Summary: Is there sufficient evidence to believe that the gospel is true, and if there is, what will you do about it?
A Reason To Believe
At the Wisconsin State Capital, the atheist group, Freedom from Religion put up a display featuring this sign: “Nobody died for our sins, Jesus is a myth.” This is just the latest in the now popular assaults against Christians.
This organization utilizes bully tactics in their extreme intolerance. They display both bad manners, and unfathomable ignorance.
Last week, we looked at the content of the gospel from 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Today, we will briefly examine the evidence for the gospel.
My question for you today is this, “Is there sufficient evidence to believe that the gospel is true, and if there is, what will you do about it?”
We return again to the Resurrection chapter where we find a clear definition of the gospel and the resurrection of Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:12–28 (ESV) — 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 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. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
Paul makes it clear. The resurrection of Christ is a historical reality and the central belief of the Christian faith. Simply put, if Jesus rose from the dead, then his message must be believed and faith in him is the only way to have our sins forgiven. If the resurrection of Christ is true, then the promise of eternal life can be believed with confidence. This passage presents these assertions and also provides the foundation by which we can know that the resurrection happened just as the gospels declare.
The first proof in that Jesus lived in Real Time here on earth. Christ’s life was on full public display. His birth was witnessed by King Herod, Wise men, Temple servants, and humble shepherds. He lived a normal life with people from Nazareth knowing about him from his upbringing. He was known in Jerusalem as the young boy who spoke so powerfully in the Temple. And in Capernaum and surrounding region of Galilee his miracles were witnessed by thousands.
The reason that this is important is that these are the same places where Christianity was first established in the lifetime of the original witnesses! William Lane Craig suggests that, “Without the belief in the resurrection, the Christian faith could not have come into being. The disciples would have remained crushed and defeated men. Even if they continued to remember Jesus as their beloved teacher, His crucifixion would have silenced any hope of his being the Messiah. The cross would have remained the sad shameful end of his career.” Therefore, it is crucial that the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are true and historically accurate.
1 Corinthians 15:5-8 provides a list of some of the post resurrection appearances. Jesus was seen by Peter, then The Twelve, then by more than 500 at once. This eliminates the possible accusation that those who testified of seeing him alive were manipulated by some psychological need. And most of these witnesses were still alive at the time Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. This means that if Paul were writing something false, he would have quickly been discovered to be a fraud.