Here we have made it to the first command at the Adult Stage or the Equip Level of disciple-making.
This passage in the Sermon on the Mount is all about persecution of the believer. The odd thing is that Jesus tells us to rejoice, and be glad (Matthew 5:12), be glad and leap for joy (Luke 6:23), and remember (John 15:20).
- Jesus was persecuted (John 5:16, 15:20) and predicted that his followers would experience the same (Matthew 23:34, Mark 10:22, Luke 11:49).
- Persecution would determine the validity of their relationship to him (Matthew 13:21, Mark 4:17).
We find persecution throughout the book of Acts (Acts 7:52, 8:1, 9:4-5, 13:50, 22:4, 7-8, 26:11, 14-15) and in the letters (Romans 8:35, 12:14, 1 Corinthians 4:12, 15:9, 2 Corinthians 4:9, 12:10, Galatians 1:13, 23, 4:29, 5:11, 6:12, Philippians 3:6, 1 Thessalonians 2:15, 2 Thessalonians 1:4, 1 Timothy 1:13, 2 Timothy 3:11-12). Peter describes suffering persecution related to a pagan world, an earthly government, a place of employment, and a marriage; whereby his aim is to urge believers to stand firm in the grace that is available for those who suffer persecution (1 Peter 1:10, 13, 2:19-20, 3:7, 4:10, 5:5, 10, 12).
In class I will tell the story of “future grace” in relation to MK’s going off to boarding school…
Read Matthew 5:10-12:
1. Why do you think the first command in the equip level or adult stage is about persecution (Matthew 5:10-12, 10:16-23, Mark 3:14)?
2. What is being emphasized by repeating the work “blessed” twice (Matthew 5:10-11, 1 Peter 4:14)?
3. What does the word “persecution” mean (Matthew 5:10)?
- To harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief,
- To annoy with persistent or urgent approaches.
4. What determines the degree of persecution that we might experience (Matthew 5:1-12, 2 Timothy 3:12)? When you desire to live a godly live in a society that embraces immorality and earthly values, EXPECT persecution. Do think it strange that bad things are happening to you (1 Peter 4:12).
5. For what should we be persecuted (Matthew 5:10, 1 Peter 4:15)?
- In Matthew 5:10, this beatitude deals with those who are persecuted, not for their own wrongdoings, but for righteousness’ sake. The kingdom of heaven is promised to those believers who suffer for doing right. Their integrity condemns the ungodly world and brings out its hostility. People hate a righteous life because it exposes their own unrighteousness.
- In Matthew 5:11, this final beatitude seems to be a repetition of the preceding one. However, there is one difference. In Matthew 5:10, the subject was persecution because of righteousness; here it is persecution for Christ’s sake. The Lord knew that His disciples would be maltreated because of their association with, and loyalty to, Him. History has confirmed this: from the outset the world has persecuted, jailed, and killed followers of Jesus.
6. What is the specific blessing that is promised to those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness (Matthew 5:10, Mark 10:29-30, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-7)?
- To suffer for Christ’s sake is a privilege that should cause joy. A great reward awaits those who become companions of the prophets in earthly troubles.
- Those OT spokesmen for God stood true in spite of persecution. All who imitate their loyal courage will share their present exhilaration and future exaltation.
7. What two forms of verbal abuse can followers of Jesus expect (Matthew 5:11)? Insults and false accusations.
- Christians were accused of cannibalism since they were instructed to eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ (John 6:53-54). It was about the Last Supper but they twisted the meaning into something evil and detestable. Christians did not sacrifice their children and eat their flesh!
- Christians were also accused of immoral practices, their meetings were said to have been orgies of lust. We know the weekly meetings were called agape feasts. Agape is the highest form of love, far from the “lust” (eros) of the pagan society. This was such a gross misinterpretation of the truth. The “kiss of peace” (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14) became the grounds of scandalous accusations.
- Christians were accused of being incendiaries. While they did talk about the coming of the end of the world, and clothed their conversations in apocalyptic language, their slanderers took these images and words and twisted them into threats of political and revolutionary upheaval. The greatest persecution was political, and the Roman Empire was pretty much the entire known world. Talk about another kingdom was not a welcomed conversation.
- Christians were accused of tampering with family relationships. Families were split regarding issues of faith and following Jesus, which divided husband and wife, parents and children, which disrupted the home. Slanderous men had plenty of material to persecute the early Christians.
8. When was Christ insulted and falsely accused?
- Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?” (Matthew 26:67-68)
- The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:19)
- They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His own garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him. (Mark 15:19-20)
9. What four steps in dealing with persecution did Jesus model for us (1 Peter 2:21-25, 4:19)? See #5 BELOW.
10. When we are persecuted, the animosity is really directed towards whom (Matthew 5:11, John 15:18-21)? “Because of ME!”
- I love the way John quotes Jesus, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 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, because of this 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; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
- Jesus is speaking to His disciples about a radical, kingdom way of life. He seems to imply that persecution is a likely result of His teaching.
11. What two commands in Matthew 5:12 describe what our attitude should be when persecuted? Rejoice and be glad.
12. What is the difference between these two commands (Matthew 5:12)? Here are Strong’s definitions…
- The Greek word for rejoice (chairo) 74 occurrences; AV translates as “rejoice” 42 times, “be glad” 14 times, “joy” five times, “hail” five times, “greeting” three times, “God speed” twice, “all hail” once, “joyfully” once, and “farewell” once. 1) to rejoice, be glad. 2) to rejoice exceedingly. 3) to be well, thrive. 4) in salutations, hail!. 5) at the beginning of letters: to give one greeting, salute.
- The Greek word for “be glad” (agalliao): 11 occurrences; AV translates as “rejoice” seven times, “be exceeding glad” once, “be glad” once, “greatly rejoice” once, and “with exceeding joy” once. 1) to exult, rejoice exceedingly, be exceeding glad.
13. What two reasons did Jesus give for maintaining right attitudes when we are persecuted (Matthew 5:12)? Your reward will be great in heaven, and the prophets before you were treated no differently.
Additional Comments of How to handle false accusations:
The Jesus movement had been fairly popular up to this point; the ministry had been fairly seeker-friendly but now disciples will face occasions that will not be so friendly (Acts 4:1-22, 5:17-42). We get a little insight into persecution from 2 Timothy 3:12.
1. Make sure the accusations against you are false. You may not be suffering for righteousness, but for your own sake, so you must sort that out. 1 Peter 4:15-16 give us guidance on the issue. Some people believe that we are suffering for sharing the gospel (because we are bold) but actually, we were rude. You will never be willing to be persecuted for a righteousness that you have never hungered and thirsted for.
2. Maintain a joyful attitude of acceptance of whatever may come due to your remaining faithful to Christ. “Blessed are those who (allow themselves to be) persecuted; (GREEK perfect passive participle) which is a continual willingness to endure the persecution. Take time on the day you are harassed to rejoice (Luke 6:23, 1 Peter 4:13, Acts 5:41). This is a disposition of inward joy, leaping (skip, jump, bubbling over), an outward unrestrained expression.
3. Anticipate a reward in heaven, for your reward will be great (Matthew 5:12, 20:21-23, 26:39, 2 Thessalonians 1:5).
4. Recognize that you are in good company, so they treated the prophets before you (Matthew 5:12), see also James 5:10, 11; 1 Peter 4:12–14.
- God’s spokesmen have always been treated badly:
- Elijah – 1 Kings 19:1-4
- Jeremiah – Jeremiah 26:8-11, 37:11-16, 38:1-6
- Daniel – Daniel 6:10-15
- Amos – Amos 7:10-13
- Zachariah – 2 Chronicles 24:20-21, 36:16
- In the NT – Acts 7:52, Hebrews 11:32-40
- Double-blessed – repeated emphasis on the generous blessing given by God to those who are persecuted (1 Peter 4:14).
- This is the first GREEK imperative (command) at the Equip Level or Adult Stage, and is the last beatitude. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand the paradox of ministry.
- Matthew 5:11 – cast insults, persecute, false accusations (on account of me). “Persecute” is to drive away, harass, unjust treatment, “say all kinds of evil against you” is to speak less of you.
- Luke 6:22 – hate you, ostracize you, cast insults, spurn your name as evil (for his sake).”Hate” is ill feeling toward us, “ostracize” is to exclude you, throw you out, “insults” means to cut you down, “spurn your name” means to smear or discredit you.
- Jesus spoke about the truth being uncomfortable in the life of unbelievers, and the world’s hatred for Christians (John 15:18-25, Matthew 10:16-26).
- Jesus spoke four commands at their commissioning service (Matthew 10:16-23):
- Behold (Matthew 10:16)
- Be shrewd (Matthew 10:16)
- Beware of men (Matthew 10:17)
- Flee (Matthew 10:23)
- Paul spoke of persecution and the proximity of ministry (2 Corinthians 6:3-10, 6:8).
5. Follow the example of Jesus (1 Peter 2:22-24)
- Step One – Check your attitude (Jesus was without sin – 1 Peter 2:22)
- Step Two – Refuse to retaliate with unkind words, Jesus blessed those who hurt him (1 Peter 2:23a, Luke 23:34, Acts 7:60).
- Step Three – Deposit the situation into God’s hands through prayer (Jesus entrusted the situation into the hands of the Father (1 Peter 2:23b)
- Step Four – Keep the goal in mind (pain with a purpose), Jesus suffered that we might be healed (1 Peter 2:24).
Check this out from Ray Comfort * regarding hecklers (The Way of the Master):
The best thing that can happen to an open-air meeting is to have a good heckler. Jesus gave us some of the greatest gems of Scripture because someone either made a statement or asked a question in an open-air setting. A good heckler can increase a crowd of 20 people to 200 in a matter of minutes. The air becomes electric. Suddenly, you have 200 people listening intently to how you will answer a heckler. All you have to do is remember the attributes of 2 Timothy 2:23–26: be patient, gentle, humble, etc.
Don’t worry if you can’t answer a question. Just say, “I can’t answer that, but I’ll try to get the answer for you if you really want to know.” With Bible “difficulties,” I regularly fall back on the powerful statement of Mark Twain: “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they don’t understand, but for me I have always noticed that the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” …
… Remember that you are not fighting against flesh and blood. Hecklers will stoop very low and be cutting and cruel in their remarks. If you have some physical disability, they will play on it. Try to smile back at them. Look past the words. If you are reviled for the name of Jesus, “rejoice, and be exceeding glad.” Read Matthew 5:10–12 until it is written on the corridors of your mind.
The most angry hecklers are usually what we call “backsliders.” These are actually false converts who never slid forward in the first place. They “asked Jesus into their heart” but never truly repented. Ask him, “Did you know the Lord?” (see Hebrews 8:11). If he answers “Yes,” then he is admitting that he is willfully denying Him, and if he answers “No,” then he was never a Christian in the first place—“This is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
* Comfort, R. (2003). The Evidence Bible: Irrefutable Evidence for the Thinking Mind, Notes (K. Cameron, Ed.). The Way of the Master Evidence Bible (1189). Orlando, FL: Bridge-Logos.
[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]