Persecution and Reward


TABLETALK DEVOTIONS WITH RC SPROUL

Persecution and Reward
======================
Matthew 5:10–12 “Blessed are you when others
revile you and persecute you and
utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. …For your reward is
great in heaven” (vv. 11–12).

Our
flesh may not like to hear it, but biblical Christianity does not promise
to make our lives better, at least in the short term. Actually, Jesus tells us
that following Him as Lord will bring us many trials and tribulations.
This is
His point in today’s passage. In concluding the Beatitudes, the
Savior
declares “blessed” those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake
(Matt.
5:10).

Jesus does not say if you are persecuted. Attacks from
unrighteous people are
inevitable for the Christian, not mere possibilities.
In fact, persecution is
such a part and parcel of serving Jesus that we
should question our allegiance
to Christ if we never face persecution for His
sake. Darkness hates the light
(John 3:20), and evil men hate those who
embody the qualities described in the
Beatitudes. How many peacemakers (Matt.
5:9), those who preach the Gospel of
peace through Christ, are beaten,
jailed, and killed every day? Are there not
many who are called “losers” or
“behind the times” because in pursuing
righteousness (v. 6) they refrain from
sexual relations until marriage?
Paradoxically, to be the objects of such
hatred is not the curse that we might
think it to be; it is instead the
greatest blessing. As we are oppressed for
doing the right thing we are
assured that the kingdom of heaven is ours (v.
10). However, harassment for
reasons other than righteousness does not incur
God’s blessing. Persecution
for righteousness’ sake is not the same as trouble
we get for disrespecting
unbelievers. We may also have problems if we are less
than scrupulous. John
Chrysostom, the great fifth-century bishop of
Constantinople, warns us not to
expect blessing if we “are being reviled for
something evil, and what is
being said is true” (Homilies on the Gospel of
Saint Matthew,
15.4).

Christ tells us we are blessed when we are reviled for His sake in
Matthew
5:11, thereby expanding upon the beatitude in verse 10. He draws a
parallel
between Himself and “righteousness’ sake,” offering the same
essential reward
to those who are oppressed for doing good and to those who
are persecuted for
serving Him. Plainly, Jesus is equating Himself with
righteousness. To imitate
Jesus, therefore, is to practice righteousness (1
Cor. 11:1).

Coram deo: Living before the face of
God
========================================
Matthew Henry writes: “There
is no evil so black and horrid, which, at one
time or other, has not been
said falsely against Christ’s disciples and
followers.” Rejoice and be glad
if you are being slandered for obeying Jesus,
for great is your reward (Matt.
5:12). This passage also warns us against
repeating things if we are
uncertain of their truth. If God blesses His
children when they are the
subject of lies, will He not curse the liars?

For further
study:

Proverbs 10:18–19

The Bible in a year:

Numbers
8–10

For the weekend:

Numbers 11–15

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