Incredible Contrasts in the Bible: Part 2 – Power and Persecution

Seven weeks ago I wrote a blog about incredible contrasts in the Bible. That particular blog focused on the juxtaposition of Christian leadership (authority) with a servant’s heart. This week I’ll address the paradox of Christ’s delegation of His power to the Church in consonance with His forewarning of persecution coming to those who are faithful to Him.

The “Power” delegated to the Church is broad

And being found in appearance as a man, He [the Son of God] humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:8-11

And Jesus came and spoke unto them [the disciples], saying, ALL power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Matthew 28:18

Jesus’ Power is over ALL. It is all-encompassing, over all natural and supernatural things and beings. But He delegated much of this power to His Church – so that she could accomplish her mission on earth.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14:12-14

“Behold, I give you the power to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Luke 10:19-20
“No weapon formed against me shall prosper!” Isaiah 54:17
“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God.” 1 Corinthians 10:4
“Greater is He that is in me, then him who is in the world!” 1 John 4:4

In addition to exercising power over demonic beings, Jesus expects His soldiers to exercise power over some natural events as well – to discern when that use of power is necessary and to use it wisely. Jesus trained His followers in the use of power upon natural events and things: in the cursing of a fig tree, in the calming of a storm, in the multiplying of the loaves and fishes, in the appearance of money in the mouth of a fish to pay their taxes, in the large catch of fish on a day when earlier no fish were present, in healing illnesses, and in raising the dead. And He told His followers they could and should do the same. Often they failed, but He kept encouraging them. And eventually their successes began to multiply.

But how do we reconcile the availability of that power that the Bible says Jesus delegated to His Church with all the persecution that many Christians in the world endure?

“Persecution” by the world system does not negate Power over the enemy

For a long time persecution has been a fact of life for the true followers of Christ in the parts of the world that are dominated by Islamic and atheistic governments. Though this information is rarely reported by international news outlets because it doesn’t fit their storyline, the World Christian Database indicates that 160,000 Christians are martyred for their faith every year.

There was a day that persecution of Christians in the Western nations was extremely rare. That’s changing at a frenetic pace as this age winds down and we get closer to the last of the last of the last days. Even in the “free world bastion” of the U.S.A., new laws are enacted every day to make it more and more difficult and risky to preach the complete Gospel message. These laws threaten Christians with civil law suits and/or arrest and prosecution.

This should not surprise the Christian. Jesus identified this as one of the “birth-pangs” that would signal His return. And the Apostle Peter said much the same: Dear friends, do not be surprised if the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13

Just listen to Christ’s own words:

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.” John 15:18-21

“But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.” Matthew 1017-20

“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. “But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.” Mark 10:29-31

This persecution has been going on since the Church was founded. The enemy has tried to destroy it, but has failed, and will continue to fail. Paul often spoke of the persecution he endured throughout his ministry. But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, 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. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:10-12

Persecution advances Christian maturity and enhances Power

Persecution is an attempt by the enemy to silence and destroy the Church, which is the only thing holding back evil from overwhelming the earth. But just like the first century Christian leaders, Peter, John, Stephen, Paul, Timothy and others would not be silenced – the Church in our age will not be silenced either. The first century disciples went about preaching and demonstrating the power of God over the enemy and nature – and the Church grew in leaps and bounds in the midst of the bloody persecution.

Today, the Church is at its strongest in those nations where it has been forced to go underground. Whereas, in those nations where it is most “comfortable” (e.g.: western Europe and North America) – the last-days “falling away” that is spoken of by Paul appears to have begun.

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