A Biblical Perspective on Martyrdom: By Life or By Death

What about the others? What about those who are not delivered but die for their faith? Paul could face martyrdom with joy because his great desire was that Christ be Magnified.

There is a second truth that helped Paul face his martyrdom. The ultimate demand of the cross. The cross demands a “living sacrifice”.

“I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
Romans 12:1

Too often we confuse our actions as our ultimate service for God. When we do, we slip into the legalistic mindset that says, “The more I do, the more spiritual I am.” This leads to frustration in our Christian life. We will “burn out” trying to “do enough” to please God.

I can never “do” enough to please God. My service for God is not pastoring, teaching, singing, or anything else. My “reasonable” service is presenting a living sacrifice. My service is not my sacrifice, my sacrifice is my service. That is what God asks of all of us. This is the demand of the cross.

Now, before you think I’m suggesting we are not expected to serve, let me say this. The result of my living sacrifice is that I serve. But too often, we focus on the doing without the being. You can do without being, but you cannot be without doing. If I am a living sacrifice, I will act in service. But it will be a service that is honoring to God, rather than pleasing to myself.

Paul reminds us that this “service” is reasonable. This implies thoughtful meditation. Reflecting on what I am doing as opposed to mindless ritual or routine. For those whose service is their sacrifice, the danger of religious habit is always present. The believer whose sacrifice is their service will find a spirit of newness and joy in their work for God.

When we have made this living sacrifice, we can say with Paul,

“Now, as always, Christ shall be magnified in my body. Whether it be by life or by death.”

Living for God’s glory is just as blessed as dying for it.

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