Posted by: Billy Marsh | October 27, 2007

Theologians Who Are Ready To Die

Charles H. Spurgeon in his study.

A friend and I were talking this morning over breakfast and were discussing our quiet times, current studies, and future studies (Ph. d options). I was sharing with him that a weakness of mine is that I tend to be a legalist at times concerning the amount of time that I set aside for my quiet times and also how much I accomplish during that time. Hence, when I fail in spending adequate amount of time in Bible study and prayer, I interpret it as how I really feel about the urgency and importance of my relationship with the Lord rather than my certain lack of discipline or willpower. I confessed that this spills over into my school studies where I try always to keep in mind the question, “What kind of disciple does the Lord want me to be?” The way that I study and my work ethic at school to me is an interpretation of just how seriously I take being a minister and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel.

But, am I exempt from living like the knife is on my throat or the cross on my back just because I spend my free time reading Kevin Vanhoozer or Hans Frei instead of praying over Operation World three times before the sun sets? Of course not. There’s not a different call upon the theologian’s life that at its base level is not equivalent to the one who is out there dying on the frontlines. Jesus’ words have summoned all that have chosen to follow him to “deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Mark 8:34).”

I think that, unfortunately, scholars and theologians inadvertently receive a “get out of persecution free card” and therefore, we allow ourselves to casually fall out of the martyrdom mindset that Jesus calls us all to which he clearly expressed by using the imagery of one carrying his cross in Mk 8:34. No one carries a cross for any other reason than to be crucified. As I was talking with Bret this morning, I made a comment that has stuck with me all day. Though I didn’t quite word it this way to him, what has consumed my thoughts today can be summed up in this way: I know what kind of theologian the Lord wants me to be, but what kind of disciple is the Lord desiring this theologian to be?

I’ve been reading through Acts during my quiet times and was greatly impacted by the Apostle Paul’s response in Acts 21:13 to the pleading and weeping of his co-laborers about returning to Jerusalem. He says, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

What immediately ran through my mind is that here is a man who has all of the theology a human could ask for, but his love is for the church, the gospel, and the glory of God in Christ. So much so that, he walks willingly right into the death trap. Now, let me just clarify, I am fully aware that Paul’s personal calling entailed a great amount of suffering. Still, should our mentality and attitude towards our service of the Lord be any different? For goodness sake, here is the man who wrote Romans, Paul’s theological masterpiece which theologians over the centuries have drooled and mined over, yet even with a mind like his, he is more than ready to lay down his life.

I want to be a theologian who is ready to die. Who is ready to be imprisoned. Maybe in America one day? The world is definitely changing and it’s only a matter of time. I do not want to by any means belittle the theologian’s task, however, I never want to diminish the reality that Christ has called me to walk in his footsteps. I realize that my time on earth may not lead me to the gallows or firing range; still, I must labor day in and day out preparing my heart and mind to be ready for imprisonment, even death for the name of my Lord Jesus Christ. Unashamedly, I want to be the absolute best theologian I can be, but I want to be a theologian, most of all, who is ready to die for the God of whom I am striving so diligently to know and proclaim so well.

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.”

~ 1 Peter 4:12-13 ~



  1. Right on. I just came from a Bible study that has been studying Acts, and it has me thinking about all these things: sacrifice, legalism, and letting God lead one day at a time. Praise be to God – oh, how full my heart is right now to sing praise to Jesus – because life isn’t about a list. God is there leading us each step. I have failed, a lot this week, but He isn’t saying: fix all that and then we’ll move on. He says: take My hand. Let’s do tonight together.

    Isn’t He awesome?
    To God be all glory,
    Lisa of Longbourn

  2. Thankyou lisa for your comments. Your enthusiasm and joy in the Lord is encouraging, and I am pleased to have you share that on my blog. God is definitely leading us in the journey, moment by moment, and may he continue to train us for godliness, conforming us to the image of his Son more and more everyday. In Christ, Billy

  3. Billy,

    I have yet to walk away from our meetings together without being further encouraged to live a cross-centered life. We both have another close friend, who approached me at work and told me that the Lord had taught him through the Scriptures why he had been called to Seminary. Quite sobering for me, these were his words: “I now know why am I here; the Lord is preparing me to die.”

    Amen. May God raise up more seeds that fall into the ground and die, in order that more fruit might abound for the kingdom.


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