Praise God We Bear the Name

- part 4 of 4 - Suffering for Being a Christian

 

Imagine if you were a Christian back in the time of the early Church. People were not just killed, but cruelly tortured first, and through it all, they could have escaped if they had just denied they were Christians. It is estimated that about 50,000 Christians died for their faith prior to 325 A.D. Since we have so many examples in the lives of God's people who have gone before us, let us not lose heart, but rather persevere.

 

How Important is it to be a Christian?

 

Cyprian of Carthage (246-258 A.D.) "We must endure and persevere, beloved brethren, in order that, being admitted to the hope of truth and liberty, we may attain to the truth and liberty itself; for that very fact that we are Christians is the substance of faith and hope." Treatises of Cyprian. Treatise 9 ch.13 p.487

 

Christians of Vienna and Lugdunum (177 A.D.) vol.8 p.779 "He was also eager to serve his neighbour in any way, he was very zealous for God, and he was fervent in spirit. Such being the character of the man, he could not bear that judgment should be thus unreasonably passed against us, but was moved with indignation, and requested that he himself should be heard in defence of his brethren, undertaking to prove that there is nothing ungodly or impious amongst us. On this, those who were round the judgment-seat cried out against him, for he was a man of distinction; and the governor, not for a moment listening to the just request thus made to him, merely asked him if he himself were a Christian. And on his confessing in the clearest voice that he was, he also was taken up into the number of the Witnesses, receiving the appellation of the Advocate of the Christians,"

 

Christians of Vienna and Lugdunum (177 A.D.) "vol.8 p.781 For while those who confessed what they really were, were imprisoned simply as Christians, no other accusation being brought against them, those who denied were detained as murderers and profligates."

 

Christians of Vienna and Lugdunum (177 A.D.) vol.8 p.782 "Attalus also was vehemently demanded by the mob; for he was a man of mark, He entered the lists a ready combatant on account of his good conscience, since he had been truly practised in the Christian discipline, and had always been a Witness of the truth among us. He was led round the amphitheatre, a tablet going before him, on which was written in Latin, `This is Attalus the Christian; 'and the people swelled with indignation against him."

 

Christians of Vienna and Lugdunum (177 A.D.) vol.8 p.782-783 "Present at the examination of these was one Alexander, a native of Phrygia, a physician by profession. He had lived for many years in Gaul, and had become well known to all for his love to God and his boldness in proclaiming the truth, for he was not without a share of apostolic grace. He stood near the judgment-seat, and, urging by signs those who had denied to confess, he looked to those who stood round the judgment-seat like one in travail. But the mobs, enraged that those who had formerly denied should now confess, cried out against Alexander as if he were the cause of this change. Then the governor summoned him before him, and inquired of him who he was; and when Alexander said he was a Christian, the governor burst into a passion, and condemned him to the wild beasts. And on the next day he entered the amphitheatre along with Attalus; for the governor, wishing to gratify the mob, again exposed Attalus to the wild beasts. These two, after being tortured in the amphitheatre with all the instruments devised for that purpose, and having undergone an exceedingly severe contest, at last were themselves sacrificed. Alexander uttered no groan or murmur of any kind, but conversed in his heart with God; but Attalus, when he was placed on the iron chair, and all the pans of his body were burning, and when the fumes from his body were borne aloft, said to the multitude in Latin, `Lo! this which ye do is eating men. But as for us, we neither eat men nor practise any other wickedness."

 

Passion of the Scillitan Martyrs (c.180-202 A.D.) p.286 "Saturninus said: I will not lend mine ears to thee, when thou beginnest to speak evil things of our sacred rites; but rather swear thou by the genius of our lord the Emperor. Speratus said: The empire of this world I know not; but rather I serve that God, whom no man hath seen, nor with these eyes can see. I have committed no theft; but if I have bought anything I pay the tax; because I know my Lord, the King of kings and Emperor of all nations. Saturninus the proconsul said to the rest: Cease to be of this persuasion. Speratus said: It is an ill persuasion to do murder, to speak false witness. Saturninus the proconsul said: Be not partakers of this folly. Cittinus said: We have none other to fear, save only our Lord God, who is in heaven. Donata said: Honour to Caesar as Caesar: but fear to God. Vestia said: I am a Christian. Secunda said: What I am, that I wish to be. Saturninus the proconsul said to Speratus: Dost thou persist in being a Christian? Speratus said: I am a Christian. And with him they all agreed. Saturninus the proconsul said: Will ye have a space to consider? Speratus said: In a matter so straightforward there is no considering. Saturninus the proconsul said: What are the things in your chest? Speratus said: Books and epistles of Paul, a just man. Saturninus the proconsul said: Have a delay of thirty days and bethink yourselves. Speratus said a second time: I am a Christian. And with him they all agreed. Saturninus the proconsul read out the decree from the tablet: Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Donata, Vestia, Secunda and the rest having confessed that they live according to the Christian rite, since after opportunity offered them of returning to the custom of the Romans they have obstinately persisted, it is determined that they be put to the sword. Speratus said: We give thanks to God. Nartzalus said: To-day we are martyrs in heaven; thanks be to God. Saturninus the proconsul ordered it to be declared by the herald: Speratus, Nartzalus, Cittinus, Veturius, Felix, Aquilinus, Laetantius, Januaria, Generosa, Vestia, Donata and Secunda, I have ordered to be executed. They all said: Thanks be to God. And so they all together were crowned with martyrdom; and they reign with the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen."

 

Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas (c.201/205 A.D.) vol.3 ch.2.2 p.701 "Then they came to me, and my father immediately appeared with my boy, and withdrew me from the step, and said in a supplicating tone, `Have pity on your babe.' And Hilarianus the procurator, who had just received the power of life and death in the place of the proconsul Minucius Timinianus, who was deceased, said, `Spare the grey hairs of your father, spare the infancy of your boy, offer sacrifice for the well-being of the emperors.' And I replied, `I will not do so.' Hilarianus said, `Are you a Christian? 'And I replied, `I am a Christian.' And as my father stood there to cast me down from the faith, he was ordered by Hilarianus to be thrown down, and was beaten with rods. And my father's misfortune grieved me as if I myself had been beaten, I so grieved for his wretched old age. The procurator then delivers judgment on all of us, and condemns us to the wild beasts, and we went down cheerfully to the dungeon."

 

Practical Matters

 

So does this mean the first thing you should do in a Christian-hostile environment is announce you are a Christian? No, that is no necessary. Early Christians were often quiet about their faith, sharing privately during times of persecution. However, they drew the line at denying they were a Christian. So you can tell people you are a Christian using tact, but do not throw away the name Christian.

 

You can see a chart on which early Christians taught which doctrines on the church at www.BibleQuery.org/History/ChurchHistory/WhatEarlyChristiansTaughtOnChurch.html.

 

All Bible verse quotations are from the NIV.


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