The firestorm against the early Christians created a belief that martyrdom was the norm, something to be expected and even desired. When Emperor Diocletian forbade possession of Scriptures, Euplius, a Christian in Sicily, a deacon and a Bible owner, worried that he might escape persecution. To forestall such a calamity, he stood outside the governor’s office one day shouting, “I am a Christian! I desire to die for the name of Christ.”

When ushered before the governor, he was found to have a manuscript of the Gospels. “Where did these come from?” he was asked. “Did you bring them from your home?”

“I have no home, as my Lord Jesus Christ knows,” replied Euplius.

“Read them,” said the prosecutor. So Euplius began reading the words: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10, kjv). He turned to another passage: “Whosoever will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow me.”

The judge interrupted him. “Why haven’t you surrendered these books?” Euplius replied that it was better to die than to give them up. “In these is eternal life,” he said, “and whoever gives them up loses eternal life.” The governor signaled that he had heard enough, and Euplius got what he wanted. He was subjected to a series of horrible tortures, then executed on this day, August 12, 304, with his Gospels tied around his neck. His last words, repeatedly uttered, were “Thanks be to Thee, O Christ. O Christ, help. It is for Thee that I suffer.”

The Bible nowhere tells us to deliberately seek persecution, and some of the early Christians undoubtedly overglorified the pursuit of martyrdom. Yet given the choice it is surely better to shout, “I am a Christian!” than to hide our testimony from those around us in this world.

I am proud of the good news! It is God’s powerful way of saving all people who have faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. The good news tells how God accepts everyone who has faith, but only those who have faith. It is just as the Scriptures say, “The people God accepts because of their faith will live.” (Romans 1:16,17)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). August 10.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

1812Archibald Alexander is the first professor of Princeton, filling its theology chair. Like so many of America’s premiere colleges and universities, Princeton was founded to train ministers.

1973Chuck Colson was converted and soon after founded Prison Fellowship and became a respected Christian author.

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