When I became a believer in Jesus Christ, I somehow had the false idea that Christianity began when I got saved. I had no concept of the hundreds of years of history that Christianity had gone through since the time of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago. I have found that many believers, young and old, have the same false idea. The purpose of this broadcast is to dispel this notion by sharing with listeners the history of Christianity from the ministry of Jesus Christ all the way up until the present day in an easy-to-understand format. You don’t have to worry: this is not a lecture. This is a look at the basic facts and figures of Christian history that every believer and every person needs to be aware of.
Our History of Christianity Scripture verse today is John 15:18 which reads: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”
Our History of Christianity quote today is from George Whitefield. He said: “If you are going to walk with Jesus Christ, you are going to be opposed. In our days, to be a true Christian is really to become a scandal.”
Today, in the History of Christianity, we are looking at “The Great Persecution and the Final Victory” (Part 3) from Dr. Justo L. Gonzalez’s fine book, The Story of Christianity (Volume 1).
Following the example of Decius, efforts were made to encourage Christians to abandon their faith. Accustomed as they were to the relative ease of several decades, many Christians succumbed. The rest were tortured with refined cruelty, and eventually killed in a variety of ways. A number were able to hide, and some of these took the sacred books with them. There were even a few who crossed the border into Persia – thus appearing to confirm the worst suspicions as to their lack of loyalty.
While all this was taking place, Galerius aspired to the supreme position within the empire. In 304 AD, Diocletian became ill and, although he survived, he felt weak and tired. Galerius went to him and apparently induced him to abdicate. He also secured Maximian’s abdication by threatening to invade his neighbor’s territories with his clearly superior army. In 305 AD, both Diocletian and Maximian abdicated, while Galerius and Constantius Chlorus took the title of augustus. The two caesars under them, Severus and Maximinus Daia, were Galerius’ inept creatures.
These arrangements, however, were not well received by many in the legions, where the sons of Constantius and Maximian, Constantine and Maxentius, were very popular. Young Constantine lived for years in Diocletian’s court, and later in Galerius’ court, apparently as a hostage to insure the loyalty of his father Constantius Chlorus. But he escaped – or, according to some historians, was released – and joined his father, who had pleaded ill health in asking that his son be sent to him. When Constantius died, the troops refused to obey the designs of Galerius and proclaimed Constantine as their augustus. Meanwhile, Maxentius had taken Rome, and Severus, who ruled in the ancient capital, committed suicide. Galerius invaded the territories held by Maxentius; but his troops began to pass over to his rival’s side, and he was forced to return to the Eastern portion of the empire, where his support was stronger. Finally, in desperation, Galerius appealed to Diocletian, asking him to come out of retirement and establish order. But Diocletian declared that he was quite happy growing cabbages in his retirement, and refused to resume the government of the empire – although he was willing to lead the necessary negotiations among the various rivals. The final result was a very unstable arrangement, which included the appointment of a new augustus, Licinius. By then the claimants to various parts of the empire were too numerous to list here, and further civil wars were clearly inevitable. Meanwhile Constantine, the son of Constantius Chlorus, was simply biding his time and strengthening his position in his territories in Gaul and Great Britain.
In the midst of such political chaos, persecution continued, although its impact depended upon the policies set by each emperor in each region. In the West, most of the territory was under the effective control of Constantine and Maxentius, and neither of these two emperors enforced the decrees against Christians, which they saw as the work of their rival Galerius. Galerius and his main protege, Maximinus Daia, continued persecuting Christians. Maximinus sought to perfect the policies of Galerius by having Christians maimed and put to work in stone quarries. But then many of the condemned began organizing new churches in their places of punishment, and Maximinus had them killed or deported anew. The lists of martyrs grew longer and longer, and there seemed to be no end in sight.
Next time, we will continue looking at The Great Persecution and the Final Victory.
Dear friend, simply knowing the facts about Christian history without knowing the One on Who this faith is based will do you no good. If you do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, may I encourage you to get to know Him today. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can be a part of the church in this life and in the life to come. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Until next time, remember that history is truly His story.
Daniel Whyte III has spoken in meetings across the United States and in over twenty-five foreign countries. He is the author of over forty books. He is also the president of Gospel Light Society International, a worldwide evangelistic ministry that reaches thousands with the Gospel each week, as well as president of Torch Ministries International, a Christian literature ministry which publishes a monthly magazine called The Torch Leader. He is heard by thousands each week on his radio broadcasts/podcasts, which include: The Prayer Motivator Devotional, The Prayer Motivator Minute, as well as Gospel Light Minute X, the Gospel Light Minute, the Sunday Evening Evangelistic Message, the Prophet Daniel’s Report, the Second Coming Watch Update and the Soul-Winning Motivator, among others. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Bethany Divinity College, a Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s degree in Religion, a Master of Divinity degree, and a Master of Theology degree from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He has been married to the former Meriqua Althea Dixon, of Christiana, Jamaica for over twenty-seven years. God has blessed their union with seven children. Find out more at www.danielwhyte3.com. Follow Daniel Whyte III on Twitter @prophetdaniel3 or on Facebook.