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Victims, Persecution, And Faith In Christ

 

The first issue of the new international theological journal Unio cum Christo appears this Fall. The theme is Christian witness. Victims of persecution are not losers but triumph with and in Christ…

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Reformed Theology

A profound paradox concerning Christian suffering runs through the New Testament and on from there throughout the church age. It is part of the paradox of the gospel and of Christ’s own person and work. The Lord was despised and rejected, put to death in weakness, but raised in glory. The gospel is foolish ignorance for those who are perishing, the wise of this world, but for those who believe, it is the power of God for salvation and the wisdom of God, against all conventions and appearances. It is something to be proud of (Rom 1:16–17); losing in the world’s terms is winning by the power of the gospel in the light of eternity. Pascal got it right in his famous wager (pari): winning everything in this life is nothing next to losing eternity. By losing in this world in God’s service, we win for eternity, just as Christ lost his life in obedience to the Father but took it up again as the firstfruits of the new creation.

Persecution and opposition are the bane of the church, which is weak in terms of the powers of this age. It often seems that she will come to nought and be wiped out completely, but God raises up his people and snatches them from the dragon’s jaws. “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10 ESV) is the witness of the church as well as the apostle. This is no beggarly excuse, but simply what the eye of faith sees: that out of human weakness comes divine strength, out of death comes new life, and out of suffering glory. The old creation is in labor pains delivering the new (Rom 8:22). The world will never see it, nor did the world see it in the Lord. Only the eye of faith sees it, and this truth will strengthen any knees that tremble in the heat of opposition, and renew hope for those who are down-trodden to the point of despair. Moreover, all that we do here in this passing world will not be for it, but for Christ’s kingdom.