Friday October 4, 2013
After the ascension of the Lord, the Church spread rapidly throughout Asia Minor, then southeastern Europe. The Book of Acts tells the story of thousands of people coming to know and follow Christ from Antioch to Corinth.
Yet even as churches rapidly grew, it was difficult to find buildings in which people could meet. Following the lead of the Jerusalem Jewish priests, the Roman authorities in most provinces for the next 250 years persecuted people for professing Christ.
It is estimated that despite severe oppression, one-fourth or more of the people living in the Roman Empire in the year 300 were Christians. From a score of disciples in the upper room to millions of believers – an amazing work of God!
Our pilgrimage in Turkey and Greece is walking us through the places where the apostle Paul and others carried the gospel.
Most in our group arrived in Istanbul, Turkey late on Wednesday. We headed out to Iznik first thing Thursday morning. Iznik, the name for the ancient city of Nicea, was the setting for the First Ecumenical Council of the Church in 325. After his conversion to the faith, Emperor Constantine ended the persecution of the Church and called over 300 bishops from throughout the land to gather in the Emperor’s summer palace to discern the essential teaching of the Church.
They produced the first draft of what became known as the Nicene Creed. Several decades later, in 381, the bishops gathered for the Second Ecumenical council at St. Irene’s Church in Constantinople. Every Sunday, we profess the essential claims of Christian faith, using the words they drafted over 1600 years ago.
We walked through ancient Roman ruins and along a Roman road on which bishops to the first council likely walked. We saw the ruins of the Emperor’s summer palace and marveled at St. Irene’s Church where the essentials of Christian belief were debated and decided.
Additionally, on Friday our group enjoyed a visit to the Sultan’s palace, the Roman Hippodrome, the Grand Bazaar, the Spice Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, and an evening dinner cruise along the Bosphorus.
We returned home very late, weary, and grateful. Tomorrow, we are off to Cappadocia!
Below: St. Irene’s Church, Istanbul, Turkey