Articles by Pastor Tim Gibson

Faithful Servants

The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.  Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”  The world might view being a servant as a burden, but for us who have experienced God’s grace, being a servant of Christ is a joy and privilege.  The greatest longing in our heart is to please and be faithful to the Lord (2 Cor 5:9). 

But in order to be faithful, what is required of us?  Paul and Barnabas were the first missionaries sent out from the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1-3).  Their first missionary journey is recorded in Acts 14 and provides for us an excellent case study on qualities of faithful servants.  If we desire to be found faithful, then the qualities that these two men exhibit must also be characteristic of our lives.  Paul told us clearly to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Cor 11:1).  We would do well to emulate the seven qualities that these two men illustrate for us. 

First, the two men were bold in preaching the Gospel in the midst of looming persecution.  When Paul and Barnabas entered Iconium and began preaching the Gospel, they were met with opposition, but this did not deter them, rather they spoke “boldly for the Lord” (v. 3, 7, 1 Thess 2:2).  There is a great temptation for us all to cower and to shrink back when the world comes against us and the Gospel we speak.  We must remind ourselves that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7).  It is inevitable that the world is going to hate us and the Gospel we preach (Jn 15:18-21), but if we are to be found faithful we must have a boldness to be light in the darkness. 

Second, Paul and Barnabas were humble servants.  The second city the men went to was Lystra.  After Paul had healed a lame man, the entire city began worshiping them as though they were Zeus and Hermes who had once again returned to their city, as the Roman poet Ovid had written about years earlier (Acts 14:8-18).  Pride certainly could have arisen in their hearts not only due to their ability to heal, but now this undue worship that was attributed to them.  But rightly, the two men were not willing to take the glory, but rather pointed the entire city to the living God and not to themselves (Acts 14:15).  Humility is required of every servant in this life.  All along the way, people will attempt to praise us.  We will be faithful if we will deflect that praise and point them to the Living God who alone is worthy of praise. 

Third, they were persistent, living their lives with an eternal perspective making the most of their time.  In a crazy turn of events, a group of Jews who opposed the Gospel of Jesus found Paul and stoned him leaving him for dead (Acts 14:19).  You would have thought that the two missionaries would have taken a break, but instead they journeyed to Derbe the very next day in order to continue their mission!  We must live our lives in this manner.  Instead of wallowing in our misery, we must trust the Lord and keep on living with purpose.  As long as the Lord gives us breath, we must persist. 

Fourth, they had a caring heart toward the spiritual well-being of others.  As their missionary journey was coming to an end, Paul and Barnabas risked their lives going back to the cities of Lystra and Iconium for the purpose of “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts14:22).  The missionaries had a genuine love in their hearts for the spiritual welfare of these new disciples, teaching them how they must persevere through the tribulations that the Lord would sovereignly allow them to go through.  To be found faithful, we must care about the spiritual well-being of others.  We cannot live a secluded life, but must be willing to pour ourselves into the lives of others!

Fifth, they were committed to the Word of God (Acts 14:24-25).  On their way back home to Antioch, the two missionaries could have rested, but they were committed to leave nothing undone.  Because they had not preached initially in the city of Perga (13:14), they “spoke the word in Perga” (Acts 14:25).  A mark of faithfulness is commitment to God’s calling in our lives.  We must never stop until the work is done.

Sixth, the missionaries gave credit to God alone for what He had done through them.  As Paul and Barnabas made it back to their sending church in Antioch, it is certain that there was a great reunion.  Stories were told and no doubt there was much rejoicing.  But in the midst of all of this, the missionaries “declared all that God had done with them and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (v. 27).  To say it clearly, they did not take the credit!  They recognized that the work they completed was by the grace of God.  There is a great temptation to take credit for our accomplishments.  But the faithful servant understands that it is actually God who works through us and God who opens doors for us.  When we have the opportunity, we always give credit back to Him in praise.

Seventh, they had a deep love for fellowshipping with other Christians.  As the missionaries returned, it says that they “remained no little time with the disciples” (v. 28).  They knew they needed to be recharged spiritually and they found their greatest joy with like hearted fellow believers.  While the world may come against us, the Lord has provided the Church to be a place where believers can find strength and joy with the fellowship of the Saints.

Every true believer should desire to be a faithful servant to the Lord Jesus.  It is certain that Paul and Barnabas indeed were faithful servants.  If we imitate the example of Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, we will also be faithful servants to the Lord.  We should strive to be bold, humble, persistent, caring, committed, giving credit to the Lord, and loving one another.  If these characteristics describe us, then we can be certain that the Lord will be pleased with us and one day we will hear “well done, faithful servant” (Matt 25:23). 

Happiness vs. Joy?

What’s the Difference?
Happiness and joy seem at first glance to be very similar emotions, but upon further examination are actually very different.  Happiness is often related to the superficial and is an outward expression of the circumstances around us.  Happiness is temporal and only exists when everything seems to be going right in our lives.  We are happy when we receive a gift, go on a trip, eat a nice meal and find ourselves healthy.  But joy on the other hand is an internal emotion, that is not based on any superficial experience.  Joy is a continual deep peace in a person’s inner being that all is well regardless of difficult circumstances.  Joy can be experienced by those who never receive gifts, never get to go on trips, don’t have enough food to eat, or even find themselves sick and in much pain.  The Apostle Paul illustrates this point clearly when he was imprisoned and chained between two soldiers awaiting execution.  He was able to say, “Rejoice, again I say rejoice” (Phil 4:4). 

Joy is a Gift from God
The most significant difference however between happiness and joy is how they are acquired.  Joy is not discovered in a textbook, found on a beach, or saved in a bank account.  At the very root, joy is a supernatural gift from God granting a person peace that his or her life is right with God.  While every person will experience happiness in the world at some time and at some level, only those who are right with God can truly experience real joy.  Sadly, many in the world will never experience what the Bible calls true joy.  Many will plod through a difficult life and be forever miserable.  But there is an invitation to everyone to come to the true source of joy, Jesus Christ.  The Bible teaches that when a person forsakes their sin, and puts their trust in Jesus Christ they are “born again” (Jn 3:1-16).  This new birth is a radical transformation of a person when the life of God enters into the soul of man.  To say it explicitly, the third member of the God-head, the Holy Spirit, enters into a believer.  With that radical divine takeover of a person’s life, comes inevitable blessings.  Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit gives “gifts” to the one who is born again.  And those gifts are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22, Rom 15:13).  Notice that “joy” is one of the gifts among many others.  While happiness may be learned or even purchased, notice that joy must be received.  The Scripture teaches that joy is a gift from God and is a strength to those who have it (Neh 8:10). 

How Can I Have More Joy?
Once God has given you this supernatural joy, can this joy increase?  The answer is absolutely!  Jesus said that He came so that His joy could be “in us” and that our “joy would be made full” (Jn 15:11). 

The Bible gives many ways, but here are three fundamental ways the Bible teaches believers to increase joy in their heart.  And we shouldn’t be surprised that they all revolve around how we relate to God and His Word.  First, stay away from evil.  The very first and foundational Psalm tells us, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1).  The word “blessed” is actually a plural in the Hebrew and stresses the fact that those who do what is stated will experience the “blessednesses” or blessings of God.  The Psalmist calls God’s people to follow Him wholeheartedly and avoid relationships that leave God out of their lives. Three plans of action are presented:  1) guard your mind by not listening to worldly wisdom rather than God’s wisdom, 2) don’t participate in sinful behavior, and 3) don’t make deep friendships with those who disbelieve and scoff at God’s Word.  Joy can be increased by avoiding evil through a growing knowledge of God, and application of His Word to our lives. 

Second, simply obeying the commands of God bring more joy.  The Psalmist says, “the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” (Ps 19:8).  God tells us “blessed are those who keep my ways” (Prov 8:32).  Disobedience to God will certainly rob a believer of the joy of the Lord, but on the other hand obedience to God can bring about rejoicing!  We should never view God’s commands as a burden, but rather we should realize that His Word is given to us for “our good” (Deut 10:12-13).  God wants us to be full of joy and His Word is a road map to the fullness of joy.  While our salvation is secure, our disobedience grieves the Holy Spirit within us (Eph 4:30).  King David understood this clearly after he committed adultery with Bathsheba.  Once he repented of his sin, he diligently prayed to the Lord, “restore to me the joy of my salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Ps 51:12).  When we are tempted to disobey God, we must remember that Satan’s promises are lies!  It is God’s commands that are designed to give us greatest rejoicing. 

Third, more joy comes by trusting in the Lord.  Jeremiah 17:7 says, “Blessed is he who trusts in the Lord” (Prov 16:20).  From experience we know that anxiety strips us of joy and unbelief can paralyze us.  The measure of our joy can be determined by where we place our trust.  Paul tells us clearly to rejoice, but then tells us that we can rejoice because we put our trust in God.  He says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:4-7).  Instead of worrying, we must go to the sovereign King of the universe and make our requests known.  Knowing that He is in control, He promises to give us peace which will guard our hearts and minds.  This is the only way we can “consider it all joy” when we experience all kinds of trials (James 1:2).  We can willfully choose joy in any circumstance because we know that God is in control and working out the details of our lives.   

Does Revelation 3:10 Support a Pre-Tribulation Rapture View?

Revelation 3:10 contains a promise to the church at Philadelphia, and not only to that specific church, but it is a promise that has a sweeping nature extending to all faithful churches throughout history. Jesus says directly, “because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.”

What is this promise that Jesus is making to the Church? This passage has been considered a key promise of Jesus used to support the view that the Church going to be spared from the very specific seven-year Tribulation that is yet coming upon the earth through a rapturing of the Church (1 Thess 4:13-17, John 14:1-4, 1 Cor 15:51-54). There are mainly three views concerning the coming rapture of the Church. Some believe that this rapture will come at the end of the Tribulation (post-tribulation view), or in the middle of the Tribulation (mid-tribulation view), or prior to the Tribulation (pre-tribulation view). When we understand this promise of Jesus in Revelation 3:10, it appears that the Pre-Tribulation view is the view which is most strongly supported. Let’s look at the details of this Revelation 3:10 promise more closely.

I will keep you from…
The first thing we must note is that Jesus promises to keep believers from something. The Greek construction is important to note: “κἀγώ σε τηρήσω ἐκ τῆς ὥρας τοῦ πειρασμοῦ, which is literally translated “I also, you, will keep out of the hour of the trial.” The key phrase that we need to look at more intently is the phrase “τηρήσω ἐκ, keep out of.” What does this phrase mean? Does it mean to sustain through or literally keep out of or keep from? There has been much debate about the meaning of this phrase. The post-tribulation view argues that the Church is going to go through the Tribulation judgments and that God is going to preserve the church in the midst of His wrath. However, the word ἐκ clearly carries the idea of “out of, or from.” It would have been easy for Jesus to use the Greek word ἐν (“in or through”) like other passages in the New Testament which describe a process of preserving something through or in with a view to continuing in (Acts 12:5, 1 Peter 1:4, Jude 21, these passages use the same word tereo but with en). However, Jesus clearly emphasizes the fact that the Church is not going to be preserved through, but rather kept from this hour of testing which is in the future.

The argument is strengthened further when we look at the only other passage where the same construction is used. The phrase “kept from” is also used in the High Priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17:15. In that passage, Jesus prays for His people, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” The same Greek phrase is used, “τηρήσῃς …ἐκ.” It is clear that Jesus is not praying that His children be preserved within Satan’s power but rather kept from it. Believers have clearly been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col 1:13). Jesus understands that the whole world is under the sway of the wicked one (1 Jn 5:19) and He is praying that believers be kept from Satan all together. Since John wrote both of the passages under consideration, and both are quotes from Jesus Himself, it makes sense to interpret them similarly, enforcing the idea that Revelation 3:10 means to literally “keep from” rather than to preserve through. The promise of Jesus is to keep the Church from this horrible trial that is still coming in the future.

The hour of trial that is coming on the whole world
There are several things to note about this phrase. The fact that Jesus calls this future period as an “hour” of trial implies that this time of testing is for a definite, limited time. Jesus is not speaking of a general time of tribulation that all believers are guaranteed to go through (Jn 16:33). Jesus speaks authoritatively of a definite time of testing. Furthermore, this hour of testing is still yet to come upon the “whole world.” The scope of this testing is not limited to Jerusalem, or Israel in general. Rather this definite time of testing will be a testing over the whole world. The Greek word for world used by Jesus is οἰκουμένης, which is a word typically used to describe the inhabited earth (Lk 4:5, Rom 10:18, Rev 16:14) not the cosmos. The whole world has yet to see the tribulation that God is going to bring.

To try those who dwell on the earth
Now this is a most significant phrase. The purpose of this trial, that is coming upon the whole earth, is to “try those who dwell on the earth.” This phrase happens to be a phrase that is used eleven times in the book of Revelation (3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10 [twice], 13:8, 12, 14 [twice], 17:2, 8). When this group of people are examined, it is clear that these “earth dwellers” are against God and His people. In chapter 6:10, these earth dwellers are identified as those who are persecuting and killing believers who come to faith during the Tribulation. In chapter 11:10, they are those who rejoice and send gifts to one another when the two witnesses of God are killed in Jerusalem during the middle of the Tribulation. In chapter 13:8, 12, these “earth dwellers” worship the Antichrist. Clearly, as Mark Hitchcock states, these are “unsaved people who during the Tribulation, stubbornly and steadfastly continue in their rejection of God. They are those on earth who are totally given up to evil and the hatred of God and His people. The entire horizon of their lives is earthbound” (Mark Hitchcock, 101 Answers to Questions about the Book of Revelation, page 93). This hour of trial which is yet to come has no purpose for the Church, but rather is a testing for unbelievers and an hour of trouble for Jacob or Israel (Jer 30:7). It makes sense to believe that God will spare His Church from the wrath of God to come (1 Thess 1:10).

After looking at the details, the picture becomes much clearer. The promise that Jesus makes is for the Church, particularly that He is going to keep them from, not keep them through, a specific trial that is yet to come upon the whole earth, for the purpose of trying unbelievers. While the world has seen many kinds of trials, it is clear that the trial which is spoken of in Revelation has not yet come and is yet in the future. All of these details definitely give much support for the pre-tribulation rapture position rather than a post or mid-tribulation rapture view.

Only Two Kinds of People

It is true that there are all kinds of people in the world. There are different colors of people: red, yellow, black and white people. There are nice people and mean people. There are rich and poor, short and tall people. The list could go on and on. But interestingly, the Bible categorizes everyone into one of two kinds of people. It could be said many different ways, but the final analysis is the same. Here are a few ways the Bible states it. People are either “born again,” or not “born again” (John 3:1-8), “children of God” or “children of the devil” (1 Jn 3:10), “of the Spirit” or “of the flesh” (Rom 8:5-9), either the “spiritual man” or “natural man” (1 Cor 2:14-16), “believers” or “unbelievers” in Jesus Christ (John 3:18) and lastly “found & saved” or “lost” (Luke 15). In God’s world, He says there are only two types of people. People may look the same on the outside, but inside determines who they are! So how then does one identify the distinguishing features of these two types of people? Romans 8:5-9 is one of the most descriptive passages that describes the differences between the two groups. It is clear that they both have a very different mindset, a very different disposition toward God and His word, and in the end a very different destiny.

Very Different Mindsets
The Apostle Paul says that the two types of people first “set their minds” on specific things. People in the flesh set their minds on the “things of the flesh” while people in the Spirit set their minds on the “things of the Spirit” (v. 5). There couldn’t be a bigger contrast. When Paul uses this phrase, “set their minds,” he is describing the principle that is governing a person’s life. To set your mind on something means that a person is absorbed with or sharply focused on a particular view of life. This is not a description of an occasional glance, but an absorbed desire to pursue a certain lifestyle.

The person who lives in the flesh is absorbed with and governed by the “things of the flesh.” So, what are the things of the flesh? The Apostle John tells us that the “world and the things in the world… the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life– is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-17). To put it short, worldly people love worldly things; the world is all they have. The unregenerate unbeliever is only concerned with the things of the world: material possessions, fleshly desires, prideful attitudes, secular beliefs, self-interest and self-promotion. In addition, they are opposed to anything spiritual. Not only do they not understand spiritual things, but spiritual things are foolishness to them (1 Cor 2:14).

On the other hand, the person who has been changed by the grace of God, the person who lives according to the Spirit, has a new mindset; he has the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). According to Paul this new mindset is set on the “things of the Spirit.” So, what are the things of the Spirit? The things of the Spirit are the things that belong to God: The Kingdom of God, the Son of God, the Word of God, the Truth of God and the will of God. The man who is “in Christ” and made a “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17) has a new mind for spiritual things. Because we are “of the Spirit” we desire to know and glory in the things of God. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount that the unbelievers naturally worry themselves about food and clothing. But we as believers don’t worry and rather we “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt 6:33). Because we are tempted to seek the things of the world, Scripture commands us to “set our minds on things above, since we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:1-3).

Very Different Dispositions
Second, very telling of these two kinds of people is their disposition toward God and particularly His Word. Again, the Apostle Paul tells us in v. 7-9 the stark contrast. Paul gives four descriptions of the person who is still in the flesh. First, they are “hostile toward God.” This hostility may be either an active or passive hostility. Either way, this person doesn’t want God interfering with their life. Second, they do not submit to the Word of God. In short, the unregenerate person doesn’t want God telling them what to do. Their motto in life is “I’m the boss of me!” And as a result, they are unwilling to listen and obey what God’s Word says. It shouldn’t surprise us that there is a worldwide conspiracy against the Bible to redefine marriage, the family, gender, ethics and faith. The world hates what God’s Word says. Third, the unregenerate are “unable to submit” to the Law of God. This is very telling, because it speaks of the deadness of their volition or will. According to the Apostle, the unregenerate man has no ability to submit to God outside of the grace of God. Fourth, ultimately the lost person “cannot please God.” But Paul goes on to say, “however,” believers are not in the flesh but in the Spirit (v. 9), and as a result have the power of the Holy Spirit which enables them to do exactly opposite of the world. Not only do believers have a desire, but they also have a power to obey the Word of God. They have faith which enables them to “please God” (Heb 11:6).

Very Different Destinies
Lastly, and tragically, these two kinds of people have two very different destinies. The person in the flesh is promised spiritual “death” while the person in the “Spirit” is promised eternal “life and peace” (v. 6). While this may not be politically correct in our day, the truth of God’s Word is clear. Those without Christ will go to everlasting death in hell, which is a real place. It is a place of torment and a place of no return (Luke 16:23-31). Hell is a place of unquenchable fire where the worm never dies (Mark 9:43-48). Hell is a place of internal anguish seen by the gnashing of teeth (Matt 13:43). It is also a place of eternal darkness and eternal punishment (Matt 25:30-46). However, those who are no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit, redeemed by the grace of God, will go to eternal life and everlasting peace with God. These are the promises of Scripture (Jn 3:16).

Which Kind of Person Are You?
After reading this particular text of Scripture, the obvious question should be, “Which kind of person am I?” The answer to that question should be obvious. Ask yourself what you have “set your mind” on in this world. Ask yourself if you have a desire for the things of God. Secondly, ask yourself what your attitude is toward God and His Word. Particularly ask yourself what you think of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. Do you love God’s Word, and while you may not obey it completely are you striving to obey it by faith in Christ? The answer to these questions will determine your destiny, either hell or heaven. These are not trifling matters, but the most important questions of life. Please take stock of your life (2 Cor 13:5). There are only two types of people in the world! Every one of us is one or the other!


Tetelestai – “It Is Finished!”

Tetelestai is the last word that Jesus spoke while He was on the cross, right before He “gave up His spirit” and died (John 19:30). It is one of the most important words that Jesus ever spoke, because it explains to us the mission of Jesus in the world and the purpose of the cross.

Literally the word tetelestai means “it is finished.” The verb teleo means “to bring to an end, or to complete, or to finish.” This word appears only two times in the New Testament (John 19:28, 30). In John 19:28, John implies that all of the prophecies about Jesus were fulfilled or completed. In John 19:30, Jesus uses the term to describe the completed work that Jesus accomplished with His life and death. It is interesting that in New Testament times, the word tetelstai was often associated with the canceling of business debts. The word would often be written on documents or receipts indicating that a bill had been paid in full, or that a debt had been canceled.

It is also interesting to note the verb tense that Jesus uses. In Greek, Jesus used the perfect tense. This is significant because this tense implies an action which has been completed in the past with result continuing into the present. Unlike the past tense which only looks back to an event and says, “it happened,” the perfect tense adds the idea that “it happened and it is still in effect today.”

So what is finished?
Jesus was very clear that He came into the world to do the “work of His Father.” He said in John 6:38 – “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” So, what was the work that is now finished on the cross? Consider what has been completed on the cross:

  • The work of redemption that the Father had given to Jesus was accomplished.
  • Every prophecy of God had been fulfilled. (John 19:28)
  • Sin has been completely atoned. (1 Jn 3:5, 4:10)
  • Satan has been defeated & rendered powerless. (1 Jn 3:8)
  • Every requirement of God’s righteous Law had been satisfied. (2 Cor 5:21)
  • God’s holy wrath against sin had been appeased or propitiated. (1 Jn 2:2, Rom 3:25)

Payment to Whom?
There was a theory presented in the early Church by a Church father named Origen, who suggested that the payment that Christ made was to Satan in satisfaction for the bondage and debt on the souls of humanity as a result of inherited sin. This theory is known as the Ransom to Satan theory. In other words, Christ paid Satan so that Satan would release sinners from the bondage of sin and Satan’s kingdom. The problem with this view is that the Bible never speaks of sinners as owing Satan anything. Satan is nothing but a created being, who deserves nothing. Second, the Bible is clear that sinners have a huge debt that they owe to God who is holy. The death of Christ should be understood only as a means to satisfy the demands of God’s justice. A ransom was definitely paid, but it was paid to God alone (Mark 10:45).

What does this mean for us?
1. It means that sinners can have ALL of their sin debt paid in full! The work of Christ on the cross is sufficient to cancel every sin regardless of how little or how great the sin debt. The incredible payment of Jesus is sufficient to forgive the worst of sinners.

2. It means that forgiveness is a GIFT and that works play no part in our salvation. It is an affront to God for sinners to think that they can contribute to their salvation through their works. The atonement of Christ is not a cooperation between man and God. It is the sole transaction of God providing what is needed for unable and weak sinners (Eph 2:8-9).

3. It means that sinners can rest in the accomplished work of Christ. We must change our mindset about living holy lives. Living holy lives is very important. But our holy lives do not contribute to our salvation. Once our debt has been fully paid, through faith in Jesus Christ, the transaction has been completed and we have been fully justified. Holy living becomes the result of our forgiveness not the source. Certainly, if there is no holiness in our lives, our conversion should be questioned. But our salvation is solely on the work of Christ, so that no one can boast about anything except in the cross. We must no longer view God as some mean Father who continues to punish us when we sin. In Christ all of our sins have been fully paid in the cross of Christ. Therefore, we have the love of God lavished on us and we are truly “sons.”

4. It means that we must tell others about the good news. Since the work of Christ is complete, there is no other way to be saved. We have the good news and must share it with others that they too can have all of their sin debt “paid in full.”


Inviting Others to Church

On the first Sunday of January, we handed out invitation cards (five cards each person to be exact) for the congregation to use to invite others to Ebenezer. If you didn’t get your packet, please pick up some at the Welcome Center and join us in our mission. We continually stress the importance of thinking with eternity in mind. Simply inviting someone to church is one way to begin that process. If the truth were known, most of us have never invited anyone to come to church. And, to be honest, it is one of the easiest ways to be involved in the Great Commission. We don’t have to go overseas to do the Lord’s work. There are people in our own backyard who have never heard the Gospel or have heard a false Gospel and need to be saved. Consider why, who, and how to invite someone to Church.

Why should we invite anyone to Church?

To act like Jesus: Remember it was Jesus who invited you to come to Him (Matt 11:28-30). His invitation was probably through the voice of another human who reached out to you. Someone else was faithful to act like Jesus and invited you to church or shared the Gospel with you. Jesus came to “seek and save” the lost (Luke 19:10) and we must also seek out those who are lost. We do that when we invite them to church.

To obey Jesus: It was Jesus who gave us the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20). We are to go into all the world, but often times we fail to go to our own neighbor. Inviting others to church is one way we can fulfill our responsibility to obey Jesus and introduce Him to a lost world.

To truly love others: If we love people genuinely, then we must be concerned for more than their physical welfare. Philanthropy, benevolence, and goodwill are wonderful, but if we truly love people we will be concerned for their souls. Since the Church is the “pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15), by inviting others to church they will hear the truth. Ebenezer is very concerned with being faithful to Scripture. When newcomers attend our services, they will definitely hear that they are a sinner and that Jesus Christ saves. Introducing them to this Gospel message is the most loving thing you can do for any lost person.

To act out your faith: James says bluntly that “faith without works is dead.” He goes on to say “But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:14-18). When we invite others to church we are agreeing that faith in Christ is the most important part of life. We are actually putting feet to what we believe. If we never share the Gospel and never are concerned about inviting others to church we may have a real heart issue. Our own faith may be “dead.”

To see the greater purpose: When we invite others to church, somehow the Lord does a work in our heart and shows us that all of this isn’t just for me! We are often so egocentric that we forget that “church” has a much greater purpose. The Church is the bride of Christ saved by His blood (Acts 20:28). When the Church gathers, we gather to worship in truth and spirit. We gather to be equipped by the Word of God, and we leave to go into the world to share the “Good News.” When we fail to invite others on a regular basis, it is possible to lose sight of what church is all about. When we are engaged, we begin to see the greater purpose.

Who do I invite to Church?

In a word, EVERYONE! Sometimes we don’t think this way, but everyone will be blessed by being in church. This means that there is no one exempt.

We should start in our inner circle with our self and family. We should make a commitment to be in church on regular basis for ourselves. Then we should think about our family & relatives who need Christ. Next, we should be concerned about our closest friends. Then we should consider those who we see on a regular basis in our neighborhood or work. Finally, we should consider inviting simple acquaintances and, yes, even total strangers. We must be prepared to ask everyone we come into contact with to come to church with us. Make it a point to start to think differently. Strategically think through how you can invite others and be prepared on a weekly basis.

How do I invite someone to Church?

Most unchurched people will not understand why you are inviting them to come to church, and this is okay. We shouldn’t expect them, in their lost state, to have any desire at all to come to church. Furthermore, unchurched people may have attended church in the past and had a horrible experience (in their opinion, whether right or wrong). As we invite others to come to Ebenezer, we should be prayerfully sensitive to them, but we should not be afraid to diligently persist and ask others to come to church. It doesn’t have to be difficult to invite someone to come to church with you, even a total stranger. Here are a few things to consider when asking someone to come to Church:

Be in control of the conversation. This doesn’t mean to be domineering, but to speak with a mission. Ask the Lord to help you find a way to interject something into the conversation that will allow you to bring up spiritual things or church attendance. Then simply ask, “Hey, do you attend a local church?” If they respond yes, ask questions to confirm it. If you discover that it is not a sound church, invite them to your doctrinally sound church. If they are clearly a Christian and go to a sound, biblical church, give praise to God.

Always speak with gentleness & kindness. If they show no interest, do not “sting” them in return.

God may still be working on them for the future. You want to make sure that while you are truthful, you are still sensitive that this whole “church” thing is the Lord’s work. And you certainly don’t want to do damage to the Lord’s work.

Being bad-tempered only brings dishonor to the Lord. Be like a bee who goes from one flower to the next looking for nectar. If the bee doesn’t find nectar he simply moves on the next flower. The bee doesn’t sting the flower where he finds no nectar. Remember that it is very possible that your invitation will be rejected. This should not discourage you. Jesus was greatly rejected and despised (Jn 1:11, Is 53:3).

Give them an Ebenezer invite card. Even if they don’t want the card, most people will take what you give them. The card has all our service times and information. They may throw the card away, but they may also keep it and check out the church. The Lord may use the information you give them down the road.

Be ready to defend & answer hard questions. The Apostle Peter reminds us, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet 3:15). It is possible that you will receive opposition and hard questions. The first thing to do is immediately pray for help (in your mind, like Nehemiah in Neh 4:2), then proceed to answer their questions to the best of your ability. If you are not equipped to answer their questions, point them to the website that is listed on the back side of the Ebenezer invitation card. has put together a wonderful video-based website designed to answer many hard questions that unbelievers ask Christians. If they continue in opposition, simply find a way out of the conversation and pray for them as you depart (Matt 5:44).

What do we do if they say yes?

I think we should be expecting that people will say yes to our invitation to come to church. Hopefully, before you ask, you are praying that God would prepare the person’s hearts to respond positively. And when they say yes, we should not act surprised, but be ready to befriend them as they are introduced to a group of people to whom they are totally new. You can imagine how fearful it might be for someone to come into a large group of people whom they do not know, doing strange things that they do not understand. So how do we respond?

  • Tell them that they can sit with you and that you will be looking for them. You may even offer to pick them up to make it easy.
  • Tell them what to expect; we will be singing, giving, praying and listening to a sermon & taking notes.
  • Be sensitive to them as they may have some very deep hurts that need healing.
  • Introduce them to others in the church so that they can see the warmth of the body of Christ.
  • Follow up with them afterward, helping them process what they experienced and possibly asking them questions about salvation. Don’t be afraid to probe with deep questions. If they are unchurched, they have probably never had someone be lovingly concerned about their spiritual welfare. It is not loving to ignore the fact that they may be on their way to hell!
  • Pray for them diligently – that the Holy Spirit would do His saving work in their heart.

Embrace the Mission

There is no reason why everyone of us, young people included, should not be actively inviting others to attend our worship service at Ebenezer. Wouldn’t it be exciting to see new faces and new people coming into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? Consider the joy that it would bring your own heart to know that the Lord used you to bring someone into the Kingdom of God, or to help another believer grow deeper in their walk with Jesus. Four times this year (once per quarter) we will be handing out packets of invitation cards. Please do not get disgruntled when they are handed out, but, rather, embrace our mission!


Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today?

One of the blessings of being added to the Church and being baptized into Christ (1 Cor 12:13) is that every believer is given a spiritual gift (1 Cor 12:7). These gifts are sovereignly distributed to every believer to be used for the advancement of Kingdom work, and the edification of the Church for the “common good” (1 Cor 12:7, 14-26). Every believer has been given a gift and is valuable to the entire body of Christ.

The list of spiritual gifts can be discovered in four main passages: 1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 28-31, Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 4:11, and 1 Peter 4:10-11. Depending on how the gifts are categorized, there are approximately 20 gifts, excluding the gift of marriage and the gift of celibacy found in 1 Corinthians 7:7. While Peter seems to categorize his list of gifts into “speaking” and “non-speaking” gifts, theologians have also classified the gifts into permanent and temporary gifts. In most cases the majority of the gifts seem to be actively used in the current Church age. However, upon closer examination, some of the gifts are certainly not intended to be active today. Typically, the gifts under question are the following: The gift of apostleship, the gift of miracles, the gift of healing, the gift of tongues, and the gift of interpretation of tongues. Sometimes the gift of prophecy and discernment of spirits is also added to the list depending on how they are understood.

A cessationist is someone who “believes that certain miraculous spiritual gifts ceased when the Apostles died and Scripture was complete” (Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudum, pg 1237). To be clear, cessationists don’t believe that God no longer does anything miraculous or that the Spirit cannot give a miraculous ability today. What is called into question is whether or not the actual gifts are given to individuals today as a normative pattern. Cessationists believe the Holy Spirit no longer sovereignly gives individual believers the miraculous spiritual gifts that were present in the first century. Since the Apostles died, the miraculous gifts also passed away or “ceased” as being normative for the current Church age. Following are a few of the main arguments for cessationism:

1. The qualifications of Apostleship demand that the office is no longer in operation. The office of Apostle was a very unique office that could only be occupied by men who qualified. The qualifications of an Apostle were three-fold. First, to be an Apostle a man had to be an eye witness of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:22). Second, the man had to be personally appointed by Christ Himself (Acts 1:2, 24). Third, Apostles were given the ability to perform miracles (Matthew 10:1-2, 2 Cor 12:12). It is clear that there are no Apostles today. We should be concerned if someone claims to be an Apostle today, and should guard against false teaching and the abuse of authority.

2. Miracles have always been unique and were used to authenticate authority and introduce new eras of revelation. Thousands of years of history have proven that the gift of miracles was not common. Biblical history reveals only a few periods in which certain prophets were given the gift of miracles. Moses (and Joshua) was given the ability to do miracles in order to authenticate him before Pharaoh and the people of God (Exodus 4-17). The prophets Elijah (1 Kings 17-21) and Elisha (2 Kings 2-13) were also given the ability to do incredible miracles. While other miracles were performed sporadically (Jonah, Isaiah, Daniel), the only other major period where miracles were largely accomplished was the time of Jesus and the Apostles. It is clear that the miracles of Jesus were not simply for evangelistic reasons but to prove that Jesus was indeed God’s final and ultimate messenger (John 5:36, 6:14, 7:31, 10:24-26, 37-38). In the same way, the miracles of the Apostles authenticated them as genuine (2 Cor 12:12, Hebrews 2:4) and gave them the authority to speak on behalf of God and write Scripture. Not only did these miracles authenticate, but also were an indication of the introduction to new revelation from God by these men. Whenever God wanted to pour out His Word, He authenticated His chosen vessels through extraordinary miracles. There is certainly a major disparity between the amazing biblical miracles compared to the claims of the modern age. While God still does miracles today, it appears that the gift of performing true miracles has ceased. There is no need for further authentication of God’s men because there is no new revelation, and Jesus Himself was last messenger and final Word from God.

3. Since the foundation of the Church was laid by the Apostles and Prophets of the New Testament, no further revelation is needed. It is clear that the Apostles and the Prophets in the age of the New Covenant were given by God to the Church for the purpose of laying the foundation of the Church (Eph 2:20). By nature, when a foundation is laid no further foundation is necessary. The foundation that was laid by the Apostles and prophets was certainly the revelation that God gave to them. The foundation was the teaching of Jesus revealed to them that they passed onto the Church through the writings of the New Testament. Since that foundation is laid and Scripture is complete, no further revelation (prophecy) and no further authentication is necessary. By default, the “sign” gifts which were given to the Apostles also passed away with them. Their work was completed and their role was done.

4. Since the Scripture is complete there is no further need for “sign” gifts. This is the logical conclusion of the above arguments. God has always authenticated his chosen men through “signs” and miracles and wonders. But since the Bible is complete and sufficient there is no need for these signs. The gift of tongues was a gift of proclamation, particularly of the Gospel (Acts 2:1-11) articulated in a known tongue or language. God miraculously gave the gift of tongues in order for His good news to be proclaimed so that the nations could hear about the saving work of Christ. But once the Scripture was complete having a full written record of the Gospel, there was no need for the gift of tongues. It shouldn’t be surprising that the gift of tongues is not mentioned in any of the later epistles (every letter of Paul after 1 Corinthians) and is surprisingly missing in all of the pastoral epistles which were written as an instruction manual for “how to do church” (1 Timothy 3:15).

If you are interested, Tom Schreiner, a professor of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes a great article for the Gospel Coalition, “Why I am a Cessationist.” Tim Challies also summarizes Tom Pennington’s 2 part sermons at the Strange Fire Conference, “Strange Fire Conference: A Case for Cessationism.” You can also listen to Tom Pennington’s sermons here. All of these are good resources. If you would like to hear the opposing view, Sam Storms offers his article for the Gospel Coalition called, “Why I am a Continuationist.”


A Healthy Church: Responsibilities of Shepherds & the Sheep

A young woman came into my office several years ago and conveyed to me that she had never been a part of a healthy church. Her father was a pastor and was mistreated and disrespected. She saw “church people” act very self-centered. She had come to the place where she never wanted to go to church again. She had never experienced strong biblical loving leadership and a congregation that honored and respected their pastors. Unhealthy churches can not only be stressful and unpleasant, but worst of all they dishonor the Lord and give a bad witness to the world. The Apostle Paul closes his letter to the Thessalonians and gives them instructions on how to cultivate a healthy church. His first and primary concern was to describe the expectations and responsibilities of how a pastor is to relate to the congregation and how the congregation is to relate to the pastors. Paul writes:

“We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)

The Shepherd’s Responsibility
The Shepherd Pastor is called by God to care for the sheep of the congregation. He has three responsibilities in his calling. He is responsible to 1) labor, 2) oversee, and 3) admonish the congregation.

Labor: The pastors and elder leaders of the church are called to labor diligently. The word here for labor describes great effort and exertion to the point of sweat and exhaustion. Contrary to what some jokingly say, the pastor must work more than “one day a week.” He is responsible for preaching, teaching, caring, admonishing, counseling and so much more. The pastor has a high calling to diligently minister in the church and work hard (acts 20:18-20). Every pastor must have a servant’s heart ready to pour out his life night and day for the sake of the Gospel (1 Thess 2:9).

Oversee: The pastors and elders also have the responsibility to oversee the congregation and the ministry. Paul says they are “over you in the Lord.” The New American Standard translates that phrase “have charge over.” According to God’s design, the pastor has authority in the church to preside, lead or direct the ministries in the way he sees will best accomplish the mission of the church. This does not mean he can do whatever he wants or fulfill his every preference. But the pastors and elders stand in the place of the Good Shepherd and must act as faithful representatives. This is what it means to be over others “in the Lord.” The authority of the pastor is not self-proclaimed. He only has the authority to lead as the Word of God directs.

Admonish: Shepherds are also called to admonish, or give instruction, to the congregation. This instruction is given for the purpose of correcting, and sometimes warning people (Tit 1:9). It is not popular today, but the pastor must speak directly and frankly with those in his congregation. Since he loves his congregation, he should admonish them to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. He must speak “thus sayeth the Lord” and if he is a good shepherd will always point his congregation back to the Word of God exhorting them not to obey him, but rather to obey the Lord.

The Sheep’s Responsibility
The sheep, or congregation, also have responsibilities in the church designed by God. They are called by God to relate to their pastors and elders in a particular manner that would bring honor to the Lord. They have three responsibilities toward their leaders: 1) respect their leaders, 2) esteem their leaders, and 3) submit to and be at peace with their leaders.

Respect: The congregation is called to understand clearly what God expects of their pastors and as a result they are to respect them. This means that they are to appreciate that God has given them a real human shepherd to watch over and care for their souls (Heb 13:17). Respect should extend to attitudes and words spoken. It is common for people to be unkind, critical, or indifferent toward their pastors. This is not honoring to the Lord.

Esteem: The sheep are also to “esteem them highly in love because of their work.” The congregation must have a loving attitude toward all their pastors. They must keep in mind what work they have been called to do. This might mean overlooking some of your pastors’ shortcomings (not sins). Pastors are not perfect and are also on the journey of sanctification, just like the congregation.

Submit & Be at Peace: The third responsibility of the congregation is to submit to and be at peace with church leaders. Since the pastors are “overseers” and have authority, the congregation must be willing to submit and be peaceable. Being peaceable with your leaders means that the congregation is quick to eliminate conflict, strife, and discord and promote harmony so that the church can be effective in fulfilling its mission.

Promoting a Healthy Church
We all desire to have a healthy church. An unhealthy church is a black eye to the glory of the Lord and brings shame on the Gospel. We can be sure that Satan desires more than anything to destroy the Church. He will attempt to put animosity between church leaders and the congregation. The responsibilities that God has given both to pastors and the congregation are difficult. Without the power of the Holy Spirit and much prayer, it would be impossible to accomplish our Lord’s directives. We must all be aware of what the Lord expects of each of us and encourage one another for the Lord’s sake. Let us pray that God would continue to keep our church healthy and strong. I’m thankful for such a wonderful congregation here at Ebenezer Bible Fellowship Church who continually “highly esteems” their pastors and elders. Please pray for us as pastors and elders that we will be faithful to our calling. We will pray for you as well.

An Illustration of Salvation: Lazarus Come Forth!

While Jesus raised two other dead people (Mark 5:35-43, Luke 7:11-17), the raising of Lazarus is certainly one of the greatest miracles recorded for us in Scripture. The man whom Jesus loved died in order that the glory of God may be revealed pointing to the deity of Christ (John 11:4). With just His voice, Jesus created life in a man who had been dead for four days! This seventh “sign” in the book of John is meant to compel everyone to believe in Him.

An Analogy of Salvation
But the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead also serves as a precise picture of salvation. Salvation is the sole work of God whereby He grants life to those who are dead in their sins. Unable to help themselves, sinners have no ability to grant themselves life. Instead, life is granted by the mercy of God. Salvation comes to those who are dead, when the powerful voice of Jesus calls them and they hear His voice (Jn 10:27-28) and Jesus grants them eternal life. Jesus alone has the ability to grant life. He alone is the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25).

A Real Dead Man
It was very important for Lazarus to truly be dead. Jesus actually stayed two additional days where He was ministering so that there would be no doubt that Lazarus was truly dead (Jn 11:6). When the tomb was opened, Martha declared that surely there would have been a very strong odor, because Lazarus had been dead for four days.

In the same way, sinners are spiritually dead in their sins and trespasses (Eph 2:1). This has significant theological importance. Every sinner is born spiritually dead with no ability or power to make any significant contribution to their salvation. Just like Lazarus we could not see since we were blind (2 Cor 4:4), we could not understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14), we had no volition to do anything toward God (Romans 8:7). Sin had left us all totally depraved so that none of us sought after God or had any merit before God (Rom 3:10-18).

An Effectual Calling
Lazarus, being dead, was only revived when the powerful voice of Jesus called him out of the grave. This is certainly a beautiful illustration of what happens when sinners are saved. Salvation begins in eternity past in the sovereign election of God (Eph 1:4). But in time, salvation begins with a calling! This is a very technical term which describes the voice of God calling His sheep specifically (1 Cor 1:2, 9, 24, 26). This call comes through the preaching of the Word of God. When the Gospel is shared, those who are the sheep of Christ inevitably hear the voice of God. Jesus said clearly, “All that the Father gives me will come to me….Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me” (Jn 6:37, 45). This calling is an effectual calling. This means that those whom the Father calls will inevitably come to Christ. The powerful voice of Jesus does not fall on deaf ears! It was not possible for Lazarus to remain in the grave. When Jesus called Lazarus by name, he was made alive and walked out of the grave. A question that we might consider is, “Was it possible for Lazarus to remain in the grave?” And the answer to that question is an emphatic “No!” The reason is that the purpose and plan of Jesus cannot be thwarted. All who are His sheep “hear” His voice and come and follow Him!

Made Alive
Those who are called are also immediately awakened from the dead and “made alive” (Ephesians 2:5). Life was granted to Lazarus immediately. The power of Jesus recreated everything that Lazarus needed immediately: new blood, new muscles, new organs, a new brain and so much more. The same is true spiritually of those who are saved. When sinners are “born again” they are granted new hearts, opened eyes, a freed will, and an understanding mind. In a word, all new believers are “new creations” (2 Cor 5:17).

Promise of Future Resurrection
The resurrection of Lazarus was a foreshadowing of a future permanent resurrection. While Lazarus was not completely made perfect, the promise of Jesus is that all who have believed in Him will be made perfect in the future. We call this glorification. Not only Lazarus, but all who believe in Christ will be given perfect bodies, bodies that are powerful, perfect and everlasting. The Apostle Paul summarized this whole salvation process when he stated, “Those whom He predestined, He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

Our Response
Just like Lazarus, every true believer was dead in the grave of sin and Jesus called them out by His mercy. Immediately Jesus told those around watching to unbind Lazarus from his grave clothes and let him go. Lazarus needed initial help to unbind himself from the clothes that bound him in death. But once he was set free, Lazarus was to live again for the glory of God. While not stated it is certain that Lazarus gave praise to God since He had no room for boasting (Eph 2:9). The only response we have to our salvation is praise to our sovereign savior who grants life. But also, just like Lazarus, we are to throw off our grave clothes and “live to the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:6, 12), since we are “God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph 2:10).

The story of the raising of Lazarus is also our story of salvation. Those who are true believers were dead, heard the voice of Jesus, were raised to life, and now strive to walk in a manner pleasing to the Lord.

PHOTO: The Good Shepherd Catacomb of Saints Peter and Marcellinus, Rome, showing Jesus raising Lazarus from his tomb.



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.