THE MARTYRS HYMN
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.
Paul is writing his last letter before execution addressed to his spiritual son, Timothy. New Testament scholars are convinced that Paul is quoting here an ancient Christian worship chorus or “hymn.” It is assessed to be one of the songs Christians sang as they were walking into the arena to face certain death. Paul himself may have sung this hymn when he was executed in Rome.
There is plenty of historical evidence that people of the pagan world were amazed at the courage and joy – often expressed in music – Christians exhibited when facing their death. Early church father, Tertullian was reportedly converted soon after first observing this exhibition of abnormal joyfulness. He later made the oft-quoted statement that “the blood of the martyrs is seed!”
The first couplet is powerful because it is in the Greek aorist tense which indicates a specific moment in the past. When Christ calls us, we die to sin and to ourselves. Therefore, the song begins, “We have already died with Him and we will therefore live with Him!” It goes on to proclaim that when we endure, we’ll reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will deny or disown us; but when we are faithless, He always remains faithful because it is a characteristic of His unchanging nature.
Korean Elder Kwan-Joon Park was called an “Elijah of Korea” or sometimes a “Daniel of modern times.” He died as a martyr for his faith in Christ and his opposition to the Japanese colonial rule during the Second World War when Korea was occupied by the Japanese Imperialists. The latter enforced Shinto worship on the Korean people.
On March 24, 1939, Elder Park went to Japan to protest against the inhuman colonial policies of Japan. He walked into the 74th Imperial Diet of Japan. When the opening pronouncement of the lower house was made, he stood up from his seat in the visitor’s balcony and shouted, “This is a great mission of God, Jehovah’s great message!” Then he threw leaflets to the floor below exposing cruel abuse of Korean Christians by Japan and warning them of God’s imminent judgment and destruction of Japan as a result of her wrongdoing and tyranny. They also explained the resistance against the Japanese imposition of Shinto shrine worship upon Korean Christians.
Elder Park was arrested and sentenced to six years in a Japanese prison. While serving his sentence he was martyred at the age of seventy. We don’t know if he sang. But one line from his last poem written during his imprisonment expresses well his firm resolution to die willingly for Jesus Christ: “Since Jesus died for me, I will die for Jesus!”
RESPONSE: Today I will resolve to live courageously even if it means facing death for Jesus who died for me. I will express my joy in living and dying for Him in every way – including singing!
PRAYER: Lord, help me to be joyful even in the face of death knowing that You are always faithful.
Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS), a daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks. © 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission.