The word “Martyr” in Greek means “witnesses.” In the early church, a person’s ultimate witness, to the Gospel, was death.*
The book of Acts is a historical account of how the Gospel spread like a wildfire, after Jesus’ death and resurrection. It spread after, “he (Jesus) opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45).
Up until this point, the disciples thought Jesus would restore an “earthly” kingdom. That’s exactly what they wanted! To be in charge! Establish a new Roman Government. To set all the rules. You see, up until this point, an earthly kingdom is all they understood.
Until, Jesus opened the truth. Ah…Revelation.
Then you see the boldness each of the disciples demonstrate while preaching the “good news” about Jesus. Boldness yes, easy task … no. Let’s remember the times and who they preached to.
This culture, people and government put Jesus on trial and crucified him on a cross, even when they had no proof of any wrong doing! This was a time, for the Jewish people, when religious leaders had as much control as those wearing Roman armor. If the religious leaders didn’t like what someone was saying, they had the power determine your fate – as they did with Jesus, death!
Regardless of imminent threat, we see the Gospel prevail! Every time they tried to silence the Gospel and those preaching, the Gospel message spread even more!
Because of their bravery, and the Holy Spirit, the church grew by the thousands, and people came to believe in this man who was crucified and rose again.
As I read Acts, I kept asking myself, “Why? Why were so many people convinced now? Why didn’t they believe Jesus when he spoke? You know Jesus was the best preacher/teacher there was, He lived a completely sinless life. He walked the walk as no one else did! What made it spread like fire now, after he was gone?”
I think the reason the Gospel spread like fire was because their hearts were on fire! Down to their very souls! They knew, that they knew, that they knew, Jesus was alive, and nothing anyone said would lead them to believe otherwise!
Each one of these men had a choice to make. Were they going to follow Jesus no matter what? Were they going to continue to do what He had called them to do, even if it meant a different outcome than they first thought? Were they willing to be a martyr?
Each one of them answered “Yes!” to the call on their lives because God “opened their minds” to truth, which stirred up a deep wrenching, soul piercing conviction!
I want conviction like that!
I want to believe it to the very core of my soul! That no matter what challenges I face before me, I will stand in complete confidence because my God has conquered death, even death on a cross!
Oh that the Holy Spirit would open our eyes to understand, and to see the truth in the Scriptures. See the truth in our lives – and that we would have the “boldness” to answer with a resounding “YES!”
*NIV First Century Study Bible, Kent Dobson