Facing opposition has always been a part of Christianity. The Bible speaks of persecution as a common thing. In the Old Testament prophets were stoned by God’s people because they didn’t want to hear the word of rebuke. In the New Testament church The Jewish leaders fought against the Way – as the church was first known. Persecution is still around today. Conservative numbers place the number at 24 million Christian martyrs in the 20th century. That figure is not quite double of the number of Christians killed for their faith in all the previous centuries combined.
We live in 21st century America. The freedoms we enjoy are truly a luxury! We don’t worry about physical harm, but there is still persecution. It’s social and subtle, but it’s still there. When we look at Acts 4 and see the example of the Apostles, there are a couple of things we can learn.
First is the boldness that the Apostle’s had. They weren’t afraid no matter the consequence or the audience. The very people who had our Lord Jesus pinned to a tree were interogating Peter and John! Did the events of Good Friday cross their minds as they made their public defense? They would have crossed mine! Even so the were bold to speak.
The second takeaway is their clarity. The message didn’t get softened. There is no other way to heaven. Period. It’s Jesus or nothing. This second point is of great value for us when the persecution isn’t so much physical as it is philosophical. Did Jesus really say ever word in the Bible? (Yes.) Is there really only one Way to heaven? (Yes.) Aren’t there some areas where we can find a common ground? (unless you’re a Christian that loves the trinity – Mormons you’re out! – No.)
The danger for the Christian church today is to be silent. To not speak when we have the opportunity. To water down (read demythologize) Scripture until there is nothing left but morals and good will. Sin isn’t a problem because hell isn’t real. We speak the truth in love because the Spirit has empowered us to do so. The gospel burns in our hearts and with Peter we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. Facing persecution of some kind will always be a part of Christianity, but as we pray that God would keep us safe, we pray also that God would make us bold and give us the clarity to always speak the truth in love.
This is the eleventh lesson in the Bible class – Evangelism.
Please click HERE to view the Bible class slides.