Constantine the Great
in Latin Flavius Valerius Constantinus ~ 274 AD - 337
(the man who made Christianity legal and acceptable)
Constantine’s life has intrigued me over the years and much has been written about him. Over the years, I have read many different accounts; although the general story has been the same. I have now read from the book - “The Christians”, published by The Christian History Project, Volume 3 By This Sign A.D. 250 to 350 A.D. (This account is the most accurate and if over the years; you have heard me share stories that are different than the ones I am about to share now, it is because I have learned more.)
At this time in HisStory, the Romans persecute the Christians regularly. There are times when they are left alone and times when they are thrown to the lions, etc. There are many heroic stories of their martyrdom and one of the interesting tales is that often when the Christians had been tortured and put to death, others would step up and say “me too!” I am a Christian and willing to die for Christ - the marytr’s crown was once coveted. There were also those who denied their saviour rather than die.
So the “known” Roman world was pagan and declaring oneself a Christian was very dangerous.
The official religion of Roman was worship of all gods, except Jesus. And when there was a famine, fire or other calamity; it meant the Atheists (today we call them Christians, but in those days because the Christians did not believe in multiple gods; they were atheists) were to blame and a fresh round of persecution and martyrdom would begin for the known Christians. But the Lord was still saving souls and the church was increasing. Sometimes the deaths of the martyrs caused many to come to Christ, because people saw the reality they had when facing death and torture.
(Not sure why, but I want to share a happening that occurred with Lori’s Mom.) She listened to many of the Christian radio programs that shared the sufferings that were happening with the persecuted church. Many of the stories are incredible of the Lord’s help while being tortured. Lori’s Mom started to get concerned of how she would stand up when the persecution happened in our land. She was worried that she would not be able to stand in that day. The Lord gave her a dream. The authorities came for her because of her faith, and led her to a building where she knew she would be tortured. They were taking her down the stairs to the basement, where she knew the torture would happen. As she went down each stair, the presence of the Lord got stronger and stronger. By the time she got to the bottom stair - she was willing to endure anything, because Jesus was so close to her. She was never fearful or worried after that dream.
Back to 306 A.D., the Roman Empire has 2 Rulers. One is Constantine’s father, Constantius Chlorus, ruler of the Western Roman Empire and the other is Galerius, ruler of the Eastern Roman Empire. Constantine is “guest” of Galerius and is kept in his court to ensure the good behaviour of his father. Constantine is 32 years old and escapes. An incredible escape!
He takes the royal horses from Galierus and rides 1600 miles for his life. He stops at stables for fresh mounts, but he rides for his life! He finally meets up with his father in France.
His dad dies 2 months later and Constantius had previously declared Constantine to be his heir and The Augusta (Caesar) of the Western Roman Empire. Constantine now needs to subdue 6 other rivals for the throne of the Roman Empire or die trying! The other rivals are all better equipped. In the end, he triumphs! But he gives credit for his triumph to Jesus and changes the status of Christendom!
Before one difficult battle, he has a God Moment. Read from the writing of Eusebius:
“Years after the battle, Constantine the Great related to Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, the miraculous event that happened to him shortly before that battle:
“He said that about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own eyes a trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun, and bearing the inscription, ‘Conquer By This Sign.’ At this sight he himself was struck with amazement, as was his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle. (Constantine) said, moreover, that he doubted within himself what the import of this apparition could be. And while he continued to ponder and reason on its meaning, night suddenly came on; then in his sleep the Christ of God appeared to him with the same sign which he had seen in the heavens, and commanded him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in the heavens and to use it as a safeguard in all engagement with his enemies….the victorious emperor himself long afterwards declared (this) to this writer of history when he (Eusebius) was honored with his acquaintance and society, and (Constantine) confirmed his statement by an oath.” Eusebius, Life of Constantine 28.29”
The Lord Jesus intervened!! There was a sign in the heavens and then the Lord Jesus came to him and explained more!! And there were victories on the battle field! He wins the Battle of Milvian Bridge over the Tiber River and takes Rome.
The Sign was the Chi-Rho, (pronounced KEE-roe).
It was displayed on the labarum military standard used by Constantine I in AD 312.The Chi Rho is a Christian symbol for “Christ” written by superimposing the two Greek letters “Chi (X)” and “Rho (P)” which are the first two letters in Greek of the name of “CHRist.” Greek χριστός
The first public use of the Chi Rho symbol was on the labarum, the shield of Constantine’s warriors in the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 213 AD. Emperor Constantine (reigned 306-337) and his troops saw a miraculous sign in the sky the day before the battle.”
(This symbol was used by Christians prior to Constantine but was used more frequently after.)
In 313 A.D., the Edict of Milian is declared. Quoting from https://www.gotquestions.org/Edict-of-Milan.html
“In 313, the Western emperor, Constantine, met with his rival and counterpart, the Eastern emperor, Licinius, in the city of Milan, Italy. As part of their discussions, they issued a joint statement, later known as the Edict of Milan. This proclamation protected full rights for Christian citizens of the Empire, restoring their property, releasing them from prisons, and effectively banning government persecution of their faith. It also declared a general state of religious tolerance, allowing for the expression of virtually any spiritual belief.
Although the Edict of Milan was a landmark in Christian history, it was essentially a footnote to the history of the man primarily responsible for it: Constantine. Though the edict declared tolerance for all faiths, Constantine’s public endorsement of Christianity expanded over his reign. Christianity, a growing subculture within the Roman Empire when the Edict of Milan was issued, became the de facto religion of the Roman Empire by the time of Constantine’s death. Persecutions had been cancelled in the past, but the Edict of Milan in 313 went further by directly protecting the religious rights of Romans. That and the support of a strongly pro-Christian leader made an official end to the Roman oppression of Christians.”
In 324 A.D., he defeats that last of his rivals and is now Emperor of both the Eastern and Western Empire. Most of today’s Christendom’s foundations started under his rule. Laws were put into effect that were based on Christianity.
From The Christians Volume 3 page 167:;
“In March 321, he decreed that, “all judges, city-people and craftsmen shall rest on the venerable day of the Sun”, making an exception for farmers, “since it often happened that this is the most suitable day for sowing grain or planting vines, so that the opportunity provided by divine providence may not be lost, for the season is short”
Constantine and his mother Helena built many churches. Many of which were built during Helena’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem: “Holy Nativity of Bethlehem, the Church of the Mount of Olives, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchure”.
Today the Nicene Creed is still recited. In 325, Constantine summoned 318 bishops to the city of Nicea for a general council and to put a stop to a dogma that was dividing the church. (Can you imagine a doctrine dividing the church?) The dogma dividing the church was - who was Jesus? Part of the Godhead or a created being. Constantine wanted unity in the Roman Empire and therefore, he needed Christianity united. So he convened the Council to bring forth unity and eventually he got the Creed agreed upon. We have all recited it and it still rings true today.
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father; God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God; begotten not made, one in being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit He was born of the Virgin Mary and became man. For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day He rose again, in fulfillment of the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son He is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen
Constantine’s legacy is incredible. I am sure if you were to ask Christians of the day if they believed the Lord could make Christianity the dominant religion in the Roman Empire (as they were hunkered down in fear of being thrown to the lions); that they woud say - “with God all things are possible, etc”. But the facts are that at the end of the fourth century - 50% of the Western Empire declared themselves Christians with more in the Eastern Empire! It went from 10% to 50%!!! Christianity became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire.
Our Lord intervened into man’s affairs in order to cause his kingdom to come.
Our prayer is do it again Lord, Today. We need you, now!
Lord, let our faith arise and Your enemies be scattered, even so COME LORD JESUS!