This Week's Focus Passage

‘Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’

Focus Passage: 2 Timothy 3:12

‘Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.’

It has been said of ‘bikers,’ those who ride motorcycles, that there are only two kinds of bikers; those that have gone down, and those that are going down. If one has ridden a motorcycle for any number of years, and has never ‘gone down;’ has never dumped his bike or been in an accident, the likelihood is that they will yet have that experience; it is almost inevitable. This is what Paul is telling Timothy and the readers of this epistle, not that they are going to have an accident necessarily, but that they shall suffer persecution of one sort or another. Unless they are leaving their machine in the carport, to put it that way, or being satisfied with walking their bike rather than actually riding it, they will at some point go down. And if we are not riding our bike, to continue the metaphor, we are not likely to be taken notice of, we are not likely to be recognized as salt and light. We are not intersecting the lives of others in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our communities. If we take seriously the admonition to live godly in Christ Jesus, and strive after that conformity unto our Savior, Paul says that we shall suffer persecution. Notice that he has not said that we may suffer persecution, but that we shall suffer persecution.

This does not mean that we are to go out looking for persecution. We are not to be as obnoxious and offensive as we can in order to bring about persecution. Some have done this and then pat themselves on the back and ‘glory’ in the resultant persecution. This ought not to be, brethren. Returning to the motorcycle metaphor, this would be the same as puffing ourselves up after having foolishly exposed ourselves to a terrible spill by taking a sharp curve at excessive speed. This would be, not one living godly in Christ Jesus, but one living ungodly in imitation of someone like Evil Knievel and boasting about how many bones they have had broken over their years of suffering. If we are living godly in Christ Jesus, we will have no need of looking for persecution or suffering; Paul’s point is that it will find us without any looking for it on our part.

Paul’s teaching here in 2 Timothy is corroborated by our Lord Jesus, or we should more reasonably say that Paul is corroborating the teaching of Christ. The words of Christ from His ‘upper room discourse’ as it is frequently spoken of, are all of them most memorable. Not the least in our memories are His words found in chapter fifteen, verses 18-20. Since they are particularly worthy of note and most relevant to the matter at hand and because Christ Himself calls us to remember what He has said, we cite these three verses:

If the world hateth you, ye know that it hath hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, a servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.

These truths are taught and exemplified throughout the revelation that God has left with us in the Scriptures. We witness this being taught both by example and word of mouth again by the apostle to the Gentiles, recorded for us in Acts 14:19ff. This is the record of Paul and Barnabas healing and preaching in Lystra. We are told that they scarce restrained the multitudes from doing sacrifice unto them for what they had seen them do in the healing of an impotent man. Yet almost immediately these multitudes—was it the very same people?—were persuaded by some Jews from Antioch and Iconium to stone Paul and drag him out of the city. Let us be reminded from this how swiftly the attitudes of persons may be altered toward us. But the Lord raised His servant up so that both he and Barnabas were able to go from there to Derbe where they preached the gospel to that city. Then, surprisingly, from Derbe;

they returned to Lystra, and to Iconium, and to Antioch, confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.

Paul had learned what Christ had taught in His parting discourse to His disciples, that it was not Paul that these people first hated, but Christ. He was hated for Christ’s sake and for Christ’s sake he would even return to the place of his persecution that he might confirm those whom he had been forced, for a time, to leave. He would exhort them both by his words and his example to continue in the faith though he must also cause them to understand that even as he suffered tribulation from those who first hated God, so must they expect also to suffer.

Through such experience—we might well call it training—he learned, he speaks later to those at Philippi, how to be abased as well as how to abound. Even while delineating the sufferings and trials he endured over the years, in writing to those in Corinth, he is able, through faith, to balance the abasing and the abounding as he refers to his mistreatment in many times and places. In four troubling and fearful circumstances, he has been enabled by grace to add ‘yet not.’

We are pressed on every side, YET NOT straitened, perplexed, YET NOT unto despair; pursued, YET NOT forsaken; smitten down, YET NOT destroyed—2 Corinthians 4:8-9.

How is he able to bring to the phylactery of his heart these blessed ‘yet nots’? Paul explains in the very next verse; it is because he was

always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body.

He died for us that we might be saved, yes. He died for us that we might be spared from the just wrath of God, yes. But Paul is teaching that, more than that, He died that we might be conformed unto His image. The Son of God died for His people in order that His people might live unto Him.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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