By Robert F. Hendrix
A Bible class discussion was taking place and the teacher was trying very hard to put across the idea of sacrificing for the Lord in one’s life as a Christian. When attention had been duly called to the fact that the first century Christians had been tortured by being burned at the stake, the teacher asked the class, “How many of you would actually stand up and be shot to death, if enemies of Christ were persecuting all known Christians today, and had ordered all Christians in this audience to stand and be identified as His followers?” One student spoke up after a long thoughtful silence and said, “I think the number would actually be few, but I was also thinking that some might be more willing to stand up and be shot than to stand up and live for Christ daily.”
Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). Did Paul know whereof he spoke? We answered with a firm “Yes,” in consideration of his relating some of the things he had gladly suffered for the cause of Christ. Of the Jews, he had on five occasions received 39 stripes in separate lashings, three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned and left for dead, three times he suffered shipwreck, a night and a day he had been in the sea, in perils of waters, robbers, in perils by his own countrymen, by false brethren, and in the wilderness. He had experienced for righteousness sake, weariness, painfulness, hunger, thirst, cold and nakedness (2 Cor. 11:23-30). Yes Paul knew what it meant to follow Christ in living for him. He had indeed “denied himself and taken up his cross and followed” Jesus (Matt. 16:24). Could it be that this was in the student’s mind who expressed the idea that more people might be willing to stand up and be shot for Christ than would stand up and live for Christ daily! Paul wrote on another occasion, “. . . nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved men, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
If you and I will be followers of Christ as Paul followed Him, we too will obey the Lord’s plan of salvation faith, repentance, confession of Christ, and baptism, Acts 9; 22:16; Mk. 16:15, 16; Rom. 10:9, 10; Acts 2:38) as did Paul, and will gladly suffer for him, as we faithfully serve him daily. Jesus assured us that we would be blessed for our obedience to His will. “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10-12). Paul thought more of obeying Jesus, than he regretted the scorn and ridicule of relatives who would belittle him for leaving the Jew’s religion to become a Christian. He dared to live a pure and righteous life morally, even though it was not the popular thing to do in his day, and gladly bore ridicule for so doing because he stated, “. . . or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). It was also Paul who taught Christians to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Tit. 2:11, 12) as we deny ungodliness and worldly lusts.” This takes determination, courage, prayer, and the help of Christ “who strengtheneth us,” if we would daily bear our cross in following Jesus in living the good moral life. To follow Christ as Paul followed Him, we will say with Paul, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13). For the love of Christ and His cause, let us dare to be different from this sinful world in which we live. By growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18), let us feed on the sincere milk of the word (1 Pet. 2:1, 2), add to our faith (which led us to obey the gospel, 1 Pet. 1:22) “virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love” (2 Pet. 1:5-11), and “do good unto all men, especially those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Let us continue in the light (1 John 1:7-10), being faithful unto the end (Rev. 2:10); then we can face death with the same assurance of confidence and hope which Paul expressed shortly before he passed from this life. Yes, living for Christ as did Paul, will enable us to die as did Paul with the blessed hope he expressed when he wrote these words to Timothy: “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day (2 Tim. 1:12, 13). “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
Guardian of Truth XXV: 10, pp. 145, 156
March 5, 1981