The church of Christ was born in troublesome times. The of those early disciples soon plunged them into grievous Peter and John were imprisoned and whipped (Acts 4, 5). bold and uncompromising preaching that was characteristic persecutions.
Shortly thereafter Stephen became the first martyr (Acts 7:60). Apparently his death triggered the “great persecution” (Acts 8:1), which subsequently came upon the church
For the following two and one half centuries, the church of God was literally bathed in blood. Thousands of saints were tortured and murdered in the most inhumane way.
Though the atrocities of this period were dreadful indeed, the persecutions were not without secondary benefits to the cause of the Savior.
First of all, the hardships tempered those who were truly converted to Jesus. Secondly, it “weeded out” much of the hypocritical element which plagued the church. And thirdly, it prevented insincere people from identifying with the people of God. As one historian has put it, “One effect of the trials through which the Christians of that period passed was a purified church. The persecutions kept away all who were not sincere in their profession.”
In spite of the tribulations, the church grew with marvelous rapidity. Scholars estimate that there were possibly some sixty million Christians by the end of the second century A.D.