Over the centuries there have been many righteous people martyred for the sake of what they believe. In this section Jesus warns those of His followers that this would be the case. He says that some will be put to death for the sake of their faith and their service to God, just as many of the earlier prophets died for their service to God.
What is most disturbing about this piece of scripture, is that it is often those who claim to be followers of the Lord that will be the ones killing the prophets and righteous people of God. This should not be so, but it is clear from Jesus’ own mouth that this is what will happen. Why?
Believing False Doctrine
The first reason why is that these people have believed the words of false doctrine and false teaching. They have listened to those opposed to the truth thinking that they are following the truth.
The truth is the truth and there is no lie in the truth. But there were many in Jesus’ day who perverted the truth and made it into something that it was not. They twisted the words of the truth and it became error and lies and they readily accepted it as the truth when it was not.
Satan is the source of false doctrine and he is the master of deception. He was called the deceiver of the world in Revelation 12:9 saying, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” He uses flattery, deceit, trickery, weasel words, spin doctoring and the like to deceive people and cause them to believe what is false.
And it is no different today. The words of the prophet in Isaiah 5:20 ring true even more today than in days past.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
This is just another way that Satan deceives the world. Today we have people whose job it is to “spin” bad news, sin and evil things to look good.
This is going on in the church too. New Age philosophies and false religion have crept into the church by stealth over many years. Rather than turn to the truth people would rather exchange their teachers to find others who suit their own tastes and likes. We are told to expect this as Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:3-4,
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings,
4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.
When they do not like what the Bible or any teacher of the Bible says, rather than change their ways, they choose to change the Bible teacher and in some cases have even changed the Bible.
A classic example of this today is the new “bible” released targeting the homosexual community called the “Queen James Bible.” Sections of this book have been changed allowing them to, “…accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings,” rather than listening to the truth as written from the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts.
If any person tampers with the words of the Bible to suit their own ends, will that make what they do any more acceptable to God? What will stand, the words of man or the word of God? By what will people in this world be judged, the words of man or the word of God? And what does the Bible say about tampering with the words of God?
18 I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if any one adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book,
19 and if any one takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)
It is the word of God that will stand in the end and nothing a man may say or do will change that. It is hard enough when preachers and teachers of the word twist the scriptures to achieve their own purposes as Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:16, without people changing the very words of the Bible to suit themselves.
Not Confirming the Truth
People will die for the sake of what they believe and be martyred because others choose to believe what is false. What is worse, those people who believe what is false do not confirm the truth for themselves but blindly accept what others tell them and so fall into a snare and a trap. This is a clear case of the blind leading the blind.
The apostle Paul before he came to Christ was in this situation. He consented to the martyred death of Stephen and had letters to imprison Christians wherever he found them. In his actions he believed he was doing the right thing. He truly believed he was serving God by ridding Judea of this “Christian problem.”
Until the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus…
Paul had an enlightening experience that showed him the error of his ways and turned him completely about face to be a great servant of the Lord. The Lord literally “got in his face” to show him the right path.
Paul was seeking the truth. He was deeply religious and deeply wanted to know God. He was well advanced in the teachings of Judaism and a member of the sect of the Pharisees.
But it is clear he was led astray by the teachings and the company he kept. His search for the truth by following the path of the Pharisees was actually keeping him away from finding the truth. The truth is in Jesus Christ, not the teachings of man. It is found in faith, not in works of the law, but the Pharisee teaching was so steeped in the works of the law that Paul was blinded to the truth.
It was not until Jesus revealed Himself to Paul that he began to question and recognised that Jesus was the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for and that in Him were the promises of the truth. Paul stopped and revisited all that he knew and in the end he cast it all aside as being worthless when compared to knowing the truth of Jesus Christ. As he said in Philippians 3:7-9,
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
8 Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith
When Jesus turned Paul around, then he considered the truth of the scriptures and compared them to what he learned about Jesus. It was then that he recognised Jesus is the truth, and the way, and the life.
But this did not happen to him and will not happen for anyone else unless and until they are prepared to check the truth for themself. When you hear anything from anyone, you must test it by the truth of Jesus Christ and His gospel to see if it rings true. And if it doesn’t, reject it.
Finally we must be prepared. Christ is calling us to live with Him and to be changed into His likeness. We may want to live our lives a certain way and behave or think in certain ways, but unless those ways accord with His ways we will not see life.
And as it says in this scripture today, we may need to resist to the point of shedding our blood. There will be many today who reject the truth and reject the people of God believing they are doing a service to God, just as they rejected and stoned Stephen all those years ago. And just as they rejected and murdered Jesus Christ Himself.
Jesus is warning us when he says here in John 16:1-4,
1 “I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away.
2 They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me.
4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you of them.
It is to warn us that these things may take place and that we may be persecuted to death that we must be prepared. There may be suffering, but He will sustain us. There may be difficult times ahead, but He will lead us through them. There may be temptations, but He has already won the victory. And there may be death, but in Him we have life.
Whatever the future holds we cannot know today. But we know that the times will grow more evil, lies will grow, people will suffer fear and stress and anxiety and the love of mankind will grow cold. The Bible tells us and warns us of all these things, so we must be prepared by following Christ and finding His truth so that we may live and not perish with the world who refuse to seek the ways of God.
Instead let us seek and find God so that we know the Father and the Son, obeying their commandments and walking in the ways of the Lord as led and guided by the Holy Spirit. Then we shall walk with Him and He will guide and protect us to bring us into His eternal life, regardless of what happens in this life and this world.
(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Claudia Meyer)
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