Posted in Sunday martyr moment, theology

Sunday Martyr Moment: Paul

By Elizabeth Prata*

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.

From the same link, the book’s purpose was fourfold:

  • Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
  • Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
  • Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
  • Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.
Paul

 

The Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome in AD 61. and there wrote his prison Epistles: Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. His imprisonment ended approximately three years later during the year that Rome burned, which was in May AD 64. (See Acts 28:30). During his brief freedom, Paul may have visited western and eastern Europe and Asia Minor- he also wrote the first Epistle to Timothy and his Epistle to Titus.

At first, Nero was blamed for setting fire to Rome, so to direct the blame away from himself, he blamed the Christians. As a result, a fierce persecution broke out against them. During it, Paul was arrested and put back into prison in Rome. While in prison this second time he wrote his second letter to Timothy. It was his last.

Not long after, he was judged guilty of crimes against the Emperor and condemned to death. He was taken to the execution block and beheaded. It was AD 66, just four years before Jerusalem fell.

85729-the-martyrdom-of-st-paulxlmedium
The Martyrdom of Paul – Tintoretto, c.1556

*This essay first appeared on The End Time in June 2013

Posted in Sunday martyr moment, theology

Sunday Martyr Moment: Mark and Peter

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture. Continue reading “Sunday Martyr Moment: Mark and Peter”

Posted in Sunday martyr moment, theology

Sunday Martyr Moment: Matthew

By Elizabeth Prata

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.

From the same link, the book’s purpose was fourfold:

  • Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
  • Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
  • Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
  • Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.
Matthew

Whose occupation was that of a toll-gatherer, was born at Nazareth. He wrote his gospel in Hebrew, which was afterwards translated into Greek by James the Less. The scene of his labors was Parthia, and Ethiopia, in which latter country he (tradition says) suffered martyrdom, being slain with a halberd in the city of Nadabah, A.D. 60.

A halberd is this:

The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew-Caravaggio (c. 1599-1600)

 

This essay first appeared on The End Time in April 2013

Posted in christian persecution, martyr, Sunday martyr moment

Sunday Martyr Moment: James, Timon, Parmenas, Philip

I am reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

John_Foxe_from_NPG_cleaned“Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.” Continue reading “Sunday Martyr Moment: James, Timon, Parmenas, Philip”

Posted in Sunday martyr moment, theology

Sunday Martyr Moment: The Reformation Isn’t Over; and Stephen the first Martyr

By Elizabeth Prata

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs came to mind when I read this week of a Protestant Congregation partaking of the Eucharist at a Mass with Catholics in John Calvin’s old church no less. It is reported,

“The idea appealed because it corresponds to our desire to make the cathedral a meeting place for all Geneva Christians. A space that transcends confessional boundaries,” he said.

That’s hogwash and pure nonsense. The Catholic Church still anathemizes anyone who believes that faith is by grace alone. The Roman Catholic Church has not changed. They still teach that anyone who is not a Catholic is headed for hell. The Reformation isn’t over.

220px-John_Foxe_from_NPG_cleaned

The Actes and Monuments, popularly known as
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, is a work of Protestant history and martyrology by Protestant English historian John Foxe, first published in 1563 by John Day. It includes a polemical account of the sufferings of Protestants under the Catholic Church, with particular emphasis on England and Scotland. The book was highly influential in those countries and helped shape lasting popular notions of Catholicism there. The book went through four editions in Foxe’s lifetime and a number of later editions and abridgements, including some that specifically reduced the text to a Book of Martyrs. The book was produced and illustrated with over sixty distinctive woodcut impressions and was to that time the largest publishing project ever undertaken in England. Image of John Foxe, Wiki CC

The book’s purpose was fourfold:

  • Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
  • Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
  • Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
  • Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.

It is very affecting. I am so humbled by the descriptions of the martyrs since the earliest moments of our faith. As I go to worship on Sunday I think of them as Paul often depicted, running a race. It is a relay race and they hand the baton to the next generation, the baton being the word of the Lord as contained in the bible. The martyrs receive the Crown of Life! I can’t wait for the ceremony when they are called up front by Jesus to be acknowledged for their ultimate sacrifice, yet those who lay down their life will receive it. (Matthew 16:25)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10)

I can only read a bit at a time, because the stories of persecution are so powerfully evil, the demonstration of faith so humbling, and the grace bestowed upon martyrs so beautiful. But that’s good though, I hope it takes me a lifetime to read of the stories of my brethren.

Foxe starts with the first martyr, Stephen, and collects the martyrs’ stories into the ages. Foxe has a section on the Inquisition, and the updated book has modern martyrs also. Please stay with me on Sundays as I share stories of life and death, faith and evil, and the grace of Jesus. The book blurb says Foxe wanted us to remember the martyrs, ‘for he knew the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’. It is good to remember.

I’ll type out the passage from my book which is the updated version, recounting martyrdoms into the 20th century.

The second person to suffer and die for the church (after Jesus, who was not a martyr) was Stephen, whose name means ‘crown.’ (Acts 6-8).  He was martyred because of the faithful way in which he had proclaimed the Gospel to those who had killed Jesus. They became so enraged at what he sad to them that they drove him out of the city and stoned him to death. Stephen’s martyrdom came about 8 years after his Lord’s crucifixion, which would place his death in the year A.D. 35, since it was supposed that Jesus was actually born in about 6 B.C, two years before Herod the Great dies in 4 B.C. (See Matthew 2:16).

The same hate generated against Stephen apparently brought great persecution to all who professed faith in Christ as Messiah. Luke writes,

“And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. ” (Acts 8:1b).

During that time about two thousand Christians were martyred, including Nicanor, who was one of the seven deacons appointed by the Church (Acts 6:5).

Thank you Stephen, thank you Nicanor. I will meet you, my brothers, in eternity’s New Jerusalem after the rapture.

Each Sunday I’ll re-post a write-up on the individual martyrs. This series originally ran in 2013 and has been updated.

Posted in christian persecution, Sunday martyr moment

Sunday Martyr Moment: The name of Christian was so obnoxious to the pagans …

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.

From the same link, the book’s purpose was fourfold:

  • Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
  • Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
  • Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
  • Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.

Text from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

Last week we continued looking at the Ninth Persecution Under Aurelian, A.D. 274. It was a brief look, Emperor Aurelian was killed by his own brothers a short while after taking the throne. This week begins a look at The Tenth Persecution, Under Diocletian, A.D. 303. All the previous persecutions were the warm-up for persecution under Diocletian. It was the worst of all. His desire to revive the old pagan religions led to what was to be a massive persecution of Christians, but the last major persecution in the Roman Empire.

Foxe continues the story-

Under the Roman emperors, commonly called the Era of the Martyrs, was occasioned partly by the increasing number and luxury of the Christians, and the hatred of Galerius, the adopted son of Diocletian, who, being stimulated by his mother, a bigoted pagan, never ceased persuading the emperor to enter upon the persecution, until he had accomplished his purpose.

The fatal day fixed upon to commence the bloody work, was the twenty-third of February, A.D. 303, that being the day in which the Terminalia were celebrated, and on which, as the cruel pagans boasted, they hoped to put a termination to Christianity. On the appointed day, the persecution began in Nicomedia, on the morning of which the prefect of that city repaired, with a great number of officers and assistants, to the church of the Christians, where, having forced open the doors, they seized upon all the sacred books, and committed them to the flames.

The whole of this transaction was in the presence of Diocletian and Galerius, who, not contented with burning the books, had the church levelled with the ground. This was followed by a severe edict, commanding the destruction of all other Christian churches and books; and an order soon succeeded, to render Christians of all denomination outlaws.

The publication of this edict occasioned an immediate martyrdom, for a bold Christian [name currently unknown] not only tore it down from the place to which it was affixed, but execrated the name of the emperor for his injustice. A provocation like this was sufficient to call down pagan vengeance upon his head; he was accordingly seized, severely tortured, and then burned alive.

All the Christians were apprehended and imprisoned; and Galerius privately ordered the imperial palace to be set on fire, that the Christians might be charged as the incendiaries, and a plausible pretence given for carrying on the persecution with the greater severities. A general sacrifice was commenced, which occasioned various martyrdoms. No distinction was made of age or sex; the name of Christian was so obnoxious to the pagans that all who bore that name received no mercy from them. Many houses were set on fire, and whole Christian families perished in the flames; and others had stones fastened about their necks, and being tied together were driven into the sea. The persecution became general in all the Roman provinces, but more particularly in the east; and as it lasted ten years, it is impossible to ascertain the numbers martyred, or to enumerate the various modes of martyrdom.

Racks, scourges, swords, daggers, crosses, poison, and famine, were made use of in various parts to dispatch the Christians; and invention was exhausted to devise tortures against such as had no crime, but thinking differently from the votaries of superstition.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Romans 1:30 says that the angry unsaved are inventors of evil, and the persecutions certainly bear witness to the truth of this verse from God’s word.

We owe such a great debt to the ones who passed before us. Their reliance on the Holy Spirit for boldness sets such a wonderful example. Would I be so bold as to refuse to bow to the Emperor and tear down the edict, knowing tortures await? No. But in Him, I can do all things. (Philippians 4:13). The martyrs actually did.

Praise the Lord for raising up martyrs whose momentary affliction cannot be compared to the joy set before them. (2 Corinthians 4:17). I want to know the name of the Bold Christian who face the wrath of the Roman Empire, knowing the eternal love of God outweighs man’s momentary anger. Such faith!

and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5)
Posted in faith, open doors, Sunday martyr moment, world watch list

Sunday Martyr Moment: Zoe, the Twins, Quintin, and today’s persecuted Christian

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.

From the same link, the book’s purpose was fourfold:

  • Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
  • Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
  • Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
  • Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.

Text from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

Aurelian, 44th Emperor of Roman Empire

Last week we began we began looking at the Ninth Persecution Under Aurelian, A.D. 274. It was a brief look, Emperor Aurelian was killed by his own brothers a short while after taking the throne.

“Aurelian was succeeded by Tacitus, who was followed by Probus, as the latter was by Carus: this emperor being killed by a thunder storm, his sons, Carnious and Numerian, succeeded him, and during all these reigns the Church had peace. Marcus and Marcellianus were twins, natives of Rome, and of noble descent. Their parents were heathens, but the tutors, to whom the education of the children was intrusted, brought them up as Christians. Their constancy at length subdued those who wished them to become pagans, and their parents and whole family became converts to a faith they had before reprobated. They were martyred by being tied to posts, and having their feet pierced with nails. After remaining in this situation for a day and a night, their sufferings were put an end to by thrusting lances through their bodies.” (photo source)

“There is no such thing as a hopeless situation. Every single circumstances of your life can change! ”
― Rhonda Byrne, The Secret

“Zoe, the wife of the jailer, who had the care of the before-mentioned martyrs, was also converted by them, and hung upon a tree, with a fire of straw lighted under her. When her body was taken down, it was thrown into a river, with a large stone tied to it, in order to sink it.”

“I declare God’s dream for my life is coming to pass.” ~Joel Osteen

“Quintin was a Christian, and a native of Rome, but determined to attempt the propagation of the Gospel in Gaul, with one Lucian, they preached together in Amiens; after which Lucian went to Beaumaris, where he was martyred. Quintin remained in Picardy, and was very zealous in his ministry. Being seized upon as a Christian, he was stretched with pullies until his joints were dislocated; his body was then torn with wire scourges, and boiling oil and pitch poured on his naked flesh; lighted torches were applied to his sides and armpits; and after he had been thus tortured, he was remanded back to prison, and died of the barbarities he had suffered, October 31, A.D. 287. His body was sunk in the Somme.”

“When we use the spiritual laws that God has set up, God must obey what we request.” ~Kenneth Copeland

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I interspersed the quotes from several noted Prosperity/Word of Faith false preachers to highlight the contrast between the ridiculousness of what they preach compared to the reality of the persecution of the Christian. Jesus said,

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

You WILL have tribulation. However, the true Christian who is truly at peace believes Jesus’s words. Our trouble is here on this world but we have peace within knowing He has overcome the world. Our peace is eternal- being reconciled to Him. Anyone who says that our troubles won’t exist on this earth is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:4)

Zoe was converted because of the steadfast faith of the twins Marcus and Marcellianus. The twins exhibited the peace of Jesus which resided in them, and Zoe believed. In listening to false prophets like Osteen, Copeland, Byrne and others, if you grasp the things of the world, when the world comes against you the things you’ve grasped will fall away. Grasp instead Jesus, who never fails.

Lest one think that such horrors existed only in the fourth century, Christians are being persecuted in exactly the same manner and intensity today. Their persecutors invent evil cruelties to perpetrate upon them, and many who die under them still exhibit the faith of the fourth century martyrs. Below is from the Christian Post, reporting on the new watch list for countries that persecute Christians, compiled by Open Doors.

On January 8, “Open Doors launched its 2014 World Watch List (WWL) ranking of countries where persecution of Christians is most prevalent. And it is, indeed, very prevalent these days, with more than two thirds of the countries on the World Watch List experiencing an increase in the persecution of Christians in 2013…Christians remain the most persecuted religious minority on the planet. … North Korea ranks first on the WWL for an unprecedented 12th year in a row.” (source)

Because of Foxe’s Book, voices like Zoe and Marcus and Marcellianus and Quintin’s are heard today. It is important that they be heard, because they speak of Jesus and by their lives Jesus speaks through them. The Martyrs and the persecuted speak today. Over at Voice of the Martyrs, a North Korean Christian who was imprisoned for many years on a gulag says,

I could not tell you what the worst thing was I experienced. Every day in the camp was like torture. I often had to think about God’s plagues for Egypt. Being in this concentration camp felt like undergoing all those 10 plagues at the same time. People were dying and their corpses were burnt. The guards scattered the ashes over the road. We walked that road every day and each time I thought: one day the other prisoners will walk over me.” (source)

This is certainly not the life of ease and prosperous blessings that the above-mentioned false prophets teach.

Yet, like Zoe, Quintin and the others, when today’s martyrs and persecuted Christians rely on God, HE enables them to persevere, and even thrive, spiritually. Here is that North Korean Christian again,

Despite everything, I remained faithful to God. I remained faithful and God helped me survive. Not only that, He gave me a heart to evangelize other prisoners. Frankly, I was too scared to do it. I wanted to live. How could God ask me to tell the other prisoners about Jesus? I would die if they caught me. God persisted. He showed me which prisoners I should approach. He gave me a feeling: ‘That person. Tell him.’ So I went to the person and told him or her what is in Acts 16:3, that people have to believe in Jesus and that they and their households will be saved. It was an encouraging message for those prisoners, who walked on the edge of death each day. They were easily converted. Not only because of what I said. They saw the Spirit working in me…” (source)

Photo by Marco Forti

For those of us who are living a life of ease and comfort through no “declaration” or works of our own but by the grace of God, let the Spirit shine in you. Pray that the mercy and love of Jesus will stream forth. Can people see the Spirit working in you?

And pray for today’s persecuted brethren of our Body.

Posted in Felix, peace, Sunday martyr moment

Sunday Martyr Moment: the Overseer of the church at Rome, Felix

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.

From the same link, the book’s purpose was fourfold:

  • Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
  • Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
  • Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
  • Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.

Text from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

We left off with the conclusion of the eighth persecution under Emperor Valerian. Here we begin The Ninth Persecution Under Aurelian, A.D. 274.

From the modern language version of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, it is stated that “Historians know Aurelian as the Roman Emperor who held the barbarians in check beyond the Rhine River and regained Britain, Gaul, Spain, Syria, and Egypt for the Empire. Christans know him as just another barbarian and persecutor of the Church of Jesus Christ.”

The overseer of the church at Rome, Felix, was the first martyr during Aurelian’s reign. Felix was beheaded in AD 274. Agapetus, a young gentleman, who sold his estate, and gave the money to the poor, was seized as a Christian, tortured, and then beheaded at Praeneste, a city within a day’s journey of Rome.

These are the only martyrs left upon record during this reign, as it was soon put to a stop by the emperor’s being murdered by his own domestics, at Byzantium. Aurelian was succeeded by Tacitus, who was followed by Probus, as the latter was by Carus: this emperor being killed by a thunder storm, his sons, Carnious and Numerian, succeeded him, and during all these reigns the Church had peace.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Christian rarely has peace on this earth. Even while the Apostles were laying the foundation of the church, spiritual war erupted in the heavenlies and satan sent his minions to lob weapons of false doctrines and false teachers to enter the church and sow tares. Spiritual war is continuous and we are never at real peace.

Though when our church and its doctrines are being attacked in the heavenlies by false prophets, AND we are being attacked in the earthly realm by bodily threats, harm, and death, it is a wonder that the church remains alive at all.

Thank the Lord that He is the Overseer of the Church at Earth and in Heaven! He is powerful enough that the gates of hell will never prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18).

It is only by His power and His Spirit that we have true, inner, spiritual peace, being reconciled to God once again. When Jesus comes in His glory, then all the saints will also have the peace that eludes us on earth, freedom from sin’s effects, and freedom to proclaim His name without persecution. I can’t wait for that day.

Posted in foxe's book of martyrs, martyrdom, Sunday martyr moment

Sunday Martyr Moment: "Cyprian to the beasts!"

 Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.

From the same link, the book’s purpose was fourfold:

  • Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
  • Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
  • Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
  • Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.

Text from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

We have been looking at Chapter 2, the Ten Primitive Persecutions. Chapter 1 looked at the first persecutions, beginning with Stephen, and the Apostle’s and companions’ deaths and ending with Barnabas in AD 73.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs Chapter 2 is about the first generations of martyrs, from AD 73 to AD 303. This post represents an overview of part of the second half of the 8th persecution under Valerian, A.D. 257.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Source

In Africa the persecution raged with peculiar violence; many thousands received the crown of martyrdom, among whom the following were the most distinguished characters:

Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, an eminent prelate, and a pious ornament of the Church. The brightness of his genius was tempered by the solidity of his judgment; and with all the accomplishments of the gentleman, he blended the virtues of a Christian. His doctrines were orthodox and pure; his language easy and elegant; and his manners graceful and winning: in fine, he was both the pious and polite preacher. In his youth he was educated in the principles of Gentilism, and having a considerable fortune, he lived in the very extravagance of splendor, and all the dignity of pomp.

Carthage is a suburb of Tunis, Tunisia and was the centre of the Carthaginian Empire in antiquity. The city has existed for nearly 3,000 years, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC into the capital of an ancient empire.Wikipedia

About the year 246, Coecilius, a Christian minister of Carthage, became the happy instrument of Cyprian’s conversion: on which account, and for the great love that he always afterward bore for the author of his conversion, he was termed Coecilius Cyprian. Previous to his baptism, he studied the Scriptures with care and being struck with the beauties of the truths they contained, he determined to practise the virtues therein recommended. Subsequent to his baptism, he sold his estate, distributed the money among the poor, dressed himself in plain attire, and commenced a life of austerity. He was soon after made a presbyter; and, being greatly admired for his virtues and works, on the death of Donatus, in A.D. 248, he was almost unanimously elected bishop of Carthage.

Cyprian’s care not only extended over Carthage, but to Numidia and Mauritania. In all his transactions he took great care to ask the advice of his clergy, knowing that unanimity alone could be of service to the Church, this being one of his maxims, “That the bishop was in the church, and the church in the bishop; so that unity can only be preserved by a close connexion between the pastor and his flock.”

Source

Left, Roman Carthage.
In A.D. 250, Cyprian was publicly proscribed by the emperor Decius, under the appellation of Coecilius Cyprian, bishop of the Christrians; and the universal cry of the pagans was, “Cyprian to the lions, Cyprian to the beasts.” The bishop, however, withdrew from the rage of the populace, and his effects were immediately confiscated. During his retirement, he wrote thirty pious and elegant letters to his flock; but several schisms that then crept into the Church, gave him great uneasiness. The rigor of the persecution abating, he returned to Carthage, and did everything in his power to expunge erroneous opinions. A terrible plague breaking out in Carthage, it was as usual, laid to the charge of the Christians; and the magistrates began to persecute accordingly, which occasioned an epistle from them to Cyprian, in answer to which he vindicates the cause of Christianity. A.D. 257, Cyprian was brought before the proconsul Aspasius Paturnus, who exiled him to a little city on the Lybian sea. On the death of this proconsul, he returned to Carthage, but was soon after seized, and carried before the new governor, who condemned him to be beheaded; which sentence was executed on the fourteenth of September, A.D. 258.

The disciples of Cyprian, martyred in this persecution, were Lucius, Flavian, Victoricus, Remus, Montanus, Julian, Primelus, and Donatian.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The lesson here is how quickly false doctrine attempts to gain entry. It never sleeps and it always crouches at the door. (Genesis 4:7). The moment Cyprian was in hiding, it came in with full force and caused division among the brethren. As lay-people we need to do our part in being students of the Word and prayerfully understanding of the precepts Jesus laid down. Deacons too. Don’t over-rely on the pastor for discernment or wisdom. The Holy Spirit gives wisdom to all who ask, with no reproach. (James 1:5). The overseer of the flock is important but we have our job to do as well. (Philippians 3:14, 2 Peter 1:5-7).

 Have a blessed Lord’s day.

Posted in Sunday martyr moment

Sunday Martyr Moment: Persecution under Decius, 249AD

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. According to this summary from Christian Book Summaries,

Writing in the mid-1500s, John Foxe was living in the midst of intense religious persecution at the hands of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In graphic detail, he offers accounts of Christians being martyred for their belief in Jesus Christ, describing how God gave them extraordinary courage and stamina to endure unthinkable torture.

From the same link, the book’s purpose was fourfold:

  • Showcase the courage of true believers who have willingly taken a stand for Jesus Christ throughout the ages, even if it meant death,
  • Demonstrate the grace of God in the lives of those martyred for their faith,
  • Expose the ruthlessness of religious and political leaders as they sought to suppress those with differing beliefs,
  • Celebrate the courage of those who risked their lives to translate the Bible into the common language of the people.

Text from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

The Seventh Persecution, Under Decius, A.D. 249

This was occasioned partly by the hatred he bore to his predecessor Philip, who was deemed a Christian and was partly by his jealousy concerning the amazing increase of Christianity; for the heathen temples began to be forsaken, and the Christian churches thronged.

These reasons stimulated Decius to attempt the very extirpation of the name of Christian; and it was unfortunate for the Gospel, that many errors had, about this time, crept into the Church: the Christians were at variance with each other; self-interest divided those whom social love ought to have united; and the virulence of pride occasioned a variety of factions.

The heathens in general were ambitious to enforce the imperial decrees upon this occasion, and looked upon the murder of a Christian as a merit to themselves. The martyrs, upon this occasion, were innumerable; but the principal we shall give some account of.

Fabian, the bishop of Rome, was the first person of eminence who felt the severity of this persecution. The deceased emperor, Philip, had, on account of his integrity, committed his treasure to the care of this good man. But Decius, not finding as much as his avarice made him expect, determined to wreak his vengeance on the good prelate. He was accordingly seized; and on January 20, A.D. 250, he suffered decapitation.

Julian, a native of Cilicia, as we are informed by Chrysostom, was seized upon for being a Christian. He was put into a leather bag, together with a number of serpents and scorpions, and in that condition thrown into the sea.

Peter, a young man, amiable for the superior qualities of his body and mind, was beheaded for refusing to sacrifice to Venus. He said, “I am astonished you should sacrifice to an infamous woman, whose debaucheries even your own historians record, and whose life consisted of such actions as your laws would punish. No, I shall offer the true God the acceptable sacrifice of praises and prayers.” Optimus, the proconsul of Asia, on hearing this, ordered the prisoner to be stretched upon a wheel, by which all his bones were broken, and then he was sent to be beheaded.

Nichomachus, being brought before the proconsul as a Christian, was ordered to sacrifice to the pagan idols. Nichomachus replied, “I cannot pay that respect to devils, which is only due to the Almighty.” This speech so much enraged the proconsul that Nichomachus was put to the rack. After enduring the torments for a time, he recanted; but scarcely had he given this proof of his frailty, than he fell into the greatest agonies, dropped down on the ground, and expired immediately.

Denisa, a young woman of only sixteen years of age, who beheld this terrible judgment, suddenly exclaimed, “O unhappy wretch, why would you buy a moment’s ease at the expense of a miserable eternity!” Optimus, hearing this, called to her, and Denisa avowing herself to be a Christian, she was beheaded, by his order, soon after.

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You see the sins of the heathens which inflame the hatred of Jesus and His people. Avarice, jealousy, hatred, anger… these are the lifeblood of the heathen. Yet these same sins and others intrude upon the unwary Christian too. Lack of love, factions, divisions, and jealousies split and fray the sweet unity of the brotherhood of Christ. During times like that, the church looks no different from the world.

In these days of equal hatred and jealousy with heathen all around, let us seek to be the light, distinct from the world and pleasing to our Savior.