Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: Peter, Paul and John

I have been writing notes and excepts from the book, and this time I will write about the apostle Peter, Paul and John. Beginning with Peter, as he was waiting to be crucified, some were telling him to run out of the city (Rome). And as he was trying to avoid what they were saying, yet running, it was reported that he saw the Lord Christ coming to meet him. I will quote exactly what was written:

Coming to the gate, he saw the Lord Christ come to meet him, to Whom he, worshipping, said, ‘Lord, whither dost Thou go?’ To whom He answered and said, ‘I am come to be crucified.’ By this, Peter, perceiving his suffering to be understood, returned back into the city. Jerome saith that he was crucified, his head being down and his feet upward, himself so requiring, because he was (he said) unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.

As for Paul, there is not much written about him, except that before he was beheaded, it was written that he suffered some under Nero. Then the two men, Ferega and Parthemius, who came to execute him, first desired him to pray for them that they might believe. He did pray for them, and after he prayed, the executioners gave his neck to the sword. So, he died in the same way John the Baptist died. And Paul also died much like Jesus in that he was praying for others right up until his death.

John the apostle was exiled into Patmos. Then, after the death of Domitian Nero, John was released and came to Ephesus and there governed the churches of Asia and also where he wrote his gospel. He lived there until he dies at the age of about one hundred. (So, it appears that he weas the only apostle who weas not martyred, except for being sent to Patmos.)

The persecutions continued according to “whatsoever the cruelness of man’s invention could devise…”  But in spite of it, “the church daily increased, deeply rooted in the doctrine of the apostles…”

Taken from pages 12-18 of the book.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: The First Christian Martyrs

The most brutal emperor was Domitius Nero. It was he that slew most of the Roman senators and it was he that commanded Rome to be set on fire; and then he laid the blame on Christian men and caused them to be persecuted.

At that time of Nero, he was so enraged with Christians that a person might see cities full of dead, naked bodies lying in the streets with no regard to sex; there were men, women and even children cast out naked in the streets. Many in those days thought that he was the antichrist (Many even today think that he was the antichrist—but we know that he is yet to come and with even more rage.)

After that, about 40 years after the death of Christ, Titus slew many thousands of Jews. Also, 17,000 were sold as slaves and about 2,000 were brought to Rome to be devoured by wild beasts in the coliseum.

I will give the names of a few prominent martyrs. Stephen was the first, then James and Thomas, then Simon the brother of Jude, then Mark and Andrew.

Andrew it was said was very steadfast as he went to die on a cross. His body fainted not, nor did his understanding fail him. And with a very clear and kind voice he said,

“O cross, most welcome and long looked for! With a willing mind, joyfully and desirously, I come to thee, being the scholar of Him which did hang on thee: because I have always been the lover, and have coveted to embrace thee.”

Philip was a great preacher. He was crucified and also stoned to death. His daughters died with him.

James, the brother of our Lord took it upon himself to govern the church at that time. He was known to have the knees of a camel because he prayed so much on his knees to safeguard the people. The Scribes and Pharisees hated him. So, they went and threw him down from the top of the temple. Yet he was not killed by the fall, and turning, he fell upon his knees, saying, “O Lord God, Father, I beseech thee to forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He was then about to be stones, but someone stopped it because he was praying for them. Then someone present hit him on the head with an instrument and he died.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: Events following Christ’s Crucifixion

I have read the book before—a while ago. Now I’m reading it again, this time more carefully. I may give a series of blog posts on it, hoping to inspire some of you. Parts of it are gory, but I would focus more on the strength and boldness of the precious martyrs who loved the Lord. They were all so willing and even joyous in their suffering and death, as cruel as it was.

I will start with what happened after the crucifixion of Christ. According to the research of John Fox in 1516, Pontius Pilate was so moved by Christ that he may have become a Christian and tried to convert the whole Roman senate. But Tiberius Caesar would have none of it, and, as Foxe points out, almost all the senators were destroyed and the whole city of Rome was “most horribly afflicted” for almost three hundred years. As for Pilate, he was “sent to Rome, deposed, then banished to the town of Vienne in Dauphiny, and at length did slay himself.”

So, as it appears, Christ was the first of the martyrs. It was his death that so stirred up all of Rome either to believe and not to believe. But it was the evil emperors that were so full of the devil that started the flames of persecution and martyrdom. After Tiberius it was Caligula, Claudius Nero and Domitius Nero who began the reign of terror on the Christians.

True and False Knowledge

For every person, the longer a person lives the more knowledge they have a chance to obtain. But what they do with it is what matters. Knowledge is knowledge, but what we do with it makes it true or false.

I’ll start with what I will call false knowledge.

  • False knowledge is knowledge, but it has no good purpose.
  • False knowledge is knowledge that is prideful in what it knows.
  • There is a gift of knowledge but it can become a snare to us. It makes knowledge an end in itself, in order to pass an exam, to get a grade or a degree. It does not lead to any good actions or deeds.
  • False knowledge puffs up. In this case he has an impatience with any opposing view or any correction. He enjoys his knowledge. He spends a lot of time reading just for the sake of reading. He may read to gain knowledge about God but not of God.

What is True knowledge?

  • True knowledge is having a growing knowledge of the truth.
  • True knowledge is to know God. The end of theology (the study of God) is to know God.
  • True knowledge is to experience God: to experience His truth, His love, His peace, His joy, His glory and fulness, His holiness.
  • To really know God is to love Him, because God is love. Therefore, true knowledge always leads to a love of God.
  • True knowledge will produce good character—the character of God.
  • True knowledge is experiencing His Spirit. It is praying in the Spirit, which is real communion with God.

Source: My notes and thoughts from the book, The Puritans, by D. M. Lloyd-Jones.

The Puritans: A book by D. M. Lloyd-Jones

I have finished blogging through the book The Sermon on the Mount, by D. M. Lloyd-Jones. Now I am reading another of his books, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors. Again, as is the habit of Lloyd-Jones, the book is actually taken directly from his sermons. This book is a compilation of messages from yearly conferences on the subject of the Puritans; they met in Westminster Chapel in London, from 1959 to 1978. And so, I intend to blog through the book as I am reading it. We will see how it goes. The first chapter is on the history of revival, and I intend to just put down in my words those portions that I have highlighted. Here goes.

  • He starts out by telling where revival has not broken out: the Roman Catholic Church, the Unitarian Church, and the Anglican Church. And he gives the reason; that they have confined the Holy Spirit.
  • But there was great revival in other places: Northern Ireland, Scotland, Germany. The moving of the Spirit came to America through Jonathan Edwards, to Whitefield and to the Wesleys and others.
  • Charles Finney was known for the way he created revival by his methods: his evangelistic campaigns, etc. It was interesting how he had sort of a formula to bring it about. Whereas others just waited for it and prayed.
  • With some groups there has seemed to be very little interest in revival: the Calvinistic brethren, Charles Hodge, the Plymouth Brethren, and others. They disliked it because of all the emotion and phenomenon related to it; they didn’t trust it.
  • Even the Puritans themselves didn’t seem to teach anything about revival.
  • The Plymouth Brethren thought it was wrong to pray for revival, because they said, the Holy Spirit had been given already at Pentecost. They said that nowhere in Scripture are we taught to pray for revival.
  • The church seems to be divided into two groups: those that are only interested in the emotional and unusual things accompanied by revival, and the group that distrust all unusual things. But they are both wrong.
  • The history of the development of the church is largely a history of revival.
  • An important point is this: salvation always starts by revival. Salvation is a work of the Spirit. And that work happens suddenly on the soul when the soul is suddenly revived.
  • Man cannot start a revival. It comes when God decides. And he cannot stop it either. God brings it, keeps it going and stops it when He chooses.

Conclusion

We are called above everything else to pray for revival. Let us pray for the outpouring of the Spirt of God, just as they did between the Ascension and Pentecost. Let us stir ourselves up to take hold of God.

Jesus’ Teaching Was with Authority

Matthew 7:28-29

 When Jesus had finished these words [His sermon], the multitudes were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was not long. If you add up all the verses in chapters 5, 6, and 7, you won’t come up with more than three or four pages. And if you were preaching it, it won’t take more than about twenty minutes.

Yet His sermon had a profound effect on all the people. They were “amazed at His teaching.” Why? I’m sure they were captivated by what He said, but more, by how He said it. Verses 29 tells us that He taught them “as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”

And I think they were equally amazed that He was yet a young man, an ordinary person, and just a carpenter and not having the schooling as the scribes had. Yet He spoke so well, as if he were learned—even more than the scribes.

Here are four reasons why Jesus spoke as one having authority:

  • Whereas the scribes always quoted from many teachers, Jesus used no quotes. He spoke for Himself. All His teachings were original to Himself.
  • He spoke with confidence and certainty.
  • He had His own sayings. He made up His own stories—parables. And He often spoke about Himself.
  • He was always referring to Himself: “I am come,” “I am come to fulfill,” “I and my Father are one.”

Another observation is that while so many say that the sermon on the Mount is just moral and ethical teachings; if you look closely, you will see that it is full of doctrine: doctrine about Himself, about the rebirth, about the new life in Christ, and about the incarnation and more.

This is the end of my blog posts on the Sermon on the Mount.

The Trials and Tests of Our Faith

Matthew 7:24-27

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 “And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”

Here is a picture of two men, a wise man and a foolish man. The wise man had a true and good foundation. The foolish man had a foundation made of sand—it would not last.

In this illustration, the wise man is a Christian. His foundation is Christ. The foolish man is a non-Christian. His foundation is his own works and his own philosophy of life. But his foundation is not true and so it is unstable—as sand.

The rain and the floods and the wind represent the tests of our faith and what our life if built on. Notice that both the Christian and the non-Christian are tested.

The rain may represent things like illness, loss or disappointment. Floods may represent the world, or worldliness—“the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” And the wind may represent Satanic attacks, such as to hurl doubts and evil thoughts at us.

Now for the non-Christian, the main disaster for him will come at the judgment, when it is discovered that there is no foundation, that Christ is not his Lord. The Christian does have a lasting foundation, which is Jesus Christ. But the trials of life will nevertheless test his faith to see how he has built upon that foundation (look at 1Corinthisna 3:12-15). And our rewards at the end of our life will depend on it.

One of the most important things for a Christian to do is to see to it that he has a good devotional life, and also that it doesn’t become mechanical. We must remember in our quiet times with the Lord, to stop and meditate on what we read from the bible, and listen to what God is telling us. Then determine to obey Him and to be always asking for His help and guidance along the way. He is our anchor and firm foundation.

Ten Signs of Self-Deception

I have been following the sermons of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. In the last few posts, particularly on Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus has told us straight out that at the judgment day many will be surprised when He tells them, “I never knew you.” Hence, they have been self-deceived probably their entire life. They believed they were Christians but were not. What makes a person think he is a real Christian when he is not? What are the signs of self-deception in this matter? Lloyd-Jones gives us ten signs. I will abbreviate them in my own words.

1. When a person counts on attending church meetings. I don’t understand this point, but I suppose some may think that attending meetings will give them good standing with God.

2. When a person takes an interest in his denomination or fellowship. For some reason a person may think that to be interested in the church in this way, this will make him a Christian, that it puts him high on the totem pole so to speak.

3. When one is caught up in the phenomena of exalted feelings, guidance, physical healing, and so on. One may regard these things as a sign of being Spirit filled, and therefore a Christian; however, even the demon possessed have experienced some of these things.

4. When one is caught up in the social events of the church. I have personally witnessed people who take great pride in certain social activities, and even very worthwhile things, but that in itself does not make you a Christian.

5. When one is caught up in apologetics—the defense of the faith. This is a worthwhile interest and it may for some seem to be a sign of a Christian; but again, this interest will not make you a Christian; it will do nothing for the saving of your soul.

6. To have an interest in theology. The grave danger here is that a person may become so engaged in his studies that he forgets about a need for a personal relationship with God.

7. To have an over interest in prophetic teaching. This is one of my interests, and so, I can see that if one is not a Christian already, it may deceive you. That is, if you have become a student of bible prophecy, it may so build you up in bible knowledge that you may take on a self-pride in yourself where it may be impossible to find true salvation.

8. A person that becomes a student of the bible, but his knowledge is only an intellectual pursuit. One who is highly knowledgeable in the bible may not even be a Christian. In fact, his knowledge may do more damage than good; as his pride is built up, he may at some point turn against true Christianity.

9. A person who has a great interest in various bible translations and in choosing one over another. This is another case of one building up in himself a sort of intellectual bible pride, which may be very damaging to the soul, and in the end, if he is not a Christian he may never be.

10. One who is only interested in grace. This may be a sign that one is not a Christian and is fooling himself. For a true Christian, sin is a serious matter and one’s reaction to it should be of deep penitence. If a person seems always to be restored quickly by grace, his love of the Lord and salvation is questionable.

Unconscious Hypocrisy

Unconscious Hypocrisy is actually the title of a sermon by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, which was recoded in his book Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. The following is just a few notes I took on that sermon.

Lloyd-Jones began by saying that there are many people who are not aware of the fact that they are not really Christians when they are convinced that they are; and so, they have a kind of unconscious hypocrisy. They think they are good Christians but they are in fact reprobates.

  • They are of the “many” who have passed up the narrow gate and have instead gone down the broad path with most of the world.
  • They are like the five foolish virgins, and like the man who built his house on the sand.
  • They are of those whom Jesus spoke of (in Matthew 7:21-23) who did wonderful works, but yet didn’t know Him.
  • They are people who are praised by men.
  • They are considered as outstanding servants.
  • They are happy about themselves.
  • They are assured of their salvation.

God says of them, “I never knew you.” So, they have been deceived. And they will be surprised at the judgment. Here is the passage that we have been considering:

Matthew 7:21-23

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

I think the most important thing we can do is to list the causes of self-deception to make sure we don’t fall into the same trap that so many have fallen into. Here is the list of six, which I gathered from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ sermon.

  1. They have a false assurance of their salvation, which they have persuaded themselves to believe. This false assurance is based on a false belief system. A system that says that if I say I believe often enough and strongly enough, that it will take hold. But James says that the Devil also believes this way, and he certainly will not be saved from hell.
  2. They refuse to examine themselves periodically to see if their faith is true.
  3. They live on their activities of good works. They think this will save them.
  4. They balance their good works with the bad. This is a Muslim system, and a system of all false religions, but it doesn’t work.
  5. They fail to heed the plain teaching of Scripture. To take it as their guide.
  6. They fail to realize that the one thing that matters is a relationship with Christ. He wants our heart, our submission, our time; and He wants us.

Those who say to Him, “Lord, Lord”

The narrow way and the broad way

The Bible says that on the judgment day it will be revealed that some who think they are Christians are really not. In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus said,

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

This may seem to you to be a very strange thing, that some people will be so self-deceived, that they think they are Christians when they are not. How can this happen? How does someone not know that he is not a Christian? How does he or she live so much of a life thinking that they are Christians when they are not?

The only answer is that they haven’t really known what a Christian is. They evidently have allowed false prophets to influence them; and they, at the beginning, entered not at the narrow gate but at the broad gate and went down and lived in the broad way—the way of the world. And all along in their journey, they never at any point got to know the Lord and to be changed by Him. What a tragic deception.

But how is it that they are so deceived?  And also, how is it that true Christians are also deceived into thinking that some false Christians are true Christians? Here are a few reasons why:

  • Knowing Him does not mean saying the right words. It is possible for a person to say all the right words, to have a very holy and righteous speech, and yet not be a Christian. A changed language does not mean that there is a changed heart.
  • Some unbelievers may use Scripture and Scriptural teaching as a kind of philosophy, but they don’t really know Christ or are converted.
  • Some may speak and even preach the Scriptures fervently, but it may be entirely of the flesh and not for the sake of Christ.

The test of course is whether a person has the fruit of the Spirt, and also whether they know Him or not. Do they pray and read their bible regularly? Do they have a growing love relationship with Him?