Summary: The Romans consider the Christians of their day to be Atheists. This sermon considers Polycarp and his stand.
“Though you do not see Him, you believe, and in believing there is unspeakable joy.”
“He who raised Him [Jesus] from the dead will raise us, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved.”
“The person that has love is far from all sin.”
“Forsaking…false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from the beginning.”
“Keep looking forward in prayer, and persevering in fasting; beseeching in supplications the all-seeing God to lead us away from temptation.”
Let’s consider Polycarp:
-Polycarp was born around 52 A.D. His name is Greek; therefore he is believed to have been a Gentile.
-Polycarp start living for God about the age of 18 and died by martyrdom about the age of 104.
-Irenaeus (170 A.D.) wrote: “For when I was a boy, I saw thee in lower Asia with Polycarp...I can describe the very place in which the Blessed Polycarp used to sit when he discoursed ... his personal appearance ... and how he would describe his intercourse with John and with the rest who had seen the Lord, and how he would relate their words.” (Eusebius. The History of the Church. Book V, Chapter XX, verses 5-6. Digireads, Stilwel (KS), p. 112).
-Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John (John is believed to have lived as late as 100/102 A.D.).
-Polycarp became the bishop/pastor of Smyrna.
- Eusebius who wrote that Polycarp was faithful to the apostolic traditions (circa 330 A.D.).
- Ignatius wrote to Polycarp, bishop of the Smyrnaeans - ”So approving am I of your godly mind, which is as it were, grounded upon an unmovable rock, that my praise exceeds all bounds… Stand firm, like an anvil…Grace will be…always…with Polycarp.”(Ignatius: Letter to Polycarp. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, p. 194-201).
-Around 155 A.D., Polycarp went to Rome to fight against various heresies that were there.
- Valentinus of Rome, who Polycarp denounced, is believed to have been the first affiliated with Christianity to teach the Trinitarian concept of three hypostasis or make any clear statement of ‘equality’ regarding three persons of God.
-Polycarp wrote: “…who shall believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ…” (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Chapter 12 modified by B. Thiel to correct omission in translation).
- Polycarp’s Adversaries said when he was about to be martyred:
"This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, the destroyer of our gods, who teaches many not to sacrifice or worship!" (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 12:2. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, p.236).
-In 156 A.D. while in Rome Polycarp got wind that he was to be brought before the Roman Proconsul to stand in judgment for being a Christian (leader), he did not try to flee.
-3 days before he was arrested, while he was praying, he had a vision of the pillow under his head in flames. He said to those who were with him, ”I will be burnt alive.”
- As Polycarp was being taken into the arena, a voice came to him from heaven saying: “Be strong, Polycarp and play the man!” (Meaning to be man, standing brave and true.)
- The Roman Proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp. On hearing that he was, he tried to persuade him to apostatize, saying,
“Have respect for your old age, swear by the fortune of Caesar. Repent, and say, ‘Down with the Atheists!’”
[The Romans of the First Centuries consider Christians to be Atheists]
Polycarp looked grimly at the wicked heathen multitude in the stadium, and gesturing towards them, he said,
“Down with the Atheists!”
-“Swear,” urged the Proconsul, “reproach Christ, and I will set you free.”
-Polycarp was 2 words from being free; all he had to say was: “Kiser Curious” = “Caesar is Lord”.
But instead he said:
“86 years have I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
-So they tied him to a steak surrounded by wood. It is said that when the fire was lit that a wind blew in such a way as to cause the flames to surrounded him in a ring of fire all the while leaving him unharmed. Thus a solider stabbed him in the chest causing such a flow of blood that it is said to have put the flames out.
In Conclusion let me leave you with the words of Polycarp, which he wrote to the church: “Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood, and being attached to one another, joined together in the truth, exhibiting the meekness of the Lord in your intercourse with one another, and despising no one.” (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter X. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885)