Okay. I'm gonna read now from 1 Corinthians chapter 12. I'm gonna be reading from verse 12. Just as a body, though 1 has many parts, but all its many parts form 1 body so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by 1 spirit, so as to form 1 body, whether Jews or Gentle, slave or free.
And we were all given the 1 spirit to drink. And so the body is not made up of 1 part, but of many. Now if the foot should say, because I'm not a hand but do not belong to the body, it would not, for that reason, stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, because I'm not an eye, I do not belong to the body, it would not, for that reason, stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?
If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts of the body, every 1 of them just as he wanted them to be. If they were all 1 part, Where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts but 1 body. Yeah.
I cannot say to the hand, I don't need you. And the head cannot say to the feet, I don't need you. On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable. And the parts that we think are less honorable, we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty.
While our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it. So that there should be no division in the body. But that its part should have equal concern for each other. For if 1 part suffers, every part suffers with it.
If 1 part is honored, every part rejoices in it. Father in heaven, please would you help us now as Malcolm speaks to us, speaks your word to us. Please help us to listen, help us to to take these things on board. To be changed, please, in Jesus's name, amen. Hello to everyone at Cornerstone Church.
And thank you for this opportunity to be able to give a short message about the persecuted church. It's been great to hear how that at Cornerstone you've been raising funds for open doors. In fact, at our Iranian church in London, we have quite a close link with open doors because 1 of our church pastors, 1 of our Iranian church pastors, is actually 1 of the leaders for open doors, particularly in connection with the work inside Iran. So the open doors theme verse is 1 Corinthians 12 verse 26. If 1 part suffers, every part suffers with it.
If 1 part is honored, every part rejoices with it. This is a verse that in the context talking about the body of Christ and the importance of that body and the relationships that we have together as members of the 1 body of Christ. It's interesting that leading up to verse 26. The last words of verse 25, it states this. It parts should have equal concern for each other.
Or as the ESV puts it, the members should have the same care for 1 another. Now we are witnesses for Christ. And the interesting thing is that the very thought of persecution is even in that word because there's a close link between the Greek word for witness and martyr. If it actually in the Persian language, the words are almost the same. The use of the Greek term for Witness and the word testimony shaped the special Christian use of the terms for martyrs and martyrdom.
I don't know what your experience is in receiving news from the persecuted church, but whether you're receiving it through the post or receiving it online, and you receive these magazines that give details of what's happening around the church around the world, it can be quite depressing reading because you're made aware of just how much persecution there is across the world. I'm thinking now of information that comes from open doors, from Barnovist fund, You have release international, Christian solidarity worldwide, Middle East concern, and so on. And of course, a lot of that persecution is within the Muslim world. We think of countries like Iran and Pakistan, many countries in the Arab world, Afghanistan, right across Central Asia, and so on, in countries in especially West Africa, and when we think of Nigeria and Burkina Faso, and also Marni and countries like that. In fact, concerning Bukina Faso, very disturbing report, relatively new.
This is from the end of February, where says that Islamic militants in Burkina Foster killed at least 29 Christians in a series of murderous attacks in February. 24 people from a single congregation were killed in 1 incident, some during the attack which took place in the middle of a Sunday service. While others were abducted and killed later. In another church attack, a deacon was shot dead, and his car used to abduct the pastor and 5 of the pastor's relatives. His daughters were released unharmed, but the pastor, his son, and 2 nephews were killed a few days later.
And then concerning Mali, it says, you know, heavenly armed jihadists, murdered 27 people in attacks on Christian villages in Mali. And this all took place in less than 24 hours on the 20 sixth of May. So this is a very recent report. But we're, you know, we're not just talking of course about the Muslim world. We think of other countries, countries like like India where there seems to be an increasing wave of persecution against Christians there.
China, we're all concerned about what's happening in China. Yes, there's been phenomena growth there. But we think of what's been happening more recently, and persecution, and even church buildings being pulled down, and so on. That's a worrying concern for the future there in China. And 1 could mention many countries.
Maybe perhaps the 1 of the worst countries, and 1 of course, could mention North Korea, but 1 of the other countries that's really bad for persecution is Eritrea. They're in Africa, near Ethiopia, where they've been often prison imprisoning people in these containers. Ship containers that are very cold in the winter and very hot in in the summer. But perhaps 1 of the most moving and sad and and challenging incidents when it comes to persecution. Is that that what happened to what's become known as the 21 Egyptian martyrs.
In fact, they were they were 20 from Egypt in 1 1 African, but you may remember the scenes that went around the world video clips showing these 21 people being led out in their orange clothing onto that Libyan beach this took place in in January 2015. And, you know, when you look at the video clip, unfortunately, they don't actually show the actual killing. But when you look at the video clip where you see them lined up and and then they are and and they're kneeling. And and you look at the expression on their faces. You you you just think what was going on in their in their minds at that point.
In fact, they they they were constantly quietly repeating these words. Oh my lord Jesus. Oh my lord Jesus. Oh my lord Jesus. Reminds me of a similar context to some extent of what happened to Daniel's friends there in Daniel chapter 3.
About the fiery furnace when they would not bow down to that statue. And, you know, they said these words to the king. They said, you know, our God is able to deliver us. But if not. And, you know, those are incredible words, but if not.
And and and in many ways, you could say, well, God didn't save them because they had to go into that fire furnace. And 1 wonders again, what was going on through their minds is that as they were picked up and as they were they're being thrown into that fiery furnace. But, of course, we know that where was the lord? The lord was with them in that fiery furnace as he sees the king sees 4 people there and we know, of course, that they came out of that alive. So this theme of persecution is something that is found in the Scriptures and and its very theme is is a constant and a continuous thread throughout the whole of the the new testament.
When we come to the teaching of Christ, beginning there with a sermon on the mountain in chapter 5, you have it there. And then later on, you'll have words like this. This is in Luke chapter 21, where Jesus says, some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all for my namesake. But perhaps the most amazing statement are the words in in John 16 verse 2, where Jesus says indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
And that's exactly what's been happening throughout the Muslim world with some of these militants, jihadist, We think of Islamic state and all the things that they got up to. They really thought that they were serving God by in doing this. And it's the same in Nigeria today with Moko Haram in other groups like this, just as Jesus said there in John chapter 16. Well, from the Gospels, we come into the acts of the apostles, and almost from the beginning. Yes.
You've got tremendous growth. But you've also got opposition. I often think of countries like China and even Iran to some extent where there is this phenomenon growth there. But you've also got phenomenal opposition and persecution against the church. And so that's exactly is the story there in in acts throughout the whole of the book.
And, of course, you get to chapter 7 with Stephen's martyrdom, and you've got chapter 12 where James the brother of John was killed. And, you know, this characterized the lives of the apostles, I think, particularly of Paul in his letters and and very particularly there in 2 Corinthians, where debates referenced this. I mean, even in the very first chapter, you have these incredible words, says, agent Nung, where he says, we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But, of course, God rescued them.
But, you know, as you go on through that letter as an example, you have these these lists, which I'm still gonna read now. But in chapter 4, in chapter 6, and chapter 11 of all the things that happened to Paul in terms of persecution. I'm assuming that many of you will know the name of Richard Wernbrand. He was a pastor in Romania who was imprisoned there for 14 years, often tortured often in solitary confinement. And after he was released, this is obviously some years ago, he he made a visit to to London.
In fact, of course, Richard Wilbrand became the founder of voice of martyrs. Which is linked to release international that's here in the UK. And he came to this church in London. It was the meter that I went to, was it ban on Baptist. And just seeing this man who has has suffered, just listening to it.
Now I can't remember much of what he said, but what I do remember are his opening words. And he just read 1 verse of scripture from Philippines chapter 1 verse 29. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ, you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake. And then he carried on speaking. And, of course, leading on from that in in in terms of Paul's letters to the Philippines, you come then into chapter 3 where he talks about being found in Christ, and then that I might know him and the power is resurrected, and they share his sufferings becoming like him in his death.
Chapter 3 10 to 11 that by any means possible, I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Some might read verse 11 and think, deport, not really know where he was going. Did he not have the certainty of salvation? Yes, of course, he did. But he's talking here that he didn't know whether he would be martyred before Christ came again.
Because if he was Martha, that, of course, he would be facing. The resurrection from the dead as he mentions here. And then just 1 or 2 other verses we have there in in in we talked about Paul and some of the amazing verses that Paul that Peter writes in his first letter where he says in chapter 4, verse 12. You love it. Don't be surprised at the fiery fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. And then he goes on to say, if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. And, of course, when we get into the last book of the Bible, Revelation. Well, yes, mention again there of persecution and martyrs and interesting expression there in chapter 6 verse 11, where it talks about the number of martyrs needing to be completed. It says there until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete who were to be killed.
Reminding us that persecution and martyrdom will continue until Christ returns. So as I draw to a close, what are you supposed to do? Just 3 things here concerning persecution. First point, persecution is part and parcel of the Christian. Life.
Philippines 1, verse 29. It's been granted to you not only to believe but also to suffer for his sake. Secondly, Persecution will end. We do get to the end of the book of Revelation. We know what the end of the story is, the end of the film, at the end of the book, And we do know, as that those final chapters point us to final victory and the defeat of Satan and evil.
And then thirdly and finally, persecution reminds us of our responsibility and privilege to support those who are suffering. And that brings us back to that key verse there in 1 Corinthians chapter 12. That if 1 part suffers, every part suffers with it. Therefore, in the light of those words in verse 25, there should be equal concern for each other, the same care for 1 another, and it's both a responsibility and privilege through prayer and through financial giving, and so on, even taking an interest to follow what's happening and to be involved with the persecuted church around the world. Thank you so much for this opportunity.
The Lord bless you. Thank you. Thank you so much, Malcolm, for bringing that to us. What an encouragement and a challenge. I'm gonna pray for these things.
That we might be able to respond in in a proper way. Our father in heaven, we we know that persecution will always be a part of our reality as Christians in this world, but we give you great praise that it will 1 day end, and we do look forward to that day. Help us in the meantime whilst we are here to to think about, to pray for, to get alongside, to support, our brothers and sisters, help us to share in the suffering with those who are persecuted, help us with these things in Jesus' name, amen.