“Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:36)

The Apostle Paul quotes a passage in this verse. “But for Your sake we are killed all day long; We are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Psalm 44:22) Coming from the Old Testament the verse was not written with the Christian believers in mind. But the conditions of the Old Testament times for the Israelites were similar to the plight of the believers of Paul’s day. The language of the Psalmist would fit the same expression of the trials of the Christians. For the Psalmist it was for the Lord God Almighty’s sake and for the Christians, it was for the sake of Jesus. They were suffering to the point of death for their faith in God and God’s Son respectively. The early Church was greatly persecuted and Christian followers were being put to death for their belief.

Paul used this Psalm passage to state the followers of Christ we were put to death every day and yet the Church was flourishing in growth under the penalty of death. Paul may be making a comparison of being killed to the theater that the Romans had made of killing the Christians in the Colosseum by the lions.

The Christian faith was in opposition to the Roman belief system in many gods. Theirs was a state religion and the gods must be worshiped regularly in order to satisfy them so they would bless the Roman Empire with victory in war and prosperity at home. It was a Romans patriotic duty to sacrifice often to the gods. The Christians would not do this as they believed in one God and served Him in faith and worship. The charge against the Christians was that they were impious to the gods and anti-religious and also unpatriotic. Because of this un-Roman attitude of the Christian, the leaders clamored they should suffer a painful death. The Christians were sent to the arena to be mauled by wild beasts or forced to fight gladiators. Many came to watch as the Christians were slaughtered daily as a public spectacle.

Paul also in his letter to the Corinthian Church expressed that God had marked the Apostles to be last of all. That they were condemned to die for the sake of their teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostles in their time were spectacles before the world and created much controversy by leading so many to the Christian faith. Paul also saw the Apostles as something that the angels of God’s Heavenly Host looked into. The Christian drew the attention of both men and angels. For this, all but one of the twelve died a martyr’s death. “For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” (1 Corinthians 4:9)

The enemies of God, which are the enemies of the Christian regarded little for the lives of the Christian. They deemed it appropriate with no regard for their lives they to be deserving of death for the heresy they taught and the un-patriotic feeling toward the Roman Empire. They had no other purpose in life than to be slaughtered like sheep.

Being Christians in America has been too easy and has caused apathy and complacency amongst the flock. Ease causes apathy and complacency which destroys commitment. It is a historical fact the Church grows when it is a Church that is persecuted and life is threatened. When the faith is not tested, as the tree standing in a strong wind, it becomes weak. We are very fortunate in this country because we have yet to face real persecution and it is rare to face death for our faith. “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” (Hebrews 12:4) Let us not feel so safe and not pay attention to the fact that our government is slowly taking our religious freedom from us little by little. The times they are changing and if we amuse ourselves with the world and not the matters of God’s Kingdom we will face what the early Church had to face. I sometimes wonder if that would not be a blessing.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, June 13, 2019

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