What if? (Part 2)

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, 2 if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 

–1 Corinthians 15:1-19

In this series, we are considering the evidence that supports the Christian faith. Last week, we considered the testimonies of those in history whose lives have been changed by the gospel. Can you add your name to this list? The greatest evidence of the truthfulness of Christianity is your own personal testimony of a changed life.

A friend challenged me on one of the points in the devotional last week. By the way, I welcome this. For one thing, it encourages me to know that someone is really reading these devotionals and paying close attention to the points made. His challenge concerned the use of circular reasoning. In the devotion, I stated that one of the reasons we can trust what the Bible states is because the Bible declares its trustworthiness. I quoted Hebrews 11:1 and 1 John 5:13. Dr. J.L. Williams, a good friend of mine and a biblical scholar, who went to be the Lord six years ago addresses the issue of circular reasoning:

Often when we Christians begin to present our case for our belief in the Bible we are quickly accused of “circular reasoning.” This criticism goes something like this: ‘You say the Bible is inspired because Jesus said so—and then you say that Jesus is divine because the Bible says so. You are reasoning in a circle.’ Now I’ll readily admit that some Christians do engage in circular reasoning. However, it is not because that is the only way to present and defend our case—but, rather because of a lack of study and preparation on their part. A true defense of the Bible is not circular, but rather, linear. The linear defense is illustrated as follows:

Historical Documents      —–>   Faith in Christ       —–>     Doctrine of Scripture
(1st C. eyewitness                    (Faith in the facts)                  (Derived from trusted
accounts)                                                                                authority)

Do you see the difference? The two methods of argument are worlds apart! In the first one, the Bible is used to prove the Bible. In the second, we approach the Bible with no basic presuppositions and study it with the objectivity we would have for any other secular historical documents. As we study those documents and realize that all were written by people who actually witnessed the events they wrote about or totally verified by people who did, then the accuracy of these accounts drive us to the conclusions that this One they are writing about—Jesus Christ—was and is who He claimed to be.

At that point, we are confronted with a moral choice: belief or unbelief…accept the evidence or reject it. The intelligent moral decision is to make a commitment of faith in Christ! Then, believing in Him, we begin to formulate our doctrine of Scripture from Him, because it is folly or presumptive arrogance for a believer to hold a view of Scripture lower than that of his Lord! You see, the argument does not run blind faith—blind faith—blind faith. But rather, fact—faith—formulation!

I approach the facts first…study them with historic and moral objectivity…then draw my conclusions…and make my moral choice!

When people continue in their disbelief in the face of the overwhelming evidence it is always on moral and not intellectual grounds! Then it is a clear case of “I don’t want to believe because I don’t want to change my prejudices and lifestyle”—rather than “I can’t believe because of insufficient evidence.”

The Scriptures are reliable. This becomes evident when one does an in-depth study of the plethora of ancient manuscripts. I strongly encourage the readers of this devotion to read books about the reliability of the Bible. One such book written by Paul Barnett is entitled, Is the New Testament Reliable? And there are many others.

Another evidence that supports our Christian faith is the testimony of Scripture.  In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul writes, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” Twice Paul writes, ‘according to the Scriptures.’ He is referring to the Old Testament, and he is simply pointing out that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection were prophesied.

In Psalm 16:10, David said, “Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.”
In Acts 2:24-32, Peter quoted from this passage in Psalms and then commented that David, the author of this Psalm, “seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.”

Additionally, we have the testimony of eyewitnesses. Paul writes in verses 5-8, “And that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

All throughout history, the testimonies of reliable eyewitnesses have been used in courts of law to establish truth. It has been said that the resurrection is the best attested fact in history. Sir Edward Clarke, the renowned lawyer from England and an expert on evidence, offered the following perspective: “As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To me, the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling … The Gospel evidence for the resurrection … I accept unreservedly as the testimony of truthful people to facts they were able to substantiate.”

We have the testimony 1. of changed lives, 2. of Scripture and 3. of eyewitness accounts. My question for you is this: Do you really believe? John 20:30-31 states, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Next week, we will consider two other evidences that support the Christian faith. Stay tuned.