By Rev. Lance Filio
Finally, we are ending our sermon on the beatitudes. There are two more beatitudes left to expound. They both belong to third section of the poem. In context, these are kingdom qualities given by God and possessed by God’s people. These characteristics are externalized in relation to God and others.
Last week, we ended our preaching with the sixth beatitude. This beatitude blesses those who are pure in heart with single-mindedness towards God. They have God as their primary focus and they remove anything or anyone who rivals Him. God alone is their Lord and King.
The seventh beatitude follows the concept of the previous one. It still relates to God. It grants blessing to those who are peacemakers with God’s adoption and sonship. As children of God, they are those who extends God’s reconciling work to others, and promote unity among the brethren. Later we will expound on this on our first sermon point.
The last beatitude concludes the whole poem with being persecuted. It proclaims blessing to those who are persecuted with the possession of God’s kingdom. It closes the whole section neatly as it pairs with the first beatitude promising “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What is the meaning of being persecuted and what are its causes? That we will discuss later on our second sermon point.
So again, here are the two sermon points for our preaching this morning: 1) The peacemaker; 2) The persecuted.
Before we begin, let us pray…
We learned from our last sermon series on the book of Ephesians that it is God himself who predestined us for adoption through this Son. Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:5, “In love he (God the Father) predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will.” This verse clearly speaks of our sonship by adoption through Jesus Christ who is God’s Son. Since we are united to him, we receive the blessing and privilege of being called “children of God”. And this is all by God’s will (John 1:12) according to John. It is granted to them who believe. Both Paul and John agrees with the relationship of election, conversion, and adoption.
As God’s children, we become who we are in Christ. And according to Paul, Christ himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). He reconciled us to our God. And because of him, we now possess peace with God. He brought down every hostilities between God and sinners by his blood – his death. And as we stand now in grace, we in live harmony with God and his people. God is a God of peace and we are called to live in peace.
There are two main consequences coming out from this. First, we are called as peacemakers between God and those whom he calls to reconcile with him. Second, we are to maintain peace among those whom God includes in his church. As ambassadors of God’s grace, we become peacemakers between God and others. This includes those outside the visible church who are God’s elect but not yet included to membership and those inside the visible church who professed faith to God.
God’s peace comes to us by conversion. Faith and repentance are granted by God himself but they come to us through the external call of preaching God’s word. And bringing God’s good news to sinners in rebellion against God is the work of an evangelist. Now, I know not everyone is called to this special office of preaching the Word. Yet as those belonging to the general office of believers, we are called to bring this message of God’s reconciling work to those who are related to us. As professing members of Christ’s church, we proclaim God’s saving work through Christ and by His Spirit to every one we relate to.
We find immediate application to this in our situation being isolated at home with all our family members and relatives. We all know that not everyone of our relatives have been converted by faith and repentance. They are in dire need of hearing the gospel and by God’s providence we have an opportunity to bring it to them. Now, I know not all of us are proficient doing this. We need more time to mature and become more equip for it. But inviting them in your worship is one sure step of making sure they will be able to hear the gospel preached. Of course, we need to be patient with them and even expect mild resistance. So we need to be gentle but firm. Invite them and include them in worship. Explain every aspect of our worship and allow them to adjust to it. And more importantly, we need to pray more about it and Lord-willing, God makes use of this opportunity to convert those whom he calls.
Peace with God brings unity and peace among the brethren. Paul made sure we understand in his peace section from Ephesians chapter 4 that we are called “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (verses 3-4).” As office-bearers, we are called to build up the body of Christ. To bring God’s people in unity and peace means to build them up into maturity or as Paul said, “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (verse 13c).” We need to acknowledge, as shepherd of God’s flock, not every one matures at the exactly the same time we want them to.” Just as when God has been patient with us and those who led us before patiently guiding us into maturity, we are also called to be patient and humble to those whom we lead. In my very young experience as a pastor, this is by far the most difficult Lord’s Day situation. It is encouraging for me that our members continue to honor the day with us as office-bearers and keep in touch for fellowship and oversight. So office-bearers, let us take this opportunity to build them up in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us grow weary but consider every situation under the sovereign rule of God. Let us pray God continues to build up the body of Christ despite of the challenges we will encounter in the future.
Finally, we come now to our last and final beatitude. Compared to the the previous two, this one relates not to God and his people but to those who does not belong to God’s kingdom. The kingdom of this world will hate and persecute those who belong to the kingdom of God living in this world. Jesus made sure his disciples understand that while this world is under the bondage of sin and death those living in it will live opposing God’s people. As part of this fallen world’s rebellion against God, they kill and persecute them who live for God’s glory.
Sin makes men proud yet those found by God will live in humility before him. Sin makes men oppose God but those converted by God will live in grace and mercy. Sin makes men divisive and chaotic but those whom God grants his kingdom will live under his peaceful reign. And because of this opposing view and way of life, the members of God’s kingdom will live as persecuted people in this world.
Christianity is no stranger to persecution. Jesus himself suffered persecution and warns his disciples of the same fate. John wrote, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also (verses 18-20).” Paul himself persecuted the church prior to becoming an apostle. And during his missionary trips, he suffered a great deal of persecution. He narrated his experience in 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, “Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” Even during the early Christian church, Christians lived under persecution by the Roman Empire. Until now, Christians under oppressive governments suffer persecution.
Christian, this world will never accept us for who we are in Christ. Until Christ’s return, we will remain as God’s peculiar people living in a fallen and sinful world. Despite of becoming poor in Spirit, merciful, and peacemakers, this world will continue to hate us for it. Those who belong to the kingdom of this world abnormally think and live as if sinning is the right way of living. Morality and godliness are dismissed as foolishness. We live as pilgrims and outcasts of this world.
Longing to gather together as God’s people every Lord’s Day may seem odd for most people. The strong desire to bond with God’s family and obey God’s moral will in observing this holy day sounds foreign to those who knows nothing about God and his righteousness. And yet as God’s people, here we are making the most of what we have and making sure we gather as one body in Christ. While the rest of the world obsess themselves with worry that comes with this epidemic, here we are resting on the Lord’s Day and receiving God’s promises in his Word. A peculiar way of living. But as God’s peculiar people, we continue to live this way even when there is affliction or persecution.
ZCRC(Imus), as God’s people, we live as ambassadors of God’s grace. We extend God’s mercy to those whom he calls by proclaiming to them God’s reconciling message about Christ and his atoning work. Let us continue to build up God’s people in unity and peace. And may the Lord continue to bless us with his protection in the midst of suffering and persecution. Let us pray God continues to bless us with his presence even though until now we all remain apart from each other. Amen.
Rev. Lance Filio is a minister of the Word and Sacraments at Zion Cornerstone Reformed Church (Imus). He finished his Bachelor Degree in Electronics Engineering at Mapua Institute of Technology and He is currently taking his Master of Arts in Theological Studies (MATS) at MINTS. He lives in Taguig City, Philippines with his wife and three children.