Summary: Persecution has always been a part of following Christ. Don’t react harshly to persecution. Be filled with the Spirit. Use persecution as an opportunity to be a witness for Christ. Be obedient to God above all. Draw together with the church in prayer and fellowship to complete the mission.
Completing the Mission that Jesus Began
In Chapter 3 of Acts, Peter and John healed a crippled man. A crowd gathered and Peter and John stood and proclaimed Jesus as Messiah and God. The one that the rulers and people had demanded be crucified was the Messiah. He closed the message with an invitation to "turn from wickedness and be saved from sin."
That kind of confrontation brings hostility. But that's the kind of confrontation that God expects us to be involved in.
Read Acts 4:1-12
Persecution has always been a part of following Christ.
There are some tremendous truths that we can learn from this passage on how to handle persecution.
This chapter records the first persecution of the church and the church has continued to be persecuted over the past 2,000 years.
During the first 300 years of the church's existence there were ten major persecutions.
The first was under Nero, the sixth Emperor of Rome in A.D. 67. He had Christian sewed up in animal skins and then turned hungry dogs loose on them. He covered some with wax and attached them to trees and set them on fire to light his garden.
The Roman Emperor Domitian imprisoned Christians. Tortured them on racks, broiled them, burned them, scourged them, stoned them, and hanged them.
That was only the beginning of what the church has suffered.
So many Christians came to North America to escape persecution in Europe that it had a profound influence on the formation of this nation and its laws. The persecution of Christians has not been very prevalent in our nation until recently.
In some situations today in our country, a Christian may be in danger of losing his job or not getting a promotion if he is open about his faith and witness. Many universities do not hire faculty that have Christian beliefs. Sometimes believers are shunned by coworkers if they stand for moral biblical convictions.
Unfortunately these kinds of subtle persecution cause many Christians in our country to hide their faith.
In other parts of our world today, Christians are severely persecuted.
In Iran, the courts can impose the death sentence on men that become followers of Christ.
In 2011, 235 believers in 35 cities were arrested. Many spent weeks and months in prison, often serving long stretches in solitary confinement. They also endure interrogation and physical abuse. Yet the regime’s harsh treatment of Christians only further fuels the flames of church growth.
North Korea is believed to the worst persecutor of Christians in the world today. "Christians are treated as political prisoners and held in prison camps or concentration camps. They are detained and brutally tortured.
(From The Voice of the Martyrs)
Every night on the News you are hearing about the unrest in Egypt. The persecution of Christians is likely to increase if Islamic law takes hold.
Pray for Christians in North Korea, Iran, and Egypt that they will remain faithful to Christ in the face of persecution. Pray for religious freedom.
In one way or another, the true church will always be persecuted.
Jesus warned the church to expect persecution.
John 15:18 "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. NIV
2 Timothy 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, NIV
If you live openly for Christ in this world, you're going to be persecuted.
Whatever the price we have to pay to bring others to Christ, it's always worth it. We are in this world so that we may tell people about Jesus. That is the only reason we are here. The believer’s life is expendable for the sake of those that are lost.
Acts 4:1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. NIV
I want you to see who's involved in this persecution.
The first group were the priests who were to be representing God in the temple worship. The priests were very corrupt and were a long way from representing God.
The second person was the captain of the temple and he was the head of the temple police.
The most important group was the Sadducees.
Sadducees were a religious and political group like the Pharisees and the Zealots. All the high priests at this point were Sadducees. They were the opposition party to the Pharisees. They were very wealthy. They maintained a collaborative attitude towards Rome. They were a very small minority, but had greatly political influence in Israel.