The Persecuted Church

Editors Note: Posts for the next two weeks will be based on notes from my Church History class that I’m currently teaching

Last week I began teaching a class at the Bible College on Church History. Because it’s easy to become focused only on facts in a class like this, I’ve created different periods of Church history that help us understand them better.

The first of those is “The Persecuted Church” which begins in the book of Acts, and continues during the writing of Paul’s Pastoral Epistles.

The Persecuted Church period can teach us many things, but it’s most important lesson is the blessing of suffering.

Many people were martyred for their faith like Polycarp. He become a pastor at the Church of Smyrna during the height of persecution so when Christians were killed they would chant “Away with the atheists (they called Christians this because they refused to worship the Roman Gods)! Find Polycarp!”

One of his followers was finally captured and tortured till he told them where Polycarp was. So at the age of eighty-six, he faced martyrdom.

At his trial the Governor urged him to say “away with the athesists (rejecting Christianity.” Polycarp responded by pointing at the crowd of unbelievers and saying “away with the atheists!”

Following this he uttered these words before dying….”Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and he has done me no wrong. How, then, can I blaspheme my king, who has saved me?’”

Polycarps story is just one of many martyrs who willingly laid down their lives for the Gospel. It’s shocking to hear stories like this because of the radical committment they displayed for Christ. Sadly the committment of many Christians (myself included sometimes) is nowhere near that great.

So where did this commitment come from?

Of course, it flowed out of the Holy Spirit, but it was developed by intense suffering

God used the persecution and suffering of Rome to strengthen the endurance of early Believers. As they faced trial after tiral their faith in Christ continued to grow. And as the fire purifies gold and silver, the intense flames of persecution purified their lives.

So that intense persecution though painful, was a blessing

This brings me to the deeper question…..

Why don’t we have the commitment of men like Polycarp?

the answer is simple be painfully convicting

We don’t experience suffering!

Thankfully Chriistians today don’t have to be worried about being burned at the stake. The comfort that we experience gives huge open doors to proclaim Christ! But that same comfort makes us soft, with very little committment.

This doesn’t mean we should seek out martyrdom…..

but to embrace suffering!

Often the slightest bit of pain or suffering will cause me to give up on the Lord, so I’m the opposite of Polycarp! But as I allow the Lord to bring suffering into my life, its flames will make me stronger just like persecution developed his deep commitment.

God sometimes leads us into the fire and our first response is to get out.

Forgetting that fire is one of His greatest blessings.

3 responses to “The Persecuted Church”

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