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 did so through His Son’s death for our sins. Therefore, there cannot be other ways to God because He provided only 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 Christ made about Himself is vindicated as true.
  6. Everything Christ 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, eternal judgment, and annihilation as Christ taught.
  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 of Jesus Christ (1Cor 15:14,17). If it didn’t happen, then Christianity is a sham. But if it happened, however, then everything listed above and more is settled. The question we must now answer is how can the resurrection be proven?

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). And how can we know this actually happened? Mainly, the credibility of Paul and all the apostles were on the line because of their 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 people at one time was backed by all the apostles.

Also, since this claim involved several hundreds of people, it could have been easily verified or falsified. Yet Paul even challenged the Corinthians to investigate the truthfulness of his claim by stating, “most of whom are still living” (1Cor 15:6). In effect, he was saying that if they didn’t believe him, then they could simply go to some of those five-hundred and hear it from them firsthand. 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 of originating 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 as false. Christianity doesn’t shirk from being examined and scrutinized. It’s proven objectively by those that were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ. The following Scriptures indicate the crucial nature of eyewitnesses for the resurrection to have been established as a historical event: “And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luk 24:48); “and ye shall be witnesses unto me” (Act 1:8); “must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection” (Act 1:22); “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses” (Act 2:32); “And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses” (Act 3:15); “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Act 4:33); “And we are his witnesses of these things” (Act 5:32); “And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem” (Act 10:39); “And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people” (Act 13:31).

Salvation comes by basing one’s life on the historical fact of Christ’s resurrection, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom 10:9). When we truly believe in our hearts this one event happened, we will submit our lives in obedience to Him as our Lord. 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 legitimate excuses for unbelief because we have credible eyewitness evidence from those who did see Him. This is more than sufficient evidence.

The Apostles’ encounters and claims

The apostles’ encounters with the resurrected Christ were face-to-face, up close, physical, and personal. Their eyewitness of Him wasn’t that they spotted someone in a crowd that looked just like Him. Rather, that He personally appeared to them several times over many days, “being seen of them forty days” (Act 1:3), “And he was seen many days of them” (Act 13:31).

They heard Him, “And Jesus came and spake unto them” (Mat 28:18), “And he said unto them” (Mar 16:15), “And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them” (Luk 24:36) “came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them” (Jhn 20:19), 21:5-23). They saw Him: “And when they saw him” (Mat 28:17); “Afterward he appeared unto the eleven” (Mar 16:14); “Jesus himself stood in the midst of them” (Luk 24:36); “came Jesus and stood in the midst” (Jhn 20:19). And they felt Him: “he shewed them his hands and his feet” (Luk 24:40); “Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side” (Jhn 20:27). John later summarized these events at the beginning of his first letter, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1Jo 1:1).

Furthermore, He taught them and ate with them, “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” (Luk 24:45), “And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.” (Luk 24:42-43), “Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise” (Jhn 21:13). They heard Him, saw Him, felt Him, talked with Him, learned from Him, and ate with Him over a period of many days. They knew Jesus very well because they had lived with Him for over three years. They knew His appearance, His voice, His personality, and mannerisms.

Some argue that eyewitness testimony is the weakest evidence because people are fallible. People can have bad memories, their eyes can play tricks on them, or they can have personal motives. But none of this is the case with the eyewitness testimony of the resurrected Christ.

We can choose to dismiss the eyewitness testimony of the apostles as incredulous. However, it’s being upheld by God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ as completely reliable. Therefore, if we want to be saved by them, we must accept this evidence otherwise we will perish.

For what cause will people die?

People are willing to die for what’s false when they mistakenly believe it to be true. We’ve seen this with cult members taking their own lives, and with Muslim suicide bombers. 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 actually experienced Him. If they only held to 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 suffered and died for the claim that they saw Him, heard Him, and felt Him, 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 actual human history, we need evidence, and 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, then say that if the apostles hadn’t done what they did, then this would not be here today?

What about the New Testament itself? If Christ wasn’t resurrected from the dead, then the book of Acts wouldn’t have been written because the history it records never would have happened. And 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 is also true 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 were they willing to forsake everything to follow Him?

The apostles were willing to die for the encounters they had with the resurrected Christ, and evangelized the known world as a result of those encounters. They preached to the world and established churches because He commanded this after His resurrection (Mat 28:19-20; Mar 16:15). If He wasn’t resurrected, then this commandment wouldn’t have been given and there wouldn’t have even been any good message 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 actually happened? And if they never happened, 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 the 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

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 all of this become even more 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 in itself isn’t entirely improbable. However, the big question is how this group of people could 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 experienced 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, including the raising of the dead, that silenced even their staunchest enemies (Act 4:16)? And what about the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to Christianity? This man was a prominent Pharisee, killing Christians because of disbelief in the resurrection (Act 26:4-11; Gal 1:13-14). How then were the apostles able to have influenced him into becoming a Christian and even 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 hoax (2Cor 11:23-27)? They first would have had to approach this hostile and violent man secretly, letting him in on their hoax and trusting he would accept it and not use it against them. And then they would have had to convince him to forfeit the salvation he believed was already his to spend the rest of his life suffering for what he knew wasn’t true. About half the New Testament written by him testifies 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 that 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, then for those wounds to have healed fast enough to not still be scabbed? In other words, how could the imposter have known well enough in advance that the real Jesus 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 just the opposite—that an imposter 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 this “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 after their births 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, inflict 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 actually be able to? These and many more ridiculous scenarios can 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

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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