Death in the Roman Coliseum
Frederick W. Faber wrote a song about the faith of the early Christians who were martyred by the Roman Emperors. The words of his song call us to consider the faith of the first century Christians who laid down their lives for Christ. Consider the words of the song published in 1849 titled “Faith of our Fathers.”
“Faith of our fathers! Living still In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword. O how our hearts beat high with joy When-e’er we hear that glorious word! Our fathers chained in prisons dark, were still in heart and conscience free; How sweet would be their children’s fate If they, like them, could die for Thee. Faith of our fathers! We will love both friend and foe in all our strife, And preach Thee too, as love knows how, By kindly words and virtuous life: Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to Thee till death.”
Sadly, the faith of early Christians was soon upset over various issues of human philosophy, church tradition and proclamations of church councils. Christians in the West became dominated by the bishop of Rome, and Christians in the East became dominated by the bishops of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and other large churches of the East. Conflict between East and West opened the doors for Islamic expansion from the seventh century until the thirteenth century. Then the inquisition brought the horrors of persecution by the apostate Holy Roman Empire upon Jews and upon Christians of conscience who refused to submit to the traditions of Rome. The control of religion by the state enabled the persecutions. State sanctioned Protestant churches practiced similar atrocities upon those who refused to submit to their decrees.
State Persecution of Dissidents
Christians today who live in nations where religion is controlled by the state may be subject to persecution if they violate the religious decrees of the state connected religion. When we resist the powers of false religion and come under persecution, it is a blessing. No power can suppress true faith in Jesus Christ. Even if we die, we will be blessed abundantly.
Missionary to Ecuador Jim Elliot wrote the words which seem prophetic of his death at the hands of tribal people he was trying to reach with a message about Jesus. He wrote “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
We cannot keep our physical lives, so we are blessed to give up our selfishness to gain eternal life in Jesus. There is a blessing in sacrifice for a just cause. The greatest cause to which anyone can dedicate his or her life is the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Whatever we give of the temporary means and circumstances of this life can not compare with the blessings promised to those who love and follow Jesus. As Paul wrote, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Rom 8:16-19, NKJV)
Faith of our fathers, holy faith! How sweet would be our fate if we, like them, could die for Thee! Jesus calls us to die to self and live for Him. Preach Jesus by kind words and virtuous life.
Acts 2:40 With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!” 41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.
The Fellowship of the Early Believers
42 They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. 44 All who believed were together and held everything in common, 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. 46 Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, 47 praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.