In ministering to the persecuted church, it is important that there be a common understanding of what exactly a "martyr" is. The word comes from the Greek (martus) and originally meant simply a witness. The word has a wide range of meaning in the New Testament ranging from:

1. Bearing witness in a court of justice (Matthew 18:16; 26:65; Acts 6:13; 7:58; Hebrews 10:28; 1 Timothy 5:19)

2. One bearing testimony to the truth of what he has seen or known (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8,22; Romans 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:5,10; 1 John 1:2)

3. A more specialised meaning of one who bears witness of the truth and suffers even to the point of death in the cause of Christ (Acts 22:20, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 17:6).

As noted in the last meaning, by the end of the 1st century, the term had evolved into a proper title to refer to those who witnessed to the faithfulness of God and their commitment to Him by choosing to suffer death rather than to deny Christ or His work sacrificing something of importance to further the Kingdom of God enduring great suffering for their Christian witness and/or identity. The critical component is that a martyr suffers and/or is killed specifically because of his/her witness or identity as a Christian.

According to the World Evangelical Alliance, over 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith.[1]


1., accessed April 9, 2014

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