When most people think about St. Patrick’s Day, they usually think of leprechauns (I want me pot of gold), pinching people if they’re not wearing green, the Irish, and getting drunk. Wrapped up in all the mythological tales about Patrick, he was a real person who was a Bible-believing Christian. His name was Surat, not Patrick (for simplicity, I’ll use Patrick throughout the message). He was Scottish, not Irish.
About fifty years before Christ was born, the Romans invaded the British Isles. During that period many of the Welsh soldiers joined the Roman army and visited there. At this time, the Apostle Paul is under house arrest. For two years he preaches the gospel and sees many people saved. In A.D. 63, Pudence and Claudia his wife, who belonged to Caesar’s household, were converts along with other Welshmen among the Roman soldiers. These folks along with missionaries sent out of Asia Minor (Turkey) went to the British Isles and preached Christ among them.
While Europe slipped into the Dark Ages (A.D. 400-1400), Britain was having revival. The factor most responsible for this was the barrier known as the English Channel. The British enjoyed a rich Christian history for centuries. Roman Catholicism did not arrive in Ireland until at least 100 years after Patrick died. A military invasion by Roman Catholicism was sent to subdue the Irish churches to submission to the Pope of Rome in A.D. 597. So here’s my point: Patrick was a saint, but not that good of a saint to be canonized.
There are three documents that everyone agrees that Patrick wrote. This is where I’m basing my information on his life.
Patrick was born in the late 4th century in the town of Dumbarton on the river Clyde in Scotland. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a presbyter (pastor) of a church. Even though he was raised in a Christian home, he became very rebellious toward Christian truth. If you grew up in a godly home, you ought to thank God for it. Let them know about it.
At age 16, while Patrick and his friends were playing alongside the banks of the stream, he was kidnapped by pirates and put up for auction on the slave block. Patrick was purchased by an Irish prince, Milcho, and sent to herd his master’s cattle and pigs. What a dramatic change to be the cherished son of a Roman magistrate and soon becoming a slave pig herder. Hungered, clothed with rags, he was the picture of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-17).
He was proud, and in God’s humbling way, he had to learn that the Most High rules. During this time of hardship, he became convinced that he was a sinner and eventually trusted Jesus Christ as his Savior. Of that period, he says, “Frequently in the night I prayed and the love of God and his fear increased more and more in me.” Nobody enjoys going through the valleys, hardships, and trials. How low do you have to go in order for you to be humbled, teachable and surrendered to live completely for God?
After six years of slavery at the age of 22, he managed to escape and found a ship which carried him back home.
In the safety of his home for several years, Patrick trained to be a preacher and began to have dreams of returning to Ireland with the glorious gospel. He wrote this: “Again, I was in Britain with my parents, who received me as their son, and besought me to promise that, after the many afflictions I had endured, I would never leave them again.” Discouraged by his parents, he tried to ignore the call to go to Ireland, but he eventually surrendered to be a missionary back to the country where he was a slave.
Sometime in his 30’s, along with the aid of twelve of his companions, Patrick crossed the sea and arrived in Ireland. His first sermon was preached in a barn. The use of this building was granted to him by the chief of the district, his former master Milchu.
About a year after his arrival in Ireland, Patrick boldly challenged the heathen practices in Tara. This would be the one opportunity for his ministry to be known, for all of Ireland would be there. The Encyclopedia Britannica tells us that he challenged the “royal authority by lighting the Paschal fire on the hill of Slane on the night of Easter Eve. It chanced to be the occasion of a pagan festival at Tara, during which no fire might be kindled until the royal fire had been lit.” Because of this, he and his companions were arrested and brought to the royal court. They preached Christ crucified and risen again with such persuasion, that king Leoghain trusted Jesus as his Savior. We shouldn’t be afraid of telling others of Jesus, even if it meant losing our life. The gospel has the power to change men’s lives. Winning the most well known person gets the attention of a multitude.
Due to the conversion of the king, Patrick was given an “open door” to the hearts of the people in Ireland. His ministry covered a period of 60 years. He founded 365 churches, and a school arose beside each church where young people were trained for the ministry. During his lifetime, he baptized thousands of converts by immersion. Patrick died well into his 90’s and maybe even beyond that.
He died 175 years before his name was even mentioned in Catholic writings. Patrick was canonized by the Catholic church about A.D. 1200. Now it’s strange that he starts out in his Confession with these words: “I, Patrick, a sinner, the rudest and the least of all the faithful, and the most contemptible of the multitude.”
Philip Schaff, in his History Of The Christian Church says, “Patrick never mentions Rome or the Pope; he never appeals to tradition and seems to recognize Scriptures…as the one authority in matters of faith.”
Conclusion: Patrick was a Bible-believing missionary Christian.