Thursday in the Last Week of Ordinary Time

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

“Away with the Atheists!”

Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna martyred in A.D. 150.  Having lived into his eighties, he is reported by later writers to have known the Apostle John as a young man.  The Church at Smyrna recorded his martyrdom and sent a letter to the Church at Philomelium about it.  (Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1:41-42.)

“Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp!’  No one saw who it was who spoke to him, but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice.  And as he was brought forward, the tumult became great when they heard that Polycarp was taken.  And when he came near, the proconsul asked him whether he was Polycarp.  On his confessing that he was, the proconsul sought to persuade him to deny Christ, saying, ‘Have respect to thy old age,’ and other similar things, according to their custom, such as, ‘Swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, “Away with the Atheists.”’  [Christians were regarded as atheists by the pagans for not believing in their gods.]  But Polycarp, gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hands towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, ‘Away with the Atheists.’  Then the proconsul urging him, saying, ‘Swear and I will set thee at liberty; reproach Christ’; Polycarp declared, ‘Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never did me any injury: how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?’

…The proconsul then said, ‘I have wild beasts at hand; to these will I cast thee, except thou repent.’  But he answered, ‘Call them then, for we are not accustomed to repent of what is good in order to adopt that which is evil’… But again the proconsul said to him, ‘I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, seeing thou despisest the beasts, if thou wilt not repent.’  But Polycarp said, ‘Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a while is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgment and of eternal punishment  reserved for the ungodly.  But why tarriest thou?  Bring forth what thou wilt.’”

Upon praying that he might make an acceptable sacrifice to God, Polycarp declined to be fixed to the stake as he said that God would give him the grace both to stay and endure.  And as he burned alive, it is reported,

“The fire shaping itself into the form of an arch, like the sail of a ship when filled by the wind, encompassed as by a circle the body of the martyr.  And he appeared within not like flesh which is burnt, but as bread that is baked, or as gold and silver glowing in a furnace.  Moreover, we perceived such a sweet odor as if frankincense or some such precious spices had been smoking there.”

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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