The Martyrdom of Apostle Paul

Approximately 30 years after the death and resurrection of Christ and following the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD, an open and systematic persecution against Christians was commenced by Nero under the pretext that Christians set the fire.

This was the first official and systematic effort against Christians by the Romans, and it resulted in many executions and entertainment-type deaths of believers. Apostle Peter is believed to have been executed by crucifixion immediately in the aftermath of the Rome fire.

Christianity was no longer an entity under the umbrella of Judaism, and to be openly Christian was essentially a death mark. Paul states that “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.” 2 Timothy 4:16

Apostle Paul is believed to have been martyred in this first wave of Roman persecution around age 66, but his death is not as well documented in early writings as Peter’s. One thing seems certain: Paul was not crucified because he was a Roman citizen, and his “death-row” process was prolonged compared to those of Jewish descend. He probably spend most of 64-68 A. D.  in prison and/or house arrest with one or two releases in that time period.

Third century church historian Eusebius wrote:

“After defending himself the Apostle was again set on the ministry of preaching… coming a second time to the same city [Paul] suffered martyrdom under Nero. During this imprisonment he wrote the second Epistle to Timothy.” (Eccl Hist. 2.22.2)

The Bible tells us that Paul was expecting martyrdom:

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4: 6-7)

Martyrology commentary says:

“Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (A. D. 170), says that Peter and Paul went to Italy and taught there together, and suffered martyrdom about the same time. This, like most of the statements relating to the death of St. Paul, is mixed up with the tradition…” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)

“The tradition is, for now Paul fails us, that Paul, as a Roman citizen, was beheaded on the Ostian Road just outside of Rome. Nero died June, 68 A.D., so that Paul was executed before that date, perhaps in the late spring of that year (or 67). Perhaps Luke and Timothy were with him. It is fitting, as Findlay suggests, to let Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8 serve for his own epitaph. He was ready to go to be with Jesus, as he had long wished to be (Philippians 1:23)” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, First Edition, article “Paul the Apostle”)

To be a Christian in the first 3 centuries in the extensive Roman Empire was a reason to be killed just like it is today in many places in Africa and Asia.

These martyrs will sure have a special place in heaven.

Moral Failure Among Church Leadership

How is it possible that we have failures such as Gosnell’s crimes, acceptance of sexual deviancy, and close to a moral anarchy-type system in our society?

Is it possible that the Church has failed in setting the proper example?

Is it possible that Church leadership shares a good portion of the blame?

A recent study out of Pennsylvania reveals that about 20% of pastors PUBLICLY hold morally corrupt views that are not biblical.  This goes a long way toward explaining why some churches have become the world, and they no longer are a shining moral beacon.

The Pennsylvania Pastor’s Network interviewed EVANGELICAL pastors from across the state, and here are some of the shocking results:

  • Exclusive salvation only through Jesus Christ: 89% teach that view
  • The Bible is the only completely reliable source of absolute moral truth: only 78% teach that view
  • Abortion is morally wrong: only 78% teach that view
  • Same-sex marriage is morally wrong: only 82% teach that view

The questions were focused on teaching, but the thrust of the study lets me believe that perhaps the numbers are much worse with respect to these pastor’s personal beliefs.  They are more likely to hold morally unacceptable views privately but suppress them publicly.

The main issue in the above study is the issue of inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.

The ones who do not hold to absolute moral standards are also less likely to hold the Bible as the ultimate inerrant truth.

These are wolves in sheep’s clothes who shepherd or rather corrupt the flock.

On his way final way to Jerusalem, apostle Paul called a conference with the elders of the Ephesian church, and prophesied a painful truth which has proven to apply to the universal church along the ages.

Acts 20:

29I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. 

How painfully true this is in our day and age.  The spirit of Rob Bell has infiltrated the evangelical church and as many as 20% of the pastors have been corrupted according to this study.

But the glass is only half empty.  Praise God for the other 80% who continue to hold to biblical truth.

May God strengthen them by the power of the Holy Spirit!

To Grieve the Holy Spirit

Isaiah 63:10 may be one the most shocking verse in the entire Bible.

“Yet they rebelled
and grieved his Holy Spirit.
So he turned and became their enemy
and he himself fought against them.”

Can a believer who has the Holy Spirit living inside of them fathom this truth!?

The people of Israel have made an enemy of God and His Holy Spirit by their idolatry. And the Holy Spirit Himself fought against them.

What a terrifying thought for a true believer.

This is why Paul gives us a stern warning in Ephesians 4:30

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”

How can we grieve the Holy Spirit?

Under the NIV heading “Instructions for Christian Living” in Ephesians 4, Paul mentions the things that grieve the Holy Spirit: sensuality, impurity, greed, deceitful desires, falsehood, stealing, unwholesome talk, all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

Should a believer ever fall in sin, he must not persist in that fall as John explains in 1 John 3:9

“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”

Conviction of sin is the work of the Holy Spirit and repentance quickly follows for the believer. Should that repentance not immediately follow, the Holy Spirit will be grieved.

Other than blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, grieving the Holy Spirit may be the biggest spiritual disaster in one’s life.

To listen to the Holy Spirit is the work of the Holy Spirit in us… And we must always thank Him for His presence and guide in our lives.

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