Evidence for the Christian Faith

The historical event of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead establishes the following:

  1. His claim to be the Son of God sent from His Father God is true because only God can do what no man has ever done—get 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. If God saves people only through His Son Jesus Christ, then no other religion saves.
  5. Every claim He made about Himself is vindicated as true.
  6. Everything He taught is the truth. Since He overcame death which no man has ever done, then we need to listen to what He taught and obey Him.
  7. The Scriptures are the word of God. Christ quoted many times from the Old Testament as authoritative and commissioned His disciples to write the New Testament.
  8. There is eternal life and there is eternal judgment and annihilation.
  9. There is an objective and universal standard of morality.
  10. Jesus Christ is Lord and King with authority over all principality, power, might, dominion, and every name.

The entire Christian faith stands or falls on the resurrection (1Cor 15:14, 17). If it didn’t happen, then Christianity is a sham. If it happened, however, 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 once (1Cor 15:6). But how can we know this happened? Mainly, the credibility of Paul and all the apostles were 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 (2Pet 3:15, 16). Therefore, this claim that Christ was seen by over five-hundred was backed by all the apostles.

Also, since this claim involved many hundreds of people, if it were false it could have easily been exposed as such. Yet Paul even challenged the Corinthians to investigate the truthfulness of it by stating, “most of whom are still living” (1Cor 15:6). In effect he was saying that if they didn’t believe him then it wouldn’t 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 wasn’t concerned about his claim being scrutinized.

What gives substance to the Christian faith is that it’s established upon public events that happened in human 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 upon historical events, political figures, geography, archaeology, nations, and people groups that can either be verified as reliable or proven false. Christianity doesn’t shirk from being examined and scrutinized. It’s proven objectively by those that were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ. These Scriptures (Luk 24:46-49; Act 1:8; 1:21-22; 2:32; 3:15-16; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39-41; 13:31; 26:16), indicate the crucial nature of eyewitnesses for the resurrection to be established as a historical event.

Salvation comes by believing in Christ’s resurrection (Rom 10:9). To believe this one event is to believe everything else about Him—that He is Lord and Savior of the world. Does Christ require us to believe He was resurrected even though we have never experienced the blessing of having seen Him with our own eyes? 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” (Jhn 20:29). We have no excuse for not believing even though we haven’t seen because we have evidence of the eyewitnesses who did see Him. This is more than sufficient evidence for belief but also for judgment against all that reject it.

The Apostles’ encounters and claims

The apostles’ encounters with the resurrected Christ were face-to-face, close, and personal. It’s not as though they only thought they had spotted Him somewhere in a crowd but rather that He appeared to them several times over forty days (Act 1:3). They saw Him with their eyes (Mat 28:17; Mar 16:14; Luk 24:36; Jhn 20:19), they felt Him with their hands (Luk 24:40; Jhn 20:27), they heard His voice with their ears (Mat 28:18-20; Mar 16:15-18; Luk 24:36-49; Jhn 20:19-29, 21:5-23), and they even ate with Him (Luk 24:42-43; Jhn 21:12-13). Plus, these encounters were not brief. He spent long periods with them explaining the Old Testament Scriptures (Luk 24:27, 24:44-45; Act 1:3). They talked with Him, ate with Him, and were taught by Him after His resurrection. They knew this was the same man they had lived with for over three years and that had died on the cross just days earlier.

For what cause will people die?

People are willing to die for what’s false when they believe it to be true. We’ve seen this with cult members that have taken their own lives and with suicide bombers that are typically Muslim terrorists. But people aren’t willing to die for what they know to be false. The apostles were willing to die for the truth of the resurrection but they didn’t just believe Christ rose from the dead—they claimed to have seen Him. If they only held the resurrection as a belief, then it could have been a false belief. Therefore, dying for it wouldn’t have demonstrated much. But since they claimed to have seen Him and were willing to die for that claim, then it wouldn’t have been a false claim because people don’t die for things they know are false.

To believe today that Christ truly rose from the dead in history, we need evidence—the evidence is the eyewitness testimony of 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 in which we live today? In other words, what can we point to today and say that if the apostles had not done what they did, then this would not be here today?

What about the New Testament itself? If Christ was not resurrected from the dead, then the book of Acts wouldn’t have been written because the history it records never would have happened. Paul wouldn’t have written his 13 epistles because Christ would never have appeared to Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. Saul wouldn’t have even been persecuting Christians in the first place because there wouldn’t have been any Christians to persecute. This holds for the other epistles in the New Testament and the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ because He wouldn’t have been alive to have given 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 ourselves why the disciples would have written four accounts of the life of someone who died and stayed dead like everyone else? And why they were willing to forsake everything to follow Him?

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 them after His resurrection (Mat 28:19-20; Mar 16:15). If He wasn’t raised, then this commandment wouldn’t have been given and there wouldn’t have even been any gospel message—the good news of His resurrection—to preach. Therefore, they wouldn’t have evangelized the world and the New Testament wouldn’t have been written. Why would they write about encounters with Him that never happened? And if they never happened, then they wouldn’t have been willing to die for these fabricated encounters? The fact that we hold the New Testament in our hands today proves the resurrection happened.

Though many don’t believe the New Testament is the word of God, its very existence affirms that it is. Without the resurrection, we wouldn’t have it. But since we do have it, then there was a resurrection.

What if the resurrection was a hoax?

  • People aren’t 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 was resurrected

The underlying premise of this argument is that people aren’t willing to die for something they know is false. But what if it can be shown that there have been times where people died 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 that they did die for what they knew to be false. Supposing this to be the case, it creates a progression of extremely unlikely scenarios throughout the book of Acts. If the resurrection was only a deception perpetrated by the apostles, then many of the events in the book of Acts couldn’t have reasonably happened.

First of all, the eleven disciples (excluding Judas Iscariot) would have had to conspire to tell a false resurrection story with unanimous commitment and no dissenters later. They would have also needed to steal the body right from under the eyes of the Roman guards then permanently dispose of it without getting caught.

The events following this get even more difficult and highly unlikely. How could the miraculous outpouring on the Day of Pentecost have transpired without Christ being alive? If the apostles were the only ones privy to the hoax, they would have first had to deceive over 100 people (about 120 in the upper room including the apostles themselves) into believing their resurrection claim. This, of course, is not improbable but the big question is how would this group of people have become instantly fluent in foreign languages they had never learned? The unlikelihood of this becomes especially pronounced considering they weren’t even privy to the “hoax.” How were 100 deceived people able to have participated in such a miraculous event? They certainly weren’t trying to deceive anyone else because they were, supposedly, deceived themselves.

After the events that transpired on the Day of Pentecost, how were the apostles able to have produced numerous miraculous acts of healing and raising of the dead that silenced even their enemies (Act 4:16)? And what about the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to Christianity? This man was a prominent Pharisee in the religion of the Jews that was killing Christians because he disbelieved the resurrection (Act 26:4-11; Gal 1:13-14). How then were the apostles able to have talked him into becoming a Christian and an apostle? How could they have convinced him to stop murdering Christians and leave his powerful position as a Pharisee to become beaten, flogged, stoned, and imprisoned for this lie (2Cor 11:23-27)? Moreover, they would have had to have approached this hostile and violent man secretly, making him privy to their hoax, getting him to forfeit his salvation that he had always believed was through the Law of Moses, and then spending the rest of his life suffering for what he believed was not even true! Half of the books of the New Testament written by him testify that this ridiculous scenario couldn’t have happened.

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 had died on the Cross? We would then 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 Jesus able to have put holes in his own hands, feet, and side and for those wounds to have healed 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 wounds on himself and have them heal in time to pull this off? Besides, he also would have been burdened with the difficult task of stealing the body.

Now some have claimed that it was someone else who was crucified rather than Jesus. Yet His mother, His mother’s sister, and His closest disciple John were all standing below the Cross while he hung there and spoke to them (Jhn 19:25-27). How could a “double” have fooled them by looking and sounding just like Him? And even if he could have, why would he want to? For what purpose would he subject himself to such a cruel death? What was he getting out of this? And would anyone dare claim that Jesus had a secret twin brother that nobody including His mother even knew about? Or, maybe His mother was the real mastermind who hid His twin brother in the manger in Bethlehem, raised him in secrecy, then convinced him to subject himself to this brutal execution? And if someone else died in Jesus’ place so He could feign a resurrection, He still would have needed to have stolen His imposter’s body, inflicted the wounds in His own body, and have them healed 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 (Act 1:9)? And how could He have fooled the apostles into thinking they could work miracles and then have them be able to? Many more ridiculous scenarios could also be noted.

Conclusion

  • 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 was resurrected

The fact that the New Testament was written and that we can hold it in our hands today is evidence that Christ truly was raised. Since the 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 Lord and Savior of the world.

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