When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.
Our History of Christianity Scripture verse today is 2 Timothy 3:12 which reads: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from Charles Spurgeon. He said: “Suffering saints are living seed.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Great Persecution and the Final Victory” (Part 2) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
The first difficulties probably arose in the army. There was no general agreement among Christians regarding military service, for, while most church leaders of the time said that Christians should not be soldiers, there were many believers among the legions. In any case, around the year 295 AD a number of Christians were condemned to death, some for refusing to join the army, and others for trying to leave it. Galerius viewed this attitude of Christians toward military service as a serious danger, for it was conceivable that at a critical moment Christians in the army would refuse to obey orders. Therefore, as a measure required for military morale, Galerius convinced Diocletian that all Christians should be expelled from the legions. Diocletian’s edict did not require any additional penalty for Christians besides expulsion from the ranks of the military. But in some areas, probably due to an excess of zeal on the part of some officers who did not wish to see their ranks thinned, there were attempts to force Christian soldiers to deny their faith. The result was a number of executions, all of them in the army of Danube, under the command of Galerius.
After these events, Galerius seems to have become increasingly prejudiced against Christians, and in 303 AD he finally convinced Diocletian to issue a new edict against them. At least, this is what historian Eusebius of Caesarea tells us, for Eusebius himself made every effort not to blame the other emperors at the time – of which Diocletian was one – for the persecutions. Even then, the purpose was not to kill Christians, but to remove them from positions of responsibility within the empire. It was then ordered that Christians be dismissed from any government position, and that all Christian buildings and books be destroyed. At the beginning, there were no sterner measures. But soon the conflict grew worse, for many Christians refused to turn over their sacred writings, and in such cases they were tortured and condemned to death.
Then fire broke out twice in the imperial palace. Galerius accused the Christians of having set it, out of revenge for the destruction of their meeting places and the burning of their books. Some Christian writers of the period suggest that Galerius himself was responsible for the fires, which he had set in order to blame the Christians. Whatever the case may be, Diocletian’s fury was not slow in coming, and it was decreed that all Christians in the imperial court must offer sacrifice before the gods. Prisca and Valeria compiled, but the Grand Chamberlain Dorotheus and several others suffered martyrdom. Throughout the empire houses where Christians met and sacred writings were being set to the torch, and there were areas where overzealous officials followed the emperor’s example and put Christians to death. The only area where there seems to have been a slight respite was the territory under the rule of Constantius Chlorus, where persecution was limited to tearing down some church buildings – at least, this is what we are told by Eusebius, who wished to present Constantius in the best possible light.
The situation grew worse. There were disturbances in some areas, and Diocletian became convinced that Christians were conspiring against him. He then decreed, first, that all the leaders of the churches be arrested and, somewhat later, that all Christians must offer sacrifice to the gods.
Thus was unleashed the most cruel of all the persecutions that the ancient church had to endure.
Next time, we will continue looking at The Great Persecution and the Final Victory.
Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Who this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in over twenty-five foreign countries. He is the author of over forty books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts/podcasts, which include: The Prayer Motivator Devotional, The Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report, the Second Coming Watch Update and the Soul-Winning Motivator, among others. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Theology degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for over twenty-seven years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.