“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16: 33. N.I.V.)
"Some trouble is specific to the Christian believer simply because of what he stands for. But we all also share the common lot of humanity in a world out of joint. Trouble gives rise to fear - but Jesus said, ‘Fear not - for I have conquered the world’. These are strange words for One to say Who was on his way to dying on a cross. Yet it is not simply a wishful dream to sing: ‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun shall its successive journeys run’.
of war’ seem to be very much the controlling factor of the nation’s mood at the
moment. A short war in the
A Christian believer should be - as far as it depends on him - a lover of peace, a maker of peace and a preacher of peace.
The ‘front line’ has moved to every city in the world and the weapons have become even more sinister, and the attacks ever more fanatical. The believers peace is not ‘smugness’ or indifference to others, but confidence in the One Who bequeathed peace as His dying legacy to His disciples.
His disciples cried out in fear in the storm on the
- Keith Gilbert.
It is wonderfully suggestive, for us who probably stand within sight of the last persecutions under Antichrist, that the Apostle Peter wrote his Epistles to prepare his readers for the persecutions of the very Man himself - in his first advent - Nero. Dean Allord says:- “I should place the writing of Peter’s first Epistle during the later years of Nero, but before the persecution related by Tacitus broke out. The odium generis humani which justified the victimizing of the Christians, was gathering, and producing its anticipatory fruits here and there, wherever circumstances were favourable.” Exactly so we watch the same gathering hate, an identical ‘sadism’, with persecutions breaking out where possible; therefore, with a doubled preciousness we can actually hear the counsel of God on how to meet the identical persecution, given through an Apostle who himself was crucified.
never-to-be-forgotten background Peter erects as the setting for all possible
experiences of the
[*That is, in this context, those who are actively righteous - the doers of His will.]
The Apostle opens with an utterance that covers all the centuries, and all the countries, in which there has been no public persecution by the State. “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be zealous of that which is good”, or - as the Greek emphasis is, if goodness is always that at which you aim. All that a righteous government asks is honest citizenship; and Christian self-control, cleanness, uprightness - wholly apart from the Church’s spiritual intercession with God - is a tremendous civil asset, and meets all the requirements of good government.
But history is studded with the fact that governments arise who do harm the harmless; and opposition, public or private, is so general to the Christian Faith that Paul says: “All that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3: 12). So therefore, at once confronted with persecution, we at once meet its beatitude. “But and if ye should suffer for righteousness’ sake BLESSED ARE YE.” Here is a startling development. Suffering here is assumed, notwithstanding righteousness; nay, actually for righteousness - as Paul says, “I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor” (2 Tim. 2: 9); and with no deliverance by God, Peter himself had known a supernatural opening of prison doors by a liberating angel; yet his Lord had also told him of his helpless tarrying to crucifixion. And the Lord Jesus, giving the same beatitude, reveals that He Himself is the source of the trouble. “Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, FOR MY SAKE: rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven" (Matt.5: 11). As Commissioner Lamb, of the Salvation Army, has said:- “I am inclined to agree that, at the present time, there is some danger of prison becoming a reward.” So the marvellous word dawns:- “Our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4: 17). Let us never forget that it is the ages of persecution that create the loftiest thrones and the most golden crowns.
Now our first command from God appears when under persecution. “And fear not their fear, neither be troubled.” Do not yield to the terror they would inspire in you: do not be terrorized: fear only paralyzes. Nothing is impossible to a God-fortified man. “If we are convinced from the depth of our soul that the promised help of God is all-sufficient, we shall be most effectually armed against all fear” (Calvin):- God’s all-sufficient help to deliver; or equally effective help to endure. Chrysostom’s words are worthy of remembrance. “Should the Empress banish me, let her: the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof. If she cast me into the sea, let her: I remember Jonah. If she cast me into the fire, the three Hebrews were there. If she throw me to the wild beasts, Daniel was among the lions. If she stone me, I shall stand with Stephen. If she behead me, I am the Baptist. If she takes all I have - naked came I into the world, and naked leave it.”
But now comes the great central command, controlling and inspiring
all persecution. “But sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord.” The two first commands link up; as Isaiah (8: 12)
puts it:- “Neither fear ye
their fear: the Lord of hosts, him shall ye sanctify; and let him be
your fear, and let him be your dread.” It is most remarkable that Moses and Aaron
lost the Promised Land - exactly our peril - just here: “because ye sanctified me not in the
midst of the children of
An exceedingly important injunction follows, and one we are likely to find exceedingly difficult. “Being ready always to give answer” - a word often used for the ‘apology’ given when on trial in the law courts – “to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear”; the fear lest by word or conduct we misrepresent Christ. “Having a good conscience”: a good conscience turns a man into steel; what we know to be right is worth living for, and worth dying for: but more than that - one of the glorious possibilities of persecution is the conversion of the persecutors. “Everybody,” says a Russian Christian woman, “was against me except Jesus. He carried me through; and now others who once persecuted me are following Him.” Exactly so, the Roman Centurion, when he heard our Lord’s words under actual crucifixion, and especially when he saw how He died, was converted on the spot:- “When the centurion saw that he so gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15: 39).
So, therefore, the
best of all ‘apologies’ the Apostle now emphasizes. “That, wherein ye are
spoken against, they may be put to shame” - that is, proved to be liars
– “who revile your good manner of life in Christ: for
it is better, if the will of God should so will” - for it is God who
decides whether there shall be persecution or not – “that
ye suffer for well-doing than for evil doing”. Suffering can fall on us for one of two
reasons:- as chastisement for our own sins, which is
our reproach; or actually because of our goodness, which is our glory. Calumny
is refuted by our innocence. “All may not be able to
wield the sharp sword of argument, but all can wear the silver shield of
innocent lives.” The two peoples
of God at this moment bring the truth into sharp relief:-
the agony of the Jew, who said – “His blood be upon us,
and upon our children”; and the agony of persecuted Churches, which are
being stamped out for Christ. What a
difference in suffering! God says to
Peter gives our final safeguard in persecution, and the crowning reason why Christian suffering is blessed. “Because Christ also suffered.”* It must be blessed to suffer for well-doing, for our blessed Lord so suffered, and they who so suffer are made most like Him. The loftier our life, and therefore the closer our resemblance to our Lord, the more we may expect to be treated as He was. The Sinless One was the deepest sufferer: spotless in character, upright in conduct, perfect in ministry; yet the greatest sufferer of all eternity. What an honour to share His suffering: to “fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ” (Col. 1: 24). Though we can in no way share the Atonement of Christ, we can share His martyrdom; and we can say, as Latimer said to Ridley:- “By God’s grace, we shall light a candle to-day in England” - the burning of their own bodies – “which shall never be put out.”
[* Let it never be forgotten, that our Lord suffered - for speaking the truth - at the hands of His own brethren: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1: 11).]
Only in the
Almighty can there be true safety. In the early days of the Reformation a
Cardinal said to Martin Luther:- “What! Do you think
the Pope cares for the opinion of a German boor? The Pope’s little finger is stronger than all
SINKING TO RISE
Gentile monarchs “lord it over on them”. Alexander, weeping that there were no more worlds to conquer, died in debauch; Hannibal, who filled three bushels with the gold rings of slaughtered knights, perished at his own hand in exile; Caesar, who took eight hundred cities and caused a million deaths, was stabbed to death by a friend; and Napoleon, after reaching the throne of Europe over eight million corpses, died in the hands of his enemies. But it is not so among us: “But whosoever would be great among you” shall be a minister among you. It is an astounding revelation, for it carries this priceless fact that everything that lowers me, lifts me; that all that forces me down, forces me up; that every pang, every renunciation, every boycott, every indignity we suffer for Christ is measured and treasured. By deepening our characters, suffering is actually creating our thrones. So the Lord presents Himself as our Model – “For the Son of Man came to serve.” There is the path to the stars; we must do as Jesus did. He poured out God’s golden truths; He suffered with men, and for men; He led them to the Father to pardon and to grace; He sympathized and wept with them; He poured out His heart upon God’s children; He fed the hungry, healed the sick, taught the ignorant. At last He laid down His life for others. The Lord reached the heights of glory because He plumbed the depths of suffering.
- R. W. WOLFE.
AFRAID? OF WHAT?
This poem was
written by C. H. Hamilton, a missionary in Kiangsu,
after the martyrdom of J. W. Vinson in
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid - of that?
Afraid to see the Saviour's face,
To hear His welcome and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid? of what?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart,
Darkness, light, 0 Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid? Of what ?
To do by death what life could not,
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
How many things one learns - and how many are unlearned! - in  years. In  we bid you mark, with us, that “if so be that (we) may lay hold”, that “if by any means (we) may attain.” Mark it well: something to gain - or lose; an inheritance to enjoy - or forfeit; a goal to be reached - or missed; a prize to be won or lost. That “IF” is spilled over all the page of Scripture; and the Saviour has been pressing in, so hard, yet so tenderly, the implication of this “IF” in all its bearings. Almost the tiniest word – “IF”; involving almost the mightiest issues.
What a precious thing it is that some things are inviolable! Our “life is hid with CHRIST IN GOD”, and is inviolable, depending not upon us, but upon Him. To be “born from above” is to pass “from death unto life” and to come into possession of the life of the ages, which “shall never perish”. But we are called of The LORD “unto His own Kingdom and Glory”, and this reign with CHRIST is clearly forfeitable. This privileged service of the coming Age is something for which He seeks to discipline and train us here, and He shows clearly that some of His own redeemed ones “shall inherit” and “enter the Kingdom”, while others “shall not inherit” being “not fit for the Kingdom”, in a day which seems to be coming on apace. Of resurrection to meet and live with the LORD he was certain (1 Thess. 4.), but of the “out-resurrection” unto a priestly-reign with The LORD he said “not already attained, not yet laid hold” (Phil. 3.). This goal of the upward calling of GOD in, CHRIST JESUS was the purpose for which He had been laid hold of by CHRIST, and so urgent was it that he “press on-unto the prize”, the out-resurrection and the Kingdom and glory, that he counted but offal what is everything to most, and held his body in utter subjection and control, lest having preached to others he should himself be rejected.