How Do We Know Christ Rose from the Dead?

Easter Sunday and every Sunday call to mind that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. But how do we know that is true? Paul in his letter to the Corinthians tells us that our faith, our forgiveness, and our salvation is lost if Christ is not raised (15:12–19). So what evidence do we have to be sure Christ is raised from the dead?

To answer that question, let’s consider a few things from the New Testament, especially 1 Corinthians 15. First there are at least four historical evidences from outside of 1 Corinthians 15, and second there are at least three points of data from within 1 Corinthians 15. All of these evidences are based on the eye witness testimony Christ’s disciples—some who followed him in his life and others who were converted by his resurrection.

In what follows, I will abbreviate four points from William Lane Craig’s article, “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?” in the Apologetic Study Bible,[1] and add three others. Continue reading

The Resurrection: Historical, Necessary, and More Than Sufficient (1 Corinthians 15:12–20)

obc-1 corinthiansThe Resurrection: Historical, Necessary, and More Than Sufficient (1 Corinthians 15:12–20)

Is the resurrection necessary? Evangelicals Christians say, “Absolutely. Undoubtedly. No question.” Other “Christians,” Protestant Liberals, are less committed. Who’s right? 

Thankfully, the Bible is not indifferent or ambiguous to the question. In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul spends an entire chapter arguing for the centrality of the resurrection. Last week, we saw how verses 1–11 articulate the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified, buried, risen, and reigning. This week,  we examined how verses 12–19 address the question of the resurrection’s historicity, necessity, and sufficiency.  In particular, we find in the historical necessity of the resurrection a sufficient foundation for our hope and a word of life to anyone facing death.

You can listen to sermon online or read the sermon here. Below there are discussion questions and resources for further study. Continue reading

What Death Steals, the Lord Can Restore: Remembering Easter at Christmas (Matthew 2:16–18)

advent03Few passages of Scripture are heavier than Matthew 2:16–18, the historical account of Herod’s slaughter of the innocent children in Bethlehem. But few passages are also able to reach the depths of human loss and comfort the grieving in their deepest pain.

When read in conjunction with Jeremiah 31:15, which Matthew quotes in verse 18, we find in Matthew’s Gospel a promise of resurrection—even at Christmas time. In other words, God promises that what death steals, the Lord has recover through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And all who trust in him can experience his resurrection life.

If you are feeling the soul-crushing effects of sin and death, I pray this message might bring you encouragement. You can listen to or read the sermon notes online. Discussion questions are below, along with some further resources. But first, let me encourage you to take eleven minutes to watch this video by John Piper. In it Piper the theologian-poet reads from his story of the Innkeeper, a fictitious but faithful story of the effects of Herod’s rage on the residents of Bethlehem.

As much as we want to turn away from such pain, we need to embrace the power of the resurrection to heal us and help us in our loss. May God be pleased to use these resources to bring comfort to you.

Continue reading

What Demonstrates the Power of God? Miraculous Signs or Spiritual Resurrection

powerAnd I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
— 1 Corinthians 2:3–5 —

A number of years ago I visited a church where the pastor proclaimed that God would build the church “on signs and wonders.” From his statement, the pastor revealed his theology—the miraculous gifts of the early church (e.g., tongues, healings, prophecies, etc.) are still normative and should be pursued, even promoted, as the normative means by which God builds his church.

More recently, Bill Johnson, a popular-but-false teaching ‘pastor’ from Redding, California, has argued that “working miracles is closer to the normal Christian life than what the Church normally experiences.”[1] In his bestselling[2] When Heaven Invades Earth, Johnson makes apology for the place of the miraculous today. He argues that denial of miracles has to be taught to Christians, stating, “The doctrine stating signs and wonders are no longer needed because we have the Bible was created by people who hadn’t seen God’s power and needed an explanation to justify their own powerless church” (105–06).

That’s a strong claim, and one that bears examination. Is it true the church—for most of the nineteen centuries leading up to the birth of the Charismatic movement (1906)—hadn’t seen God’s power because they failed to pursue the miraculous gifts? Is it true that God’s power is, as Johnson defines it, in “working miracles”? Or might it be the case that power as emphasized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:3–5; 4:14–20, for instance, is something different than what these Charismatic pastors mean? Continue reading

Approaching Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday: A Few Video Resources

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
— Galatians 4:4–7 —

Looking for ways to prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday?

A few years ago Justin Taylor and Andreas Köstenberger teamed up to write a book called The Final Days of JesusIn it they produced a harmony of the Gospels, a “play-by-play” of everything that happened from the day Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the day of his crucifixion (Good Friday) to the day of his vindication (Resurrection Sunday). This is a great resource, but maybe one to schedule for next year.

In the meantime, consider a shorter series of videos based on the book. In what follows Justin Taylor has teamed up with Köstenberger and a number of other biblical scholars (e.g., Douglas Moo, Grant Osbourne, Nicholas Perrin, and Paul Maier) to lay out the historical background and theological significance of Christ’s final week in eight 4-minute videos. And explanation for the dates and the content of these videos can be found in their book.

As you prepare this Holy Weekend, these videos would be a great encouragement. To watch them all would take less than an hour (approx. 40 min.). In that time you would be greatly encouraged and instructed with how and why Jesus did what he did as he approached his cross, the reason for which he came to earth.

Psalm Sunday, March 29, AD 33.

Monday, March 30, AD 33.

Tuesday, March 31, AD 33.

Wednesday, April 1, AD 33.

Maundy Thursday, April 2, AD 33.

Good Friday, April 3, AD 33.

Saturday, April 4, AD 33.

Resurrection Sunday, April 5, AD 33.

For those in the Woodbridge, Virginia area looking for a Good Friday service, please join us at Occoquan Bible Church at 7:00pm. And if you are looking for a church home, we’d love to have you join us on Sunday (at 9:30am or 11:00am).

Soli Deo Gloria, ds

How Does the Church Glorify God?

church Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. 
— Ephesians 3:20-21 —

A close reading of Scripture shows that God pursues his glory in all areas of life. In creation and redemption, heaven and earth, the world was made to bring him glory. It is not surprising, therefore, to find Paul praying that God would get glory in the church. But what does it mean?

What does Paul mean when he prays, “to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations” From the context of Ephesians, I would suggest there are at least three ways the church uniquely glorifies God.  Continue reading

Putting the Resurrection on Display: Walking and Talking as Witnesses of the Gospel’s Power

witnessesWhen Jesus told his disciples to stay in Jerusalem until the power from on high came (Luke 24:49), he said that they would be “my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Ten days later, the Father sent the Holy Spirit and innervated the church with Christ’s power (Acts 2).

Since then, Christ’s pilgrim people have traveled the globe, witnessing to the resurrection of Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; etc.) and upsetting those who refuse to submit to Christ’s lordship (17:6). In every place the gospel has gone, local churches have sprung up to give a permanent witness to the kingdom of Christ.

As one of those churches, it behooves us to ask the question: In what way or ways should we witness to Christ’s kingdom? And how well do we do it?

Believing the Bible to answer such questions, we see that the lives we live and the words we speak play a significant role in Christ’s ability to work through us. In truth, it is not just the church who preaches the gospel. Ephesians 2:17 says Christ himself preaches the gospel of peace. But seated in heaven he preaches by proxy; it is his Spirit and his bride that say, “Come!” (Rev 22:17). Therefore, the effectiveness of Christ’s evangelism is contingent upon the purity of our lives. As we continue to consider what Jesus’s evangelism program looks like, let’s see how our lives contribute to the power of our witness. Continue reading

Christ’s Resurrection Confers Glory Upon Shameful Sinners (1 Corinthians 15:35-49)

gloryThis post wraps up a three-part meditation from our Resurrection Sunday Sunrise Service (part 1 and part 2).

The last thing to see about Christ’s resurrection is how God confers glory upon those who do not deserve it. In fact, this is again the difference between Adam and Christ: The first was created to glorify God, but failed. He led the human race into shame. By contrast, Jesus came into the world in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3). He took the form of a servant (Phil 2:5-8) and died shamefully so that he might arise gloriously and confer glory to all those who rise with him. Continue reading

Christ, the Firstfruits of the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)

firstAfter testifying to the reality of Christ’s resurrection (v. 20), the second thing Paul address in 1 Corinthians 15 is the kingdom that Jesus inaugurated by his resurrection. Verse 20 says that the Jesus who was raised from the dead is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

The Feast of Firstfruits

The word “firstfruits” is a harvest term. It is the produce that first arises from the ground. In Israel it was to be dedicated to the Lord, as an offering of thanksgiving. For instance, Leviticus 23 commanded Israel to bring an offering of firstfruits in a festival that followed Passover and preceded Pentecost (vv. 9-14).

Historically, the feast which occurred on the “day after the Sabbath” after the Passover (v. 11) corresponded to the day when Israel was brought out of Egypt as God’s firstborn. Notably, this timing indicates part of the significance of this festival and the meaning of “firstfruits.” One old commentator writes,

The offering unto God . . . commemorated Israel’s separation from the nations, as a firstfruits of redemption. [It] symbolically signified the consecration of Israel unto God as the first-born unto Him from the nations, the beginning of the world’s great harvest. (S. H, Kellogg, Studies in Leviticus, 468)

In Israel’s history, this feast was meant to remind Israel of the Exodus and how that event confirmed their status as the firstborn son of Yahweh (Exod 4:22). That Christ would be called the “firstfruits” in 1 Corinthians 15:20 corresponds to this reality. He is the Son of God; not only in his divinity but in his humanity. His resurrection designates him the firstborn among many brethren (Rom 1:3-4; 8:29-30). Continue reading

Christ’s Resurrection Awakens Indifference (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)

risen

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
– 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 – 

When Paul spoke to the Corinthians about Christ’s resurrection, the first thing he addressed concerning Christ’s resurrection is the plausibility of resurrection itself.

Universal Indifference

In the Greco-Roman world, the most educated did not believe in life after death. The notion of a physical, embodied existence after death was laughable. And so, Paul had to defend the idea of resurrection in general, so that he could affirm the resurrection of Christ in particular.

The same sort of thinking occurs today. Well-schooled atheists deny Christ’s resurrection because they hold to a materialist view of the world. At the same time, many live for the weekend, the next ball game, or the next item to check off the bucket list. For them, the resurrection is not a matter of metaphysics but utility. They do not see the “cash value” of Christ’s resurrection and thus they remain quagmired in indifference. Continue reading