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Old and New Testament.
"Sermon on the Mount" (Bloch)
THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN PERSECUTED FOR THE SAKE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: makarioi
hoi dediogmenoi (RPPMPN) eneken dikaiosunes:
(Mt 10:23; Psalms 37:12; Mark 10:30;
Luke 6:22; 21:12; John 15:20; Acts 5:40; Acts 8:1; Romans 8:35-39;
1Corinthians 4:9-13; 2Corinthians 4:8-12,17; Philippians 1:28; 2Timothy
2:12; 2Timothy 3:11; James 1:2, 3, 4, 5; 1Peter 3:13,14; 4:12, 13, 14,
15, 16; 1John 3:12; Revelation 2:10)
George F. MacLeod wrote
“The greatest criticism of the church
today is that no one wants to persecute it because there is nothing very
much to persecute it about” (Leadership)
Vance Havner quipped that...
One of our biggest problems
today is that most of our church people have never really made up their
minds to follow Jesus Christ. They are like Mr. Looking‑both‑ways in
Pilgrim's Progress, or like Lot's wife looking back toward Sodom. They
are like the man in the Civil War who wore a blue coat and gray
trousers, and was shot at from both sides. They are like a donkey
between two bales of hay‑undecided as to which to eat. They are like the
son in our Lord's parable who said, I go, Sir" (Mt 22:30), and went not.
They receive the word with joy, but have no root nor depth and soon fall
away. They never really make up their minds, and are like the man who
was asked, "Do you have trouble making decisions?" He replied, "Yes and
Now that we have described the
character of the true believers, the citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,
we observe next the conflict that these citizens experience in this
present world. At first glance, it may seem odd that peacemakers who are
poor in spirit, who mourn, who are meek, etc, would be persecuted. What
we must remember however, lest we be discouraged when conflict comes, is
that we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the
kingdom of light. Paul explains it this way as he prays for
believers to be...
joyously giving thanks to the Father,
who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in
light. For He delivered us from the domain (right and might) of
darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in
whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (see notes
THE SERMON ON THE
Charles Simeon writes
CHRISTIANITY, to one who is not
acquainted with its real nature, must appear full of paradoxes. In the
preceding verses, we are informed what practical religion is; and, in
the parallel passage in St. Luke’s Gospel, we have the same truths yet
more plainly and explicitly declared (Lk 6:20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25,
26). Had any uninspired person avowed such sentiments, we should have
been ready to pronounce him mad: for there is scarcely any thing which
we regard with dread, but a blessing is annexed to it; or any thing
which we consider as desirable, but a woe is denounced against it: the
poor, the hungry, the weeping, the despised, are congratulated; and the
rich, the full, the laughing, and the honoured, are represented as in a
truly pitiable condition. But perhaps the greatest paradox of all is,
that persons possessed of vital Christianity should be objects of
persecution; that their piety should be the ground of that persecution;
and that they should, on this very account, be esteemed happy. But so it
is: and so it will appear (Read the entire sermon -
Matthew 5:10-12 Persecution for Righteousness'
Sake - Goto Page 75)
spiritually prosperous, independent of one's circumstances, including
even persecution! Talk about a paradox to the natural mind (cf 1Cor
for a devotional on "blessed"
This is the blessing that we would
rather not partake of. It 's the blessing no one really wants. But in
some ways it is the most striking beatitude for it is the last, the
longest, the only one associated with a command, the only one repeated
by Jesus and the only one address directly to the reader (in Mt 5:11 He
switches from the third person pronoun "those" to the second person
Sinclair Ferguson has an
interesting comment regarding persecution writing that
Is this the reverse of what we would
expect? Men and women who are poor in spirit, mourn for their sin, live
lives of gracious meekness, long for God's righteousness, show mercy to
others, are pure in heart, and seek peace between God and man – would
such people not be welcomed with open arms? After all, these are the
very men and women the world needs! The world in which we live assumes
that it will welcome Christians with open arms – until the first time it
meets the genuine article. Until then, it is ignorant of its real
response to the gospel. It assumes that it is well-disposed to Jesus
Christ and to God. (Ferguson,
Sinclair: Sermon on the Mount :Banner of Truth)
When the beatitudes make up our
character, the character of citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, we as
true believers will be persecuted for walking the radical, "narrow way"
that leads to life, in marked contrast to the broad way that leads to
destruction. (cf notes
Alexander Maclaren notes
antagonism is inevitable between a
true Christian and the world. Take the character as it is sketched in
verses preceding. Point by point it is alien from the sympathies and
habits of irreligious men. The principles are different, the practices
A true Christian ought to be a
standing rebuke to the world, an incarnate conscience.
There are but two ways of ending that antagonism: either by bringing the
world up to Christian character, or letting Christian character down to
As to practice — a righteous life
will not make a man ‘popular.’ And as for ‘opinions’ — earnest religious
opinions of any sort are distasteful. Not the profession of them, but
the reality of them — especially those which seem in any way new or
strange — make the average man angrily intolerant of an earnest
Christianity which takes its creed seriously and insists on testing
conventional life by it. Indolence, self-complacency, and inborn
conservatism join forces in resenting the presence of such inconvenient
enthusiasts, who upset everything and want to ‘ turn the world upside
The seeds of the persecuting
temper are in human nature, and they germinate in the storms which
Christianity brings with it. (Matthew
5:10 The Eighth Beatitude)
It is especially important for
Christians who are newly born into the faith to grasp the reality of
persecution early so that they do not become discouraged or
disillusioned when they are unexpectedly "blind-sided" by harsh words,
insults, rejection, etc. because they are being "radical" with this
from dío = pursue, prosecute, persecute) means to
follow or press hard after, literally to pursue as one does a fleeing
enemy. It means to chase, harass, vex and pressure and was used for
chasing down criminals. Dioko speaks of an intensity of effort
leading to a pursue with earnestness and diligence in order to lay hold
of and oppress or harass the "blessed".
See Related Resource:
Persecution - diogmos - more detailed
Persecuted (with repeated
acts of enmity - thoughts, words, deeds) is in the
which means that believers as the subject of the verb will receive the
persecution from an external source. The
perfect tense is used
which indicates a fixed attitude of the persecutors. It won't ever change
unless they are changed (from inside out, cf Acts 26:18, 2Cor 5:17). Persecutors of
the "sons of God" is their permanent condition. Jesus explained the
root problem in John 3 declaring
that the light is come into the
world (cf Jesus = John 8:12, His disciples = Mt 5:16-note), and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds
were evil for everyone who does evil hates the light, and does
not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed" (John
What does Jesus say light does
to the deeds of men who love darkness? His light in you and through
you dear citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven will expose the evil
nature of their deeds! When His "righteousness" lights up
your life...look out!...duck!...you will be persecuted by the "light
haters". But remember the truth that you are blessed, even when you don't
blessed! Feelings can be and often are deceiving in the spiritual realm.
Take your stand on the Truth of God's Word (see the passages below,
especially if you are currently undergoing suffering for His Name's
sake...if you're not now, you probably soon will be if you truly belong
The persecution can be
twofold involving on one hand a physical pursuing of the persecuted,
and/or a personal attack with words as in the form of slander (insults,
slander, hatred, spurn your name = cast it out, ostracism).
You might think well naturally the
world will persecute me. I'm light. They are darkness (Eph 5:8-note) and
therefore they hate me because the Light in me exposes their evil deeds
(cf John 3:19, 20, 21). Of course, that is true but some are caught off guard
when they are persecuted by others (especially if the "others" are
actually those in the physical church). Not everyone in the
church is a genuine believer (Mt 7:21, 22, 23-see notes
23) but are
they encounter a real, radical regenerate man or woman, who is filled
with and empowered by the Spirit of Christ, they are taken aback
and this sets the scene for persecution in one form or another. And
although it can be very subtle by religious folk, it is still very
painful (Yours truly has experienced this, once to the point it almost
made me want to withdraw from the "frontlines"!).
Think about who were the most
persistent persecutors of our Lord...the religious community, those who
knew a lot of the Word but who didn't live it because they did not
truly, intimately know the Living Word!. Times may have changed since
the first century but men's hearts have hardly changed (Jer 17:9)!
Then why are we so surprised
when the most vicious attacks come from those who are in the same
church? The first
persecutors of the new born church in Jerusalem were the "religious"
contingent. They were the very Jews who Jesus had presented Himself to
as King but who would not have Him be their King. Be careful however. I
am not suggesting you should be judgmental, but that you should be wise
as serpents and as innocent as doves. To reiterate - do not be
surprised. Persecution will come if you are growing in grace and the
knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. They persecuted Him and
when they see Him living His life through you, they will most assuredly
come after you dear saint! One other qualifying note is in order. If you
are persecuted by the religious folks in your church, first take an
inventory of your heart, your methods and your motives -- Make sure that
the persecution you are experiencing is for the sake of righteousness,
for the sake of His Name and not because of unChrist-like attitudes or
Lloyd-Jones speaks to the
persecution of genuine believers by others in the church noting...
How they (are) persecuted by nominal,
religious people! That was also the story of the Puritan Fathers. This
is the teaching of the Bible, and it has been substantiated by the
history of the Church, that the persecution may come, not from the
outside but from within. There are ideas of Christianity far removed
from the New Testament which are held by many and which cause them to
persecute those who are trying in sincerity and truth to follow the Lord
Jesus Christ along the narrow way. You may well find it in your own
personal experience. I have often been told by converts that they get
much more opposition from supposedly Christian people than they do from
the man of the world outside, who is often glad to see them changed and
wants to know something about it. Formal Christianity is often the
greatest enemy of the pure faith.
(Lloyd-Jones, D. M.
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)
elaborates on the persecution manifest by...
The curled lip, the civil scorn, the
alienation of some whose good opinion we would fain have, or, if we
stand in some public position, the poisonous slanders of the press, and
the contumacious epithets, are trivial but very real tokens of dislike.
We have the assassin’s tongue instead of the assassin’s dagger. But yet
such things may call for as much heroism as braving a rack, and the
spirit that shoots out the tongue may be as bad as the spirit that
yelled, ‘Christianos ad leones.’ (Christians to the lions) (Matthew
5:10 The Eighth Beatitude)
For the sake of (1752)
(heneka) is an adverb which means "on account of" or "because
of". Why are the "sons of God" harassed, etc? Because of "righteousness",
which is ultimately God's righteousness shining forth in and
through His "children". It is Christ in you the hope of
glory (Col 1:27-note). It's like Cain killing Abel for the sake of his
righteous sacrifice (Genesis 4). It is like David falsely accused and
chased after by King Saul. Or Daniel being thrown in jail for praying to
His Lord. And the list goes on and on. If it happened to them, it will
happen to you.
It is not suffering for
conscience’ sake, for convictions’ sake or because of the ordinary
troubles of life, “for My sake.” Note it does not say
you will be persecuted because you are obnoxious, offensive, are
inappropriately radical or overzealous, etc. Be careful not to bring
unnecessary suffering upon yourselves, for this is not pleasing to your
Father in heaven and receives no commendation.
Williams translates it...
being and doing right" (see also the Amplified Version above)
Jesus does not say because of
rude, offensive, obnoxious, crude, law breaking or lazy (including that
which sadly can be seen in Christians) behavior. Such behavior deserves
the consequence of persecution. In short, this promised blessing does
not apply to trouble one brings on themselves. It applies only if their
righteous (right in sight of God and man) lifestyle and stand for Jesus
generates opposition. To put it another way you might say that
persecution is a sign your life is right in the eyes of (God and) the
Ray Pritchard (The
Blessing No One Wants)
has an interesting quote...
Clarence Jordan observed that,
“It is difficult to be indifferent
to a wide-awake Christian.”
You can hate them or love them, but
you can’t ignore them. Wide-awake Christian confront others with the
reality of God. You can’t be neutral in such cases.
“These people must be crowned or
crucified, because they are either mighty right or mighty wrong.”
[word study] from
dikaios [word study]
= being proper or right in the
sense of being fully justified being or in accordance with what God
requires) is the quality of being upright. In its simplest sense dikaiosune
conveys the idea of conformity to a standard or norm. In this sense
righteousness is the opposite of hamartia (sin), which is defined as
missing of the mark set by God.
In this sense righteousness is
the opposite of hamartia (sin), which is defined as missing of the mark
set by God.
rightness of character before God and rightness of actions before men.
Righteousness of God could be succinctly stated as all that God is, all
that He commands, all that He demands, all that He approves, all that He
provides through (Click
to read Pastor Ray Pritchard's interesting analysis of righteousness
in the Gospel of Matthew).
“Because Kingdom citizens do what
God requires,” “because their lives are right before God,” and “because
they live as God wants people to”, the lives of God's "children"
convict (or should convict) those who are living in darkness, whether
those people belong to no church or are members of a church in "good
Sinclair Ferguson adds
Christians are persecuted for the
sake of righteousness because of their loyalty to Christ. Real loyalty
to him creates friction in the hearts of those who pay him only lip
service. Loyalty arouses their consciences, and leaves them with only
two alternatives: follow Christ, or silence him. Often their only way of
silencing Christ is by silencing his servants. Persecution, in subtle or
less subtle forms, is the result. We have already seen that the gospel
produces a lifestyle characterised by righteousness. In practice, that
means absolute integrity, whether at home, in the work place, or even at
play. But such integrity challenges the moral indifference of the world,
not least in our own age. Not to do the things 'everybody does' stirs
the world's sleepy conscience. More than that, it irritates it, and
causes annoyance and even anger. You would not think that simple honesty
could be a dangerous lifestyle, until you put it into practice on the
shop floor! For the Christian who is employed by another person,
righteousness demands that he give his employer the time and energy for
which he is paid. It means moral integrity. But how angry other
employees can be when such integrity is displayed!
Sinclair: Sermon on the Mount: Banner of Truth)
Persecution although often
surprising to the young saint (cf 1Peter 4:12-note), is to be expected by
Kingdom citizens who don't really belong to this world and such
persecution is amply testified to in the New Testament (passages are in
(Jesus warned) "Woe to you when
all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to
treat the false prophets. (Luke 6:26) (What does this warning
signify? It means that if you have never, ever experienced suffering for
the sake of righteousness or His Name's sake, then you need to examine
your profession of faith [cf 2Cor 13:5]. If Christ is in you and His
beatitudes are now your character, however imperfectly they may be
manifest, then you will at some time and to some degree be
persecuted for your righteous [not self righteous or judgmental]
lifestyle in Christ which shines light on the dark deeds of the
enemies of Christ, cf Ro 5:10-note,
Ro 8:7-note). (Beloved, persecution
is the believers birthmark and is sure proof that you are part of the
family of God.) Martyn Lloyd-Jones addresses this issue writing...
This Beatitude tests our ideas as to
what the Christian is. The Christian is like his Lord, and this is what
our Lord said about him. 'Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well
of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets' (Luke 6:26).
And yet is not our idea of what we call the perfect Christian nearly
always that he is a nice, popular man who never offends anybody, and is
so easy to get on with? But if this Beatitude is true, that is not
the real Christian, because the real Christian is a man who is
not praised by everybody. They did not praise our Lord, and they
will never praise the man who is like Him. 'Woe unto you, when
all men shall speak well of you!' That is what they did to the false
prophets; they did not do that to Christ Himself. So I draw my
next deduction. It concerns the natural, unregenerate man, and it is
this. The natural mind, as Paul says, 'is enmity against God. (Ro
8:7-note) Though he talks about God, he really hates God (Ro
5:10-note). And when
the Son of God came on earth he hated and crucified Him (John 15:8, 9, 10).
And that is the attitude of the world towards Him now. This leads to the
last deduction, which is that the new birth is an absolute necessity
before anybody can become a Christian. To be Christian, ultimately, is
to be like Christ; and one can never be like Christ without being
entirely changed. We must get rid of the old nature that hates Christ
and hates righteousness; we need a new nature that will love these
things and love Him and thus become like Him. If you try to imitate
Christ the world will praise you; if you become Christlike it will hate
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)
Only conduct yourselves in a
manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see
you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in
one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for
them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. For to you it
has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also
to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in
me, and now hear to be in me. (Note that that the gift of faith in
Christ Jesus and the gift of suffering come together. When you are
persecuted, and you will be when you walk worthy of the gospel,
remember... do not be alarmed - the Greek word pictures a frightened
horse shying away on the battlefield. Don't be ''startled''! In contrast
when we are not startled by their opposition, it is a sure sign that we
are saved! You realize that you have a home in heaven. So even if God
permits them to take your life, He is simply saying, "It's time to come
on Home, My child." This attitude will alarm your opponents, for when
they see you standing firm without being startled, it is a sign they are
doomed to eternal destruction. Why is this the case? Because if they
were being faced with the very persecution or threats they are giving
you, they would be "scarred stiff"! In short, you have given your
opponents a profound, piercing testimony of the reality of your faith.) (Php
1:27, 28, 29, 30-see notes on
(See discussion questions
"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, therefore 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. (John 15:18-20)
And indeed, all who desire to live
godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2Ti 3:12-note)
(Note how many will be persecuted. All. No exceptions. Note also the
Source of such a persecuted life - in Christ Jesus, i.e., those who
abide in the Vine for apart from Him we can do absolutely nothing, Jn
15:5. If we live what we think is "godly" in our own strength, we won't
necessarily be persecuted, for Christ's enemies won't see Him and He is
the One they hate and seek to denigrate and discredit)
Therefore do not be ashamed of the
testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in
suffering for the gospel according to the power of God (2Ti 1:8-note)
(Note how it is one is enabled to not be ashamed and to suffer - the
power of God)
The Spirit Himself bears witness with
our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also,
heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed (the "if" in
Greek means "since" and speaks of a certainty not a possibility!) we suffer with Him
in order that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the
glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:16-18) (What is the
mark of a child of God? Suffering with Christ. What is our motivation?
future glory which far outweighs the present suffering, cf 2Cor
4:16, 17, 18. And so we we see that present suffering has purpose in
preparing us for future glory by removing the dross from our lives. 1Pe
1 Peter 1:6,
For this finds favor, if for the sake
of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering
unjustly. For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly
treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right
and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered
for you, leaving you an example (hupogrammos = literally to
"write under" was used of a copybook of letters the pupil would look at
to write out or trace out their letters) for you to follow in His steps, WHO
COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being
reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no
threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to
sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For
you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to
the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls. (1Pe 2:18, 19, 20, 21, 22,
23, 24, 25-see notes
(What happens when we "die to sin and live to righteousness" no longer
"continually straying like sheep"? We will suffer unjustly
(which is the kind of suffering which finds favor with God), especially
by those with whom we once "strayed like sheep." What are we to do? Bear
up, patiently endure, realize we were called to suffer unjustly, follow
our Lord's example, don't revile in return, don't utter threats when
suffering, refraining because we trust God's righteous judgment will one
day be meted out to our persecutors).
But even if you should suffer for the
sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR
INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED, but sanctify Christ as Lord in
your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks
you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness
and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which
you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be
put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you
suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.
1 Peter 3:14;
Beloved, do not be surprised at
the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as
though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that
you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at
the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are
reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of
glory and of God rests upon you. By no means let any of you suffer as a
murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone
suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let
him glorify God. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household
of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for
those who do not obey the gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY
THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE
SINNER? Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of
God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
1 Peter 4:12;
But you might be saying "I've never
experienced persecution like these verses are describing"...Alexander
Maclaren addresses this noting that...
The great reason why professing
Christians now know so little about persecution is because there is so
little real antagonism. ‘If ye were of the world, the world would love
his own.’ The Church has leavened the world, but the world has also
leavened the Church; and it seems agreed by common consent that there is
to be no fanatical goodness of the early primitive pattern. Of course,
then, there will be no persecution, where religion goes in silver
slippers, and you find Christian men running neck and neck with others,
and no man can tell which is which. Then, again, many escape by avoiding
plain Christian duty, shutting themselves up in their own little
Be aware of some who might try to
diminish the import of Jesus' promise of persecution for Kingdom
citizens in this present world. For example, the Expositor's Bible
Commentary notes that...
Lachs (pp. 101-3) cannot believe
Christians were ever persecuted because of righteousness; so he repoints
an alleged underlying Hebrew text to read "because of the Righteous
One"-a reference to Jesus. But he underestimates how offensive genuine
righteousness, "proper conduct before God" (Przybylski, p. 99), really
is (cf. Isa 51:7).
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament.
FOR THEIRS IS
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: hoti auton estin (3SPAI) e basileia ton ouranon: (Mt
5:3; 2Thes 1:4, 5, 6, 7; James 1:12)
Theirs is emphatic so it means
theirs and theirs alone.
Spurgeon writes that...
They are often evil spoken of,
they have sometimes to suffer the spoiling of their goods, many of them
have laid down their lives for Christ’s sake, but they are truly
blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Is is in the
which indicates that this is their continual possession. Kingdom
citizens have already – here and now – entered into their Lord's
Kingdom. Yes, it is a Kingdom that is yet to be consummated and to
be revealed in its final glory. Indeed, we all wait expectantly for
the seventh angel (to sound);
and there (to arise) loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the
world has become the
kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and
ever (see note
But to an extent in a very real
sense, all the blessings that are expected in the future Kingdom are
already being experienced now by citizens of the Kingdom. They will just
be higher and purer and more glorious in the ages to come.
The Greek construction indicates once
again (as in all of the beatitudes) that this Kingdom belongs to them
and to them alone! No usurpers or counterfeits will infiltrate this
Sinclair Ferguson illustrates
the point that Christians have the Kingdom of Heaven now, telling the
story of Izaak Walton, writer (best known as the author of the
seventeenth-century fishing manual, The Compleat Angler) who wrote the
following description of one of his great Christian contemporaries,
Of this blest man,
Let this just praise be given:
Heaven was in him
Before he was in heaven.
Observe also that the same
blessing kingdom of heaven begins and ends the eight
beatitudes and thus signals the beginning and the end of this section, a
literary device known as “inclusion”. The Beatitudes are a
"package deal" so to speak. Clearly our King intends for the be attitudes to be understood as a unit and not as separate
characteristics. In other words, all Kingdom citizens possess all these
characteristics, albeit varying in the degree of development in each
individual. These characteristics are not ancillary but mandatory. In
other words, the eight Beatitudes are the attributes of the child of
God, a character which inevitably bring a conflict. But
the conflict becomes the very assurance that our salvation is genuine!
And so we can rejoice now as well as later in heaven.
(basileia from basileus = a sovereign, king, monarch)
denotes sovereignty, royal power, dominion and refers therefore to the
territory or people over whom a king rules. The Kingdom of Heaven/God is
the sphere in which God is acknowledged as King (In hearts that have
bowed in faith in Christ and now give Him obedience albeit not perfectly
in this world but perfect in the one to come). In this sense the Kingdom
has a spiritual aspect, a present physical aspect, and a future eternal
aspect (beginning with the
cf Mt 25:31,34), all of course depending on the context of the passage
in which basileia is found. Paul is careful to remind us that the
Kingdom of Heaven/God is not in observance of ordinances, external and
material, but in the deeper matters of the heart, which are spiritual
and essential (Ro 14:17-note)
The Kingdom is the rule or
reign of God and Jesus the King and so is the expression of His gracious
sovereign will. To belong to the Kingdom of Heaven is to belong to the
King as subjects with others men and women among whom the reign of
Christ has begun and who are eagerly awaiting His return and
establishment of His literal earthly kingdom.
On a practical note,
believers now live in the Kingdom of light, not the "Kingdom of this
world" (Re 11'15-note) and this is why the battle you are currently
experiencing dear saint is far fiercer than anything you knew before you
became a citizen of Christ's Kingdom (which is here and paradoxically is
yet to come). How mistaken saints are when they assume that since they
are now believers, everything should be simpler, easier, less demanding.
How could that be when we have entered into a Kingdom that is alien to
the world (cf 1Pe 1:1, 2:11-see notes
1 Peter 1:1,
2:11) in which we now temporarily reside and
the life we used to live? If our King was tested, tempted, opposed,
rejected and eventually crucified by the kingdom of this world, should
it surprise us that belonging to His Kingdom of light would involve us
in a struggle of titanic proportions? And not only the external forces
are arrayed against us, but we also have to fight the continual battle
within as well, as our own fallen flesh nature seeks to take us down and
draw us back into the kingdom of darkness. You know full well what I am
referring to! We all sadly carry into the new glorious Kingdom of Christ
some of the baggage of habits and ways of thinking of the old kingdom
life. And it can (and usually is) a monumental struggle for us to be rid
Alexander Maclaren writes
The ‘kingdom of heaven’ is the
rule of God through Christ. It is present wherever wills bow to Him. It
is future, as to complete realisation, in the heaven from which it
comes, and to which, like its King, it belongs even while on earth.
Obviously, its subjects can only be those who feel their dependence, and
in poverty of spirit have cast off self-will and self-reliance. ‘Theirs
is the kingdom’ does not mean ‘they shall rule,’ but ‘of them shall
be its subjects.’ True, they shall rule in the perfected form of it; but
the first, and in a real sense the only, blessedness is to obey God; and
that blessedness can only come when we have learned poverty of spirit,
because we see ourselves as in need of all things. (entire
to study over 100 uses of the "Kingdom" most of which refer to
the Kingdom of Heaven/God.
See also related discussion on
the Kingdom of Heaven
(ouranos, from oros = hill and so the idea of elevation) is where
God lives. The concept was that there were 3 heavens, the first heaven =
the atmosphere, the second heaven = outer space and the third heaven =
God’s abode (cf 2Co 12:2-4
for more discussion of
The Third Heaven). In the present context Jesus is not
referring so much to the place (heaven) but the One Who is there and so
the term is synonymous with "kingdom of God", a term which would be less
acceptable to the Jewish listeners (and readers of Matthew's gospel) as
the Jews strictly avoided pronouncing the name "God".
Maclaren speaks of the twofold
fulfillment of the blessing of the "kingdom of heaven" writing that...
There is a present recompense.
Persecution is the result of a character which brings Christians into
the kingdom. Theirs is the kingdom — they are subjects. To them it is
given to enter. Persecution makes the present consciousness of the
possession of the kingdom more vivid and joyous. It brings the enforced
sense of a vocation separate from the hostile world’s. As Thomas Fuller
puts it somewhere, in troublous times the Church builds high, just as
the men do in cities where there is little room to expand on the ground
Persecution brightens and solidifies hope, and thus may become
infinitely sweet and blessed. How often it has been given to the martyr,
as it was given to Stephen, to see heaven opened and Jesus standing at
the right hand of God, as if risen to His feet to uphold as well as to
receive His servant. Paul and Silas made the prison walls ring with
their praises, though their backs were livid with wales and stained with
blood. And we, in our far smaller trials for Christ’s sake, may have the
same more conscious possession of the kingdom and brightened hope of yet
fuller possession of it.
There is a future recompense in the perfect kingdom, where men are
rewarded according to their capacities. And if the way in which we
have met the world’s evil has been right, then that will have
us fit for a fuller possession. In closing we recur to the thought of
all these Beatitudes as a chain and the beginning of all as being
penitence and faith. Many a poor man, or many a little child, may have a
higher place in heaven than some who have died at the stake for their
Lord, for not our history, but our character, determines our place
there, and all the fulness of the kingdom belongs to every one who with
penitent heart comes to God in Christ, and then by slow degrees from
that root brings forth first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn
in the ear. (Matthew
5:10 The Eighth Beatitude)
><> ><> ><>
Persecution"...Persecution, even martyrdom, has been the cost of discipleship for
Christians down through the centuries. In many lands believers still
suffer imprisonment and death for their uncompromising devotion to their
Savior. Even in nations that have religious freedom, a person with a
bold witness for the Lord may become the target of ridicule.
When we experience hardship because of our Christian commitment, no
verse of Scripture is more comforting than the beatitude spoken by our
Savior, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 5:10).
At one time in his life, British preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon was so
intensely criticized that he became deeply depressed. So his wife
printed that beatitude along with the other seven on a large sheet of
paper and placed it above their bed. The first thing Spurgeon saw in the
morning and the last thing he read at night was our Savior's glorious
Are you discouraged because you are suffering for your Christian
testimony? The antidote is this one sustaining promise: "Blessed are
those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake." --V C Grounds
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
consecrated cross I'll bear
Till death shall set me free,
And then go home, my crown to wear,
For there's a crown for me. --Shepherd
live for God,
you can expect trouble from the world.
"Blessed are you
insult you and
persecute you, and
because of Me.
Amplified: Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with
life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of
your outward conditions) are you when people revile you and persecute
you and say all kinds of evil things against you falsely on My
Bible - Lockman)
KJV: Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and
shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
NLT: "God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about
because you are my followers. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Philips: "And what happiness
will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all
kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake!
Testament in Modern English)
prosperous are you whenever they shall revile you and persecute you
and say every pernicious thing against you, speaking deliberate
falsehoods on account of me. (Wuest:
Expanded Translation: Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: 'Happy are ye whenever they may reproach you, and may persecute,
and may say any evil thing against you falsely for my sake--
YOU WHEN PEOPLE INSULT YOU, AND PERSECUTE YOU: makarioi este (2PPAI)
hotan oneidisosin (3PAAS) humas:
10:25; 27:39; Psalms 35:11; Isaiah 66:5; Luke 7:33,34; John 9:28; 1Peter
makarios [word study])
spiritually prosperous, happy, independent of the insults and aspersions
thrown at you because this blissful state is bestowed by God.
In the face of persecution, Jesus’
promise is stated as a reality here and now which explains His shift to
the second person plural (all of you) pronoun you. You, you who
are listening and you who are reading. You are persecuted
but you are blessed.
(hotan) refers to an indefinite point or points of time which may
be roughly simultaneous to or overlap with another point of time and so
means on those occasions, at those times when, whenever, or as often as.
[word study] from óneidos =
disgrace, abuse, or object of disgrace or shame) means to assail with
abusive words, upbraid (), slander, revile, falsely accuse or to speak disparagingly
of a person in manner not justified, to find fault in a way that demeans
the other, to mock, to heap insults upon as a way of shaming. The idea
is to to find fault in a way that demeans the one being
reproached. It means to upbraid, which in turn means to criticize
severely, find fault with, reproach severely or scold vehemently.
In the Psalms (see Lxx uses of
oneidizo below) enemies revile God, Israel, the righteous, etc.
There is an use of oneidizo
in which one justifiably lays a charge on someone else (see below -
Jesus reproached cities, His own disciples)
Oneidizo “to cast
into the teeth,” as in “hurling an insult.” It means that Christians can
expect to be made the butt of public jokes and open ridicule.
Oneidizo refers to
especially strong verbal abuse which is interesting because the Jewish
culture at that time considered verbal abuse to be extremely vicious.
The Jewish rabbis even considered reviling to be as evil as idolatry,
fornication, and bloodshed all combined! Why so serious? Because by the
defamation of one's character the victim would lose his or her place in
the community and, according to the circumstance of that day, almost the
possibility of continuing their life. The insulting word itself was
believed to have a power of its own.
Oneidizo can be translated “say
evil about”, “say you are bad”. In West Africa there is an idiom, “to
spoil your name” which is very appropriate in this context.
Here are the 9 uses of oneidizo in
Matthew 5:11 "Blessed
are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you,
and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.
Matthew 11:20 Then He began to
reproach the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because
they did not repent.
Matthew 27:44 And the robbers also
who had been crucified with Him were casting the same insult at Him.
Mark 15:32 "Let this Christ, the King
of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and
believe!" And those who were crucified with Him were casting the same
insult at Him.
Mark 16:14 And afterward He appeared
to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table; and He
reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they
had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen.
Luke 6:22 "Blessed are you when men
hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your
name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.
For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, "The
reproaches of those who reproached Thee fell upon Me." (Comment:
Paul is holding up Christ as the perfect model of unselfishness.)
James 1:5 But if any of you lacks
wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without
reproach, and it will be given to him.
1 Peter 4:14 (note)
If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed,
because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
There are 40 uses in the OT,
(Jdg. 5:18; 8:15; 1 Sam. 17:10, 36, 45; 2 Sam. 21:21; 23:9; 2 Ki. 19:4,
16, 22f; 1 Chr. 20:7; 2 Chr. 32:17; Neh. 6:13; Ps. 35:7; 42:10; 44:16;
55:12; 69:9; 74:10, 18; 79:12; 89:51; 102:8; 119:42; Prov. 20:4; 25:8,
10; Isa. 27:8; 37:4, 6, 17, 23f; 43:12; 54:4; 65:7; Jer. 15:9; Zeph.
2:8, 10). Study the following sampling of the LXX uses of
oneidizo and note who received the reproaches.
Judges 5:18 "Zebulun was a
people who despised (Hebrew = charaph = to reproach, taunt; Lxx =
oneidizo) their lives even to death, And Naphtali also, on the high
places of the field.
1 Samuel 17:10 Again the
Philistine (Goliath) said, "I defy (Hebrew = charaph = to
reproach, taunt; Lxx = oneidizo) the ranks of Israel this day; give me a
man that we may fight together."
1 Samuel 17:36 "Your servant
has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine
will be like one of them, since he has taunted (Hebrew = charaph
= to reproach, taunt; Lxx = oneidizo) the armies of the living God."
Nehemiah 6:13 He (Shemaiah the
son of Delaiah) was hired (Nehemiah's mortal enemies Tobiah and
Sanballat had hired him) for this reason, that I might become frightened
and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in
order that they could reproach (Hebrew = charaph = to reproach,
taunt; Lxx = oneidizo) me.
Psalm 42:10 As a shattering of
my bones, my adversaries revile (Hebrew = charaph = to reproach,
taunt; Lxx = oneidizo) me, While they say to me all day
long, "Where is your God?" (Spurgeon's
note = Cruel mockeries cut
deeper than the flesh, they reach the soul as though a rapier were
introduced between the ribs to prick the heart. If reproaches kill not,
yet they are killing, the pain caused is excruciating. The tongue cuts
to the bone, and its wounds are hard to cure. While they say daily unto
me, Where is thy God? This is the most unkind cut of all, reflecting as
it does both upon the Lord's faithfulness and His servant's character.
Such was the malice of David's foes, that having thought of the cruel
question, they said it, said it daily, repeated it to him, and that for
a length, of time; surely the continual yapping of these curs at his
heel was enough to madden him, and perhaps would have done so had he not
resorted to prayer and made the persecutions of his enemies a plea with
Psalm 69:9 For zeal for Thy
house has consumed me (quoted by Jesus in John 2:14, by Paul in
Romans 15:3), And the
(Lxx = noun = oneidismos related to verb oneidizo = unjustifiable verbal
abuse and/or insults) of those who reproach (Hebrew = charaph =
to reproach, taunt; Lxx = oneidizo in the
= continually) Thee have fallen on me. (Spurgeon's
note - Those who
habitually blaspheme God now curse me instead. I have become the butt
for arrows intended for the Lord Himself. Thus the Great Mediator [THE
MESSIAH] was, in this respect, a Substitute for God as well as for man,
He bore the reproaches aimed at the one, as well as the sins committed
by the other.)
Psalm 74:10 How long, O God,
will the adversary revile (Hebrew = charaph = to reproach, taunt;
Lxx = oneidizo), And the enemy spurn Thy name forever? (Spurgeon's
note = O God, how long
shall the adversary reproach? Though we know not how long yet thou dost.
The times and seasons are with thee. When God is reproached, there is
hope for us, for it may be He will hearken and avenge His dishonoured
name. Wickedness has great license allowed it, and justice lingers on
the road; God has His reasons for delay, and His seasons for action, and
in the end it shall be seen that He is not slack concerning His promise
as some men count slackness.)
Psalm 74:18 Remember this, O
LORD, that the enemy has reviled (Hebrew = charaph = to reproach,
taunt; Lxx = oneidizo); And a foolish people has spurned Thy name. (Spurgeon's
note = Against thee, the
ever glorious Maker of all things, have they spoken, Thine honour have
they assailed, and defied even Thee. This is forcible pleading indeed,
and reminds us of Moses and Hezekiah in their intercessions: "What wilt
thou do unto thy great name?" "It may be that the Lord thy God will hear
the words of Rabshakeh, who hath reproached the living God." Jehovah is
a jealous God, and will surely glorify His own Name; here our hope finds
Psalm 102:8 My enemies have
reproached (Hebrew = charaph = to reproach, taunt; Lxx = oneidizo),
me all day long; Those who deride me have used my name as a curse. (Spurgeon's
note = Their rage was
unrelenting and unceasing, and vented itself in taunts and insults, the
Psalmist's patriotism and his griefs were both made the subjects of
their sport. Pointing to the sad estate of his people they would ask
him, "Where is your God?" and exult over him because their false gods
were in the ascendant. Reproach cuts like a razor, and when it is
continued from hour to hour, and repeated all the day and every day, it
makes life itself undesirable. They were so furious that they bound
themselves by oath to destroy him, and used his name as their usual
execration, a word to curse by, the synonym of abhorrence and contempt.
What with inward sorrows and outward persecutions he was in as ill a
plight as may well be conceived.)
Psalm 119:42 So I shall have
an answer for him who reproaches (Hebrew = charaph = to reproach,
taunt; Lxx = oneidizo in the
= continually) me, For I trust (Hebrew = batach = have confidence in;
Lxx = elpizo = to hope, in the sense of counting on!) in Thy word.
Comment: A Scriptural antidote
you can "pick up" like a shield to defend your mind from the fiery
missiles of the evil one.
note = So shall I have
wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me. This is an unanswerable
answer. When God, by granting us salvation, gives to our prayers an
answer of peace, we are ready at once to answer the objections of the
infidel, the quibbles of the skeptical, and the sneers of the
contemptuous. It is most desirable that revilers should be answered, and
hence we may expect the Lord to save his people in order that a weapon
may be put into their hands with which to rout his adversaries. When
those who reproach us are also reproaching God, we may ask him to help
us to silence them by sure proofs of his mercy and faithfulness.
For I trust in thy word. His faith was seen by his being trustful while
under trial, and he pleads it as a reason why he should be helped to
beat back reproaches by a happy experience. Faith is our argument when
we seek mercies and salvation; faith in the Lord who has spoken to us in
his word. "I trust in thy word" is a declaration more worth the making
than any other; for he who can truly make it has received power to
become a child of God, and so to be the heir of unnumbered mercies. God
hath more respect to a man's trust than to all else that is in him; for
the Lord hath chosen faith to be the hand into which he will place his
mercies and his salvation. If any reproach us for trusting in God, we
reply to them with arguments the most conclusive when we show that God
has kept his promises, heard our prayers, and supplied our needs. Even
the most sceptical are forced to bow before the logic of facts.
In this second verse of this eight the Psalmist makes a confession of
faith, and a declaration of his belief and experience. Note that he does
the same in the corresponding verses of the sections which follow. See
notes on the following psalms
Psalms 119:50 , "Thy word hath
Ps 119:58 , "I entreated thy
Psalms 119:66 , "I have believed
Ps 119:74, "I have hoped in thy
word." A wise preacher might find in these a series of experimental
(dioko from dío = pursue, prosecute, persecute) means to
follow or press hard after. Dioko speaks of an intensity of
effort leading to a pursue with earnestness and diligence in order to
lay hold of and oppress or harass the "blessed".
Lloyd-Jones emphasizes why
citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven are persecuted writing that it is...
Because he is fundamentally
different, and the non-Christian recognizes this. The Christian is not
just like everybody else with a slight difference. He is essentially
different; he has a different nature and he is a different man.
(Lloyd-Jones, D. M.
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount)
Persecuted, tortured for Christ's
sake...it congers up images of holy men tied to stakes with flames
arising all around them, of men tied to poles and dunked beneath the
water to be drowned, of men brought out to fight and die at the hands of
hungry lions before blood thirsty Roman crowds, of men forced to starved
and literally forced to eat refuge unless they deny Christ, of men
thrown into prison for years and years in China simply for preaching the
gospel...and the beat goes on. What about today, surely nothing like
these things is happening is it? Unquestionably and it may be
worse than we can imagine. If you don't believe it go to the following
The Voice of the Martyrs.
Or go to Google and type in the words voice of the martyrs news
(don't put it in quotes) and click some of the links that you retrieve
to read about imprisonments, beatings, and murder of men and women who
are willing to live and die for the sake of Christ and His
righteousness. We often hear Christian leaders warn that these events
are not that far away from us in post-Christian America.
What happened to the early church
leaders? Some are recorded in Scripture but most of the following are
from extra-biblical sources...
Matthew--Slain by the sword
James the Less--Stoned to death
Matthias--Stoned, then beheaded
Andrew--Crucified, left hanging on the cross for three days
Peter--Crucified upside down
Paul--Beheaded by Nero in Rome
Bartholomew--Beaten to death with clubs
Thomas--Speared to death
Simon the Zealot--Crucified
John--Exiled to Patmos; died a prisoner
Whether the specific details are
accurate does not detract from the real and present reality of
persecution for as Jesus stated...
"These things (John 14-16) I have
spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have
tribulation (originally crushing beneath a weight) but take courage;
I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
I like (maybe that's not the right
word) what C H Spurgeon said...
''You set your heart aflame with the
Word of God and man shall come and watch you burn.''
The famous German martyr
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote the following from his Flossenberg prison
cell in 1937...
Suffering… is the badge of the true
Christian. The disciple is not above his master.… Luther reckoned
suffering among the marks of the true church, and one of the memoranda
drawn up in preparation for the Augsburg Confession similarly defines
the church as the community of those “who are persecuted and martyred
for the gospel’s sake.”… Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering
Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should
be called upon to suffer. (Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
In a parallel passage in Luke, Jesus adds hatred, ostracism
and spurning declaring...
"Blessed are you when men hate (dislike you strongly with the
implication of aversion and hostility and usually implying active ill
will in words and conduct) you, and ostracize (literally mark of
or set off by a boundary and so remove one from association, exclude)
you, and cast insults (oneidizo
= same word in Mt 5:11) at
you, and spurn your name (literally cast out or throw out your
name) as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. (Luke 6:22)
AND FALSELY SAY ALL KINDS
OF EVIL AGAINST YOU: kai diochosin (3PAAS) kai eiposin (3PAAS) pan
poneron kath' humon [pseudomenoi] (PMPMPN) eneken hemou:(1Peter
They curl their lip and with
disdainfully call you a...
“Bible thumping bigot”
"fanatical Jesus freak"
I'm sure if you've walked worthy
of the gospel of Christ for any length of time, you could add to the
list of evil things opponents of Christ have hurled at your character.
We probably couldn't even print many of them for they are so evil. By
the way, as emphasized elsewhere in this discussion, although Jesus is
calling us to be radical, He is not calling for us to be fanatical to
the point of being obnoxious, bizarre, weird or repulsive. He is calling
on us to manifest the seven "be attitudes" and that is guaranteed
to bring trouble and all kinds of insulting names.
Spurgeon qualifies this
beatitude writing that...
it must be said falsely, and it
must be for Christ’s sake, if you are to be blessed; but there is no
blessing in having evil spoken of you truthfully, or in having it spoken
of you falsely because of some bitterness in your own spirit.
(poneros from pónos = sorrow, pain) refers to evil in
active opposition to good and which is actively harmful or hurtful. Not
surprisingly Satan is referred to as the "ho poneros" which is
literally "the evil one".
All kinds of evil means
that unbelievers will tell deliberate lies about us. It also means there
is no limit on the kinds of slander and falsehood we will have to
endure. We live in an age where the ridicule of blacks is forbidden
(rightly so), where anti-Semitism is punishable by political death
(rightly so), but where Christian-bashing is a popular indoor sport; and
films mocking Jesus Christ are considered avant-garde! After all who
controls Hollywood and the film industry!
(pseudomai related to pseudo = to cheat, defraud, falsify)
means to utter an untruth, to attempt to deceive by falsehood, to lie or
to speak falsely or deceitfully.
Note that some manuscripts do not have
pseudomai, as they feel it was a scribal addition. Irregardless, it does
explain the true meaning of the text and is retained by many trustworthy
translations such as NAS, KJV,
NIV, NET, et al
Oswald Chambers comments
When you begin to deport
yourself amongst men as a saint, they will leave you absolutely alone,
you will be reviled and persecuted. No man can stand that unless he is
in love with Jesus Christ; he cannot do it for a conviction or a creed,
but he can do it for a Being Whom he loves. Devotion to a Person is the
only thing that tells; devotion to death to a Person, not devotion to
a creed or a doctrine.
(Chambers, O. Studies in the sermon on the mount. Hants UK: Marshall,
Morgan & Scott)
ON ACCOUNT OF
ME (BECAUSE OF ME): heneken emou: (Mt
10:18,22,39; 19:29; 24:9; Psalms 44:22; Mark 4:17; 8:35; 13:9,13; Luke
6:22; 9:24; 21:12,17; John 15:21; Acts 9:16; Romans 8:36; 1Corinthians
4:10; 2Corinthians 4:11; Revelation 2:3)
On account of (1752)
(heneka) is an adverb in the previous verse translated in the NAS
"for the sake" explaining why evil, injurious, hateful things are being
said of the "sons of God". This confirms that the
righteousness of life that causes the persecution in Mt 5:10 is
synonymous with the Christ life or a righteous lifestyle in conformity
to that of Christ and empowered by His Spirit.
D A Carson brings pointedly
adds that this Christ like lifestyle...
so identifies the disciple of Jesus
with the practice of Jesus' righteousness that there is no place for
professed allegiance to Jesus that is not full of righteousness"
(Carson, Sermon on the Mount, p. 28). (Carson,
D A: Sermon on the Mount: An Evangelical Exposition of Matthew 5-7:
1982, Baker Pub Group)
I love how Alexander Maclaren
challenges all Kingdom citizens declaring that...
A true Christian ought to be a
standing rebuke to the world, an incarnate conscience.
So what are we to do as citizens
of the Kingdom of heaven? We must live out the Christ life in the
real world manifesting the seven character qualities Jesus has outlined
(poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry for righteous living, merciful,
pure in heart, peacemaking). This will present an indelible mark that
you are a follower of Christ. Everyone will know. Not everyone will like
it, but no one will be able to deny this mark. Don't worry about seeking
persecution. It will seek you! And you won't have to "stir up trouble"
to incite persecution. Living like Jesus will give you all the
persecution you can handle and then some! There will be times when you
as a good soldier of Christ Jesus, you are called to stand up for
what is right in opposition to that which is evil. Martin Luther put it
If I declare with loudest voice and
clearest exposition every portion of God’s truth except that one little
bit which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not
confessing Christ no matter how boldly I may be professing Christ. For
the soldier to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight
and disgrace if he flinches at that single point.
When they use the name above all
names as a curse word or in a joke, it's time to (poor in spirit, in
meekness and mercy) speak up or maybe to make your statement by turning
and walking away. Why? Because if you don't speak up in gentleness and
reverence, who will?
Chrysostom in his homily on
Matthew 5 writes that...
Then, lest thou shouldest
imagine peace in all cases a blessing (Mt 5:9), He hath added, “Blessed
are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.”...“Blessed are
ye, when men shall revile you and persecute you, and say all manner of
evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad.”
As if He said, “Though they should call you sorcerers, deceivers,
pestilent persons, or whatever else, blessed are ye”: so He speaks. What
could be newer than these injunctions? wherein the very things which all
others avoid, these He declares to be desirable; I mean, being poor,
mourning, persecution, evil report. But yet He both affirmed this, and
convinced not two, nor ten, nor twenty, nor an hundred, nor a thousand
men, but the whole world. And hearing things so grievous and galling, so
contrary to the accustomed ways of men, the multitudes “were
astonished.” So great was the power of Him who spake.
However, lest thou shouldest think that the mere fact of being evil
spoken of makes men blessed, He hath set two limitations; when it is for
His sake, and when the things that are said are false: for without
these, he who is evil spoken of, so far from being blessed, is
Then see the prize again: “Because your reward is great in heaven.” But
thou, though thou hear not of a kingdom given in each one of the
blessings, be not discouraged. For although He give different names to
the rewards, yet He brings all into His kingdom. Thus, both when He
saith, “they that mourn shall be comforted;” and, “they that show mercy
shall obtain mercy;” and, “the pure in heart shall see God;” and, the
peacemakers “shall be called the children of God;” nothing else but the
Kingdom doth He shadow out by all these sayings. For such as enjoy
these, shall surely attain unto that. Think not therefore that this
reward is for the poor in spirit only, but for those also who hunger
after righteousness, for the meek, and for all the rest without
Since on this account He hath set His blessing on them all, that thou
mightest not look for anything sensible: for that man cannot be blessed,
who is crowned with such things as come to an end with this present
life, and hurry by quicker than a shadow. (The Nicene and Post-Nicene
Fathers Vol. X. Saint Chrysostom: Homilies of the Gospel of Saint
Can You Take Criticism?...How good are you at making enemies?
No, I didn't ask how good you are at making friends. That's easy. Just
be a good Joe, an easy spender, a tolerant sort of fellow who never
But how good are you at making enemies? If you are a child of God and
you can move among wicked, ungodly, cursing men and women today, and not
be different enough to incur their disfavor or reviling words, you
certainly are not much of a testimony. Do you avoid discussing
spiritual issues because you're afraid of criticism for your faith in
Christ? Are you ashamed to talk to others about Him for fear of losing
In the thousands of letters that we receive each week in response to our
broadcasts and literature, we read comments of appreciation and of
criticism. I can honestly say that I appreciate the critical letters as
much as any others, for they confirm the gospel I preach. The Word of
God is like a two-edged sword that cuts both ways. For believers it
offers instructions on how to live a godly life (2Ti 3:16-note;
2Ti 3:12-note), and it
brings conviction to the minds of unbelievers (Heb 4:12-note).
If you're willing to make enemies for Jesus' sake, rejoice, "for great
is your reward in heaven" (Mt. 5:12). --M. R. De Haan, M.D. (founder of
Jesus, and shall it ever be,
A mortal man ashamed of Thee?
Ashamed of Thee, whom angels praise,
Whose glories shine through endless days? --Grigg
A sure sign of spiritual growth is
the ability to take criticism.
glad, for your
great; for in the
prophets who were
Amplified: Be glad and supremely joyful, for your reward in heaven is great
(strong and intense), for in this same way people persecuted the
prophets who were before you.
Bible - Lockman)
KJV: Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven:
for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
who are the salt of the earth
NLT: Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in
heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Philips: Be glad then, yes,
be tremendously glad - for your reward in Heaven is magnificent. They
persecuted the prophets before your time in exactly the same way.
Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: Be rejoicing and exult exceedingly,
because your reward is great in heaven. For in this manner they
persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Wuest:
Expanded Translation: Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: rejoice ye and be glad, because your reward is great in the
heavens, for thus did they persecute the prophets who were before you.
REJOICE, AND BE GLAD:
chairete (2PPAM) kai agalliasthe, (2PPMM): (Luke
6:23; Acts 5:41; 16:25; Romans 5:3; 2Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 2:17;
Colossians 1:24; James 1:2; 1Peter 4:13)
Williams translates it "Keep on
rejoicing and leaping for ecstasy".
(chairo) means to be cheerful (cheer "full"), to be calmly happy
or well-off or to enjoy a state of happiness and well-being. "Rejoice"
is use to describe a little lamb skipping around for joy. It describes a
physical change in one's countenance and is not something one can fake.
It is a physical expression of joy that radiates to others (cf Mt 5:16).
You can walk around and say that you are rejoicing but if it's not seen
then you are not rejoicing!
are commands to carry out these attitudes and actions at all
especially when you are being persecuted for the sake of God's
righteousness (not self-righteousness) and the Name of your Lord and
King, Christ Jesus. The joy commanded here, as elsewhere in Scripture
(esp. Jas 1:2-note), is not an emotion but an attitude (and a fruit of the
Spirit - Gal 5:22, 23-see notes
). The practical point is that if we don't rejoice when
we suffer for our King's sake, it amounts to disobedience and is a
reflection of our failure to really believe His promises. The world can
take away every possession we own but it cannot disown us from Jesus and
the joy He gives. Not only that, the worst the world can do to us is
We also need to remember that because
we are in covenant with our Lord, when the world persecutes us, they are
in effect persecuting Him and He is ultimately our Avenger. (see Acts
9:3, 4, 5, cf Gal 6:17, Col 1:24-note).
Matthew first used chairo
of the wise men recording that...
when they saw the star, they
rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. (Mt 2:10)
(agalliao from agan = much + hallomai = jump; gush,
leap, spring up) means literally "jump for joy" or experience a
state of great joy and gladness. As you might surmise, agalliao often is
accompanied by verbal expression and appropriate body movements. The
idea is to be extremely joyful and to express it. You really can't fake
this joy. Agalliao expresses extreme joy, especially as it is
used in the
(see uses in Isa 12.6; 25.9; 29.19;
35.1, 2; 41.17; 49.13; 61.10; 65.14, 19).
Be glad is in the
which is reflexive meaning the subject initiates the action and
participates in the effect or result. "Be glad yourself"!
Someone has well said of the
Christian like that...
"Faith makes a Christian. Life
proves a Christian. Trial confirms a Christian. Death crowns a
Another anonymous writer phrased
"The Christian life doesn't get
easier; it gets better."
Spurgeon notes that...
You are in the true prophetic
succession, if you cheerfully bear reproach of this kind for Christ’s
sake, you prove that you have the stamp and seal of those who are in the
service of God.
Richard Wurmbrand (Voice
of the Martyrs) described this kind of joy. How was he persecuted?
Probably not like any of us will ever be called upon to endure. While in
a Romanian prison, Wurmbrand's torturers ripped chunks of flesh out of
his body as his scars dramatically testified. He endured the horror of
solitary confinement, so that for weeks to months no one would speak to
him in his tiny cell. Amazingly, despite such inhumane treatment
Wurmbrand experienced times when he was overcome with sheer joy,
sometimes to the point of actually weakly rising to his feet and dancing
around his cell confident that the angels were dancing with him. When
Wurmbrand was unexpectedly released from prison , he left the looking
like a scarecrow including his rotting teeth. Along the road he met a
peasant who offered him a strawberry from the basket she was carrying,
to which he replied
“No thank you. I am going to
He went home to his wife, and
they prayed and fasted as a memorial to the joy he had experienced while
undergoing the horrors of persecution for the cause of Christ while in
prison, asking God for the same joy outside of his prison cell.
Wurmbrand believed Jesus' promise in this beatitude. Do we?
Pastor Ray Pritchard offers
some interesting insights on this beatitude noting that...
Our text promises a blessing to
believers who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. Let me show
you in a simple diagram how this works:
1. I am righteous
2. The world persecutes me
3. God blesses me
4. I rejoice
Now note something important.
All four things happen at the same time. As I am righteous, the world
persecutes me. As a result, God blesses me, which causes me to rejoice.
That joy encourages me to continues my righteous lifestyle, which
prompts the world to persecute and God to bless, which leads to more joy
and increased desire for righteousness. On and on the process goes with
righteousness, persecution, blessing and joy coming on top of each
other. How many of those things are positive and how many are negative?
Positive = Righteousness,
Negative = Persecution
Three out of four are positive
in every sense; only persecution is negative. Think of it this way:
Persecution is the trigger that causes God to pour out his blessings on
your life. And that enables you to rejoice. If you focus only on the
persecution, you’re going to miss 75% of the fun of the Christian life!
(Matthew 5:10-12 The Blessing No One
DON'T BE RESIGNED! - As
sorrowful, yet always rejoicing. 2 Corinthians 6:10
To rejoice in sorrow, to be happy when we are persecuted, and to give
thanks in everything, takes grace. Yet, this is the Lord's command to
each of His tested children. If the Savior is leading, and we recognize
Him as the tender Good Shepherd who never makes any mistakes, then we
should not let distresses unnerve us, or sorrow break our spirit.
Many years ago someone handed me a
tract on which were printed these instructive words from an anonymous
It is better to rejoice than to, be
resigned. The word `resigned' is not found in the Bible, but `rejoice'
runs through the Scriptures like a great carillon of music. There is
danger of self-pity in resignation — and self-pity is deadly poison.
There is no danger, however, that we will be pitying ourselves while
rejoicing `with joy unspeakable and full of glory.' (1Pe 1:8-note)
Resignation often means a certain mock piety — perhaps unconsciously so,
but nevertheless real. Joy, however, is `the fruit of the Spirit' (Gal
not a counterfeit, but real with supernatural and divine power. The Lord
Jesus Christ told His disciples that hard times were coming for them,
and that these difficulties meant blessing (Luke 6:22). And how did the
Lord say the disciples should take those experiences when they came?
With resignation? God forbid! He said, `Rejoice ye in that day, and leap
for joy; for, behold, your reward is great in heaven'!"
Yes, we must avoid self-pity and its
sorrow-faced counter-part of "mere resignation." Both are unworthy
reactions to God's leading. Don't be "resigned"; it is a form of unholy
fatalism, and, as such, is never mentioned in the Bible.
So bless the travail of gloom-filled
For joy is oft wrought with pain
And what if the day be dark? Thank God
That the sun will shine again!
True victory is to rejoice in what
and never to long for what He sees fit to deny!
REWARD IN HEAVEN IS GREAT: hoti o misthos humon polus en tois
6:1,2,4,5,16; 10:41,42; 16:27; Genesis 15:1; Ruth 2:12; Psalms 19:11;
58:11; Proverbs 11:18; Isaiah 3:10; Luke 6:23,35; 1 Corinthians 3:8;
Colossians 3:24; Hebrews 11:6,26)
(misthos) means pay for service, wages or reward. The main
idea is that of a compensation which is valuable and special. (See Lu
6:23 Mk 9:41 Mt 10:42, Heb 11:26 Mt 5:46 Lu 6:35, 2Jn 1:8,1Co
3:10-15, cf. Mt 25:35, 40; Heb 6:10)
If it bothers you to think of "rewards"
you need to realize that it is a reward of God’s grace, and is not
something earned in the strict sense. In other words, the reward is that
which God wills to give to those who serve Him faithfully. It is not a
compensation for work done, but rather a gift which far exceeds services
rendered. In fact rewards are one of the motives that God Himself gives
for service that glorifies Him. Clearly our highest motive for service
is our love for Him. The concept of rewards is neither selfish nor
Notice that heaven is forever
which dramatically contrasts with our short time on earth, James
"You are just a vapor that
appears for a little while and then vanishes away." (James 4:14, cf Job
7:17, 14:1-2, Psalms 39:5 [Spurgeon's
Ps 90:5-6 [See Spurgeon's notes on
1 Peter 1:24)
(polus) means many, much of number, quantity or amount. So not
only are our rewards eternal but they are great. And so whatever we do
for the Lord now (as we abide in the Vine, John 15:5), especially
suffering for His Name, will reap great eternal dividends that neither
moth nor rust can destroy and thieves cannot steal.
Nothing is lost that is done for
Let it be ever so small;
The smile of the Savior approveth the deed,
As though 'twere greatest of all.
Expositor's Bible Commentary
has this explanatory note on "rewards"...
C. S. Lewis (They Asked For a
Paper [London: Geoffrey Bles, 1962], p. 198; cited in Stott, pp. 131-32)
rightly distinguishes various kinds of rewards. A man who marries a
woman for her money is "rewarded" by her money, but he is rightly judged
mercenary because the reward is not naturally linked with love. On the
other hand, marriage is the proper reward of an honest and true lover;
and he is not mercenary for desiring it because love and marriage are
naturally linked. "The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the
activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in
consummation" (ibid.). The rewards of the NT belong largely to this
second category. Life lived under kingdom norms is naturally linked with
the bliss of life in the consummated kingdom. Talk of "merit" or of
"earning" the reward betrays lack of understanding of Jesus' meaning
(cf. further on Mt 11:25; 19:16-26; 20:1-16; 25:31-46). (Gaebelein,
F, Editor: Expositor's Bible Commentary 6-Volume New Testament.
O the things of this world are a
Having values that tarnish and fade;
But true treasures of joy with abundant reward,
Are the ones which in Heaven are laid!
He weighs things well, and makes
Who keeps eternity before his eyes!
FOR IN THE
SAME WAY THEY PERSECUTED THE PROPHETS WHO WERE BEFORE YOU: houtos gar
ediochan (3PAAI) tous prophetas tous pro humon
(Mt 21:34, 35, 36, 37, 38; Mt 10:16-42 23:31-37; 1Kings 18:4,13;
19:2,10, 11, 12, 13, 14; 21:20; 22:8,26,27; 2Kings 1:9; 2Chronicles
16:10; 24:20, 21, 22; 36:16; Nehemiah 9:26; Jeremiah 2:30; 26:8,21, 22,
23; Luke 6:23; 11:47, 48, 49, 50, 51; 13:34; Acts 7:51; 1Thessalonians
(dioko from dío = pursue, prosecute, persecute) means to
follow or press hard after. "Persecuted" is clearly a
Jesus does not want His audience (or us) to miss!
Note carefully that Jesus is
neither encouraging Kingdom citizens to seek persecution nor is He
advocating retreating, sulking or retaliation.
(prophetes from pró = before or forth + phemí
= tell) refers in the present context to those persons in the OT who
spoke under divine influence and inspiration foretelling future events
or exhorting, reproving, and admonishing individuals or nations as
the ambassador of God and the interpreter of His will to men. Hence the
prophets spoke not their own thought but what they received from
God, retaining, however, their own consciousness and self–possession (cf
(pro) in this context refers not to place but time and thus those
who were prior or before you in time.
(See 2 Chronicles 24:21; Neh
9:26; Jer 20:2; cf. Matt 21:35; 23:32-37; Acts 7:52; 1Th 2:15-note).
Who does this bring to mind? Remember
righteous Abel murdered for the sake of his righteous sacrifice! And he
was just the beginning of the list of godly believers in every era that
followed...Noah ...Abraham ...Moses ...Samuel ...David (by Saul)
...Isaiah ...Jeremiah ...Daniel ...Peter ...Paul ...John ...the rest of
the apostles ...and of course Jesus Himself. Genuine citizens of the
Kingdom of Heaven (and light, see note
Colossians 1:13) have never been very
popular with those who belong to the kingdom of darkness of this world.
The Old Testament prophets were
regarded as heroes to the Jews (cf 2Chr 36:16; Mt 23:29-36; Acts
7:51, 52, 53; James 5:10).
Pritchard emphasizes again
what most of us are already too painfully aware of...
True believers have never been
popular with the people of the world. Our righteousness intimidates
them, our boldness annoys them, our refusal to participate in their sin
infuriates them, and our love for God mystifies them. Because they don’t
understand us, they hate us. Because they hate us, they oppose us. We
seem like subversives, dangerous enemies who must be hunted down and
destroyed. In the words of John Calvin,
“We cannot be Christ’s soldiers on
any condition but this, that the world will muchly rise up against us
and pursue us even until death.”
The fact that the world persecuted
the prophets should also motivate us to endure to the end. We are
members of an elite corps. We have joined the ranks of godly men and
women who counted it a privilege to lay down their lives for their God.
And when we suffer for Christ's sake, we can know beyond a shadow of a
doubt that we belong to Him.
One of the best commentaries on the
persecution of the prophetes is found in the "hall of faith" chapter of
Hebrews, chapter 11, where we read that...
others experienced mockings and
scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they
were sawn in two (tradition holds that this was the manner in which
Isaiah entered into glory), they were tempted, they were put to death
with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being
destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not
worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the
ground. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did
not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better
for us (is this not a clear motive for endurance in present
persecution!), so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
In summary, why
will the world persecute citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven? Because
they truly manifest the values and character expressed in the
Beatitudes, traits that are so radically counter to the world's way of
thinking and doing. Your persecution may not be much compared to others
(you may not be stoned to death, just slandered), but if no one ever
speaks evil of you, then you have to ask "Are Jesus' Beatitudes
genuinely present in my life?" If not, you may not be a member of the
Kingdom of Heaven.
It is interesting that in Jesus'
stern warning at the end of His sermon, He does not state that it is
those who have been persecuted for His Name who must depart from Him but
those who prophesied in His name, cast out demons and performed miracles
but failed to do the will of His Father. (Mt 7:21, 22, 23-see notes
Mt7:21; 22; 23)
So here in this last beatitude
our King alerts his loyal subjects that they would face trials but He
comforted them with the assurance of a great reward. F. B. Meyer speaks
of one of the other advantages of persecution for the sake of Christ
“If I am told that I am to take
a journey that is a dangerous trip, every jolt along the way will remind
me that I am on the right road.”
Many saints down through the ages have counted the cost and were willing
to pay the price of the "jolts of persecution", among them men like John
Chrysostom, whose name means "golden mouthed" and who was an
eloquent, uncompromising voice for the cause of Christ. But His rhetoric
against sin offended the Empress Eudoxia (an oxymoron for her name means
something like "good glory"! Not!). When Chrysostom was summoned before
Emperor Arcadius, and was threatened with banishment unless he ceased
his Bible centered preaching, he replied as one who knew Who Whom he had
believed and was confident that his King could guard and keep safe that
which he had entrusted to Him. And so he answered
"Sire, you cannot banish me, for the
world is my Father’s house.”
“Then I will slay you,” Arcadius
“Nay, but you cannot, for my life is
hid with Christ in God,” said Chrysostom
“Your treasures will be
confiscated” the Emperor threatened again.
“Sire, that cannot be, either. My
treasures are in heaven, where none can break through and steal.” said
“Then I will drive you from man, and
you will have no friends left!” was the final, frustrated threat to
which John replied...
“That you cannot do, either “for I
have a Friend in heaven Who has said, ‘I will never leave you or
Chrysostom was banished for
taking a firm stand for righteousness, first to Armenia and then died on
his way to a farther place of exile on the Back Sea, passing immediately
from his momentary light affliction into his eternal weight of glory far
beyond all comparison. But neither his banishment nor his death
disproved or diminished his claims. The things that he valued most
highly not even an emperor could take from him.
You may have
heard their names before, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley and
Thomas Cranmer. We will meet them someday soon so it behooves us to
know their story and be encouraged by their willingness to suffer for
Nicholas Ridley had been raised
Catholic but converted to Protestantism. Hugh Latimer became a great
preacher and Ridley helped author the Book of Common Prayer. During the
Protestant persecution by Queen Mary ("Bloody Mary") of 1553-55, both
men were arrested and condemned to be burned at the stake. As the flames
were being lit, Latimer cried out to his fellow-martyr,
Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and
play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in
England as shall never be put out.
Thomas Cranmer watched them die in
agony. At one time he had been the Archbishop of Canterbury. Later under
great pressure he recanted his evangelical faith. But watching his two
friends die seemed to give strength to his soul and a few months later
he was condemned to die at the stake. As they lit the flames, he placed
his right hand into the fire to show his tormentors that he was not
afraid to die (cf "a sign of destruction for them" Php
(For more detail see
Hugh Latimer, Bishop and Martyr)
As the Romans attempted to
obliterate Christianity, one of the early church fathers, Tertullian
noted that every time the church was persecuted, it seemed to grow
faster and thus he concluded with a famous quote...
“The blood of the martyrs is
the seed of the church”
History has proved the truth of
his words. Whenever dictators have tried to destroy the church, Christ
has used the blood of his followers to water the seed of the gospel.
Just look at the evangelical growth in China that followed Mao's
attempts to abolish Christianity and replace it with Communism.
Joseph Tson, a Romanian
pastor who stood up to the brutal dictator Ceausescu's repressions of
This union with Christ is the
most beautiful subject in the Christian life. It means that I am not a
lone fighter here: I am an extension of Jesus Christ. When I was beaten
in Romania, He suffered in my body. It is not my suffering: I only had
the honor to share His sufferings. (cf Acts 5:41) (A Theology of
If you have time and want further
encouragement (especially if you are currently undergoing persecution)
you might consider reading some of the accounts of "a noble army, men
and boys, the matron and the maid," "climbed the steep ascent of heaven,
'mid peril, toil, and pain" as recorded in the classic work
Fox's Book of Martyrs
It has been said that
Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant
sentiment as the
Book of Martyrs.
Even in our time it is still a living force. It is more than a record of
persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance,
as well as a source of edification."
Am I a soldier of the cross
a follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
or blush to speak His name?
Must I be carried to the skies
on flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,
and sailed thro’ bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
to help me on to God?
Sure I must fight if I would reign;
increase my courage, Lord;
I will bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported by Thy Word.
When was the last time you were
persecuted for the sake of the Name above all names?
What have done in the last month
that has caused anyone to challenge your faith?
When have you
risked speaking out in
favor of righteousness?
How have you defended the cause of
Christ and the purity of the gospel?
F. B. Meyer in his book
Blessed Are Ye writes...
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness"
sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," etc.--Matt. 5:10-12.
THIS beatitude completes the octave,
but there is no special reason why our Lord should not have finished
with the seventh, because the eighth is altogether so different to the
foregoing. They rather deal with character, this with condition; they
with the internal quality of the Christian soul, this with its external
relation. So far as we understand the first seven, they might be
developed in the spirit, apart from all the world beside, immured in
some secluded not to apart from the world; but this indicates that our
Lord's conception for His Church was that it would be constantly in the
midst of the world; not of it, but in it; and therefore in perpetual
collision and antagonism with its evil.
He seems to have been sketching His
own life. These beatitudes tell the story of our Saviour's personal
life, as, indeed, it is the story of His life as developed step by step
in the believer's heart. They are therefore objectively and subjectively
historical. They are objectively historical, for we know that our Lord
Jesus was poor in spirit, emptied Himself, mourned and wept for the sin
of man; was meek; hungered and thirsted for righteousness; was merciful
and pure in heart; and that He came to make peace. All these qualities
in our Saviour's experience brought Him to the Cross--brought Him into
collision with the evil of the world, and in three years to Calvary.
Thus the beatitudes afford a true history of the progress of our
Saviour's life from the emptying of the incarnation to the laying down
of His life for men.
They are also true of each one of us.
We begin by being poor in spirit, broken in heart, and lowly in mind. We
pass through phase after phase of added knowledge of God and of His
truth; and as we do so we approximate always more and more to the climax
of the Cross, and just in proportion as we are like Christ in the
attainment of these lovely qualities, we become like Him also in our
suffering and sorrow even to death.
How clearly our Lord Jesus Christ
predicts the effect which these qualities will have upon the world. It
is as if He said, " It is impossible for you to be thus and thus without
incurring a very avalanche of hate, but in the midst of it all, you may
retain the blessed placidity and rest which I have promised. There is no
need that the benedictions which I have already uttered to those who are
merciful and meek and pure in heart, should forsake you when you stand
at the stake or are nailed to the Cross, for the blessed life is
altogether independent of outward circumstances; it may be deeply seated
and rooted in the soul when all without is in turmoil and war."
One of the Scotch martyrs, when they
were putting the faggots at his feet, said, " Methinks they are casting
roses before me." Another of the martyrs, when he was about to die,
said, " I was glad when they said to me, Let us go into the house of the
Lord." And it is said of the great Argyle, that when his physician felt
his pulse, as he laid his head upon the block, he could detect no
fluttering, but the quiet steady beat of health and peace. Since, then,
the qualities our Saviour characterized in the beatitudes were
inevitably driving Him and all His followers into collision with the
world, it was very delightful and beautiful of Him to say, " In the
midst of all this you may be blessed; yea, you may rejoice, your heart
may leap and bound with exceeding joy." And the more we think about it,
the more sure it seems that all those who died for the faith had some
special grace given which enabled them to be more than conquerors, and
it will come still to those who are accounted worthy to suffer for
Christ amongst men.
Let us notice, first, why we are
persecuted; secondly, the manner of the persecution; thirdly, the
blessedness which is possible amidst it all.
I. THE CAUSE OF PERSECUTION
It is twofold. First we are "
Persecuted for righteousness' sake," and then He says, " And shall
persecute you for My sake." Evidently men must feel that His cause was
righteousness; that He was the righteous Servant of God, and that
righteousness was no longer an abstraction or sentiment, because He had
embodied it. This is a great distinction, and makes it so much easier to
suffer for Him. It is well enough to suffer for a cause, the cause of
justice, truth, and righteousness, but how much better to think of
suffering for Him! It is an inspiration to realize that righteousness is
Christ, and that whenever men suffer for righteousness they do really
suffer for Him who is the Prince of Righteousness and the King of Truth?
Wherever there is right in the world for which men suffer, the cause of
Jesus Christ is somehow implicated in it. But how wonderful that Jesus,
at the very beginning of His ministry, a Nazarene peasant, standing amid
a number of peasants on the Mount of Beatitudes, should identify the
cause of righteousness with Himself in this marvellous combination. "
For My sake," He said.
Now why is it that the world hates
and persecutes us for His sake? There are just these reasons. First,
that the more there is of Christ in us, the more we condemn the world,
and there is nothing the ungodly man so dislikes as to have the
search-light of unsullied purity flashed in upon the workings of his
heart and life. Jesus Christ is to the ungodly what the sun at noontide
is to the diseased eye; what the bounding joyousness of the child is to
the weakened nerve. And hence it is in proportion as we are living in
the power of Jesus Christ, and are bringing to bear the influence of our
character and life upon other men that they wince beneath the impinging
ray; they shrink from it; it causes them pain, and they turn naturally
in indignant hatred on those who have thus inflicted upon them
Secondly, the more there is of Christ
in us, the more we offend the pride of men and women around, who desire
to have the admiration which we have, or which true godliness has, but
which they are not able to win, through their inability to pay the price
for it. Hence jealousy and envy immediately begin to work. Remember how
Aristides was hated, because he was always called " The Just." Men who
were notoriously unjust envied him the love of his fellow-citizens. And
so there will always be a great jealousy on the part of the ungodly
toward those who love Christ.
Thirdly, the Christ-spirit in any one
of us is always aggressive, and compels us to attack the vested
interests of wrong-doing. The Lord Jesus never contemplated that His
children should go quietly through the world exerting only a negative
influence. He expected that there would be a constant positive effect
proceeding from His Church, that, like salt, it would sting. But when
the craft is in danger, when the receipts fall off, we naturally rouse
the indignation of those who suffer in consequence. The search-light
brought to bear upon the diseased conscience, the constant feeling that
the Christian possesses a character which the ungodly cannot emulate,
and which wins an admiration they cannot receive, together with the fear
that worldly position and possessions are threatened by the progress of
the Christ-spirit--all these things tend to make men.
And yet the source of hatred really
lies deeper than all this. It seems as if there is a malignancy of
hatred in evil against the good which cannot be perfectly explained by
any of these reasons, and which must be attributed to that eternal war
and hatred which exist between Satan and all his legions, and Jesus
Christ and the armies of heaven. There is a great war in the universe, a
fire raging beyond the range of our sight, and we may be pretty sure the
signs of it will break out whenever we manifest on earth something of
the purity and beauty of Jesus Christ our Lord. These are the causes of
II. THE FORMS WHICH THIS
Our Lord characterizes it in three
distinct ways --first, in word; secondly, in act; and thirdly, in
imputation of evil. In word men reproach us; in act they persecute us;
in imputation of evil they " say all manner of evil against us falsely
for His sake." We need hardly dwell upon this. We know something of the
hiss of the serpent. We have all suffered more or less from the unkind
word. We know what it is for stories to pass round and round, for we
ourselves have been only too prone to take them upon our lips and pass
them forward. The word and the act, how many have suffered, how many are
suffering? Think of the eight hundred Quakers--to take one of the
smallest religious sects--who in the reign of Charles II. suffered for
their religion, and the one million pounds exacted from that body in
payment of fines for conscience' sake, and of all the countless numbers
who have suffered for the cause of Christ.
And then as to the imputation of
evil. I do not think any of us should shrink from it. We are very
anxious about our character, but if we live close to Christ, men will
impute to us all manner of evil. They will impugn our motives,
misrepresent our actions, and circulate malicious stories about us. The
nearer we live to Christ the more certain it is it will be so; that if
they called Him Beelzebub they will call us the same. My belief is that
we should be very careless about these things, and that the only time
when we should defend our character should be when aspersions on it may
injure the cause of Christ; that as far as we are concerned we should be
content to lose our character and be counted the offscouring of all
When these reports are circulating,
and these stories being told, and these unkind words being hurled from
lip to lip, we should immediately turn to our Master and tell Him we are
content to suffer with and for Him. Ask Him to intercede for and to
vindicate us, if it is His will we should be vindicated, and if not, to
give us grace to suffer patiently and wait. We are so eager to stand
well; we are so sorry if the least thing is said against us; we are so
irritated if we are misunderstood and misrepresented; we are so anxious
to write the explanatory letter to the paper or the private individual.
It is a profound mistake. We should be content to trust God with the
aspersion, to leave to Him our vindication, and meanwhile to plod on,
doing our work quietly day by day, as in His sight, only being more
tender and thoughtful and careful of those who have done us wrong. That
is the true Christian spirit.
III. THE BEATITUDE
Why is it that we are blessed, and
how does the blessedness come? The Master says that they which are
persecuted for righteousness' sake have the kingdom, and that was the
very promise with which He commenced this series of Beatitudes, "
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." It
would almost seem, therefore, as if we had come back to where we
started, but it is not quite so. It is quite true that the poor in
spirit have the kingdom, and that those who are persecuted have the
kingdom, but we must remember that just as steps in the spiral staircase
always come back upon their starting-point, but upon a higher level, so
we come back to the kingdom, but upon a higher level than we were when
we started with the poor in spirit, and it may be that this series is
constantly repeating itself in higher rounds. It may be that we shall
begin to-day, by poverty of spirit, to climb up the spiral staircase
toward this eighth beatitude, and then starting again from this eighth
beatitude we shall pass, so to speak, through a higher series, passing
through the same notes but in another key. We shall never get away from
mourning, only we shall mourn for deeper reasons. We shall never cease
to be learning the lesson of meekness, but it will be a deeper down
meekness than ever before, one that dyes our very heart fibre. We shall
always be seeking purity, but we shall have new conceptions of purity,
and as we know these things in a more perfect degree we shall be
persecuted more, and so every time we will come back and back and back
to where we started, but higher up. Persecuted for righteousness' sake
and yet possessing the kingdom.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was looking
over the wall of time; there were patent to Him things which none but He
knew of. In the tenth verse He speaks in the past tense, but in the
present tense in the eleventh verse. " Blessed are they that have been
persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of
heaven," as if at that moment He saw all the spiritual witnesses to the
truth of God who had suffered from the time of Abel, and He says, "I see
them, and they have already entered upon the royalties of the eternal
world, and sit on thrones and judge;" and then turning to His disciples
He said, " Blessed are ye when men shall revile you: for your reward is
great in heaven." In future, when we are persecuted, I think it will
help us if we seek to look into the future, as Jesus did, and realize
the greatness of our reward, for every reward that we receive in heaven
will carry with it greater opportunity of blessing in the ages that are
yet to be. That was why the Lord spoke about thrones. The thrones on
which we are to sit imply that we shall be able more widely to help
those needing help; to serve God more efficiently; to minister before
Him, and carry His blessed gospel, perhaps to regions of the universe
where it has never been heard. We shall indeed be blessed if the
persecution of this world shall make us more fit to serve and minister
in the next.
Notice how the Lord Jesus puts the
martyr upon the same footing as the prophet. He said, " So persecuted
they the prophets," as if the martyr were a prophet. It is a profound
thought, but a very true and deep one. The prophet stood among his
fellows witnessing to the unseen and eternal; the martyr or the sufferer
does the same. So that the fagots on which the martyrs of Christ have
been burnt have lighted up the souls of men almost as much as the words
of prophets have done, and have cast a glow upon the centuries. Prophets
witness to the unseen and eternal by their words, sufferers do it by
their agonies. If we, day by day, are willing to suffer for Christ in
the workshop or in the home, we are drawing aside the veil of the unseen
and eternal, through our fiery trials people are catching a glimpse of
the faith and heroism and strength of Christianity, and we are
witnessing to the reality of things unseen by ordinary vision, but which
animate us to endure.
To Thee, my God, I flee, to hide from
the rebuke and hate of men, who daily pursues, oppresses, and wrest my
words; hide me in the secret of thy pavilion, I entreat Thee, from the
strife of tongues. F. B. Meyer. Blessed Are Ye
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