The Apostle Paul

Paul The Apostle

After writing several epistles from prison (AD 60-63), Paul went to Spain to plant the gospel. When Nero again imprisoned Paul he blamed the burning of Rome on Christians and determined to execute Paul and extinguish Christianity. Yet Paul courageously wrote to his disciple in the faith, Timothy, pastor in Ephesus (2 Timothy 4): “I solemnly urge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the word, whether the opportunity seems to be favorable or unfavorable, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching. Be always composed, unflinching in suffering; do your work as a herald of the good news; do all the duties of your calling. As for me, already my life is being poured out on the altar, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the grand fight, I have run the great race, I have preserved the faith. And now the prize awaits me, the garland of righteousness, which the Lord, the upright judge, will award me on the day of his return. And not just to me but also to them that have set their hearts on his coming appearance. . . Indeed the Lord will rescue me from every assault of evil and will bring me safe to his kingdom in heaven. To whom be everlasting glory. Amen.” Within a short time Paul was dragged out of prison and beheaded on the Ostian Road outside of Rome (AD 65 or 67). By his writings his disciples would be “taught by God.”




The Apostle John

John the Apostle

The “beloved disciple,” as Jesus had called him, was the youngest of the twelve apostles. Probably no more than 18 years of age at the time of Jesus’ call to him, John belonged to the inner circle of the three (with James and Peter). He and his brother James were “sons of thunder” who boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah to the Jewish people. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he became one of the three pillars of the church. John gave oversight to the churches of Asia Minor for many years and became known as the “elder” of these churches. He was the mentor of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who later died as a martyr. In his later years John penned his Gospel, three short epistles for the churches of Asia, and the Revelation of Christ as the coming judge and ruler of the world. “I John, your brother who shares with you in the suffering and kingship and endurance of Jesus, was in the island that is called Patmos, because I had spoken God’s message and bore witness to Jesus. On the Lord’s day I was inspired by the Spirit and heard a voice as loud as the blast of a trumpet, saying: ‘I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. What you have seen, write in a scroll and send it to the seven churches in Asia Minor.’” Tradition says that John died as a martyr by being left to die on the Island of Patmos. Surely, John the Apostle could write of God-fearers, those who reverence God (John 9:30), for he himself had demonstrated such a virtue all of his life.




Polycarp

The martyrdom of Polycarp

Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna, in Asia Minor, in the first half of the second century. He had been a disciple of John the Apostle. When an old man, he was arrested outside the city and dragged into the amphitheater to be burned alive (as he had himself seen in a vision). Respecting his age the Roman Pro-consul urged him to avoid death by confessing Caesar as divine, by reviling Christ, and by renouncing his followers whom the Romans called “atheists” (since Christians had no visible forms of worship). In reply, Polycarp waved his hand at the bloodthirsty crowd filling the arena and declared: “Away with the atheists. For eighty-six years I have been the servant of Christ, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me? I am a Christian.” When the Pro-consul threatened Polycarp with wild beasts, and then with fire, Polycarp replied: “Why are you waiting? Come, do what you will.” Polycarp prayed: “O Lord God . . . I bless you that you have granted me this day and hour, that I may share, among the number of the martyrs, in the cup of your Christ, for the Resurrection to everlasting life, both of soul and body in the immortality of the Holy Spirit . . .” On Feb. 22, AD 156, Polycarp was burned at the stake, thereby proving that the one “loved by God” was a true “lover of God.”




Ignatius

Ignatius

Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch, Syria, when he was arrested by Roman soldiers for being a Christian leader. Ten soldiers led him to Rome where in the amphitheater he was to be killed by wild animals. During his route to Rome Ignatius wrote seven epistles to churches of Asia Minor, some of them to the same churches that John the Apostle wrote to in Revelation 2-3. In his Epistle to the Roman church, Ignatius warns other Christians that they should not intervene to rescue him from martyrdom. Ignatius believed that only by dying for Christ could he be a “true disciple” of Jesus Christ. He asked for prayer that he not only be “called a Christian but be found to be one.” He added: “It is better for me to die in Christ Jesus than to be king over the ends of the earth.” Before his death he declared: “I am God’s wheat, and I am ground by the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread of Christ. Entice the wild beasts that they may become my tomb, that when I fall asleep I shall be truly a disciple of Jesus Christ.” On Oct. 17, 108, be proved by his life that he was “God’s Runner,” a true “courier” of the good news about Jesus Christ.