The Glorious Death of Polycarp


In preparation for this morning’s lesson entitled Persecutions & Apologists, the freshmen read the account of the martyrdom of Polycarp. Polycarp was discipled by the Apostle John, served as a leader of the church at Smyrna, and discipled the apologist Irenæus. 

Toward the end of his ministry, the persecution of Christians from the Roman authorities spiked. As a leader in the early Christian church, Polycarp was pursued for arrest, but he was able to escape initially. Yet, when he perceived that continued evasion was impossible, he embraced the all-but-certain martyrdom before him. 

The grandfatherly Polycarp received verbal abuse from the Roman judge, who threatened him with a horrifying death and demanded he reject Christ. In response, Polycarp reasoned, “For eighty-six years I have served [Christ], and he has done me no evil. How could I curse my king, who saved me?” 

This climax of faith resulted in both Polycarp’s martyrdom and an enduring encouragement for those facing persecution for the name of Christ. Though today in America our physical lives are not physically in danger for following Christ, we should consider the reality that our social lives may indeed be at stake. When the world feeds our reputation to wild beasts, hangs our name at the gallows, or crucifies our career because of living for Christ, let Polycarp testify to God’s faithfulness and absolute ability to sustain his children in trials (1 Corinthians 10:13).


Ben Collins
Instructor in Christian Worldview, Bethlehem College & Seminary


Pray that …

  • BCS would continue to excel in preparing Kingdom builders for both winsome engagement with our world and courageous faithfulness in the face of every species of persecution.
  • Our faculty and students would be sustained by God’s grace as the end of our spring term draws near.
  • Christ would be honored in our process of accreditation.
  • God would demonstrate his glorious grace through providing for our institutional needs.