What Is a Martyr? Definition and Meaning

Christian martyrs are great examples of people who have truly lived a life of faith, determination, love, and dedication. They are usually persecuted for their traits not only physically but emotionally.

Glory Dy
Cross headstone that reads RIP

There are groups of people in the history of Christianity that are called Christian martyrs. These people are special and more often praised for their dedication to Christ.

However, they have specific traits that only they have, which makes them unique individuals and different from the rest of the world.

Let us analyze what Christian martyrs are and what makes them special people.

Definition of a Martyr

The dictionary defines a martyr as someone that would choose to suffer and die than renounce his or her religion.

Another definition of a martyr is a person who sacrifices his or her life for a greater good — it is also someone who has conviction over a great value such as religion and other ideologies.

A Christian martyr is a more specific kind of martyr. These are a group of people who have dedicated their lives to the purpose of living life according to Jesus Christ.

Their focus is upholding the teachings of Jesus by basing everything they do according to His Word and are willing to or have died in the name of Christ.

There are many characteristics of a Christian martyr and we are going to discuss some of their major characteristics in this article.

Faith in Christ

The most obvious characteristic of a Christian martyr is their faith in Christ. In fact, they can be considered as one of the most faithful people in the entire world.

Their faith in Christ is so strong and because of this, their actions are always dedicated to Christ and the praise of God.

The faith of a Christian martyr is the embodiment of what is described in Hebrews 11 or  “Faith in Action,”

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith, we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11:1-3).

The faith of a Christian martyr is an inspiring example for all of us living in this world. It tells us that if we have faith in God, our spirits will be filled with an everlasting, eternal joy despite the turmoil of this world.

When we look at Christian martyrs, we see a light in their life. This is possible because of their relationship with Christ through their enormous faith in Him.

Determined to Follow Christ

Aside from being faithful to Christ, a Christian martyr is also determined to follow Christ. Christian martyrs are not swayed by anything else especially if it is between following Christ and another thing.

In fact, because of this act, they are usually persecuted. Their determination to follow Christ makes them endure all kinds of persecution in this world.

Jesus gives reassuring peace to those who suffer and will suffer during this earthly life. In Matthew 5:2-10 He says,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

In the last line of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasized that those persecuted because of righteousness will have the kingdom of heaven.

Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why Christian martyrs never sway from righteousness because Christ specifically promises heaven when they reach the shore of eternity. This verse, in particular, is indeed very comforting for the Christian martyr.

Filled with God’s Love

Aside from being faithful and determined, Christian martyrs are filled with God’s love. They are usually the people who have embodied what Jesus has taught in terms of love, as written in John 13:34-35,

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”

Christian martyrs love everyone around them even those who persecute them. In fact, even before their death, they pray for their perpetrators because they still love them.

Their love tells us so many things about how God loves us and how we can live our lives with love as well. If they can love this much just as how God loves us, then we, too, can do so.

This can be seen in the stoning of Stephen, the very first martyr, who uttered the same loving plea as Jesus did on the cross,

And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep (Acts 7:59-60, emphasis mine).

Loving our enemies, love our friends, and loving everyone is possible because we have the ultimate example through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the payment of our sins.

Dedication to God and Jesus Christ

Finally, Christian martyrs are very dedicated, and because of their strong dedication to Christ and Our Father, they are often tortured to the brink of death.

Dedication is the utter commitment to something, and in the case of the Christian martyr, their dedication and commitment are towards Christ.

Christian martyrs are great examples of people who have truly lived a life of faith, determination, love, and dedication. They are usually persecuted for their traits not only physically but emotionally.

Historically, people who have a Christian martyr attitude are tortured physically to the brink of death. In the modern-day, there are Christian martyrs, as well.

The present-day world can be very harsh for people who have dedicated their lives to Jesus Christ because of the many ideologies or absence of ideologies that this present day is facing.

However, despite the harshness of this world, Christian martyrs continue to shine their light by showing their faith, determination, love, and commitment to the Father and Jesus Christ. We can indeed take inspiration from their faith in Christ.

For further reading: 

How to Live Out Faith Found in Hebrews 11

How Do We Love the Lord with All Our Hearts, Souls, and Minds?

What Is the Spiritual Gift of Faith?

What Does it Mean to Let Your Light Shine?

What Does the Bible Say about Wavering Faith?

Why Is it Important to Have an Eternal Mindset?

How and to Whom Did Jesus Pay Our Ransom?

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/roberteklund


Glory Dy has been a content creator for more than 10 years. She lives in a quiet suburb with her family and four cats.


This article is part of our People of Christianity catalog that features the stories, meaning, and significance of well-known people from the Bible and history. Here are some of the most popular articles for knowing important figures in Christianity:

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Originally published March 23, 2021.