A PRESTIGIOUS STANDING
Donald R. Fox
Many times and mistakenly we look at the word prestige to describe one as who is a big shot. It is true that a person who has a widely recognized prominence can enjoy an unearned prestigious reputation. The word prestige is defined in part as, “The level of respect at which one is regarded by others; standing. A person's good standing among others; honor or esteem. High status or reputation achieved through success, influence, wealth, etc.” Seriously, if we are known and respected, who of us would give up a prestigious standing among our contemporaries? In other words, would we not be thankful that people we know and care about, respect us. We would be grateful that we earned and enjoyed such honor and esteem with those who know us. Because of our reputation, our good name would be extended to countless individuals who never met us in person.
In the pre-denominational era, which is before creeds and the rise of a divided Christianity, Christians worshiped in a fixed authorized manner. This established manner of worship and work of the early church is clearly described in the New Testament of Jesus Christ. As one reads “The Acts of the Apostles," the beginning of the church, early evangelism in obedience to the “Great Commission," doctrine is abundantly and plainly manifested.
Notice the following quotes and the paradoxical situation Christians found themselves in during the early days of the church. You will notice the description by Governor Pliny characterizing Christians as law-abiding and ethical people. However, during this period, the Roman government persecuted these same Christians.
“The earliest description of the Christian worship is given us by a heathen, the younger Pliny, A.D. 109, in his well-known letter to Trajan, which embodies the result of his judicial investigations in Bithynia. According to this, the Christians assembled on an appointed day (Sunday) at sunrise, sang responsively a song to Christ as to God, and then pledged themselves by an oath not to do any evil work. To commit no theft, robbery, nor adultery, not to break their word, not sacrifice property intrusted to them. Afterwards (at evening) they assembled again, to eat ordinary and innocent food (the agape). This account of a Roman official then bears witness to the primitive observance of Sunday, the separation of the love-feast from the morning worship (with the communion), and the worship of Christ as God in song.” (History of the Christian Church, Volume 2, by Philip Schaff, page 222-223)
Pliny was a lawyer, an author and was Governor of Pontus and Bithynia from 109 to 111 A. D. “From his letter to the emperor we learn that Christ was a real person, that He was worshipped as divine, that His followers were accustomed to meet on a stated day for worship, that there were many Christians and they were terribly persecuted by the Roman authorities.” (Why We Believe the Bible, by George W. Dehoff, page 92)
PERSECUTION AND THE RESULTING WORLD-WIDE CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE
“The long and bloody war of heathen Rome against the church, which is built upon a rock, utterly failed. It began in Rome under Nero, it ended near Rome at the Milvian bridge, under Constantine. Aiming to exterminate, it purified. It called forth the virtues of Christian heroism, and resulted in the consolidation and triumph of the new religion. The philosophy of persecution is best expressed by the terse word of Tertullian, who lived in the midst of them, but did not see the end: “The blood of the Christians is the seed of the Church.” (History of the Christian Church, Volume 2, by Philip Schaff, pages 34-35)
RIGHTEOUSNESS AND GOODNESS WILL STAND TRUE
Consider the Golden Rule: “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12 KJV). The Golden Rule expresses the world’s only perfect standard of conduct. Government and Laws instituted by mere men will crumble, change and eventually fail. Only the word of God has the true and unwavering ethical guidance. Therefore, “We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29 KJV). “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.” (Titus 1:9 KJV)