Day 7: Martyrs of Antioch

LoveSingapore // July 3, 2018, 8:57 am

Day 7

Bible reading for 40.DAY 2018 | July 7: Acts 11:26

The Antioch Church produced a noble train of martyrs.

Paul was beheaded in Rome under Nero’s persecutions. Peter, the first bishop of Antioch (according to tradition) was crucified upside down in Rome. He asked to be nailed down head first because he felt unworthy to die in the same position as Jesus. Peter’s successor, Ignatius, followed him in martyrdom. Lucian, the founder of the “school” of theology at Antioch, was tortured and martyred in AD312.

The Antioch church, it seems, had a disproportionate share of martyrs.

Bishop Ignatius of Antioch was escorted to Rome under military guard to die for his faith. He saw this as an opportunity to imitate the suffering Christ. He had influential friends in Rome. They were ready to pull strings to get him off the hook. But he wouldn’t have it.

Along the way he wrote them a letter begging them not to meddle with his martyrdom:

Now I begin to be a disciple. Let fire and cross, flocks of beasts, broken bones, dismemberment come upon me, so long as I attain to Jesus Christ.

It was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians.

Dear Christian, have you begun to be a disciple? Christians are many. Disciples are few, and always will be few.

But it was in Antioch, remember, that the disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26). To be a true Christian, therefore, is to be a disciple. And to be a true disciple is to take up your cross and follow Jesus — first to Calvary, and then to heaven. There are no shortcuts to glory.

When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).

But the problem with many of us today is that we want shortcuts. We claim the crown without the cross. We avoid suffering at all cost. We seek glory from one another in this present evil age.

We identify with the risen Christ on His throne. But are we willing to walk with the lowly Jesus from Gethsemane to Golgotha?

Here in Singapore we want to be like Antioch. And why not? Every Church should be like the Antioch Church.

But let’s not forget what that means. The Antioch Church was a community of cross-bearing disciples of Christ. Martyrs with a mission. If we suffer with Him, we will also be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17).

First the cross. Then the crown.

Fast and pray

The Antioch Church was a teaching church, a praying church, a fasting church, a worshipping church, a giving church and a great missionary church. But history’s highest tribute to Antioch is the blood of its martyrs.

  • Dear Singapore, sleep well tonight. Martyrdom is not on our radar, even though we are the most religiously diverse country in the world (Pew Research Centre Study 2014). We are not anywhere near the gallows. We have lots to be grateful for:
    First of all, acknowledge God for a very wise government that is unwavering in its vision and commitment to build a multi-racial, multi-religious society where all are treated as equals. 
    Thank God for Article 15 of our Constitution, which says every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it. Every religious group has the right to manage its own religious affairs; to establish and maintain institutions for religious or charitable purposes; and to acquire and own property and hold and administer it in accordance with law.
    Thank God for the Religious Harmony Act, which compels us to be wise and winsome in sharing our faith, without causing feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different religious groups.
    Thank God! Because of these righteous laws and right values, Singapore enjoys an exceptional level of social cohesion and religious harmony unheard of around the world. This is a divine blessing, a remarkable achievement which allows us to lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Timothy 2:2). May we never take this for granted. When controversy arises on sensitive issues, pray that the Church will contribute to the conversation rigorously and robustly with the overriding aim of reaching the right conclusions on the best way forward, in the best interest of Singapore — for the glory of God.
  • As we continue to make the most of our opportunity in peace-loving Singapore, ask God to awaken us to the end time reality of persecution and martyrdom around the world. Since the year 2000, some 1.8 million Christians have been killed because of their faith. That’s an average of 100,000 martyrs a year. Sympathy is no substitute for action (David Livingstone). Will Singapore’s sons and daughters join the ranks of the martyrs? Most of our missionaries today serve in communities that are open to Christianity. Thank God for each of them. Pray that their labour of love will bear lasting fruit. But look farther afield. Take the long view. Think biblically. Pray deep into the future. Is the Lord of the Harvest calling a new generation of cross-bearing disciples from Singapore to bring the Gospel to unreached communities where evangelism is illegal, where conversion is punishable by death? Seek the Lord. His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9).

Read the devotional from Day 6: Solemn Assembly here

About the author


Founded in 1995 by Pastor Lawrence Khong, LoveSingapore is a unity movement motivated by love, fuelled by prayer, and inspired by a common vision. Our ultimate goal is the glory of God expressed through a life changed, a church revived, a nation transformed, a world evangelised.