PHBC July 5, 12, 1998
Series: First Peter, Ser. #53
THE PILGRIM AND PERSECUTION
TEXT: 1 Peter 3:13-17 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
INTRO: In the passage we are considering in this message we will be looking at the subject "The Pilgrim and Persecution." It is ironic that people who only desire to be of service to the people of this world are so often persecuted. It reveals the intense enmity of Satan against the cause of God and the message of Christ. It also gives a clear illustration of the depravity of the carnal nature and the great depth of the hatred and enmity of the carnal mind.
I. WHAT KIND OF PERSONS WILL HARM PILGRIMS FOR DOING GOOD?
A. The context shows that Peter is not suggesting that there are not many men who will do harm to those who hold and proclaim truth. 1 Peter 3:13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
1. Commenting on this verse, Matthew Henry wrote, "This, I suppose, is spoken of Christians in an ordinary condition, not in the heat of persecution. "Ordinarily, there will be but few so diabolical and impious as to harm those who live so innocently and usefully as you do.’’
2. Yet, there are those who of such a hateful spirit that they will persecute the true followers of Christ as the following account of the suffering of the Baptists in Virginia will show.
Of the names of those prosecuted for those principles little need be said. Let one scene suffice. It was the trial of Lewis and Joseph Craig and Aaron Bledsoe. They had been indicted for preaching the gospel of the Son of God in the colony of Virginia. The clerk was reading the indictment in a slow and formal manner; when he pronounced the crime with emphasis-"For preaching the Gospel of the Son of God in the colony of Virginia," a plainly-dressed man who had just rode up to the court-house entered, and took his seat within the bar. He was known to the court and lawyers, but a stranger to the mass of spectators, who had gathered on the occasion. This was PATRICK HENRY, who, on hearing of this prosecution, had rode some fifty or sixty miles from his residence in Hanover county, to volunteer his services in their defense. He listened to the further reading of the indictment with marked attention, the first sentence of which that had caught his ear was, "For preaching the Gospel of the Son of God." When it was finished, and the prosecuting attorney had submitted a few remarks, Henry arose, reached out his hand and received the paper, and addressed the Court:
"May it please your worships: I think I heard read by the prosecutor as I entered this house the paper I now hold in my hand. If I have rightly understood, the king's attorney of this colony has framed an indictment for the purpose of arraigning, and punishing by imprisonment, three inoffensive persons before the bar of this Court, for a crime of great magnitude-as disturbers of the peace. May it please the Court, what did I hear read? Did I hear it distinctly, or was it a mistake of my own? Did I hear an expression as if a crime, that these men, whom your worships are about to try for a misdemeanor, are charged with—what?"—and continuing in a low, solemn, heavy tone, "For preaching the Gospel of the Son of God!"
Pausing, amid the most profound silence and breathless astonishment, he slowly waved the paper three times around his head , when, lifting his hands and eyes to heaven, with peculiar and impressive energy he exclaimed, "GREAT GOD!" The exclamation-the action -the burst of feeling from the audience, were all overpowering. Mr. Henry resumed:
"May it please your worships: There are periods in the history of man, when corruption and depravity have so long debased the human character, that man sinks under the weight of the oppressor's hand, and becomes his servile, his abject slave; he licks the hand that smites him; he bows in passive obedience to the mandates of the despot, and in this state of servility he receives his fetters of perpetual bondage. But, may it please your worships, such a day has passed away! From that period, when our fathers left the land of their nativity for settlement in these American wilds-for LIBERTY-for civil and religious liberty-for liberty of conscience -to worship their Creator according to their conceptions of Heaven's revealed will; from the moment they placed foot on the American continent, and in the deeply imbedded forests sought an asylum from persecution and tyranny-from that moment despotism was crushed; her fetters of darkness were broken, and Heaven decreed that man should be free-free to worship God according to the Bible. Were it not for this, in vain have been the efforts and sacrifices of the colonists; in vain were all their sufferings and bloodshed to subjugate this new world, if we, their offspring, must still be oppressed and persecuted. But, may it please your worships, permit me to inquire once more, for what are these men about to be tried? This paper says, 'For preaching the Gospel of the Son of God! Great God 1 For preaching the Gospel of the Savior to Adam's fallen race." And in tones of thunder, he exclaimed: "WHAT LAW HAVE THEY VIOLATED?" while the third time, in a slow, dignified manner, he lifted his eyes to heaven, and waved the indictment around his head.
The Court and audience were now wrought up to the most intense pitch of excitement. The face of the prosecuting attorney was pallid and ghastly, and he appeared unconscious that his whole frame was agitated with alarm; while the judge, in a tremulous voice, put an end to the scene, now becoming excessively painful, by the authoritative declaration, "Sheriff, discharge those men."
3. What kind of men are they who would try and imprison godly men for "preaching the gospel of the Son of God"? They are vile and wicked-hearted men, at best.
4. Though they be ever so religious and, in many cases, even claimed to be Christians, the persecutors of God's people are haters of Christ. John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.
5. Their claim of Christianity does not change the fact that they not only hate Christ but hate God also. John 15:23-25 He that hateth me hateth my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.
6. They are also haters of light and the true people of God shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. John 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
7. Like Ahab, many simply hate anyone who tells them the truth and they will persecute those who tell them the truth. 1 Kings 22:8 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.
8. Men who persecute God's true people are men who abhor God. Zechariah 11:8 Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.
B. If you have not already realized it, my fellow pilgrims, there is a world of hate out there for the true people of God. Matthew 10:22 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. Matthew 24:9-10 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
C. There are times when the Lord may cause things to be otherwise and we do not suffer persecution, but let us never forget that the world still hates the true people of God. Proverbs 16:7 When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
D. And, we can remember also that there is absolutely, positively, nothing that man can do to us that will annul the assurance we find in Scripture. Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
E. It is still true that in most cases, rulers and magistrates are not a terror to good works. Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.
F. Before I leave this point let us look at our verse again and note a couple of things. 1 Peter 3:13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?
1. More persecution of the true people of God has come from other religious groups, including those who claim to be Christian, than have come from non-religious people.
a. Cain killed Abel because he hated him because of a religious matter.
b. Esau hated Jacob because his Father had conferred on Jacob a blessing that that was related to the Law of God. Genesis 27:41 And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.
c. The apostle John called on us to not be amazed if the world hates us. 1 John 3:13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.
II. HOW SHOULD PILGRIMS REACT TO SUFFERING
A. We should should be happy to suffer in behalf of Christ. 1 Peter 3:14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.
1. Rejoice to be a partaker of Christ's sufferings. 1 Peter 4:13-16 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
2. Count yourself very blessed to be such a Christian that the world wants to make you suffer. Matthew 5:10-12 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
3. We should leap for joy at the privilege to suffer for our Lord who suffered so much for us. Luke 6:22-23
4. 22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. 23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
5. Trust the Lord to give you the grace to bear up and stand for him in suffering. Matthew 10:18-20 And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. 19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.
6. Take pleasure in persecution. 2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
7. Remember that suffering for Christ's sake is as much a gift as is the gift of faith. Philippians 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.
B. Don't be afraid for persecutors can do nothing more to you than is ordained of God.1 Peter 3:14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.
1. Satan, with all his subtly and power could not touch Job without Divine permission. Job 1:9-11 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? 10 Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
2. No man can set on you to hurt you when it is God's will that they not. Acts 18:10-11 For I am with thee, and no man shall set on thee to hurt thee: for I have much people in this city. 11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.
3. When it is not for your good and God's glory for you to suffer there is no weapon that has been invented that can harm you. Isaiah 54:17 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.
4. The wicked who would persecute us will be butting against a brass wall as for as truly harming us is concerned. Jeremiah 15:20-21 And I will make thee unto this people a fenced brasen wall: and they shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the LORD. 21 And I will deliver thee out of the hand of the wicked, and I will redeem thee out of the hand of the terrible.
a. This promise did not mean they would not be able to touch or persecute Jeremiah.
b. He was cast into a terrible dungeon.
c. At one time he was so oppressed that he quit preaching but the Lord did not let him stay quit. Jeremiah 20:8-11 For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. 9 Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. 10 For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side. Report, say they, and we will report it. All my familiars watched for my halting, saying, Peradventure he will be enticed, and we shall prevail against him, and we shall take our revenge on him. 11 But the LORD is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.
5. God comforted Israel concerning their journey through the wilderness and called on them to not be afraid of their enemies. Deuteronomy 20:1 When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
6. God comforted Joshua calling on him to not be afraid as he led Israel. Joshua 1:9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
7. The very hairs of our head are numbered and since God is mindful of that detail concerning us, why should be fear what man can do to us.
C. Keep ever in mind that what you may suffer from others is according to a Divine appointment for you. 1 Thessalonians 3:3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.
D. We should not let persecution or persecutors trouble us. Peter 3:14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled.
1. Regardless of what persecutors might do to us, we have the promise of the return of Christ and our presence with him forever. John 14:1-3 Let not your heart be troubled. ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
2. Again Jesus encourages his people to not be troubled and leaves his peace with his people. John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
III. HOW SHOULD PILGRIMS REACT TO THOSE WHO CALL THEIR FAITH INTO QUESTION?
A. We should always act in a manner that will show that the Lord God is first and apart from all others in our lives. 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
1. Peter is quoting form Isaiah and the idea is that instead of fearing our persecutors, let God be the only object of our fears. Isaiah 8:13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
2. When Moses became frustrated with Israel and broke the tables of stone, God rebuke him because in his actions he was not revealing his faith and trust in God. Numbers 20:12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. Numbers 27:14 For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.
3. It seems to me from Scripture that to sanctify the Lord is to set him apart as worthy of all glory and as the only one to be feared.
B. Be ready to give an account to any who ask a reason for your hope in Christ. 1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.
1. The Psalmist declared he would not be ashamed to give his testimony before kings. Psalm 119:46 1 will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.
2. Consider the way Jeremiah spoke to Israel even in the face of possible death. Jeremiah 26:12-15 Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard. 13 Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. 14 As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you. 15 But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city., and upon the inhabitants thereof. for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.
3. Consider the boldness of the three Hebrews before Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, 0 Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, 0 king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, 0 king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
4. Consider how Amos followed the practice suggested in our text. Amos 7:12-17 Also Amaziah said unto Amos, 0 thou seer, go, flee thee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: 13 But prophesy not again any more at Bethel. for it is the king's chapel, and it is the king's court. 14 Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit: 15 And the LORD took me as I followed the flock, and the LORD said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel. 16 Now therefore hear thou the word of the LORD: Thou sayest, Prophesy not against Israel, and drop not thy word against the house of Isaac. 17 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Thy wife shall be an harlot in the city, and thy sons and thy daughters shall fall by the sword, and thy land shall be divided by line; and thou shaft die in a polluted land: and Israel shall surely go into captivity forth of his land.
5. Peter himself had followed this path that he is admonishing in our text. Acts 4:8-12 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, 9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. 11This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the comer. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Acts 5:29-31 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
CONC: Persecution should not drive us away from the Lord. It should cause us to trust him more and learn to sanctify him, put him first, look to him in times of trouble, and fear him, not man, not the world in general, and not Satan. Not one person, be he man or angel, can do to us more than God has appointed for us.
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