Praise God We Bear the Name
- part 3 of 4 - early Christians
Imagine an ex-Muslim Christian killed after saying he was a Christian. Would you tell His family and friends that his suffering was for nothing, that he should never have had a Christian witness, but should have been quiet that he was a Christian? Would you wish he had not told anyone he was a Christian?
1 Peter 4:16 "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name."
Despite Ridicule, Bear the Name
Theophilus of Antioch (168-181/188 A.D.) Even though he is mocked by being called a Christian, Theophilus has a whole chapter on what it means that they are called Christians. Theophilus to Autolycus book 1 ch.12 p.92
Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.) uses the word "Christian" 11 times. Here is one place: "Thus God and the Father are truly one and the same; He who was announced by the prophets, and handed down by the true Gospel; whom we Christians worship and love with the whole heart, as the Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things therein." Irenaeus Against Heresies book 3 ch.10.5 p.426
Hippolytus (222-235/6 A.D.) "For we observe that our discourse has been serviceable not only for a refutation of heresies, but also in reference to those who entertain these opinions. Now these, when they encounter the extreme care evinced by us, will even be struck with admiration of our earnestness, and will not despise our industry and condemn Christians as fools when they discern the opinions to which they themselves have stupidly accorded their belief." Refutation of All Heresies book 4 ch.45 p.42
Origen (225-254 A.D.) "since he frequently calls the Christian doctrine a secret system (of belief), we must confute him on this point also, since almost the entire world is better acquainted with what Christians preach than with the favourite opinions of philosophers. ... And yet the mystery of the resurrection, not being understood, is made a subject of ridicule among unbelievers." Origen Against Celsus book 1 ch.7 p.399
Despite Suffering, Bear the Name
Justin Martyr (150 A.D.) "For we are accused of being Christians, and to hate what is excellent (Chrestian) is unjust. Again, if any of the accused deny the name, and say that he is not a Christian, you acquit him, as having no evidence against him as a wrong-doer; but if any one acknowledge that he is a Christian, you punish him on account of this acknowledgment." First Apology of Justin Martyr ch.4 p.164. In some parts of the world, times have not changed much. But we should respond as early Christians did.
Evarestus' Martyrdom of Polycarp (c.169 A.D.) ch.10 p.41 "And when the proconsul yet again pressed him, and said, 'Swear by the fortune of Caesar,' he [bishop Polycarp] answered, 'Since thou art vainly urgent that, as thou sayest, I should swear by the fortune of Caesar, and pretendest not to know who and what I am, hear me declare with boldness, I am a Christian. And if you wish to learn what the doctrines of Christianity are, appoint me a day, and thou shalt hear them.'"
The Octavius of Minucius Felix (210 A.D.) ch.37 p.196 ""How beautiful is the spectacle to God when a Christian does battle with pain; when he is drawn up against threats, and punishments, and tortures; when, mocking the noise of death, he treads under foot the horror of the executioner; when he raises up his liberty against kings and princes, and yields to God alone, whose he is; when, triumphant and victorious, he tramples upon the very man who has pronounced sentence against him! For he has conquered who has obtained that for which he contends..... And do you not perceive, O wretched men, that there is nobody who either is willing without reason to undergo punishment, or is able without God to bear tortures?"
Clement of Alexandria (193-217/220 A.D.) "Accordingly they persecute us, not from the supposition that we are wrong-doers, but imagining that by the very fact of our being Christians we sin against life in so conducting ourselves, and exhorting others to adopt the like life." Stromata book 4 ch.11 p.423
Firmilian of Caesarea to Cyprian (256 A.D.) "So that from this also a severe persecution arose against us of the Christian name; and this after the long peace of the previous age arose suddenly, and with its unusual evils was made more terrible for the disturbance of our people." Letters of Cyprian. Letter 74 ch.10 p.392
Despite Disunity, Bear the Name
Anonymous Treatise Against Novatian (254-256 A.D.) ch.8 p.659 "Then shall it be fulfilled that He says, 'I also will deny them.' But whom will the Lord Christ chiefly deny, if not all of you heretics, and schismatics, and strangers to His name? For ye who were some time Christians, but now are Novatians, no longer Christians, have changed your first faith by a subsequent perfidy in the calling of your name."
Firmilian of Caesarea to Cyprian (256 A.D.) "But if this unity which cannot be separated and divided at all, is itself also among heretics, why do we contend any more? Why do we call them heretics and not Christians? Moreover, since we and heretics have not one God, nor one Lord, nor one Church, nor one faith, nor even one Spirit, nor one body, it is manifest that neither can baptism be common to us with heretics, since between us there is nothing at all in common." Letters of Cyprian letter 74 ch.26 p.397
Seventh Council of Carthage (258 A.D.) p.568 "Another Secundinus of Carpi said: Are heretics Christians or not? If they are Christians, why are they not in the Church of God?"
Despite Fake Christians, Bear the Name
Adamantius (c.300 A.D.) asks his debate opponent Megethius, "If now I should show that he [Paul] was not present [at the crucifixion], but even persecuted the members of the Church after this, would you become a Christian?" "Megethius: "But surely I am a Christian?" Adamantius: "How can you be a Christian when you did not condescend to bear the name of Christian? You do not call yourself a Christian, but a Marcionite." Dialogue on the True Faith first part ch.8e p.46
Being in Christ is being a Christian
Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) "For he who confesses himself to be what he is, that is, a Christian, confesses that likewise by which he is it, that is, Christ. Therefore he who has denied that he is a Christian, has denied in Christ, by denying that Christ is in him, while He denies that he is in Christ, he will deny Christ too." Scorpiace ch.9 p.642
Ignatius, disciple of the Apostle John (100-116/7 A.D.) Ignatius asked the Ephesian believers to pray, "that I may be found in the lot of the Christians of Ephesus, who have always been of the same mind with the apostles through the power of Jesus Christ." Letter of Ignatius to the Ephesians ch.11 p.54. May we be found in the lot of the Christians too.
If you ever have to choose between avoid suffering and obeying God by bearing the name Christian I hope you choose to obey God.
Quote from all 41 pre-Nicene Christian writers at www.BibleQuery.org/History/ChurchHistory/WhatEarlyChristiansTaught.html.
All Bible verse quotations are from the NIV.
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