Some might think that this is a strange series of lectures. But it is not. The apostle Peter wrote in the middle 60s “to the sojourners of the Dispersion” (1 Pt 1:1). These were the same Jewish Christians to which James also directed his Holy Scriptures of encouragement (Js 1:1). It was a time when Jewish Christians stood up and counted themselves to be disciples of Jesus in the face of those fellow Jews who refused to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. This persecution from unbelieving Jews came in view of the consummation of national Israel when the unbelieving Jews were calling on all Jews to be patriotic to Israel. Those Jews who stood with Jesus, therefore, were facing harsh persecution from their fellow Jews. Therefore, Peter wrote,
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you (1 Pt 4:12).
Both Peter and James wrote to encourage the faithful Jewish Christians in their stand against an apostate Israel that formerly crucified their Savior thirty years in the past. In a similar religious environment, those who would stand for the truth of the gospel today must not think it a strange thing that those who are in the bondage of traditional religiosity would persecute those who stand for the truth.
We would write these words to leaders who undergo the same opposition of Satan that Jesus and the early Christians endured. Peter’s readers could not understand why their fellow Jews would persecute them for believing and obeying the truth of gospel of Jesus. Some who stand up today for the truth of the gospel also find it strange that they must undergo similar persecution, persecution that often comes from those who believe in Jesus, but reject obedience to the truth of the gospel. So we write these words to encourage those who are discovering the crafty work of Satan through those who are in the bondage of their religious traditions, or are simply consumed with their desire to be first and influential among the disciples.
The material for this series comes from the textbook on persecution, the New Testament. Every leader must know the tricks of the devil, which tricks were used against Jesus and the early disciples. For years we have witnessed Satan using the same schemes to bring down those who would stand up for their conclusions that they have reaped from vigorous Bible study. In the face of every discouragement that Satan could muster in the first century, we must understand that Satan sought to discourage Jesus from His destiny. He sought to bring down the apostles who continued the rebellion against Jewish religiosity. We should not think for a moment that he has ceased in his vile efforts to discourage the growth of Christianity throughout the world today. To think that he laid down his weapons of discouragement would be to succumb to his efforts because of our desires to be accepted. If a Christian is suffering no negative responses from anyone concerning what he believes, then he should check his beliefs with what the Bible says. If everything we believe is accepted by everyone, then we can be certain that everything we believe is not true.
This series will seem negative, which it is because we are bringing to remembrance the devices of Satan that are negative against the truth of the gospel. In a religious world of literature where every book has been written to make us feel good, we have often overlooked the fact that not everything is good. Satan is not good. His schemes are evil. We live in a generation, however, where there are many who have accepted everything as good, and everyone who “believes in Jesus” is right with God. Too many have accepted a doctrine of universalism, that is, everyone is right with God as long as they cry out, “Lord, Lord.”
We would differ with those who believe that there will be a universal deliverance from condemnation of everyone who simply “believes on Jesus.” The New Testament nowhere teaches this. So in this generation of universalists, there is a paradigm of truth in which we would take our stand. And if there is concrete truth that we must believe and obey, then we should not think it strange that those of the paradigm of universalism should bring all of Satan’s devices against us. Satan did such to Jesus in the first century, and we would assume that he will do the same today to the disciples of Jesus.
We continue to call for a restoration to the old paths of God’s directions. However, we live in a generation of history where the concept of restoring the times of refreshing is foreign to the thinking of most religious people. Because the Bible has become obscure in the faith of most religious people today, even those who call themselves after Christ Jesus know little about the Bible. The religious world seems to feel content to carry on with religiosity while forsaking a knowledge of Jesus that is revealed in the Scriptures. Even many of those who were formerly born out of a restoration to the authority of the word of God have long forgotten the principle that we must always be sensitive to restoring the Bible as the center of reference to our faith. In our acceptance of everything and everyone, we forget that the true disciples of Jesus are those who love and keep His commandments.
We would not think it strange, therefore, when a diligent Bible student stands up to proclaim the word of God to a movement that has circled around and become that from which the early fathers fled, that he would not be faced with the same opposition that Jesus and the apostles faced in the first century.
Satan is still working today to discourage those who seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus through their study of the Bible. In the religious world in general, we find few Bible students today who labor in study daily in order to keep themselves close to God. When there are those who would stand up and repeat the words of God to Israel through Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge of My commandments,” then we would not think it strange that Satan would unleash the totality of his weapons of warfare against these “rebels.” The purpose for which we write is to alert faithful Bible students who have been the recipients of Satan’s attacks. These faithful students of the Bible must understand that Satan’s attack against them is not strange, for he used the same tactics against Jesus and the early church. It is encouraging to understand, however, that when we study how Satan has always worked, then we can expect him to work the same way today. So Peter encourages the faithful with the following word:
But rejoice, insasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’ sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy (1 Pt 4:13).
[Next lecture: June 2]