Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and you shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
Religious persecution is an evil, and a serious evil, but it cannot be called an unmitigated evil. Persecutors come under Divine judgments; but persecutors, in the Divine overruling, are made to do the Lord's work. The Lord Jesus was persecuted, and we fully sympathize with him in those persecutions. And yet we only know him through them. His perfect obedience as a Son only comes to view on the background of the sufferings he endured. What is true of the Master is true of his Church. It has ever been sanctified through the persecutions it has been called to endure.
I. ITS MISSION IN RELATION TO THE TRUTH OF THE CHURCH. Illustrate two points.
1. The conflicts of the Church have helped to formulate the doctrine of the Church. Persecutions have dealt with opinion, and have helped to make right opinion. It may even be shown that the influence on truth has not been altogether good, because the strain of persecution has tended to exaggerate particular opinions, and put them out of the Christian harmony.
2. The martyrdoms of persecuting times have vivified the leading truths of the Church. The things men have died for are all-important. They must be worth dying for; they are primary truths of the "faith."
II. ITS MISSION IN RELATION TO THE SPIRIT OF THE CHURCH.
1. The ages of persecution have been spiritual ages. Then the critical spirit is wanting. Men easily believe. The underlying meaning of God's Word is more important than its literary form. Men find they need "the sincere milk of the Word."
2. The ages of persecution have been ages of brotherhood. The common peril ensures common service. There is mutual shielding, mutual sympathy, and the records tell of heroic acts of self-sacrifice done at such times. The story of such ages acts upon us today as an inspiration to brotherhood.
III. ITS MISSION IN RELATION TO THE SPREAD OF THE CHURCH. It has been, over and over again, as it was in the first Christian age. The disciples were "scattered abroad" in consequence of the persecution that arose over the preaching of Stephen, and they "went everywhere, preaching the Word."
1. At such times there is a secret spreading of the Church. Hidden, it works like leaven. Illustrate by history of the Church in Madagascar and Uganda.
2. At such times there is the entering of new spheres, and possession of new lands in the name of Christ (see story of the pilgrim Fathers). - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.