Eternal Savior Lutheran Church

A member of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

2688 North Park Drive
Lafayette, CO 80026
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April 8 – Easter Festival – The Evidence Is Compelling

Introduction:  Grace be to you and peace, from God our Father, and from our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Our text is the Epistle Lesson just read, 1 Cor. 15:1-11.  We begin with prayer.

Dear fellow disciples of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ:

  • One of the most treacherous words in the English language is the little word “prove.”  By that word we mean demonstrate with facts and evidence that an “assertion” is truthful, reliable, and dependable.  When it comes to what we are going to believe and trust, this is very important.
  • One of the great ignorances of our modern times is that there is “no evidence,” and hence “no proof” for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and all of the other realities presented in God’s Word regarding our forgiveness, our peace and fellowship with God, and His gift of eternal life.  In consequence of this mistaken notion, many people don’t even consider the claims which Jesus made.
  • Of course, that treacherous little word “prove” can always be defined in highly subjective ways – with absurd and ridiculous criteria.  Would to God that people were just a little more sophisticated in understanding “presuppositions” and “logic.”  Then we might at the least be able to have intelligent conversations about these matters.
  • But one of more compelling “evidences” or “proof” even amidst the skepticism and subjective views of many people today, is “eye-witness” testimony.  This is still used in our courts of law to determine the weightiest of issues – cases where a person’s freedom may be taken away, or even their life. 
  • This is precisely the kind of evidence that “proves” that Jesus Christ is all that He claimed to be, and that He performed all that Scripture asserts of Him, including His wondrous resurrection from death.  From the record of our text we see that:

 

I.  The Eyewitness Testimony In Apostolic Times To Christ’s Resurrection Was Overwhelming – And The Church Was Built Upon It

     Text:  “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”

 

Statement: 

  • Did you catch that?  Had a trial been held, over whether or not Jesus violated natural law in rising from the dead, over five hundred witnesses would have attested that He did.
  • Furthermore, these witnesses had nothing to gain and everything to lose by their testimony – at the time Christianity was illegal, and Christians were subject to persecution, arrest, confiscation of their property, and even death.  This can be read in the record of Scripture, some ancient secular documents, and in the accounts of the early church fathers.

 

Application:

  • Now I understand – someone will surely come along and demand some other kind of proof, something that they assert is the only convincing proof.  Well, in virtually everything that human beings “know” there is only so much evidence – especially in courts of law which determine the most critical decisions.  The evidence is what it is – and those who doubt might want to set about considering the evidence that exists rather than inventing demands and standards for some other kind of evidence. 
  • But most reasonable people, including virtually every human being who would serve on a jury, would have to give immense weight to the uniform and consistent statements of over 500 people!  This kind of a witness list is “compelling.”

 

Transition:  But Paul goes on, and:

 

II.  The Power Of Christ Evidenced In Paul’s Conversion And Life Is Compelling

 

Text:  “Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me.  For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  But  by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain.”

 

Statement:

  • In case you didn’t know, Paul was a high ranking Pharisee, who considered Christ a fake and sham, a blasphemer, deceiver, and evil man.  He participated in the “stoning to death” of Stephen.  This is what we read of him before the resurrected Christ appeared to him:  “But Paul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” [Acts 8:3]
  • Paul also suffered greatly as a Christian after his conversion – arrests, beatings, trials, and ultimately execution in Rome – according to traditional accounts.  The power to so drastically change such a man was astonishing and compelling – considering it ended a successful and lucrative career with wealth and honor, and brought persecution, suffering, and death upon him.

 

Application:

  • Again, I suppose someone will come along and assert that Paul must simply have lost his mind.  Such a person would not be alone in this assessment – it is made by unbelievers in the record of Holy Scripture itself.  But again, we would have to look at the evidence available – and in Paul’s case we have several examples of his writing, none of which exhibit any symptoms of mental disorder.  Further, his books have stimulated billions of people through the years – to all kinds of good, loving, kind, and selfless actions.  Perhaps those who want to malign him ought to first accomplish as much as he did before elevating themselves to a position of judgment over him! 

 

Transition:  But I know this is asking too much of them, for them to actually think critically and rationally – since they have already decided to be unbelievers.  But there is more evidence:

 

III.  The Continuing Power Of the Gospel Within Us, The Church Today, Is Also Unabated And Compelling

 

A.  That So Many People Continue To Repent Of Their Sins And To Believe In The Gospel, As Christ Preached It

Text:  “His grace toward me was not in vain.  On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.  Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believe.”

 

B.  Likewise, That So Many People Educated And Steeped In Empiricism Continue To Believe And Confess The Truth Of Christ’s Resurrection – Knowing That Jesus Is God, Almighty, All Knowing, And That Nothing Is Impossible For Him:  He Created All Things And Preserves All Things, The Whole Cosmos, By His Mighty Power

         

C.  And Finally, That Billions Of People Have Undying Love For Christ, Undying Hope For The Life To Come In Glory, And Hope For Our Own Resurrection – As Christ Has Promised Us

 

Text:  “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.”

 

Statement:

  • The fact that so many people believe in Christ, despite the volumes of argument pressed against His cause and against the church, is compelling evidence of a power that cannot be explained – the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus!

 

Application: 

  • Now I might not be the “brightest bulb in the pack,” but I believe what the Scripture says, and hold that it is not contrary to genuine knowledge.  There are a lot smarter people than I sitting here in our midst – who likewise see nothing in Christianity that conflicts with real truth and knowledge.  Some of the most brilliant people the world has known have been pious, believing Christians.  All of them have found that “THE EVIDENCE IS COMPELLING” for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the reality of the redemption and salvation He has secured for us.

 

Conclusion:

  • So, we do not pay much attention to people who like to deceptively use that little word “prove,” but who remain unwilling to honestly confront the preponderance of evidence that buttresses Christ and His Church.  They may have very high “I.Q.’s” but no one can cure them if they choose to use their intelligence deceitfully.  
  • On the other hand, we will continue to pay great attention to the glorious Lord Jesus Christ, and His Word, the Holy Scripture.  We will entrust all things into His hands, and we look joyfully to the culmination of this age, when we too will be given glorified, resurrected bodies – fashioned like unto His own. 
  • On that day, talk about “evidences” and “proofs” will be ridiculously humorous!  Until then we will rejoice in the mercy, love, and kindness of God – and empowered by His love, we will live beautiful, noble, kind, and decent lives of love, hoping that others will come to the joy of God’s salvation in Christ Jesus by faith, as well.  God grant it to us all, Amen.

 

Votum:  And the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in the true faith, which is in Christ Jesus, even unto life everlasting, Amen.