Thursday, April 13, 2017

Our Church Fathers Part 3

Submitted by Sam Nobles

Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John, and was later appointed as bishop of Smyrna by some of the original apostles. Polycarp spent a lot of time trying to settle disputes about the date to celebrate Easter, and most well-known is his confrontation with one of the church's most troublesome heretics, the Gnostic Marcion. Polycarp ran into Marcion in Rome and ended up calling him "the first born of Satan." As one who knew the Word of God, Polycarp was also responsible for converting many from Gnosticism. His only existing writing, a pastoral letter to the church at Philippi, shows he had a simple approach, a humble heart, and a direct message.
"Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, 'firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,' helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man." (Polycarp, Letter to the Philippians)
There is more known about Polycarp’s death than his life. Perhaps because his death was accompanied by a final message and miraculous display of God’s power. Polycarp is the first recorded martyr in post-New Testament church history, and the account of his martyrdom was written less than a year after it happened.

In A.D. 166 there came a mob to Polycarp’s house calling for his death because he was a Christian. Polycarp was hauled before the courts and told to renounce Jesus Christ,
but this is what he said instead, For eighty-six years I have served the Lord Jesus. He never did me any harm. How can I blaspheme my King, my Lord and my Savior?” With those words, Polycarp was sentenced to be burned alive at the stake.

When the mob attempted to light the fire, the fire failed to start, and when it was finally started, it failed to come near him. As it was put by one historian, The fire shaped itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled with the wind, and formed a circle around the body of the martyr. Inside it, he looked not like flesh that is burnt, but like bread that is baked, or gold and silver glowing in a furnace.” Out of frustration, a soldier pierced Polycarp’s shoulder with his dagger—inadvertently drawing blood, which began to spill upon, and put out the flames around him. When everyone saw what was happening, Polycarp began to shout and preach, “The blood of Jesus is the only thing that can extinguish the fires of hell.”

Polycarp died rejoicing in the fact that God allowed him to be persecuted for the name of the Savior. According to Josephus, a Jewish scholar and historian, when Polycarp was finally burned and executed, the entire arena was filled with the smell of Myrrh.

Scripture to Claim:
“Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 115:16)

Devotional Archive