“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:14-17, ESV).
What is Godliness?
Here are some words of the Psalmist David in Psalm 15:1-5.
“(1) O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; (3) who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; (4) in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; (5) who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.”
- the condition of righteousness (Matthew 5:10, 1 Timothy 6:11, Matthew 6:33, Proverbs 10:2, Proverbs 11:18, Psalm 34:15, Matthew 5:6, Psalm 34:19, Romans 1:17, 2 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 3:12, Romans 1:17, 5:19, 6:13);
- an opposition to sin—as God is opposed to sin (Psalm 1:1, Psalm 37:28);
- a condition in harmony with justice—as God is just (Micah 6:8, Romans 2:1, Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 30:18, Psalm 33:5, Zechariah 7:9-10);
- generosity and kindness and love—as God is generous and kind and loving (1 Thessalonians 5:15, Psalm 37:21);
There are kind, generous and noble characters in the world who are not Christians. These may have more or less of opposition from others who are evilly disposed—as darkness always opposes light; yet these noble people exercise moderation in their righteousness—they are not righteous overmuch. These fine characters might occasionally get some persecution, politically or otherwise; but even the enemies of such would have respect for them.
Living godly versus living godly in Christ Jesus
Because of their special relationship to Christ Jesus, God’s people:
- have a special enlightenment.
- see more clearly the principles of God’s Justice.
- have a more exacting rule by which their lives are governed.
- have an intelligent knowledge that they have entered into a Covenant of Sacrifice.
- realize that they are not to compromise their religion in any way; not to compromise with sin or with the world.
- uphold the principles of righteousness, even to the detriment of their own earthly interests.
consecrate all of their time, talent, influence, money to the Lord’s service, and in relation to the use of their blessings from God, they ask themselves:
“What is the Lord’s will, the Lord’s way?”
How would the Heavenly Father want me to use my time, talents, influence, money etc… in His service, in the cause of Christ?
God’s people would wish to use their money for the preaching of the Gospel and the publishing of it in various ways. They would reason: There are many opportunities for people to get education along earthly lines, and I believe the Lord would have me as His child to use His money to help people get spiritual education.
The godly who are not in Christ Jesus—those who have a measure of Godlikeness:
- do not see these deeper things of the Divine Plan and the special arrangement God has made with the Church.
- may indulge in a great many things that would not be wrong for the world—not sinful, not immoral, not unkind.
- might feel perfectly free to give of their money for various causes and purposes, that would be reasonable and proper in themselves— such as attending a football match or a theatre production; spend a certain amount each season on the opera; be patrons of art and music and literature—adopting a course that will win the approval of society; or spend a thousand dollars—or ten thousand dollars—on a single painting, because he wants art to flourish. Or he might buy a fine piece of sculpture to adorn his home, but this is not the course for true Christians, who must consider the Lord’s will for them as His servants.
The Christian has limitations which the worldly do not have.
But we are glad!
- Glad for all good men and good women, who can be good and noble even though not in Christ Jesus.
- Glad to esteem them.
There are noble people in the world. There are some godly ones (to a certain degree) outside the Church, and they are likely to come to see something of the Truth, if they are really noble characters.
The godly of this world will get a blessing in the Restitution time. Every godly thing that they have done, every act of generosity, will get its reward. By cultivating their higher sentiments, they will have fewer steps to retrace.
Specially GODLY are Specially PERSECUTED
The persecutions which come to the godly in Christ Jesus are special persecutions. We are not to expect much of this from the Body of Christ.
Persecution is not merely one act or one word—it is a succession of unkind words and acts with a view to punishing some one for adhering to an opinion or course of conduct.
Persecution comes from a certain class called by Jesus the world. But the class that Jesus called the world are those who had a form of godliness, but did not have the power thereof. The Apostle speaks of a class who would take the name of the Lord upon them and misuse that name. There are people in the world today who do not know nor want to know the difference between Truth and error—and who keep out of the way of being told. They somehow know that there would come a certain measure of condemnation to themselves if they recognized the real facts and did not act in accordance with them.
They are not all bad people by any means. There are very many good people among the tares; but there is no real wheat among the tares—no real nutriment.
These tares pose as the Church of Christ; the tare systems pose as Christianity. And from this class usually come the persecutions. They try to crowd out the wheat, or to choke it and make it unfruitful. It was so in our Lord’s day. Those to whom the Lord referred as persecutors were not the Gentile world of His day, but the worldly ones of the Jews—those who were not fully consecrated to the Lord, but who thought they were.
Nicodemus was a fine character, and Gamaliel was a fine character—and so were a great many who did not become Christ’s disciples at all but were seeking after righteousness; as, for instance, the young man who came to the Lord and asked Him, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” The Lord answered, “Thou knowest the commandments.” The young man said, “Master, all these have I observed from my youth up.” He was a noble character, and Jesus looking on him loved him, even though he was not a disciple. And Jesus said to him. “One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, take up thy cross, and follow Me.” But he went away sorrowful. He did not want to become a member in Christ Jesus.
He did not want to give everything to the Lord.
He was very rich—“had great possessions,” and he preferred to hold on to his wealth.—Mark 10:17-22.
There were others who went through many of the forms and ceremonies, and who kept the various admonitions of the Law, and its feasts and fasts; but they were not the “Israelites indeed in whom was no guile.” And later they became the persecutors of Christ and those who walk in His steps of sacrifice.
Professed Christian Persecutors
And so those who live godly in Christ Jesus have their persecutions, not so much from the worldly class as from professing Christians. There is a class in Churchianity today that has a great deal of pride and self-satisfaction.
Some say respecting those who proclaim Present Truth and who live saintly lives as followers of Jesus Christ:
If we let these people alone and let them teach these things, all that we have been upholding for centuries will crumble.
Did not Luther hand down Truth to us?
Did not Calvin give the Church Truth?
Have we not the teachings of Wesley?
No, no; we will not have these “new doctrines”!
But we see that these people are persecuting the Truth and its representatives because of misunderstanding.
We should have a great deal of sympathy and not feel specially angry with them.
This does not mean that we should be glad of persecution—no persecution “for the present seemeth joyous, but grievous.” (Hebrews 12:11.) But if we know that we are suffering for righteousness’ sake, then we know the Spirit of God rests upon us. It is those who know that they suffer for Christ’s sake, and who take it gladly because it is the will of God, that may rejoice, because the persecution is working out in them blessed effects. Let us then
“Be still beneath His tender care,
For He will make the tempest cease;
And bring from out the anguish here,
The afterward of peace.”
“The Lord Your God Doth Prove You”
WHY does God permit His people to suffer?
WHY does God not shield those who are His from suffering, just as a loving parent would shield a child?
The Scriptures reply that it is because God is working out a great Plan that will eventually bring blessings to all who will do righteously. God wishes to show the evil effects of sin and the deteriorating effects of Adamic disobedience. God’s purpose is that after the Six Days of Sin and Death are ended, in the Seventh Day there shall be a blessing for the whole groaning creation. “Jehovah God will wipe away tears from off all faces.”—Isaiah 25:8.
And there is a particular reason why God should permit persecution to come upon His consecrated ones. “The Lord your God doth prove you,” test you. Why? What is He proving?
We profess to be His loyal children. We profess to be laying down all that we have. And now “the Lord your God doth prove you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul.“—Deuteronomy 8:2; 13:3.
How much will you endure?
How patiently will you endure?
To what extent will you endure?
Those who will endure most, and endure most patiently, will give evidence of the best character. And those who demonstrate the best character will have the highest positions in the Kingdom. Each will get a position according to his faithfulness. But as star differeth from star in glory, so it will be in the Kingdom.
He who fights
the greatest fight against his own nature
and demonstrates most the love and zeal of his heart,
such is the one who will have a high place.
The Solitary Way
Alas! How few may know the grace it takes
To tread the solitary way. Alone!
Ah, yes, alone! No other human heart
Can understand the nameless sorrows there—
The nights in weeping spent, and yet, when dawns
The day, to greet the world with radiant smile,
And scatter sunshine while you whisper low
To your poor heart, “Canst bear a little more?”
Alone! Poor heart, and dost thou question, Why?
Dost think it strange that thou must walk this way?
Ah, no! Thou dost but follow in His steps
Who went before, and of the people there
Was none with Him! Alone? Yet not alone—
Hath not thy blessed Lord and Master said,
“My presence shall go with thee”? Ah, my soul,
fNo longer, then a solitary way!
G. W. Seibert
Br. Charles Taze Russell. The content of this post is based on Reprint 5394-5 from the Reprints of the Original Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.