There is nothing new under the sun. The enemies of the cross – “whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things” (Philippians 3:19) – have and will use the same tactics to try and stop the gospel today as they did when it first spread through the known world. Being able to recognize their schemes is part of how we can be ready to stand firm in the face of their oppression and threats.
No matter what they do, we can trust God to deal with them. He may do it immediately, as in Acts 12:23, when an angel of the Lord struck Herod, because he did not give glory to God, “and he was eaten by worms and died.” Or they may seemingly get away with wickedness while here on earth, but will receive their due for eternity. Either way, it is God who judges and vengeance belongs to Him.
What I love is that no matter what our enemies do to stop it, the gospel will go forth. Tweet this! When God struck Herod dead, “the word of God grew and multiplied” (verse 24).
No man can stop the hand of the Lord.
But they’ll try, and their methods are easy to spot when you know what to look for.
- People who want to silence Christians petition those in power in order to widen their silencing, as Saul did in Acts 9:1-2: “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”
This is happening today as those who oppose Christ, His followers, and scripture appeal and pressure government leaders and take to the courts to make Christian beliefs illegal. Religious liberty is not under attack; Christian liberty is. Tweet this!
- They are full of deceit and fraud and pervert the truth to get their way, as Elymas the sorcerer did in Acts 13:8-10, when he sought “turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?’”
- Because of envy, they will contradict, blaspheme and oppose the things spoken by God’s people (Acts 13:45).
- They will stir up the multitudes and poison their minds against those who follow Christ (Acts 14:2).
- They will gather mobs and target whomever they can get their hands on to make their case (Acts 17:5-8):
But the Jews who were not persuaded, becoming envious, took some of the evil men from the marketplace, and gathering a mob, set all the city in an uproar and attacked the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too. Jason has harbored them, and these are all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king—Jesus.” And they troubled the crowd and the rulers of the city when they heard these things.
- They will go wherever they can stir things up for their cause: “But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was preached by Paul at Berea, they came there also and stirred up the crowds” (Acts 17:13).
- They will work in secret, using lies and recruiting liars to advance their agenda, which is what happened in Jerusalem as the gospel spread and the New Testament church grew:
Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke. Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council. They also set up false witnesses who said, “This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel (Acts 6:8-15).
- They will threaten God’s people to try and shut them up: “But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name” (Act 4:17).
- They will beat and kill those who are committed to Christ, as they did Peter, Paul, Stephen and countless other martyrs, and as they are doing now around the globe.
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). The devil failed to destroy Jesus, so he’s after His followers, and he’s determined to do whatever he can to prevent the Truth from saving others. Tweet this! As the father of lies, the only way Satan can combat truth is fraudulently; God’s enemies have to speak falsely in an attempt to stop the spread of the gospel.
But to whatever degree Satan is master of deception and leader of the persecuting pack, Jesus is King of all! Tweet this! No one is out of His reach, as we see when Jesus confronts Saul and radically saves him, giving him the name Paul and the life purpose of preaching the gospel to the known world at that time:
Immediately [Paul] preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:20-22).
Not one person, even the most zealous persecutor, even the most committed enemy of the cross, is beyond the reach of God. Tweet this!
Like Saul, only an encounter with the Truth will stop a persecutor in his tracks. And that, my friends, is why the focus of everything we do is to be on advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth.
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Lord, thank You for exposing Satan’s schemes so we can recognize when he is lying to us and others. Break the spell of prosperity, distraction, and comfort from Your people so we can get serious about doing the work You sent us to do: preaching the gospel and making disciples as we become wholly Yours. Give us discernment and empower us anew every day to spot the enemy and to hear and follow Your voice exclusively.
FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
- According to Philippians 3:18-19, “many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame – who set their mind on earthly things.” How does this scripture tell us we can recognize enemies of the cross? What is their end? Is there anyone in your immediate circle of family, friends, and acquaintances who is an enemy of the cross? Pray for them by name today. Ask the Holy Spirit to take the scales from their eyes and make known to them the mystery of the gospel. The only way an enemy can become a friend is through salvation.
- Today’s enemies of the gospel are still using the same tactics they did in Paul’s time (see Acts 9:1-2), petitioning those in power in an effort to silence Christians. Can you see this happening today? What are some specific examples? Like Paul, only an encounter with the Truth will stop a persecutor in his tracks. Consequently, what should be our top priority?
- The enemies of the cross have and will use the same tactics to try and stop the gospel today as they did when it first spread through the known world. Being able to recognize their schemes is part of how we can be ready to stand firm in the face of their oppression and threats. What tactics is God revealing to you? What scriptures can you proclaim to counteract Satan’s efforts to prevent you from living and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ? Write them down and being to speak them out loud as a proclamation!