The Results Of Persecution On The Early Church

How did the church respond to persecution?
How did the Christian movement develop in theology and practice as a result of persecution?

There were four main causes of persecution for the Church: Religious, Social, Political, and Economic.

Religious persecution of the Church came mainly from the Jews because the Jewish leaders didn’t accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah. While some Jews viewed Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy which moved the Jews into the messianic age. Those who doubted found a great deal of force and urgency with their persecution of Christ-followers. A secondary reason for religious persecution was because of the enthusiasm Christ-followers had after their conversion. Christianity was contagious and as Acts chapters 1-6 traces it grew in epidemic proportions very quickly.

Social persecution came from two areas. First the fact that Christianity put the master and the slave on equal ground and secondly blame due to the disrespect of other gods. Slavery and religious tolerance had swelled like a tumor in this time with the rise of Greek philosophy and melting pot of gods were thrown together and all worshiped for different purposes and meanings. The Christians claimed that Jesus was the only one true God and this did not sit well with religious relativist worship.

Political persecution came from a similar vein of idol worship. As Christians claimed Jesus exclusively as God they refused to say that Caesar was Lord. For this reason they also refused to serve in the army in which they had to proclaim this statement and were deemed unpatriotic.

In the economic realm, Christians hurt business of those selling idols for idol worship.

The Christian church responded in many ways persecution.

The good results of persecution were that the vast majority of Christians remained true to their faith despite the persecution; the Church was purified by any who chose to take the easy road out and flee the persecution; and the Scriptures became canonized during this time.

The bad results were that thousands of Christians denied the faith and fled persecution; many took positions that were contrary to the Christian faith in other religions; it caused divisions in the Church; some of the Scriptures were lost due to the burning of Christian letters and text; an abnormal desire for persecution arose among evil emperors and persecution became a heavy blood sport, and concerns of the relationship between the Church and the State arose.

There were some mixed results as well: While three million Christians dying at the hands of persecutors is by no means a good thing it does provide and effective witness to the fact that three million people were willing to die for the cause they believed in. Also while some fled the persecution and the empire, like cowards, after they got their bootstraps back underneath them the Gospel was spread into the areas in which they fled.

The Christian movement was forced to stand firm in their theology and practices. They had to know what they believed and why they believed it if they were going to be killed for holding true to it.

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