Persecuted For Righteousness Sake
Have you ever known anyone who was persecuted for doing good? I haven’t. I have never met or heard of anyone who was persecuted for being honest rather than dishonest, for working instead of loafing, for not stealing, cheating, or murdering. I have never known anyone who has been persecuted for not being a fornicator, adulterer, or drunkard. I have never known anyone who was persecuted for dressing modestly rather than immodestly.
I have known some religious people who were persecuted for their pretentious piety, holier than thou attitudes, and dressing strangely. But I have never known anyone who was persecuted for doing that which is right. What, then, does our Lord mean, when he speaks of his people being persecuted, reviled, and evil spoken of for righteousness’ sake?
True believers are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, because they testify to and proclaim the fact that there is no righteousness to be found anywhere except in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing so offends man’s pride and self-righteousness like being told that he is totally unrighteous, that he has never done anything righteous, that his very best imaginary righteousness is just filthy rags, worthy only of God’s everlasting wrath in hell, that he cannot do anything righteous and acceptable before the holy Lord God, and that the only way he can ever be made righteous is if God is pleased to give him the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ by imputation.
Proud sinners are enraged when they are plainly told that they are sinners. Going about to establish a righteousness of their own, they will not submit to the righteousness of God in Christ. They stumble over the Stumbling-Stone and fall into hell because they will not be saved only by grace, only upon the merits of a Substitute (Rom. 9:31-10:4).
Many acknowledge and give lip service to the gospel doctrines of total depravity, imputed righteousness, and salvation by grace alone, who yet cling to their own righteousness. While denouncing justification by works as a damning, hellish doctrine, they yet imagine that once they have been justified they must sanctify themselves (make themselves complete in holiness) by their own works of righteousness.
When we declare that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness” - both justifying righteousness and sanctifying righteousness - they are enraged. When we assert, in the very language of the Bible, that Christ is made of God unto us both “righteousness and sanctification” as well as “redemption,” they cry, “That’s antinomianism! That promotes licentiousness and will lead men to sin!”
We must not be discouraged by this. We ought to both expect it and rejoice in it. When this happens, we are assured that we are on the right track. The Son of God assures us that we who trust his righteousness alone as our only righteousness before God are possessors of the kingdom of heaven. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven!”