The dictionary defines a martyr as “a person who is killed because of their religious or other beliefs.” Interestingly enough, the English word “martyr” is really a word transliterated from the original Greek martur, which simply means “witness.” The reason why this word became synonymous with dying for one’s religious beliefs is because the early Christian witnesses were often persecuted and/or killed for their witness.
As evidence of this, consider the story of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, recorded in Acts 6:8–7:53. After being anointed as one of the first deacons in the church, Stephen immediately began doing mighty works among the people. As is usually the case when the Holy Spirit is mightily at work and the gospel is going forth, the forces of darkness arise to hinder the work of the kingdom. In this case, several men came to dispute what Stephen was saying, but Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit, was able to refute their criticisms. Rather than accept what Stephen was teaching, these men brought false charges against him to the Jewish leaders (Acts 6:11-14). Most of Acts 7 consists of Stephen’s speech to the Jewish leaders in which he essentially summarized the history of Israel up to their rejection of their Messiah.
At the end of the speech, Stephen utters these words, which seal his fate: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it” (Acts 7:51-53).
Now, there was nothing untrue in Stephen’s words. The Jewish leaders were indeed responsible for turning Jesus over to the Romans for execution. Despite His miracles and authoritative teaching, the hardness of the Jewish leaders’ hearts kept them from seeing the truth about Jesus. The J…
Keywords: [tag]stephen[/tag], [tag]christian[/tag], [tag]martyrdom[/tag], [tag]acts[/tag]
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