“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).
The above scripture defines the Roman Empire and the Roman Empire defines the heart of every person that ever lived.
We are all greedy to a certain degree because we sometimes strive for more than what we need, when instead of trying to give ourselves an increase, we should be trying to help those that have less.
My mother and I are searching to find a way to help others, whether it be mowing their lawn, helping fix things around the house, doing the grocery shopping, just sitting and spending time with the elderly or the mentally deprived, etc.
But there are times when my mind will waver from that thought and I’ll think about how I can add to my bank account. That doesn’t show that I have a great love of money, but it might as well.
What those thoughts show is that I don’t have the heart of Jesus Christ. It shows that deep down I have a streak of greed and worse than that, it shows that my faith in Jesus is not as great as I think it is or want it to be.
I know that God will provide for me, but sometimes I forget and I think of myself before others.
Does that mean that I shouldn’t have a savings account? No, it doesn’t, but I should not horde my money. Yet, that doesn’t mean to throw your money to the dogs (the lazy and greedy), it means to use it wisely.
I’m not saying that’s an easy thing to do, but George Muller, the man that created the first orphanages did it, and that is how he was able to create the orphanages – he put the children before himself.
Does that mean that if we don’t do like George Muller we’ll go to hell? No it does not.
What it means is that we are preventing ourselves from getting closer to God than we could be. And we will also deprive ourselves of a better life later.
Meaning, if “we” concentrate on ourselves on earth, giving us a better life while others suffer for our benefit, then we are reducing the greatness of the life that God has created for us. God is taking nothing from us, we are doing it to ourselves.
It’s kind of like a pension plan. If you wait until the proper age, say 65 or 67 to obtain your pension then you will receive all of it. But if you decide to take your pension early then you will receive less.
That is what the above scripture is talking about. Jesus would never put Himself before others, and we shouldn’t either. As Jesus said:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).
Tomorrow we’ll continue talking about the Roman Empire and look at…
Tribute to John the Baptists
1 And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he departed thence to teach and to preach in their cities.
2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples,
3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see:
5 The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
6 And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.
7 And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning John,What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
8 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
9 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
10 For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
11 Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
“Greater than he” – John belonged to the age of the old covenant, which was preparatory to Christ. The least New Testament saint has a higher privilege in Christ as a part of His bride (the church, Eph 5:25-27, 32) than John the Baptists, who was only a friend of the bridegroom (Jn 3:29).
Another view stresses the expression “he that is least,” holding that the key to its meaning is found in 18:4 – “whosoever…shall humble himself as this little child.” Such a person, thought “least,” is regarded by God as even greater than John the Baptist.
12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.
13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
“Prophets and the law” – the entire Old Testament prophesied the coming of the kingdom. John represented the end of the old economy.
14 And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come.
“This is Elias” – a reference to Mal 4:5, which prophesied the reappearance of Elijah before the day of the Lord. Some of the people remembered the prophecy and asked John the Baptist, “Art thou Elias?” He answered, “I am not” (Jn 1:21).
John was not literally the rein carnation of Elijah, but he did fulfil the function and role of the prophet (see Matt 17:10-13).
15 He that hath ears to hear let him hear.
16 But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the markets, and calling unto their fellows,
17 And saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
“Piped” – as providing music at a wedding.
“Mourned” – as at a funeral. The latter symbolized the ministry of John, the former that of Jesus. The people of Jesus’ “generation” were like children who refused to respond on either occasion.
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil.
19 The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
“Wisdom is justified of her children” – apparently means that God (wisdom) had sent both John and Jesus in specific roles, and that this would be vindicated by the lasting works of both Jesus and John.
20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done,because the repented not:
21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
“Chorazin” – was near the sea of Galilee, probably about two miles north of Capernaum.
“Bethsaida” – on the northeast shore of the sea of Galilee. Philip the tetrarch rebuilt Bethsaida and named it “Julias,,” after Julia, daughter of Caesar Augustus.
“Tyre and Sidon” – cities on the Phoenician coast north of the Holy Land.
22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
23 And thou, Caper naum,which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.
26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
The Roman Empire
Rise of the Caesars
Rome crushed Carthage in 146 B.C., the same year in which it completed its conquest of Greece and Macedonia. The Roman Empire now embraced parts of two continents, Europe and Africa, and would soon expand into Asia.
Politically, however, Rome was still a republic, governed by rules laid down centuries earlier after it rebelled against the Etruscans, who had dominated much of Italy from around 800 to 500 B.C. As rulers of Rome,
Etruscans had enhanced that city on the Tiber River by paving its streets, erecting public buildings, and introducing a script based on the Greek alphabet. Romans, however, longed to be rid of their masters.
According to legend, they ousted their last Etruscan king, Tarquin the Proud, after his son raped a virtuous Roman woman named Lucretia.
After gaining independence in 509 B.C., Rome became a republic-—-a state governed publicly and collectively by its citizens. It was not a democracy like Athens, which gave each citizen an equal vote.
Common Roman citizens, known as plebeians, originally had far less say in government than did patricians—aristocrats who dominated the Roman Senate and controlled a special assembly that elected two consuls annually to rule Rome for the year.
Those consuls were granted imperium, supreme power, including the right to command troops. To prevent a consul from abusing that power and making himself king, he was allowed to bring troops into the city only when celebrating a triumph, during which he was hailed for his feats as imperator (supreme commander) before yielding power.
As Rome grew mightier, the rewards of commanding troops and winning victories increased substantially, as did the risk that a Roman general might use his army to occupy the capital and reign permanently as imperator—the source of the English emperor, meaning one holding supreme power for life.
Roman conquests endangered the Roman Republic not just by tempting successful commanders to abuse their power but also by flooding Italy with slaves from a conquered lands and enriching landlords who owned slaves at the expense of poor farmers who relied on their own labor.
In the past Rome had eased social tensions by granting plebeians the right to elect representatives and hold high office, including consulships. Some men of modest origins became as rich and powerful as members of the hereditary nobility.
But that did not reduce tensions between the rich and the poor.
In the last 2nd century B.C., two brothers from a noble family, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, proposed reforms that included redistributing public land – much of it acquired through conquest – from wealthy landholders to poor farmers and granting full citizenship to Rome’s Italian allies, who had legal rights but could not vote or hold office.
Those proposals met with fierce opposition from conservative Romans, who were unwilling to share their land or privileges with others and assailed the brothers, both of whom died violently. At their fate demonstrated, the political process was breaking down; leaving issues that divided the public to be thrashed out by armies and generals.
The status of Italian allies who fought for Rome but remained second-class citizens was resolved only after they rebelled in 91 B.C. Romans settled that conflict by offering full citizenship to all loyal Italian freemen.
Harder to resolve was the conflict between wealthy landlords and those with little or no land. Soldiers without land looked for rewards to their commanders, who returned from conquests abroad to vie for supremacy at home.
Among those ambitious generals was Gaius Marius, who rose to become consul with the support of common citizens. He broke with tradition by allowing Romans who did not own property to enlist as soldiers.
After campaigning successfully against hostile German tribes, he returned with his troops to Rome and pressed the Senate to grant land to his troops. His great rival was Lucius Cornelius Sulla, favored by conservatives hostile to Marius’s reforms.
In 88 B.C., Sulla marched on Rome with his army and forced Marius into exile, igniting a civil war. Marius and his forces returned to Rome while Sulla was off campaigning in Asia and executed their political opponents.
Sulla regained control of Italy when he returned and struck back by drawing up a list of thousands of his enemies, who were proscribed, meaning that any Roman could kill them and claim their property.
That bloodbath and Sullas dictatorship left the Roman Republic near collapse. The great question was not whether the republic would fall, but which commander would gain supremacy and put the wounded polity out of its misery.
Few Romans would have chosen young Julius Caesar as the man most likely to succeed on a grand scale and dominate their world. His early accomplishments as an officer and politician were overshadowed by those of Pompey the Great, who earned that title in his mid-20s and invited comparison with Alexander the Great.
Pompey reconquered Spain from a rogue Roman general, helped crush a slave rebellion led by the gladiator Spartacus, cleansed much of the Mediterranean of pirates, and secured Asia Minor, Syria, and Judea for Rome before returning in triumph to the capital in 61 B.C.
His reputation was immense, but he lacked the political skill and cunning of Caesar, who forged a three-man alliance known as the First Triumvirate with Pompey and Marcus Licinius Crassus, one of the richest men in Rome.
Caesar, at about 40, was the youngest member of the triumvirate—and neither as wealthy as Crassus nor as esteemed as Pompey. But he won popularity as a candidate for office by shrewdly using borrowed money to stage spectacular gladiatorial combats.
In 59 B.C., he became the first of the three to be elected consul. He pushed through reforms that benefited Pompey’s troops and other citizens in need of land by allowing angry veterans who supported those measures to gather menacingly in Rome, where they intimidated the Senate.
Some of Caesar s political maneuvers were illegal and left him open to prosecution when he stepped down as consul. He eluded that threat by taking command of Roman forces on the frontier.
By leaving Pompey and Crassus behind in Rome, he risked losing out to them politically, but he needed a great military victory to win lasting glory and therefore set out to conquer the long-defiant Gauls, Celts who lived in modern-day France.
By 53 B.C., after five years of relentless campaigning, Caesar had seemingly completed his conquest. But Gauls of various tribes banded together belatedly under a defiant chieftain named Vercingetorix and nearly overcame Caesar before he besieged their fortress at Alesia in 51 and captured their leader.
Hauled off to Rome and paraded in chains through the streets there before being ritually strangled, Vercingetorix was one of more than a million Gauls killed or enslaved by legions loyal to Caesar, whose crushing victory rivaled anything Pompey ever accomplished in battle.
The third member of their triumvirate, Crassus, had died in a disastrous campaign against the Parthians in Mesopotamia, leaving Pompey and Caesar to compete for supremacy.
Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, who revered the republic and hoped to preserve it, called the looming contest “the greatest struggle that history has ever known” and feared the outcome, whichever man won:
Victory will bring many evils in its wake, including the certainty of a despot.
In January 49, Julius Caesar and his army crossed the Rubicon River, which marked the southern boundary of Cisalpine Gaul, beyond he which he could not legally command troops.
By doing so, he defied the Senate in Rome, dominated by conservatives of noble ancestry who counted on Pompey to protect their interests. Lacking support from the Roman masses, who favored Caesar, Pompey and his forces left Italy to seek support in Greece and Macedonia.
He assembled an army twice the size of Caesar’s, but the conqueror of Gaul was now Pompey’s superior in battle and defeated him decisively at Pharsalus in 48. Fleeing to Egypt, Pompey was betrayed and killed as he came ashore.
Unlike some earlier Roman generals who engaged in civil wars, Caesar was magnanimous to his opponents, including Marcus Junius Brutus, a supporter of Pompey who went on to achieve political prominence with Caesar’s blessing.
However, when Caesar was proclaimed perpetual dictator, Brutus, the descendant of a Roman hero who had helped overthrow the city’s last Etruscan king centuries earlier, turned against Caesar and led conspirators in the Senate who assassinated him in 44 B.C.
They acted in the name of Roman Republic, threatened by Caesar’s tyranny. But the republic was dead, and their desperate effort to revive it only resulted in the rise of another almighty Caesar.
In his will, Caesar named as heir his 18-year-old nephew, Octavian. Like his uncle, who courted the powerful Pompey before challenging him, Octavian formed an alliance with – and would later do battle with – an older and more accomplished figure, Mark Antony, who had served as a general under Caesar.
Octavian and Antony formed the Second Triumvirate with another of Caesar’s aides, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, who proved inept and was overshadowed by his partners.
Antony and Octavian inaugurated their alliance by doing away with political opponents, including Cicero, who denounced Antony in the Senate and paid with his life. Then they went after Caesar’s assassins, who fled Rome when the populace turned against them.
Antony commanded the army that defeated those diehard republicans at Philippi in 42 B.C. and chose to remain there in Greece as ruler of Rome’s wealthy eastern provinces. Octavian returned to rule Italy, where his forces put down an uprising led by members of Antony’s family.
Relations between the two partners- turned-rivals worsened when Antony, after marrying Octavian’s sister, carried on a sensational affair with Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, who achieved power and sought to preserve it by charming and disarming Roman conquerors.
After being placed on the throne by Julius Caesar, she had entertained him royally and given birth to a boy she named Caesarion, implying that he was Caesar’s son. Now Antony had children by her, bequeathed eastern provinces to them, and acknowledged Caesarion as Caesar’s true heir in defiance of Octavian’s claim.
Octavian denounced Antony as a man at the mercy of a foreign queen and waged war on that couple. Although not a great general like his uncle, Octavian excelled as commander in chief by entrusting campaigns to gifted officers.
One such was the accomplished admiral Marcus Agrippa, who trapped the fleet of Antony and Cleopatra at Actium off the coast of Greece in 31. Abandoning their doomed forces, they retreated to Egypt, where the lovers committed suicide as Octavian closed in on them.
The victorious Octavian took Egypt as his personal province and had Caesarion put to death.
Returning to Rome in triumph, he added the title Augustus (meaning “sacred” or “exalted”) to his adopted surname Caesar and remained imperator for life. The vast Roman Empire, long contested by consuls and generals, was now firmly in the grasp of an emperor.
Like Darius I of Persia, Augustus Caesar was an organizational genius whose administrative accomplishments surpassed his military feats. He reassured those citizens who feared tyranny and looked back longingly on the Roman Republic by preserving its institutions, including the Senate.
He reorganized that body to include representatives from throughout Italy and allowed it to exercise some real responsibilities, including appointing proconsuls to govern Roman provinces not under the emperor’s direct control.
Augustus maintained authority over the Senate and its appointees, however, by serving for many years as consul as well as supreme commander and by taking on the powers of a tribune—an office created centuries earlier to protect rights of common citizens that allowed him to veto any measure he found objectionable.
Although Roman citizens now had little say in how their government was run, they still had legal rights, including the right to defend themselves in court and to appeal the verdict to a higher tribunal.
Roman women were second-class citizens, with fewer rights than freemen, but they were legally entitled to inherit wealth, which some used to engage in business.
Augustus promoted traditional Roman family values and exercised his prerogative as emperor and paterfamilias – a father ruling over his family – by forcing his daughter Julia to wed her stepbrother Tiberius and later exiling her for adultery when she rebelled.
Yet even Augustus had to yield occasionally to his determined wife, Livia, who like other Roman matrons greatly influenced her husband and children.
The ultimate source of Augustus Caesars’s power was the army. Far from seeking to enlarge those forces, which were bloated by civil war, he reduced the number of legions from 60 to 28, amounting to some 150,000 men in all, and settled veterans in colonies that helped Romanize distant provinces.
He worked to consolidate the empire by securing it’s boarders in some places and advancing them in regions where hostile tribes threatened.
The greatest challenge he faced during his 46-year reign came in 9 A.D., five years before he died, when Roman forces that had crossed the Rhine and marched deep into Germany were ambushed.
Augustus sent Tiberius to quell that uprising, led by a German chieftain named Arminius who had been granted Roman citizenship before he rebelled. Roman troops pulled back to the Rhine afterward, and Augustus advised his successors to keep the empire’s frontiers as he left them.
Notwithstanding battles in Germany and other contested regions, Augustus initiated a largely peaceful era known as the Pax Romana, which lasted for nearly two centuries as Rome imposed order on a world long convulsed by conflict.
Lands that were once plundered by Roman troops became tranquil provinces, subject to taxation but spared devastation unless they rebelled.
Trade flourished and cities prospered as Augustus and his successors built roads, aqueducts, baths, and amphitheaters, or circuses, to entertain the urban masses, who often received grain doles to keep them from rioting.
The Roman poet Juvenal scoffed that Romans who once took an active part in government now cared only for “bread and circuses.” But ritualized carnage by gladiators and wild animals in coliseums was better than bloodshed in the streets.
Roman engineering brought the attractions of urban life to provincial cities such as Lyon in Gaul. This helped transform conquered subjects into complacent Roman citizens. The privilege of citizenship was gradually extended until it was granted to all free men and women within the Roman Empire in 212 A.D.
One imperial problem August did not solve was how to ensure an orderly succession. Having no son of his own, he designated as his heir Tiberius, Livia’s son by a pervious marriage. His later years as emperor were marred by murderous intrigue, which haunted the Julio-Claudian Dynasty instituted by Augustus.
Tiberius’s dynasty successors included just one worthy ruler – Claudius, who invaded Britain and created en efficient imperial bureaucracy staffed by well-educated freedmen (emancipated slaves).
His accomplishments were overshadowed by the excesses of the despots who preceded and followed him, Caligula and Nero, who were so despised that even the Praetorian Guard, assigned to protect the emperor, turned against them.
Nero’s suicide in 69 A.D. prompted a brief civil war that was won by Vespasian, a gifted general of modest origins whose short-lived Flavian dynasty ended in 96 with the assassination of his brutal son Domitian. The elderly senator who took his place, Nerva, lived only two years but set a worthy precedent by adopting an accomplished heir, Trajan.
A commander of Spanish origin, Trajan was the first man born outside Italy to rule the Roman Empire, which he brought to its greatest extent by conquering Dacia (known today as Romania for its Roman occupiers) and advancing into Mesopotamian.
He died in 117 without realizing his ambition of matching the Near Eastern conquests for Alexander the Great. The Roman Empire now far exceeded Alexander’s empire, however, reaching from the Persian Gulf all the way to Britain.
Shortly before his death, Trajan followed Nerva’s example and adopted an experienced heir, his cousin Hadrian, who took a defensive stance by withdrawing forces from Mesopotamia and erecting Hadrian’s Wall—a massive barricade shielding Roman Britain from hostile Celtic tribes to the north—and other fortifications.
Those measures signaled that the empire had reached its limit of expansion and now faced the daunting task of holding off raiders and invaders lured by the wealth and fertility of Rome’s provinces.
A devotee of Greece, Hadrian adorned Athens with monuments and celebrated what would later be called the Classical Age, which began with the literary and artistic achievements of ancient Greece and continued in Roman times as architects, sculptors, poets, and philosophers followed Greek precedents.
The Roman author Virgil, for example, traced the legendary history of Rome back to the fall of Troy in his epic poem, The Aeneid, modeled after Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.
Roman philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius, a protégé of Hadrian who himself later became emperor, were deeply influenced by Greek schools of thought such as Stoicism, whose followers sought to lead lives governed by reason rather than passion and to calmly accept what fate decreed.
In the long run, however, Greek ideas had less impact on the Roman world than did beliefs emanating from the troubled province of Judea, where Jews rejected the cult of the divine emperor, instituted during the reign of Augustus, and refused to honor any deity but Yahweh, their one God.
Some Jews rebelled against Roman rule and suffered devastating reprisals. Others, such as Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples, acknowledged the political authority of Rome but honored God as the supreme spiritual authority, greater than any power on earth.
By worshiping Jesus as Christ—a Greek term meaning “anointed one” or messiah—and hailing him as “king of kings,” Christians challenged the idea that the emperor was almighty.
Many were persecuted and died for their faith, believing that martyrdom would unite them with the resurrected Christ and earn them salvation. Christianity brought together people of different classes, including slaves, and grew stronger as the empire declined.
There were many reasons for that decline, which began in the 3rd century. Trade routes that linked Rome and its western provinces to Asia became conduits for epidemics that devastated cities and disrupted commerce.
Tax revenue failed to cover the costs of administering and defending this vast empire. When rulers responded by debasing their currency— decreasing the amount of precious metals in coins they minted—people began to reject that currency and revert to barter.
During the 4th century, nomadic tribes overran the empires poorly defended frontiers. A migration of Huns from central to western Europe in the early 5th century displaced Vandals, Visigoths, and other Germanic tribes, who then overwhelmed Italy.
The fall of Rome to Germanic invaders in 476 did not bring an end to the entire empire, whose eastern power base had separated from the faltering western empire.
That partition had begun under Emperor Diocletian, whose successor, Constantine, 0founded a new imperial capital in 330 at a site called Byzantium on the Bosporusin Strait, where Europe meets Asia.
Known as Constantinople (later renamed Istanbul), it was less exposed to Germanic migrations than Rome and closer to the ports and bazaars of the Near East, which remained relatively stable and prosperous while western Europe suffered.
It was also closer to the birthplace of Christianity – which Constantine adopted as the state religion – and to Egypt and Lebanon, which had large Christian populations.
As Rome weakened and collapsed, Constantinople flourished and emerged as capital of the Byzantine Empire, which combined Roman traditions with Greek customs and upheld Christianity, once a persecuted sect but now the imperial faith.
…the reformation of the Roman Army.