The salutation to the blessed.
Grace and peace be multiplied to you Beloved in the knowledge of our God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Pt.1:2) Thank you so much for joining us in our study of the Beatitudes. I hope and pray that you have been encouraged in Jesus by them.
The revelation of blessedness.
Please take out your Bible. I am going to read our passage for the day. Matthew 5: 10-12. Read.
Matthew 5:10. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.12 “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Let me also read to you Luke’s counterpart to our passage.
Luke 6:22. Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23 “Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.
The Source of blessedness.
Please join me in prayer to ask the Lord to bless our time in His word today. (Mt.21:22, James 1:5-8, I Jn.5:13-15, Jn.14:13-14, 16:24, Rom.8:32) Pray.
The identity of the blessed persecuted.
Today’s study is on the eighth and final Beatitude, blessed are the persecuted. Let me just say a general word about all of the Beatitudes. They are a picture of the true Christian. This is why we are blessed because we are truly in Christ, The Blessed One.
Christ is saying these traits are normative for the true Believer in Him. How very convicting. How very motivating. (2 Cor.13:5) And how very encouraging. Even our persecution testifies that we belong to Christ. What the devil means for evil God means for our comfort. For those in Christ, all things work to our spiritual good.
Christ saves sinners, but He does not leave us where He found us. Christ’s cleanses us from the filth of the pigpen of sin and puts His robe of righteousness on us. (Lk.15:11-24) God in Christ increasingly sanctifies us – because He has justified and adopted us. We are spiritually united to God in Christ. And we have ongoing spiritual fellowship with Him. His life is in us and His life comes out of us. (Gal.2:20)
And this is why the devil and those people governed by the devil hate Believers in Christ, because the life of Christ comes out of us. (Gal.2:20) And the darkness hates the light because its deeds are evil and it loathes to be exposed by the light.
That is what we see in the Beatitudes. The life of Christ coming out of us. In words. We confess His name to the world. And in deeds. We seek to love God and Man for Christ’s sake, to live holily in an evil world. (2 Cor.6:14-18)
What Christ is showing us is that there are two kinds of people in the world, those apart from Him and those in Him. Christ says that there are only two roads to be on. One road is broad and easy, and many people are on it. It is the road of unbelief and sin. It leads to hell. There is another road. It is narrow and hard. It is the road of Christ and His cross. Few people find this road. It is the only way to heaven. The broad path people hate the narrow path people and they persecute us. This is part of the hardship of the narrow path, being hated for Christ’s sake.
To be in Christ is to be blessed. To be apart from Christ is to have the wrath and the curse of God abiding on us. (Jn.3:36, WSC 84-85)
And these two types of people think, speak, and act radically differently. (Mt.7:13-14, Mt.25:31-33, Jn.3:36) The Bible says that all true Believers are new creatures in Christ. (2 Cor.5:14-21)
And we prove who we are and to whom we (really) belong by the fruit of our life. And this includes the fruit of our lips, what we say and what we do not say indicates if we are a sheep or a goat. (Mt.7:15-20, Mt.10:32-34, Rom.10:8-11, Gal.5:16-26)
Think of this, Christ says we are blessed if we are persecuted because of Him (v.11). Christ is the controlling motive of our life. Or He is not.
The real Believer loves Christ, speaks of Christ, and lives for Christ. And all forms of non-Christians do not.
The paradox of persecution.
We have said that in Christ’s sermon here that He presents the moral characteristics of the Christian in a paradoxical way. A paradox is a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense. Blessed are the poor, blessed are those that mourn, blessed are the hungry, and so on.
Now we come to the eighth beatitude and this is perhaps the most difficult paradox, blessed are the persecuted. (Heb.11:1-40, I Jn.3:13, Ps.69:9, Rom.8:36, Phil.1:29, Jn.16:22,33, Acts 14:22)
The eighth beatitude is contained in verse 10. Verses 11-12 show how the persecution will occur.
What is interesting is that Jesus says the very people that are for peace are objects of hate and war. (Ps.120:7) You see by this beloved, the depravity of man is made manifest. The unbeliever hated Christ unto death, Christ who is the Prince of Peace. Man hated Christ without cause. Proving natural man is evil. (Rom.3:10-18)
The same thing is true for us. Because we bear the name of Christ, we are His disciples, we are Christians, notwithstanding our good behavior in the world we are hated by the worldling.
Look at Christ. He is the Lamb. He did good to all men. The king of righteousness was persecuted for righteousness sake. (Gen.14:18, Ps.110:1-7, Heb.5:10)
Man murdered Him and chose a murderer to save. (Mt.27:16-27) That is man beloved. (Rom.3:9-18) And Christ prayed for those that persecuted Him to death. (Lk.23:34)
These are the people Christ sends us out to evangelize. They are now what we once were before we were joined to Christ. (Lk.6:35) So beloved as we unpack this beatitude do not get uneasy about your persecutors. Pray for them. Maybe God will convert them the way He converted you.
The objects of persecution.
Christ tells His apostles and disciples that they will be His “witnesses” (martereo) in the world. (Acts 1:8, 3;15, Rev.17:6) Christ often speaks about the cost of being His disciple. (Lk.14:28, Mt.10:38, 16:25)
Matthew 7:13. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Now I think I may need to clarify something. There are many professing Christians that are never persecuted for righteousness. There are many professing Christians that are never opposed for their profession of Christ. And there is a very simple reason for that. There are many professing Christians that never profess Christ in the world. They are mute. (Mt.10:32-33)
Oh, I am not saying that they will not squeak out the name Jesus at church or maybe at the house. But Christ, the Bible, the law, the gospel, heaven, and hell are never on their lips. Well these “Christians” are quite at home in the world.
And if truth be told, these “Christians” are embarrassed by the Christians that actually do talk about Christ, the Bible, the law, the gospel, heaven, and hell. You see many Christians agree with the unbelievers on many points of doctrine and practice against the Bible and those Christians that believe the Bible.
Some Christians want the unbelieving world to esteem them, to think highly of them. These “Christians” are friends with the world. (James 4:1-10) And so they embrace the world on its view of many things.
These “Christians” have no need to fear being persecuted by the haters of Christ. But these professing “Christians” have a much greater fear. (Mt.10:28, Heb.12:25-29) Woe to the professing baptized Christian that is ashamed of Christ and His word before the Christ hating word. It would be better to never have been born than to be a mute coward in the cause of Christ. (Mt.26:24, Rev.21:8)
The misunderstanding of blessing and persecution.
Now let’s consider how shocking this statement is.
The Jewish audience Christ addressed was accustomed to hear that all suffering and persecution was not a sign of God’s blessing but rather a sign of God’s displeasure for one’s sin. Think of the sorry friends of Job. They told him that if he were not sinning against God then he would not be suffering like he was. They were wrong. (Job 4:1-8)
Christ’s radical statement is meant to correct wrong ideas about true religion. (Lk.13:1-3, Jn.9:1-3)
Not only were the Jews of Christ’s day unaccustomed to hearing that believing in Messiah will bring them persecution, they in fact believed the very opposite idea. They believed that by believing in Messiah they would have outward health, wealth, power, and prestige.
In this way the peddlers of the false prosperity gospel also err. These false teachers tell their hearers that if they have enough faith in Jesus then they will have health, wealth, power, and prestige.
In addition, even for real Christians, we are sometimes prone to misunderstanding our life in Christ. We can be surprised by suffering. We can think that since we are believers in Jesus that life should be health and wealth.
We see this even with Christ’s apostles. Peter told Jesus that He did not have to suffer and die. And Jesus told Peter, get behind Me Satan! You have man’s interests in mind, not God’s. (Mt.16:20-26) A similar kind of thing occurred with James and John, they wanted to sit at the right and the left of Christ’s (earthly) throne and share in His power and honor. They misunderstood the kingdom of Christ. (Mt.20:20-23, Jn.18:36)
The preparation for persecution.
In this way we can say that Jesus is preparing His disciples to suffer. To suffer for Him. As our Christ suffered so His people suffer. And so we will also share in His glories. (Acts 1:17, Col.1:12, 2 Cor.1:5-7, Phil.3:10, I Pt.4:13)
You see Christ always tells us the truth. He is truth personified. He tells us the truth about sin and the wages of sin. Because He loves God and He loves us, and He loves the truth and He hates the lie. He is truth personified.
How contrary to lying man. Oh, they will never tell you the truth about sin and the wages of sin. And they are mute to the truth out of their perverted idea of being ‘loving’. But not Christ.
And Christ tells us the truth about life in Him to prepare us so that we will not think some strange or unique thing has happened to us when a fiery trial comes upon us. (I Pt.4:12)
And Christ is telling us about persecution, actually to comfort us in our persecution. Sometimes He delivers us from it. But other times He supports us in it by His words of blessing. That is what is going on here.
As a side note. These words of Christ have a special application to the heralds of Christ. As they are the vocal proponents in His cause they will receive the treatment the world gave their Master. (Jn.15:17-27)
The cause of persecution.
Now let’s consider in more depth why Christians will be persecuted.
The persecution that Christ speaks about is not social, racial, ethnic, economic, or political. But this persecution is rooted in religion, for the sake of righteousness (v.10), because of Me. (v.11)
All along we have said that in the Beatitudes Christ has been speaking about the life of those that believe in Him as their Lord and Savior. The Beatitudes teach that the disciples of Christ, those that come to Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and following Him in their lives are blessed by God in Christ.
So, when Christ speaks about those blessed because they are persecuted for righteousness, He means for the faith in Him as Savior. The righteousness which results in our persecution is our profession of the truth of God’s word in general and in Christ’s gospel in particular.
This is suffering for the sake of the Gospel, suffering because we are Christians. This is in part what it means to deny ourselves and to pick up our cross and to follow Christ. (Mt.10:34-42)
Those that desire and strive to live in accord with God’s holy Law, live to adorn the Gospel of Christ, live like Christ they will be persecuted by those who do not want to do God’s will.
When you are persecuted. When. Not if. Persecution is inevitable, and not merely a possibility.
Philippians 1:29. For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Jesus does not say, blessed are you when you are persecuted because you are offensive in your manner, or because you have made foolish decisions, or because of your sin, etc. Often we bring much persecution on ourselves by our foolishness and sin. As Christians we cannot claim this beatitude when we are not suffering for righteousness but rather for sin. (I Pt.4:12-19)
Think of this. Sometimes Christians are ungracious and unwise fanatics on the gospel and on non-gospel things and we can abuse people. they in turn, turn on us. Lack of grace or wisdom is not blessed for us. Sometimes Christian mix their political views with the gospel and then people attack them. Well they cannot claim they are suffering for the gospel. But they often wrongly do claim that. 😊
The persecutors of our persecution.
Now I want us to look at who will persecute us.
Since it is the righteous that suffer for righteousness sake, then it is the unrighteous that are opposing the righteous. This is the war between the children of darkness against the children of light. This is the war of those apart from Jesus Christ and opposed to Jesus Christ against those in Christ by saving faith. (Gen.3:15)
This is part of the spiritual battle every Believer ‘is’ engaged in. I stress ‘is’. (Eph.6:10-18) For the true Believer there is no sitting on the sidelines, there is no claiming neutrality in this spiritual fight. If you are for Christ, then the devil and his angelic and human servants are against you. (2 Cor.10:3-7, Col.2:8) Part of fighting the good fight means being persecuted.
The wicked hate the righteous. The enemies of righteousness are those who are enemies of Christ. The seed of the serpent do not like the seed of the woman. (Gen.3:15) Wolves do not like sheep! Except to eat! (Gen.4:4-5, Rom.8:34-39)
Matthew 10:21. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
Matthew 24:9. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10 “At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. (Jn.15:18-19, I Jn.3:12-13)
We have open enemies, confessing non-Christians. When Christians speak about Jesus Christ to non-Christians persecution arises.
Then we have secret enemies, these are professing Christians, yet they are what the apostle Paul calls false brethren. (2 Cor.11:26, Mt.10:35)
I Corinthians 11:18. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
The reason why the unrighteous hate disciples of Jesus is spiritual. They are children of darkness. We are children of God. They are wolves and we are lambs. You see the darkness hates the light. Sin hates holiness. Christ is the aroma of death to those who love their sin. (Heb.9:22, 2 Cor.2:14-16, Jn.3:19-21)
Now I want us to keep in mind that though it is human agents persecuting us, behind them is the devil. As Believers in Jesus we are for Christ’s kingdom. Therefore, we are against the devil’s kingdom. We expose the evil of sin. We shine the light of Christ to set the captives free. Therefore, the devil rages at us like he raged at our Christ. (I Pt.4:1-5, WLC 191, WSC 102)
Also, I am sad to say this, even real Christians persecute real Christians because they are sinning against real Christians. Beloved, we still have the flesh. Let us not bite and devour one another. But let us love one another. (Gal.5:14-16, James 3:1-4, Phil.4:2-4)
The kinds of persecution.
Jesus tells us, at least in general, how we will be persecuted.
Persecution stands for all those abuses and afflictions that Believers are exposed to by the enemies of Jesus.
Luke 6:25. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way. (NOTE the use of paradoxes with the “woes”, the opposite of the “blessed”.)
Acts 14:22. strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
Philippians 1:28. 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. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
Mt.5:11. Revile you. The persecution is personal and verbal. To revile is to upbraid with violent language. Christ was called out of His mind, crazy, a drunk, a friend of prostitutes, a whore-monger, a glutton, a tool or agent of the devil, etc. (Mt.11:19, Dt.21:20, Mk.3:21-22)
Falsely say. Lie against you. This persecution is devilish, it is animated by the father of lies. Opposition to Christians imitates Satan the father of lies. (Jn.8:44)
Mt.5:12. They will persecute you. They will hurt you physically, financially, and so on. They will inflict injury upon you. (I Pt.1:6, 4:13, Rev.19:7)
I Corinthians 4:9. For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. (Hebrews 11:1-40, Rev.1:9, 12:11-17, 6:9-10, 20:4)
The reaction to persecution.
Jesus then tells us how His followers are to respond to persecution. Boy is this convicting! 😊
How does our flesh ordinarily respond to verbal and physical abuse and lies against us, and so on? Retaliate. Strike back. Resentment. Sulk like a child. Harbor resentments. Have self-pity. Act like a Stoic. (Lk.10:29)
Christians have a different spirit. (Mk.3:17, Lk.9:55, Mt.5:38-48, Micah 5:1)
Matthew 5:12. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Rejoice in your tribulation. (James 1:2, Rom.5:3, Acts 5:40-41, 2 Cor.4:16-18, I Pt.4:12-14, Acts 14:22, 2 Tim.3:12)
We overcome their hate by our love. And this is the love that Christ has given us. So we CAN love people that hate us. In Christ we CAN do all things. We walk by faith in Christ not by sight. (2 Cor.5:7, 4:7-10, 12:7-10)
The blessings of persecution.
Now finally let’s believe Jesus when He says, that when we are persecuted for Him then we are blessed. We receive blessings in this life and in the next.
Persecution exercises our faith in Jesus. Persecution exercises the spiritual gifts that God has given us. Persecution for Christ gives us opportunities to live for Christ “under fire”.
Persecution weans us from self, sin, and the world. Persecution causes us to believe that the unbeliever has no love for Christ, is against Him, and is really against us. Persecution is one of God’s ways of calling us out of the world, to be separate from them. (2 Cor.6:14-18) Not to live on a commune. We are still salt and light. But hatred by the world keeps us in our Narrow Path of duty. The professing Church is our people, our family, and friends. As flawed as we are.
Persecution drives us to God’s word.
Persecution causes us to see the world and the worldling in a Biblical light. And it makes us value God, His truth, and all of His benefits higher than life itself.
Persecution will show us who is approved or unapproved. Persecution will often reveal the sheep from the goats or the wheat from the tares. If the haters of Christ love you then something is wrong with you. The world loves its own. (Jn.15:19)
Easy-time Christianity, a Christianity that does not cost anything will vanish like a morning midst with opposition and persecution.
Abuse for cause of Christ will make us quit our worldly recreations and pray. And pray for real.
In all of this, persecution for Christ’s gospel provides us a platform for that Gospel. Think of righteous Stephen testifying of Christ as he was stoned to death. (Acts 7:51)
Persecution diffuses the truth of Christ. When Christians are persecuted in one area, if possible they flee to another area. Instant new field for Christ and His gospel!
God get glory when we suffer and still cling to Him no matter what. Think of righteous Job. (Job 1, 2)
V.10. For theirs is the kingdom of heaven…V.12. their reward in heaven.
The persecution attests to our “title” to heaven. (Mt.19:29, 2 Cor.4:17-18, Rom.8:18, 2 Cor.4:17-18)
You may lose all you have on earth for the sake of Christ, but what you have in heaven far surpasses what you have lost. We see that Christ teaches His disciples to have a God-ward or heavenly disposition in this life. An eternal perspective regulates the thoughts and feelings of God’s people. (Col.3:1-3)
Revelation 9:9. After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; 10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. 16 “They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
- What is saving faith? What are the principal acts of saving faith? What can saving faith believe? What does it mean to pray in Christ’s name? What does it mean to pray in faith? (Jn.4:42, 1 Thess. 2:13, Jn.5:10, Acts 24:14, Rom. 16:26, Isa. 66:2, Heb. 11:13, 1 Tim. 4:8, Jn.1:12, Acts 16:31, Gal. 2:20, Acts 15:11, WCF 14.2, Mt.21:22, James 1:5-8, I Jn.5:13-15, Jn.14:13-14, 16:24, Rom.8:32)
- To whom does Christ address in the Beatitude. What is the identity of the blessed people? Why are they blessed? How are they blessed? Who are the non-blessed? How do you distinguish between the two classes? (Jn.3:16, Mt.5:1-16, 2 Cor.13:5, Lk.15:11-24, Gal.2:20, Jn.3:36, WSC 84-85, Mt.7:13-14, Mt.25:31-33, Jn.3:36, 2 Cor.5:14-21, Mt.7:15-20, Mt.10:32-34, Rom.10:8-11, Gal.5:16-26)
- What is a paradox? What are some potential reasons Christ teaches using this paradoxical method? (Isa.55:8-9, Mt.13:9-17, Mt.11:19-30, I Cor.2:10-16, Rom.8:7, 9:11-16, Jn.18:36)
- How is persecution for being a Christian part of the ‘cost’ of discipleship? (Acts 1:8, 3:15, Rev.17:6, Lk.14:28, Mt.10:38, 16:25, M.7:13-14)
- What are we to conclude about Christians that are never persecuted for being a Christian? (Phil.1:29, Mt.5:10-12, Acts 14:22, 2 Tim.3:12, Lk.6:26, Heb.12:1-8, Lk.9:26, Mt.7:13-14)
- What is suffering for righteousness sake? Or suffering for Christ’s sake? What are some reasons why Christians are persecuted which are blessed by God? What are some reasons Christians are persecuted which are not blessed by God? (Mt.5:10-12, WLC 191, WSC 102)
- Who are the open enemies of Christians? Who are the secret enemies of Christians? Can true Christians persecute true Christians? Why? How? (Gen.3:15, Gen.4:4-5, Rom.8:34-39, Mt.10:21-22, 24:9-10, Jn.15:18-19, I Jn.3:12-13, 2 Cor.11:26, Mt.10:35, I Cor.11:18-19, Heb.9:22, 2 Cor.2:14-16, Jn.3:19-21, I Pt.4:1-5, Gal.5:14-16, James 3:1-4, Phil.4:2-4)
- What are the kinds of persecution Believers receive because they love and live for Christ. (Mt.5:10-12, Lk.6:25-26, Acts 14:22, Phil.1:28-29, Mt.11:19, Dt.21:20, Mk.3:21-22, Jn.8:44, I Pt.1:6, 4:13, Rev.19:7, I Cor.14:9-13, Hebrews 11:1-40, Rev.1:9, 12:11-17, 6:9-10, 20:4)
- How are believers to respond to persecutors and persecution? How does our flesh respond to these things? How are we enabled to respond in a Christ pleasing way? (Mt.5:1-16, Mk.3:17, Lk.9:55, Mt.5:38-48, Micah 5:1, James 1:2, Rom.5:3, Acts 5:40-41, 2 Cor.4:16-18, I Pt.4:12-14, Acts 14:22, 2 Tim.3:12, 2 Cor.5:7, 4:7-10, 12:7-10)
- What are some blessings we enjoy in this life because of being persecuted for Christ? What are some blessings in the next life because of it? (Gen.3:15, 2 Cor.6:14-18, Mt.7:13-14, 2 Tim.3:14-17, Jn.15:9-27, Acts 7:51, Job 1, 2, Mt.5:10-12, Mt.19:29, 2 Cor.4:17-18, Rom.8:18, 2 Cor.4:17-18, Col.3:1-3, Eph.2:1-10, 2 Cor.5:7, Rev.9:9-17)