Recently I was reading about the account of Polycarp’s martyrdom and I was moved by the way he demonstrated the reality of Paul’s epistle to the Philippians chapter one verse twenty: “As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” This account was written from the Church of Smyrna to believers of Philomelium and to all Christians throughout the Roman Empire for the following reasons:
First, it was a record for Christians to remember and honour Polycarp’s martyrdom and those who had died along with him.
Second, this written account would be instructive and helpful for younger believers who had not yet experienced suffering for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Finally, it was written to encourage all Christians to be faithful even to the extent of laying down their lives for Him.
The focus of the early Christians was placed on the eternal values and glories of our Lord Jesus. Since He had delivered them from eternal damnation and given them eternal and heavenly blessings, they would therefore not be afraid to die for Him. Martyrdom would not be a dreadful thing to be avoided at any cost. Instead, believers would count it an honour to die for their Saviour!
The life and spirit of Polycarp are worthy for us to follow. His humble Christ-like character had left an indelible mark not only among Christians but also among the heathens of his day. We could learn from Polycarp that the reason why he could die well was because he had lived well for His Saviour and Lord. In reply to the Proconsul’s ultimatum to revile Christ, he boldly testified, ‘Eighty-six years I have served Him, and He has never done me wrong. How, then, should I be able to blaspheme my King who has saved me?’
Let us not forget what Polycarp and others like him had borne for the Lord. Let us ask God for the grace to live well so that we could die well for Him. Are you living a life well-pleasing to the Lord?
Are you focusing your heart on the things above? Are you spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere especially among those who are not yet saved?
Rev. Mark Tay