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Book Review – A Martyr’s Grace


Book Review – A Martyr’s Grace

A Martyr’s Grace is a book by Marvin J. Newell about alumni of Moody Bible Institute who have been Martyred.  Martyrdom is difficult issue to grapple with. In recent years the word has been hijacked by terrorists leaving the world wondering if a martyr is a person to even be admired. A Martyr’s Grace however has nothing to do with the type of martyr that we have grown accustomed to hearing about on the evening news. It’s a book that explores the lives of 21 men and women who were killed because of their faith in Christ. The title of the book was taken from a quote by D.L. Moody. When asked, “Have you the grace to be a martyr?” He replied by saying, “No I have not. But if God wanted me to be one, he would give me a martyr’s grace”. The book is organized by geographic region and then by the date of their martyrdom and each biography will take the average reader just 7-10 minutes to read.

One of the things I appreciated about the short biographies is that the biographer didn’t make any attempt to cover up the very real struggles that these 21 martyrs had in their walk with Christ. Their shortcomings are spoken of plainly and their victories ascribed to the one who was at work within them both to will and to do of His good pleasure. It was clear that these martyrs were not super saints who were always fearless in the face of danger and without sin. The effect was that I felt a certain uneasiness; as if at any time, any ordinary Christian (read: ME) was capable of being called into this heavenly hall of faith. Of course I know this theologically but the biographies in A Martyr’s Grace brought this close to home. The uneasiness quickly turned to reassurance as I read of how God, in their moment of decision, gave them the grace to cling so closely to that wondrous cross to which they devoted themselves many years before. This is the primary message of the book; that God will give a person a martyr’s grace in their moment of need.

Theologically speaking I’m not familiar with the author and hesitate to categorize him in case I misrepresent his views.  While the book appears to be written with a revivalist emphasis on a moment of decision, this was balanced by a well defined belief that the grace to be a martyr is given by God and not a result of an assumed higher spirituality of the martyr. These two emphases work together to balance our responsibility to spread the gospel (which takes a conscious choice) and God’s enabling grace. This is a profound truth that should not go unnoticed when reading the biographies.

This book contains wonderful accounts of the lives of martyrs. They are, up until their last moments, rather ordinary. And the grace they needed in their hour of weakness was supplied to them by a wonderfully merciful God. A Martyr’s Grace could be read as a family and would make a wonderful addition to a homeschool curriculum. It isn’t intended to be a robust treatment of Christian missiology and shouldn’t be read as such. Instead, it is a window into a very real part of Christian missionary work and to highlight God’s grace in martyrdom.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an online review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

About the Author

Book Review - A Martyr's GraceMARV NEWELL (D. Miss. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is the Executive Director of CrossGlobal Link (formerly IFMA). Prior to that he was professor of Missions and Intercultural Studies at the Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago and he currently still serves as an adjunct professor. Previously, he and his wife, Peggy, served as missionaries for 21 years with TEAM, first as field missionaries in Papua (Irian Jaya), Indonesia and then Marv served as Asia-Pacific Regional Director. He is author of A Martyr’s Grace: Stories of Those Who Gave All for Christ and His Cause. Marv has also written Commissioned – What Jesus Wants You To Know As You Go (2010).



2 thoughts on “Book Review – A Martyr’s Grace

  1. Shannon

    My kids are studying missionary biographies right now in school. We use a curriculum that is heavy on world missions. I don’t know why this isn’t in there. It seem slike a good one for them to read.

  2. Vivian

    Here’s an old lady perspective if anyone is willing to hear it. These martyrs are lucky to have been memorialized in a book. Not all martyrs are. They are memorialized because of where they came from and because they were fortunate to be from a nation that likes to glorify people forlorn what they have done. Don’t get me wrong. They should be remembered. But each year thousands of Christians are martyred in Asia, Africa, Central America, and the Middle East. These will go nameless and faceless for a while until Christ returns. Then we will see that it is more than just a few that we chose to recognize. It will number millions and we will see face to face the reason why all these faceless believers gave their life.

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