Monday, April 2, 2012

Evidence for the Christian Faith

The historical event of the resurrection establishes the fact that Christ is God and His resurrection proves the following:
  1. He is God because only God can do what no man has ever done; gotten the victory over death.
  2. His death on the Cross paid in full for our sins. The penalty for sin is death but Christ never sinned. So why did He die? He died to pay the penalty for our sins and His resurrection proclaims that God accepted His sacrifice as payment in full.
  3. He is the only way of salvation. Man cannot save himself. Only God can save us and He did so through His Son’s death for our sins. Therefore there cannot be other ways to God because He only provided one way through His Son.
  4. All other religions are false. Obviously if God saves people only through Christ then no other religion saves.
  5. Every claim He made about Himself is true. All of His claims are proven because He is God.
  6. Everything He taught is the truth. If Christ is God then we need to listen to what He said and, more importantly, obey Him.
  7. The Bible is the word of God. Christ validated the Old Testament by quoting from it as authority. He also commissioned His disciples to write the New Testament.
  8. There is a heaven and a hell. Christ knows about these two places because He is God and He created these two places.
  9. There is objective, universal standard of morality.
  10. He will judge the world.
The entire Christian faith stands or falls on the resurrection 1 Cor. 15:14, 17. If it did not happen then Christianity is a sham. If it happened then everything above and more is settled. The question now is how do we prove the resurrection?

The apostle Paul wrote that after Christ’s resurrection, He appeared to not just five, or even fifty, but to over five hundred people at the same time 1 Cor. 15:6. But how can we know this really happened? Mainly, the credibility of not just Paul but all the apostles was on the line because they were in agreement and fellowship with each other. Paul said that James, Peter and John gave him and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship Gal. 2:9. Also, Peter read Paul’s letters and endorsed them 2 Pet. 3:15, 16. Therefore, this claim was verified by all the apostles after he wrote it.

Also, this claim involved so many people—over five hundred—that if false it could have been easily exposed as such. Yet Paul even challenged the Corinthians to investigate the truthfulness of it by stating: “most of whom are still living.” 1 Cor. 15:6 In effect he was saying that if they did not believe him then it would not be difficult to track down some of those five hundred and hear it from them firsthand because most of them were still alive when he wrote the letter. He was not the least bit worried about his claim being scrutinized.

What gives substance to the Christian faith is that it is established on public events that happened in real history. Other religions have to be followed blindly because they consist mainly of “wise” sayings and commandments of men with no proof they came from God. Only Christianity is grounded in historical events, political figures, geography, archaeology, nations, and people groups that can either be verified as accurate or proven false. Whereas Christianity does not shrink from allowing itself to be examined, other religions do. Christianity is proven objectively by eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ. The following Scriptures reveal how crucial eyewitnesses were for the resurrection to be established as an historical event: Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8; 1:21-22; 2:32; 3:15-16; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39-41; 13:31; 26:16.

Salvation comes by believing in Christ’s resurrection Rom. 10:9, because to believe this one event is to believe everything else about Him. Does Christ require us to believe He was resurrected even though we never have the privilege of seeing Him with our own eyes? Just listen to what He said to His disciple Thomas after His resurrection: “‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29 We have no excuse for not believing even though we do not see because we have evidence of the eyewitnesses who did see Him. This is more than sufficient evidence to believe and to dismiss this is to reject Christ and perish.

The Apostles’ Encounters and Claims

The apostles’ encounters with the resurrected Christ were face to face, close, and personal. It is not as though they only believed they had spotted Him somewhere in a crowd but rather that He appeared to them several times over a forty day period Acts 1:3. They saw Him with their eyes Matt. 28:17; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36; John 20:19, felt Him with their hands Luke 24:40; John 20:27, heard His voice with their ears Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-29; 21:5-23, and even ate with Him Luke 24:42-43; John 21:12-13. Plus, the encounters were not brief. He spent lengthy periods of time with them explaining the Old Testament Scriptures Luke 24:27; 24:44-45. They talked with Him, ate with Him, and learned from His teaching after His resurrection. They knew this was the same man who died on the cross just days earlier.

What are People Willing to Die For?

People will often die for what they believe to be true even if it is really false (e.g. Muslim terrorists). But people do not die for something they know to be false. The apostles were willing to die for the truth of the resurrection but they did not just believe Christ rose from the dead, they claimed to have seen Him. If this was only a belief they held then it could have been a false belief even though they thought it was true. Therefore being willing to die for it would not have demonstrated much. But since they claimed to have seen Him and were willing to die for that claim then it would not have been a false claim because people do not die for things they know are false.

In order for us to believe today that Christ truly rose from the dead in natural human history, we need evidence. How do we know it really happened? The key is the apostles. They were the ones who claimed to have seen Him and were willing to die for that claim. The question now is how did the apostles, particularly Paul, influence and change the world we live in today? In other words, what can we point to today and say that if the apostles did not do what they had done then this would not be here.

What about the New Testament itself? If Christ was not resurrected then the book of Acts would not have been written because the history it records never would have happened. Paul would not have written his 12 or 13 epistles because Christ would never have appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. In fact, Saul would not have even been persecuting Christians in the first place because there would not have been any Christians to persecute. All of this holds true for the other epistles in the New Testament and the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ because He would not have been alive to give it to John. At the very most someone might argue that we would still have the four gospels short of their resurrection endings. But even then we must ask why the disciples would have written four accounts of the life of someone who died and stayed dead like everyone else?

The apostles were willing to die for the encounters they had with the resurrected Christ and they evangelized the known world as a result of these encounters. They preached to the world and established churches because He commanded this after His resurrection Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15. If He was not raised then this commandment would not have been given and there would not have even been any gospel message—good news of His resurrection—to preach. Therefore they would not have evangelized the world and the New Testament would not have been written. Why would they write about encounters with Him that never happened? Because if they never happened then they would not have been willing to die for it since people do not die for things they know are false. The fact that we can hold a New Testament in our hands today proves the resurrection happened.

Though many do not believe the New Testament is the word of God, its very existence affirms that it is. Without an actual resurrection, we would not have it. But since we do have it, there was an actual resurrection.

What if the Resurrection was a Hoax?

  • People are not willing to die for what they know is false
  • The apostles were willing to die for what they wrote
  • What they wrote were the encounters they experienced with the resurrected Christ
  • Therefore what they wrote is true that Christ really was resurrected

The underlying premise of this argument is that people are not willing to die for something they know is false. But what if it can be shown that there have been times where people did die for things they knew were false? This would be an attempt to bolster the claim that the resurrection was only a hoax perpetrated by the apostles and they were in fact willing to die for it. But supposing this to be the case with the apostles creates a progression of extremely unlikely scenarios in the book of Acts. If the resurrection was only a hoax enacted by the apostles then many of the events in the book of Acts could not have reasonably happened.

First of all, the eleven disciples (12 minus Judas who was dead) would have had to unanimously conspire to tell a false resurrection story with every one of them willing to die for this lie and have no dissenters later on. Then they would have needed to steal the body right from under the eyes of several Roman soldiers and permanently dispose of it without getting caught.

After this is where things get very tricky. How could the miraculous events of the Day of Pentecost have transpired without Christ being resurrected? If the apostles were the only ones privy to the hoax, they would first have to deceive almost 120 people into believing their resurrection claim. This, of course, is not farfetched but the big question is how did this group of people become instantly fluent in foreign languages they never learned before? The unlikelihood of this becomes especially pronounced considering they were not even in on the “hoax.” How were 120 deceived people able to perform such miraculous acts? They certainly were not trying to deceive anyone else because they were supposedly deceived themselves.

After the events on the Day of Pentecost, how were the apostles able to produce numerous miraculous-looking acts of healing and raising the dead that fooled even their enemies Acts 4:16? Then what about the conversion of Saul of Tarsus? Here was a man who was a prominent Pharisee in the religion of the Jews. He already believed the resurrection was a lie and was killing Christians because of this belief Acts 26:4-11; Gal. 1:13-14. So then, how were the apostles able to talk him into becoming a Christian after revealing that what he already believed was a lie really was? How could they convince him to stop murdering Christians and leave his powerful position as a Pharisee to become one of them and be beaten, flogged, stoned, and imprisoned for this lie 2 Cor. 11:23-27?

What if the Apostles Only Believed the Resurrection Happened?

But what if the apostles only believed this person they encountered several times was the same man who died on the Cross but actually was not? Then we will have to speculate about the identity of that imposter and how he could have fooled all of them so thoroughly. How was someone who looked and sounded just like Christ able to put holes in his own hands, feet, and side and have those wounds heal fast enough to not still be scabbed? In other words, how could he have known well enough in advance that his look-alike was going to be crucified so that he could inflict his own wounds and have them heal in time to pull this off? In addition, he would also have the difficult task of stealing the body.

Now someone might say that it was someone else who was crucified rather than Jesus. Yet His own mother, mother’s sister, and closest disciple John were all standing below the Cross while He hung there and spoke to them John 19:25-27. How could a “double” have fooled them by looking and sounding the same? And even if he could have, why would he even want to? For what purpose would he subject himself to such a cruel death? Then would someone say Christ had a secret twin brother that nobody including His mother knew about? Or maybe His mother was the real mastermind who hid His twin brother in the manger in Bethlehem, raised him in secrecy and then convinced him to subject himself to this brutal execution? And if someone else died in Christ’s place so He could feign a resurrection, He still would need to have stolen His imposter’s body, inflicted wounds in His own body and have them heal ahead of time. Furthermore, how could He have hidden the holes in His hands from his apostles for many months before His imposter’s crucifixion? And how could He have ascended into heaven in front of their eyes Acts 1:9? And how could He have fooled the apostles into thinking they could work miracles and then have them actually be able to? This ridiculousness could go on and on.


  • People are not willing to die for what they know is false
  • The apostles were willing to die for what they wrote
  • What they wrote were the encounters they experienced with the resurrected Christ
  • Therefore what they wrote is true that Christ really was resurrected

The fact that the New Testament was even written and we can hold it in our hands today is evidence that Christ truly was raised. Since the actual historical event of Christ’s resurrection from the dead validates all of Christianity, and His resurrection is evidenced by the willingness of the Apostles to die for the encounters they had with Him, then Christ is true and He is the Savior of the world.