The Stoning of St. Stephen the 1st Christian Martyr

The Boldness & Courage of the Christian Martyr: Would You Die for Jesus?

Christians all over the world celebrate the Day of the Christian Martyr every June 29th, which marks the martyrdom of the Apostle Paul. However, Paul wasn’t the first martyr. Yet, he was present at the stoning of the first one, Stephen.

Stephen wasn’t one of Jesus’ first 12 disciples. Nevertheless, He was bold and zealous — passionate — about spreading the Gospel message, that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah. He gave the longest sermon in the New Testament! His story and sermon is chronicled by Luke in the Book of Acts. The folks at One for Israel, a Messianic Jewish ministry, present an interesting study on Stephen in a podcast…

“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Tertullian ~155-~240 AD, the first Christian apologist

The word “martyr” actually means “witness”. These people died because of their witness to the Christian faith. Note, too, that not all people who are persecuted become martyrs. In other words, die. Martyrdom is the result of Christian persecution, which still goes on today.

Stephen’s martyrdom was the start of the persecution of the members of “The Way” — or the first followers of Jesus. They weren’t called Christians for a while. It was persecution that drove many of the disciples from Jerusalem to their next missions to the places Jesus told them to go…

Jesus Said…

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1:8 NLT

It is persecution that continues to be a driving force in spreading the Good News of Jesus true salvation throughout the world.

Early Christian Martyrs

John Mark

From the The Voice of the Martyrs app…

After writing the Gospel of Mark, John Mark traveled, sowing the seeds of the faith throughout Northern Africa and Egypt, and finally settled in Alexandria and established a church there.

On April 21, 64 AD, Mark preached a sermon remembering the suffering and death of Christ as part of Passover, or what we would consider Easter Sunday. He had been at odds with the local heathen priests, and they took this day to incite the general population to rise up against him.

The rebels stormed the church and seized John Mark. Using hooks and ropes, they dragged him out through the congregation, into the streets, and out of the city. He left a trail of blood and flesh that stained the rocks over which they dragged him. Blood flowed from virtually every spot on his body as the mob jeered and mocked him. With his last words, he commended his spirit into the hands of his Savior and died.

Even with Mark’s death, the crowd’s thirst for violence was not satisfied, and the priests called for his body to be burned instead of buried. Suddenly, a storm erupted, scattering the mob in every direction, and Mark’s body was left where he had died. A group of Christians then came and took the body and gave Mark a proper burial.

Jesus never led a military campaign, never incited a rebellion, and never spoke words of war, yet his followers have been and continue to be violently opposed. Jesus’ message speaks of love, peace and reconciliation, yet public and government officials have banned the gospel as if it were a declaration of war.

In reality, we are engaged in a war–with our Savior and Satan locked in a spiritual battle. The evil one will make every effort to thwart the kingdom by bringing a violent end to Christianity. Will you be on the winning side when the battle is over?

Some of the Disciples

St. Andrew's Crucifixion & Martyrdom
St. Andrew’s Crucifixion & Martyrdom, by Guillaume Courtois, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  • James, Son of Zebedee, brother of John — slain by Herod (Acts 12). He was the first Apostle to be martyred in AD 44. Aka: James the Elder and James the Great.
  • Andrew, Peter’s brother — was crucified on a X-shaped cross in Patros, Greece, in 60 AD. Legend has it that he hung, bound, not nailed, for 3 days preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. See his story below.
  • James, the Brother of Jesus — author of the Epistle of James, head of the Christian Church in Jerusalem. He was thrown off the roof of the temple in Jerusalem, stoned to death and buried at the Mount of Olives, c. 62 -69 AD. It had to be before 70 AD, when the temple was destroyed. Aka, James the Just.
  • Apostle Paul — beheaded in Rome c. 62-67 AD
  • Apostle Peter — c. 62-67 AD, in Rome, he hung on a cross upside down because he did not want to be crucified like Jesus. By the way, Peter was NOT the first Pope!
  • Doubting Thomas — speared to death in India c. 72 AD.
  • Polycarp — a Christian bishop of Smyrna. He died in 155 AD, by being burned at the stake, then stabbed when the fire failed to consume his body.

Martyrs of the Reformation and Renaissance

  • Jan (Iohannes) Hus — 1372 – 1415 — He was an early Czech reformer, who probably influenced Martin Luther. He was burned at the stake for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church. He sang Psalms as he was burning. His followers were known as Hussites.
  • Joan of Arc — 1412 – 1431 — Considered a heroine of France, she was convicted as a heretic and burned at the stake by the Catholic Church. She was later exonerated.
  • William Tyndale — had the audacity to translate the Latin Vulgate Bible, which no one could read but Catholic priests, into common English. This eventually became the well-known, King James Version. In 1535, he was arrested and jailed for over a year, then convicted of heresy. He was executed by strangulation, then his body was burnt at the stake. His dying prayer was that King Henry VIII of England’s eyes would be opened.

Modern-Day Christian Martyrs

The Center for the Study of Christianity of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary estimates that 100,000 Christians are martyred every year for their faith.

Remembering the Martyrs: Nepal Bombing, May 23, 2009 from VOM
On a peaceful Sunday morning, a beautifully decorated church hall in Kathmandu, Nepal, is filled with 300 worshippers seeking joy, comfort, and wisdom in fellowship and worship. Morning light flooded through the church windows, as people settled into their seats, ready for the service to begin… Read more…
  • Jim Elliot — 1927 – 1956 — an American Christian missionary and one of 5 people killed during an attempt to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador. His whole group was martyred: Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, Pete Fleming, and their pilot, Nate Saint.
  • Graham Staines — 1941 – 1999 — an Australian Christian missionary, who was murdered along with his 2 young sons (6 and 10) in India by members of a Hindu fundamentalist group. His surviving wife and daughter stayed to minister to lepers and the poor until returning to Australia in 2004.
  • John Chau — 1991 – 2018 — an American Evangelical Christian missionary who had a heart and passion to reach the Sentinelese. They live in a self-isolated island, North Sentinel Island, off the coast of India. He attempted to visit them, a truly unreached people group, and convert them to Christianity. Listen to his amazing story…
Remembering Martyrs: Yusuf Ali Nur, Somalia from VOM
At 10:30am, several armed men affiliated with the extremist group al-Shabaab broke into Yusuf Ali Nur’s home in Xarardheere, Somalia. Read more…

Learn More from these Organizations

Emulate, Don’t Venerate Christian Martyrs

As you can see, it would be impossible to venerate all of the Christian martyrs of the world. Why pick one or two? If you want to honor their lives, emulate them. That is, copy them, learn from them, be inspired and motivated by their stories. They are stories of determination, courage, and zeal to obey and do what Jesus told us, ALL His followers to do… The Great Commission...

Jesus told us…

14 “And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.”

Matthew 24:14 NLT

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20 NLT

“And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone…”

…When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. And the disciples went everywhere and preached, and the Lord worked through them, confirming what they said by many miraculous signs.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭16‬:‭15‬, ‭19‬-‭20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Are you Following Jesus or a church?

Not sure? Here’s what you need to do…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180-degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him. When you ask Jesus to forgive you He will. ALL your sins will be wiped clean — past, present, and future! And All means ALL!
  • Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the gift of Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace, Joy, Peace, and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Then, you’re going to tell people about it. Seek HIS WILL for YOUR life. Remember what He told us….

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:20 NLt

An He ALWAYS keeps His promises!


This is My Testimony

Sing Wherever I Go

Soli Deo Gloria — To God Alone Be The Glory!

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