2 Timothy 3:10-13 10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. 12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
In the New Testament, there are multiple passages which indicate Christians will suffer persecution. I have written about this often over the years, with many in my home nation, railing against me for suggesting we modern Christians will not escape existential troubles for being followers of Jesus Christ.
II Timothy 3:10-13 clears up any debate, by stating that ALL Christians who desire to live godly, for Christ’s sake, WILL suffer persecution. There are no if’s and’s or but’s.
In fact, Paul uses his own testimony of persecutions endured, to assure young Timothy that he would be able endure the same. To Paul enduring persecution meant, suffering through them with grace until they concluded. This was deliverance to him; not being whisked away out of the pain.
You’ll note the apostle declares that as times grow closer to Christ’s return, persecution will proliferate because evil men will grow more evil.
Regardless of one’s position concerning the timing of the rapture, we must agree that persecution is proliferating in the vast majority of nations on earth. In America, where persecution against Christians was once seen as almost impossible, conditions have grown giving rise to fear of real threats against followers of Christ.
Therefore it is necessary we consider how a Christian, who desires to live godly, can thrive and persevere through persecutive circumstances. A foundational aspect of enduring persecution is to define it biblically. Let us consider the word used in our passage.
The word “persecution” from II Timothy 3:12 is the Greek work διωγμός pronounced diōgmos, which mean circumstances which cause a person to flee. In the first place this would mean circumstance which cause a person or people to run for their lives. More specifically concerning Christians, would be how persecutive circumstances originate in the enemy attempting to get Christians to run away from walking in faith with Jesus Christ.
This is very important when we consider Christ’s own words about those who would come after Him; note how He will respond to one who in fear is ashamed to stand for faith in Christ.
(Luke 9:23-26)23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.
Our Lord’s words are often diluted to mean enduring normal life troubles, when in context “deny himself, and take up his cross daily” following Him, means that your faith places you in circumstances that are a threat to your life.
Read Matthew Gospel account of this passage (Matthew 16:21-28) and you’ll find it comes after Peter rebukes Jesus, while thinking of how Christ’s death would effect his own life.
In considering persecution it is important to define a word the Lord Jesus used to describe persecution.
John 16:33 33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
The word “tribulation” in the Greek language of the New Testament is θλίψις pronounced thlipsis. This word means repeated pressure causing anguish and is at times can be translated “persecution“. We can therefore define tribulation as repeated persecutive events, for the purpose of causing one to run away from their faith in Christ.
Of great importance to all of us awaiting the blessed hope, is the word tribulation, which is never associated with God’s wrath being poured out; either in end times chronology or specific events associated with God’s wrath. Tribulation is seen as the world, the flesh and the devil, attacking those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ with ferocity and consistency.
Tribulation, as our Lord describes it is also considered a necessary element in our sanctification.
Acts 14:21-22 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
1 Peter 4:12-14 12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.
Of great importance is the use of “tribulations” in Acts 14:22, which is the same word we used in John 16:33.
When considering I Peter 4:12-14, I admit the phrase “fiery trials” is a different word than what is used for “tribulation” but what is means sounds a lot like “persecution” and “tribulation“. The phrase “fiery trials” is the Greek word πύρωσις pronounced pyrōsis which means ignition, i.e. (specially), smelting.
Smelting is process of purifying metal, therefore fiery trials are to ignite the process of purifying our faith. The Greek definition is a word picture which applied to the believers faith experience, is seen as calamities or trials that test and refine our Christian character.
This is important because since the foundation of the church, ALL who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus have suffered some form of persecution, or circumstances designed to make one run from faith in Christ. The LORD GOD allows persecution for His glory and our good leading to our being further set apart for Him.
Consider one more passage, which is often takeout of context to prove the hyper-grace doctrine of once saved aways saved (Romans 8:27-36).
26Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
It ought to be very clear that Paul’s understanding of “... all things work together for good to those who love God,… who are the called according to His purpose“, relates directly to those who face tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness , peril and sword; as these are a result of godly faith in Christ Jesus.
Having established that ALL who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer repeated persecution to quit on their faith, we will turn toward five truths we must live by in order to thrive and persevere the coming world-wide persecution of those who follow Jesus Christ.
This we will do in my next post. Till then, peace to you all in Christ Jesus our Lord.