August 29, 2008
It is one of the great stories of the Christian Church. In Scillium, North Africa—A.D. 180—a runner brought the message that soldiers were on their way. A Christian silversmith named Speratus, about to be arrested, had a decision to make: Should he take the Church’s sacred scrolls with him to jail? Or would they be safer in hiding?
The Roman authorities had been burning the Gospels and the letters of Paul, and persecuting Christians. To not guard these writings would be an act of betrayal—a renunciation of the faith.
Speratus and 11 other Christians were kept in a dungeon under the Roman garrison. They sang songs, prayed together, and fed on the words of Paul—which Speratus had taken with him into captivity.
In time, six of the men were examined by Proconsul Vigellius Saturninus. “Swear by the genius of our Lord the Emperor,” Saturninus ordered.
Speratus thought of Paul’s admonition to Timothy and paraphrased it in reply: “I cannot worship the empire of this world,” he said, “but rather I serve that God, whom no man has seen, nor with these eyes can see.”
“Don’t you understand it means your deaths?” Saturninus asked.
These men answered, “We fear nothing and no one, except our Lord God.”
The fame of the Scillitan martyrs, as they came to be known, spread throughout the empire. They are remembered today for their absolute trust in God’s Word.
As I write in my new book, The Faith, the same dynamic comes into play whenever the Church faces a hostile culture. Today, Christians in North Korea and elsewhere risk violent punishment for even possessing the Scriptures.
What is it about this book that causes people to give their lives for it, causes oppressors to try to destroy it, and so infuriates cultural elites? The reason is what the Bible claims for itself: It purports to be the Word of God. The Bible, written by men, but through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives us God’s eternal perspective on the world—truth unbound by time or place. This is why Christians defend the Bible with their very lives. And since the Bible calls followers to an allegiance higher than the state, tyrants seek to destroy it.
Simply put, the Bible is the rock on which the Church stands or falls. The texts were written with meticulous care, based on manuscripts accumulated over the centuries before Christ—and then, by faithfully recording the apostles’ teaching. Archeological discoveries are mounting, supporting the Bible’s historicity. No book has ever been so challenged nor found so reliable.
For 2,000 years, the Bible, often unaided by any human intervention, has transformed—often dramatically—the lives of those who read it: St. Augustine, St. Anthony of Egypt, Martin Luther, to name a just a few. And I have known thousands, including hardened criminals, who have read the Bible and been transformed for good.
I hope you will read my new book, The Faith. In it, you will learn more about why no Christian should ever be intimidated in defending God’s Word. The evidence that He has spoken is overwhelming.
This commentary first aired on February 8, 2008, and is part five in a five-part series.
Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
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From BreakPoint, July 31, 2008, posted with permission of Prison Fellowship, www.breakpoint.org.