Friday, August 08, 2008

...God's Braveheart

In an age where people applaud Justice Sunday political rallies and champion moral values above biblical Christianity, a man of Polycarp's courage, convictions and dedication to the gospel is refreshing and vitally necessary for us to ponder. He life is tempered with the steel of righteousness; his life is marked by faithfulness to Christ and His gospel; and his life was unwavering in a time where he could have capitulated to Caesar and live, but chose to be identified with Christ and die for His Lord. We need some new Polycarps today... Could you imagine what he would say to today's biblically weak, politically charged evangelical leaders? May his testimony inspire us to carry on with unwavering faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ in the sphere of influence God has sovereignly placed you in to be a witness for His glory!

When the persecution reached Smyrna, in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, a number of Christians suffered with great constancy, and the heathen multitude, being provoked at their refusal to give up their faith, cried out for the death of Polycarp. The aged bishop, although he was ready to die for his Saviour, remembered that it was not right to throw himself in the way of danger; so he left the city, and went first to one village in the neighborhood and then to another. But he was discovered in his hiding-place, and when he saw the soldiers who were come to seize him, he calmly said, "God's will be done!" He desired that some food should be given to them, and while they were eating, he spent the time in prayer.

He was then set on an ass, and led towards Smyrna; and, when he was near the town, one of the heathen magistrates came by in his chariot, and took him up into it. The magistrate tried to persuade Polycarp to sacrifice to the gods; but finding that he could make nothing of him, he pushed him out of the chariot so roughly that the old man fell and broke his leg. But Polycarp bore the pain without showing how much he was hurt, and the soldiers led him into the amphitheatre, where great numbers of people were gathered together. When all these saw him, they set up loud cries of rage and savage delight; but Polycarp thought, as he entered the place, that he heard a voice saying to him, "Be strong and play the man!" and he did not heed all the shouting of the crowd. The governor desired him to deny Christ, and said that, if he would, his life should be spared. But the faithful bishop answered "Fourscore and six years have I served Christ, and He hath never done me wrong; how then can I now blaspheme my King and Saviour?"

The governor again and again urged him, as if in a friendly way, to sacrifice; but Polycarp stedfastly refused. He next threatened to let wild beasts loose on him, and as Polyearp still showed no fear, he said that he would burn him alive. "You threaten me," said the bishop, "with a fire which lasts but a short time; but you know not of that eternal fire which is prepared for the wicked."

A stake was then set up, and a pile of wood was collected around it. Polycarp walked to the place with a calm and cheerful look, and, as the executioners were going to fasten him to the stake with iron cramps, he begged them to spare themselves the trouble. "He who gives me the strength to bear the flames," he said "will enable me to remain steady." He was therefore only tied to the stake with cords, and as he stood thus bound, he uttered a thanksgiving for being allowed to suffer after the pattern of his Lord and Saviour. When his prayer was ended, the wood was set on fire, but we are told that the flames swept round him, looking like the sail of a ship swollen by the wind, while he remained unhurt in the midst of then. One of the executioners, seeing this, plunged a sword into the martyr's breast, and the blood rushed forth in such a stream that it put out the fire.

But the persecutors, who were resolved that the Christians should not have their bishop's body, lighted the wood again, and burnt the corpse, so that only a few of the bones remained; and these the Christians gathered out, and gave them an honourable burial. It was on Easter eve that St. Polycarp suffered, in the year of our Lord 166.


Jeremy Weaver said...

Thanks for the post.
Church History is interesting, isn't it? But more than that, what great examples of faith we can find as we reflect on Christian lives!
Thanks again.

SJ Camp said...

Thanks brother...

Hebrews 13:7 comes to mind. "Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith."

This is the great legacy of faith I pray that our generation will leave to the next. Amen?


littlegal_66 said...

Oh, man. This has me searching my heart this evening and asking, "Would I have the courage to be a Polycarp if it came down to it, or would I value this life on earth too much?"

I'm reminded of some footage on a videotape I have entitled, "Praise in the Rockies," in which a slightly younger Campi is introducing his next number--"I Wish We'd All Been Ready," by Larry Norman. While introducing the song, you relate the highly-circulated story of the (I'm paraphrasing) masked gunmen who menacingly entered a church, asked who in the assembly were Christians, dismissed the ones who denied Christ, then removed their masks and said, "Now,let's have church." Every time I hear that story, and even stories of modern-day martyrs, I am convicted. Do I really pledge my head to heaven, or is it just something that I'm trying to convince myself I do?


Jeremy Weaver said...


Bhedr said...

Abide in Him brothers and sisters and He will give the strength to stand.

Polycarp was a finely tuned instrument. The power of Yeshua is an amazing thing; apart from him we can do nothing.

I too am inspired by this account of deadly devotion.

That song as well came from a finely tuned bird re-created by God. I need to get some of Steve's CD's it sounds like I've been missing out. Thank you for letting us listen to it for free. Truly a blessing.

Adam Cummings said...

Polycarp has one of the most amazing testimonies, yet all of them always draw me back to repentance before God. I feel like Derek Webb more often than not when he sings his song, "Crooked Deep Down". Part of the song says this:

"'Cause there are things you would not believe... that travel into my mind. I swear I try and capture them, but always set them free... seems bad things comfort me."

There are many, many things in my life like this (I won't lie), and reading the testimony of someone like Polycarp reminds me of the years I still have left, and it calls me back to how I need to properly utilize them.

Steve, it's strange that you wrote all of a sudden on Polycarp. Around a week ago, I was thinking back on some of the testimonies that I had either heard of or read, and Polycarp came to mind. I too, without knowing in the least bit that you would be posting on the man, spoke of him in a short post of mine. Apparently, his testimony endures in the minds and hearts of many of us. I pray that God will help me to be more and more courageous like Polycarp, not reveling in the sins that I so often seem to hold so dear. That is my prayer especially for this coming semester of school! Please keep me in your prayers. Thanks for the article, Steve!

KaraLynn said...

Mr. Camp, you forgot to mention that Polycarp is a CATHOLIC SAINT.

Pax Christi,

RazorsKiss said...

Indeed, as are all believers; catholic - universal members of the body of Christ; and saints, those who are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, as all are called to live holy lives, and empowered in this endeavor by His infallible work.

SJ Camp said...

Well said my brother. Thank you!

Col. 3:23-24

SJ Camp said...

little gal
you relate the highly-circulated story of the (I'm paraphrasing) masked gunmen who menacingly entered a church, asked who in the assembly were Christians, dismissed the ones who denied Christ, then removed their masks and said, "Now,let's have church." Every time I hear that story, and even stories of modern-day martyrs, I am convicted. Do I really pledge my head to heaven, or is it just something that I'm trying to convince myself I do?

I love that story. Thank you for bringing back some good Estes Park memories of ministry.

And the Keith Green song... one of my favorites ever!

SJ Camp said...

Polycarp a Romanist? No way... I thought he was a Christian? :-).

Romans 5:1-2

Mike Ratliff said...

Holy Ground!

Terry Rayburn said...

I'll never forget the day that a country Pastor friend of mine, in his Tennessee Southern twang, said, "If Benny Hinn had lived back then, he would have said, "This Is Your Day, Polycarp!!"

littlegal_66 said...

"bringing back some good Estes Park memories.."

LOL, I have a few of those...not having to take anything for sinus allergies for an entire week at a time, seminars I sat in on, like: "Biblical View of the Arts," "Integrity in Music," "Redeeming Christian Music," (or something like that), panel discussions like "Crossover: Ministry or Myth?" and "Writing Theologically Correct Songs: The Buck Stops Where?" (Why do I think Jim Chaffee may have let you come up with your own titles?) ;-)

Seriously, sure I attended other memorable clinics, but yours were always the ones that got me searching my heart and reevaluating some of my perspectives [and quite a few of my motives]. (Thanks a lot, "party pooper.") :-)