Dribble From The Pen: Affliction as Evidence

II Thess. 1:5

“This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.”

By Reverend Ray

“A sanctified person is like a silver bell. The harder he is smitten, the better he sounds.1”

If we are to hold fast to our Christian faith in the midst of a world that engages such devotion with cynicism and mocking, then we must embrace it with a clear understanding of the ultimate divine purpose that lies behind such affronts.

The Christians in the city of Thessalonica had endured persecution and affliction from neighbors from the earliest beginnings of their faith in Christ. Paul said of them; “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”(I Thess.1:6,7)

Their faith immediately came under the crosshairs of those who mocked, ridiculed and even threatened their lives. One might ask, what is so offensive about the message of the gospel as to provoke some to such antagonism, or how is a change in one’s moral and spiritual disposition accost to others? Certainly, we can accept the offense taken to someone or something that would threaten life or livelihood of another, but in the work of God that brings life to a dead man, one would expect to find responses of joy and acceptance, if indeed, humanity is of the good nature it claims for itself. Yet, we who have embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ know too well that this is not the norm. Church history shows that those who have embraced the Christian faith have suffered alienation from friends, family members, communities and in some cases the church itself. And history is replete with the stories of Christian martyrs suffering gruesome deaths at the hands of those who were neighbor and friend to them.

So, what is the reason behind this recurrent scenario that finds those who are changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ enduring persecution and affliction from those around them? The Apostle Paul is answering this very question to these saints at Thessalonica as they continued to endure persecution. In the above translation of the text, the phrase “plain indication” is the rendering of the Greek word; “ἔνδειγμα” (endeigma). It is found only here in the New Testament and only twice in the Greek classics. The word is a legal term — all the means by which any alleged matter of fact whose truth is investigated is established or disproved. In other words, Paul is saying that the persecution and affliction that these saints endured was a statement of the legal proceeding God has exercised both on them and those who administered the afflictions they suffered. Paul clarifies this in the following sentence; “For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”(II Thess. 1:6-8)

This calls attention to two significant Biblical principles; God’s people are subject to persecutions in this world as an expression of proof or evidence that they are indeed the children of God. (see II Tim. 3:12) Second, those who impose the persecutions upon the Elect of God give evidence to the fact that they are not God’s. And this is the abrasion that raises the contempt in their hearts. The quote from the Puritan divine, George Swinnock; “A sanctified person is like a silver bell. The harder he is smitten, the better he sounds,2” succinctly frames the meaning of persecution for the saint. The trouble with bells that resound loudly is that they tend to irritate those who don’t enjoy them. So, the life of the saint who will live godly will inevitably chafe the hearts of a condemned world. The only question for the saint is how clear is the ring of our lives?

Dribble from the pen

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