From Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden until the present day, every human who has ever lived has searched for salvation. Some search for salvation in material wealth, hoping that material things will produce happiness. Others believe that being a good person will help them gain eternal life. Still others deny the need for meaning in life by denying God’s existence. Relationships, inner peace, and other things also constitute what some might think of as salvation.
Perhaps none searched for salvation harder than Justin Martyr. After converting to Christianity, Justin defended the Christian faith by writing an apology for the Roman Emperor, opening a school for young people, and defeating heretics in public.
Justin Martyr was born to unbelieving parents around 100 A.D. in Samaria. Not much is known about his childhood, but historians do know that he studied under teachers of numerous philosophies during his young adulthood. His search for meaning and purpose in his life drove him to learn about various faiths and worldviews. After much searching, Justin finally met an old man who converted him to Christianity. On that day, Justin discovered the only Person who can give salvation: Jesus Christ. For the rest of his life, Justin used his talents as instruments to share and defend the Word of God.
One of Justin’s talents was writing, which he used to defend Christianity against heretics and unbelievers. In The Dialogue with Trypho, Justin talks with a Jewish man about the truth of Christianity. Justin also produced two Apologies, or works that defend the Christian faith. He argued that Christians were not a threat to the Roman state but rather helpful because they obeyed the laws. However, some of his theology was a bit odd, such as his belief that Christ came to save humans from demons. Justin also attempted to combine Greek philosophy with Christian teaching. Despite some of his odd theology, his descriptions of early Christian gatherings and administration of the sacraments are trusted by church history scholars.
In Rome during this time, countless young people placed their hope in things that did not satisfy, such as wealth or relationships, and they needed to hear the truth of the Gospel. After searching for truth from so many different teachers himself, Justin decided to make a place for searchers like himself to find the only Truth. In Rome, Justin founded a Christian school.
Justin enjoyed debating heretics such as Marcion and Crescens in public. It is possible that Crescens, after losing a debate, turned Justin and six other Christians over to an official named Rusticus, who interrogated them and sentenced them to death. Finally, c. 165 in Rome, Justin and six other Christians were beheaded for the faith. Justin was later surnamed Martyr.
Many heroes of the early church were later given feast days to commemorate their lives. Although saint days can be used in an idolatrous way such as praying to saints instead of God, we can keep the spirit of these saint days by simply remembering the lives of great Christians and learning from their experiences.
Justin was given the feast day June 1st. Next June 1st, remember Justin Martyr and the sacrifice he made. Remember his life and the way he defended the Christian faith. Finally, learn from his example and use your talents to serve Christ and impact the world for Him.
“The Bold Witness of Justin Martyr.” Ancient Faith Ministries, February 14, 2013, https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/onbehalfofall/the-bold-witness-of-justin-martyr/.
Graves, Dan, MSL. “Death of Justin Martyr.” Christianity.com, Christianity.com, May 2007, http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1-300/death-of-justin-martyr-11629602.html.
“Justin Martyr.” Christianity Today, Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/evangelistsandapologists/justin-martyr.html.
“Saint Justin Martyr.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, inc., October 1, 2014, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Justin-Martyr.