I am preparing to teach a class on Christian Martyrdom. With that in mind I thought I would point out an interesting historical event that happened this week in the year 287 A.D., a massive martyrdom is reported to have happened when a Roman legion of 6,600 men who had professed faith in Christ, refused to make sacrifice to the pagan gods.
The credibility of the account is questioned by historians because of a lack of historical verification from other sources but the tale is told here.
I find this to be an ironic but good illustration of the nature of the Christian life. Men who were trained to kill, suffered physical death willingly, out of an uncompromising allegiance to Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging warfare according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:3-5)
Our warfare as Christians is spiritual, not physical. Our weapons as Christians are spiritual, not physical. When Peter picked up the sword, Jesus said:
“Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matt. 26:52)
But we are indeed in combat that is real and this combat must be waged properly. If the story told above is true, the reality is that these men were wearing a heavenly armor that no sword or arrow could pierce. It is the armor of God which preserves the soul. This armor allows men to stand even when their bodies fall. This is why Paul exhorts us to dress ourselves for battle:
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Eph. 6:11-20)