Calvary Road Baptist Church

“JESUS: HIS PERSON AND DOCTRINE”[1]

 

 

I once engaged a missionary in a serious discussion about saving faith. During the course of the exchange, I pointed out to him that faith is built upon facts, and that no one who knows nothing at all of Bible truth can be saved from their sins until they have a firm enough bedrock of truth upon which genuine faith can be built. He responded by telling me that if that were the case, none of the people he had supposedly reached in his ministry are saved, because none of them, not a single one of them, knew anything from the Bible before responding to his invitation to accept Jesus. He said that when he went to the town he is in he simply said that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again from the dead for their sins, and to be forgiven they needed to accept Jesus, and they did.

Our support of that veteran missionary ended immediately. Why so? While it is not necessary that a sinner know a great deal, there has to be some factual basis on which faith can be erected. After all, even children can be saved. However, no one who knows nothing of scriptural truth can be saved, since it is the things that one knows in relation to salvation that forms the basis for faith. The missionary should have known that.

Hebrews 11.1 tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” So, you see the place that facts and information occupies, even if it is circumstantial, in the essential nature of faith. And why would God deal with His creatures through faith instead of through proof? Hebrews 11.6: “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

God, Who is sovereign and free in all His dealings with mankind, has chosen to deal with us on the basis of faith, which is to say not on the basis of scientific evidence and proof. Why would He choose to deal with us in this way? My own guess is that God is pleased when men take Him at His Word and believe what He tells us. Not that we are left without the testimonies of science, history, and philosophy. However, in the end, when all is said and done, we either trust in God’s character to tell us the truth, or we do not. To that end, I have embarked on a different kind of journey with you than our former missionary ought to have embarked on with those he ministered to. He should have established some kind of scriptural footing before allowing people to respond in a hasty manner to a gospel they did not really understand, which may very well have resulted in professions of faith that did not result in their souls’ salvation.

Many of you, on the other hand, are loaded with information. However, in the skeptical and doubting culture that we live in, I have no doubt that the truth of God’s Word is often mixed with a great deal of error that results in normal people questioning and doubting what is true and what is not true. It is for that reason that we have considered both the strengths and weaknesses of science and history, with some input from philosophy, as they relate to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Two weeks ago, I pointed out that science handles some truths in a most excellent fashion, especially those events which can be observed first hand and which repeat again and again, such as when experiments are conducted. History is a discipline that is better suited to events that occur only once, and when the investigator is removed in space and time from the event being studied. You may also remember me mentioning that in the 1700s and 1800s, scientists theorized the universe to be a closed system, with nothing from the outside of nature affecting anything on the inside of nature. Science as a whole in our day, following the lead of physics, no longer buys into that model. Thus, though it used to be scientifically plausible to deny even the possibility of miracles, the open system model that is now embraced by everyone in the scientific community demands that an intellectually honest person cannot presumptively rule out the possibility of miracles in a universe that has built-in uncertainties.

Applying the discipline of history to the question of Christ’s resurrection shows a miraculous resurrection to be the very best possible explanation of a whole list of undenied and undeniable historical events. Let me briefly review them for you by citing ten facts which are accepted as historical by virtually all scholars who study this subject, in spite of the various differences in other areas of their thought: (1) Jesus died because of crucifixion. (2) He was buried. (3) The disciples became very discouraged, having lost hope because of His death. (4) Jesus’ tomb was found empty soon after His burial. (5) A few days after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus. (6) Because of these experiences, the disciples’ lives were completely transformed to the point of being willing to die for their belief. (7) The disciples’ public testimony concerning the resurrection took place in Jerusalem, where Jesus was crucified and buried shortly before. (8) The Christian faith had its beginning at this time. (9) Sunday became the primary day of worship. (10) A few years later, Paul became a believer because of an experience which he also believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.[2]

Thus, while science does not, and cannot, speak to the resurrection of Jesus, historians both can and do speak with a surprising degree of unanimity, even among skeptical scholars. “Stephen Davis asserts that the resurrection is ‘very difficult for religious skeptics to explain naturalistically,’ so they have to deny it. More explicitly: ‘The resurrection of Jesus appears to be a hard miracle -- skeptics apparently cannot agree that it occurred . . . without abandoning religious skepticism.’”[3]

Enter philosophy, with its powerful classical arguments for the existence of God, as formulated by some of the most brilliant men who have ever lived. Add to that, as we did last week, the modern arguments that are so weighty, not the least of which is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which when rightly understood and correctly applied demands that our universe had a beginning, and will have an end, since it is running down in much the same way a battery loses its charge and a wind up watch unwinds its mainspring. If the universe thus began, and if the universe thus will end, then it is a most reasonable proposition that the universe was created, by someone with immense power and intelligence, who we call God.

Keep in mind what I clearly stated last week, that we have not attempted to prove the existence of God by showing the reasonableness of believing in God, or by showing that the resurrection of Jesus is the most plausible explanation of the irrefutable historical events bearing directly on the empty tomb in Jerusalem. We seek not proof, since God declares to us that His dealings with us require that we respond with faith. What we seek is enough evidence of various kinds to show that faith is reasonable, that what the Bible declares to be true can be believed without parking our brains with the parking lot attendant.

Okay, so we have the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, so firmly entrenched in history that the opponents of Christianity in the very city where it occurred made no attempt to deny the empty tomb.

Add to that the reasonableness that God exists, and we still have the question of where do we go from here?

What are we to make of God raising Jesus from the dead?

Three things are to be made of this:

 

First, GOD’S RESURRECTION OF JESUS WAS MEANINGFUL

 

That there is a God Who raised Jesus from the dead has to mean something. The resurrection of Jesus is an effect, produced by God, Who is the cause. What meaning can we attach to God doing that?

First, let us agree that God is logical and not illogical. After all, an examination of the physical universe in which we live demands reason, insists upon rationality. As well, when you turn to the Bible you see a book that is intelligent and articulate, not only urging logical thought, but also demanding logical thought. Isaiah 1.18: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD.” There can be no question that God is logical and not illogical, resulting in His actions being logical and not illogical.

Next, let us agree that God is good and not evil. Though we cannot ascertain God’s moral qualities by examining the physical universe in which we live, philosophers can argue quite powerfully that the very existence of man’s moral inclinations demands not only a God, but also one who is also a moral Being. When we turn to the Bible, we see this born out in countless ways. God is not only moral; He is also good and not evil. Thus, it was a logical thing for God to raise up Jesus from the dead, as well as a good thing.

Third, keep in mind that God raising up Jesus from the dead was not only logical and good, but it was also unique. That is, raising up Jesus was a one of a kind event, never before done in that way. When Jesus died He really died, but His body did not suffer corruption. Instead, God raised Him from the dead in His same body, but glorified and in some ways different. However, keep in mind that what God did to His Son, Jesus, He did for no one else. Buddha’s body was never raised from the dead. Mohammed’s body was never raised from the dead. This suggests Jesus has a relationship with God the others did not enjoy.

Fourth, God was fully aware that Jesus predicted His Own resurrection, and that He advanced doctrines that were controversial to the Jewish people. I will speak to this more in a moment, but was it not scandalous for Jesus to heal on the Sabbath, and to pick food from a crop on the Sabbath? Of course, it was. Did He not also teach things the Jewish leaders took as blasphemous? Yes, He did. However, despite all that, and with full knowledge of all that, God still raised Him from the dead.

Therefore, we can safely conclude that by raising Jesus from the dead, God showed that raising up Jesus was a logical thing to do, that raising up Jesus was a good thing to do, that raising up Jesus showed His unique relationship with God, and that raising up Jesus demonstrated God’s approval of Jesus as a person and of God’s approval of the doctrines Jesus taught and demonstrated. After all, if God is good and logical, and He is, He would never have raised up a heretic from the dead.

 

Next, GOD’S RESURRECTION OF JESUS SHOWED HIS APPROVAL OF JESUS

 

I made mention of this only a moment ago, but it is important to elaborate and expand on what I have said:

Though Jesus never made the specific claim of being God, there is abundant evidence that He thought of Himself as deity. First, our Lord’s favorite designation for Himself was Son of Man. Found eighty-one times in the four gospels, there are profound prophetic implications associated with this concept. “The majority of critical scholars hold that Jesus used this title personally in order to substantiate His messianic claims.”[4] Next, not only did He identify Himself as the Son of God, a statement that in the first century was a statement of equality with God the Father, John 5.18, but also He was so recognized by Satan, by demons, by Roman soldiers, by His disciples, by His apostles, and also by later converts to Christianity.[5] Third, His claims of having a special relationship with God were taken to be blasphemy by some of His listeners, and was one of their motives for wanting to put Him to death.[6] Fourth, there was Jesus’ conviction that He was the unique savior of sinful men’s souls, John 14.6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Fifth, the Lord Jesus openly asserted His power to forgive sins, Mark 2.5-7:

 

5      When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.

6      But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,

7      Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?

 

Sixth, Jesus’ willingness to exercise authority in other areas evidences His deity. He was always asserting His authority over the conventions of His day, even going so far as claiming to be Lord of the Sabbath, Mark 2.28. He thereby claimed authority belonging only to God. Seventh, Jesus claimed to fulfill messianic prophecy, thereby identifying Himself as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, an assertion of deity in itself. Luke 4.16-21 records only one of the numerous claims, when He went to the synagogue in His home town of Nazareth and read and applied a messianic prophecy to Himself:

 

16     And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read.

17     And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

18     The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

19     To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

20     And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

21     And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

 

As well, in John 4.25, the Samaritan woman spoke of the coming Messiah. In the next verse Jesus said, “I that speak unto thee am he.” As strong a claim of being Messiah as is possible. Lastly, the apostolic witness of Christ attests to His deity. Those who knew Him best, who spent the most time with Him, and who carried on after His resurrection and ascension, recognized His deity, as John illustrates throughout His gospel account.

Adding to the Lord’s own self-identification, there was His designation as Lord by early Christians. The Septuagint was the widely circulated Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures in the first century. When translating the very name of God, Septuagint translators made use of the Greek word kurioV. That same word is translated where it appears in the New Testament as our English word “lord.” It must be recognized as a remarkable testimony of Christ’s deity for inspired New Testament writers and early Christians to so identify the Lord Jesus Christ, which is tantamount to referring to Him as Jehovah. Here are some of the many verses in the New Testament referring to Jesus Christ using the Greek counterpart to the Hebrew word for Jehovah:

 

Romans 1.3: “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 

First Corinthians 1.2: “with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 

Galatians 1.3: “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

James 1.1: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

First Peter 1.3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Second John 3: “the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father.”

 

Jude 4, 17, 21: “our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Third, there is the title of “Christ.” The Hebrew word translated messiah, and the Greek word cristoV, Christ in English, means anointed. Therefore, to refer to Him as the Christ is to label Him the Jewish Messiah, which as was pointed out before, was a claim of deity.

Fourth, related to the claims by the Lord Jesus Christ to be deity, are the acknowledgments that He is God.

 

John 1.1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

 

Colossians 2.9: “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”

 

Hebrews 1.8, where God the Father speaks: “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God.”

 

Of course, the most stubborn denier of Christ’s resurrection, doubting Thomas, uttered the most famous witness to Christ’s deity. When confronted by the resurrected Savior, and when prompted to touch Him and feel His wounds, Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.”

From His own obvious self-awareness, to His earliest disciples addressing Him as “Lord,” to His earliest disciples recognizing Him to be the “Christ,” and the instances in which His apostles addressed Him as God, there was good reason for God to raise Jesus from the dead and thereby demonstrate His approval of His Son’s divine Person.

 

Finally, GOD’S RESURRECTION OF JESUS SHOWED HIS APPROVAL OF HIS DOCTRINES

 

As I mentioned earlier, God would not raise a heretic from the dead. Therefore, in addition to His resurrection being a sign of God’s approval of Him personally, so also God raising Him from the dead witnesses to God’s approval of those things Jesus taught.

What does this mean? It means we can rest assured concerning what Jesus said about, sin. Jesus recognized the existence of sin, attested to the destructive and damning power of sin in someone’s life, spoke of His own power to forgive sins, made reference to the Holy Spirit’s dealings with sin, and died on Calvary’s cross to save sinners from sin.

Next, we can rest assured about what Jesus said about death. He recognized that death is the wages earned by sin. As well, we know that there is physical and spiritual death, and sin is the ultimate cause of both. However, we also know that by dying on the cross Himself, an atonement for sin, and then rising from the dead, Jesus conquered death and is the firstborn from the dead. Thus, those who know Christ are in Christ already victors over death, while those who reject Christ will be victimized by death.

Third, we can rest assured about what Jesus said about salvation. There is much in the Bible that you and I do not understand. However, an important principle of Bible interpretation is to never allow what is unclear in the Bible to deprive you of the blessing of what is clearly taught. With respect to salvation, Jesus clearly taught, so you should certainly believe, that He will save anyone who comes to Him, and those who do not come to Him refuse only because they love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.

Fourth, we can rest assured concerning what Jesus said about His kingdom. Jesus is the king of His kingdom, and He is the King over all kings. Furthermore, He will establish His kingdom here on earth someday, answering the prayer He taught to His disciples, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”[7]

Fifth, we can rest assured about what Jesus said about eternity and conscious existence after death. When Jesus spoke the words of Matthew 25.46, you know His words are true: “these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” As well, with respect to the unsaved rich man who died, Luke 16.23: “And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.” Equally true concerning those Jesus saves. In Luke 23.43, Jesus spoke to the one thief who looked to Him in faith and asked only to be remembered when He came to His kingdom: “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”

Sixth, we can rest assured that Jesus said what He meant and meant what He said when He said He was coming again, Matthew 25.31: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.”

Finally, we can rest assured that Jesus spoke the truth about the last judgment, that there will be a day of judgment, and that the Father has committed all judgment to the Son, John 5.22. Of course, after this final judgment comes the everlasting fire, originally prepared for the devil and his angels, Matthew 25.41.

 

Who was it that said, “Facts are stubborn things”? Rather than dealing with the facts, this old Satan-dominated world buries the facts under mountains of propaganda and unreliable hearsay.

However, when the facts are investigated in an honest and truth-seeking way, it can be seen that real and legitimate reasons exist for believing Jesus was raised by God from the dead, for believing that God is real as the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, and as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Further, God’s raising of His Son from the dead was a miracle that was full of meaning, was a miracle that approved of His Son’s divine Person, and was a miracle that approved and set God’s own seal on the things Jesus taught during His earthly ministry.

What does all this mean to you today? It means Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the God who created and who sustains this universe you live in, who provides the air you breathe and the sunshine that sustains your life, is someone you would do well not to ignore.

Do not pretend the only man to ever be raised from the dead by God can be overlooked just because it does not seem at present convenient for you.

Do not pretend what He both said and did will not affect you profoundly, both now and throughout eternity.

What will you do with the Lord Jesus Christ, raised from the dead by God, approved by God, and His teachings endorsed by God?

That is the great question for you to address. If you wonder what you should do with Him, please take the time to come and talk to me.


[1] I am heavily indebted to Gary R. Habermas, The Resurrection Of Jesus, (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984), from which the thrust and most facts in this sermon are taken.

[2] Gary R. Habermas, The Resurrection Of Jesus, (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984), page 25.

[3] Cited by Gary R. Habermas, The Risen Jesus & Future Hope, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003), page 78.

[4] Gary R. Habermas, The Resurrection Of Jesus, (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984), page 81.

[5] Mt 4:3, 6; 8:29; 14:33; 26:63; 27:40, 43, 54; Mr 1:1; 3:11; 15:39; Lu 1:35; 4:3, 9, 41; 8:28; 22:70; Joh 1:34, 49; 3:18; 5:25; 9:35; 10:36; 11:4, 27; 19:7; 20:31; Ac 8:37; 9:20; Ro 1:4; 2Co 1:19; Ga 2:20; Eph 4:13; Heb 4:14; 6:6; 7:3; 10:29; 1Jo 3:8; 4:15; 5:5, 10, 12-13, 20; Re 2:18

[6] John 10.31

[7] Matthew 6.10



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org