Why Should I Trust that the Bible is God’s Word?
Part Two: Should I Trust the Apostles?
Acts 12: 1-5
12 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
We talked last week about apostolic authority. It is important for these reasons:
- They claimed their authority came from Jesus.
- They are the source of the writings about Jesus. All of our information is filtered through them.
- All of the New Testament Books are connected to an Apostle or one of their close associates.
- The Apostles claim that Jesus rose from the dead. And this was the source of their faith, and this was the basis upon which they called people to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, the image of the invisible God.
- The Apostles Claimed Jesus Rose from the Dead
- The sign for the skeptic
In fact, Jesus claimed that this was THE sign for the skeptic.
John 10: 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
This is a tough sell. Consider I Cor 15: 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
You could go and check this out. The Romans would produce a body if they had one. The Jews would produce a body if they had one. The Jews instead said that the Disciples came and stole the body. Guard at the tomb, seal on the stone notwithstanding. Now, none of the 12 were arrested and killed for the seal breaking. That conspiracy did not go far.
- Preached from the beginning
50 days after Jesus was Crucified, Peter said this publicly in the same place where He was killed:
Acts 2: 29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’[f]
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Thousands believed their message. He preached basically the same message in the next chapter after healing a man in what was an obvious sign from God and more thousands believed.
- The earliest Christian message
Paul’s letters are the earliest Christian writings.
Paul incorporates creeds and hymns into his writing. Phil 2:6-11 Colossians 1:15-20 are examples. Obviously, a hymn or creed must be earlier information. And they typically do not spring up immediately in terms of their acceptance.
I Cor 15: 1Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, (This is the end of the creed and Paul adds)
8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
Paul became a Christian in AD32 or so, not long after the Resurrection, a couple of years. He first met the Apostles in Jerusalem around AD 35. This is when he would have received the creed. Whether or not Jesus rose from the dead, His Resurrection as a teaching can be traced back to the beginning. It was not an idea added later when people were not around to contradict it!
- The Apostles Act Like Jesus Rose from the Dead
- The Apostles claim to be eyewitnesses
II Peter 1: 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[b] 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
I John 1: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
Luke 1: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
- The Apostle suffer for this message
Acts 7 Stephen is martyred.
Acts 12: James is martyred. According to Eusebius, an early church historian, eleven of the twelve died as martyrs, as well as many other early Christians. And the movement encounters opposition from the beginning from political, religious and economic forces. There is no reason to persist in the movement unless they are convinced that it is true. The Apostles are not getting rich. They are imprisoned, beaten, work hard. Paul says it this way in II Cor 12 and 13:
Whatever anyone else dares to boast about—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast about. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I Cor 15: 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”[d]
There have been religious martyrs throughout history, but in this case, the founders were martyred and their message persisted. And the message emphasizes truth, not pragmatic lying.
- The message is uniform
There are heretics, Gnostics (rooted in folks like the Sadduccees who denied the possibility of Resurrection as a concept, the idea Paul is refuting in I Cor 15.) There is no adaptation of the message to protect from difficulties.
Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and died it abides alone. But if it dies it bears much fruit. They accepted this message about Jesus and they accepted it about themselves.
Resurrection was not a just a religious concept. Resurrection was not just about Jesus alone, but about themselves as well!
I Cor 15: 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
III. Jesus Christ is the Greatest
- He is not forgotten
Most people in history are not remembered. Most great people in history are not remembered. Most Roman emperors are not remembered. Jesus is growing more famous.
Read 135 McDowell.
We record time by His advent!
- Jesus’ incredible claims:
If you have seen me you have seen God. I and the Father are One. Before Abraham was I am. I am the son of God. (at his trial) I am the Son of Man (Daniel style). I am the way to God. I am the truth about God. I am the life of God. No one comes to God that does not come through me. I am the good shepherd. I am the gate for the sheep. I am the light of the world. I am the Resurrection and the life. You have heard that it was said, but I say to you! (equating His teaching with the ten commandments!)
The new covenant is in my blood. My body is given for you.
- Claims combined with ethical teaching and reality
Lord, Liar or Lunatic?
What does the historical evidence suggest? Is the Christian faith the result of a Liar? A lunatic? Compare it to the Muslim faith. Was Muhammed a man of violence who conquered people by force? That is one way to do it. What about Jesus?
I do not have the answer to every question. But I have enough evidence to decide to believe and follow Jesus Christ. I would encourage you to do the same so that you might experience the personal power of Jesus’ Resurrection in your own life. If you do not trust Him, you will die in your sins. If you do trust Him, then you will live in spite of your sins.
Jesus claimed that our covenant with God was because of His sacrifice of Himself for our sins. And He was confident that God would raise Him from the dead. Today, as we receive communion, meditate on this for yourself. Jesus has offered to give us the credit for His perfect life before God. The Bible says He is at the right hand of God interceding for those who are trusting Him by following His teachings and example. We are called to follow Him, to deny ourselves and take up the crosses that we experience and live as Christ in the world.