The Witnessing Life: Fed to the Lions, Burned at the Stake

An Example of the Witnessing Life

Their names were Carpus and Papylus.  And they demonstrated the Witnessing Life.

In A.D. 165, Carpus and Papylus were brought before a governor in Rome and charged with the “crime” of being Christian. The governor of the district had discovered that Carpus and Papylus did not celebrate the pagan festivals. He ordered the men to be arrested and commanded them to accept the Roman pagan religion. The men replied that they would never worship false gods.

Carpus, who was a leader in the church.  Not even torture could persuade him to change his mind. He simply kept repeating, “I am a Christian and because of my faith and the name of our Lord Jesus Christ I cannot become one of you.”

Papylus was a wealthy man with many children. Papylus said, “I have served God since my youth, I have never sacrificed to idols. I am a Christian. You cannot learn anything else from me. There is nothing I can say which is greater or more wonderful than this.”

Both Carpus and Papylus were burned alive.

Seeing the witness of Carpus and Paylus, a woman named Agathonice came forward. She confessed that she, too, was a Christian. She then said to the governor, “If I am worthy, I desire to follow in the footsteps of my teachers.” She was then sentenced to the same death as Carpus and Papylus. While she was led to the place of execution she removed her clothes and gave them to the poor. When the crowd saw how beautiful she was, they all grieved. As she was hung over the fire, she cried out, “Lord Jesus Christ, help me, because I am enduring this for your sake.”

Carpus, Papylus, and Agathonice never committed an actual crime. Furthermore, it was common knowledge that Christians at the time espoused love and peace, served the common good of society and prayed for the emperor. Christians demonstrated that they were good citizens of the empire. Also at the time Rome was the home of hundreds of gods and religions.

So, why were they killed? 
Why did the “crime” of being Christian set them apart? 

They confessed Jesus as the ONLY Savior and Lord

These three died not because they believed in Jesus among many hundreds of gods, but because they confessed Jesus as the ONLY Savior and Lord. They were convinced that Jesus alone was the only way of reconciliation between God and mankind and between God the Creator and His creation. The exclusive Lordship of Jesus challenged all other ultimate claims on their lives – wealth, status, power, and even Rome itself. They believed that Jesus tolerates no rivals. When forced to choose between worshipping Jesus AND the emperor or worshipping ONLY Jesus, they pledged their allegiance only to Jesus.

Christians have been persecuted since Roman emperor Nero fed them to the lions in the Coliseum.  The church through the centuries has stood on the shoulders of men and women such as these, this great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 13).  There have been more martyrs in the 20th century than the previous 19 centuries combined.  America has been one of the privileged few, but even America’s time is coming.

Recently I read an article online. The American commentator was talking about how the Emperor Nero had it right in throwing the Christians to the lions and then imagined if only we had the Coliseum again. His attacks were vicious and his words were toxic. And he meant everything he said.  At first I was angry and I cried. But then I felt resolved to continue standing on the shoulders of people like Carpus and Papylus. I felt emboldened to continue to stand in solidarity alongside our brothers in South Asia who are currently facing a political regime change and as a result are bearing the marks of persecution.

We live in an age of “tolerance” and “pluralism.”  We are challenged to open our minds to other viewpoints as we embrace diversity. It is expected, even applauded, for one to believe in a plurality of ideas, even if those ideas contradict each other.  But there is no toleration for exclusivity. And in that environment people are shying away from boldly proclaiming Christ.

Today, 51% of evangelicals say they no longer believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. 

The Witnessing Life “stream” emphasizes the exclusivity of the Gospel message and every believer’s calling to live and proclaim this message locally, cross-culturally, and globally.  May we go boldly.


What has been your experience in the Witnessing Life?

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