September 11, 2001 has often been compared to December 7, 1941.

Both were sneak attacks which brought the United States into war, and both were acts of terrorism.

“Terrorism” is the word most often associated with 9/11, and it is certainly appropriate.

But I’d like to suggest that there might be a related word which could take us into another level of consideration.

I know that it’s not exactly the same thing, but 9/11 was also an act of “persecution.”

I may be totally off base with this, but I’ll throw this at you and let you mull this over for a while:

“Terrorism” is usually a political word, or a societal word.

But “persecution” is usually a religious word.

People might be persecuted for other things, but we usually use that word in a religious context.

The Bible is filled with examples of persecution.

We see it even in the first family and Genesis 4.

It seems like every second or third page of the Bible we find another example of persecution.

Why was Jeremiah jailed, Elijah hunted, Steven stoned and John the Baptist beheaded?

There were different circumstances surrounding every case, but the root cause was someone’s hatred of the truth that these men were preaching.

Why was the Lord Jesus crucified?

I know that he was “delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.”

But He was delivered by the Jewish priests to the Roman government because He was a threat to their corrupted religion.

And here we begin to see the rifle barrels of the same religious leaders pointed toward Jesus’ apostles.

I thought about calling this message: “The Biblical Doctrine of Persecution,”

But by adding the word “Biblical” it leaves the impression that the Bible approves of persecution.

Persecution is examined, revealed and discussed in the Bible, but so are a lot of other sins.

Despite believing the truth, defending the truth, and promulgating the truth, Christians are forbidden from persecuting for the truth.

We are to love our enemies.

Our Saviour-King has told us: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44.

Despite being forbidden from persecuting others,

I think that it would be beneficial to take a look at that monster as revealed in Acts 4.

Let’s consider the persecutors, their reasons, the method and the results.

First, let’s think about these PERSECUTORS.

“And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them.”

I was wondering about the fact that we don’t have a reference to the Pharisees in this verse, so I made a brief study of the word.

Did you know that “Pharisee” is found only once after the Book of Acts?

Paul simply told the Philippians that he had been raised a Pharisee.

“Pharisee” is found eight times in the Book of Acts, and it is never used in a derogatory fashion.

Twice Paul said that he had been raised a Pharisee.

Once it is said that Gamaliel, Paul’s teacher, was a Pharisee.

The other 5 references only speak about the differences between the Sadducees and Pharisees.

It appears that after the arguments of the Saviour and then after His resurrection, the theological stuffing was knocked out of those Pharisees.

Pharisaical attitudes still persist today, but in the Book of Acts, they had become an impotent nonentity.

The spiritual leadership of Israel had for some time been held by the Sadducees rather than the Pharisees.

The high priests for several generations had been Sadducees.

Acts 23:6-9 highlights the difference between those two parties:

“But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.

For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

And there arose a great cry: and the scribes that were of the Pharisees‘ part arose, and strove, saying, We find no evil in this man: but if a spirit or an angel hath spoken to him, let us not fight against God.”

To summarize them: Pharisees were radical fundamentalists who had made their corrupted logic more important that the clear Word of God.

But they claimed to believe the Bible in a literal fashion.

They were a somewhat defeated people, because the Lord Jesus taught them what the Bible actually said.

The Sadducees on the other hand were the liberals,

They denied the existence of angels, life after death, resurrections and miracles.

They too should have had their mouths shut by the logic of Jesus’ teachings,

But since they rejected the scripture, they refused to follow the Lord’s Biblical arguments.

The persecution against the church came initially from the Sadducees and their corrupt priests.

But let’s take a step back and think about this persecution more generically.

The persecution came from people in power.

It came from people whose religious opinions were challenged.

And as a result it they were people of jealousy.

You’ll see these things as we move along.

Notice the GROUNDS or the reasons for this persecution.

They were “grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

They were troubled, angered, peeved and annoyed that . . .

Peter and John were preaching something which they had arbitrarily determined was heresy.

Let’s say that someone told you that 1 plus 2 was 4.

You, however, were taught years ago that 1 plus 2 equals 3.

You memorized that equation; you’ve never doubted it’s truth and accuracy.

But now here is some fool telling you that your long-standing opinion was wrong.

What are your options at this point?

You could walk away with a funny smile on your face, shaking your head, making the universal sign for lunacy.

You could argue with the man that your teachers and parents wouldn’t lie to you so 1+2 must = 3.

You could punch the man in the face, call the police, or scream intellectual rape or theft.

Or you could reach in your pocket and pull out a dime and 2 pennies.

You could lay those coins out before the heretic and prove that there were a total of 3 coins and not 4.

In other words you could reason with him, and hopefully convince him with his own logic.

Or you could punch his lights out.

When Peter began preaching that afternoon, he pointed to the former crippled man and said,

“Look at the miracle which God did to glorify His Son Jesus.”

He also said, “the God of our fathers raised up His Son Jesus from the dead.”

You people called for His crucifixion and He died on the cross.

He was buried, as you all well know, but after 72 hours He came out of the grave, and 500 of us have spoken to, fellowshipped with, and shared food with Him.

These were doctrines which the Sadducees denied and hated, but under the circumstances they couldn’t refute.

So instead of arguing points which were impossible to win, they switched to persecution.

One of the lessons which comes out of this is right here:

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

You and I should never have to resort to violence, because we hold in our hands the truth.

I can’t guarantee that the Sadducees of the 21st century are going to listen to that truth,

And I can’t guarantee that they will not do their best to become persecutors once again.

But I can guarantee that you have no right or reason to become the persecutor yourself.

Ken Johnson and I were out going door to do together, and we came upon a really belligerent, argumentative fella.

We tried to reason with the man for a while, but when we saw that it was hopeless we started to leave.

The man was still berating us, so Bro. Johnson stopped and kicked his shoe at the edge of the porch.

It was a symbol which was probably lost on that lost man, but I’ll never forget it.

When the Lord Jesus was sending out his disciples in Mark 6:

“He said … in what place soever ye enter into an house, there abide till ye depart from that place.

And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

And they went out, and preached that men should repent.”

One reason that the Sadducees began to persecute the church was because they had no answer to them.

Another reason that the priests were furious with the Apostles that day was because they were jealous.

The Apostles were winning disciples, and the Sadducees were losing disciples.

The Apostles were winning supporters and the Sadducees were losing support.

Nothing makes a politician, even religious politicians more angry than losing their power base.

So what was their TREATMENT of Peter and John that day?

“And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.”

First they made the disciples stop preaching.

That was the job of the captain of the temple guards.

He was responsible to see that nothing went on in the temple that didn’t have the priests’ approval.

He and his men were to keep Gentiles and infidels out.

They were to make sure that the women stayed in the court of the women.

They were ordered to keep the handicapped parked in the proper stalls.

They did the bidding of their employers, the priests.

And they laid hold on the two apostles of Christ and kept them from doing any more preaching that day.

So Peter and John were put in hold until the next day.

This doesn’t mean exactly the same thing as Acts 5:17-18:

“Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation,

And laid their hands on the apostles, and put them in the common prison.”

In chapter 4 the apostles weren’t put into the common prison.

This time they were simply arrested and held by the temple police in some nearby room.

They were not thrown in the hold, but simply held.

English speaking countries have a great many words that aren’t often used here in America.

For example, John Bunyan was thrown into a “gaol,” rather than a “jail.”

And when I went to visit a Calgary man who had been arrested, I went to the Remand Centre rather than the county jail.

On this occasion the apostles were remanded – held.

And what were THE RESULTS of this brief flurry of persecution?

First, consider what was the result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on December 7th, 1941.

Ultimately it meant the defeat and the end of the Japanese Empire.

That attack awoke the sleeping giant.

And what was the result of 9/11?

There is a sense in which terrorism and persecution NEVER accomplish their intended purpose.

The terrorism of the IRA has not freed Northern Ireland from English control.

The terrorism of the PLO has not, and will not, drive the Jews out of Palestine.

And the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center certainly hasn’t stopped American Imperialism or whatever the Muslims want to call it.

In the case of the persecution in Acts 4 it just increased the embarrassment of the establishment.

When they had to resort to arrest or violence, it just amplified their weak arguments against the truth.

And what were their arguments? Nothing; they didn’t have any.

And when they threw the Apostles in the slammer, they permitted John and Peter to rejoice in that they were counted worthy of joining the Lord in his sufferings.

And then furthermore, when Peter and John were arrested, there were 5,000 saved.

The language of the scripture seems to tie together the salvation of those people and the persecution:

“Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.”

The Bible doesn’t say that these people were saved because of the arrest of Peter and John, but that arrest certainly didn’t hurt the truth.

The Bible shows us that persecution is a human, sinful reaction to a religious opinion for which it has no logical or scriptural defense.

And for this reason, persecution should never be practiced by the children of God.