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Friday, April 5 2013

What Good Does Persecution Do?

"Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the Word"

We first read of the apostle Paul at the time before he was converted, when he was known as the Pharisee Saul (see The Passed Over Pharisees) - when Saul was a participant in the martyrdom of Stephen (see The Stoning Of Stephen).

The Stoning Of Stephen

"8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death.

And at that time there was a great persecution against the church [see The Church In The End Time] which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 8:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 8:3 As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

8:4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word. 8:5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. 8:6 And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 8:7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8:8 And there was great joy in that city." (Acts 8:1-8 KJV)

As stated in the verses above, the persecution of the Christians at Jerusalem forced many of them to flee "throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria." When they were persecuted there, they went even further, taking the Gospel with them. The persecution didn't stop the Gospel, it spread it far and wide. It was while Saul was on a journey to persecute the Christians in Damascus (see also Damascus In History And Prophecy) that the LORD struck him down and made a Christian out of him.

"9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 9:2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 9:3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 9:4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

9:5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord?

And the Lord said, I am Jesus [see The Kingdom Of The LORD God] whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?

And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." (Acts 9:1-6 KJV)

"The Lord said, I am Jesus"

After his conversion, Paul began his ministry in his native Turkey, in Asia (see The Meeting Of Paul And Barnabas and The Ministry Of Paul And Barnabas).

"16:1 Then came he to Derbe and Lystra: and, behold, a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman, which was a Jewess, and believed; but his father was a Greek: 16:2 Which was well reported of by the brethren that were at Lystra and Iconium. 16:3 Him would Paul have to go forth with him; and took and circumcised him because of the Jews which were in those quarters: for they knew all that his father was a Greek. 16:4 And as they went through the cities, they delivered them the decrees for to keep, that were ordained of the apostles and elders which were at Jerusalem. 16:5 And so were the churches established in the faith, and increased in number daily." (Acts 16:1-5 KJV)

Paul had apparently decided to remain out of Europe, but the LORD had other plans for Paul. The apostle would become a part of those who were driven as far as Rome, preaching the Gospel as he did so. Paul's first crossing to Europe was to Macedonia. It came about in the same way that Peter's eyes had been opened to "gentiles" (see The Joppa Lessons Of Jonah And Peter).

Damascus

"16:6 Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia, 16:7 After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

16:8 And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.

16:9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.

16:10 And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them." (Acts 16:6-10 KJV)

Paul sought fellowship in Greece with the very people who had been driven far from Jerusalem by the persecution that Paul had inflicted upon them.

"16:11 Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; 16:12 And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

16:13 And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither.

16:14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

16:15 And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us." (Acts 16:11-15 KJV)

Paul was guided by the Holy Spirit - the uncompromising Spirit of Truth. Knowingly being "uplifting" to those who do wrong makes a Satan-mouthed liar out of someone who should be preaching only the Truth.

"16:16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: 16:17 The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation. 16:18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour." (Acts 16:16-18 KJV)

Paul's standing for the Truth brought more persecution upon him - which served only to make Paul more effective in his preaching of the Truth. Just as wheels require friction to move, resistance to the Gospel makes it go places too. Many of the people who at first felt fear and hate for Paul were later converts through Paul's uncompromising witness of the Truth to them.

The Ancient Theater at Ephesus

"16:19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, 16:20 And brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, 16:21 And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.

16:22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. 16:23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 16:24 Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks." (Acts 16:19-24 KJV)

Even while Paul was imprisoned, the Gospel was free. In this example, Paul freed his jailer from the chains of ignorance and deception.

"16:25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 16:26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed. 16:27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 16:28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

16:29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 16:30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 16:32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 16:33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 16:34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house." (Acts 16:25-34 KJV)

Paul had the same effect and result on both the "religious" people and the Roman military. Neither were a match for the Truth that they were forcing to become more powerful and widespread.

"16:35 And when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go. 16:36 And the keeper of the prison told this saying to Paul, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore depart, and go in peace.

16:37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us openly uncondemned, being Romans, and have cast us into prison; and now do they thrust us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.

16:38 And the serjeants told these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans. 16:39 And they came and besought them, and brought them out, and desired them to depart out of the city. 16:40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed." (Acts 16:35=40 KJV)

Fact Finder: Did Paul's own persecution force cause him to preach the Gospel in Rome itself?
See The Gospel To Rome and Romans: In The Heart Of The Beast


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This Day In History, April 5

1081: Alexios I Komnenos became the Byzantine emperor at Constantinople (the city named after the Roman Emperor Constantine; see Constantine's Crusades In History And Prophecy).

1242: The Russians repelled an invasion by the Teutonic Knights.

1340: Islamic naval forces fought the Spanish in a battle in the Straits of Gibraltar.

1355: In Rome, Charles IV was crowned Holy Roman Emperor (see The Holy Roman Empire).

1513: Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian, King Henry VIII of England, King Ferdinand of Aragon (Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of King Henry VIII of England, was the daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, who employed Christopher Columbus as an explorer) and Pope Leo X signed the Treaty of Mechlin, an alliance to invade France.

1621: The English ship Mayflower set sail on its return trip to England.

1795: The Treaty of Basel between France and Prussia was signed during the French Revolutionary War.

1843: Queen Victoria proclaimed Hong Kong as a British crown colony.

1896: The modern-day Olympic Games began, in Athens.

1943: During the Second World War, a U.S. warplane killed 900 civilians, including 209 children, when it bombed the Belgian town of Mortsel, rather than the intended target, a factory over a kilometer away.

1951: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death for giving U.S. atomic secrets to Russia.

1955: Winston Churchill resigned as British Prime Minister. He was succeeded by Anthony Eden.

1974: The 110-story World Trade Center opened in New York.

1975: Chiang Kai-shek, Chinese military and political leader, died. He fled to Taiwan after his Nationalist forces lost the Chinese civil war against the communists under Mao Zedong in 1949.

1989: The Polish government legalized the Solidarity union, and allowed democracy in government.

2008: Charlton Heston died at age 84. The actor portrayed Moses in the classic film The Ten Commandments.


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Copyright © Wayne Blank