Category: Apologetics

On The Resurrection

On The Resurrection

Paul, one of the most important figures in the early church wrote that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV) The bodily, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ cements the remaining tenants of Christianity together. It is the linchpin of the faith. Fortunately, there are plenty of evidences for the resurrection. One can first look at the historical evidences for the resurrection from both Christian and non-Christian sources. Next, there is the claim of several hundred eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus. The accounts of these witnesses are not the only evidence from them, the changed lives and attitudes speak volumes. Finally, you have Christ’s claim that He would rise from the dead. The resurrection of Christ not only provides tremendous evidence to His deity, but it gives Christians today a great deal of hope.

History records the existence of Jesus in texts along with the New Testament. Today it is possible to know about important, and unimportant, people in history because various events in their lives were recorded. Alexander the Great’s life was written about, Plato’s writings and ideas survive, and Jesus is no different. His life was written about, and His words recorded. One of the great historians alive during the generation of Jesus was Josephus, a Jew. Josephus mentions Jesus in his Antiquities of the Jews. He records Jesus’ death by crucifixion, and he goes on to state “those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day.” (Josephus, 576) The historical evidence for Jesus existence seems fairly solid, but Gary Habermas takes it a step further when he says “even by using only the strongest historical facts that are also accepted as such by critical scholars, an especially strong case for the resurrection of Jesus can be constructed.” (Habermas, 7) Where did all of these writers glean the information for writing about the resurrection? Many of them likely recorded events as recounted to them from the eyewitnesses to Jesus resurrected body.

 These eyewitnesses are a vital source of information both for the writers of the time and for modern readers today. C.S. Lewis is cited in Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict as stating “The first fact in the history of Christendom is a number of people who have seen the resurrection. If they had died without making anyone else believe this ‘gospel’ no gospels would ever have been written.” (McDowell, 248) How very true. These eyewitnesses shared their experiences with those around them who in turn believed. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians that “[Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive” (1 Corinthians 15:6 ESV). Paul’s claim of over 500 people, many still alive, having witnessed the risen Christ could very easily have been refuted if it hadn’t happened. These eyewitnesses were men and women alike, and many of whom “gave the world the highest ethical teaching if has ever known, and who even on the word of their enemies lived it out in their lives.” (McDowell, 249) These accounts of the resurrection couldn’t have been fabricated and had the adherents living out the life that lead many to death, it wasn’t in their character.

 Imagine telling a lie today, living life according to that lie, and in ten years being burned at the stake for that lie. Is it truly possible to imagine? Of course not. Who would be willing to go so far as to lay down their life for a lie? That’s exactly what happened to many of the early Christians. James is recorded in Acts 12 as being the first of the Apostles to die by the sword. However, just a short time before, Stephen was stoned outside of the city gates for his faith in the resurrected Jesus (Acts 7). JD Chatraw wrote “it is difficult to see why Jesus’ earliest followers would have been willing to endure such persecution if they knew themselves to be suffering for a hoax.” (Chatraw, 314) It is entirely counterintuitive to claim that the disciples were lying about the resurrection when history shows the torment and pain that they suffered at the hands of others. Their faith rested in their belief that they had experienced the resurrected Christ, and His resurrection solidified in their hearts that He was God.

The claims of Jesus that He would go into Jerusalem and subsequently die, while prophetic, aren’t all that surprising. Jesus had been going against the grain of the culture and the Pharisees. The Jews from early in Jesus’ ministry had plotted to kill Him. (John 5:18,10:30) He wasn’t exactly on their guest list for parties. However, Jesus went further to claim that He would rise again on the third day. This fact says Wilbur Smith as cited by McDowell, “only a fool would dare say, if he expected longer the devotion of any disciples—unless He was sure He was going to rise. No founder of any world religion known to men ever dared say a thing like that!” (McDowell, 209) Jesus claim that He would on the third day rise again, while not fully understood by the disciples until after the fact, was a clear indicator of His deity. Paul in the beginning of his letter to the Romans wrote “[Jesus] was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4 ESV) Jesus, as the Son of God, could make a claim that no other person in history could or ever will. He knew that the plan was for Him to rise again giving hope to the nations.

 As stated in opening, the resurrection is the central, core of Christianity. Without it everything falls apart. Smith again is cited as stating that “if you lifted every passage in which a reference is made to the resurrection, you would have a collection of writings so mutilated that what remained could not be understood.” (McDowell, 207) Christianity rises above all others or falls on the resurrection of Jesus. Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians that because Jesus is resurrected “in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22 ESV) and “at his coming those who belong to Christ [will be raised from the dead]” (1 Corinthians 15:23b) Our hope rests in the resurrected Christ that we too will be raised and live forevermore.

Sources

Chatraw, JD. Apologetics at the Cross. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.

Habermas, Gary R. “Changing Attitudes Toward The Resurrection Of Jesus.” Christian Research Journal 40, no. 4 (2017), Retrieved from http://www.equip.org/PDF/JAF2404.pdf.

Josephus, Flavius, The Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998.

McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1999.

In Response

In Response

A friend of mine reached out to me about 6:15 or so this morning with a link to a video on Facebook. Many of you probably haven’t seen this video and I am not going to link it here the language is far beyond what I ever care to hear. It is not something that we should be seeking out, it’s only going to cause issues for the Church in Texarkana. I do however want to respond in love for both the two presenters in the video and the Church at large in Texarkana.

This video seems to be focused on one primary goal, to name names of individual church leaders who have either been caught in sexual sin or are being accused of such. If you listen closely you can hear in the presenter’s voices both sincerity toward the situations in the fact Christians should be better and at the same time a disdain for Christians in general. The presenters seem to have the mindset that all clergy and Christians behave this way, but consider themselves as “holier than thou” pretending that it doesn’t happen. I noticed a few things in the very beginning of the video that stand out as red flags on both sides of the argument. These red flags need to be addressed both in respect to the presenters as well as toward those whom are named and the Church at large. 

The first red flag for me was very early in the video. The called out the “Church” for the many different offerings that are taken. They called out the tithe, the ministers offering (not sure what this is exactly), the gifts offerings, and others. They implied, if not outright stated, that these offerings were compelled upon the people. This is an area the Church needs to address, as difficult as it is to keep the doors open we must ensure that we are following Paul’s guidance to the Corinthians “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.“ (2 Corinthians 9:7 NASB) Giving to God is to be done in a manner that is cheerful and not grudgingly or out of necessity. The Church as seen by the presenters seems to ignore this guidance of Paul and has been grabbing at their money. The presenter’s statement of this issue immediately caught my attention in the fact that much of this video was likely to center around the money issue, and in fact it does. Whether the issues presented further in the video are accurate or not does not negate this very first issue. This is a situation that we’ve seen time and again in the Church that the unbelieving world sees us as only out to get more and more money. We must be sure that we’re addressing the needs of the people and allowing God’s grace to “provide sufficiency in all things” (2 Cor 9:8 NASB)

The presenters go on to talk about a lady prophesying to one presenter about her father’s death. She claims that a woman told her that God spoke to her and said her dad would recover and be well on one day and the next her father was dead. She claims the same woman approached her and stated “God knows best.” This single act set this presenter down the road toward abandoning Christianity. This is an ongoing issue that must be dealt with in the Church, and I don’t doubt this presenters statement as I too have seen such. This style of prophecy is taught far too often that if you merely speak it will be so, but if it doesn’t happen you were either wrong or lacked faith either way it’s no big deal. In fact it is a big deal, it’s a very big deal. Prophets of God should be tested and tried (1 John 4). This concept has brought many to the point of allowing false prophets to speak as if they’re speaking for God, and when they’re wrong they’re not declared as false but rather they misheard God or were just wrong. We must be careful when allowing prophecy into the Church, it must be tested and tried before it should ever be considered by the masses.

At this point the presenters go on to start naming names of pastors and leaders who are in sinful situations of cheating, homosexuality, and even pedophilia at one moment. I am not going to relist all of the names here as none of this is verified by us, but I do notice one thing about ALL of these names. They’re each pastors or leaders of African-American churches. Considering the presenters are African-American they are likely focusing on these churches and leaders because of their own history of hurt. They claim that each of these names presented to them are coming from their followers and supporters. While that may be true, the way each of these are presented sound a lot like personal attacks. It’s as if the presenters are trying to get back at the Church for their own hurts in the past and now have a list of names they can call out trying to damage the Church in Texarkana. I’m not stating that I don’t believe any of the claims, because I know well that man is fallen and can sin. I do however believe many, if not all, the statements go beyond the truth, but still contain some semblance of the truth. I know pastors and pastor’s wives who have cheated and been cheated on, it happens. Far too often it happens.

As I said in the beginning many times money is brought up. The presenters ask the question on almost every issue of “people of [such and such church/ministry] did you know the money you’re giving is going to buy [whatever sexual thing they could come up with]?” These presenters most likely were taken for what they view as a substantial amount of money in their past. This hurt has lead them away from the Church as they now view the Church as only focused on money. It has lead them to a point of hatred toward anyone who claims to be a minister or leader in the Church. A hurt however many years ago to these women committed by people claiming the Church has lead them to this point today.

Finally, this video is only one of 4 or 5 videos going around Facebook doing this exact thing. These are all churches and leaders within Texarkana. Whether the accusations are true or false, apparently the leaders have likely not abstained from even the appearance of sin (1 Thessalonians 5:22). It’s entirely possible that each one of these accusations is false, but the accusation is out there. These churches are going to be damaged for the rest of their existence in Texarkana. The Church within Texarkana is going to be damaged. Christians in Texarkana are going to be hurt, not physically hopefully but emotionally and mentally. We in Texarkana’s churches need to be ready for any backlash that we may receive as a result of these videos. Pray for each other, love one another.

Bryan