Summary: Lesson 9
The first seven Beatitudes illustrate the spiritual journey from the time a man realizes he’s lost to the time he begins to develop signs of Christlikeness. We saw first of all that it begins with being "poor in spirit." To be "poor in spirit" means to acknowledge our total spiritual poverty before the Lord and our utter dependence upon Him. From that point, we begin to "mourn" our condition. This mourning is a deep and profound mourning as our hearts are broken before God. It is godly sorrow that leads to repentance. Our poorness of spirit and our mourning lead to meekness which is a broken will and receptive heart before God.
Next comes a hungering and thirsting after righteousness. At this point in the Beatitudes we have been made to see our deep need of a righteousness which we do not possess. It is at this point that we call out to the Lord, placing our faith and trust in Him as Lord and Saviour. What follows this initial hunger and thirst for righteousness is a continual desire for the same. The newly converted soul is no longer satisfied with what the world has to offer and begins to hunger and thirst after godly things.
Being "merciful", "pure in heart", and a peacemaker are all signs of spiritual maturity and the development of a Christlike life. What follows in verse 10 is the end result of becoming Christlike. In other words, the one who demonstrates genuine Christlikeness will be persecuted because they are a certain type of person who behaves in a certain way.
As we approach this eighth and final Beatitude, we must be extremely cautious. These verses are often misunderstood and misapplied by those who, to their way of thinking, are being unjustly and unfairly treated by those around them.
I. THE RECIPIENTS OF PERSECUTION
A. All Christians Generally
2. 1 Peter 4:12-13, 16
3. In his words to Timothy, Paul did not distinguish between laymen and ministers. And by the same token, Peter was writing to the "strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia . . ." (1 Peter 1:1), and used the word "all" in describing those who would be persecuted.
B. Ministers Particularly
1. Notice the change from "they" in verses 5-10 to "ye" and "your" in verses 11-12. In these verses, the Lord is speaking directly to His disciples.
a. Abel - Genesis 4:3-8
b. David - 1 Samuel 18:9-11
d. Daniel - Daniel 6:12-16
e. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - Daniel 3
f. Moses - Exodus 5:21,14:11, 16:2, 17:2
g. Samuel - 1 Samuel 8:5
h. Elijah - 1 Kings 18:17, 19:2
i. Micaiah - 2 Chronicles 18:7, 17
j. Nehemiah - Nehemiah 4:1-3
k. Amos - Amos 7:10-13
l. The apostles - Acts 4:1-3, 5:17-18, 12:5
m. Stephen - Acts 7
n. Paul - 2 Corinthians 11:24-28
o. This is not to mention the Lord Himself who was put to death by the people He ministered to.
3. There have been times when faithful men of God have had their ministries destroyed as well as their reputations, for simply preaching the truth.
4. It is interesting to note that throughout the Scriptures and throughout history some of the most grievous persecution against the godly came by way of the "religious" crowd. Such was the case with Jesus.
II. THE RANGE OF PERSECUTION
It is evident that the persecution experienced by Christians today is much less harsh than in the days of Christ and the apostles, but it is just a real nonetheless. God’s goodness has allowed us to escape much of the pain and suffering our forefathers were called upon to endure, but still yet the devil finds ways to make our lives uncomfortable by using those around us who do not know our God.
Persecution comes in many forms and can range from mild to severe. Verse 11 mentions 3 forms in which persecution can come. It can come:
A. Verbally "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you . . ."
1. To be reviled means to be verbally abused, insulted, scolded, or mocked.
2. The Lord was reviled (Matthew 27:39).
3. Verbal persecution can be in the form of laughter or whispering when a godly Christian enters the room, or it can be a more open and blatant form.
B. Physically "Blessed are ye when men shall . . . persecute you"
1. The worst persecutions suffered by the godly have been physical. One writer describes the persecutions that Christians have suffered in these words:
"All the world knows of the Christians who were flung to the lions or burned at the stake; but these were kindly deaths. Nero wrapped the Christians in pitch and set them alight, and used them as living torches to light his gardens. He sewed them into skins of wild animals and set his hunting dogs upon them to tear them to death. They were tortured on the rack; they were scraped with pincers; molten lead was poured hissing upon them; red hot brass plates were affixed to the tenderest parts of their bodies; eyes were torn out, parts of their bodies were cut off and roasted before their eyes; their hands and feet were burned while cold water was poured over them to lengthen the agony. These things are not pleasant to think about, but these are the things a man had to be prepared for, if he took his stand with Christ."