Calvary Road Baptist Church


Last week was Palm Sunday, the anniversary of the Lord Jesus Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. The message I brought from God’s Word on that occasion was evidence to establish the historical certainty that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Of course, the problem with men’s minds is that once there is a fixation on some particular viewpoint, no matter the evidence to the contrary, once someone is invested in a particular approach to life, he is unlikely to loosen his grip on convictions he embraces, no matter how faulty the logic or information used to arrive at that conclusion. Did not physicians continue to perform surgeries with dirty hands and unsterilized instruments for a century after they had been shown that bacteria cause infections and deaths? Therefore, it is not at all surprising that even with the overwhelming evidence I provided last Sunday, folks would hardly budge at all to address the serious implications of the raising of the Son of God from the dead. Such is the condition of men. It takes a great deal to overcome the inertia associated with error. I could add even more for your consideration.

I hold in my hand a book written by a man named Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853), born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, who began the practice of law in Portland, Maine. Serving as professor of law at Harvard University from 1833-48, he was instrumental in organizing Harvard’s law program and setting the bar for Harvard Law very high, indeed. As Dane Professor of Law at Harvard, Simon Greenleaf produced “the greatest single authority on evidence in the entire literature of legal procedure” (Knott, The Dictionary of American Biography). His three-volume work, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, is considered a classic of American jurisprudence and forms the basis of his study that led to this book. How would the gospels be regarded if they were submitted as evidence in a court of law? That was the question put to him by one of his law students that formed the basis for Greenleaf’s classic study of the rules of legal evidence as applied to the New Testament accounts of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Applying the same rules of evidence administered in courts of justice, Greenleaf then demonstrated the validity of the gospels as trustworthy and authoritative historical accounts. The result was Greenleaf’s conversion to Christ. A time-honored work in substantiating the relevance and reliability of the gospel records, The Testimony of the Evangelists has been rediscovered by succeeding generations as an effective apologetics tool for a skeptically minded culture. A quote from Greenleaf himself:

“Let the Gospel’s testimony be sifted, as it were given in a court of justice on the side of the adverse party, the witness being subjected to a rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.”[1]

I mention Greenleaf’s book to accompany my remark about last week’s message to display the reality for one and all of faith that is Biblical, faith that is real, faith that is genuine, faith that can stand up to the scrutiny of a courtroom cross examination, is faith that rests upon solid facts. Indeed, Hebrews 11.1 has insisted for 2,000 years that faith is “the evidence of things not seen.” That is another way of describing faith as the right conclusion that is drawn from circumstantial evidence. Sadly, the state of men’s minds as a result of the contaminating and defiling effects of sin renders us incapable of arriving at right conclusions about spiritual matters apart from the operation of God’s grace. Such was illustrated by Pontius Pilate, while gazing upon the wrongly charged but obviously innocent Lord Jesus Christ, the very embodiment of truth, who was so blind as to ask Him, “What is truth?”[2] What Jack Nicholson once said in a movie, “You can’t handle the truth,” is sadly true of each of us, apart from God’s grace. How can men arrive at the most bizarre conclusions from an abundance of clear evidence? If you are unimpressed by Pilate’s response to evidence of the Savior’s innocence, try renting the classic movie To Kill A Mockingbird to see how a jury ignored all evidence to convict an innocent man. Or you can go to the news archives and take note of the jury’s verdict at the O. J. Simpson trial.

Seeing, men simply do not see. Hearing, they do not hear, unless God chooses to enlighten men’s minds to offset the blindness visited upon them by the god of this world.[3] I am so thankful that thirty-nine years ago God began to rock my world of unfounded assumptions about science and other so-called certainties, gradually toppling the fortress of ignorance and prejudice against the truth erected in my thinking, just enough for a sliver of gospel light to penetrate my sin-darkened mind and heart. It was on March 31, 1974, thirty-nine years ago today, that God reached down from heaven and seriously bothered me with the truth, having providentially prepared me by means of a number of circumstances and events in my life that caused me to lose confidence in myself, and resulted in me recognizing that I was doomed and without hope as a rejecter of Jesus Christ. Reading the Bible one night and then the next, I cast myself upon the Lord Jesus Christ as the only savior of sinful men’s souls, as my own personal savior.

I do not usually insert myself so prominently into a message, but these matters stopped being abstractions for me thirty-nine years ago. Granting that real objectivity is a hypothetical possibility but a practical impossibility, I stand before you a man who was once categorically opposed to Christianity, to the existence of God, to the authority of the Bible, and to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Now, on the other hand, the resurrection of Jesus Christ excites me because what He once did in overcoming death, He will someday do for me.

Notice the two graphics at the end of this sermon. The one on top is a brief explanation of what Jesus Christ’s resurrection is and what it means. Below it is a diagram that may surprise you, referring as it does to five resurrections, of which the Lord Jesus Christ’s is the most important because it was the first. If your eyes are good, if you have bifocals, or if you have a magnifying glass, the scripture references will provide a great deal of help in understanding the diagram. Please put your bulletin away for now.

What about the resurrection of Jesus Christ? What does it mean? What it means depends upon who you are. By that I do not mean that the resurrection is one person’s truth but another person’s fiction, because truth is universal or it is not truth at all. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is established as an event in history. However, the implications of His resurrection in your life are directly related to your relationship with Him.

Only two relationships with Jesus Christ are possible. Allow me to relate to you the impact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ to you, depending upon your relationship with Him:


This would be the situation the Philippian jailor found himself in when the Apostle Paul and Silas were brought to him, beaten half to death in violation of Roman law though they were Roman citizens. The record of those events is found in Acts chapter 16. We can imagine their physical condition, shock, dehydration, loss of blood, open wounds on their backs, their buttocks, and their legs. Yet, despite their condition, they were treated with even more brutality, being placed into the inner part of the Philippian prison, with their ankles in very painful stocks.[4] Though Luke makes no mention of it in his account, it would be unthinkable (in my opinion) that Paul and Silas would not have clearly presented the gospel to the prison inmates before they began to pray and sing praises to God, as we are told in Acts 16.25. After all, when did Paul not preach the gospel? By the gospel, I mean that Paul declared that God sent His virgin-born Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for men’s sins, Who was then buried, and Who then rose from the dead, victorious on the third day. What evidence was there that Paul and Silas’ testimony about Christ’s death and His resurrection was true? Why should the other prisoners and the jailor believe what they said? They were the evidence. Who else sings praise to God in prison? Therefore, in conjunction with the fact that they had cast a demon out of girl earlier in the day, had declared that all men are condemned in their sins but there is good news that Jesus, Who died and Who rose and Who is coming again, saves, the Philippian jailor was convinced. I am not persuaded that the earthquake convinced him. Remember, earthquakes were not that unusual there, and this man was a soldier. Something scared him frightfully, so that he was on the verge of suicide. What was it? I am persuaded it was the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Let me tell you why. The resurrection means the Christian gospel is right, and remember that Paul was one of the eye witnesses that Christ had risen from the dead. However, if the resurrection had truly taken place (and it did), that means a bunch of other things must be considered that most men choose to ignore. If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then death is not the end of existence. There is something horrible after death, the Bible calls it Hell. If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then a number of Bible predictions turned out to be true, meaning the Bible is a credible source of truth about spiritual matters. If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then He is who He said He was, the eternal Son of the living God, Who will someday sit in judgment of those who reject Him. If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then He actually died for the reason He said He died, for men’s sins, but only the sins of those who trust Him. If Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then those who reject Him are not only wrong, they are dead wrong, with dead not being the end of existence, but the beginning of an eternity of terrible suffering and torment. Do I think the Philippian jailor verbalized all of these thoughts with crystal clarity in his mind? No, he probably was not articulate enough or well enough informed. However, there are two things he understood with crystal clarity: First, he knew he was on the wrong side of an issue that it did not pay to be on the wrong side of. Second, he knew that he was a godless sinner without hope, doomed by his sins, and ready to resort to the only remedy he could imagine, which was suicide. It was the wrong remedy, but it was the one remedy that came to his mind.

The Philippian jailor’s fear was prompted by information that, while accurate, was incomplete. It is entirely possible to have a minimal amount of information, but for the information that you have to be accurate so far as it goes. That was the case with him. Minimal, but accurate, information. He was on the wrong side regarding the resurrection, an unforgiven sinner. Allow me to flesh out the details a bit, since you have so much more truth available to you than did that Roman soldier in the middle of the night so long ago. For Jesus Christ to rise from the dead must mean that He was who He said He was, He came for the reason He said He came, and that He actually died on the cross for the reason He said. As well, the resurrection of Jesus Christ must mean that God is pleased with His Son (so He cannot be happy with those who reject His Son), that He is satisfied with those for whom Jesus died, and that He remains very angry at those for whom Jesus did not die.

Think about it, my friend. The prophets said He would rise, and He did. He said He would rise, and He did. Death could not hold Him, but it will hold you. Sin could not condemn Him, but sin has already condemned you. He overcame death, showing that He is the resurrection and the life, meaning, of course, that you abide in death if you do not abide in Christ. His resurrection from the dead proves that His efforts to save sinners are successful, yet you are not a beneficiary of His labors, you abide yet in your sins, and are therefore doomed. As I said before, the fact that He rose from the dead establishes that there is existence after death, yet not being a Christian you will not enjoy the benefits He has provided but will suffer the consequences of your own sins and condemnation. Somehow understanding how bleak his future would be as a godless sinner, the Philippian jailor wrongly purposed to end his own life. Seeing what he was about to do, Paul cried, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.”[5] The desperate man then came “came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas . . . and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”[6] Here we see true humility, which is wonderful since God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.[7] Lost and undone, he knew he was lost and undone, so he asked what he should do. It amazes me how many men, not knowing what to do, will risk failure and doom before they humble themselves enough to ask a simple question. Thankfully, this man asked, and Paul and Silas answered, and the Philippian jailor was saved from his sins.


Have I ever told you the story of the man born and raised in France, who immigrated to Great Britain in the mid-1800s and eventually obtained his citizenship there? When someone asked him what benefit he enjoyed since becoming a British subject, he replied, “Before, Waterloo was a defeat. Now, Waterloo is a victory!” The same is true with respect to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. For Jesus Christ to die and then rise from the dead shows Him to be the victor over sin, over death, over Hell, and over the grave. However, if you are yet dead in trespasses and sins, as is every unconverted person, then the victory Christ wrought by His resurrection is the worst defeat for you imaginable, since it spells your destruction. There is nothing wrong with refusing to read your Bible, refusing to pray, refusing to serve God, refusing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, refusing to faithfully attend church, refusing to give tithes and offerings if Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead. Fornicate, adulterate, booze it up, use drugs, get naked, murder unborn babies, use profanity all you want, so long as Christ is not raised from the dead. Therefore, if Jesus Christ is raised from the dead, then He will certainly sit in judgment of you for those sins.[8]

However, from time to time the Spirit of God convicts a sinner of his sins, the Word of God is heard and fosters faith in the bosom of a man, and in response to the gospel of God’s grace, with his heart a sinner believes unto righteousness.[9] When that happens, everything changes. His relationship with Jesus Christ is forever and completely altered, and everything Jesus Christ accomplished with His doing, His dying, and His resurrection from the dead, He accomplished for the believer in Jesus Christ.

Ÿ  Raised from the dead on the third day? That means I am justified, with a standing before God of righteousness, because Jesus Christ was raised for our justification, Romans 4.25.

Ÿ  Raised from the dead on the third day? That means He conquered death and that He really is the resurrection and the life, John 11.25-26, and that whosoever believes in Him shall never die.

Ÿ  Raised from the dead on the third day? That means those other resurrections made possible by His own resurrection, including my resurrection, is assured. I do not live in fear of an eternity of torment in the lake of fire when I die, because I have life in Christ.

Imagine a world of helplessness, hopelessness, despair, discrimination, death, and oppression. That was the world when the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, showing there is an alternative to what we are surrounded by. Jesus Christ promised forgiveness, life, and hope. His resurrection shows that He can deliver. That is the world we live in now.

On my Facebook wall a while back I wrote these words to provide some perspective on the Christian life to a lost man: “Save the world? We are not trying to save the world! This world cannot be saved. Our interest is seeing one sinner at a time saved through faith in Christ. Be very clear about our protests and objections. It is not a vain attempt to save the world, but an effort to alarm one person or the other so they will listen to God’s plan to save them from certain destruction.” Of course, this approach to life horrifies the lost man or woman. It presumes the Christian will abandon every effort to make the world a better place, ignoring the role Christians have played over the last 2,000 years in making the world a better place than it has ever been before.

With resurrection, Christians have a better hope, knowing that this world is not our home and that we have a better place that awaits us. Thus, in the midst of the darkest hour, in the middle of the worst chaos and anarchy, overwhelmed by suffering and affliction, the child of God knows that even in death he has victory, because the Savior, the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, has defeated death, has defeated sin, has defeated Hell. And because He rose from the dead He is coming again!

With no resurrection, His death would have been meaningless. With no resurrection, His life would have been questionable and suspect. However, He did rise from the dead, giving us hope, giving us confidence, and giving us victory. That said, keep in mind that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was a single event. He was crucified to pay the sin penalty for my sins, was buried, and rose again. His resurrection was proof that His sacrifice was acceptable to God the Father. However, His resurrection was not the end, was not His final act. After He rose from the dead, He ascended to His Father’s right hand where He is presently enthroned on high.[10] However, He rose from the dead and then left so He could come again. Did you hear me, beloved? Jesus Christ, who forgives sins, who saves and keeps, who delivers His own to heaven, is coming again.

No wonder we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The entire Christian life is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection, because for His own His resurrection means everything is all right, everything is okay, and He will be back for us some day.

[1] Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Classics reprint, 1995), back cover.

[2] John 18.38

[3] 2 Corinthians 4.3-4

[4] Acts 16.24

[5] Acts 16.28

[6] Acts 16.29-30

[7] James 4.6; 1 Peter 5.5

[8] John 5.22; Revelation 20.11-15

[9] Romans 10.10, 17

[10] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

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