Jerald Finney, May 2, 2017
This article is written during a long period of grief and sorrow, suffering and persecution. First, it briefly deals with the issue of false teachings concerning church organization and links to an online teaching on this matter. The article linked to also explains correct Bible church organization. Dealing with this issue is the source of much suffering. Next, the article explains the suffering and persecution which any believer who takes a Bible based stand for God, including God’s churches and church principles, must endure. Sadly, the sources of such suffering come from everywhere—from within and without. When from within, “judgment must begin at the House of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” Finally, the article quotes some very relevant Bible verses for guidance of believers in a church in the midst of suffering and persecution.
The article linked to below exposes lies and fabrications of a pseudo-law organization which has, for decades, misled people about church organization. This group has not only promoted a wrong way, but blatantly lied about the right way. Many good men of God have organized using their unlearned methods; been victim to their ridiculous arguments, etc. I left them alone for many, many years. However, every few months on average, I would be contacted by another believer who had bought their nonsense about their method of church organization (and teachings concerning pastoral leadership-a side issue) and also about correct New Testament church organization. Because truth was being drug through the mud and God’s churches misled, the Lord finally laid on my heart to “answer a fool according to his folly.”
The article is one chapter of an online booklet. Links to all articles, which address all aspects of the issue, are at the top of each article. I humbly suggest that members of New Testament churches properly organized according to New Testament principles need to understand these matters. The link to the article is:
As mentioned above, dealing with matters like this brings grief and sorrow, suffering and persecution to a believer. It is not fun to expose lies and anti-Biblical teaching and practices, especially when they are disseminated by so-called men of God. When one stands for Christ and/or His churches, he will suffer. Jesus is our example. “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Is. 53.3). Christ “loved the church and gave himself for it.” Likewise did the apostles.
Colossians 1:24 “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church:” Paul, in following Christ, suffered for “the body’s sake, which is the church.” Of course, on earth, the institution of the church is manifested in the local New Testament church. “Colossians” was written to and for the church at Colosee, with principles that God desires to be applied to every New Testament church body. Just read the epistles of Paul to get an idea of his suffering and contention for and within the local church. Of course, the church at Philippi was an exception. It was a church which had only insignificant problem(s)—no false doctrine as the churches of Galatia; no problems with Christian conduct as with the church at Corinth.
Likewise, all who follow Christ will suffer. 2 Timothy 3:12: ” Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 1 Peter 2:21: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.”
My pastor just preached a sermon concerning Christian suffering. He pointed out that this is something that all believers who seek to follow Christ will do. They will suffer for Christ’s sake. Before hearing that sermon, I never considered that much of my suffering and anguish since salvation have come because of my feeble attempts to follow our Lord. I had equated the “suffering and persecution” of Christians with that of the martyrs. But as the pastor preached, the continuing sufferings encountered by believers within a church who is at least attempting to honor the Lord Jesus Christ may be worse than that of the martyrs in the sense that the grief and sorrow brought from internal church associations and matters continue. They do not suddenly and quickly disappear. These sufferings are varied: For example, marriage problems for a newly saved believer caused by his regeneration; rejection of Christ by the believer’s friends and relatives; adverse reactions by co-workers, bosses, people of influence who can help or hinder his advancement in his chosen occupation of profession (e.g., a believer following his Lord no longer drinks, parties, etc. with them as before); suffering caused by conflict between believers within and without a church over true versus false doctrine or conduct (maybe the most distressing type of suffering); etc.
As a believer grows in knowledge, understanding, and application of Bible truth, conflicts, suffering, and persecution increase. Christ will call such a believer to do a work for Him according to the gift(s) which He extends to the believer. May times, the exercise of the believer’s gift(s) will bring that believer into conflict with other believers, many times others within the church he is a member of. Those conflicts are many times kept hidden within but they grow like a cancer; they cannot be hidden. Unresolved tension in and of itself brings suffering and persecution. The conflict, suffering, and persecution between believers is the worst, the hardest to deal with, the most hurtful, the cause of the most severe sorrow and grief. What is one to do? Betray Christ or suffer? Confront those with whom the conflict exists of let it smoulder?
May I present a little more insight, from the Bible, concerning suffering? Permit me to go back to Paul’s statement quoted above: “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” Paul was suffering in his body for the sake of Christ’s body, “which is the church.” When Paul (and other believers) suffer for the body (the local church), it completes the suffering of Christ. Thus, there is still something to be done. Paul is writing from prison and here he says he has fulfilled all his sufferings in fulfillment of Ac. 9.15-16: “15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
There are two kinds of sufferings: ministerial suffering and mediatorial suffering. Christ’s sufferings were mediatorial. Meditorial sufferings are of two kinds.
- Those which Christ endured and in which we cannot share. This is His human suffering which he endured as a man. These sufferings would include hunger and thirst, loneliness, anguish, pain, sorrow, and weariness. Paul wrote, “For every man shall bear his own burden” (Ga. 6.5). Thus, there are certain burdens we must each bear alone. We are born alone, feel pain alone. We must face certain problems alone. There is a sorrow that comes which no one can share with us. No one can take our place when we become sick. You cannot take your child’s place when he or she becomes sick. No one can go through the valley of the shadow of death for another.
- The second suffering which Christ could not share was His suffering as the Son of God. We see this suffering in Psalm 69. In verses 11 and 12, we learn that He was the song of drunkards and that He made sackcloth His garment. Because He was the son of God, He was arrested by the Roman soldiers. The soldiers of the high priest mocked Him. They played a game in which they blindfolded him, and all the soldiers hit him with their fists. Even when he named the right one, they would not admit it but would blindfold him again and play the same game. He was marred more than any man. His face was beaten to a pulp. He suffered in a way no man has ever suffered because he suffered as the Son of God.
On the other hand, there are sufferings Christ endured which we can share. These are the sufferings which Paul refers to in Colossians 1.24.
- There is suffering for righteousness’s sake. Jesus suffered for righteousness’ sake. “But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham” John 8:40). Believers are to continue in the example of Paul and the other Apostles. When they do so, they will experience ministerial suffering. They will suffer persecution. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Ti. 3:12).
If you are going to live for God, if you are going to take a stand for the right, you will find that you will be passed by. God’s men are passed by today in the distribution of earthly honors. “The world and many ‘Christians’ will damn the man of God with faint praise, and they will praise him with faint damns.” That is the way many believers as well as lost people treat God’s men. Athletes are lauded; people in the entertainment world are praised; politicians are praised; professors are honored; Christian lawyers who have forsaken Bible truth concerning church organization teach their lies at seminaries, Bible Colleges, and churches and sell their heretical books to Christians who blindly follow their teachings; and heretical teachers and pastors within the “Christian” sphere are lauded, praised, and looked up to by millions and their books, sermons, heretical and apostate teachings, etc. are believed and followed. If you stand for the things that are right in this world, you will suffer for righteousness’ sake. Paul understood this. That will be the lot for anyone who stands for God using God’s methods.
- Then there is the suffering in the measure we identify ourselves with Christ for the proclamation of the Gospel. The Lord Jesus made this clear, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you” (John 15:18-19). “The popularity of the world and the ‘Christian’ community is in inverse ration with his popularity with Christ.” If you are popular with the world and with the general “Christian” community in America, you will not be popular with Christ. The child of God is to take his rightful place and identify himself with Christ. When we suffer for Christ, the Lord Jesus is also suffering through us and through His local church we are members of.
Remember what the Lord Jesus said to Saul on the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why persecuteth thou me” (Acts 9.4). Saul thought he was persecuting Christians. He was shocked to learn that he was actually persecuting the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus suffers when His children are persecuted.
If the Gospel and the truths of the Word of God are to go forward today, someone must suffer. Believers who take the Word of God seriously and act upon the truths therein will suffer. Local churches who take the Word of God seriously will understand that they “are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ep. 2:19-22).
Members of local New Testament churches who seek to obey Christ and keep his commandments will suffer persecution from many sources, sometimes from within the church they are members of. Oh, would churches follow the example of the church at Philippi. If one is to follow God and his Word, he needs the love, fellowship, and edification of everyone in the church he is a member of. His local church is his oasis. The disdain, rejection, and opposition of just one beloved brother in a church – even if not overtly obvious – quelches and weakens the spirit of the targeted member(s) of the body, thereby weakening and destroying the unity of the body as a whole. Love (charity) is the key to prevention of this malady in the body. May church members and believers seek to love one another while keeping in mind the following most appropriate verses:
Ephesians 4:11-16: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
1 Corinthians 12:22-31: “Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”
God does not want his children to needlessly cause their brothers and sisters in Christ to suffer. He desires that we, in the midst of our sufferings, remember: “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:8-19). [Notice: the fiery trial starts at the church, the house of God. Believers persecute and cause other believers to suffer. A believer should make sure he is on the Lord’s side (truth and love) when this happens.]
See the following webpage for a lot of Scripture which deals with suffering and persecution of the believer: Persecution and Suffering.
Note. Many of the insights in the above article were gleaned from Colossians by Dr. J. Vernon McGee.