and his servants wage war against the saints, and not against nation-states or certain ethnic groups.

Revelation portrays the cosmic war being waged between Satan and Jesus, one that plays out in the daily struggles of the church. The earthly vassals of the “Dragon” execute his attacks on the Church, especially the “beast from the sea,” the “false prophet,” and “Babylon.” The “war” is waged through deception, deceivers within the church, and persecution from without.

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