PERSECUTIONS SUFFERINGS: tois diogmois, tois pathemasin
(Ac 9:16; 20:19;20:23 20:24 Ro 8:35; 36, 37 1Co4:9, 10, 11; 2Co1:8, 9,
10; 4:8, 9, 10, 11; 2Co11:23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28; He10:33, 34)
dioko [word study] = to
chase, to pursue) literally refers to a chase or pursuit and
figuratively means to
put to flight or to pursue with repeated acts of enmity.
See Related Resources on
Persecution Predicted by Jesus in the Sermon
on the Mount
Persecution - Synopsis of
persecution of the church
Persecution - Dictionary articles
See Discussion of Persecution/suffering
Discussion of Persecution
Persecute in English is from
Latin persecutor, from persequi = to persecute, from Latin, to pursue,
from per- = through + sequi = to follow. To persecute is to to
harass in a manner designed to injure, vex, grieve, or afflict. Nero
persecuted the Christians by crucifying some, burning others, and
condemning others to worry by dogs (as dogs "worry" sheep, pun
Persecution describes the
process which is meant to annoy with persistent or urgent approaches (as
attacks, pleas, or importunities).
NIDNTT has the following
summation of persecution (but obviously not all of the Scriptures
(a) God’s messengers in
particular meet persecution. This was already the experience of the
prophets (Mt 5:12; Ac 7:52), and will equally be that of Jesus’
disciples (Mt 5:11f., Mt 5:44; 10:23), the more so as they are followers of
the Lord, who had to suffer persecution himself (Jn. 5:16). This
connection is clearly expressed in Jn. 15:20: “If they persecuted me,
they will persecute you.” Paul, once the persecutor of the church (1Co
15:9; Gal 1:13, 23; Php 3:6; 1Ti 1:13), experienced persecution himself,
once the glorified Lord had made him His messenger (Gal. 5:11; 2Ti
3:11). In 2Ti 3:12 he expresses the view that being a Christian will
always be linked with persecution (Suffer).
(b) The message is persecuted
in the Christian (Acts 22:4, the “way”, the course steered by
faith), or Christ himself (Acts 9:4f.; 22:7f.; 26:14f.). According to
Jn. 15:18ff., persecution is caused by the world’s hatred of God and his
revelation in Christ (cf. also Mt 10:22; Mk. 13:13; Lk. 21:17; Rev.
12:13). Paul sees behind it the contrast between flesh and spirit; the
hostility of the natural man against God and so also against the man led
by God’s Spirit (Gal. 4:29).
(c) Hence persecution may be
a sign that one is on God’s side. Thus Jesus calls those blessed
“who are persecuted for righteous' sake” (Mt. 5:10ff.; Blessing).
(d) There is the danger of
corrupting the message in order to avoid persecution (Gal 6:12).
Christians are specially challenged to maintain their faith during
persecution. They are to meet the hatred of their persecutors by a word
of blessing (Ro 12:14; cf. especially Mt. 5:44).
(e) But it is especially in
persecution that Christians experience the help, strength and saving
power of Christ (2Co. 4:7ff.; 12:10; Ro. 8:35-39). In persecution
Paul set an apostolic example by enduring it patiently (1Co 4:12). It is
a special reason for giving God thanks, when persecution is endured with
faith (2Th 1:3f.).
Colin, Editor. New International Dictionary of NT Theology. 1986.
BDAG writes that diogmos is a program or process designed
to harass and oppress someone"
Webster's 1828 Dictionary has
this entry for persecution...
The act or practice of
persecuting; the infliction of pain, punishment or death upon others
unjustly, particularly for adhering
to a religious creed or mode of worship, either by way of penalty or for
compelling them to renounce their principles. Historians enumerate ten
persecutions suffered by the Christians, beginning with that of Nero, A.
D. 31, and ending with that of Diocletian, A. D. 303 to 313.
Because of their refusal to
compromise or cease proclaiming the gospel, both Paul and Timothy often
had been put to flight as fugitives from the
of both Jews and pagans as when
"the Jews...instigated a persecution (diogmos)
against Paul and Barnabas and drove them out of their district." (Acts
From the "get go" Jesus had
I will show him how many things he
must suffer for My Name's sake. Acts 9:16.
Paul saw his persecutions from an
eternal perspective for he had learned the secret (cp Php 4:11, 12-note,
that when he was weak (as when suffering persecution) then he was
strong. (see 2Co 12:10-note)
It is interesting to note that Paul does not point out his successes,
but his scars, for these are sure proof that Christ has had full sway in
his life. Truly Paul could say
From now on let no one cause trouble
for me, for I bear on my body the brand-marks (stigma
from stizo = to make a puncture or mark > slaves and
sometimes soldiers were branded - Paul was both in the spiritual
sense! And so are we beloved!) of Jesus. (Gal 6:17).
10x in 9v - Mt 13:21; Mk 4:17; Mk 10:30; Acts 8:1; 13:50; Rom 8:35; 2
Cor 12:10; 2 Thess 1:4; 2 Tim 3:11
Matthew 13:21 yet he has no firm root
in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution
arises (Why?) because of the word, immediately he falls away.
Mark 4:17 and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only
temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises (Why?)
because of the word, immediately they fall away.
Mark 10:30 (Context Mk 10:29) but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the
present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children
and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come,
Acts 8:1 Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death
(Ac 7:59, 60). And on
that day a great (megas) persecution began against the church in
Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea
and Samaria, except the apostles.
Acts 13:50 But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the
leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against
Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.
Romans 8:35-note Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will
tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or
nakedness, or peril, or sword?
A knowledge of and confidence in the
love of Christ is a powerful "antidote" or support when we are
2Corinthians 12:10-note Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with
insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties,
for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
The "power" of persecution - in our
spiritual weakness, we experience His strength as we go through
2Thessalonians 1:4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among
the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all
your persecutions and afflictions which you endure.
2Timothy 3:11-note persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at
Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured,
and out of them all the Lord rescued me!
2x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint - Pr 11:19; Lam 3:19
Proverbs 11:19 He who is steadfast in
righteousness will attain to life, And he who pursues evil will bring
about his own death.
Lam 3:19 (English of the Lxx version)
I remembered by reason of my poverty, and because of persecution my
bitterness and gall shall be remembered
The Gospels teach that "persecution
(diogmos) arises because of the word" (Mk4:17,
cf Mk10:30). Paul is reminding Timothy and all of us that
(note that both are
plural!) are not electives
(2Cor 1:6), but are part of the required curriculum
in Christ's school of discipleship, for He Himself warned His disciples
"If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but
because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,
therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to
you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted
Me, they will also persecute you" (Jn 15:19, 20,15:20)
"and you will be hated by all on account of My name." (Lk
and in this school even "A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS
HOUSEHOLD." (Mt 10:36).
Paul met his "old
everywhere as described in (Acts 20:23)
where "the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying
that bonds and afflictions await me."
of Key Bible Words notes that...
The persecution against Christians
commenced almost as soon as the church began in AD30. Then it became
intensified throughout the Roman world as people began to distinguish
the “followers of Jesus” from “the Jews.”
Nero was the first Roman emperor to
instigate a vile and violent persecution against those who espoused to
be Christians...During this period of the church, to be called a
“Christian” (one belonging to Christ) was to ask for persecution and
suffering. (Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. Holman Treasury of
Key Bible Words: Broadman & Holman Publishers)
historian Tacitus records
persecution of Christians whom he falsely blamed for the fiery
destruction of Rome in July, 64AD
But all human efforts, all the lavish
gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish
the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order.
Consequently, to get rid of the report,
Nero fastened the guilt and
inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their
abominations, called 'Chrestians' by the populace.
Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme
penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our
procurators, Pontius Pilate, and a most mischievous superstition, thus
checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first
source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and
shameful from every part of the world find their center and become
Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then,
upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much
of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery
of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of
beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses,
or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly
illumination, when daylight had expired. (Tacitus
on the Christians)
Wesley's diary entries...
Sunday, A.M., May 5 Preached in St.
Anne's. Was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday, P.M., May 5 Preached in St.
John's. Deacons said "Get out and stay out."
Sunday, A.M., May 12 Preached in St.
Jude's. Can't go back there, either.
Sunday, A.M., May 19 Preached in St.
Somebody Else's. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn't
Sunday, P.M., May 19 Preached on
street. Kicked off street.
Sunday, A.M., May 26 Preached in
meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during service.
Sunday, A.M., June 2 Preached out at
the edge of town. Kicked off the highway.
Sunday, P.M., June 2 Afternoon,
preached in a pasture. Ten thousand people came out to hear me.
Self-centered Christians who serve
the Lord halfheartedly seldom have to pay a price for their faith. They
are of little threat to Satan’s work because they are of little benefit
-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 you were arrested for being a Christian,
would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
The godly life is the evidence.
Don't be surprised and in fact even expect persecution in view of the
truth that this present world is held fast in the grip of "the evil one"
(1Jn 5:19) and therefore despises and hates you as a follower of Christ.
We should be prepared for persecution and not be surprised by it or
shrink away from it to avoid it. Forewarned is forearmed.
Persecution is one of the "badges" that marks a true believer. When one
is treated as the Master, he or she must must remind themselves that
they are in good company with the prophets, apostles, and martyrs who
were all likewise persecuted. If we are persecuted, we should carefully
inquire, before we avail ourselves of this consolation that our Master
was also persecuted, whether we are persecuted because we “live godly in
Christ Jesus,” (2Ti 3:12-note)
or for some other reason. If we have never experienced persecution for
the sake of righteousness, we have cause to examine ourselves as to
whether we are truly His disciples or at the very least we should
question the depth of our commitment (2Co 13:5).
As John Wesley said
Either the truth of scripture fails,
or those that think they are religious, and are not persecuted, in some
shape or other, on that very account, deceive themselves.
Of Jesus - Gen. 3:15; Psa.
2:1-5; Psa. 22:1, 2, 6-8, 11-21; Psa. 69:7-9, 20, 21, 26 vs. 1-21.; Psa.
109:25; Isa. 49:7; Isa. 50:6; Isa. 52:14; Isa. 53:2-5, 7-10; Mic. 5:1;
Mt. 2:13; Mt. 12:14, Mt 12:24 Mark 3:22; Luke 6:11; 11:15. Mt 16:1 Mt
26:3, 4, 14-16 [Mark 14:1; 14:48.] Mt 26:59; Mt 27:25-30, 39-44 Mark
15:1ff; John 19:1ff. Mark 3:6, 21; Mark 15:34 Mark 16; 17. Luke 4:28,
29; Luke 7:34 Mt 11:19. Luke 11:53, 54; Luke 12:50 Mt 20:22. Luke 13:31;
Luke 19:14, 47 Mark 11:18. Luke 20:20 Mt 22:15; Mark 12:13. Luke 22:2-5,
52, 53, 63-65 Mt 26:67; Mark 14:65. Luke 23:11, 23 Mark 15:14. John
5:16; John 7:1, 7, 19, 20, 30, 32; John 8:37, 40, 48, 52, 59 John 10:31.
John 10:20, 39; John 11:57; John 14:30; John 15:18, 20, 21, 24, 25; John
18:22, 23, 29, 30; John 19:6, 15; Acts 2:23; Acts 3:13-15; Acts 4:27;
Acts 7:52; Acts 13:27-29; Heb. 12:2, 3; 1 Pet. 4:1
Of the Righteous - Gen. 49:23;
Job 1:9; Job 2:4, 5; Job 12:4, 5; Psa. 11:2; Psa. 37:32; Psa. 38:20; Psa.
42:3, 10; Psa. 44:15-18, 22; Psa. 56:5; Psa. 69:10-12; Psa. 74:7, 8; Psa.
94:5; Psa. 119:51, 61, 69, 78, 85-87,95,110,157,161Prov. 29:10, 27; Isa.
26:20; Isa. 29:20, 21; Isa. 51:12, 13; Isa. 59:15; Jer. 2:30; Jer.
11:19; Jer. 15:10; Jer. 18:18; Jer. 20:8 v. 7.; Jer. 26:11-14; Jer.
50:7; Amos 5:10; Hab. 1:13; Mt 5:10-12, 44 Luke 6:26, 27. Mt 10:16-18,
21-23, 28; Mt 20:22, 23; Mt 23:34, 35; Mt 24:8-10; Mark 8:35 Luke 17:33.
Mark 9:42; Mark 13:9, 11-13; Luke 6:22, 23; Luke 21:12-19; John 12:42;
John 15:18, 19; John 16:1, 2; John 17:14; Acts 4:16-20; Acts 5:29,
40-42; Acts 7:52; Acts 8:4; Acts 28:22; Rom. 8:17, 35-37; 1 Cor. 4:9-13;
1 Cor. 13:3; 2 Cor. 4:8-12; 2 Cor. 6:4, 5, 8-10; 2 Cor. 11:23-27; 2 Cor.
12:10; Gal. 4:29; Gal. 6:12, 17; Phil. 1:12-14, 28, 29; Col. 1:24; 1
Thess. 1:6; 1 Thess. 2:2, 14, 15; 2 Thess. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:8, 12; 2 Tim.
2:9, 10, 12; 2 Tim. 3:2, 3, 12; 2 Tim. 4:16, 17; Heb. 10:32-34; Heb.
11:25-27, 33-38; Heb. 12:3, 4; Heb. 13:13; Jas. 2:6; Jas. 5:6, 10; 1
Pet. 3:14, 16, 17; 1 Pet. 4:3, 4, 12-14, 16, 19; 1 John 3:1, 13; Rev.
2:3, 10, 13; Rev. 6:9-11; Rev. 7:13-17; Rev. 12:11; Rev. 17:6; Rev. 20:4
A mode of divine chastisement, Lam.
Diffuses the gospel, Acts 8:1, 4;
11:19-21; Phil. 1:12-14.
Prayer for deliverance from, Ps.
70:1-4; 83; 140:1, 4; 142:6.
Deliverance from, Ps. 124; 129:1, 2.
Of Abel, Gen. 4:8; Mt 23:35; 1 John 3:12.
Of Lot, Gen. 19:9.
Of Moses, Ex. 2:15; 17:4.
Of David, Psa. 31:13; 59:1, 2.
Of prophets martyred by Jezebel, 1 Kin. 18:4.
Of Gideon, Judg. 6:28-32.
Of Elijah, 1 Kin. 18:10; 19; 2 Kin. 1:9; 2:23.
Of Micaiah, 1 Kin. 22:26; 2 Chr. 18:26.
Of Elisha, 2 Kin. 6:31.
Of Hanani, 2 Chr. 16:10.
Of Zachariah, 2 Chr. 24:21; Mt 23:35.
Of Job, Job 13:4-13; 16:1-4; 17:2; 19:1-5; 30:1-10.
Of Jeremiah, Jer. 15:10, 15; 17:15-18; 18:18-23; 26; 32:2; 33:1; 36:26;
Of Urijah, Jer. 26:23.
Of prophets, Mt 21:35, 36.
Of the three Hebrew children of the captivity, Dan. 3:8-23.
Of Daniel, Dan. 6.
Of the Jews, Ezra 4; Neh. 4.
Of John the Baptist, Mt 14:3-12.
Of James, Acts 12:2.
Of Simon, Mark 15:21.
Of the disciples, John 9:22, 34; 20:19.
Of Lazarus, John 12:10.
Of the apostles, Acts 4:3-18; 5:18-42; 12:1-19; Rev. 1:9.
Of Stephen, Acts 6:9-15; 7.
Of the church, Acts 8:1; 9:1-14; Gal. 1:13.
Of Timothy, Heb. 13:23.
Of John, Rev. 1:9.
Of Antipas, Rev. 2:13.
Of the church of Smyrna, Rev. 2:8-10.
an excellent summary of persecution of believers especially following
the birth of the Church..
PERSECUTION - Mt 13:21; Mk
4:17; 10:30; Acts 8:1; 13:50; Ro 8:35; 2Cor 12:10; 2Th 1:4; 2Ti 3:11:
The importance of this subject may be indicated by the fact of the
frequency of its occurrence, both in the Old Testament and New
Testament, where in the King James Version the words "persecute,"
"persecuted," "persecuting" are found no fewer than 53 times,
"persecution" 14 times, and "persecutor" 9 times.
1. Persecution in Old
It must not be thought that persecution existed only in New Testament
times. In the days of the Old Testament it existed too. In what Jesus
said to the Pharisees, He specially referred to the innocent blood which
had been shed in those times, and told them that they were showing
themselves heirs--to use a legal phrase--to their fathers who had
persecuted the righteous,
"from the blood of Abel the righteous unto the
blood of Zachariah" (Mt 23:35).
2. Between the Testaments:
In the period between the close of the Old Testament and the coming of
Christ, there was much and protracted suffering endured by the Jews,
because of their refusal to embrace idolatry, and of their fidelity to
the Mosaic Law and the worship of God. During that time there were many
patriots who were true martyrs, and those heroes of faith, the
Maccabees, were among those who "know their God .... and do exploits"
`We have no need of human help,' said Jonathan the Jewish
high priest, `having for our comfort the sacred Scriptures which are in
our hands' (1 Macc 12:9).
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, persecution in the days of the Old
Testament is summed up in these words:
"Others had trial of mockings and
scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned,
they were sawn asunder, they were tempted, they were slain with the
sword: they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins; being destitute,
afflicted, illtreated (of whom the world was not worthy)" (Heb
11:36, 37, 38).
3. Foretold by Christ:
Coming now to New Testament times, persecution was frequently foretold
by Christ, as certain to come to those who were His true disciples and
followers. He forewarned them again and again that it was inevitable. He
said that He Himself must suffer it (Mt 16:21; 17:22,23; Mk 8:31).
4. A Test of Discipleship:
It would be a test of true discipleship. In the parable of the Sower, He
mentions this as one of the causes of defection among those who are
Christians in outward appearance only. When affliction or persecution
ariseth for the word's sake, immediately the stony-ground hearers are
offended (Mk 4:17).
5. A Means of Blessing:
It would be a sure means of gaining a blessing, whenever it came to His
loyal followers when they were in the way of well-doing; and He thus
speaks of it in two of the Beatitudes,
"Blessed are they that have been
persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of
"Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you
.... for my sake" (Mt 5:10,11; 5:12-note).
6. Various Forms:
It would take different forms, ranging through every possible variety,
from false accusation to the infliction of death, beyond which, He
pointed out (Mt 10:28; Lk 12:4), persecutors are unable to go. The
methods of persecution which were employed by the Jews, and also by the
heathen against the followers of Christ, were such as these:
(1) Men would revile them and
would say all manner of evil against them falsely, for Christ's sake
discussion of persecution).
(2) Contempt and disparagement:
"Say we not well that thou art a
Samaritan, and hast a demon?" (Jn 8:48);
"If they have called the master of
the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household!" (Mt 10:25).
(3) Being, solely on account of their
loyalty to Christ, forcibly separated from the company and the society
of others, and expelled from the synagogues or other assemblies for the
worship of God:
"Blessed are ye, when men shall hate
you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and reproach
you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake" (Lk
"They shall put you out of the
synagogues" (Jn 16:2).
(4) Illegal arrest and spoliation of
goods, and death itself.
All these various methods, used by
the persecutor, were foretold, and all came to pass. It was the fear of
apprehension and death that led the eleven disciples to forsake Jesus in
Gethsemane and to flee for their lives. Jesus often forewarned them of
the severity of the persecution which they would need to encounter if
they were loyal to Him:
"The hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you
shall think that he offereth service unto God" (Jn 16:2);
"I send unto
you prophets .... some of them shall ye kill and crucify; and some of
them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to
city" (Mt 23:34).
7. In the Case of Jesus:
In the case of Christ Himself, persecution took the form of attempts to
entrap Him in His speech (Mt 22:15); the questioning of His authority
(Mk 11:28); illegal arrest; the heaping of every insult upon Him as a
prisoner; false accusation; and a violent and most cruel death.
8. Instigated by the Jews:
After our Lord's resurrection the first attacks against His disciples
came from the high priest and his party. The high-priesthood was then in
the hands of the Sadducees, and one reason which moved them to take
action of this kind was their `sore trouble,' because the apostles
"proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection
from the dead" (Acts 4:2; 5:17).
The gospel based upon the
resurrection of Christ was evidence of the untruth of the chief
doctrines held by the Sadducees, for they held that there is no
resurrection. But instead of yielding to the evidence of the fact that
the resurrection had taken place, they opposed and denied it, and
persecuted His disciples. For a time the Pharisees were more moderate in
their attitude toward the Christian faith, as is shown in the case of
Gamaliel (Acts 5:34); and on one occasion they were willing even to
defend the apostle Paul (Acts 23:9) on the doctrine of the resurrection.
But gradually the whole of the Jewish people became bitter persecutors
of the Christians. Thus, in the earliest of the Pauline Epistles, it is
"Ye also suffered the same things of your own
countrymen, even as they (in Judea) did of the Jews; who both killed the
Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove out us, and please not God, and
are contrary to all men" (1Th 2:14,15).
Serious persecution of the Christian church began with the case of
Stephen (Acts 7:1-60); and his lawless execution was followed by "a
great persecution" directed against the Christians in Jerusalem. This
"great persecution" (Acts 8:1) scattered the members of the church, who
fled in order to avoid bonds and imprisonment and death. At this time
Saul signalized himself by his great activity, persecuting "this Way
unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women"
10. The Apostles, James and
By and by one of the apostles was put to death--the first to suffer of
"the glorious company of the apostles"--James the brother of John, who
was slain with the sword by Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:2). Peter also was
imprisoned, and was delivered only by an angel (Acts 12:7, 8, 9, 10,
11. Gentile Persecution:
During the period covered by the Acts there was not much purely Gentile
persecution: at that time the persecution suffered by the Christian
church was chiefly Jewish. There were, however, great dangers and risks
encountered by the apostles and by all who proclaimed the gospel then.
Thus, at Philippi, Paul and Silas were most cruelly persecuted (Acts
16:19-40); and, even before that time, Paul and Barnabas had suffered
much at Iconium and at Lystra (Acts 14:5,19). On the whole the Roman
authorities were not actively hostile during the greater part of Paul's
lifetime. Gallio, for instance, the deputy of Achaia, declined to go
into the charge brought by the Jews at Corinth against Paul (Acts
18:14,15,16). And when Paul had pleaded in his own defense before King
Herod Agrippa and the Roman governor Festus, these two judges were
agreed in the opinion,
"This man doeth nothing worthy of
death or of bonds" (Acts 26:31).
Indeed it is evident (see Ramsay,
Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 308) that the purpose of Paul's
trial being recorded at length in the Acts is to establish the fact that
the preaching of the gospel was not forbidden by the laws of the Roman
empire, but that Christianity was a religio licita, a lawful religion.
Christianity at First Not a Forbidden Religion.
This legality of the Christian faith was illustrated and enforced by the
fact that when Paul's case was heard and decided by the supreme court of
appeal at Rome, he was set free and resumed his missionary labors, as
these are recorded or referred to in the Pastoral Epistles
"One thing, however, is clear from a
comparison of Philippians with 2 Timothy. There had been in the interval
a complete change in the policy toward Christianity of the Roman
government. This change was due to the great fire of Rome (July, 64). As
part of the persecution which then broke out, orders were given for the
imprisonment of the Christian leaders. Poppea, Tigellinus and their
Jewish friends were not likely to forget the prisoner of two years
before. At the time Paul was away from Rome, but steps were instantly
taken for his arrest. The apostle was brought back to the city in the
autumn or winter of 64. .... That he had a trial at all, instead of the
summary punishment of his brethren. witnesses to the importance attached
by the government to a show of legality in the persecution of the
leader" (Workman, Persecution in the Early Church, 38).
PASTORAL EPISTLES; PAUL, THE APOSTLE.
12. The Neronic
The legal decisions which were favorable to the Christian faith were
soon overturned on the occasion of the great fire in Rome, which
occurred in July, 64. The public feeling of resentment broke out against
the emperor to such a degree that, to avoid the stigma, just or unjust,
of being himself guilty of setting the city on fire, he made the
Christians the scapegoats which he thought he needed. Tacitus (Annals
xv.44) relates all that occurred at that time, and what he says is most
interesting, as being one of the very earliest notices found in any
profane author, both of the Christian faith, and of Christ Himself.
(1) Testimony of Tacitus.
What Tacitus says is that nothing that Nero could do, either in the way
of gifts to the populace or in that of sacrifice the Roman deities,
could make the people believe that he was innocent of causing the great
fire which had consumed their dwellings. Hence, to relieve himself of
this infamy he falsely accused the Christians of being guilty of the
crime of setting the city on fire. Tacitus uses the strange expression
"the persons commonly called
Christians who were hated for their enormities."
This is an instance of the saying of
all manner of evil against them falsely, for Christ's sake. The
Christians, whose lives were pure and virtuous and beneficent, were
spoken of as being the off scouring of the earth.
(2) Reference in 1 Peter.
The First Epistle of Peter is one of the parts of the New Testament
which seem to make direct reference to the Neronic persecution, and he
uses words (1 Pet 4:12 ff) which may be compared with the narrative of
"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among
you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though a strange thing
happened unto you: but insomuch as ye are partakers of Christ's
sufferings, rejoice. .... If ye are reproached for the name of Christ,
blessed are ye; because the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you. For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief,
or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men's matters: but if a man
suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God
in this name. For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of
God. .... Wherefore let them also that suffer according to the will of
God commit their souls in well-doing unto a faithful Creator."
(3) Tacitus' Narrative.
How altogether apposite and suitable was this comforting exhortation to
the case of those who suffered in the Neronic persecution. The
description which Tacitus gives is as follows:
"Christus, the founder of that name,
was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator in the
reign of Tiberius. But the pernicious superstition, repressed for a
time, broke out again not only through Judea, where the mischief
originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things
horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters as to a common sink, and
where they are encouraged. Accordingly, first, those were seized who
confessed they were Christians; next, on their information, a vast
multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of setting the city
on fire, as of hating the human race. And in their deaths they were made
the subject of sport, for they were covered with the skins of wild
beasts and were worried to death by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set
fire to, and when day declined were burned to serve for nocturnal
lights. Nero offered his own gardens for that spectacle, and exhibited
circus games, indiscriminately mingling with the common people dressed
as a charioteer, or else standing in his chariot. Whence a feeling of
compassion arose toward the sufferers, though guilty and deserving to be
made examples of by capital punishment, because they seemed not to be
cut off for the public good, but to be victims to the ferocity of one
(4) New Testament
Three of the books of the New Testament bear the marks of that most
cruel persecution under Nero, the Second Epistle to Timothy, the First
Epistle of Peter--already referred to--and the Revelation of John. In 2
Timothy, Paul speaks of his impending condemnation to death, and the
terror inspired by the persecution causes "all" to forsake him when he
is brought to public trial (2Ti 4:16).
The "fiery trial" is spoken of in 1 Peter, and Christians are exhorted
to maintain their faith with patience; they are pleaded with to have
their "conversation honest" (1Pe 2:12KJV), so that
all accusations directed against them may be seen to be untrue, and
their sufferings shall then be, not for ill-doing, but only for the name
of Christ (1 Pet 3:14,16).
"This important epistle proves a general
persecution (1Pe 1:6; 4:12,16) in Asia Minor North of the Taurus (1Pe 1:1; note especially Bithynia) and elsewhere (1Pe 5:9). The
Christians suffer `for the name,' but not the name alone (1Pet 4:14).
They are the objects of vile slanders (1 Pet 2:12,15; 3:14, 15, 16; 4:4,15),
as well as of considerable zeal on the part of officials (1Pe 5:8
(Greek 3:15). As regards the slanders, the Christians should be circumspect (1Pe 2:15,16; 3:16,17; 4:15). The persecution will be
short, for the end of all things is at hand (1Pe 4:7,13; 1Pe 5:4)"
(Workman, Persecution in the Early Church, 354).
13. Persecution in Asia:
In Rev the apostle John is in "Patmos for the word of God and the
testimony of Jesus" (Rev 1:9-note).
Persecution has broken out among the
Christians in the province of Asia.
At Smyrna, there is suffering,
imprisonment and prolonged tribulation; but the sufferers are cheered
when they are told that if they are faithful unto death, Christ will
give them the crown of life (Rev 2:10-note).
At Pergamum, persecution has already
resulted in Antipas, Christ's faithful martyr, being slain (Rev 2:13-note).
At Ephesus and at Thyatira the Christians are commended for their
patience, evidently indicating that there had been persecution (Rev
At Philadelphia there has been the
attempt made to cause the members of the church to deny Christ's name
their patience is also commended, and the hour of temptation is spoken
of, which comes to try all the world, but from which Christ promised to
keep the faithful Christians in Philadelphia. Strangely enough, there is
no distinct mention of persecution having taken place in Sardis or in
14. Rome as Persecutor:
As the book proceeds, evidences of persecution are multiplied. In Rev
6:9, the apostle sees under the altar the souls of them that were slain
for the word of God and for the testimony which they held; and those
souls are bidden to rest yet for a little season
"until their fellow-servants also and
their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have
fulfilled their course" (Rev 6:11-note).
The meaning is that there is not yet
to be an end of suffering for Christ's sake; persecution may continue to
be as severe as ever. Compare Rev 20:4-note
saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus,
and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast,"
persecution had raged against all classes indiscriminately, and Roman
citizens who were true to Christ had suffered unto death. It is to these
that reference is made in the words "had been beheaded," decapitation
being reserved as the most honorable form of execution, for Roman
citizens only. So terrible does the persecution of Christians by the
imperial authorities become, that Rome is
"drunken with the blood of the
saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (Rev 17:6; 16:6; see
also Rev 18:24; 19:2).
Paul's martyrdom is implied in 2 Timothy, throughout the whole epistle,
and especially in 2Ti 4:6,7,8-note. The martyrdom of Peter is also implied in Jn
21:18,19, and in 2Pe 1:14. The abiding. impression made by these times
of persecution upon the mind of the apostle John is also seen in the
defiance of the world found throughout his First Epistle (1Jn 2:17;
5:19), and in the rejoicing over the fall of Babylon, the great
persecuting power, as that fall is described in such passages as Rev
14:8; 15:2,3; 17:14; 18:24.
Following immediately upon the close of the New Testament, there is
another remarkable witness to the continuance of the Roman persecution
against the Christian church. This is Pliny, proconsul of Bithynia.
15. Testimony of Pliny, 112
In 111 or 112 AD, he writes to the emperor Trajan a letter in which he
describes the growth of the Christian faith. He goes on to say that
"many of all ages and of all ranks and even of both sexes are being
called into danger, and will continue to be so. In fact the contagion of
this superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread to
the villages and country districts." He proceeds to narrate how the
heathen temples had been deserted and the religious rites had been
abandoned for so long a time: even the sacrificial food--that is, the
flesh of the sacrificial victims--could scarcely find a purchaser.
But Pliny had endeavored to stem the tide of the advancing Christian
faith, and he tells the emperor how he had succeeded in bringing back to
the heathen worship many professing Christians. That is to say, he had
used persecuting measures, and had succeeded in forcing some of the
Christians to abandon their faith. He tells the methods he had used.
"The method I have observed toward those who have been brought before me
as Christians is this. I asked them whether they were Christians. If
they admitted it, I repeated the question a second and a third time, and
threatened them with punishment. If they persisted I ordered them to be
punished. For I did not doubt, whatever the nature of that which they
confessed might be, that a contumacious and inflexible obstinacy ought
to be punished. There were others also, possessed with the same
infatuation, whom, because they were Roman citizens, I ordered to be
sent to Rome. But this crime spreading, as is usually the case, while it
was actually under legal prosecution, several cases occurred. An
anonymous information was laid before me, containing the names of many
persons. Those who denied that they were Christians, or that they had
ever been so, repeated after me an invocation of the gods, and offered
prayer, with wine and incense, to your statue, which I had ordered to be
brought in for this very purpose, along with the statues of the gods,
and they even reviled the name of Christ; whereas there is no forcing,
it is said, those who are really Christians into any of these
compliances: I thought it proper to discharge them. Others who were
accused by a witness at first confessed themselves Christians, but
afterward denied it. Some owned indeed that they had been Christians
formerly, but had now, some for several years, and a few above 20 years
ago, renounced it. They all worshipped your statue and the images of the
gods. .... I forbade the meeting of any assemblies, and therefore I
judged it to be so much the more necessary to endeavor to extort the
real truth by putting to the torture two female slaves, who were called
deaconesses, yet I found nothing but an absurd and extravagant
In Trajan's reply to Pliny he writes, "They (the Christians) ought not
to be searched for. If they are brought before you and convicted, they
should be punished, but this should be done in such a way, that he who
denies that he is a Christian, and when his statement is proved by his
invoking our deities, such a person, although suspected for past
conduct, must nevertheless be forgiven, because of his repentance."
These letters of Pliny and Trajan treat state-persecution as the
standing procedure--and this not a generation after the death of the
apostle John. The sufferings and tribulation predicted in Rev 2:10, and
in many other passages, had indeed come to pass. Some of the Christians
had denied the name of Christ and had worshipped the images of the
emperor and of the idols, but multitudes of them had been faithful unto
death, and had received the martyr's crown of life.
16. 2nd and 3rd Centuries:
Speaking generally, persecution of greater or less severity was the
normal method employed by the Roman empire against the Christian church
during the 2nd and the 3rd centuries It may be said to have come to an
end only about the end of the 3rd or the beginning of the 4th century,
when the empire became nominally Christian. When the apostolic period is
left, persecution becomes almost the normal state in which the church is
found. And persecution, instead of abolishing the name of Christ, as the
persecutors vainly imagined they had succeeded in doing, became the
means of the growth of the Christian church and of its purity. Both of
these important ends, and others too, were secured by the severity of
the means employed by the persecuting power of the Roman empire.
Under Trajan's successor, the emperor Hadrian, the lot of the Christians
was full of uncertainty: persecution might break out at any moment. At
the best Hadrian's regime was only that of unauthorized toleration.
17. Best Emperors the Most
With the exception of such instances as those of Nero and Domitian,
there is the surprising fact to notice, that it was not the worst
emperors, but the best, who became the most violent persecutors. One
reason probably was that the ability of those emperors led them to see
that the religion of Christ is really a divisive factor in any kingdom
in which civil government and pagan religion are indissolubly bound up
together. The more that such a ruler was intent on preserving the unity
of the empire, the more would be persecute the Christian faith. Hence,
among the rulers who were persecutors, there are the names of Antoninus
Pius. Marcus Aurelius the philosopher-emperor, and Septimius Severus
(died at York, 211 Ad).
18. Causes of Persecution:
Persecution was no accident, which chanced to happen, but which might
not have occurred at all. It was the necessary consequence of the
principles embodied in the heathen Roman government, when these came
into contact and into conflict with the essential principles of the
Christian faith. The reasons for the persecution of the Christian church
by the Roman empire were (1) political; (2) on account of the claim
which the Christian faith makes, and which it cannot help making, to the
exclusive allegiance of the heart and of the life. That loyalty to
Christ which the martyrs displayed was believed by the authorities in
the state to be incompatible with the duties of a Roman citizen.
Patriotism demanded that every citizen should united in the worship of
the emperor, but Christians refused to take pat in the worship on any
terms, and so they continually lived under the shadow of a great hatred,
which always slumbered, and might break out at any time. The claim which
the Christian faith made to the absolute and exclusive loyalty of all
who obeyed Christ was such that it admitted of no compromise with
heathenism. To receive Christ into the pantheon as another divinity, as
one of several--this was not the Christian faith. To every loyal
follower of Christ compromise with other faiths was an impossibility. An
accommodated Christianity would itself have been false to the only true
God and Jesus Christ whom He had sent, and would never have conquered
the world. To the heathen there were lords many and gods many, but to
the Christians there was but one God the Father and one Lord Jesus
Christ, the Saviour of the world (1 Cor 8:5,6). The essential
absoluteness of the Christian faith was its strength, but this was also
the cause of its being hated.
"By a correct instinct paganisms of all sorts discerned in the infant
church their only rival. So, while the new Hercules was yet in the
cradle, they sent their snakes to kill him. But Hercules lived to
cleanse out the Augean stables" (Workman, op. cit., 88).
19. 200 Years of
"For 200 years, to become a Christian meant the great renunciation, the
joining a despised and persecuted sect, the swimming against the tide of
popular prejudice, the coming under the ban of the Empire, the
possibility at any moment of imprisonment and death under its most
fearful forms. For 200 years he that would follow Christ must count the
cost, and be prepared to pay the same with his liberty and life. For 200
years the mere profession of Christianity was itself a crime.
Christianus sum was almost the one plea for which there was Persecution
no forgiveness, in itself all that was necessary as a `title' on the
back of the condemned. He who made it was allowed neither to present
apology, nor call in the aid of a pleader. `Public hatred,' writes
Tertullian, `asks but one thing, and that not investigation into the
crimes charged, but simply the confession of the Christian name.' For
the name itself in periods of stress, not a few, meant the rack, the
blazing shirt of pitch, the lion, the panther, or in the case of maidens
an infamy worse than death" (Workman, 103).
20. Persecution in the
Service in the Roman army involved, for a Christian, increasing danger
in the midst of an organized and aggressive heathenism. Hence, arose the
persecution of the Christian soldier who refused compliance with the
idolatrous ceremonies in which the army engaged, whether those
ceremonies were concerned with the worship of the Roman deities or with
that of Mithraism. "The invincible saviour," as Mithra was called, had
become, at the time when Tertullian and Origen wrote, the special deity
of soldiers. Shrines in honor of Mithra were erected through the entire
breadth of the Roman empire, from Dacia and Pannonia to the Cheviot
Hills in Britain. And woe to the soldier who refused compliance with the
religious sacrifices to which the legions gave their adhesion! The
Christians in the Roman legions formed no inconsiderable proportion of
"the noble army of martyrs," it being easier for the persecuting
authorities to detect a Christian in the ranks of the army than
21. Tertullian's Apology:
In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Christians were to be found everywhere,
for Tertullian, in an oftentimes quoted passage in his Apology, writes,
"We live beside you in the world, making use of the same forum, market,
bath, shop, inn, and all other places of trade. We sail with you, fight
shoulder to shoulder, till the soil, and traffic with you"; yet the very
existence of Christian faith, and its profession, continued to bring the
greatest risks. "With the best will in the world, they remained a
peculiar people, who must be prepared at any moment to meet the storm of
hatred" (Workman, 189). For them it remained true that in one way or
another, hatred on the part of the world inevitably fell to the lot of
those who walked in the footsteps of the Master; "All that would live
godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim 3:12).
22. "The Third Race":
The strange title, "the
third race," probably invented by the heathen, but willingly accepted by
the Christians without demur, showed with what a bitter spirit the
heathen regarded the faith of Christ. "The first race" was indifferently
called the Roman, Greek, or Gentile. "The second race" was the Jews;
while "the third race" was the Christian. The cry in the circus of
Carthage was Usque quo genus tertium? "How long must we endure this
23. Hatred against
But one of the most powerful causes of the hatred entertained by the
heathen against the Christians was, that though there were no citizens
so loyal as they, yet in every case in which the laws and customs of the
empire came into conflict with the will of God, their supreme rule was
loyalty to Christ, they must obey God rather than man. To worship
Caesar, to offer even one grain of incense on the shrine of Diana, no
Christian would ever consent, not even. when this minimum of compliance
would save life itself.
The Roman empire claimed to be a kingdom of universal sway, not only
over the bodies and the property of all its subjects, but over their
consciences and their souls. It demanded absolute obedience to its
supreme lord, that is, to Caesar. This obedience the Christian could not
render, for unlimited obedience of body, soul and spirit is due to God
alone, the only Lord of the conscience. Hence, it was that there arose
the antagonism of the government to Christianity, with persecution as
the inevitable result.
These results, hatred and persecution, were, in such circumstances,
inevitable; they were "the outcome of the fundamental tenet of primitive
Christianity, that the Christian ceased to be his own master, ceased to
have his old environment, ceased to hold his old connections with the
state; in everything he became the bond-servant of Jesus Christ, in
everything owing supreme allegiance and fealty to the new empire and the
Crucified Head. `We engage in these conflicts,' said Tertullian, `as men
whose very lives are not our own. We have no master but God'" (Workman,
24. The Decian Persecution:
The persecution inaugurated by the emperor Decius in 250 AD was
particularly severe. There was hardly a province in the empire where
there were no martyrs; but there were also many who abandoned their
faith and rushed to the magistrates to obtain their libelli, or
certificates that they had offered heathen sacrifice. When the days of
persecution were over, these persons usually came with eagerness to seek
readmission to the church. It was in the Decian persecution that the
great theologian Origen, who was then in his 68th year, suffered the
cruel torture of the rack; and from the effects of what he then suffered
he died at Tyre in 254.
Many libelli have been discovered in recent excavations in Egypt. In the
The Expository Times for January, 1909, p. 185, Dr. George Milligan
gives an example, and prints the Greek text of one of these recently
discovered Egyptian libelli. These libelli are most interesting,
illustrating as they do the account which Cyprian gives of the way in
which some faint-hearted Christians during the Decian persecution
obtained certificates--some of these certificates being true to fact,
and others false--to the effect that they had sacrificed in the heathen
manner. The one which Dr. Milligan gives is as follows: "To those chosen
to superintend the sacrifices at the village of Alexander Island, from
Aurelius Diogenes, the son of Sarabus, of the village of Alexander
Island, being about 72 years old, a scar on the right eyebrow. Not only
have I always continued sacrificing to the gods, but now also in your
presence, in accordance with the decrees, I have sacrificed and poured
libations and tasted the offerings, and I request you to countersign my
statement. May good fortune attend you. I, Aurelius Diogenes, have made
(2nd Hand) "I, Aurelius Syrus, as a participant, have certified Diogenes
as sacrificing along with us."
(1st Hand) "The first year of the Emperor Caesar Gaius Messius Quintus
Trajan Decius Plus Felix Augustus, Epiph. 2" ( = June 25, 250 AD).
Under Valerian the persecution was again very severe, but his successor,
Gallienus, issued an edict of toleration, in which he guaranteed freedom
of worship to the Christians. Thus Christianity definitely became a
religio licita, a lawful religion. This freedom from persecution
continued until the reign of Diocletian.
26. The Edict of Milan:
The persecution of the Christian church by the empire of Rome came to an
end in March, 313 AD, when Constantine issued the document known as the
"Edict of Milan," which assured to each individual freedom of religious
belief. This document marks an era of the utmost importance in the
history of the world. Official Roman persecution had done its worst, and
had failed; it was ended now; the Galilean had conquered.
27. Results of Persecution
(1) It raised up witnesses, true
witnesses, for the Christian faith.
Men and women and even children were
among the martyrs whom no cruelties, however refined and protracted,
could terrify into denial of their Lord. It is to a large extent owing
to persecution that the Christian church possesses the testimony of men
like Quadratus and Tertullian and Origen and Cyprian and many others.
While those who had adopted the Christian faith in an external and
formal manner only generally went back from their profession, the true
Christian, as even the Roman proconsul Pliny testifies, could not be
made to do this. The same stroke which crushed the straw--such is a
saying of Augustine's--separated the pure grain which the Lord had
(2) Persecution showed that the Christian faith is immortal even in
Of Christ's kingdom there shall be no
"Hammer away, ye hostile bands,
your hammers break, God's altar stands."
Pagan Rome, Babylon the Great, as it
is called by the apostle John in the Apocalypse tried hard to destroy
the church of Christ; Babylon was drunk with the blood of the saints.
God allowed this tyranny to exist for 300 years, and the blood of His
children was shed like water. Why was it necessary that the church
should have so terrible and so prolonged an experience of suffering? It
was in order to convince the world that though the kings of the earth
gather themselves against the Lord and against His Christ, yet all that
they can do is vain. God is in the midst of Zion; He shall help her, and
that right early. The Christian church, as if suspended between heaven
and earth, had no need of other help than that of the unseen but divine
hand, which at every moment held it up and kept it from falling. Never
was the church more free, never stronger, never more flourishing, never
more extensive in its growth, than in the days of persecution.
And what became of the great persecuting power, the Roman empire? It
fell before the barbarians. Rome is fallen in its ruins, and its idols
are utterly abolished, while the barbarians who overwhelmed the empire
have become the nominally Christian nations of modern Europe, and their
descendants have carried the Christian faith to America and Australia
and Africa and all over the world.
(3) Persecution became, to a large extent, an important means of
preserving the true doctrines of the person and of the work of Christ.
It was in the ages of persecution
that Gnosticism died, though it died slowly. It was in the ages of
persecution that Arianism was overthrown. At the Council of Nicea in 325
AD, among those who were present and took part in the discussion and in
the decision of the council, there were those who "bore in their bodies
the branding-marks of Jesus," who had suffered pain and loss for
Persecution was followed by these important results, for God in His
wisdom had seen fit to permit these evils to happen, in order to change
them into permanent good; and thus the wrath of man was overruled
to praise God, and to effect more ultimate good, than if the
persecutions had not taken place at all.
What, in a word, could be more divine
than to curb and restrain and overrule evil itself and change it into
good? God lets iniquity do what it pleases, according to its own
designs; but in permitting it to move on one side, rather than on
another, He overrules it and makes it enter into the order of His
providence. So He lets this fury against the Christians be kindled in
the hearts of persecutors, so that they afflict the saints of the Most
High. But the church remains safe, for persecution can work nothing but
ultimate good in the hand of God.
"The blood of the martyrs
is the seed of the church."
So said Tertullian, and what he said
Persecution has permanently enriched the history of the church.
It has given us the noble heritage of
the testimony and the suffering of those whose lives would otherwise
have been unrecorded. Their very names as well as their careers would
have been unknown had not persecution "dragged them into fame and chased
them up to heaven."
Persecution made Christ very near and very precious to those who
Many of the martyrs bore witness,
even when in the midst of the most cruel torments, that they felt no
pain, but that Christ was with them. Instances to this effect could be
Persecution made them feel how
true Christ's words were, that even as He was not of the world, so they
also were not of it. If they had been of the world, the world would
love its own, but because Christ had chosen them out of the world,
therefore the world hated them. They were not greater than their Lord.
If men had persecuted Jesus, they would also persecute His true
disciples. But though they were persecuted, they were of good cheer,
Christ had overcome the world; He was with them; He enabled them to be
faithful unto death. He had promised them the crown of life.
Browning's beautiful lines describe
what was a common experience of the martyrs, how Christ "in them" and
"with them," "quenched the power of fire," and made them more than
"I was some time in
But at the close a Hand came through
The fire above my head, and drew
My soul to Christ, Whom now I see.
Sergius, a brother, writes for me
This testimony on the wall--
For me, I have forgot it all."
John Rutherford - Persecution -
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
SUCH AS HAPPENED TO ME AT ANTIOCH AT ICONIUM AT LYSTRA: oia moi egeneto
(3SAMI) en Antiocheia, en Ikonio, en Lustrois
(Acts 13:45; 50, 51,14:2, 5, 6, 19, 20, 21, 22)
modern day Turkey) and nearby
were in Timothy’s home province of Galatia and were the first places
during Paul’s missionary journeys where hostility broke out against him
Lystra in fact was Timothy’s hometown and it seems
quiet likely that he saw or heard about Paul's healing a lame man
crippled from birth and Paul's stoning by the hostile crowd.
(Ac 14:8, 9, 10, 19).
WHAT PERSECUTIONS I ENDURED: oious diogmous hupenegka (1SAAI):
dioko [word study] = to pursue) means to
put to flight or to pursue with repeated acts of enmity.
from hupo = under + phero
= bear) is literally to bear up from underneath or carry or be under a
heavy load placed on one's shoulders. The principle is that we are able to
get under a heavy load and carry it. It is used figuratively of one who continues to
bear up under and endure temptations, unjust suffering or persecutions
for the sake of righteousness. It
is undergoing hardship without giving in
but instead continuing firm or resolute through the trials and
Inherent in the
meaning of hupophero is the picture of a plant which is crushed
down and trampled upon, yet keeps rising back up again. This critical
character quality is one of the primary factors which will determine
whether or not we finish God's course for our lives (He 12:1-note,
One man put it like this:
Who walks with God
must take His way
Across far distances and gray
To goals that others do not see,
where others do not care to be
Who walks with God must have no fear
When danger and defeat appear
Nor stop when every hope seems gone
For God, our God, moves on
hupophero is used only 3 times in the NT. Paul from his personal experience was
able to write confidently that
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is
faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able,
but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you
may be able to
Peter encouraged the his readers being tried as by fire that
this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man
sorrows when suffering unjustly.
The Septuagint (Greek translation of Hebrew OT) uses hupophero
in Job's reply to his wife's advice to "curse God and die" (Job 2:9)
to which Job answered
"Shall we indeed accept good from God and not
accept (Sept = shall we not
- hupophero) adversity?" (Job2:10)
Paul concludes this verse by pointing out two balancing truths
concerning the proper response to persecution:
(1) PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY - "which persecutions I endured"
where "endured" as discussed above speaks of "bearing up under,"
especially in regard to a heavy load (here used figuratively). The man
of God is willing to shoulder the weight of the cross in order to follow
in Christ's footsteps (cp Mk 8:34, 35, 36, Lk 9:23, Jn 12:24).
(2) DIVINE PROTECTION - "And out of them all the Lord delivered
me." The servant of God is indestructible until his work is done as
indicated by (Re 11:5-note,
And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out
of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them.
protected Paul from physical death until he had "completely fulfilled"
No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises
against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the
servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is from Me," Says the
LORD." (Isa 54:17)
Thus we have seen the curriculum of Timothy's training program. It is
interesting to note that only 1 out of 9 "courses" involved doctrine per
se. Notice also that Timothy's discipleship training did not take place
in a walled classroom, but in the real world, in the battlefield wherein
a spiritual war is being waged for the souls of men. The training was not
costly monetarily, but it cost a man everything in
regards to his priorities and pursuits in life (cp "my...purpose"). And the proof of his
success was not in receiving a graduation certificate or some letters
after one's name,
but in the "brand-marks of Jesus" on Paul's body (Gal 6:17, cp
Gal 5:11, 2Co 1:5, 4:10, 11:23, 24, 25, Col 1:24-note).
How often we veer from "the ancient paths" (Jer 6:16, 18:15), from
Paul's template for making disciples as we give in too often to the
persuasive temptation to jettison the more radical aspects of
discipleship in favor of a more man centered,
wrote this poignant poem (who wrote from personal experiences
of her difficult life as a missionary to India - if you dare, consider
reading her powerfully convicting life story -
A Chance to Die- The Life and Legacy of Amy
Hast thou no
No hidden scar on foot, or side, or hand?
I hear thee sung as mighty in the land,
I hear them hail thy bright ascendant star:
Hast thou no scar?
Hast thou no wound?
Yet, I was wounded by the archers, spent.
Leaned me against the tree to die, and rent
By ravening beasts that compassed me, I swooned:
Hast thou no wound?
No wound? No scar?
Yes, as the master shall the servant be,
And pierced are the feet that follow Me;
But thine are whole. Can he have followed far
Who has no wound? No scar?
AND OUT OF THEM ALL THE LORD DELIVERED ME: kai ek panton me errhusato
(3SAMI) o kurios: (2Ti 4:7;17, 18 Ge 48:16; 2Sa 22:1;22:49
Job5:19-20 Ps34:19; 37:40; 91:2-6;91:14 Is41:10;41:14 43:2; Jer1:19;
Da6:27; Ac9:23-24 9:25 21:32;21:33 23:10;23:12-24 25:3;25:4 26:17;26:22
Out of them all
the Lord - What a great truth. What a great Deliverer!
delivers us out, but other times He delivers us in and through the fiery
Lord (master, owner)(2962)
from kuros = might or power) has a variety of meanings/uses in
the NT and therefore one must carefully examine the context in order to
discern which sense is intended by the NT author. For example, some
passages use kurios only as a common form of polite address with no
religious/spiritual meaning. The reader should also be aware that in
view of the fact that kurios is used over 9000 times in the
and over 700 times in the NT, this discussion of kurios at best only
"skims the surface" of this prodigious, precious word.
JESUS OUR LORD
IS ALSO OUR DELIVERER
Kurios is used of the one
to whom a person or thing belonged (Paul belonged to Jesus as does every
believer and He is responsible to attend to His possessions), about
which he has the power of deciding, the one who is the master or
disposer of a thing (Mk 7:28)
At the outset should be noted that in
the NT Jesus is referred to as Lord (Kurios) more
frequently than by any other title. Therefore it behooves us to
understand the truth concerning Jesus as Lord and not allow
ourselves to become side tracked in debate over so-called "Lordship
salvation". The indisputable Biblical facts are that faith in Jesus
saves and Jesus is Lord. This confession of "Jesus is Lord"
became a direct affront to the practice of emperor worship. Certain
cities even built temples for Caesar-worship as was the case in Smyrna
where the command was to honor the emperor by confessing "Caesar is
Lord". To declare "Jesus is Lord" became a crime punishable
by death, resulting in the martyrdom. I think the first century
believers understood "Lordship" in a way modern believers would find it
difficult to comprehend! (cp Jesus' "prophetic" warning in Mt 10:22, 23,
24, 25 where "master" is kurios)
Lord is not
merely a name that composes a title, but signifies a call to action so
that every saint should willingly, reverently bow down to Jesus Christ.
If Christ is our Lord, we are to live under Him, consciously,
continually submitting our wills to him as His loyal, loving
bondservants ("love slaves"), always seeking first His Kingdom and His
righteousness (Mt 6:33-note).
According to this practical working "definition" beloved we all need to
ask ourselves "Is Jesus Christ my Lord?". "Do I arise each day,
acknowledges this is the day the Lord hath made?" (Ps 118:24-note)
"Do I surrender my will to His will as I begin each day?" (cp Ro 12:1-note,
Beloved, don't misunderstand. None of us have "arrived" in this area of
Jesus as Lord of our lives. And it is precisely for that reason that
Peter commands us to continually "grow
in the grace (unmerited favor, power to live the supernatural, abundant
life in Christ) and knowledge (not just intellectual but
transformational) of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be
the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." (2Pe 3:18-note)
So do not be discouraged. Don't "throw in the towel" as they say. Keep
on keeping on, pressing (continually =
"on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ
Jesus." (Php 3:14-note)
Boice adds that...
Citizens of the empire were required
to burn a pinch of incense to the reigning Caesar and utter the words
Kyrios Kaisar (“Caesar is Lord!”). It is this that the early
Christians refused to do and for which they were themselves thrown to
the wild lions or crucified. It was not that Christians were forbidden
to worship God. They were free to worship any god they chose so long as
they also acknowledged Caesar. Romans were tolerant. But when Christians
denied to Caesar the allegiance that they believed belonged to the true
God only, they were executed. (Daniel: An Expositional Commentary)
The main sense of kurios is
that of a supreme one, one who is sovereign and possesses absolute
authority, absolute ownership and uncontested power.