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Wang Ming-dao’s Theology of Suffering and Persecution

Wang Ming-dao’s Theology of Suffering and Persecution

The story of Wang Ming-dao, one of the twentieth century’s most famous Chinese Christians who suffered for his faith, is full of powerful victories and devastating defeats. He was a contemporary of John Sung and Watchman Nee, and had an outstanding ministry as a pastor and evangelist. He developed his theology amidst strong resistance, persecution, and suffering. He wrote a series of sermons from which an elementary theology of persecution emerges.

Wang’s book of sermons, A Call to the Church, clearly articulates what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Wang had a clear understanding of what true discipleship entailed and was tested on the ideas he wrote about.

Obey God or Man?

The major question which occupied Wang’s mind was “Should Christians obey God or man?” The answer is that under normal circumstances Christians should obey both. Wang says that Christians should be exemplary in obedience to human laws (25). The primary obedience is to God while obedience to man’s laws and regulations is perfectly proper as long as they do not conflict with God’s commands and precepts. If, however, the human laws do conflict then we have no alternative but to disobey these laws.

In the case of authorities, no one should interfere with the Christian who is witnessing or preaching the Gospel. Preaching the Gospel is commanded by the Lord and it is a mandate Christians cannot ignore, so therefore no one in authority should interfere with the preaching of the Gospel. Christians need not be afraid of authorities because God is with us (27, 105).

Old Testament Prophets Suffered for Being Obedient

Wang uses the prophet Micaiah as an example of one who was called by God to speak on God’s behalf and who suffered for it. Micaiah was determined to be faithful to God and to not please men if it meant being unfaithful to God (56). He writes: “Because he was so faithful, courageous and fearless that he would not bow under the authority of King Ahab, nor seek to please men, he spoke what the Lord wanted him to speak” (35). He knowingly took the risk of displeasing King Ahab in order to please God (34).

Wang defines determination, the hallmark of all who suffer for doing God’s will, as follows: “to obey God’s will at any cost, asking nothing about the future” (80). These courageous and determined servants of God fill the pages of the Old and New Testaments.

The Courageous Apostles

In the Book of Acts, the story is told of apostles who were imprisoned but were led out of prison by an angel. Even though they were now free and able to run to a secret hiding place, they were told by an angel to go to the temple and preach the Gospel. They had been explicitly told not to do this by the High Priest, but they responded that they ought to obey God rather than man. They had no fear of the High Priest and did not hesitate to do what God told them to do (98).

Wang says that the path the church today should take should be the same path the apostles took. They were courageous, did not hold life dear, were not afraid of authorities, and were faithful unto death (27).

Opportunity for Martyrdom

Not many believers will actually experience martyrdom. Yet, remarks Wang, “every Christian can be like these valiant, victorious men” so that even if they don’t have the opportunity for martyrdom, they can receive the same glory and rewards of the saints who did (139).

If God wishes for us to suffer for His name’s sake or to die a martyr, He will engineer the circumstances. It is not a matter of our doing or even seeking martyrdom (32). Generally speaking, as the Day of our Lord’s return draws closer and closer, Christians will suffer for their faith more intensely, says Wang (73).

While some Christians, when facing persecution, will do all they can to escape and will become afraid to confess Jesus’ name, they have no comprehension how noble and great is His name. They do not understand that to suffer for His name is a truly glorious thing (103). Wang says: “nothing can compare with being put to death for the sake of the Lord’s name and word—which is much more beautiful, glorious and admirable” (137).

Roy Stults works for VOM USA as the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator

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