Why Christians are Persecuted and Prayers for Persecutors — Romans 8

In the International Bible Lesson Commentary and International Bible Lesson on Romans 8 (see links below) we discuss so many of the benefits of following Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior that it makes many wonder why Christians are persecuted. In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul gives us some answers to that question, and what that means to Christians.

First, persecutors are under “the law of sin and death.” Only “the law of the Spirit in Christ Jesus” can free persecutors from their slavery to sin that leads them to persecuting Christians and into other sins as well (Romans 8:2). Therefore, Christians pray for the Holy Spirit to work upon the lives of their persecutors and lead them to the truth of Christ and faith in Christ.

Second, persecutors feel condemned by Christians and their message because Jesus “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). Those who persecute Christians love the darkness they live in because their works are evil (John 3:19). Christians are the light of the world, and they expose evil works when they let their light shine in the darkness (John 3:20; Matthew 5:14). Christians have a new nature in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit indwells Christians; so, by their new nature they expose what Jesus Christ has condemned and not all who persecute Christians will turn to the light, repent of their sins, and be saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, Christians pray for their persecutors to be drawn to the light and be saved rather than be repelled by the light of Christ and die.

Third, persecutors “live according to the flesh” (follow the leadership of their emotions and desires) and they have “set their minds on the things of the flesh” (Romans 8:5). To “set the mind on the flesh is death,” and persecutors are causing death, living in death, and most refuse to set their minds on the Spirit who gives life and peace (Romans 8:6). They have exchanged the truth about God for a lie; therefore, they have lost the ability to think and act reasonably (Romans 1:25). They have become “futile in their thinking” and “their foolish hearts are darkened. Claiming to be wise, they have become fools” (Romans 1: 21-22). They have no commonsense. The teachings and way of Jesus Christ exposes their unreasonableness and condemns a life of sin. Because they want to keep fulfilling all their unholy desires, they strike back emotionally against those who seek to help them find freedom from their depraved thinking and slavery to sin. The followers of Jesus Christ hope and pray that their persecutors will come to the truth, think about the truth as the Spirit helps them, and place their trust in Jesus Christ to be saved.

Fourth, persecutors of Christians are “hostile to God;” they refuse and cannot “submit to God’s law;” they “cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8). They desire to hurt God, because they are at war against God, and they pour out their hatred of God upon God’s children—those within their reach that they can hurt. Christians pray that their persecutors will begin seeking God, seek to please God, seek peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ, and seek to praise God as God deserves. They pray that their persecutors will cease doing evil and begin to love God, others, and themselves according to the Bible and begin doing what is good and acceptable to God.

Fifth, since the persecutors of Christians “live according to the flesh,” they “will die” (Romans 8:13). Knowing this sober fact and many other eternal consequences that fall upon those who live according to the flesh, Christians pray for their persecutors to come to faith in Jesus Christ to be saved, rather than curse their persecutors. In Romans 12:14, Paul wrote, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”

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