It is no secret. There are many opponents of Christians, and Christianity in general. By inspiration, Paul affirmed, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12). If we are not careful though, we may get to the point where we believe that our generation is suffering more than previous generations. Let us notice some Scriptures that detail how difficult it was for some of the first century brethren.
First of all, we need to understand that the early church did not have “…favour with all the people” for very long (Acts 2:47). Luke recorded that Peter and John received mistreatment soon after the preaching that was done on the day of Pentecost. “And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide” (Acts 4:1-3). Basically, Peter and John were physically restrained and “jailed” for doing nothing more than preaching the truth. While the possibility exists that it may happen one day, most of us have not been physically assaulted and/or imprisoned for preaching God’s Word. With that being stated, things would get even worse for Peter and John. After bold proclamation of truth, a council of Jews were determined to stop the preaching of the Gospel. They decided, “But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:17-18). What would you do in such a situation? Peter and John showed great loyalty and bravery! Their response was “…Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). This did not set well with the council. Again, Peter and John were threatened, and then they were released (Acts 4:21). After returning to the brethren, Peter and John gave a report of what had happened to them (Acts 4:23). In response, a great plea to God occurred. “And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word” (Acts 4:29). It did not take very long for that prayer to be answered. “And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:31). This “boldness” again upset some of the Jews. “Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison” (Acts 5:17-18). That did not stop the proclamation of God’s Word. On the contrary, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Would it not be wonderful if every Christian were that bold and convicted in their hearts? Shortly after saying such, we find, “…and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go” (Acts 5:40).
This was certainly not the only time that first-century brethren suffered for the cause of Christ. During the life of Paul, there were various times that he endured horrific treatment. On one occasion, Paul wrote, “For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention” (1 Thess. 2:1-2). This shameful treatment was handled the same way that Peter and John behaved earlier. “For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thess. 2:3-4). Again, would it not be wonderful if every Christian were that willing to suffer like that for God? We should also not forget the litany of difficulties that Paul encountered which are listed in Second Corinthians chapter eleven. I dare say that many twenty-first century brethren have not endured nearly as much as Paul did.
So, yes, being a faithful Christian means that from time to time we are persecuted and mistreated. This should not surprise the faithful child of God. Jesus taught, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).
~ Corey Barnette