Lies Christians Believe (Part 7): Blind Faith (Part 2)

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  August 28, 2011
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I want to just mention to you something that I'm working on. It has nothing to do with my message this morning. I just want you to be aware of it. Some of you are aware of the sort of turmoil that's been created on the internet through a movie that's been released, a Christian movie called Divided that's arguing for what is called family integrated churches. There are some valid points that are made in terms of many in the church in America at large have neglected the importance of children being a part of the worship, etc. But I think they've gone too far. I think they have obscured some important truths that are in Scripture, and I'm working on a Biblical response to some of that movement.

So, hopefully within the next couple weeks I'll make that available. Maybe we'll send it you to via e-mail or link or something. But I just wanted you to be aware of it. If you hear about that or you hear the turmoil, listen understand it is the latest in a long line of solutions that are going to save the Christian family. Just don't be gullible, don't buy into everything you read or hear presented in drama form. There are some good things, and there are also some troubling things that are part of that. So, I'll let you know about that in the future.

Today, we will complete our study, Lord willing, of "Lies Christians Believe." We've been studying it this summer, and I come to the end of it, I must admit to you with a certain degree of hesitation because there are so many other lies in the culture that Christians are tempted to believe. In fact, I was looking this week in my office. I have a list that I made up when I started and have kind of added to along the way, even with suggestions from some of you, and there a number of them I considered addressing.

For example, these aren't all of them, but here are a few other of the lies I considered addressing. Here's a lie, "new is better than old, and change is always progress." Scripture teaches that new and change are not always progress. In fact, they are often regress.

Another lie, "man is basically good, and all of his problems are primarily external." Scripture teaches man is bad to the bone, and his problems are exclusively out of his own heart.

Another lie, "entertainment is strictly amusement." You know what the word amusement means? "Muse" is "to think." "Awe" is the "alpha primitive that negates it." It is the "lack of thinking." Entertainment is just a "lack of thinking, it's just fun." That's the lie. Scripture says everything without exception that comes out of fallen man's mind including the entertainment he produces; music, movies, television, video games etc. is laced with sinful ideas that ultimately Satan himself is preaching as part of the system that he's created.

But another lie, "I am autonomous." I am self-law that's what that means autonomous, and no one has a right to tell me what to do. Scripture teaches that all human authority is established by God and has every right to tell us what to do as long as it doesn't conflict with God's revealed Word.

A fifth lie that I thought about covering is, "live for today because death is the end." Scripture says, as Christians, we were made for eternity. You understand this life if you think of life like a book. This life is the preface to the book. Heaven is like the foreword of the book. The real story of our lives is not heaven. We were made for eternity. Ultimately, we will land back on a new earth where we will live forever. According to Revelation 21 and 22. An earth in which righteousness is at home.

So, don't ever think that you can get enough of life in this life. Don't ever think you can reach complete fulfillment and satisfaction in this life. Don't live like this is all there is. Folks, this is the preface. You weren't made for this life. If you are in Christ, you were made for eternity. You were made for life in a new heaven, and on a new earth. Live for eternity. Don't live like the pagans around you.

In Romans 12:2 where we began our study a number of weeks ago now, Paul says do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Instead of allowing our minds, Paul says, to be shaped and molded by the mindset of the age. We are to be transformed. We are to allow the Spirit of God to produce a radical change in our character, and He accomplishes that change by renewing our minds through the Word of God.

So then, over these weeks this summer, we have been identifying and understanding and trying to avoid the dangerous ideas that dominate the culture around us and easily could reshape our own thinking. And then, we're examining the Scripture so that our minds can be renewed by the truth of God rather than enslaved by the lies.

So far, we've completed our examination of five dangerous ideas. Let me just recap for you. Truth is relative. Lie number two, "there are no moral absolutes, life is random." The goal of life is my personal happiness. Possessions will make me happy.

And two weeks ago we began to look at a sixth and final dangerous lie, and it's this: "Science Is Fact, Christianity Is Blind Faith." Science is fact, Christianity is blind faith. Now I separated this lie into parts because there really are two separate but related assertions. The first part of this lie asserts that all the postulates of modern science are empirically proven, universally accepted, and are certifiable objective reality. It's science. We looked at this first half of the lie last time in great detail, and I won't go back now to look at it.

The second assertion this lie makes is in the second half of the statement there, Christianity is Blind Faith. In other words, the faith required in Christianity, in contradiction to science is an irrational leap of faith. It is either without evidence, or is in contradiction to the evidence. In other words, the Christian faith is irrational and unsupported. You understand that this perception of the Christian faith is pervasive? This is how the unbelievers around you think about you and your faith.

The respective dictionary of philosophy among other possible definitions of faith gives these too. Faith is, "the belief in something despite the evidence against it or belief in something even though there is an absence of evidence for it." Folks, if that's what the Christian faith were, it would be irrational. As Greg Bahnsen writes in his excellent book, Always Ready, if that definition of faith is true then "faith becomes a buzzword for putting your intellect out of gear, suspending a cautious and critical attitude, and making a personal commitment without sound evidence. That's what it would be. That's what the lie says, it is. Now some of those who accuse Christianity of being irrational when they speak of it, that way they mean different things. Some, who accuse the Christian faith irrationality, mean that some of the specific teachings of the Bible are irrational.

For example, a virgin birth? How can a virgin give birth to a child? Or they'll think of things like the incarnation - how can Christ be fully God and at the same time fully man? Or they'll say it's irrational to say that God is one substance in three persons. Others, when they speak of the irrationality of the Christian faith, mean that the Christian faith lacks empirical evidence for these audacious historical claims it makes. For example, where's the evidence for Jesus walking on water? Really? … or rising from the dead? They'll say that's just without evidence.

A third group, when they speak of the irrationality of Christianity, mean that the entirety of the Christian faith is a sort of intentional flight from all knowledge. This is how Frederick Nietzsche, German philosopher described it, he says "faith means not wanting to know what is true." That's faith, you just don't want to know, and so I believe. So, there's the lie. "Science Is Fact. Christianity Is Blind Faith."

Last time we went through a definition of that. We looked at the philosophical background as well as some of the tragic consequences in the church which we're not to do again today. In addition, last time we looked at the Biblical response to the first half of this lie, "Science Is Fact." If you weren't here, I encourage you to go back and sort of catch up with us this week online.

But today, I want us to look at the biblical teaching or how the Bible responds to the second half of this lie. The lie that Christianity is "Blind Faith." Because in response to the wrongheaded idea that there is absolutely no evidence of the Christian faith, the Bible makes several direct rebuttals, and again when we look at the biblical teaching in response to this lie, I have reduced it to three propositions. Let's look at them together. What does the Bible say in response to the idea of the lie that Christianity is blind faith? There's absolutely no evidence, in fact, even contrary to the evidence.

Proposition number one, and this is foundational, the New Testament is a historically reliable record of the life, death, resurrection, and teaching of Jesus Christ. The New Testament, and this is the key, is a historically reliable record of the life, death, ministry, and teaching of Jesus Christ.

Now there are two kinds of evidence for that statement there is external evidence, and there's internal evidence. Let's look first at the external evidence. There is evidence outside of the Bible to support this claim that the New Testament is historically reliable in its accounting of the life of Christ. Now it's not my purpose today to develop this sort of external evidence, but let me just say this is important for you to understand. Because, if your faith has in anyway been undermined by all those supposed experts and scholars who are interviewed on those quasi religious television programs around the holidays in which they get on television, and say there's absolutely no evidence outside of the Bible for the Jesus most Christians believe. If you've been hurt by that, let me encourage you to buy and read a book: Gary Havermoss' book, Gary Havermoss, The Historical Jesus, ancient evidence for the life of Jesus Christ. And Gary Havermoss, The Historical Jesus, ancient evidence for the life of Christ. I'm not going to go through all of his evidence today, but let me give you one. This is fascinating to me.

Do you know who was Caesar at the time of the life of Jesus Christ? His name was Tiberius, Tiberius Caesar. When you look at Tiberius Caesar, there were there are nine ancient non-Christian sources that affirmed the historicity of Tiberius Caesar, nine of them. Nine secular, non-Christian sources affirm some of the details of the existence of Tiberius Caesar, the Caesar during Jesus' time that wrote within a 150 years of his life. Nine of them.

Exactly the same number nine ancient secular non-Christian sources within a 150 years of his life affirmed the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth. Those sources affirm certain facts about His life, about His claims, about His ministry, about His death and in a couple of cases even the reports of His resurrection, although they don't believe it.

For example, the Babylonian Talmud, Jewish document, Mishnah written around 200 A.D., Josephus, the Jewish historian writing to the Romans who lived and wrote from 37 A.D. to the turn of the first century. There are a number of Roman sources like the Roman historian Tacitus who lived and wrote from 55 to 120 A.D. and Pliney the Younger who wrote in about 112 A.D. Those are a sampling of the nine secular non-Christian sources who document the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth and many of the details of his life.

Another example of external evidence that proves the reliability of the New Testament records has to do with the manuscripts that we have of the New Testament. The Bibles you hold in your hand were produced from comparing many, many manuscripts. Let me make a point of comparison for you. Did you know that there are more than 5000 manuscripts of the New Testament documents? But when you look at the Greek and Roman writers you study in high school and college, instead of 5000 documents and manuscripts documenting what was said in those documents they average less than 20. Five thousand New Testament manuscripts, less than 20 for each of the classical writings of the Greek and Roman period.

In addition to that, the manuscripts we have of the Bible date far closer to the time of the events than those Greek and Roman writer's manuscripts. For example, the earliest manuscripts we have of the classics, date from 700 to 1400 years after the originals were written. Seven hundred to 1400 years after the originals.

The earliest manuscript of the New Testament we have is a fragment of John's gospel. I've seen a facsimile of it, that dates to about 25 years after John wrote. And the complete manuscripts of the entire New Testament date to only 50 to a 150 years after the events they describe. So, on the one hand you have the Greek and classical, writers. We have their manuscript that date from 700 to 1400 years after they wrote. In the case of the New Testament we have 5000, and the manuscripts, the complete family of manuscripts, can be dated back between 50 and a 150 years after the events they describe.

In addition to that, none of the New Testament canon is lost or missing in the manuscript that we have. (Had, excuse me, that was interesting.) Wow, as an old Tennessee evangelist once said, I've got a frog in my throat, and he just crossed his legs. What I was trying to say was that, half of the 30 books of the Roman historian Tacitus are missing. Half of them. But we have all of the documents of the New Testament. What you see is this, the external evidence for the reliability of New Testament documents by the standard of all ancient documents is overwhelming. If they didn't hate what it said. No scholar would be questioning its authenticity of reliability.

But I want to look at what the Bible says about this issue because not only is there an external evidence of the reliability of the New Testament, there is internal evidence of the reliability of the New Testament record. Let's start with the gospels. You're aware probably that Matthew and John each wrote a gospel were eye witnesses of what they wrote. They were eyewitnesses. Mark wrote his gospel in partnership with another eyewitness, Peter. The church fathers unanimously say that Mark, John Mark, was essentially an amanuensis for Peter. He's retelling the gospel record from Peter's vantage point.

Luke, he wrote his gospel after doing careful research, interviewing eyewitnesses and examining primary sources. Look at Luke 1. Luke begins, he was of course not an eyewitness himself but notice what he did in preparation for writing his gospel. Luke 1:1, inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account or record of the things accomplished among us, in other words he's saying even at the time he wrote probably around 60, 61 A.D. there were already a number of documents about Jesus' life and ministry. We don't have most of those of course. He would've had Matthew and Mark's gospel, which were written before he wrote. He may be referring to that here.

Verse 2, those documents came from oral tradition that was handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word. So, I base that those writings were part of the foundation of my research, and they were from eyewitnesses. And here's what I did verse 3 it seemed fitting for me as well having investigated everything carefully from the beginning. There were two years when Luke was with Paul when Paul was imprisoned at Caesarea on the coast of the Mediterranean, a very short distance from Jerusalem.

During those two years apparently, Luke left Paul's side often, went into Jerusalem interviewed witnesses, eyewitnesses looked at primary documents that have been written, primary source documents and from that verse 3 he says without having done I wanted to write it out for you in consecutive order that is in basic chronological order not slavish chronological order, but essential chronological order most excellent Theophilus the one to whom he writes.

So that, here's why, so that you may know the exact truth about the things, literally, you have been catechized in. What I want you to know the exact truth, so I carefully researched it, I talked to eyewitnesses, I investigated it, I looked at primary source documents, and of course under the inspiration of the Spirit, Luke wrote his gospel. So, the gospels have internal evidence of their reliability. Eyewitness accounts carefully investigated accounts.

But does the rest of the New Testament reflect what Jesus taught? The answer is yes because Jesus pre-authenticated the rest of the New Testament by authorizing the apostles to write it on His behalf, and are you ready for this? Jesus promised the apostles that He would give them supernatural recall to remember what He had taught them as well as new revelation. Turn over to John 14. This passage is often taken out of context, and believers sort of take to themselves, but these were promises here specifically the one I'm going to share with you to the apostles not to us.

John 14 and look at verse 25. This is during the upper room discourse the night before Hs crucifixion He says these things, talking about all that He has shared with them ,His Word back in verse 23, these things I have spoken to you while abiding with you, but the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things. The Holy Spirit is going to teach you, and He's going to bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. Everything I've taught you He's going to give you supernatural recall to remember, and you're going to write it down.

Now, there are Christians who love to use this verse who are about to take a test and say Lord please help me to remember and have recall in remembrance of all I studied. That's a good prayer but doesn't come out of this text. This isn't to us, this is to the apostles. Look over in chapter 16, Jesus says the same thing in a little bit different way. Sixteen verse 12, again to the apostles He makes this promise, I have many more things to say to you. There's a lot I still want to teach you, but you cannot bear them now.

He's, remember He's about to go to the garden of Gethsemane, to the cross the next morning, but when He, the Spirit of truth comes He will guide you - here's a promise to direct everything they do and teaching to all the truth. There's a promise of inspiration. For, He will not speak on His own initiative or whatever He hears He will speak, and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. Jesus pre-authenticated the writings of the 11 apostles.

But what about Paul? Much of the New Testament was written by Paul. He wasn't one of the 11. Maybe you don't know this, but there are skeptics who argue that Paul ruined the simple teachings of Jesus. There are those who write that Paul made Jesus and the Christian faith something Jesus himself never intended it to be. Is that true? Absolutely not. But how do we know that? Well there are several ways. First of all, in Acts 15 a historical record of a public meeting in Jerusalem, not written by Paul, Peter, and James our Lord's half brother along with all the apostles affirm Paul and the gospel he's preaching as the true gospel.

But let's look at another one. Turn over to Galatians 1 Paul writes of this himself in verse 18 of Galatians 1. Three years after his conversion he went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, that's an Aramaic name for Peter. And I stayed with him for 15 days. For two weeks he was with Peter and James, the Lord's brother. That's it on that trip.

And notice verse 24 they were verse 23 they acknowledged that Paul was preaching the faith he once tried to destroy. He's preaching the true Christian faith, and they were glorifying God because of me. Chapter 2, he goes to the Jerusalem council and notice verse 9 of chapter 2. Recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James, Peter, and the apostle John gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship so that we may go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. In other words, you know what happened there? They affirmed, just as I mentioned in Acts, that the leaders of the church affirmed Paul, his calling, his ministry, what he taught, the gospel he proclaimed.

You say yeah, but Paul wrote Galatians. How we know he's not you, know tipping the scales in his favor here? Okay that's a fair question. Second Peter 3:15 and 16, Peter in his second letter says what Paul writes is Scripture. What I want you see is that from the beginning of the gospels through the end of the New Testament, we have a historically reliable record of the life, death, resurrection, and teaching of Jesus Christ. That is borne out both by external evidence and by internal evidence.

A second rebuttal to the lie that Christianity's blind faith is this: God validated the truthfulness of the Christian faith by providing convincing evidence to chosen witnesses. God validated our faith by giving evidence to witnesses he chose beforehand. God gave those who saw Jesus in the first century evidence upon evidence of who he really was, and then God made them witnesses of those things to us.

How is any matter established, the Old Testament law says in the mouth of what two or three witnesses, well, God gave us a bunch of witnesses. Luke 24:48, Jesus, after opening the Old Testament and helping them understand how the Old Testament spoke of him, says to His apostles the 11 "you are witnesses of these things." That's your purpose - you're to witness these things. John 15:27 again to the apostles He says, "you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning." [that's your job.]

But this really becomes clear for us in the book of Acts. Turn over to Acts 1. As Luke begins his second document of Theopolis, Luke wrote, of course his gospel, and now the book of Acts. The first account I composed this is Acts 1:1, Theopolis, about all that Jesus began to do and to teach. I love that expression Luke was what Jesus began to do and teach Acts in the history of the church is what Jesus continues to do. But notice what he says, until the day when He was taken up to heaven after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles, and note this, whom He had chosen (to these that is to the apostles whom he had chosen,) he also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many convincing proofs. Jesus proved to the 11, that's the twelve minus Judas, that He was, in fact, raised from the dead, that He was everything He claimed, convincing proofs. You say, well why did He do that?

Look in verse 8, because you will be my witnesses. I've chosen you to see, to be convinced to be witnesses. Look over at chapter 1:22 when they're selecting a replacement for Judas. He has to be someone who has been with him from the beginning, so that they can become witnesses with us of His resurrection.

Look at Acts 2:32. This is Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost. He says this Jesus, God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Look over in 3:15 Peter's second sermon. Verse 15, you put to death the prince of life the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. Chapter 5:32, "we are witnesses of these things."

But I really want you to look at chapter 10 because here Peter gets very explicit. Acts 10 beginning in verse 39, he's in the house of Cornelius. You remember the centurion who had prayed, and God sent Peter, Acts 10:39, after recounting the life of Jesus in verses 37-38. He says, We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put him to death by hanging him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, watch verse 41 - not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with him after He rose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly testify this is the One."

They were witnesses - that was the purpose. Same thing is true the apostle Paul. Look over at Acts 13:31. Paul says in verse 30 God raised Jesus from the dead verse 31 and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. The very ones who were now his witnesses to the people. Here Paul is saying the apostles were God's chosen witnesses of the resurrection. But the same is true for Paul himself. Go over Acts 22, Acts 22:14 as Paul is recounting his conversion and the ministry of Ananias to him and that situation. He says in verse 14 here's what Ananias said to me the God of our fathers has appointed you Paul to know His will and to see the righteous One and to hear an utterance from His mouth for you will be a witness for Him to all men of what? Of what you have seen and heard. They were witnesses. God validated the Christian faith by providing convincing evidence to chosen witnesses that would bear witness to us.

And what was the heart of their witness? That brings us to the third proposition I would give you. The greatest evidence of the truthfulness of the Christian faith is the resurrection. It's the resurrection. If I were to ask you, what is the ultimate foundation of our faith? What would you say? What would you say? You might be tempted to say the Bible and of course that's true in one sense but it doesn't go quite far enough because why do we believe the Bible? The primary reason, there are a number of reasons, but the primary reason we believe the Bible is because of Jesus Christ. We believe the Old Testament because Jesus quoted it often and often affirmed it to be the very words of the living God.

We believe the New Testament because as we saw in those places in John 14 and 16 and in other places Jesus pre-authenticated the New Testament by choosing the men who would be his representatives to write it. So, in reality then, our ultimate authority is not even the Bible its Jesus Christ. Everything we believe as Christians ultimately goes back to the integrity and credibility of Jesus Christ.

Now that raises another question. Why do we believe that what Jesus said is true? Because He staked His own credibility on one great reality. Everything He did, and everything He taught, all of His claims are ultimately based on one great event - His resurrection. You remembered in John 2 in the early days of His ministry. Jesus cleansed the temple. He went and just started cleaning house.

And the religious leaders said to Him wait a minute, who do you think you are? What are you doing? And they specifically said by what authority do you do these things. You know what they were saying to Jesus? They were saying, why should we trust you? How do we know you're not a false teacher? How do we know you're not just mentally deficient in some way.

His answer was this: here is why you should trust Me. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. John, the apostle, explains later in that same chapter, He was speaking of the temple of His body. Jesus said everything I'm doing is based on the authority of one great event - the resurrection. You understand this as a believer. If there is a grave in the Middle East with the body of Jesus Christ still in it, our faith is absolutely worthless.

But, if Jesus was raised from the dead, then everything He said about Himself, everything He said about God, everything He said about man and sin and hell and salvation and heaven is to be embraced as the truth of God. And what He accomplished on the cross and said He would accomplish and His resurrection is to be embraced. The resurrection then is the foundation of the Christian faith.

Look at 1 Corinthians 15. First Corinthians 15, Paul here lists the tragic consequences if Christ has not been raised from the dead. Here's one, look at verse 14, "… if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain." Look down at verse 17, "your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins." [Our faith, if Jesus has not been raised, our faith is empty. It's without content, its without reality. Either the resurrection of Jesus Christ is what is historically described to be, or our faith is unreasonable, irrational.]

It is so important that Paul sets forth the evidence for the resurrection here in this very same chapter. Look back at verses 3 – 8. In verses 3 – 8 what you have is an early Christian creed. It predates Paul. Notice the words in verse 3 delivered, received. It makes it clear that Paul didn't originate this. It was passed down to him. It's an early Christian creed.

When did Paul receive this creed? Well, we can't be absolutely sure. It might have been when he went to Jerusalem shortly after his conversion. But it had to have been before 55 A.D. when he wrote this letter to the Corinthians. He had already received it. He had preached it to them when he was visiting with them before he wrote them the letter. So, the point is it's likely, by the way, that he received this creed from Peter and James, when he was in Jerusalem on his first visit there in the 30s A.D., but regardless, it was likely within the first ten years after Jesus death and resurrection.

Why is that important? Well if you listen to some of those self-proclaimed experts on television, by the way, you know an expert is just a drip under pressure. But think about that. But you listen to those experts, and what they will say is there is in fact a sort of legend that builds around Jesus.

Jesus was just a simple teacher, and as time goes by His followers make Him into something He never was. Listen, this creed was produced very shortly after His death and resurrection. Certainly, within 25 years, more likely within 10 years, this is what Christians believe. Look at it. By the way in this creed every human attempt to explain away the resurrection is answered. It's worth your study if you've never studied it before.

Notice, first of all, Christianity is based on the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures. Verses 3 and 4 say it's "according to the Scriptures." This is not out of line with what God had revealed before. Then he says, "Christ died," [that is Jesus Christ really physically died. He didn't swoon, He wasn't in a coma, and the theological reason for His death is for our sins. In other words, He died as a substitute for us paying the penalty our sins had accumulated.] "He was buried." [Jesus actually died, and His body was placed in a tomb.]

Why is that important? Because it provides for us the evidence of the empty tomb. Jesus' enemies knew where His body was, His friends knew where His body was, and they knew the tomb was empty where the body had lain. And they couldn't furnish the body. It was an empty tomb with no body to be found. The best story they could come up with, His enemies, is that the Roman soldiers they had placed there had fallen asleep, and the disciples had come and stolen Jesus' body while they were sleeping.

Now folks that story continued among the Jewish apologists, that was the only story they had in response to Christianity for two hundred years after Christ death and resurrection. It goes on to say He was raised on the third day. But how do we know He was raised? Well verses 5 – 8 says, He appeared to eyewitnesses. God chose to establish the historical reality of the resurrection through more than 14 different post-resurrection appearances. You understand if you take the New Testament together you place it together, 14 different appearances.

He appeared to more than five hundred different people in at least ten different locations. He appeared to individuals, to pairs of disciples, to small groups of disciples and to a large crowd of more than five hundred people. He appeared to men, to women in public and in private, at different times of the day, in Jerusalem and in Galilee. Obviously, the exclamation for the resurrection cannot be that the disciples stole His dead body because He was seen by all these people alive.

Now, here Paul mentions only six appearances. There are others that he doesn't mention, but he does mention six. Verse 5 [first comes. Peter, that's] Cephas, [the Aramaic name for Peter,] then to the 12." [that's a technical term for Jesus' apostles, only ten of them were there. Judas had already killed himself, and Thomas was not there on this occasion. Both of those appearances occurred on the first Sunday of His resurrection. The next one probably took place about a week and a half to two weeks later.]

Verse 6 [after] "… that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now but some of have fallen asleep." [This is probably the appearance in Galilee on the mountain at the giving of the great commission recorded in Matthew 28. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians, in 55 A.D., 25 years had passed since Jesus' resurrection.]

So, some of the five hundred people that were there on that occasion had died, but Paul says most of them were still living. Jesus' resurrection was confirmed by actual eyewitness testimony, and if you had lived in the first century and 55 A.D. almost five hundred different people you could've interviewed to validate the reality of the resurrection, more than are sitting here in this room this morning. Clearly, the resurrection was no hallucination.

I love the next one, verse 7, "then He appeared to James. [James is Jesus half-brother. James, who remains skeptical about Jesus' whole life, never believed in Him. But meeting the resurrected Christ was so compelling that it turned Jesus' skeptical brother into the lead pastor of the Jerusalem church. He eventually died a martyr for His half-brother. He begins his New Testament letter James, a slave of our Lord Jesus Christ.]

Some of you may feel like that to your siblings, but you would never exonerate them in that way. Verse 7 goes on to say, "then to all the apostles," [this refers to probably the time of the ascension.] And verse 8 "last of all … to one untimely born, He appeared to me also." [Paul believed on the Damascus road. The resurrected Christ appeared to him, and it turned Jesus' worst enemy into history's greatest witness to the truth of who Jesus is.]

Now what is the point of this early Christian creed? It's that our faith in Jesus Christ is not irrational, it's not unfounded, it's not a leap of faith. It is based on the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures. It rests on the written record of Jesus' hand-picked witnesses. A record that's been passed down in the New Testament. It relies on the eyewitness testimony of more than five hundred who saw the resurrected Christ. But ultimately our faith is based on the authority of Jesus Christ, validated by a single historical event, an event that happened in space and time. Don't believe the lie.

So how should we respond to this? Very briefly, let me give you a couple of application ideas to considered. Number one, don't believe the lie that Christianity is blind faith. There's abundance of historical evidence, eyewitness testimony, and our greatest strength is the person of Jesus Christ Himself. He is supremely worthy of trust. As you read the pages of the New Testament, He is obviously trustworthy. Even unbelievers see that. They admire Him. They honor Him.

Let me just ask you point blank: is there any person in human history on whom you would rather base your eternal future than Jesus Christ? You will base your eternity on someone, either on yourself or the teachings of someone else. Should it be anyone other than Jesus Christ. Look at His claims to deity. Look at His miracles. Look at the prediction of His death, His resurrection. Look at the evidence for the resurrection, Jesus' certified death, the empty tomb, more than five hundred eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ, the conversion and martyrdom of His skeptical brother James, the conversion and martyrdom of His greatest enemy Paul.

There's abundant evidence, but that brings us to number two. Don't believe that anyone will come to faith because of the weight of the evidence. There's lots of evidence. But don't imagine that the evidence is going to bring an unbeliever to Christ. You see there are two approaches to proving the truthfulness of Christianity. One is the evidential approach, it's called. This is showing evidence. This view approaches the unbeliever on the ground that we all possess this common pool of facts, and if I use careful reason, and we assess the facts together, ultimately, I will lead the unbeliever to agree that Christianity is true, and possibly to accept the gospel.

The other view is called a presuppositional approach. This view says unbelievers are spiritually dead. They are unable to comprehend spiritual realities; therefore, they cannot be rationally argued into the Christian faith, instead God must bring new life, He must bring regeneration. And God accomplishes regeneration how? Through His Word. So, proving the truthfulness of the Christian faith to the unbeliever is not only not possible, it's not necessary. No amount of evidence will convince an unbeliever. Jesus Himself said this. You remember the the story He told of Lazarus and the rich man. In that story, the rich man in hell, pleads that Lazarus be raised from the dead and sent to witness to his five brothers.

Remember what Jesus says in that story what He puts in the mouth of Abraham? No. If they will not hear Moses and the prophets, they will not believe even though one is raised from the dead. And isn't that exactly what happened a few months later? God raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, and most of the people did not believe.

That brings me to the last point. Trust the work of the Spirit and the Word of God to produce spiritual life. Trust the work of the Spirit and the Word of God to produce spiritual life. What is James say in James 1:18? He says, "In the exercise of" [God's] … "will He brought us forth" [that is He gave us new life, He birthed us. How?] "He brought us forth by the word of truth."

Listen, it is God's truth empowered by the Holy Spirit that will bring life to a dead soul. No amount of weight of evidence will convince them. I'm not saying you don't answer their questions. I'm just saying understand, ultimately, it's the Word of God. First Peter 1:23, Peter says, "you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is through the living and enduring word of God."

It is the Spirit of God using the Word of God that brings new life. Trust the Word to do that. Don't try to argue your friends and family into the Christian faith. Don't be mindless. Be prepared to give an answer for the hope that lies within you. But understand, no amount of evidence is going to convince them. The Word of God and the Spirit of God is what has to happen. God who said let there be light has to say let there be light in that soul. And what He uses is His Word.

If you're here this morning, and you don't know Jesus Christ. Listen, all you can do is throw yourself on God's mercy. You can come to Jesus as we heard sung this morning and as we read in John 6. You can come to Him and say, "change me." Make Yourself everything to me, I want to follow you, I want you to be my Lord my Savior. If you come, He promised He'll never turn you away.

Let's pray together.

Father thank you for the truth that we've studied together this morning. Thank you that our faith is not a blind leap but rather You provided convincing evidences and You allow there to be witnesses of those evidences who communicated them to us.

Father, thank you for that encouragement to us who are in Christ for the way it strengthens and bolsters our faith, but thank you that our faith ultimately rests in Your Word. Your Spirit has used it to give us life.

Lord, I pray for the person here this morning who doesn't know Jesus Christ. May this be the day when you cause there to be light in their dark soul, may they see the truth and embrace it. May you do what we read together this morning may You draw them to Yourself.

Father help us who are believers not to believe the lies in the culture around us, but instead to allow our minds to be renewed with Your truth by the work of Your Spirit.

We pray in Jesus' name amen.