Why were there others among Jesus' friends and the early church that had to die for their faith? It seems that since Jesus died to pay for our sins, others shouldn't have had to die, also.
Acts 7:1 - 60
NKJV - 1 Then the high priest said, "Are these things so? 2 And he said, "Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran.
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Yes, Jesus alone died to make possible the forgiveness of humanity's sins (which only He -- as both true God and true man -- could accomplish), but all humans down to the present day remain sinful. Because of their pride and their universal fallen nature, they do not want to hear or believe that they are sinful, and that they can be saved only by faith in Christ. They want to believe that they can "earn" God's favor through their own efforts by being "good enough". (This is what all earthly religions other than Christianity teach in some form.) Thus, humans' instinctive response to any suggestion that they are less than perfect, and (beyond that) that they are, indeed, utterly incapable of saving themselves, is one of anger and opposition. It is only through the working of the Holy Spirit that people can see their true spiritual condition and their need for the salvation that only faith in Christ can provide. This was why Jesus aroused such enmity among the religious leaders of His day, to the point where they put Him to death. And Jesus therefore told His followers that they, too, could expect to be put to death themselves for preaching the same message (John 15:18-19; John 16:2-4), as indeed occurred with all of the apostles except John, as well as with the other martyrs for Christ down through history, starting with Stephen.
In my opinion the best source for the answer to this question is the Bible! So, let the Bible speak! "And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable,..and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us (Luke 19:11-14 KJV). I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world (John 17:14 KJV). Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake (Matthew 24:9 KJV). If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you...If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me (John 15:18-21 KJV). Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10 KJV). "Hear another illustration: There was a man... who planted a vineyard...then he leased it to cultivators and traveled abroad. When the fruit season came around, he sent his slaves to the cultivators to collect his fruit. However, the cultivators took his slaves, and they beat one up, another they killed, another they stoned. Again he sent other slaves,...Lastly he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ On seeing the son, the cultivators said, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and get his inheritance!’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him". (Matt 21:33-39). And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:17 KJV). And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15 KJV). What de we conclude from the above scriptures? 1. Satan the Devil "sponsored" the death of Jesus, who, as the Primary Seed of the Woman (Genesis 3:15), and God's appointed King, (DANIEL 2:44; 7:13-14; Luke 1:31-33) was at enmity with him. Jesus is also the Primary Seed of ABRAHAM, through which God promised to bless all the earth, Gen 22:18). 2. Spritual Israel, (Galatians 6:16; 1Peter 2:9-10; Zechariah 8:23), those taking the lead among Jesus' followers and true worshippers of God, and the Secondary part of the Seed of the Woman are also at enmity with Satan and his Seed. The killings of followers of Jesus is the manifestation of this enmity. 3. Jesus' followers obediently followed his directives to preach about him and about the Kingdom of God, (Matthew 24:14; Acts Chapter 4). He alerted them that the world (which is under the rulership of Satan, John 14:30; 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4) would hate them just as they had hated him. He even warned them that they will be killed! 4. Jesus stated the reason why his followers will be hated and killed: ON ACCOUNT OF HIS NAME! His followers emulated him in preaching salvation in Jesus' name. This fact is closely linked to his headship of the Kingdom of God, which is the agency that God will use to finally destroy the works of Satan. Satan therefore opposes CHRISTIANS, impeding the preaching work and killing them. The enmity will be to the end
Because their horrible deaths gave validity to what they were teaching, namely, that Christ is the Son of God, was crucified and rose again. They had all seen the risen Christ and would not recant or deny that in the face of great pain and suffering. People die all of the time for what they think to be true (think of jihadist Muslims, for instance) but no one will die for what they know not to be true. The apostles, to a man, never stopped preaching what they knew to be true and dying the way they did convinced others that, indeed, Jesus is the Christ. They claimed to have seen Christ and were willing to die for that testimony.
Many of the early church died for their faith. They were intensely persecuted until Constantine became a Christian and then the church became more orderly and less like the early church. Jesus said persecution would come and it did. Not only did the early church die for their faith, but Christians now are being persecuted also. For more info on modern day persecution, visit Voice of the Martyrs. They're a great organization.
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