Led by Gary Kunkel
This lesson contains very little original material on my part the quotes and conclusions come largely from the text this lesson is based upon. I added a few anecdotes and added a few notes to tie the material to current events and made some changes to make the material easier to present as a lecture.
I think it’s safe to assume that most of you believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God and have put your trust in him. So why a Sunday school class based on a book used to share the Gospel with non-believers?
Pastor Bob started out the Sunday school year with a lesson encouraging us to share our faith with others. This series should provide some information you can use as you share your faith.
Also, we can better place ourselves in a position to answer the call given in 1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, …
Some of you may find that this series will bolster your faith. And others may find reasons to put their trust in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
The Preface of the book reads as follows:
About 2,000 years ago, Jesus entered the human race in a small Jewish community. He was a member of a poor family, a minority group, and resided in one of the smallest countries in the world. He lived approximately 33 years of which only the last three comprised his public ministry.
Yet people almost everywhere still remember him. The date of our morning newspaper or the copyright of a university textbook bears witness of the fact that Jesus lived on of the greatest lives ever lived.
H. G. Wells, the noted historian, was asked which person had left the most permanent impression on history. He replied that if one judged his greatness by historical standards, “By this test Jesus stands first.”
Historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said, “As the centuries pass, the evidence is accumulating that, measured by his affect on history, Jesus is the most influential life ever lived on this planet. That influence appears to be mounting.”
From author Ernest Renan we have the following observation: “Jesus was the greatest religious genius that ever lived. His beauty is eternal and his reign shall never end. Jesus is in every respect unique and nothing can be compared to him. All history is incomprehensible without Christ.”
1. What Makes Jesus So Different? Christ Is Lord
Jesus has been described by many as a great religious leader.
Certainly He is more than that. His very name
stirs up emotion. In fact, at the mention of Jesus many become defensive.
The names of Buddha and Mohammed rarely offend anyone. These people didn’t claim to be God. Not only did Jesus claim to be God, He presented himself as the only way to relationship with God and the only way to salvation. Not only were these claims radical in Jesus’ time, they are abhorrent in today’s world where tolerance and inclusiveness are highly valued. Josh McDowell made this observation in the late 1970’s. It is even truer today in the 21st century. Take a look at the memorial services tied to September 11th. It was rare to hear prayers mentioning his name out of fear of stepping on people’s toes. A school system in California recently mandated that the word, “Christmas” can’t be uttered by teachers in the classroom.
All theists including Muslims and Jews accept the following definition of God as: the infinite and perfect spirit in whom all things have their source, support and end. We as Christians believe that God became man as Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus is the Greek form of the name Jeshua or Joshua which means Jehova Savior or “the Lord saves.” We get the term Messiah from the Hebrew name, “Mashiach” meaning “anointed one.” This title defines Jesus as being the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
The fact that Jesus Christ is God is proven by the scriptures, His characteristics, the fact that He was worshipped, the testimony of others, and His own testimony.
1.1 His Deity is Proven by Scripture
The New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is God.
Titus 2:11-14 11 'For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.'
John 1:1-5 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Note in John 1:1, the Word spoken of is Jesus.
Hebrews 1:5-8 'For to which of the
angels did God ever say,"You are my Son; today I have become your Father
" ? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son" ? And again,
when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
"Let all God's angels worship him."In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire. But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.
Romans 9:1-5 1 'I speak the truth in Christ--I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit-- I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.'
1 John 5:20 'We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.'
1.2 Proven By His Characteristics
The Bible also describes Christ as having characteristics that can only be true of God.
There are a number of characteristics which define God. They are: omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, possessing eternal life, and being eternal.
What does omnipresence mean? Being everywhere
Matthew 28:20 (last sentence) “… And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Matthew 18:20 'For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."
What is the definition of omniscience? All knowing
John 4:15-19 'The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." He told her, "Go, call your husband and come back." "I have no husband," she replied. Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true." "Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."
John 6:63-64 'The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him'
What is the definition of omnipotence? All Powerful
Revelation 1:8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
Luke 4:38-41 'Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ.'
Luke 7:11-14 'Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out--the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.'
Characteristic: Possessing Eternal Life
1 John 5:11-12 'And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.'
1 John 5:20 'We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true--even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.'
John 1:4 'In him was life, and that life was the light of men.'
Revelation 1:8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty."
1.3 Proven By Worship
Jesus knew that only God deserved worship. He told Satan in
Matthew 4:10 'Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'
However, Jesus received worship as God.
Matthew 14:33 'Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."
Matthew 28:9 'Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.'
John 5:22-23 'Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.'
1.4 Proven By The Testimony of Others and Himself
Let’s look at some people who claimed that Jesus is in fact God.
What kind of Jew was Paul before he became a Christian?
A Pharisee. He had extensive rabbinical training. If Jesus was not indeed God incarnate, Paul would have been the least likely to claim Christ’s deity. And this is exactly what he did.
Acts 20:28 'Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.'
Peter boldly declared in
Matthew 16:16 'Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Martha declared in
Stephen’s testimony was powerful. While being stoned for his faith, he cried out in
Acts 7:59 "… Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Check out Thomas’ encounter with the risen Lord in
John 20:26-29 'A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
1.4.6 The Father
God the Father declares in
Luke 3:22 "… You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
1.4.7 Jesus Himself
John 5:16-18 'So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.'
Addressing a Jewish audience, referring to God the Father as “my father” rather than “our father” and indicating that while His Father was working, He too was working, the Jews knew exactly what he was saying – indeed, He is God.
A statement which provoked an even harsher reaction from the Jews can be found in
John 10:30 'I and the Father are one."
Some would argue that when Jesus stated that He and the Father were one, he probably meant they think alike. However, the word “one” in this context is translated in Greek as being one in essence and nature. His audience knew exactly what he meant. Check out their reaction in
John 10:31-33 'Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?" "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
But let’s get back to this definition of “one” – one in essence and nature.
Is this definition supported elsewhere in Scripture? You bet!
John 8:19-20 'Then they asked him, "Where is your father?" "You do not know me or my Father," Jesus replied. "If you knew me, you would know my Father also." He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put. Yet no one seized him, because his time had not yet come.'
John 15:23 'He who hates me hates my Father as well.'
John 5:22-23 'Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.'
Some people claim that only the Gospel of John makes claims to Jesus’ deity and if this were the only book of the Bible that did so, it would be enough for me. However, we find these claims stated in the books of Mark and Luke as well.
Mark 2:5 'When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
Luke 7:48-50 'Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
Yet by Jewish law – Jews being his audience – this was something only God could do. Does this mean that only God can forgive people when they sin against us? No. It was understood that only God could forgive those who sinned against him.
Only God could forgive sins against Himself.
Isaiah 43:25 "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.'
The Pharisees knew this as they challenged Jesus’ follows in
Mark 2:7 "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Theologian Lewis Sperry Chandler observed that none can forgive sin but the One who was sinned against. Therefore, in offering the forgiveness of sins, Christ was claiming to be God.
God is truly incredible. He led me to start preparation for this series at a time, when two events were occurred which resulted in some very useful material for this class. The first is the discovery of an ancient artifact which seems to confirm the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. We’ll get to that later. The other is the appearance of Josh McDowell on Open Line: a radio program on WAWZ – part of the Moody Broadcasting Network. On the program, Josh, the author of the book we’re studying was discussing apologetics and started talking about truth.
Who here can define “truth?” Truth is defined as fidelity to an original or standard. Fidelity is defined as exact correspondence with fact or with a given quality, condition, or event; accuracy.
John 14:6 'Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'
Jesus was claiming to be God! On trial, Christ also proclaimed His deity. Check out
Mark 14:60-64 'Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?"
This claim of deity infuriated those on the court. Check out
Matthew 27:43 'He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.'
Christ’s claim to divinity also was shown in
Matthew 27:41-43 'In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.' "
Several years ago, I pondered the question: how would I have reacted if I were a dedicated Jew and encountered this man from Galilee? How would I react to his claims?
I would hope that I would be able to see his divinity that He and that His Holy Spirit would speak to me. How would you react?
2. Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?
The last time I taught Sunday school, I told you about a man I rode on a shuttle van to AT&T with called Paul. Years of past drug abuse and a tough life turned an otherwise brilliant man into a bitter person often full of rage yet a curiosity into the profound.
Paul surprised me one day when he told me that he was a Christian. I was surprised and asked him why he thought he was. He answered, “well, I’m not an f***ing Muslim or Jew!” The answer spoke volumes about where his heart was. After further discussion, he surprisingly agreed that he was a deist – someone who believed in the existence of a god (lower case ‘g’ my emphasis) but nothing about what the Bible had to say about God or salvation. His viewpoint about Jesus matched the view that many in the world have: he was a good moral man or a prophet who said a lot of profound things but nothing more.
How many of you know people who hold this view?
Oddly, many claim to hold Jesus and His teachings in high regard yet deny many of His teachings and claims for Himself!
C.S. Lewis wrote: “I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level of a man who says he is a poached egg or else He would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool. You can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Jesus asked his disciples in Mark 16:15: “… but who do you say I am?”
Let’s look at the alternatives.
2.1 Was He a Liar?
If Jesus claimed to be God knowing that He was not, He would also have to be labeled a hypocrite – telling others to be truthful no matter the cost.
He would rightfully be called evil if He was telling people to count on Him for their future in eternity if He weren’t indeed God.
Lastly, He could be considered a fool if He were not God as His claims led to His death on the cross.
Would such a person be rightfully called a good moral teacher?
To support the assertion that He was truthful, let’s look at the evidence.
2.1.1 His Impact On Others
Wherever His name is proclaimed, lives have been changed for the better. I’ve known people who were addicted to drugs, people who were angry bitter, all changed in the name of Jesus.
How has Jesus changed the lives of those around you? Any examples?
A liar could not have changed the lives of so many people for nearly 2000 years!
Sam Russell, a gifted teacher from Calvary Chapel Four Winds who also teaches in a Bible Study at AT&T told our study group abut a preacher in India who God used to bring many to Him. Hundreds if not thousands would routinely come to his church to hear him preach. This man however fell from grace and attributed to himself powers he did not have. He claimed that if his shadow had passed over a sick cow, that cow would be healed. Toward the end of this person’s ministry at most 40 people would come to his services.
2.1.2 His Life
One could take a look at his life. He calmly endured persecution and hardships. He always gave wise answers to difficult questions. He was never thrown off course by a difficult question. Could this be a man who lied about who He was?
Historian Phillip Schaff poses the following:
“How in the name of logic, common sense, and experience could an imposter – that is a deceitful, selfish, depraved man – have invented and consistently maintained from beginning to end the purest and noblest character known in history with the most perfect air of truth and reality? How could he have conceived and successfully and carried out a plan of unparalleled beneficence moral magnitude and sublimity, and sacrificed His own life for it in the face of strongest prejudices of His people and age?”
2.1.3 His Predictions
He accurately predicted his death on the cross, his resurrection, the destruction of Jerusalem and the founding of His church. He certainly couldn’t have manipulated these events.
2.1.4 The Geography of His Ministry
If Jesus were trying to falsely convince people that He was God, why would He bring His ministry to a Jewish nation? Why would He go to a country so small and so united in their faith to the Lord? Why not go to a country that believed in the existence of many gods? Why would He stack the deck against Himself?
Surely, He could not have been a liar!
2.2 Was He A Lunatic?
Could Jesus have actually thought Himself to be God but have been mistaken?
In our own culture, someone who thought himself to be God could be locked up.
If he were insane, it wasn’t shown anywhere in the Bible. His demeanor certainly wasn’t that of a deranged man.
The words He spoke were profound. His words have helped many to cope with and overcome mental problems. A psychology professor at a California university once said that all the counseling some of his patients needed came from Christ’s own words.
Psychiatrist J. T. Fisher stated, “If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene – if you were to combine and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage, if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount and it would suffer immeasurably through comparison. For nearly two thousand years, the Christian world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and fruitless yearnings . Here … rests the blueprint for successful human life with optimism, mental health and contentment.
Let’s take a look at the Sermon on the Mount.
Read: Matthew 5:1-12
Are these the words of a deranged man? Certainly not!
2.3 Was He Lord?
The last alternative as that Jesus was who He claimed to be.
Many Jewish people who have studied the life of Jesus will answer “no” to all three questions. Was He a liar? Was He a lunatic? Is He Lord? And yet, I really can’t think of any other choices.
In the face of the evidence presented here and throughout scripture, each of us must make a choice.
Why do you feel in light of all of the evidence the fact that Jesus is Lord is difficult for many to accept?
Many people avoid the last one because acknowledging Christ as Lord means that there are some real ramifications in that person’s outlook on life, how he or she conducts and of course where that person places his or her trust and hope for eternity.
John’s conclusion is stated boldly in
Read: John 20:31
Either Jesus was a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. What’s your choice?
3. What About Science?
God never intended the Christian faith to be a blind faith.
Jesus said in John 8:31 31To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Jesus said in Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
Both our hearts and minds are to be at work in embracing our Savior.
Ever since a four day power outage my wife Susan and I experienced after a fierce storm moved into our area this past summer, we have learned how great it is to have a life without TV or the internet – and have decided that Sunday’s we’ll live with neither with the exception of using the internet for Bible Study or any important research.
As I was putting together Sunday lessons from the More Than A Carpenter book, I saw this chapter heading – What About Science? Just to let you into my subconcious, for the next several days, a Thomas Dolby song from the ‘80s started going through my head: She Blinded Me With Science. Unless you’re close to my age or are a fan of the cornier side of ‘80s music, you probably don’t know the song. Regardless, memories of the song take me back to my college years.
Back to our internet rules. I kinda stretched them. It was a Sunday night that I was putting this lesson together and wanted to get the name of the group that performed this song and came across the lyrics which were much funnier than I had remembered. Before I get into trouble, I’d like to caution that not all the words to this song are edifying.
Many people are blinded by the scientific method. They will only believe in something if it can only be proved scientifically. Therefore, they have difficulty accepting Christ as Savior or believing in His resurrection.
Can anyone tell me what the scientific method is?
• You show something is a fact by repeating an event in the presence of someone who questions that fact. It’s done in a controlled environment where observations can be made, data can be gathered, and hypotheses can be verified.
Josh McDowell gives an example. You could use the scientific method to prove that Ivory soap floats by stating your assertion to a friend, brining him into your kitchen, filling your sink with 8 inches of warm water and dropping the bar of soap in. Voila, you’ve used the scientific method to prove your point.
And this brings me back to high school and college where I could never get the lab examples to work right but I digress.
It this is the only way we could prove a point, you couldn’t prove that you ate breakfast this morning or were at church last week.
This is where legal-historical proof comes in. Ok, all you Law and Order fans, what’s legal-historical proof?
• showing by the weight of evidence that something is true beyond a reasonable doubt – or that there is no reasonable basis for doubting a decision.
Evidence used could be written or verbal testimony, bullets left at a crime scene, DNA testing, etc.
You could use legal-historical proof that show that you were in church last Sunday. Others in the congregation saw you. The pastor remembers you. Your name shows up on the church attendance sheet.
It is much more valuable for proving events in history or answering questions about a person.
The scientific method can not be used to answer questions such as was George Washington our first president? Was Bill Clinton impeached? Who was Jesus of Nazareth? Did he rise from the dead? However, the legal-historical method can be very helpful here as we check out the reliability of various testimonies.
What evidence is there to help us determine that Christ is Lord? We’ll be exploring it in the next four sections.
4. Legal-Historical Proof. Are the Biblical Records Accurate?
The historical account of Christ can be found in the New Testament. .
4.1 Timing of the Manuscript Writings
Many critics have doubted the accuracy of the New Testament. The reason they claim is that since the New Testament was written so long after Christ’s time on this earth, the accounts were mostly myths and legends. However, this assertion doesn’t hold up.
William Albright a renowned biblical archaeologist concluded that all books of the New Testament were written no later than 80 AD. Some date to around the 40’s AD.
Sir William Ramsey known as one of the greatest archaeologists who ever lived concluded that Luke was a first rate historian who paid meticulous attention to detail.
After a great deal of study, a very liberal theologian – A. T. Robinson concluded that the whole of the New Testament was written by 70 AD.
Some form critics of the Bible like to say that the accounts of Jesus were the results of facts being changed over time into myths and legend. There are some problems with this line of thought. It takes centuries for major distortions to be incorporated into legends. Somewhere between 25 and 50 years passed from Christ’s teachings to the time his words were written. This period of time is far too short for major distortions to have occurred. Furthermore, in Jewish tradition, it was customary for a student to memorize a rabbi’s teaching. C.F. Burney, author of “The Poetry of Our Lord” speculates that much of Jesus’ teaching was in poetical form making it easy to be memorized.
4.2 Tests for accuracy
There are three tests that can be applied to the New Testament to determine its accuracy: bibliographical, internal evidence and external evidence.
4.2.1 Bibliographical test
This is defined as the examination of the textual transmission by which documents reach us. It’s used to determine the accuracy of a copy of a document from the time the original document was composed to the time the copy we actually have was written.
Documents that historians have which give the account of two Greek historical figures: Heroditus and Thucydides were written 1300 years later than their originals. The accuracy of these documents is not disputed.
Documents we have giving Ceasar’s account of the Gallic wars were composed 1000 years after his death.
As we discussed earlier, the time interval from original to the copies we have in hand of the New Testament is roughly only 50 to 100 years!
Another bibliographical test rests on the number of manuscripts available. 20,000 copies of New Testament manuscripts have been discovered. Based on the number of manuscripts available, the Illiad comes in second behind the New Testament in this test for accuracy.
New Testament scholar J. Harold Greenleaf asserts: “Since scholars accept as generally trustworthy the writings of ancient classics even though the earliest manuscripts were written so long after the original writings and the number of manuscripts is in so many instances is so small, it is clear that the reliability of the New Testament is likewise assured.”
Based on this test, the New Testament has more manuscript authority than any ancient text known to man.
4.2.2 Internal Evidence Test
This test also called the historicity test determines whether or not the written text is credible and how credible it actually is.
The method used here is to give the benefit of the doubt to the document – not assuming fraud but checking the document for contradictions or known mistakes in reporting history.
Dr. Louis Gottschalk former professor of history at the University of Chicago finds it helpful to try to determine the writer’s ability to tell the truth. This can be determined by examining the writer’s proximity to the events and how close in time he was to the recording of the events. The books of the New Testament were written by eyewitnesses to the history described or by those who had discussed events with actual eye-witnesses.
Based on these tests, Josh McDowell concludes that the New Testament passes these tests far better than any 10 pieces of classical literature put together!
Let’s take a look at various authors of the books of the New Testament and their ability to tell the truth.
Luke is reliable as he paid close attention to detail.
Read: Luke 1:1-3
Check out his attention to detail in
Read: Luke 3:1
How about Peter?
Read: 2 Peter 1:16
Read: 1 John 1:3, John 19:35
All of these accounts were being shared in a community full of eyewitnesses who could have but did not refute their accuracy.
In spreading the Gospel, the apostles didn’t make their case based on hearsay but on what was commonly known.
Read: Acts 2:22 22, Acts 26:24-28
Quite often, their audiences were not friendly or receptive to the Gospel. They couldn’t risk lying about the facts.
Surely, the fact that the hostile witnesses who couldn’t dispute these accounts makes a strong case for the accuracy of the apostles’ claims!
A New Testament scholar from the University of Chicago makes the following observation: “At the time they [the synoptic Gospels] were written or may be supposed to have been written, there were eyewitnesses and their testimony was not completely disregarded … this means that the Gospels must be regarded as largely reliable witnesses to the life, death, an resurrection of Jesus.”
Surely, the New Testament accounts of Jesus easily pass the Bibliographical test.
4.2.3 External Evidence Test
This test explores other historical records to confirm the accuracy, reliability, and authenticity of a piece of text.
Papias the bishop of Hierapolis in 130AD noted that Mark an interpreter of Peter was quite accurate in writing down Peter’s accounts of Jesus.
Iraneous, the Bishop of Lyons in 180 AD wrote about the certain accuracy of the writers of all four Gospels. Archaeologist Joseph Free wrote that archaeology has often confirmed passages of the New Testament that were otherwise challenged by critics.
Author F.F. Bruce found inscriptions on various artifacts which showed Luke’s writings to be accurate.
Roman historians have also found through archaeological discoveries that the accounts in the book of Acts are indeed accurate according to A.N. Sherwin White, a classical historian.
As I mentioned earlier in this series, God is incredible in His timing. He arranged for my preparation for this lesson to coincide with the release of news of an incredible archaeological find. A box used to hold the bones of a deceased person was recently discovered. The box had the inscription: James, son of Joseph, brother of James” and was dated at 63 AD. The names were quite popular at that time so roughly 20 people could have matched that description. However, the mention of a brother is highly unusual unless that brother owned the burial site. The evidence is quite strong that the Jesus mentioned was indeed Jesus of Nazareth. This is a set back to those who believe that Jesus of Nazareth even existed at all. One such university professor seems to think this artifact couldn’t possibly be real because it is “too compelling.” This sounds more like denial to me!
Dr. Clark H. Pinock, professor of systematic theology at Regent College, states: “There exists no document from the ancient world witnessed by so excellent a set of textual and historical testimonies, and offering so superb an array of historical data on which an intelligent decision may be made. An honest person cannot dismiss a source of this kind. Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational bias.”
5. Who Would Die For A Lie?
I thought about this question one morning in the bathroom as I got ready for work. Who Would Die For A Lie? And an answer came to me right away. The terrorists who crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as well as those who targeted the Capitol building certainly would. Even more recently, terrorists held over 700 people hostage in a theatre in Russia offering to free their hostages only if Russia pulled out of Chchnya. They did so in the name of Islam. One of the terrorists told a hostage that she was prepared to die and go to Allah and she would take the hostages with her as well. Although they were willing to die for a lie, they believed their cause to be truthful.
The early Christians were willing to die for their faith. The difference between the New Testament martyrs and those that would die today for Islam is that the early Christians were eyewitnesses of the events that they died for sharing with others. If they KNEW their claims to be false it wouldn’t make sense for them to offer their lives for spreading a false message. In other words, they must have known their accounts to be true in order to sacrifice their lives for the cause of Christ.
Can anyone give me a definition of the term history?
? A definition of history is: “a knowledge of the past based on testimony.”
The testimony of the apostles certainly must be true. They preached that Jesus was the Son of God and that He rose from the dead.
The following were tortured and killed on the basis of their testimony:
- Peter – Crucified
- Andrew – Crucified
- Matthew – The Sword
- James, son of Alphaeus – Crucified
- Phillip – Crucified
- Simon – Crucified
- Thaddeus – Killed by Arrows
- James, brother of Jesus – Stoned
- Thomas – The Spear
- Barthalomew – Crucified
- James, son of Zebedee – Crucified
It is highly unlikely that these men died to deceive others.
In fact, it would be hard to find 11 people who died for lie and knew that they were dying for a lie.
5.1 They Were Eyewitnesses to Christ’s life
Read: 2 Peter 1:16, 1 John 1:1-3, Luke 1:1-13, John 20:30
Eyewitness accounts of Christ’s resurrection are found throughout the New Testament.
Read: Luke 24:46-48
Following His resurrection, Christ calls upon His disciples to testify about His life in
Read: John 15:27, Acts 1:8
Witness to Christ’s death on the cross is proclaimed in
Read: Acts 3:15
5.2 They Apostles Were Eyewitnesses to Christ’s Resurrection
The apostles declared that they were eyewitnesses of the death and resurrection of Christ in
Read: Acts 10:39-41, Acts 2:32, 1 Corinthians 15:3-9
The accounts written in the New Testament go so far as showing initial real doubt among those that were eyewitnesses of His life on earth. These accounts wouldn’t be there if the authors were trying to spread a lie. Rather all of the facts were presented.
5.3 They Were Eyewitnesses Who Initially Doubted
Under pressure the apostles themselves had doubts about Christ. When Jesus was arrested we see their reaction in
Read: Mark 14:50
If the events Mark wrote about were contrived, why include this account?
If the resurrection didn’t happen, why would the Bible teach about Thomas who doubted Christ’s resurrection and had to be shown proof by Christ? Thomas later died a martyr’s death for proclaiming the truth of the Gospel.
We know that Peter had doubts when he was out
on the water with Jesus. He denied Christ three times when Christ was arrested
Peter was crucified upside down for proclaiming Christ’s death after
Peter testified about his experience with Christ. Why? The reason is found in:
Read: 1 Corinthians 15:4-7
Jesus’ own brother James initially doubted Christ’s deity. We read in
Read: John 7:5
Yet following Christ’s death and resurrection, he became one of the leaders of the Jerusalem and even wrote a book of the Bible and was stoned to death in martyrdom.
Josh McDowell wrote: “You could imprison them, flog them, kill them but you could not make them deny their conviction that on the third day, He rose again.”
5.4 They Were Eyewitnesses of Good Character
The apostles preached honesty. It would be highly unlikely that so many would call upon people to be truthful and lie about what they saw.
Historian Edward Gibson believed that the morality of the first Christians is one of the reasons that Christianity spread so quickly.
What does that tell us about how are character should be?
--- Our behavior around non-Christians can very strongly influence how effective we are in sharing God’s Word.
5.5 They Were Bold Eyewitnesses
Fearful at first, the apostles were indeed filled with boldness to preach the Gospel under terrible persecution. Following beatings and imprisonment, the apostles continued to proclaim Christ. Check out
Read: Acts 5:40-42
Only people convinced that they were preaching the truth would return to doing the same following the treatment they endured. Josh McDowell states that the chances of any large group being in agreement over a lie is enormous. I’d add that the chances are even more staggering that all would hold up under such pressure. Surely, these men were speaking the truth!
The noted French philosopher Pascal wrote: “The allegation that the Apostles were imposters is quite absurd. Let us follow the charge to its logical conclusion: Let us picture those twelve men, meeting after the death of Jesus Christ, and entering into conspiracy to say that He has risen. That would have constituted an attack upon both the civil and religious authorities. The heart of man is strangely given to fickleness and change; it is swayed by promises, tempted by material things. If any one of those men had yielded to temptations so alluring, or given way to the more compelling arguments of prison, torture, they would have all been lost.”
There is no doubt that the lives of the apostles were changed in a short period of time. Check out this apt description from an unknown writer:
“On the day of the crucifixion, they were filled with sadness; on the first day of the week with gladness. At the crucifixion, they were hopeless; on the first day of the week their hearts with certainty and hope. When the message of the resurrection first came they were incredulous and hard to be convinced, but once they became assured they never doubted again. What could account for the astonishing change in these people in so short a time? The mere removal of the body from the grave could never have transformed their spirits an characters. Three days are not enough for a legend to spring up which would so affect them. Time is needed for a process of legendary growth. It is a psychological fact that demands a full explanation. Think of the character of the witnesses, men and women who gave the world the highest ethical teaching it has ever known and who even on the testimony of their enemies lived it out in their lives. Think of the psychological absurdity of picturing a little band of defeated cowards cowering in an upper room one day and a few days later transformed into a company that no persecution could silence – and then attempting to attribute this dramatic change to nothing more convincing than a miserable fabrication they were trying to foist upon the world. That simply wouldn’t make sense.”
Josh McDowell concludes: “The apostles went through the test of death to substantiate the veracity of what they were proclaiming. I believe I can trust their testimony more than that of most people I meet today, people who aren’t willing to walk across the street for what they believe, let alone die for it.”
What are your thoughts?
6. What Good is a Dead Messiah?
We’ve discussed how the apostles were frightened and disheartened when Christ was crucified. I’ve often wondered, “why?” Certainly these people heard Christ’s prophecies that he would die and would rise again. And yet when Christ’s death occurred, they were filled with despair.
Can anyone tell me why?
The Jewish people of that day, hoped for a victorious, political leader, who would rescue Israel from bondage. This was also the hope of the apostles who were taught that their Messiah would set up God’s kingdom and rule over God’s people. Their Messiah therefore, couldn’t die. And while many have died for a good cross, their good cause died on a cross.
When Jesus predicted His own death, Peter denied that it would happen.
Read: Matthew 16:21-22
Most likely, Peter wasn’t the only one who was confused and surely, they also searched for some meaning in Christ’s prophecy. Check out
Read: Luke 18:31-34
When James asked Jesus if he could sit at Christ’s right hand in his kingdom, James’ hope was for a physical kingdom he would witness during his lifetime.
And then came the cross. Their Messiah was broken and bleeding. Their hopes and dreams were shattered.
The fact that the New Testament records all of this shows its credibility.
And yet, a few weeks after the crucifixion, these same people were boldly proclaiming Jesus as Savior and Lord. Why?
Read: 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, Acts 5:3
Christ’s resurrection convinced them that He was and is the Messiah – a Messiah that they proclaimed – a Messiah they died for.
7. Did You Hear What Happened To Saul?
Paul – when he was known as Saul was a Jewish zealot. He oppressed Christians. He was born and raised in Tarsus – a university city known for its love of knowledge. He had Roman citizenship and was very familiar with Greek culture. In a few passages of his letters, he quoted minor Greek poets. He had a Jewish education by the Pharisees. And he did well. He writes in
Read: Galatians 1:14
With a passion, Saul set out to destroy the church.
Read: Acts 8:3, Acts 26:9-11
But something happened to Saul. Let’s check out
Read: Acts 9:1-18
In a powerful way, Paul had seen Jesus after his resurrection. He wrote in
Read: 1 Corinthians 15:8
Paul’s conversion was special. It was instantaneous. It was also dramatic.
What was Paul like before his conversion?
• The Encyclopedia Britanica describes Paul before his conversion as intolerant, bitter, persecuting, a religious bigot, proud and temperamental.
What was he like after his conversion?
• The Encyclopedia Britanica goes on to describe Paul after his conversion as patient, kind, enduring, and self sacrificing.
Furthermore, his relationship with the Christian community - the apostles changed. He now willingly accepted teaching from the very people he set out to kill.
Read: Acts 9:20, Acts 9:26-28
This passage also shows that his message was transformed.
Paul became the author of many letters which comprise a good deal of the New Testament of our Bible. Archibald MacBride, a professor at the University of Aberdeen – in England not Monmouth County noted that his accomplishments on the mission field rivaled those of Alexander and Napolean. For 25 years, his mission field was the known world and he died a martyr for his faith.
8. Can You Keep A Good Man Down?
When I saw the title of this chapter, I was reminded of a song from the group, Newsong called – “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down.” The lyrics are as follows:
He said goodbye to the angels of heaven
And He came to earth as a common man
He taught us how we could love one another
There was healing in His hands
There were those who believed and followed Him
And there were those who wanted Him dead
They thought the grave would silence Him forever
But they found out instead
You can close your eyes
You can say it's a lie
You can stick your head in the sand
You can turn away and try to explain
He was just another man
When they nailed Him to the cross by His hands and His feet and they put Him in the ground
Three days later everybody found out that ya can't
No you can't keep a good man down, no
No you can't keep a good man down
I hear you say that it all sound crazy
It's a good story but it can't be true
How could a man who was dead and buried
Mean a thing to you and me
Here we are two thousand years later
And still the choice is just the same
You can say ya don't believe it
But it doesn't change a thing
I can take you to the hill where they hung Him on a cross
I can take you to the empty tomb
I can tell you He's alive 'cause He lives in me
But the rest is up to you
Josh McDowell proclaimed at the beginning of this chapter of More Than a Carpenter:
“After more than 700 hours of studying this subject and thoroughly investigating its foundation, I came to the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is either one of the most wicked, vicious, heartless hoaxes ever foisted upon people or it is the most important fact of history.”
One can ask if there is enough evidence to believe in the resurrection?
Let’s look at the facts.
8.1 Jesus’ Burial
His body was wrapped in a linen cloth along with 100 pounds of aromatic spices (one of them being myrrh - a spice given to him at his birth by the wise men who visited him). These spices were mixed together to form a gummy substance and applied to his body. This was the typical Jewish burial custom of the day.
His body was placed in a solid rock tomb sealed by a stone weighing two tons.
Roman guards watched over the tomb who out of fear of punishment did not readily leave their posts. On the tomb was affixed a Roman seal. If anyone broke it, they would have faced serious punishment under Roman law.
And yet, on the third day, the tomb was empty.
8.2 The Empty Tomb
Christ’s followers proclaimed Christ had risen from the dead. Luke wrote in
Read: Acts 1:3
Some versions of the Bible translate the phrase “convincing proofs” as “infallible proofs.”
Paul wrote that 500 people to whom Christ appeared following His resurrection could verify seeing Him.
Some have suggested that Jesus wasn’t really dead when he was placed in the tomb. Yet a mere man could not have rolled a two ton stone away from the entrance of the tomb.
Others have suggested that the women who went to Jesus’ tomb rolled the stone. This would suggest that they overpowered the guards and managed to roll a two ton stone themselves. How likely could this explanation be?
German theologian Paul Althaus wrote that the resurrection “could not have been maintained in Jerusalem for a single day, for a single hour, if the emptiness of the tomb had not been established as a fact for all concerned.”
It is important that throughout history, not a shred of evidence has been found which disproves this fact.
8.3 The Wrong Tomb?
Some have suggested the women arrived at the wrong tomb. This would mean that the disciples who went to the tomb, the Roman authorities, and the guards stationed were all also at the wrong tomb. Even if this were true, the Roman authorities would have wasted no time in producing Christ’s body from the “right one.”
8.4 Swoon Theory
This theory asserts that Jesus didn’t actually die on the cross. He fainted from exhaustion, and blood loss but was later resuscitated but the disciples thought He was resurrected.
If this were indeed the case, Christ would have emerged from the ordeal a very weak man requiring medical attention. Could his disciples have seen him as Conqueror over death and the grave? Not likely.
8.5 The Body Stolen?
Some people feel that the disciples moved a two ton rock and snuck Jesus’ body out of the tomb while the Roman guards slept. Can anyone tell me what the mood of the disciples was like when Jesus was nailed to the cross?
• They were disheartened, depressed, and afraid.
It is unlikely that these people would have attempted such a stunt in their state of mind.
Further more, such an activity would run counter to their characters. They were known for their ethical teaching, and their endurance under persecution and suffering.
Well, maybe the Roman authorities stole his body. Huh?!!! These people set out to destroy Christianity. If they had Christ’s body, surely they would have put it on display to discredit those who were preaching the resurrection.
8.6 Evidence for the Resurrection
A chairman of the modern history department at Oxford University once said, “I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better an fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.
Dr. Simon Greenleaf is known as one of the greatest legal minds in this country. Through his efforts, Harvard Law school established the prominence it has today. While professor at Harvard, he wrote about the resurrection and noted that it would have been impossible for the apostles to have continued teaching the moral truths they did while also preaching the resurrection if it weren’t true.
Frank Morison, a lawyer thought that Jesus’ life was one of the most beautiful ever lived but he didn’t believe in the resurrection finding no intellectual basis for it. While writing a book detailing the last days of Christ’s life, he set out to prove the resurrection didn’t happen. However, in looking over all of the facts, he came to the conclusion that indeed it must have happened.
Most importantly, we can experience the power of a risen Lord in our lives today. Let’s stop for a minute and ponder the question:
How have you experienced the power of a risen Lord today?
• Our sins are forgiven
• His resurrection assures us of eternal life
• We are transformed into new people by the power of Christ
9. Will the Real Messiah Please Stand Up?
Could Jesus be the Messiah? His life certainly fulfilled the Messianic prophecies.
Jesus often referred to Old Testament scripture to back up his claims of being the Messiah.
Read: Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44 John 5:46
The Apostles also proclaimed that prophecy was fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ.
Read: Acts 3:18, Acts 17:2-3, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
From the Old Testament, there are 60 Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Josh McDowell views the fulfilled prophecies through Christ, as his address in history. It’s an apt metaphor because your name address sets you apart from the billions of people who inhabit our planet.
9.1 An Address In History
God gives us Jesus’ address in the Old Testament. This collection of books was written over a period of 1000 years and contains 300 references to His coming. The chances of just 48 of these prophecies being fulfilled in one person by chance are 1 in 10 to the 157th power. That’s 1 in a figure with too many zero’s to enumerate. These prophecies were shared more than 400 years before he appeared.
Some think the prophecies were made up to match his life. However, the Greek translation of the Old Testament was created around 150 BC.
Progressing through the prophecies, God becomes more and more explicit over who the Messiah will be.
9.1.1 The Messiah’s lineage will be from Adam.
Jesus was the one who came into the world to undo the works of Satan. Check out
Read: Genesis 3:15
9.1.2 The Messiah will come from the descendants of one of Noah’s sons: Shem.
Ham’s descendents are cursed.
Read: Genesis 9:22-25
Japheth received a blessing but was subject to Shem.
Read: Genesis 9:27
But in Shem’s blessing, he was given spiritual prominence.
Read: Genesis 9:26a
If a Messiah would come from any of Noah’s sons, it would be Shem.
And sure enough we find Jesus’ lineage described
Read: Luke 3:36
This passage traces Jesus’ lineage through Joseph. Yet technically, Joseph was Jesus’ stepfather.
Why do you suppose Joseph’s lineage matters in tracing Jesus’ lineage?
• I believe this shows God’s view of adoption. A child adopted into a family is truly a part of that family. Our son has a biological family in Russia. We learned about his biological mother. However, on September 24th, he became more than our “adopted son.” He became our son. He inherited a new mom and dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. When speaking of my Grandma and Grandpa Cottone and Grandma Kunkel, and Susan’s Grandma Becker – who passed away before Jonathan came into our lives, we refer to them as his great-Grandparents. More than biology, these people affected who we are in our personalities and outlook on life. Jonathan of course will be affected too as he is influenced by growing up with us as his parents. They have become a part of his legacy. When a person accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, that person becomes adopted into God’s family becoming a true son or daughter of God.
9.1.3 The Messiah will come from the descendants of Abraham
We find that all the people of the earth will be blessed through Abraham – an indication that the Messiah would come from one of his descendants.
Read: Genesis 12:1-3
God promised a special relationship with Abraham’s descendants.
Read: Genesis 17:7 7
9.1.4 The Messiah would come from the descendants of Isaac
God said about Isaac in
Read: Genesis 17:19 1
Genesis 22 documents the time when God called Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac but provided a substitute instead foreshadowing God’s sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus on one hand but also the idea of God providing a substitute – One who would die for our sins.
So, we know that the Messiah would come from Isaac’s line.
9.1.5 The Messiah would come from the descendants of Jacob.
God said of Jacob in
Read: Numbers 24:17
9.1.6 The Messiah Would Be Crucified
Read: Psalm 22:6-18
These passages vividly describe what happened to Jesus on the cross. The Zechariah passage even goes so far as referring to him as a firstborn son – which He was of Mary. But do you want to know something even more incredible? This prophecy was made in 1012 B.C. – a full 800 years before the Romans started using crucifixion as a punishment.
9.1.7 Getting Real Specific!
220.127.116.11 The Messiah will come while the temple in Jerusalem is still standing.
Read: Malachi 3:1
Note that the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 – a short time – historically speaking following Christ’s time on earth.
18.104.22.168 The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem.
Read: Micah 5:2
We of course, know Bethlehem to be the birthplace of Jesus!
22.214.171.124 The Messiah will endure impaling, insults, and the experience of his enemies gambling for his clothing.
Read: Psalm 22:3-18
Talk about a descriptive picture of the cross!
What about Judas? His act of betrayal was prophecied in the Old Testament.
Read: Zechariah 11:11-13
The fulfillment of this prophecy is found in
Read: Matthew 27:3-6
9.2 A Coincidence?
A critic might suggest that any major figure in history could fulfill these prophecies. This is true – but only for a few prophecies. No one other than Jesus could fulfill all 60.
Fred Maldeau, author of “Messiah in Both Testaments” has offered a $1000 reward to anyone who can find someone other than Jesus who can fulfill half of the predictions!
The chance of any one man fulfilling just 8 of the prophecies by coincidence is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. The following illustrates this idea. Suppose you covered the state of Texas with silver dollars two feet deep. Mix them up. Blind fold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, and pick only one up. The odds of him picking up the right coin is roughly the same!
If the prophets just came up with their predictions without God’s inspiration, the chance of any one man fulfilling those prophecies is 1 in 10 to the 17th power. They ALL came true in Christ.
Another way of looking at this is that God definitely inspired these scriptures. The chance that he didn’t is only 1 in 10 to the 17th power! Actually, this accounts for fulfillment of 8 prophecies. Christ fulfilled 60.
9.3 Could Jesus have tried to fulfill the prophecies?
This seems like a reasonable assumption. However, many of these predictions were beyond his control.
Let’s take a look at His birthplace – Bethlehem. We found this reference in Micah 5:2. Check out
Read: Matthew 5:1-6
His betrayal by Judas was prophecied. The way He died was prophecied. The fact that his enemies gambled over his clothing was prophecied. The mocking He endured while on the cross was prophecied. His lineage was prophecied. Half of the prophecies made about Him were completely out of His control!
We can see through all of these prophecies that God went to a lot of trouble to establish Jesus’ credibility.
One of the most fantastic prophecies was fulfilled in Christ.
Read: Ezekiel 36:25-27
Paul summed up this prophecies as he described what happens when someone accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Read: 2 Corinthians 5:7
10. Is There Another Way?
This question very often comes up even among Christians. What about devout Jews? Or how about a Buddhist or a Muslim who is devoted to his or her faith? These concerns often come down to the following question: How can a loving God allow a sinful individual to go to hell?
Another question can be asked: How can a just and holy God allow a sinful individual into His presence?
God created us to have a loving relationship with Him. However, when Adam and Eve rebelled, sin entered the human race.
We know the following in
Read: Romans 6:23a
A decision was made by God. God the Son would become human. Jesus, the Son took the form of a man and take the punishment that we deserve.
Read: Philippians 2:5-8
He was fully God and fully man and led a sinless life so the punishment for sin didn’t apply to Him. Being fully God, He could take upon Himself the sins of the world. This allowed God to satisfy His just nature and deal with humanity in love.
Jesus died for you. He died for me. He died for the world. He also died for the Father.
Read: Romans 3
God's Faithfulness vs 1-8
No One is Righteous vs 9-10
Righteousness Through Faith vs 21-31
Jesus satisfied God’s requirement for the salvation of mankind. He died on the cross for our sins.
An incident happened in California some time ago, which illustrates what God accomplished through His son. Perhaps you heard about it.
A woman appeared before a judge for speeding. The judge asked her to plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” She plead, “guilty.” The judge declared that she would be fined $100 or spend 10 days in jail. He then took of his robe, took $100 out of his wallet and paid the fine. The woman was his daughter. He loved her but he had to uphold the law. By paying that fine he expressed that love and acted out of justice.
We see this summarized in Romans 6:23
Read: Rom. 6:23
God declared that the punishment for sin is death. The gift is God the Son stepping down from the throne and paying that price for us so that we might receive eternal life!
Some would ask, “Why doesn’t God just forgive our sins?” Where there is forgiveness, there is payment. If someone breaks your window, you can forgive them but someone has to pay to repair that window. If someone insults you, you can forgive that person but you pay the emotional price for that insult. When we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we not only receive forgiveness for our sins we know that He has paid the price for our sins.
In discussing this issue last week, we started to discuss how election versus free will in the process of salvation. Frankly, I think a stand at either extreme is troublesome. I can’t help but see God at work in people’s lives throughout the centuries. While Jonathan are reading through the book of Exodus, we see how God repeatedly hardened Pharoh’s heart. Surely He will work in people’s lives in ways that further His purposes. Yet we can’t escape passages like John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. In 2 Peter 3:9, we read, 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
I believe this verse is the answer as to why God would go to so much trouble to establish the credibility of His Son and of His Word. He desires that none should perish but in His sovereignty, He has established the framework for salvation.
I believe there are two reasons why this issue will continue to be debated until Christ comes again. God is infinite, all powerful, and all knowing. From the very beginning, God had a plan for salvation. He knew would respond to the Gospel message. And yet the individual at some time must decide whether or not to respond to that message. Have we as Christians been chosen from the beginning? Yes. Did each of us make a decision to come to know Him as Lord and Savior? Yes. Does God’s foreknowledge of our decisions lock us into those decisions? Yes. However, we are held accountable for the decisions we make on a day to day basis. We are finite creatures dealing with an infinite God.
I think there is another reason why this is left as a mystery to us as is the question of whether or not those who have not had the opportunity to believe in Him will be found in Heaven or Hell. God has commanded us to share the Gospel with everyone. Knowing that a person who receives the Gospel will definitely go to heaven and conversely the one who doesn’t could definitely end up in Hell brings an urgency to our effort. Out of the love that we are supposed to have for our neighbor, we don’t want to see that neighbor in Hell. It is what compelled me to pray with my Grandmother to receive the Lord on her death-bed and to share the Gospel message with Susan’s grandmother as she was dying – and as her mind was barely lucid. It’s what compels me to do devotions with my 15 month old son – hoping that as his language and cognitive skills develop, that God will already be a big part of his life. I have no control in any of these circumstances. My grandmother may have prayed with me to humor me. Susan’s grandmother may still have rejected or not even understood what was shared with her one last time. My son may indeed reject the treasure that is laid before him on a daily basis. I’d like to know that I did what I could to give them every opportunity to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
11. He Changed My Life
Josh McDowell concludes “More Than A Carpenter” with a testimony of how God changed his life.
And indeed God has done this for each of us – even those of us who came to at a very early age. If you’re not convinced, take a good look at yourself and imagine what your life would be like without him.
I came to Christ as a young child so I can’t recollect what my life was like B.C. However, I know enough about myself to know what it is He’s done. By nature, I am at times insecure. The approval my friends and family mean everything to me. I wonder at times, what my wife Susan sees in me. I often don’t see the wonderful husband she makes me out to be. I struggled with friendships in school. It wasn’t until college that I started to make real friendships. I second-guess myself and often beat myself up over my mistakes. But I know I have a God that sustains me and sticks by me closer than a friend. I have a God that has blessed me with a fantastic wife and son – a great family – an awesome church family and a number of people I’m proud to call my friends. I can worship the Lord in music on a regular basis. What more could I ask for?
Some people expect a radical instaneous change when they become Christians. This often is not the case. Change can take place over a great deal of time.
What’s also awesome is that God continues to transforms.
We learned in the “Becoming a Contagious Christian” class is that the testimony of what God has done in your life can have the greatest impact on someone in coming to the Lord.
I’d like to know – from you – how has God changed your life?
Lets bow our heads.
There may be someone here who doesn’t yet have a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you have come to believe that He is indeed God, that His message is indeed true, I encourage you to pray this prayer:
I need you. Thank You for dying on the cross for me. Please forgive me for my sins. I trust You as my Lord and Savior. I want to be the person You want me to be. Please work in my life to make that happen.
If you prayed this prayer and have accepted Jesus
Christ as Lord and Savior, your journey has just begun. Please talk to
me, Wes, or Pastor Bob. We’d like to walk beside you to help you
to grow in your faith.
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