Blessed are the Persecuted (Matthew 5:10-12)
Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the
Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 03 Apr. 2011
Blessed are those who have been hunted down for the sake of righteousness,
the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
Y’all are being blessed whenever liars
hunt [you] down
speak every evil against you for my sake.
Keep rejoicing and leaping for joy,
your reward is bountiful in heaven,
they hunted down the prophets before you in the same way.
Subsequent Bible quotes are from the NASB
Introduction: Chasing Dream
Have you ever had a chasing dream? I used to have them
all the time, where I was being chased by some vague enemy through city streets
and buildings – or through the woods, and I was desperately looking for hiding
places and repeatedly being found out and full of fear that they – whoever they
were – would get me.
Of course, in real life, we
also experience times when other people are mad at us for no good reason, and
they mistreat us and we feel harassed:
- I remember as a boy a few
times when my mom would enter the room swinging a spanking stick, and I
didn’t know why, but I sure didn’t want to get stung with that thing.
- Or when a teacher in my Christian
school called me “immature” in front of my whole class for quietly leaving
the room when she was showing a morally questionable movie.
- I’ve had an overbearing
boss angrily blame my staff team for financial indiscretions which we
hadn’t done but he had.
- In one church, the pastor slandered me in front of
the whole congregation one Sunday morning when I wasn’t there because of
some minor disagreements I had expressed in a letter.
- Just a few weeks ago, the
mayor of our town called me and my sons bigots in a televised city hall
- I’m sure you can come up
with your own list of times when people were mean to you.
When these kind of things
happen, it is my natural tendency to fall into self-pity and despair. The whole
world is against me; everybody hates me. People ought to be nice to me and
praise me instead. I can get easily caught up in spending hours figuring out
how to defend myself: What can I say to turn their arguments against me upside
down and put them in their place?
In the first seven beatitudes,
we have seven characteristics of the followers of Christ, and Every follower of
Christ who lives out these characteristics will experience backlash from the
world which hates God and which hates God’s character reflected in us:
“…[T]he seven characters here described are all in the
teeth of the spirit of the world…
Poverty of spirit
runs counter to the pride of men’s heart;
disposition, in the view of one’s universal deficiencies before God, is ill
relished by the callous, indifferent, laughing, self-satisfied world;
a meek and quiet
spirit, taking wrong, is regarded as pusillanimous, and rasps against the
proud, resentful spirit of the world;
that craving after
spiritual blessings rebukes but too unpleasantly the lust of the flesh, the
lust of the eye, and the pride of life;
so does a merciful
spirit the hard-heartedness of the world;
purity of heart
contrasts painfully with painted hypocrisy;
7. and the peacemaker
cannot easily be endured by the contentious, quarrelsome world.
Thus does righteousness come to be persecuted. But
blessed are they who, in spite of this, dare to be righteous.” ~ A Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown
Here in the 8th
beatitude, Jesus tells us how to respond to this kind of persecution, and, let
me tell you, it is not the way we naturally want to respond. It is
counter-intuitive, but powerfully true.
those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness
5:10 μακαριοι οι δεδιωγμενοι ενεκεν δικαιοσυνης
What it means to be persecuted
The Greek word in this verse for
“persecuted” is δεδιωγμενοι, the perfect passive participle of
διώκω – to pursue, to try to capture, chase down
with the intent to take or keep for yourself.
to Adam Clarke, it is also a
forensic term, and signifies legal persecutions and public accusations.
the context is “bad guys” doing this to “good guys,” English Bibles
generally translate with the word “persecute,” whereas if it’s “good guys”
going after honorable goals, English Bibles generally translate the same
word as “pursue” or “press on.” The words “chase” and “hunt” are not used
in English Bibles (although Matthew Henry does use it in his commentary),
but I think they make for a good translation which can be used in both
positive and negative situations to translate this word.
- How is it used in the scriptures?
In the O.T., this word is used to
pursuing the five kings that had captured his nephew Lot
chasing after Jacob, after Jacob had decided to depart, and
- Pharaoh chasing after the
Israelites at the Red Sea.
Also used of hunting after good things
for good reasons:
- Deut. 16:20 “Pursue Justice”
- Prov. 15:9 “[Jehovah] loves one who pursues righteousness.” (cf. Rom. 9:30-31)
- Ezra 9:4 Pursuing
the word of the God of Israel
- Hosea 6:3 "let us press
on to know the LORD”
- Romans 12:13
contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
- Romans 14:19 So then we
pursue the things which make for peace and the building up
of one another. (cf. Psalm 34:14 || 1 Peter 3:11 “seek peace and pursue
- 1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue
- Philippians 3:12-14 …I press
on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in
- 1 Thessalonians 5:15
See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek
after that which is good for one another and for all
- 2 Timothy 2:22 Now flee
from youthful lusts and pursue* righteousness, faith,
love and peace, with those who call
on the Lord from a pure heart. (|| 1 Tim 6:11, which adds godliness,
perseverance, and gentleness to the list.)
- Hebrews 12:14 Pursue
peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no
one will see the Lord.
in the New Testament, most of the occurrences of this word diwkw have to
do with what we call persecution of Christians.
persecuted by the Jews: John 5:16 (For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He
was doing these things on the Sabbath.) and
He explained why in John 3:20 …everyone who does evil hates the Light,
and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed… 7:7 The
world … hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.
And Jesus prepared his disciples to be
persecuted as He had been:
- John 15:20 Remember the
word that I said to you, 'A slave 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.
- Matthew 5:44 love your
enemies and pray for those who persecute you
- Matthew 10:23 whenever
they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say
to you, you will not finish going through
the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.
- Luke 21:12 "…they
will lay their hands on you and will persecute you, delivering you
to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for
My name's sake. (See also Matthew 23:34 ||
Luke 11:49, which adds scourging, murder, and crucifixion to
also mentioned this concept in His parables and teachings:
as the metaphor of the stone that was rejected but became the
the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, where Lazarus was hated
and reviled but received a reward in heaven which the rich man who
received his good things on earth did not receive.
And, sure enough, they were persecuted,
first by Saul, and then by others:
- Paul wrote in
Galatians 1:13, “For you have heard
of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the
church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it…,” in Acts 22:4 “I persecuted this Way to the
death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons,” and in Acts 26:11 “…I punished them often in all the
synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously
enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.”
(cf: 1 Corinthians 15:9, Philippians 3:6,
Acts 7:52 "Which one of the prophets
did your fathers not persecute*? They killed those who had
previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and
murderers you have now become)
- That was until the glorious Son of God rebuked him from heaven on
the road to Damascus and Saul realized that to persecute the body of
Christ was the same as persecuting the Christ, and he quit and changed his
name to Paul and started “preaching
the very faith which he once had tried to destroy!” (Galatians 1:23, Acts 9:4
and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul,
Saul, why are you persecuting* Me?... 5 I am Jesus whom you are
persecuting* ||Acts 22:7&8, Acts 26:14 & 15)
- Then other enemies of Christianity began to persecute Paul so that
he wrote to the Corinthian church: “when we are reviled,
we bless; when we are persecuted*, we endure” (1 Corinthians 4:12) and we are “persecuted,
but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9). (cf. Galatians
5:11 “…why am I still persecuted?”)
- Paul concludes that this is simply par for the course for all
Galatians 4:29 “…he who was born
according to the flesh persecuted him who
was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also” (cf. Revelation 12:13)
2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to
live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
- And then Paul instructs the church in what to do when they are
Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you;
bless and do not curse.
What this blessed persecution does NOT mean
- Imagined offenses:
- “Posing as persecuted is a favourite stunt.”
- This is only a blessing
for those who are really “hard pressed upon and pursued with repeated
acts of enmity.” ~Adam Clarke
- The real thing may be
abusive speech or abusive actions, but either way, there will be physical
consequences – in terms of social, financial, or bodily harm.
- Punishment for unrighteousness
- v.10 this is when you are
persecuted for the sake of righteousness
- If you get a panicky
feeling every time you pass a policement and jerk your foot off the
accelerator, that is not persecution; that is breaking the law and
feeling an appropriate fear of getting caught.
- Persecution comes from crooked
people getting angry with you for walking in integrity even when you
haven’t said a word about it, and from rebellious people getting angry at
you and trying to silence you after you have spoken up and called them to
- Christian friends
- v.11 is about “liars…
[falsely] speaking evil because of Jesus
- Let us be careful not to construe
the criticism of friends as persecution. Yes it’s hard to take, but our
friends are not trying to hurt us; they are trying to spare us from much
- Proverbs 27:5-6 Better is open rebuke Than love that is
concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But deceitful are the
kisses of an enemy.
- Even Jesus
criticized His disciples from time to time (“Could you not wait one
hour?” “Oh you of little faith, how long must I be with you?”)
- It’s a blessing to
get this kind of criticism from friends, but not in the same way that it
is a blessing to be truly persecuted.
So, what if you have been abused in the
past because people hated your Christian faith?
(The Perfect tense of the verb for
“persecuted” in v.10 indicates something that happened to you in the past that
you still struggle with.)
And what will you do if you ever
encounter persecution in the future?
(The occurrence of the word “persecute” in v.11 is in a future or Subjunctive sense
– it may happen to you in the future.)
Four things to revolutionize your thinking about persecution
“The harder and more
difficult it is for the flesh to accept, the more closely we must meditate upon
it… [P]onder this teaching in the time of shade and ease, that we may be
prepared whenever needs arise to go out into the arena; let us not meet our
trial ill-equipped.” ~Jean Calvin, A Harmony of the Gospels
1. “…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (v.10)
οτι αυτων εστιν η βασιλεια των ουρανων
this was the reward promised to the poor in spirit – the leading one of these
seven beatitudes – of course it is the proper portion of such as are persecuted
for exemplifying them.” ~J.F.B.
we face the wounds of past persecution and the fires of future
persecution, we must remember that we as God’s children possess the
kingdom of heaven, both now in our life on this earth and in eternity
after we die.
the present, Jesus is our king, and He reigns over us. His spirit
is with us to minister God’s word to us, and we are able to speak to God in prayer
any time we want. We have God; “ours is the kingdom of heaven.” These
wounds from the past and fires in the future are nothing compared to the fact
that God has graciously grabbed hold of you and you have Him!
the grace and glory that results when God in Christ is recognized and
obeyed as Sovereign is theirs even now, and will be theirs in
~Wm. Hendricksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew
the future, we have a “sure title” (in Matthew Henry’s words) to the
glories of heaven where there will be no more brokenness or injustice or
tears. “…out of sight; but well secured, out of the reach of chance, fraud, and
violence.” The kingdom of heaven belongs to us! Our wounds from past
persecution and any persecution to come in the future will be completely healed
and more than made up for by the glories of heaven!
must not be judged in terms of our present state… [Christ] establishes
[happiness] upon the reward of a future hope.” ~John Calvin
2. You are being blessed when they Reproach/Revile/Insult You (v.11)
εστεοταν ονειδισωσιν υμας και
the religion of Christ gives no quarter to vice, so the vicious will give no
quarter to this religion, or to its professors.” ~Adam Clarke
This word revile/reproach/insult occurs in:
- 1 Sam. 17, describing
Goliath’s taunts against God and the people of Israel
- 2 Sam. 21:21 describing the taunts of another
giant killed by David’s nephew Jonathan
- 2 Kings 19 (|| Isa 37) describing the way the Assyrian warlords
insulted God and Hezekiah in the presence of all the people at the wall of
- Nehemiah 6 of the
intimidating letters that Sanballat and Tobias the Samaritans wrote to
Nehemiah as he was trying to help the returning Jews rebuild Jerusalem.
- John 8:48 The Jews
answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan
and have a demon?”
- Mark 15:32 “Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come
down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” Those who were
crucified with Him were also insulting Him. (|| Matt. 27:44, cf. Rom 15:3)
και ειπωσιν παν πονηρον καθ υμων ψευδομενοι ενεκεν εμου
the insults are not all; v.11 goes on to talk of liars
who “falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me/for my sake/on my
- Luke 6:22 Blessed are
you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn
your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.
- 1 Peter 4:14 If you are reviled
for the name of Christ [and Peter uses a first class conditional grammar
structure here indicating that he expects this will actually happen], you
are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
- The Jewish leaders reviled the lame man that Jesus healed in the
temple who tried to tell them that Jesus is the Messiah: John 9:34 They
answered him, "You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching
us?" And they excommunicated him from the church!
same leaders literally proclaimed a curse upon a crowd of Jesus’ followers
in Joh 7:49 "But
this crowd which does not know the Law is accursed."
on, Christians in Rome were called Atheists because they wouldn’t
worship all the Roman idols, and were said to commit incest because
they called each other brothers and sisters in Christ, and were accused of
cannibalism because of what they said about the Lord’s supper.
can we deal with such accusations and slander?
bad things happen to you and you have searched your heart and cannot see
that it is due to your own sin, then hear this truth, you are being
blessed by God with persecution – this is not a punishment from
God! As the hateful words are spewed out against you, you are
receiving a blessing, that’s what Jesus is saying.
- Recognize that the accusations made by the enemies of God against
you are false. The Devil is the “accuser
of the bretheren;” He specializes in false accusations. Don’t let this
shake you; expect it and fill your heart with God’s truth from His word.
that you have taken heat “for Christ's sake” - for his name's sake,
for the sake of his Gospel and interest. They have not insulted you; they
have insulted Christ, and God will take care of the situation.
- Use the Psalms as a pattern for prayer – many Psalms treat the problem of insults in
- Psalm 42:10 (of the
sons of Korah) As a shattering of my bones, my
adversaries revile me, While they say to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"
- Psalm 69:7-14 (Messianic
Psalm of David) …May those who seek You not be dishonored through me, O
God of Israel, Because for Your sake I have borne reproach… I became a
byword to them. Those who sit in the gate talk about me, And I am
the song of the drunkards. But as for me, my prayer is to You, O LORD, at
an acceptable time; O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness,
Answer me with Your saving truth. Deliver me from the mire...
- Psalm 74 (of Asaph) …Remember Your congregation, which
You have purchased of old… The enemy has damaged everything within the
sanctuary… all its carved work They smash with hatchet and hammers. They
have burned Your sanctuary to the ground... How long, O God, will the
adversary revile, And the enemy spurn Your name forever? Why do
You withdraw Your hand…Yet God is my king from of old, Who works deeds of
deliverance in the midst of the earth. You divided the sea by Your
strength… Do not deliver the soul of Your turtledove to the wild beast...
Consider the covenant… Let the afflicted and needy praise Your name...
Psalm 79 also by Asaph, and Psalm 89 & 102 by different authors)
- Psalm 119:41-42 May Your lovingkindnesses also come to me, O LORD,
Your salvation according to Your word; So I will have an answer for him
who reproaches me, For I trust in Your word.
are blessed; for it is an honour to them; it is an opportunity of
glorifying Christ, of doing good, and of experiencing special comforts and
visits of grace and tokens of his presence.” ~Matthew Henry
Not only do we possess the kingdom of heaven, and not
only are we being blessed, we are also to:
3. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” (v.12a)
χαιρετε This is
the one and only time that Jesus commands His followers to rejoice.
- Paul goes on to give the
command to rejoice 5 times (especially in Philippians),
Peter adds to the chorus in 1 Peter
4:12-19. As with Jesus Peter gives the command to rejoice in the
context of persecution:
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among
you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were
happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep
on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice
with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of
Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a
troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to
be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for
judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins
with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the
gospel of God? AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT
WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER? Therefore, those also who
suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful
Creator in doing what is right.
God’s word commands us seven times to rejoice, even in the midst of
suffering, then we had better obey!
other command here is αγαλλιασθε = “jump for joy, be exuberant”
the O.T., this command is used exclusively in the context of worshipping
o Psa 2:11 Worship the LORD with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.
o Psa 32:11 Be glad in the LORD and
rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright
Psa 33:1 Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous
ones; Praise is becoming to the upright.
o Psa 68:4 Sing to God, sing
praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts,
Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him.
o Psa 81:1 Sing for joy to God
our strength; Shout joyfully to the God of Jacob.
o Psa 98:4 Shout joyfully
to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy...
o Isa 12:6 Cry aloud and shout for joy,
O inhabitant of Zion, For great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.
- Mary, the mother of Jesus
obeyed and put into practice this intense joy that affects the whole body
as she welcomed Jesus her savior: Luke 1:47 my spirit
has rejoiced in God my Savior.
- Incidently, Abraham also
“rejoiced greatly” over the coming of Jesus John 8:56 "Your
father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was
glad." (as did David Acts
- Jesus Himself also practiced
this form of rejoicing as he praised His Father for revealing Himself to
His disciples: Luke
10:21 At that very time He rejoiced greatly in
the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven
and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and
intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way
was well-pleasing in Your sight.
- So, it’s no wonder that the
disciples were likewise exuberant over their salvation: John 5:35 "He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you
were willing to rejoice for a while in his light.
- As were the converts of those disciples, such as the jailer in
Philippi, when they were saved: Acts 16:34 And he
brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced
greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.
- And the Christians throughout
Asia Minor to whom Peter wrote: 1 Peter 1:6
In this you greatly rejoice,
even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed
by various trials… 8 and though you do not see Him now, but believe in
Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory
- This whole-body expression of rejoicing is just a foretaste of
what we will experience in the future in heaven, as it was revealed
through the Apostle John: Revelation 19:7
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the
marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready."
that both of these commands are in the present tense, which was a way in the Greek language of expressing
continuous action instead of one-time action. So we are commanded to rejoice
and take that joy to full expression not just on the occasion of our salvation,
but throughout our lives and even during hardships.
Calvin comments on how we can do this: “We have a remedy to hand,
to prevent our being shattered by unjust reproaches. Once our minds are
lifted up to heaven, there unbounded ground for rejoicing opens out to
us, and swallows up the sadness.”
rejoicing and jumping for joy – WHY?
great is your reward in heaven” οτι ο μισθος υμων πολυς εν τοις ουρανοις
source of our joy is in heaven – not on earth.
So we need to continue to “set our minds on things above, where Christ is”
reward in heaven is not something we earn by good works on earth; it
is a free gift from God given to us simply because He chose to love us.
- That reward is, more than anything else, a perfect fellowship with
“Saints must not expect their
reward here, but hereafter, when God himself will be their reward” ~ John
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
we come to the fourth and last thing that Jesus taught to revolutionize our
thinking regarding persecution. We are to realize that we possess the kingdom
of heaven, realize that we are being blessed, we are to rejoice and leap with
joy in anticipation of the glories of heaven, and we are to:
4. Remember that they persecuted the prophets before you (v.12b)
ουτως γαρ εδιωξαν τους προφητας τους προ υμων
These words of Christ teach us to look at the history of
our faith and realize that Christianity isn’t about wealth & public acclaim
in this life; we too will have to sweat and fight just like other believers.
children of Bethel mocked the prophet Elisha by calling him “baldy”
(2 Kings 2:23)
Ahab told another king that he “hated” the prophet Micaiah because
he never prophesied positive things about him. He had Micaiah thrown into
prison and given nothing but bread and water. (2 Chronicles 18)
- Tradition has it
that the one mentioned in Hebrews 11:37 as having been sawn in two by the
Jews was the prophet Isaiah (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho,
Tertullian On Patience)
- Tertullian, in the 3rd Century (Antidote
for the Scorpion’s Sting) wrote that Jeremiah was stoned by the
Jews that he went down to Egypt with. That was, of course, some time after
he had been thrown into a well by the previous king.
- The prophet Amos was falsely accused by
the priests and, as a result, banished him from the country of Israel by
the king. Amos 7:10-13
5:10 sums it up: As an example, brethren, of suffering and
patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.
is good for Christians to know their history of persecution.
- Read your Bible to see
how the prophets were treated;
read biographies of great Christians since Bible times.
have been greatly impacted by reading the classic Foxe’s Book of
well as modern biographies like Richard Wurmbrand’s Tortured for
Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place,
Brother Yun’s The Heavenly Man.
- Yes, the descriptions of torture are gruesome, but
if I ever face one of those forms of torture myself in the future, I will
remember that God enabled these brothers and sisters in Christ to endure
it and praise God, and that will help me to do the same.
marvel not at it as a strange thing, murmur not at it as a
hard thing; it is a comfort to see the way of suffering a beaten road,
and an honour to follow such leaders. That grace which was sufficient for them,
to carry them through their sufferings, shall not be deficient to you.” ~Matthew