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God raised Him from the dead

The witness of the resurrection always demands a verdict


God raised Him from the dead

The entirety of the Christian faith hinges on those historical events that took place in Jerusalem—events that sent shockwaves throughout the rest of recorded history. The climactic event was Jesus of Nazareth’s physical resurrection from death to life. According to Scripture, Jesus was not “raised to life in our hearts,” as theological liberalism proclaims, nor was He resuscitated from a mere near-death experience. As Miracle Max from The Princess Bride said, “There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”

The pivotal event of the Christian faith centers on a man who was once fully dead yet became fully alive by divine action (Acts 13:30). The apostles clearly believed that the central claim of their proclamation was the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

One cannot be indifferent to the claim of Christ’s bodily resurrection. Our civilization’s familiarity with Christianity can render such astounding, even scandalous, claims as old hat. Yet, 2,000 years ago, a group of Jesus’s followers laid their lives on the line so that the world would believe the validity and truthfulness of their message. And today, modern man and modern woman must continue to grapple with the disciples’ message as well.

Here’s the bottom line: Either Jesus’s corpse is simply ancient dust strewn about the Middle East, or the resurrection claims are true. If it’s true, and Christ is risen from the dead, then that fact changes everything.

In the field of Christian apologetics, there is continued debate about apologetical methods. From classical apologetics and evidentialist apologetics down to presuppositional apologetics, what each approach holds out as its endpoint is the claim that Christianity is true—true in that it is both philosophically coherent and that it corresponds to reality. Regardless of which camp one claims, we liken apologetics to a golf bag with an array of clubs, but each club is best for a different particular need at different moments.

Let us consider what we believe is an evidentialist apologetic that centers the prominence on the resurrection. Throughout the historical account in Acts we find a pronounced emphasis on the resurrection of Christ as the grounds for the apostles’ evangelistic method and the gospel’s truthfulness.

The attestation of the gospel’s truthfulness was grounded in the fact that the resurrection occurred as a literal, historical event.

Consider just a few examples of how the resurrection is used throughout Acts to attest to the truthfulness of the gospel:

  • “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” Acts 1:3
  • “beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” Acts 1:22
  • “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” Acts 2:32
  • “and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” Acts 3:15
  • Some hearers were “greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” Acts 4:2
  • “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” Acts 4:33
  • “God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” Acts 5:31–32

There are additional references, too. What’s beyond clear is this: The attestation of the gospel’s truthfulness was grounded in the fact that the resurrection occurred as a literal, historical event. There’s no other way to parse it. Why would the apostles die a martyr’s death for a scam? The simplest explanation is that they believed Jesus truly rose from the dead. That belief is essential and fundamental to Christianity.

So, where does this leave us?

Based upon Jesus’ final words in Acts 1:8, Christians are called to be witnesses of the power of the gospel in light of the resurrection of Christ. The credibility of Jesus’s resurrection is directly tied to our public testimony. Therefore, Christians are to testify to a lost world that because Jesus Christ is raised, therefore, Jesus Christ is Lord. Our appeal to unbelievers is directly linked to the resurrection as a historical, literal event in human history.

Whatever objections one wants to raise about the difficulty of believing in creation ex nihilo or Jonah being swallowed by a whale, if Jesus physically rose, all declarations of miracles as recorded in Holy Scripture become possible—indeed they are true. Someone may not like a doctrinal or ethical claim of Christianity. Okay then, but that raises a question: Did Jesus rise from the dead?

Logic tells us that if Christ rose from the dead, then every other miraculous event or doctrinal or ethical claim in Scripture is true as well. In fact, they are all true. If Christ can promise His resurrection days before He is nailed to a rugged cross (Mark 10:32-34), then the validity and the inevitability of other promises remain intact, including His promise of an eternal heaven and an eternal hell.

The church historian Jaroslav Pelikan argued that the resurrection is the decisive claim of Christianity. “If Christ is risen, nothing else matters,” said Pelkian, “And if Christ is not risen—nothing else matters.” This is not just a claim made by a church historian but the Apostle Paul as well. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is adamant that if Christ is not raised, we should all just eat, drink, and be merry, for all that awaits us is non-existence, not even the Easter Bunny.

So, dear reader, what do you say: Is Jesus dead or alive? The Christian answer is: He lives! Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and thus salvation is accomplished.

Andrew T. Walker

Andrew is the managing editor of WORLD Opinions and serves as associate professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. He resides with his family in Louisville, Ky.

Cheston Pickard

Cheston Pickard serves as discipleship pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky.

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