Over the last few months I’ve been reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It’s not the kind of read that can be completed in one sitting. Much of the content is so graphic that it made me balk. At times I was filled with such emotion that I could not hold back tears. And in truth I found it so convicting that I’ve been indelibly scarred by the rock solid faith of those that have gone before.
As I’ve been reading through the content I’ve considered the following two questions which over the next few days I’ll attempt to answer: “Why were Christians persecuted? How did they handle persecution?”
That bad things happen to bad people is something which doesn’t trouble most minds – this is mainly because folk don’t think of themselves as all that bad and believe that bad people get what’s coming to them – but ever since the fall of man bad things have also happened to good people; which leaves most folk hopping mad.
Mad mostly at God because while they’d rather not admit it everyone knows inside that God is sovereign and so when bad things happen they reckon He’d have to be the one to blame.
When a theologian says God is sovereign he means that “Because of Who He is, God has both the authority, right and power to rule over and control all things in accordance with His perfect will” (Mock 1989:56).
That’s an easy pill to swallow on a Sunday during a church service but it’s a little harder to stomach when you’re at the bedside of a dying infant, trying to console a grieving spouse or considering the question “Why were Christians persecuted?”
And it’s not just that God is merely in control – the captain at the helm of a ship in the midst of a great storm – no, God is revealed as the author “who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11, Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Version). Nothing ever happens outside of His control; as our sovereign king He is always seated on His throne.
“Why were Christians persecuted?” We must answer: because their sacrifice was part of God’s sovereign plan.