Polycarp - A Father of the Christian Church
Polycarp is a celebrated figure in the history of Christianity. A direct pupil of the apostle John, Polycarp lived between 70 and 155 A.D., connecting him to both the biblical apostles and the age of the early church fathers. Several ancient sources document the contributions of Polycarp to Christianity, including his letters written to the church at Philippi, in which he encourages the members to remain strong in their faith and to flee from materialism. He also instructs the members in the proper handling of financial dishonesty that was creeping into the church. Polycarp served as the bishop of the church at Smyrna (modern day Izmir), and was recognized as one of the early combatants of Christian heresies. He rejected the teachings of Marcion, an influential heretic who tried to create a "new brand" of Christianity by redefining God and rejecting Old Testament teachings. In his well-known thesis, Polycarp combats Gnostic heresies that were beginning to spread throughout the Christian church.
Polycarp - A Martyr for Truth
Polycarp's greatest contribution to Christianity may be his martyred death. His martyrdom stands as one of the most well documented events of antiquity. The emperors of Rome had unleashed bitter attacks against the Christians during this period, and members of the early church recorded many of the persecutions and deaths. Polycarp was arrested on the charge of being a Christian -- a member of a politically dangerous cult whose rapid growth needed to be stopped. Amidst an angry mob, the Roman proconsul took pity on such a gentle old man and urged Polycarp to proclaim, "Caesar is Lord". If only Polycarp would make this declaration and offer a small pinch of incense to Caesar's statue he would escape torture and death. To this Polycarp responded, "Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and He never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?" Steadfast in his stand for Christ, Polycarp refused to compromise his beliefs, and thus, was killed for his faith.
Polycarp - A Relevant Testimony for our Lives
Polycarp's martyrdom is historical reality. He died for one reason - his unyielding faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. Yet Polycarp's well-recorded death is only one of many lives that were given to reveal and proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ. In light of the cruel and torturous deaths of the first and second generation Christians, all theories that Christianity is a fabricated myth, created for the personal gain of its followers, must be rejected. Even today, many will die for a belief, but none will die for a lie. God allows the deaths of His saints not because He is a helpless or indifferent Lord, but because their deaths are powerful declarations of the free gift of life that is offered to us through the Person of Jesus Christ. If you have any doubts about the truth of Christ as revealed in the Bible, reexamine the biblical text in light of the willful deaths of nearly all of its writers, men who were eyewitnesses to Christ's life and ministry. Polycarp, like many other Christians to this day, was only able to die for Christ because he lived for Christ. His life was radically transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit -- the desires, worries, pains and fears of this world no longer bound him. Polycarp's life and death provides an inspirational example for all Christians. He gave his earthly life for Christ, and in the midst of his sacrifice, he gained eternal life.