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Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience (1 Peter 3:15b-16a ESV)

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7/01/2004

This Week in Church History 

June 29, 67

Rome. The seat of all power in the known world. The heart of the Empire.

According to The People's Chronology, this is the date when the apostle Paul was beheaded.

The date itself is speculative -- the year has been thought to be anywhere from 62 to 67, and it's doubtful that we'll ever know for sure. What is important is the example of the life of Paul.

Paul was the most successful church planter in history. He planted churches throughout Asia Minor -- almost everywhere he went, a local church was born. He knew the importance of fellowship among Christians.

Paul also knew the importance of discipleship. He wrote constantly to the churches he helped to start, keeping track of their development and their problems, writing to encourage or correct. His letters were so influential, so obviously inspired by God, that even the apostle Peter included them with other inspired writings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Paul also pioneered the missionary movement. Not satisfied with waiting for people to come to him, Paul went out, teaching first in the synagogues, then everywhere he could -- always trying to reach people with the gospel of Christ. He was committed to the idea that the Gospel was for everyone, Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free. In spite of opposition, even from other apostles, he remained committed to this idea until his death.

There were many factors that led to Paul's death. He threatened many cities economically -- trade in idols and sacrifices was lucrative, and the growing Christian church threatened that. He also threatened Roman political power -- Christians could not worship the emperor as a god, which is what the Empire demanded. This new sect threatened to destabilize the Roman way of life, so it had to be stopped. The fact that not even the power of Rome could stop its growth shows that Christ's words were true: the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church.

Paul's influence on Christianity is unmistakable. It is ironic, then, that Paul had dedicated himself early on in his life to ending the influence of Christianity. The power of the presence of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus was overwhelming, though, and the results show how Christ can change anyone's life -- no matter how messed up, sinful, or confused.


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