What 21st Century Christians Can Learn from Justin Martyr (Part 1)

I was blown away recently by the courage and wisdom of a Christian named Justin who lived under intense pressure for his faith about 1800 years ago. Over the last four years I have been discipling believers who have had to stand for their faith in front of judges and police officers on multiple occasions sometimes being threatened with prison and death. They have struggled with knowing how to respond correctly to charges and questions. We have gone over the book of Acts in detail with them to learn what to say from Peter and Paul. As I read Justin’s first apology I was amazed at the similarities of his circumstance. I was also amazed by the wisdom of his responses and the courage with which he spoke. For those of you who have to stand for your faith and for those of you who will disciple others to stand for their faith before rulers, the next six days we’ll look at six lessons we can learn from the apology of Justin.

Christian apologetics in the second century arose as a response to the widespread persecution under certain Roman Emporers such as Niro and Tajan. There were three reasons for this persecution from the Roman state.

  1. Christians appeared subversive and disloyal not participating “in the accepted expressions of political loyalty.”
  2. Beyond being hated by the rulers in power there was also “popular animosity” toward them as a result of their secretiveness.
  3. Their preaching and testimony often caused disturbances as in the well-known stories of Paul in Phillipi (Acts 17) and Ephesus (Acts 19).

This persecution caused a defense called an apology by Christians like Justin Martyr whose arguments remain with us today. Justin responded with the knowledge of the Jewish scriptures, the cunning of the Greek philosophers, and the conviction of a born again follower of Jesus Christ. In “The First Apology of Justin”, an argument presented to the Emperor Pius, his sons, and the Senate, Justin lays out sixty eight short chapters which serve as an incredible tool of imitation for Christians in persecuted areas of the world and those Christians who desire to reach the lost in those areas (which should be all Christians).

Lesson #1: You can kill but not hurt us

Justin begins where every witness for Christ must in chapter two when he says, “For as for us, we reckon that no evil can be done us, unless we be convicted as evil-doers or be proved to be wicked men; and you, you can kill, but not hurt us.”

What a man! I can only imagine the courage he inspired in the other believers who listened and then read his response to his accusations! I love it! You can kill us but not hurt us. I wonder how many times that would be repeated around the empire?

Where we must start as Christians is that the very worst men can do to us is to escort us into the presence of Jesus! We cannot begin to stand for our faith until we realize we are already dead. We cannot say with boldness what need to say as long as we are thinking of preserving our lives. The terrorist has no power over the believer who is impossible to terrorize. Terrorism is a strategy of Satan that the believer is impervious to because with Christ in us we fear no evil. When a Christian really comes to this kind of faith, then he is ready to start his defense.

Some verses to remember:

*For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God. II Tim 1:7-8

*Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.  So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Heb. 13:3 & 6

*For me to live is Christ, to die is gain. Phil. 1:21

*And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. 32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. 33 But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Matt 10:28-33

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