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June 16, 2022 12:01 am
Christians who have enjoyed peace and security in the West now face an increasing hostility to their faith. How should we respond? Today, R.C. Sproul explains what we can learn from past believers who sacrificed everything for the name of Christ.
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Our fathers who established the church goes beyond the apostates recommend should be possible for people who had to learn courage, endurance to give the full testimony of the faith. Special illusion of Renewing Your Mind know. I have to admit four years. When I read the gospel accounts through the book of acts were some of Paul's letters that it was difficult to relate to the persecution and physical threats that the apostles in those early followers of Jesus faced.
I found it hard to fathom that modern day pastors and missionaries faced a very real possibility. They may lose their lives for preaching the gospel in certain parts of the world. For those of us who lived in the relative peace and security of the West since the shift in the way seems to be not just opposition open hostility to biblical truth and we need to know how to respond. It turns out that we can learn much from faithful Christians of the past is Dr. RC Sproul the one word that stands out. It seems to me in terms of its repetitive use. In the New Testament that is conspicuous by its presence. And conversely conspicuous by its absence in so much contemporary Christian discussion is the word endurance.
But there's a whole mentality among Christendom today.
That seems to suggest the Christian life is a pleasure trip said many times I get very upset when I hear ministers or evangelists. I come to Jesus and all your problems would be a because assessment trip is when life starts to get complicated. That's when you're playing for keeps you sick and so we are all called to be involved in endurance by what we know of that martyrdom was not a matter simply for the great heroes of the faith in the early centuries of Christendom. But it was part of the risk involved in the rank-and-file Christian life. The thing that often strike the historian of the early church when he studies the correspondence that has survived of the Christians of that day.
Sometimes we have we have letters and epistles written by people who were not distinguished as great scholars were great preachers are great evangelists and missionaries. The rank-and-file Christians in the thing. Frankly, that is often the really startled me so I read some of that literature is the casual way in which martyrdom is dealt the casualness read one writer and he was talking about. Well I'm sorry to pass along the news that that aunt Sally last week was martyred to the Cyprus and cousin Tim at age 18 he was beheaded at the lysis and goes on a lot and it just seems like when you read these these accounts of people talk about their families.
Everything that nobody dies.
There was martyred. Nobody dies in their beds from a good old age, and in fact that one particular author that had Mondo of this letter made the statement he said well when I martyred, not when I die or not. If I am martyred. But when I am Mark, was tacitly assumed safe by writing about Christian that ultimately they would die in the arena and that assumption was not without reason. And so what I'm trying to get across is that the Christian people are fathers who established the church, those beyond the apostates, not to mention the apostles were people who had to learn courage, endurance to give the full testimony of the faith we go into the early church and into the second century, perhaps the greatest example of Christian martyrdom is found in the case of Polycarp supersmart and one of the most prized possessions that we have from antiquity, is a document that gives us a description of the martyrdom of Polycarp and I'd like to take the time to read to you some of the portions from the martyrdom of Polycarp and there is the chief of police.
Herod and his father nice to toss, met him at his Polycarp and transferred him to their carriage and try to persuade him as they sat beside him, saying, what harm is there to say Lord Caesar and to offer incense and all that sort of thing and to save yourself. That is all that Polycarp and the other bishops were required to do at that time was to say the loyalty oath Kaiser curious Caesar is Lord and offer incense to the image of the Emperor. What harm is there and that they say to this man who at this point is somewhere, probably in his 90s. At first he did not answer them when they persisted.
He said Mrs. I think one of the all-time great quotes of Christendom. I'm not going to do what you advised me sounds like Melville's Bartleby the scrivener would the preferred or not is not going to do what you advised me that when they failed to persuade him lay under dire threats and made them get out with such speed and dismounting from the carriage. He bruised his shin without turning around as though nothing in half and he proceeded swiftly and was led into the arena there being such a tumult in the arena that no one could be heard but his Polycarp was entering the arena of voice from heaven came to him, saying, be strong, Polycarp, and play the main like that.
Polycarp played in a they heard a voice from heaven saying polygraph BMA. No one saw the one speaking, but those of our people who were present heard the voice and when finally he was brought up. There is a great tumult on hearing the Polycarp been arrested. Therefore, when it was brought before him.
The proconsul asked him if he were Polycarp and when he confessed that he was.
He tried to persuade and deny the faith, saying, have respect to your H and other things that customarily follow this such as quote swear by the fortune of Caesar change your mind say simply away with the atheists noting of course that the Christians were considered atheist by the Romans, because they did not believe in the pantheon of gods of the polytheistic Romans. Polycarp look with earnest face of the whole crowd of lawless, even in the arena and motioned to them with his hand, then groaning and looking up to heaven, he said away with the atheists he said with a one of the seven but he was talking about the different group of people and they wanted him to talk about the proconsul was insistently set. Take the oath, and I shall release you curse Christ, Polycarp replied 80 and six years I have served and he never did me in Iraq. How can I blaspheme my King who say upon is persisting still and saying swear by the fortune of Caesar. He answered if you vainly suppose that I shall swear by the fortune of Caesar. As you say, and pretend that you do not know who I am. Listen plainly. I am a Christian and if you desire to learn the teaching of Christianity appointed day, and give me a hearing, the proconsul said try to persuade the people. Polycarp said you I should deem worthy of an account for. We have been taught to render honor as it is befitting to rulers and authorities appointed by God so far as it does us no harm, but as for these. I do not consider them worthy that I should make a defense to the proconsul said I have one piece. I'll throw you to them. If you don't change your mind. But he said call them for repentance from the better to the worse is not permitted – but it is noble to change from what is evil to what is right is telling Polycarp to repent these as well. I'd be happy to repent, but I'm allowed to repent from the good that which you are asking me to repent to his bed and what you resume to repent of his righteous and again he said to him I said you consume with fire. If you despise the wild beasts unless you change your mind. The Polycarp said the far you threaten Burns, but an hour and is quenched after a little for you do not know the fire of the coming judgment and everlasting punishment that is laid up for the impious. Why do you delay, do what you will and when it said these things and many more besides. He was inspired with courage and joy in his face was full of grace said no I did not fall with dismay at the thing said to him, but on the contrary, the proconsul was astonished and said his own Harold and limits the arena to proclaim three times Polycarp has confessed himself to be a Christian and when this was said by the Herald the entire crowd of heathen Jews who lived in Smyrna shouted with uncontrollable anger and a great cry. This one is the teacher of age of the father, the Christians, the destroyer of our God to teach as many not the sacrifice nor to wash such things.
They shouted and asked the ACR Philip that he let loose alignment. Polycarp but he said it was not possible for him to do so since he had brought the wild baseboards to a close. Then they decided the shop with one accord that he burned Polycarp along for it was necessary that the vision which he appeared to him about his pillow should be fulfilled. He had seen a vision allegedly before his pillow the complaint and these things happen with such dispatch quicker than to be told the crowds, and so great a hurry together would the workshops and the bad as the Jews being especially zealous as usual to assist with this and when the fire was ready and he had divested himself of all his clothes and unfastened his belt. He tried to take off his shoes that he was not here to form the habit of doing this because each of the faithful always vied with one another as to which of them would be first to touch his body for it always been honored even before his martyrdom for his holy life, straightway then they set about in the material prepared for the par when they were about to nail him. He said leave me as I am, for he who grants me to endure the fire will enable.
He also to remain on the pyre and moved without the security you so desire from the nails so they did not mail him but they tied him and with his hands put behind him and tied like a noble ram out of a great flock ready for sacrifice a burnt offering writing acceptable to God, he looked up to heaven and he said, Lord God Almighty father of thy beloved and blessed servant Jesus Christ, through whom we received full knowledge of the, the God of angels and powers and all creation and of the whole race of the righteous, who live in my presence.
I bless the because thou has deemed me worthy of this day in our to take my part in the number of the martyrs and the cup of thy Christ for resurrection to eternal life and soul and body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit among who may be received in my presence this day is a rich and acceptable sacrifice. Just as thou hast prepared and reveal before hand and fulfilled thou that art the true God without any post with for this and for everything. I praise God blessed me. I glorify through the eternal and heavenly high priest, Jesus Christ, thy beloved servant, through whom be glory today with him and the Holy Spirit, both now and in the ages to come.
A man and when he had concluded the amen and finished his prayer. The men attending to the fire, lighted, and when the flame flashed forth, we saw miracle we to whom it was given to say we are preserved in order to relate to you.
The rest happened. The farm made the shape of a vaulted chamber like a ship sail filled by the wind and made a wall around the body of the martyr, and as he was in the midst not as burning flesh, but his bread baking orders gold and silver refined in the furnace and we perceive such a sweet aroma as the breath of incense or some other precious spice at length. When the lawless men saw that his body could not be consumed by the fire. They commanded an executioner to go to him and stabbed him with a dagger and when he did this a great quantity of blood came forth so that the fire was quenched in the whole problem marveled that there should be such a difference between the unbelievers and the elect and certainly the most admirable Polycarp was one of the select and whose times among us. He showed himself an apostolic and prophetic teacher and Bishop of the Catholic Church and smart.
That's just a heart of the account of the martyrdom of one Christian from the early church, the martyrdom of Polycarp is interesting and fascinating out the wet your appetite read of some of the others of the men who prayed each night that God would not allow them to be freed from martyrdom, but that they would have this unspeakable privilege, and they didn't want to be denied that privilege of going out. As a final witness to the Lord okay then, I'd like to move quickly, then to the fourth century. Just to give you a very quick capsule sketch of one of the great men in the history of the church prior to the time of Augustine and I'm speaking of Athanasius whose name is associated historically with one of the greatest controversies of the Christian church, namely the controversy with the Aryans or the whole matter of the deity of Christ was under severe question. Athanasius was born at the very end of the third century in the year 298 being Egyptian by birth, so he was educated in the finest Greek fashion, spending the bulk of his life in the cultural center.
By this time and Western history, namely at Alexandria. He died in the year 373 is a very young boy. He lived through and survived the great persecution of Diocletian and the memories of the kind of martyrdom that was commonplace, and as was witnessed by the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp stayed with Athanasius throughout his life. Many of his friends and relatives were killed in the arena when he was still a small boy during his life he became a very close friend of a man who was called St. Anthony by the Roman Catholic Church. Anthony is the one who began the practice of monasticism by retiring into the desert to live the ascetic life and a life of contemplation and self-denial and Anthony had an enormous influence on Athanasius as Athanasius lived his life and was noted for his gentleness of speech, and his calmness of spirit, and his incredible ability for self-sacrifice. He went to the Council of Nicaea in 325 but only as a deacon.
It's a fact of history that many people fail to realize because the Arian controversy always provokes the discussion of the role of Athanasius and Arius because the Arian controversy finalizing culminated in the Council of Nicaea which then produce the Nicene Creed but Athanasius was only a deacon. There is a leading proponent for orthodoxy at that time was set.
Bishop Alexander, who at the time was Bishop of Alexandria, but after the Council.
Alexander died and then Athanasius became the Bishop of Alexandria and he was the one who fought the fight for Christendom for the next 50 years to consolidate and implement the confession of faith that was contained at the Council of Nicaea. Incidentally, an ecumenical decision.
The conciliar statement that is perhaps a falcon so your statement still more widely used in the history of the church in any other document, namely the Nicene Creed came out of that counsel.
But when Athanasius came to become elected to be the Bishop of Alexandria, there was opposition to him for that post. Not because of the question of his competence for a question of his piety. But the question that was raised with respect to Athanasius was his age.
He was presumably just under 30 years old when he was selected to ship of Alexandria and a retention ring that would be like a Roman Catholic priest at age 29, becoming a card thing that stands out about Athanasius as an example of one of the early fathers was, not simply his brilliance of his productivity as a scholar in his classic work on the incarnation of Christ, which was very timely in terms of dealing with the crisis of the doctrine the person and work of Christ but what stands out is his principle of endurance in the midst of charity because his enemies in his life were not the pagans.
When the Roman soldiers, but it was the heretics of the church. Those who had made a profession of faith and who were fellow members of the Christian community that sought to destroy him and there's a certain sense in which its much easier to bear the hostility and the persecution of the world of the secular world to take it with in the fellowship church demands extraordinary gifts of patience and charity and perseverance. This man, who was Bishop of Alexandria was exiled from his church, and from his homeland several times and he spent a good many years in Axa so many times the departed structure change in the ancient church at this time that whenever the Orthodox power were in they would invite Athanasius to come back and lead them to come back and pretty soon the political structure would change in the Aryans would gain control and as soon as they would gain control that call a robber scented or little counsel together and they would exile Athanasius; heretic sick and had been betrayed by friends again and again and again in this whole history of his life is a history of patient endurance in the midst of unspeakable treachery and unspeakable persecution and had no way again to be kicked out of his country did go out in solitude and loneliness and then the people come back again to say Athanasius come on back.
We need a times command cleverness with miser Calvin who was kicked out of Geneva and then asked to return. He came back saying everything was all right. The second but the magic coming in getting kicked out a second time and then having Farrell come to an insane come on JonBenet's back. I know I think twice before I go back to that situation but he did this again and again and again, always maintaining this spirit of sweetness and gentleness and charity towards his enemies.
If you want to have a study of a man of dignity, study the life of affirmations.
The thing that stands out most in my mind is this man's epitaph business was simple, Athanasius, contra Mund that was his epic. Athanasius contra Mund to 70 contra range will against Mund what's mundane, worldly, contra Mund them against the world.
Athanasius contra Mund man who stood against the world. Every time you say the apostles Creed.
Every time you say the nice every time you confess the deity of Jesus Christ and do it safely within the context of the Christian church we ought to think of this man who stood against the two XL enter text exile bitter attack that the bitter attack bitter attack. Once everybody disagree who fought to the death to maintain the integrity of the Christian confession of faith that the are we ready to do the same. When persecution knocks on our door will be. Face it faithfully in the delight of our current cultural crisis. These are questions that are important to settle now are they listening to Renewing Your Mind on this Thursday timely weapon that this week we have brought you several messages that have not seen the light of day for many many years. We have a deep archive of messages from Dr. RC Sproul, and we make them available to a special group of ministry friends that we call ministry partners. Julie is a ministry partner who first heard of Dr. scroll because Renewing Your Mind is on her local radio station. Listen to what she had to say. There are several providential reasons.
Dr. scroll came up and I started listening him on light weight that sounds right. This is what I have been missing from other teachers and when I was in Texas I started following Dr. scroll online. I started listening to his sermons to Renewing Your Mind to the conferences, its unrest net so that's kind of the way that I found out Annie Dillard used him to bring me to him and I was regenerated to the teaching of Dr. scroll him and and the grace of God I joined your the Renewing Your Mind studios by my colleague Nathan W. Bingaman they can.
That's quite a testimony as it really is so encouraging to hear Julie story and to hear her list some of the ways that leak and ear has been used in her life by Dr. scroll, not to mention the Lord using Lincoln here and don't dispose teaching to bring her to saving faith. You know, Liam, always surprised when I talked to a ministry partner and and I discover that and not aware of the barrettes of legionnaires outreach and the outreach that they support through their monthly giving. Whether it's us broadcasting into Iran and throughout the Middle East whether it's sending study Bibles to pastas and Christian leaders throughout Africa, with supporting military chaplains or equipping presidents who have been converted behind bars. This broke off this part because Renewing Your Mind and the library of out-of-pocket costs that we produce with it simply puts ultimately with RC Sproul asked Lincoln here there. There are so many podcasts that we are releasing every single week tabletop magazine. Of course lady. I know a favorite of yours and these resources Nathan allowed us to reach 56 million people. Is that correct. That's right, 56.5 million people Lee were reached, and that is only possible thanks to a ministry policy.
When you become a ministry partner your joining thousands of other like-minded Christians and you reaching millions of people every month, collectively. So if you are ministry partner know that we could not reach that petty people without your prayerful support.
If you're not a ministry partner, but you'd like to join this special group of people we invite you to sign up. You can do that online it Renewing Your Mind.org or you can call us by my colleagues would be happy to take your call at 800-435-4343 tomorrow we have another special message from the Brig. archives by Dr. Strohl is joy in Christ. From Paul's letter to the Philippians.
I hope you'll join us tomorrow for Renewing Your Mind