Polycarp

Thursday, Sept. 8                               Polycarp

Polycarp (69-155) grew up in Smyrna, a city not far from Ephesus.  He was discipled by the Apostle John, appointed by John as a bishop (elder) in Smyrna in 100 A.D.  He was a strong defender of the faith, opposing Docetism and Marcionism.  Both of these heresies had to do with the dual nature of Christ.  How could Christ be fully God and fully man at the same time?   Docetism tried to solve the problem by saying that since Christ was God, he couldn’t have really suffered; He only seemed to suffer.  His humanity was only in a spiritual sense, a  typical allegorical view.   Marcion’s view was more radical.  Because of O.T. prophesies, he concluded that the entire O.T. was not inspired.  Polycarp met Marcion on the street in Rome.  Marcion said “Do you know me?”  Polycarp’s reply:  “Yes, I know you, first-born of Satan.”  Blunt, maybe not gentle, but the issue was truth.  Polycarp was a prolific writer, but only his letter to the Philippians in which he encourages them to hold on to the faith has been preserved.  John, who wrote the book of Revelation in about 95 A.D., records Jesus’ messages to the seven churches,  one of which was Smyrna.  His words to this church are particularly interesting in light of Polycarp growing up in Smyrna and being taught by John.  “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.  I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you and you will suffer persecution for ten days.  Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”   Sometime before his death he had a vision that he would die at the stake.   His martyrdom was recorded in detail.  When authorities came to arrest him, he welcomed them and served them  food and drink.  He was told to just say that “Caesar is Lord” and put a pinch of incense on Caesar’s statue and he would go free.  He replied “Eighty six years I have served Christ, and he never did me any wrong.  How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”  He than asked for one hour to pray, which was granted.  His prayer was “full of grace” and lasted two hours.  His captors were astounded and regretted that they had had a part in arresting this humble old man.

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