Summary: Christians who pursue honouring Christ can anticipate standing alone against the enemies of Christ. How shall the child of God react when compelled to stand alone, without even a fellow saint to stand with him or her?

“At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So, I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” [1]

Peter’s instructions concerning Christian apologetics has been often ignored, if not actually distorted. The Apostle to the Jews wrote, “In your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” [1 PETER 3:15]. His admonition is more insightful than we might imagine; the instruction to be prepared is given in the context of responding to attack against the faithful. Contemporary Christians are not anxious to speak of the challenges faced as followers of the Son of God, but it is nevertheless true that Christians can anticipate opposition and attack from those living in this dying world.

At some point, each Christian is quite likely to imagine that she or he is standing alone against attack. Often, the attack comes from powerful entities representing civic authority or business interests. The assault against the faithful seems ultimately to gravitate to the Faith which guides the believer. At other times in today’s world, the attack will come from individuals who claim to want fairness—they are intent on compelling conformity of thought so that their opinions predominate. They will have seized upon some social position, novel acceptance flaunting mores hoary with age or they will be disturbed because of the zeal with which the Christian pursues honouring God.

As disheartening as attacks may be when pressed by those identified with this dying world, the most painful attacks against worshippers of the Living God come from people with whom they have shared worship of the Master. When Christians become vicious against fellow believers, the pain is intense, almost unbearable. Physical assault and slander may be anticipated from those who are set in opposition to the Risen Lord of Glory. Recall Jesus’ words: “If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.

“When that happens, remember this: Servants don’t get better treatment than their masters. If they beat on me, they will certainly beat on you. If they did what I told them, they will do what you tell them.

“They are going to do all these things to you because of the way they treated me, because they don’t know the One who sent me. If I hadn’t come and told them all this in plain language, it wouldn’t be so bad. As it is, they have no excuse. Hate me, hate my Father—it’s all the same. If I hadn’t done what I have done among them, works no one has ever done, they wouldn’t be to blame. But they saw the God-signs and hated anyway, both me and my Father. Interesting—they have verified the truth of their own Scriptures where it is written, ‘They hated me for no good reason’” [JOHN 15:18-25, THE MESSAGE].

DESERTED BY ALL — “At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me.” The Apostle Paul was imprisoned as he wrote these words; this would be his final incarceration. Shortly, the sentence of death by sword thrust would be carried out on the old man. He had stood before Nero where he received that sentence. He had stood trial once before when the Jewish religious leaders had clamoured for his death. On that occasion, he had been released, allowing him to continue his labours for the Risen Christ for some time. Now, however, he was again imprisoned; and resulting from this trial was a sentence to death.

It was the Roman practise to permit a defendant to bring someone into court to speak for him. Perhaps Paul had asked some Christians from Rome to speak on his behalf, and they had chosen not to do so. Those whom he might have asked were gone; so, it is quite likely that he had asked some from the community of Faith to speak for him. Either they were frightened or they felt they did not know enough about Paul to speak; thus, no one spoke for him.

We do not know why the Apostle felt so lonely as he wrote this missive. He speaks of being forsaken by Demas, said to be in love with this present world [see 2 TIMOTHY 4:10]. Christians are always in danger of being seduced by this present world. Remember the warning the Apostle of Love issued: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” [1 JOHN 2:15, 16].

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