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CHINA – THE WORLD IS WATCHING!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Evening, August 10, 2008
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8).


The Applied New Testament Commentary says of this verse,

In Paul’s time, Rome was the most important city in the Western world. It was the capital of the Roman Empire. Therefore, people from all over the world were constantly coming to Rome for one reason or another. Because of this, any news concerning the Roman Christians would naturally spread far and wide. Thus Paul could truthfully say that their faith was [“spoken of throughout the whole world”]…In fact, the number of Christians was growing so rapidly that, in reaction, the Romans had begun to persecute them with increasing severity…
      Therefore Paul is thankful because the Roman believers have stood firm in their faith in spite of such terrible persecution…
      Within a short time of Paul’s death, a new law was put into effect requiring all people throughout the [Roman] Empire to worship the Roman Emperor as a god. When the Christians refused, they were put in prison and even given the death sentence. There is still standing in Rome today a large stadium [the Colosseum] where, for entertainment, the Emperor and many other Romans used to come and watch the Christians being eaten by wild lions (The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1997 edition, p. 547; note on Romans 1:8).

There is a strong parallel between the ancient city of Rome and the modern city of Beijing. And there are many similarities between the Christians in ancient Rome and the Christians in Beijing today. The foundations of the Christianity of Rome and Beijing were both laid by the martyrdom of Christian people. The Romans persecuted the early Christians in their city with great severity. This has also been true of modern China, and its capital, Beijing.

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, founder of “The Voice of the Martyrs,” in one of his books, gave several accounts of the extreme persecution of Christians in China.

      Rev. Fang Cheng [was] in jail. He [had] been tortured, but had not betrayed his brethren [by giving lists of their names to the Communists].
      One day he is brought…before the [Communist] examining officer. He sees in a corner of the room a heap of rags, and hears a rattling of chains…It is his mother. But she did not have white hairs before. Now she has. The color of her face is like ashes. You can see that she, too, has passed through heavy ordeals [at the hands of the Communists].
      The Communist asks Cheng, “I have heard that you Christians have ten commandments allegedly given by God, which you should strive to fulfill. I would be interested to know them. Would you be so kind as to recite the commandments?”
      Cheng…[began] to enumerate the commandments until he arrived at “Honour thy father and thy mother.” Here he [was] interrupted. The Communist [told] him, “Cheng, I wish to give you the opportunity to honour your mother. Here she is suffering, in chains. Tell us what you know about your [Christian] brethren and I promise you tonight you and your mother will be free. You will be able to give her care and honour. Let me see if you really believe in God and wish to fulfill his commandments.”

That was not an easy decision for this young Chinese man to make. Would he save his mother, but betray his Christian friends by giving their names? Or would he protect the Christians and let his mother go on suffering in chains?

Cheng [turned] to his mother – “Mummy, what shall I do?” The mother [answered], “I have taught you from childhood to love Christ and His…church. Don’t mind my suffering. Seek to remain faithful to the Saviour and His [followers]. If you betray [them], you are no longer my son.”
      That was the last time Fang-Cheng saw his mother. It is probable that she died under torture.
      What is this? A scene from the Underground [churches] in China (Richard Wurmbrand, If That Were Christ, Would You Give Him Your Blanket?, 1970, Diane Books, pp. 8-9).

Again, Pastor Wurmbrand wrote,

In China…one million Catholics, it is reported have been killed…[and] the same number of Protestants. The jails are full. Christians there are practicing their religion… underground, under the danger of torture and the death penalty (Wurmbrand, ibid., p. 29).

Again, Pastor Wurmbrand said,

The Church in [Communist China] is persecuted. She needs our help. Therefore the feats of her martyrdom must be known. Even in [Western] seminaries you are taught about all kinds of churches, but [not] about the underground church, a church that exists in one third of the world. This…must [stop]. Its existence, its suffering, its victory must be proclaimed (Wurmbrand, ibid., p. 33).

Then Pastor Wurmbrand described what happened during the “Cultural Revolution” (1966-1969) under the Chinese Communist dictator Mao Tse Tung.

An eye-witness who escaped to Hong Kong [reported] about the stoning to death of a Christian girl in a Communist slave-labor camp. She was bound hand and foot, and made to kneel in the center of a circle of people who were commanded to stone her. Those who refused to participate were shot. The eye-witness says that she died with her face shining, like St. Stephen. One at least of those who saw her was led to faith in Christ through that girl who sealed her testimony with her blood.
      Five students who were sent out to dig deep holes into which they were placed, sang Christian hymns as they were buried alive…A pastor from the district of Swatow had been dragged through the streets with a dunce’s cap on his head. The cap had an ugly inscription on it. Faithful pastors would be led, with shaved heads, in mocking processions, exposed to revilings…Christians have to kneel in the streets. They are spat upon. With some, their hair was cut, leaving them only a cross as a mark that they are Christians…
      During one torture called “the small criticism,” the man is paraded through the street having a dunce’s cap on his head, with an inscription on his breast listing the charges against him. This continues for three consecutive days. After parades, he is put to fulfill the dirtiest and heaviest work. He receives food only once a day, but before receiving the food he has to bow ninety times to the earth, before a portrait of Mao.
      If this treatment does not re-educate him, then follows the “big criticism.” With hands tied behind his back, he has to attend daily meetings for two months. At these meetings his sin of not believing in Mao is exposed. He is ruthlessly beaten and spat upon. After every meeting, again the [required] ninety bows before the picture of Mao.
      The third torture is called “airplane.” A rod is put upon the man’s shoulders. The hands, tied to the back are strung upwards toward this rod, until they are out of joint. In this position, he has to bow 180 times before [Mao] the one who is better than all gods [according to the Communist Red Guards].
      During the torture called the “Golden Scale,” on the shoulders of the guilty [Christian] a heavy desk is placed. On each side of the desk the Red Guards put three bricks. With the bricks on his shoulders, he has to stand at attention before the [portrait] of Mao for two hours. Every twenty minutes, a brick is added on each side. In the end he has eighteen bricks to bear [on his shoulders]. Woe to him if they move. If he [bends] his knees even a little bit, the whole torture begins again.
      Another torture is to shave the heads of Christians and put ashes on them. So they must stand at attention before the sacred ikon of Mao. No moving is allowed.
      A Christian bore all the humiliations, but refused to bow, answering again and again, “I know one single thing: there is a God. Apart from this, I know nothing.”…He answered again and again, “Do with me whatever you like, but I will not deny my faith.” Brave Sung-Fu. We do not know [what happened to him]. 
      Christians were obliged to hand over their Scriptures and religious books in order that they should be burned publicly…To give the Scriptures to be burned is like giving Christ to be killed. There were Christians who realized the respect due to the written Word of God. They hid the Bible… In Canton, a Christian lady who had hidden her Bible in a pillow was subjected by the Red Guards to the grossest humiliation. She was stripped naked, smeared all over with honey and made to stand in the fierce sun for many hours…
      Red Guards [were] burning men with red-hot pokers. There have been cases of crucifixion. But…sometimes Communists preferred to be jailed instead of continuing to be torturers of Christians. One of them was overheard saying, “If we cut their tongues [out] and forbid the Christians speech, they love with their hands, and with their feet and with their eyes, they love always and everywhere until their last [breath]. Does [anybody] know how to take out the power of love from these stupid Christians? Does [anybody] know a way to put hands on their Christ? (Wurmbrand, ibid., pp. 55-60).

Pastor Wurmbrand also said,

Chinese prisons are real hells: dirty, humid, cold and full of insects. It is considered that some forty thousand Protestants are today in prison [in 1970]. (ibid. p. 61).

Pastor Wurmbrand went on to say,

      By His cross Jesus redeemed mankind. In order to bring souls to salvation made possible by the Redeemer, others must be ready to bear crosses. Our Chinese brothers and sisters, when enduring water being forced up their noses, pieces of wood put between the knuckles and compressed tightly, severe electric shocks and even crucifixion, they share the sufferings of Jesus…The multitudes of missionaries who died in China in the Boxer rebellion and the martyrs of Communist times [especially in the “Cultural Revolution,” but continuing today] are now glorified saints in heaven. [These Chinese Christians who are tortured for Christ] call us to follow their example (Wurmbrand, ibid., pp. 61, 62, 64).

The torture and imprisonment of Christians in China did not end with the “Cultural Revolution” or the death of Mao Tse Tung. As I showed in this morning’s sermon (“China – They Shall Come From the East!”, August 10, 2008) the persecutions have continued going on this year (2008), leading up to the Olympics in Beijing, which began August 8, 2008. By their suffering, the faithful Christians of China are now overcoming the power of evil. As Pastor Charles Lyons said,

Christianity is booming in China. Estimates range from 40 million to 130 million for the number of China’s believers… Christianity Today said demographers estimate an average of [countless thousands of] Chinese people convert to Christianity every year. This means it is the fastest growing religion in [that] nation and has outpaced the Communist Party’s population of 70 million people (Charles Lyons, Baptist Bible Tribune, July/August 2008, p. 21).

The Christian faith spread in ancient Rome by the faithful evangelism of the early martyrs. The same is true today in Beijing and throughout China. It can be said of them, as it was of the early Christians at Rome,

“I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8).

Although you and I live in Los Angeles, where it is comparatively easy to be a Christian, may we follow their example and live our lives evangelizing for Jesus Christ. He suffered and died on the Cross to redeem us. He rose from the dead to give us life. If you are not yet saved, come to Him and His Blood will wash all your sins away. Then live for Him! Evangelize for Him! Bring others to hear the Gospel of Christ and be saved! Let us stand and sing the last song on your song sheet.

Give us a watchword for the hour, A thrilling word, a word of power,
A battle cry, a flaming breath That calls to conquest or to death.
A word to rouse the church from rest, To heed the Master’s strong request.
The call is given, Ye hosts, arise, Our watchword is, evangelize!

The glad evangel now proclaim, Through all the earth, in Jesus’ name;
This word is ringing through the skies: Evangelize! Evangelize!
To dying men, a fallen race, Make known the gift of Gospel grace;
The world that now in darkness lies, Evangelize! Evangelize!
   (“Evangelize! Evangelize!” by Dr. Oswald J. Smith, 1889-1986;
      to the tune of “And Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Romans 1:1-8.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“I'd Rather Have Jesus" (words by Rhea F. Miller, 1922;
                                               music composed by George Beverly Shea, 1909 - ).