Love Under Fire


Two Classes in the Church

There have always been two classes among those who claim to follow Christ. While some people study the Savior's life and earnestly try to correct their defects and conform to the Pattern, the others shun the plain, practical truths that expose their errors. Even in her best state the church did not consist of only the true and sincere. Judas was connected with the disciples, that through Christ's instruction and example he could be led to see his errors. But by indulging in sin he invited Satan's temptations. He became angry when Jesus reproved his faults, and so he came to betray his Master (see Mark 14:10, 11). LF 21.5

Ananias and Sapphira pretended to make an entire sacrifice for God while they covetously withheld a portion for themselves. The Spirit of truth revealed to the apostles the real character of these pretenders, and the judgments of God rid the church of the foul stain on its purity. (See Acts 5:1-11.) As persecution came to Christ's followers, only those who were willing to forsake everything for the truth wanted to become His disciples. But when persecution ended, the church added converts who were less sincere, and the way was open for Satan to find a foothold. LF 21.6

When Christians agreed to unite with those who were half converted from paganism, Satan celebrated. He then inspired them to persecute those who remained true to God. These apostate Christians, uniting with half-pagan companions, turned their warfare against the most essential features of Christ's teachings. It required a desperate struggle to stand firm against the deceptions and evils introduced into the church. The church no longer accepted the Bible as the standard of faith. It called the doctrine of religious freedom a heresy, and it condemned those who upheld this teaching. LF 21.7

After long conflict, the faithful saw that separation was absolutely necessary. They did not dare to tolerate errors that would be fatal to their own souls and would endanger the faith of their children and grandchildren. They felt that peace would be too costly if they had to buy it with the sacrifice of principle. If they could obtain unity only by compromising truth, then let there be difference, and even war. LF 22.1

The early Christians were truly a distinct people. Few in numbers, without wealth, position, or titles of honor, they were hated by the wicked, even as Abel was hated by Cain (see Genesis 4:1-10). From the days of Christ until now His faithful disciples have roused the hatred and opposition of those who love sin. LF 22.2

How, then, can the gospel be called a message of peace? Angels sang above the plains of Bethlehem, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). There appears to be a contradiction between these prophetic declarations and the words of Christ, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Rightly understood, though, the two are in perfect harmony. The gospel is a message of peace. The religion of Christ, if received and obeyed, would spread peace and happiness throughout the earth. It was the mission of Jesus to reconcile us to God and so to one another. But the world at large is under the control of Satan, Christ's bitterest enemy. The gospel presents principles of life completely opposite to people's habits and desires, and they rise up against it. They hate the purity that condemns sin, and they persecute those who urge its holy claims on them. It is in this sense that the gospel is called a sword. LF 22.3

Many who are weak in faith are ready to throw away their confidence in God because He allows evil people to prosper, while the best and purest are tormented by their cruel power. How can One who is just and merciful and infinite in power tolerate such injustice? God has given us enough evidence of His love. We are not to doubt His goodness because we cannot understand His workings. The Savior said: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). Those who are called to endure torture and martyrdom are only following in the steps of God's dear Son. LF 22.4

The righteous are placed in the furnace of affliction so that they themselves may be purified, their example may convince others of the reality of faith and godliness, and their consistent lives may condemn the ungodly and unbelieving. God permits the wicked to prosper and to reveal their hatred against Him so that all may see His justice and mercy in their complete destruction. God will punish every act of cruelty toward His faithful ones as though it had been done to Christ Himself. LF 22.5

Paul states that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Why is it, then, that persecution seems to sleep? The only reason is that the church has conformed to the world's standard, and so it awakens no opposition. Religion in our day is not the pure and holy faith of Christ and His apostles. Because people are indifferent to the truths of the Word of God, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, Christianity is popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the early church's faith, and the fires of persecution will be lit again. LF 23.1