Question & Answer Forum: Christians and Persecution

Is it evidence of God’s favor that He spares Christians from persecution in some countries?

Some who lead the charge for Christians’ involvement in politics give the impression that divine favor rests on countries whose laws are biblical and righteous. This thinking apparently comes from the Old Testament when God was working His purposes for Israel by His dealings among the nations. In this age, God is dealing with individuals by reaching them with the gospel (Acts 15:14-18).

God still rules in the kingdom of men and entrusts rule to whomsoever He will (Dan 4:17). He ordains government and sometimes allows corrupt men to govern. Whatever civil conditions exist, He continues His work of reaching souls with the gospel.

In every age, God’s providence affects the prosperity and progress of nations. Solomon’s proverbs were for the instruction of those who would govern, the sons of the kings. Many of the proverbs address the stability of the kingdom (e.g., Prov 14:34; 16:12; 28:2). In a moral universe, we reap what we sow (Gal 6:7). This is true personally, but Proverbs also applies this to governments. Righteous rule results in a stable kingdom. Respectful treatment of individuals produces desirable results for individuals and nations.

Whether Christians live in lands where laws protect their religious liberties or in lands where they receive persecution for their faith, God’s favor rests on His people. Many believers around the world suffer deprivation and persecution because of their faith. Religious zeal in opposition to the gospel costs some believers their lives. In fact, God favors all people, in that He made provision for all and welcomes all to eternal blessing. Our main concern is not whether we live in prosperity and peace; it is faithfulness to God and to our mission to “rescue the perishing.”

D. Oliver

How do we understand “lifting up holy hands” (1Tim 2:8)?

No scripture forbids literally lifting up hands while praying publicly, but this passage does not guide us to do so. This phrase is a figurative description of prayer as is clear in the use of the word “hands.” “Holy hands” describes a man’s actions figuratively, not his hands literally. Actually, in the context, while the Old Testament uses “lifting up hands” for prayer (e.g., Psa 141:2), this may be an instructive play on words. Four of the 19 New Testament uses of “lifting up” (epairo) have the thought of resistance or opposition (John 13:18; Acts 22:22; 2Cor 10:4 & 11:20, exalt). If we understand “without wrath and dissension” (NASB, see also J. Allen, What the Bible Teaches) within the context of the earlier verses, Paul is teaching that public prayers should have no taint of resistance to the government, no matter how opposed it may be to Christianity. Instead of lifting up his hands in opposition to governmental oppression, the believer lifts up his voice to pray for the salvation of all in authority (1 Tim 2:2). This is the “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (ESV), exemplified by prayers for the eternal blessing of all in authority. He is not praying for civil peace; he is praying for the salvation of all men: his quiet and peaceful life is consistent with his prayer (J. Allen, WTBT). “Therefore,” at the beginning of verse 8, connects this praying with God’s desire for the salvation of all (v 4). If our lives are godly, our prayers will reflect this desire and we will be subject to the God-ordained institution of government (Rom 13:1).

D. Oliver

What is the meaning of hating our life (Luke 14:26)?

On at least three occasions, the Lord used love and hate in a comparative way. Twice when He spoke of serving either God or material things, He said, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24; Luke 16:13). One who serves God does not have to hate material things, but those things cannot influence his decisions to obey God. On the other recorded occasion, He said, “If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). This does not contravene God’s righteous standard that states, “Honor thy father and thy mother” (Exo 20:12). The Lord Jesus upheld this requirement earlier in His ministry (Mark 7:10-13). We are to honor our parents, but not to let that relationship influence our devotion in following Christ. The same is true of our life. We are not to take our own life or risk our life carelessly, but our God-given desire to continue living cannot cause us to hesitate in devotedly following our Lord. Obedience to His call and commands is paramount, whatever the cost.

D. Oliver

Does the Bible teach us to pray for prosperity?

This would hardly be in keeping with God’s Word. “Those who desire to be rich fall … into a snare” (1Tim 6:9 ESV). “The love of money is the root of all evil” (v 10). “Labor not to be rich” (Prov 23:4). “Be content with such things as ye have” (Heb 13:5). The Lord taught His own to pray, “Give us day by day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). “My God shall supply all your need” (Phi 4:19). The Christian prays for help in his business so he will be righteous, not rich. He is dependent on the Lord for help in taking care of his business, working so he will lack nothing in providing for his own family, and walking honestly before unbelievers (1Th 4:11, 12; 1Tim 5:8).

In New Testament times, some believers prospered and others were poor; some were masters and others were slaves. The rich were not to “set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, Who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim 6:17 ESV). They were dependent on God for their material goods and for grace to handle them in a godly manner (v 18). To the poor, Paul wrote, “having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (v 8). They too were dependent on God for their material goods and for grace to handle it in a godly manner – with contentment.

Faithfulness with material riches and the true riches of eternal truth (Luke 16:11, 13) is most important whether we have much or little. We would be wise to pray for faithfulness rather than prosperity.

D. Oliver