Articles from April 2019

Is the Resurrection Fake News?

Our world is full of “fake news” or at least extremely “biased news” in both liberal and conservative camps. News reporters are always tempted to twist the facts in order to bolster their position and try to win a broad number of people to their side. Due to this widespread practice, many have become skeptics of any and all news. Sources are questioned and doubted as reliable.

It is no surprise that many have doubted the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is difficult enough to believe basic news, let alone supernatural events. For centuries skeptics considered the resurrection of Jesus a fictitious story that His followers fabricated. If this were true, it would be the death blow to Christianity. Even atheists agree that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central issue to Christianity. Without the resurrection of Christ, there is no Christianity.

The best way to determine whether an event is truly historical is to simply look at the evidence available and allow it to provide the best explanation for the events surrounding it. There are many evidences that point to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus but following are three major proofs: the empty tomb, the resurrection appearances, and the explosion of the Church.

The Empty Tomb
It is interesting that the first witnesses of the empty tomb were women (Luke 24:1-12). In the Greco-Roman culture it should be noted that women were not particularly held in high esteem. In fact, a woman’s testimony wasn’t admissible in a trial and was only admissible in a Jewish court if two female witnesses were accessible. If the story of the resurrection was fabricated, the first eye witnesses would not have been women unless it were true.

When the disciples began preaching for the first time, they did so just a few days after the resurrection in the same city where Jesus died and was buried. It would have been foolish for them to preach about the resurrection if the claim could have been simply overturned by going to the tomb to find a body. Even the Jews hostile toward Christianity agreed that the tomb was empty, but fabricated the story that the disciples “stole the body” (Matt 28:11-15). To agree that the tomb was empty was not in their favor. And yet the enemies of Christ agreed that the body was gone.

The argument that the body of Jesus was stolen is easily refuted. The Jews or Romans had no motive to steal the body of Jesus. They both wanted to suppress Christianity not encourage it with an empty tomb. Furthermore, the disciples had no motive to steal the body. Preaching on the resurrection of Jesus only brought severe persecution, beatings, and even death. Why would they all endure severe persecution and even death for a lie? It is difficult to deny an empty tomb on historical grounds.

Resurrection Appearances
The second strand of mounting evidence is the resurrection appearances that Jesus made. According to scripture, the disciples had real experiences with the one whom they believed to be the resurrected Christ (John 20:19-29). The Apostle Paul records that both Peter and James along with over 500 others actually saw Christ alive (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Paul records a kind of creed that became popular, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time…”

Doubters will often say that the disciples were lying, or that they hallucinated, but these are really absurd arguments. Ten out of the twelve disciples actually died a martyr’s death for what they claimed. It is difficult to believe that they would have died for such a lie. Furthermore, hallucination is not an option because of the nature of the appearances. The disciples were able to touch the body of Jesus and eat with him. It might be feasible to say that one individual hallucinated, but it is difficult to believe that all twelve men actually were “seeing things” that were not real.

The Exploding Church
The third strand of evidence is the existence of the Christian Church. If the resurrection were a lie, the church would have died long ago. But it still remains the largest institution of any kind in human history. The church exploded immediately following the preaching of the disciples and continues to grow even today.

Does the resurrection of Jesus really matter?
Well indeed the resurrection of Christ does matter because every tenant of Christianity hinges on the resurrection. If the resurrection is not true, Christianity is a sham and an embarrassment. But since the resurrection is true, then the following are also true.

Jesus can be trusted
First, if the resurrection did not happen then Jesus is a liar. Jesus predicted his own resurrection several times in Scripture (Mark 8:31, Luke 9:22, Matthew 17:22). It is very difficult to trust a liar. If Jesus stayed in the tomb, it would be senseless to believe that He was truly divine as He claimed (John 8:58). The resurrection proves that Jesus is who He said He was, that His words are true, and that He can be trusted.

Our sins are forgiven
Second, if there is no resurrection then there is no forgiveness of sins. The Apostle Paul clearly states, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). The death of Christ on the cross was a penal substitution for those who would believe in Him. The resurrection proves that God the Father was pleased with the sacrifice that Jesus made on behalf of sinners. Had Jesus not been raised, then there could be no “justification” for sinners (Rom 4:25), faith in Christ would be vanity and every person would perish.

All other religions are false
Third, the unique resurrection of Jesus is what makes Christianity an exclusive religion. Everyone is looking for the right pathway to the truth. Sadly, the world considers there to be many paths to God. But this makes no sense in light of the resurrection. Since Jesus rose from the dead, then the absolute claim of Jesus eliminates all other claims. Jesus is the only leader who rose from the dead. All other religious leaders are still in their tombs which makes the exclusive claim of Jesus all the more important. We must accept the statement of Jesus when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). The evidence is clear. Jesus determines what is true and what is not true.

Believers can have hope
Last, since the resurrection is true, followers of Jesus are guaranteed real hope of eternal life for their future. Christ’s resurrection proves that Christ has power over death, man’s worst enemy, and that those who put their trust in Him will also one day be resurrected not to judgment but to eternal life (Jn 6:39-40). Since Jesus raised himself from the dead (Jn 10:17-18), He has the power to raise whomever He wills! We no longer have to fear death and judgment, but can rest in the promise and resurrection of Jesus our Savior.

We must believe
The resurrection of Jesus is reasonable to believe, but it is also necessary to be a Christian. The Apostle Paul says that in order for sinners to be saved they must “confess with their mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead” (Rom 10:9). We must never doubt the resurrection of Christ.


Measure of Spiritual Maturity: Love!

Rarely have I ever heard anyone say that a person is a spiritual giant because of the way they love. I may be wrong, but I think most people consider theological knowledge as the measure of spiritual maturity. We highly esteem those who have a great deal of knowledge, especially theological knowledge.

But knowledge without love is a sure sign of the lack of spiritual maturity. The Apostle Paul clearly explains this in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Having the knowledge of the greatest mysteries of God and even a deep faith to move mountains is deemed nothing without love. Love then is a standard for how we measure our spiritual maturity.

Love for All, But Especially the Family of God
It is true that as believers we are called to love everyone, but our love should especially be toward our fellow brothers and sisters. Jesus actually said that the world would know that we are His disciples by the love that we show toward one another (Jn 13:35). We are to love the world and even our enemies (Matt 5:44), but our love for the family of God is vitally important.

There is a real emphasis in Scripture on “brotherly love.” This is actually a very common word in the Greek, philadelphia, from “philos” which means love or affection and “adelphos” meaning brother. The term originally meant affection for someone from the same womb, blood relatives. But it is used several times in the New Testament to describe the love that fellow Christians have for one another, especially since now they are a part of the same new family (Rom 12:10, 1 Thess 4:9, Heb 13:1, 1 Pet 1:22, 3:8, 2 Pet 1:7). As believers we have been born again into the family of God, so that we call each other brother and sister in the Lord.

It is also vitally important to realize that love for the family of God actually becomes a test of our real conversion. The Apostle John makes this clear in his first epistle. He says the real test of whether or not you have been born again and walk in the light is whether or not you love or hate your brother (1 Jn 2:9-11). The one who hates his brother is still in the darkness. Yet the one who loves his brother has passed out of death into life (1 Jn 3:14).

Is Love Natural or Supernatural?
The kind of love that the Bible talks about is not a natural love. The world naturally loves its own, and has an affection for pleasures, and pursuits. But having an “agape” love for others is not natural. It is not natural to love the way Jesus intends his followers to love. This love actually comes from God. When a person is “born again,” the Holy Spirit comes and abides, or lives, inside of us. It is the Holy Spirit who then teaches us to love. Paul told the Thessalonians that he did not need to write to them about loving each other because they had been “taught by God” to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9). This phrase is actually one word in the Greek theodidaktoi literally meaning “God taught.” It is clear that it is the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit who teaches us as Romans 5:5 explains, “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The Apostle John also confirms this when he says in 1 John 4:12, that God’s “love is perfected in us. But this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” This was the promise of God in Jeremiah 31:33, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” The Holy Spirit inevitably teaches every believer so that their new birth is confirmed by the love that they show to one another. It is inconceivable that a true believer would not show love on a consistent basis. Loving one another should be second nature to a believer.

Character of this Love
This divine love that is shed in our hearts is manifested in several ways. First, this love is a non-selective love. When we become Christians, our love for fellow brothers or sisters overcomes differences in race, theological positions, demographics and even political positions. Just as the Thessalonians’ love for all the brothers in Macedonia was evident (1 Thess 4:10), so our love will extend to all who are in Christ. The color of someone’s skin is no longer a barrier to love. Age has no bearing on our affection for others. And even theological & political differences should not prevent us from loving a fellow believer deeply.

Second, it is a caring love. Like the apostle Paul we will have a “great desire to see you face to face” (1 Thess 3:17). Paul said of the Thessalonian believers that they “always remember us kindly and long to see us (3:6). The Church is not a corporate business entity, but rather a family knit together by Christian love. Being involved in a church means that we are committed to one another and that we genuinely care about the lives of others (Rom 12:9).

Third, this love is a concerned love. While it is nice to talk about things of this world like sports and the news, the main concern of brothers and sisters in the Lord is always about faith in Christ. The most important aspect of love that a fellow Christian can have is a desire to “establish and exhort” a brother or sister in their faith” (1 Thess 3:2). Trials will inevitably come and family looks out for one another. We are always ready to help each other persevere in our faith and love for Christ and one another (3:6).

Last, this love is a working love. By this I mean that we are not passive but actively loving others. Particularly we honor and esteem our pastors. We live at peace with others. We admonish those in the church who are idle. We encourage those who are weak and fainthearted. We never repay evil with evil, but seek to do good to one another (1 Thess 5:12-15).

Excel Still More and More
This love that we have for one another should always be increasing. While we may be doing well, we can always do better. Paul commended the Thessalonians for their love for one another and yet prayed that the Lord would make them “increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (3:12) and he urged them to love “more and more” (4:10).

Our love can always grow for others. We must first love deeper in our minds. This requires being humble and considering others more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3-4, 1 Cor 13:1-2). Instead of judging people in our minds, we should give others the “benefit of the doubt” never assuming the worst about them but rather assuming the best. Second, we can be more generous with our money, helping those in our midst who are struggling financially. Being generous and helping our brother and sister is truly an act of love (1 Jn 3:17-18). Third we can give our time and be a servant to one another. This may mean being hospitable and opening our home and providing a meal. It may mean helping someone who has had surgery by mowing their yard. The possibilities are endless. Fourth, we can pray for one another. There is no greater act of love than to pray for our brothers and sisters. Fifth, we can simply be attentive to others around us by being warm and welcoming and hospitable.

Mature Families and a Mature Church
While we definitely don’t want to dismiss growing in theology and growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18), we also want to be known as a loving church. We can and must improve and grow in our love for one another. The sign of our maturity is how well we love! We can and must love our family deeper. We can and must love our church family deeper. What can you do to love better in your church, in your home, at your work?

Click here to listen to a sermon on this topic from 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10.