As I type these words, I’ve recently finished reading another chapter of By Their Blood by James C. and Marti Hefley. This tome contains hundreds of accounts of martyrs throughout the twentieth century.
(I intend to write more about this book when I review it properly, Lord willing before the end of April.)
I began the 600+ page journey with a false assumption. I was caught by surprise to learn that the authors told the stories of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox martyrs in the same way as they wrote about Evangelical Believers of the Gospel.
Okay, so I’m going to insert a disclaimer before I continue any further. I’m no expert in the theology of the various churches, nor am I learned in church history.
According to my understanding of things, a Catholic or Orthodox “Christian” can have a saving relationship with God where Christ is their personal Lord and Savior… but, given their works-based salvation it’s not generally the case nor is it true of the official Catholic and Orthodox teaching.
The Bible teaches that salvation is not by works but by grace…
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
And that the way to the Father isn’t church attendance or Biblical knowledge, but Jesus Himself:
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
This made a book about martyrs significantly sadder than it already was. For the martyred Believer who dies in Christ, their death is their victory! Their “end” is bitter but also sweet as earthly trials give way to unspeakable joy. But try to describe how great a tragedy it is for those who die for a faith in something besides Christ.
The book I’m reading, By their Blood, includes stories of countless monks, nuns, and priests. I can’t say whether or not each was in a saving relationship with Christ when he or she died. But if their faith was in their works – if they were counting on their good deeds to save them – their plight went from bad to infinitely worse as they faced their Judge without a Savior.
I’m not talking about faithless people, here.
These martyrs were incredibly devout individuals who went to the extreme to prove their faith. The issue is not the amount of faith, but rather what – or Whom – our faith is in.
If you’ve read this far through a post about faith, chances are you consider yourself a faithful person. But what is your faith in?
Good works? Church attendance? Church involvement? An active prayer life? Consistent Bible reading? Good reputation? Healthy relationships? A rich bank of biblical knowledge? Spiritual feelings?
Let’s remember the words of Jesus:
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Let’s check ourselves again against the standard of Truth which is the Word of God and be sure that we aren’t misplacing our faith.