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Enduring hardship as a Christian is quite a task. It involves so many factors of which endless books have been written. I could go in a lot of different directions and come up with a whole battle plan of how to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” but I will do that in many separate articles. I believe also someday I will write a book series on the topic. But for now I am only wanting to put out one single lesson. I will post a series of scriptures after that to support the whole theme, but it is important to get this one lesson, because I believe it is one of the few main reasons why Christians do not fulfill their callings and why they never move beyond where they are at.
I once came up with a very lengthy study breaking down the Fruit of the Spirit. I have the original 1828 Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language I use to break down definitions. Webster’s original dictionary contained numerous biblical passages for virtually every definition. Webster himself learned 26 languages and did endless study of the biblical languages. Needless to say, I trust his definitions in context with scripture.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” Galatians 5:22,23
One of the fruit of the spirit above is Longsuffering. Other Bible versions translate it patience or forbearance. Webster defines it as:
“Bearing injuries or provocation for a long time; patient; long endurance; and patience of offense”
There are a few different concepts within this definition that I will write separate blogs on, but for this blog I mainly want to press on the part about patience and what that truly means. First though I want to make a few points to stress what we are to be patient about. We are to bear “injuries” In fact we are to “suffer injuries” I will now give the definitions of suffering, injuries, and patience and then I want to make my point scripturally with one main verse and then put out a challenge. After that I will post scriptures of biblical suffering and you can continue to read them if you want or not. Here are the definitions according to Webster:
Suffering: “To feel or bear what is painful, disagreeable or distressing, either to the body or the mind; we suffer with pain, sickness or sorrow. We suffer with anxiety. We suffer by evils past and by anticipating others to come. We suffer from fear and from disappointed hopes; to be injured; to sustain loss or damage”
Injury: “Any wrong or damage done to a man’s person, rights, reputation or goods. That which impairs the soundness of the body or health, or gives pain is an injury…We may receive injury by misfortune as well as by injustice”
Patience: “The suffering of afflictions, pain, toil, calamity, provocation or other evils with a calm and unruffled temper; endurance without murmuring or fretfulness…or discontent; The act or quality of waiting long for justice or expected good without discontent. Perseverance; constancy in labor or exertion. The quality of bearing offenses and injuries without anger or revenge. Patience may spring from constitutional fortitude, from a kind of heroic pride, or from Christian submission to the divine will.”
There is so much to be said of all these definitions, such as bearing offenses and injuries. Until the day you die you will have to suffer being offended by people one way or another. Very recently I had to endure being highly offended at someone and I’m just now getting over with it. I read a book a long time ago called The Bait of Satan which teaches that offense is his main weapon to use to divide us, and that it gives him a foothold in your life:
“Be angry, and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26, 27
But the main definition I want to focus on is this: “endurance without murmuring, fretfulness, discontent”
One of the top few reasons why I believe that many Christians never fulfill the calling on their lives is because of these three words: murmuring, fretfulness, and discontent. Here is the scripture I want to use to back up this claim:
“Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them…Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” 1 Corinthians 10: 6-11
God took the Israelites through the wilderness for 40 years for what should have taken 11 days. Out of the original group of over 1 million that came out of slavery out of Egypt, only two people made it to the Promised Land. The story of the Israelites is almost entirely paralleled to the Christian life. God rescued us out of the slavery of sin, the wilderness is our journey with him throughout life in preparation for our calling, and the Promised Land is us reaching our calling to the fullest.
The Israelites complained every time there was a hardship. God destroyed thousands of them at one time just for complaining and being ungrateful. I can’t tell you how many Christians I see complaining on Facebook about stuff in their lives. I have been guilty of this in the past. I am of the firm belief that we don’t have enough of the fear of God in today’s society. Consider this:
“Do not be haughty(arrogant, conceited), but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches (Israel), He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” Romans 11:20-22
You may want to ask yourself of ways you have complained and have been ungrateful. Do you complain in traffic? Do you complain when things don’t go your way or when you face hardship? Do you complain about school? About Work? Now I am not one who believes that everything in your life is God’s will. A lot of it is just the results of our own actions or inactions, or laziness. You reap what you sow. That is a separate blog.
The challenge I want to put out though is to study those three definitions and see in what area in your life you are not suffering in the right way, and make it a goal to not complain.
Fretfulness: Fretfulness is basically anxiety. Feelings are unavoidable many times but our actions and words are preventable. Fretfulness or anxiety causes many people to utter words that are in contrast to God’s words. We have to remind ourselves that he is faithful and that he has a plan. This is why we have to get to know his word and to utter his promises and to store them in our hearts to help alleviate our anxiety. One of the other fruits of the spirit is Joy which is a remedy for anxiety and fretfulness. Making ourselves Joyful is very difficult sometimes. Some people seem born with the gift of being carefree and peaceful and displaying joy. It’s not so easy for the rest of us. This is another reason we need to know scripture. If you know so full well the promises of God and can place your mind on eternity, it really helps. Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is “Righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost“ We are in a right relationship with him through Christ, we practice righteousness in our daily lives, we have peace in our circumstances because we trust him, and we have joy because we are redeemed and we have such a future hope. It is a state of mind. Turn off the television, get off Facebook, read scripture and go out in nature and enjoy God’s beautiful creation. Joy is a very important topic I plan to write much about because it is quite a challenge for myself. I’m not writing these blogs just for everyone else. It really helps me because it forces me to study and to live up to what I teach.
Discontent: I wish I had the time to go into this and it is why I keep saying that I will write separate blogs. I will say a few words though. Being discontent is a state of mind. Like anxiety, it can cause us to say certain things and to take certain courses of action in our lives which are wrong. Being content comes with spiritual maturity and is one of the highest callings on the Christian life. The Apostle Paul mastered the art of this and is such an example to us. He wrote this while he was in prison:
“…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13
I am not saying it is wrong to feel sad or discontented. You have to stop letting it make you utter words which God sees as ungrateful which is what he hates. Stop wishing things were so different and engage in your situation in the right way. Stop envying others and wishing you had what they have. I truly believe that only when we learn how to be content where we are at is when God will promote us.
One major problem I see with all this though is that we have a hard time trusting God because we seem to go nowhere in life. I have very strong reasons as I have said why many Christians do not ever progress spiritually and never act out their calling. I have said many times that I believe there are a few main reasons for this. One of them is Romans 8:28
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
This verse has been severely misused in Christianity today, especially when people shorten it to “All things work together for good” THAT IS NOT TRUE. It says “to those who love God” Jesus said “If you love me keep my commandments.” He repeats this in number of different times in a number of different ways. His commandments were to “love one another” and the first and greatest “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The Apostle John repeats that if we love him we will obey his commandments, and if we don’t we are a liar. The point being; God is not working all things together for good until you are actually loving him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving others. Are you really loving him with all your strength by wasting hours a day playing video games or watching sports when you could be learning his word or laboring in his service for the gospel, or helping others, or serving in ministry? I could come up with endless examples like this.
One of my next blogs is going to be on this topic so I’m trying not to elaborate on it too far. I consider it one of the most important things I will ever write about. It will offend many people but this is one area I mean to bring conviction. I believe too many people are conforming to the world. Notice in a similar way to the scripture above the implications of God’s will and working things out for good:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
Notice after Paul says not to conform to the world he says “then you will be able” Other translations say “That you may prove” I plan to write a whole blog on how Christians are conforming to this world and that will most definitely get me a lot of haters from luke-warm Christians. It is not legalism. We don’t avoid things with a law mentality, unless you have not mastered the grace mentality. We avoid certain things out of love for God and so we can be spending our time on laboring for his kingdom.
So if you can’t tell, I like to break down definitions. I am so tired of one liner Facebook Christianity. Ask yourself; what does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Just wait until I break down all those definitions and provide scripture to back them up. Scripture has a lot to say about our mind and about the heart. Can you just imagine all the ways?
So, with all that said, look out for future blogs. For now I will end this with a list of scriptures which deal with suffering biblically. When you read these keep in mind the definitions. These are also meant to give you hope. We today in America don’t suffer anything compared to the saints around the world currently who are being tortured and martyred for their faith. My favorite ministry, which I have followed over the years and support financially, is Voice of The Martyrs. Persecution.com if you want to check it out. They track persecuted Christians around the world and provide much support in a lot of different ways. So keep them in mind when you are going through what you are and remember to be grateful that we live in a country with so much freedom and comfort. Better yet, let us use this freedom to labor for the Kingdom of God. Thank you for reading.
2 Timothy 3:12- Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall Suffer persecution.
1 Peter 4:1- Forasmuch then as Christ hath Suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind…
1 Peter 2:19- For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, Suffering wrongfully.
1 Peter 2:20- For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and Suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.
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.
Philippians 1:29- For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to Suffer for his sake.
1 Peter 4:13- 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.
1 Peter 4:16- Yet if any man Suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
1 Peter 3:14- But and if ye Suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled…
1 Peter 3:17- For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye Suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.
2 Thessalonians 1:4,5- … For your Patience and Faith in all your Persecutions and Tribulations that ye endure: Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgement of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the Kingdom of God, for which ye also Suffer:
Romans 5:3- And not only so, but we glory in Tribulations also: Knowing that Tribulation worketh Patience; and Patience, Experience; and Experience, Hope: and Hope maketh not ashamed…
Psalms 34:19- Many are the afflictions of the Righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all.
Romans 8:17- And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint Heirs with Christ; if so be that we Suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Romans 8:18- For I reckon that the Sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
James 1:2,3- My brethren count it all joy when ye fall into divers Temptations; Knowing this, that the Trying of your Faith worketh patience.
1 Peter 1:6- Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold Temptations: That the Trying of your Faith…
James 1:12- Blessed is the man that endureth Temptation: For when he is Tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that Love him.
1 Peter 4:12- Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to Try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.
Luke 8:13- They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of Temptation fall away.
Mark 4:17- And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when Affliction or Persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended
2 Corinthians 1: 7- And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the Sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.
2 Corinthians 1:8 – For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life;
2 Corinthians 1:9-10 – But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9- We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down; but not destroyed;
2 Corinthians 4:10- Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
2 Corinthians 4:11- For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
1 Corinthians 4:11- Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.
2 Corinthians 6:4-10- But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
2 Corinthians 11:22-27- Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I Am More; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
2 Corinthians 11:30- If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity.
2 Corinthians 12:7-8- …There was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
2 Corinthians 12:9- And he said unto me, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:10- Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
Hebrews 11:35-38 “…and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
Hebrews 12:3- For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, (Jesus) lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds
Hebrews 12:11- Now no Chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Proverbs 3:11,12- My son, despise not the Chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his Correction: For whom the Lord Loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
Proverbs 15:10- …And he that hateth Reproof (Correction) shall die.
Galatians 6:9- And let us not be weary in well doing: For In due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
1 Peter 5:6- Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you In due time.
“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter 5:10
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18
I chose to make this verse the theme of this teaching. These are the words of Jesus and they are pretty self-explanatory. Overall, there are two ways that we suffer as Christians:
1. We suffer Persecution
2. We suffer Trials and Hardship
I will do a separate blog on # 2 after this one.
I am absolutely of the belief that many of the ways we are defeated as Christians is simply because we don’t know scripture well enough. I have found that a very effective strategy for overcoming a particular battle with something is to find all the verses which mention that topic and put them in a list. It helps to get the right perspective about why something happens and how to deal with it according to scripture.
The first way we suffer as Christians is by persecution. I have very strong convictions about this that will challenge some and may offend others. But here is a very simple question to ask: If Christianity in America became illegal and we faced going to court to be convicted and then thrown in jail, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
I plan to turn that question into another blog, but for now I will leave that for you to think about. One of the main points about this blog is to point out that if you are not facing any kind of persecution then you are doing something wrong, or simply not doing anything at all. One of my favorite quotes by Winston Churchill relates to this:
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
This is very true when it comes to Christianity and it was taught by Christ himself. To get a right perspective though on suffering persecution I would like to list a number of verses that teach about it. The first few are from Christ himself:
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:18
“Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.” Luke 6:26
“…whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” Luke 12:9
“These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.” Mark 4:16-17
Notice also how Christ said that “persecution arises for the word’s sake” The more you know God’s word the more you are accountable for. There’s a good chance after reading this blog God may give you opportunities and tests to confess him before people.
Next has to do with your mind-set:
“Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall Suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12
This begs the question of whether you are really living Godly if you are not suffering any kind of persecution.
“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” 1 Peter 2:21
“Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind…” 1 Peter 4:1
“For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” Philippians 1:29
Notice how Peter says “arm yourselves likewise with the same mind” We have to have the right perspective about why we are suffering and be mentally prepared for it. Here is the other way we need to set our mind and attitude toward it:
“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Mathew 5:11-12
“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” 1 Peter 4:16
“But rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” 1 Peter 4:13
Christ himself said “Blessed are you” and “rejoice and be exceedingly glad” We are to “not be ashamed” These are the scriptures we need to fill our minds with and to keep reminding ourselves of. Now I know many people would say that the world will know we are his disciples by our good deeds. That is very true, and that is how they know you are legit. But I consider that a separate issue. No one was ever really persecuted for loving another. I’m talking about confessing Christ before people and standing out from the world and standing up for his truth and for God’s word. Loving people will get you a lot of friends and a good reputation, which is a good thing. Professing Christ, mentioning God’s word as the truth, and preaching the Gospel will get you persecuted in one way or another. You will not be part of the group and they will make fun of and slander you. But many people will respect you none the less for taking a stand and being someone of principle and conviction.
One problem we run into many times is that for many of the people we interact with on a daily basis, we never let know from the very beginning that we are Christians. It becomes increasingly difficult to witness if you have gone a long time hanging out and conversing with people at work or school without ever even hinting in any way. Especially if you have ruined your witness around them; laughed at dirty jokes, participated in gossip etc. If all the sudden you are put in a position where you have to reveal that you are a Christian it can become awkward. Your friends might start making fun of Christians in front of you, one of your Church buddies may walk up to you while you are with some of those people, etc.
I have found that the most effective way of preventing this is by making it known from the very beginning when you meet someone that you are a Christian. It could be as easy as just mentioning in conversation that you go to church; something, anything just so they have that in their mind. From that very point on they begin to watch you. Some people will even refrain from acting so crude around you just out of respect. They could even be a backslidden Christian themselves and won’t act certain ways just out of conviction. But some people will do or say things to provoke you. Some will just to test you and see if you are a hypocrite or if you will compromise. But you see where this leads? It creates accountability on your part. If you know that they are watching you, you are much more likely to be a witness.
I have found also that many times certain people when they are going through something really hard in their lives, will come to you to talk to instead of the rest of the people you work with. Those are the opportunities you are looking for. Or even if they don’t come to you, but you know they are going through something difficult, that is the time to do something for them and show them love. If they didn’t know you were a Christian then they might just think you are a really nice person. But if they know, then they realize why you did something loving for them.
I want to end this with one verse. It is very well-known that we are to be in the world but not of the world. We must witness, and if we face persecution or not being well liked then we are doing what we are supposed to be doing. But we have to make sure we are not conforming to the ways of the world:
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2
Webster’s Dictionary 1828 “To reduce to a likeness or correspondence in manners, opinions or moral qualities. To comply with or yield to; to live or act according to; as, to conform to the fashion or custom.”
Notice how the verse says not to be conformed “That you may prove” what the will of God is for your life. It is my conviction that if we are conforming to the ways of the world then we will not see the will of God in our lives. I plan to write a separate blog on that one with many examples of how we conform to the world. This will bring a lot of offense and conviction, but I have come to the conclusion that a lot of my calling for ministry is for this purpose. I no longer wish to be thought highly of, and I will not apologize for preaching hard truth. We don’t hear enough of that today. So here I stand. As Paul said: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ” Are you able to say that publicly? I really hope so. If not, you may want to pray and ask God to reveal what is preventing you. I have been there many times and I know how hard it can be. Especially if you have things in your life you need to give up. Condemnation will prevent you. But that is Satan’s strategy. Learn the ways of grace. Romans 6:14
After writing My Life Story and Testimony I thought it would be a good idea to write a post as to why I believe in the things I do. At this point I am sure at least half of you think I’m absolutely crazy after everything I wrote, especially the very shameful parts about my past. I’m fine with that. In some ways it was intentional. It helps weed out who my true Christian friends are; the ones who understand the concept of grace. It also in some ways creates a sort of accountability on my part. There’s no hiding the fact at this point; I am a certified Jesus Freak. And in that I stand with The Apostle Paul: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”
But why is it that I believe the things I do? Why do people go to church and sing, worship and lift their hands in praise of a man who was crucified on a cross some 2000 years ago? Is it blind faith? Was Jesus even a historical figure? Are there any references to him outside of the bible from 1st and 2nd non-Christian sources? These are questions I will attempt to answer. In the first half of this blog I will say why I believe in Christianity from the apologetic side. The second half will be from a personal and experiential perspective.
In todays advanced age of mass communication we have become bombarded with endless amounts of misinformation when it comes to Christianity. Documentaries by liberal scholars dominate the history channel. Theories get thrown out in the form of books and articles only to be circulated by news media and end up going viral on the internet. Videos are put out on Youtube which are so masterfully done that unless someone knows the truth they are easily deceived. Mountains of books have been written by many different scholars defending Christianity and taking on much of this misinformation. But who really reads books anymore? The mass majority of people are on Facebook, Youtube, and watching cable television. The funny thing though about most of this misinformation is that it is too easy to refute if you know where to look.
So what does the word Apologetics mean? From the Greek it basically means “Speaking in Defense” It’s the branch of theology Christians use to study the evidence for Christianity. Many in the church disagree whether it is needed or not, and I’m sure some of you reading this fall in that camp and are only reading to see how much I am wasting my time. I wholeheartedly disagree with your position though. I agree that for many people they never needed to hear a defense or any evidence. However, the amount of testimonies historically about people who came to the faith after hearing or studying it simply proves that position wrong.
The foundational scripture verse for the use of apologetics is found in 1st Peter 3:15-16
“Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect…”
The apostles themselves used a form of apologetics; eyewitness evidence repeatedly saying many times in many different places what they saw “We are witnesses of these things” Acts 5:32
But then you say: “Wait a minute, none of that matters to me because I believe that myth developed about Jesus by people hundreds of year later” It really frustrates me to hear people say this, or even worse, when some people actually say that Jesus Christ may have never existed. These two simple myths have become a stumbling block for many people when they hear anything about Christ, which causes them to not believe anything about him. So I wish to utterly destroy these two without a shadow of a doubt. How will I do that? By citing 1st and 2nd century historians and writers, all of whom were not Christians and were harsh critics of Christianity themselves. The fact that these writers were critical gives them more credibility. I have all the books of these writers as part of the Harvard Loeb Classical Library, and one from the Britannica Great Books of the Western World collection. All together I have over 700 books in my entire collection. I don’t like having to quote from other historians. I use original source material. A few of these are a bit lengthy so I edited some of the material out to only the more relevant parts.
The first reference is from the Roman Senator Gaius Cornelius Tacitus who was born in 56 AD. Tacitus was a lawyer, orator, historian and Senator. Because of this he had access to the imperial records of the senate on decisions made by the empire. The Annals and the Histories are his most famous writings which tell of the history of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, and Nero, spanning from the death of Augustus to the first Roman-Jewish war. Jesus lived during the reign of Tiberius which is recorded in the New Testament. The following is an excerpt from his Annals book 15 chapter 44 on the burning of Rome during the reign of Nero:
XLIV “…But neither human help, nor imperial munificence, nor all the modes of placating Heaven, could stifle scandal or dispel the belief that the fire had taken place by order. Therefore, to scotch the rumor, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, which the crowed styled (named) Christians. Christus,(Christ) the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberias, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate, and, only to, the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but in the capitol itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue. First then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested… And derision accompanied their end: they were covered with wild beasts skins and torn to death by dogs; or they were fastened on crosses, and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night. Nero had offered his gardens for the spectacle, and gave an exhibition in his circus, mixing with the crowd in the habit of a charioteer, or mounted on his car. Hence, in spite of a guilt which had earned the most exemplary punishment, there arose a sentiment of pity, due to the impression that they were being sacrificed not for the welfare of the state but to the ferocity of a single man.”
From this passage we get these facts:
The leader of the Christians was executed during the reign of Tiberius Caesar
He was executed under the order of the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate
“the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment” (Followers of Christ were demoralized and scattered after the Crucifixion)
“only to break out once more” (3 days later Christ raised from the dead and Christianity exploded throughout the world)
The ironic thing about these facts is that they are all found in the New Testament of the Bible including the references to Tiberius and Pontius Pilate. If this alone were the only source we had it would be enough to scotch any rumors about whether or not he lived and was crucified during when scriptures claim he was.
The second source is a short reference by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus. Suetonius was born in 69 AD and was of the aristocratic class of the Roman Equestrian order. He was a historian and wrote the De Vita Caesarum (The Twelve Caesars) containing biographies of Roman rulers all the way from Julius Caesar to Domitian. In his biography of Claudius Suetonius writes:
“It now became illegal for foreigners to adopt the names of Roman families and any who usurped the rights of Roman citizens were executed in the Esquiline Field. Tiberius had converted the provinces of Greece and Macedonia in to a private domain of his own…Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.”
So here we have another Roman historian born in the first century who corroborates the history of the biblical narrative; “the instigation of Chrestus” This reference also supports the history in the Book of Acts in the New Testament 18:2:
“There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all Jews to leave Rome.”
The next quote comes from Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, better known as Pliny The Younger. Pliny was born in 61 AD and became an Imperial Magistrate under Emperor Trajan. He wrote hundreds of letters which have served as a critical source of history for the time period of Rome.
XCVI “It is my custom to refer all difficulties to you, Sir, for no one is better able to resolve my doubts and to inform my ignorance. I have never been present at an examination of Christians. Consequently, I do not know the nature or the extent of the punishments usually meted out to them, not the grounds for starting an investigation and how far it should be pressed…I have asked them in person if they are Christians, and if they admit it, I repeat the question a second and third time, with a warning of the punishment awaiting them. If they persist, I order them to be led away for execution; for, whatever the nature of their admission I am convinced that their stubbornness and unshakeable obstinacy ought not to go unpunished…Among these I considered that I should dismiss any who denied that they were or ever have been Christians when they had repeated after me a formula of invocation to the gods and had made offerings of wine and incense to your statue (which I had order to be brought into court for this purpose along with the images of the gods), and furthermore had reviled the name of Christ: none of which things, I understand, any genuine Christian can be induced to do…They also declared that the sum total of their guilt or error amounted to no more than this: they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses alternately among themselves in honour of Christ as if to a God, and also to bind themselves by oath, not for any criminal purpose, but to abstain from theft, robbery and adultery…
So here again you have a source from a high Roman official born in the first century. The importance of this source dispels the myth that followers worshipped him as a God only hundreds of years later after myth developed about Christ. Pliny says that Christians of that time would gather to “chant verses alternately among themselves in honour of Christ as if to a God” Hundreds of years later? I think not.
The next source comes from the Greek writer Lucian of Samasota born in 125 AD. Lucian was a satirical writer having over 80 works attributed to him. In The Death of Peregrine Lucian mocks early Christians:
“Indeed, people came even from the city of Asia, sent by the Christians at their common expense, to soccour and defend and encourage the hero…The poor wretches have convinced themselves, first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody, most of them. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws. Therefore they despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property…”
So here is a Greek writer criticizing Christians in the second century for worshipping their leader who was crucified. Still not hundreds of years later, and attested to by a non-Christian source.
If I quoted all the other sources this blog would be much too long and people would lose interest. In the future I plan on putting those out individually in my apologetics category on this site. But I just mainly wanted to put to death for all time those two myths about Christ. Other important sources include Titus Flavius Josephus the Jewish historian who became a full Roman citizen after surrendering at the Siege of Jerusalem. He was born in 37 AD and is a critical source of Jewish history. Yet he also mentions Jesus, James, and gives a short history of John The Baptist and his execution by King Herod. There are also early references to Christ or to New Testament events in the Babylonian-Jewish Talmud Sanhedrin 43a, Mara bar Sarapion, Thallus, Celsus, and then there are the early Church Fathers. You can reconstruct virtually the entire New Testament just from quotations of the writings of those who knew the disciples themselves, to those who continued the church afterward. I also own the entire Early Church Fathers set which is a massive 38 volume collection. Many Christians even have no idea that we have the epistles of some who were discipled by the Apostles themselves such as Clement of Rome and Polycarp. It is from the ECF that we know how the Apostles were martyred.
Archaeology has confirmed numerous biblical-geographical sites which led Australian archaeologist Clifford Wilson to proclaim: “Those who know the facts now recognize that the New Testament must be accepted as a remarkably accurate source book” I have massive volumes of books documenting Archaeological evidence. Then there’s the issue of manuscript support. When you compare the New Testament surviving manuscript copies with those of other ancient documents there is absolutely no comparison. Take for instance Thucydides or Herodotus; each of their writings contain only 8 surviving manuscripts. The memoirs of Julius Caesar only have 10 copies surviving. The New Testament was written in Greek, and in that language alone we have 5,664 copies. And if you combine the languages it was translated into including Latin Vulgate, Ethiopic, Slavic and Armenian it puts it at a total of around 24,000 manuscripts. They also come from many different geographical areas and yet agree with each other minus small grammatical errors. For example if you take a verse that has an error and compare it with other manuscripts it is very easy to get the original meaning:
“I am the w#y, the truth, and the life” Jesus
“I am the way, the tr#th, and the life” Jesus
“I am the way, the truth, and the l#fe” Jesus
Obviously # didn’t exist back then but I think you get the point. Still very readable even with one manuscript.
So we have concluded that Christ was historical, that he was crucified, and that his followers worshipped him as God in the first century. But what about the resurrection story? Are there any supporting arguments for the fact that scripture claims he rose from the dead? Several in fact. The foundation of Christianity rests on the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that the tomb was indeed found empty. This is seen all over the New Testament. The Apostle Paul proclaimed:
“…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also…” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.
Of all the writings that exist of the time, there is no one who wrote that Jesus’ body was still in the tomb. The Jewish leaders only came up with the excuse that the disciples stole his bodies while the guards slept. There’s very good reason to believe these were Roman guards since it was a Roman centurion escorting Roman guards under the direction of Jewish leadership when they came to arrest Jesus. Rome became interested when they accused him of speaking against Caesar and wanting to incite revolution against the empire. This is another reason Christians faced so much persecution from Rome for the next few hundred years. But if Roman guards were found asleep, they were put to death. There’s no way the disciples rolled away a huge stone while they slept, and if they had killed the guards, that would have been recorded as to what happened. Historically, the tomb was found empty, which is why there is so much silence from critics on the issue.
Second, the record of the first eye witness accounts of Jesus resurrection were of women. The testimony of women was not even admissible in court in ancient history among Jews and many other nations. This establishes what is known in the study of historical records as the Criterion of Embarrassment. Many embarrassing facts were recorded about Jesus and the apostles themselves. Most fictional historical accounts do not record such details in order to give more credibility. The virtue of honesty being taught by Christ himself dictated that they did not fudge the facts.
Lastly, it would be virtually impossible for a worldwide movement to have started in a city based on the resurrection if the tomb wasn’t empty. People do not go to their death for something they know to be a lie, especially when faced with torture or death. All the apostles, including many of their own disciples, suffered horrible deaths, except John. And as is recorded earlier, they were always given a chance to revile Christ.
Paul was beheaded
James the brother of John was killed by the sword
Peter was crucified
Mathew was killed by the sword
Mark was dragged through the streets by horses until he was dead
James son of Alpheus was thrown off the temple at Jerusalem and then clubbed to death
Bartholomew was tortured and then beheaded
Andrew was crucified
Thomas was stabbed with a spear
Barnabas was tortured and then stoned to death
Phillip was crucified
Simon was crucified
Jude was killed by an axe