Theology

Did Jesus Stand Us Up?

Did Jesus Stand Us Up?

Jesus was supposed to return at 6pm in your time zone on May 21, 2011. If you are reading this either you were “left behind” or he didn’t come back.

 

Ever since Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, every generation has had someone who claimed to know exactly when Jesus is coming back. Like every prior prediction, the most recent one was wrong. So, your pets can rest assured they’ll be with their owners a little longer. There is no need to worry about what After the Rapture Pet Care will be like.

 

A Certainty & Hope

While giving us lots to joke about, these false teachers and their doomsday silliness cause many to trivialize the return of Jesus and neglect the certainty and hope associated with it. While we do not know when it will be, here is what we do know about Jesus’ return:

 

1. His return is real

Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven. Since the ascension, the return of Christ has been a key belief in Christianity. The Nicene Creed states: “For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”

 

2. His return is certain

Instead of saying that the return of Jesus is imminent, Anthony Hoekema suggests that we say it is impending. It is certain to happen. We don’t know when. We live in constant expectation and readiness for Jesus’ return. Spurgeon goes one step further by saying, “I do not think we should be so certain of death as some Christians are, because the Lord’s coming is much more certain than our dying.”

We can look joyfully to Christ’s first coming and we can look forward with anticipation to his promised return.

 

3. His return links past and future

The greatest event of redemptive history is not in the future but in the past. Since Christ won a decisive victory over Satan, sin, death, and hell, the events related to his future return must be seen as the continuation and completion of his redemptive work that commenced during his earthly ministry.

 

4. His return brings encouragement

In 1 Thessalonians 4:18, Paul says the return of Jesus brings comfort and encouragement to those who trust Christ. The source of comfort and encouragement comes from the fact that “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). This encouragement continues forever: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Rev 21:4–5).

 

5. His return offers security

If you trust Christ, there is no judgment or condemnation for you on judgment day. All the judgment you deserve went to Jesus on the cross. God now uses shocking words and phrases to describe those who are his: redeemed, forgiven, made righteous, new creation, God’s workmanship, reconciled to God, saint, chosen, holy, beloved, child of light, not darkness, pure, blameless, glory of God, holy, blameless, above reproach, and the righteousness of God. By faith we are “in Christ” and as such we are seen as he is. Jesus’ righteousness, holiness, and blamelessness are imputed to us. Therefore, you are secure in Christ on judgment day.

 

Always Be Prepared

In light of these facts, we must be prepared for the possibility that the return of Jesus may be a long way off, because the New Testament leaves room for that. But to affirm that the return of Jesus is far off is to claim too much. The exact time of Jesus’ return is unknown to us. Neither do we know exactly how the signs of times will intensify. This uncertainty means that we must always be prepared.

 

Between Two Comings

Christ came to inaugurate his kingdom. His return brings the consummation of that kingdom. The kingdom of God is present in one sense, but it is also not yet fully realized. We now live between two comings. We can look joyfully to Christ’s first coming and we can look forward with anticipation to his promised return.

 

 


 

Recommended Reading

 

Save Jesus? Ignore Easter?

Save Jesus? Ignore Easter?

A Washington Post article, titled “Save Jesus, Ignore Easter,” says Christians focus too much on the death and resurrection of Jesus and that we need to focus more on his ethical teachings.

This couldn’t be further from the truth! If we take Jesus solely as a good example with some wise teachings, then we will be left with arrogance and pride or despair and hopelessness. We can never attain to the sinless example of Christ or his teachings: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Good luck living up to that impossible ethical teaching.

We should by all means want to be like Jesus, but without the cross and resurrection, we have no way, hope, or means. This is death by law. Praise God, we aren’t left to our own devices or efforts to imitate him. Thank God for the gospel!

 

First Importance

There is a reason Christians focus on the death and resurrection. If it happened, then it is the most important miracle ever with huge implications for everyone. This is why Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, “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.”

 

Jesus Died

Jesus was really dead. He was beaten and scourged. Many people died just from the scourging. And then he was nailed to a cross with three spikes that were 7–9 inches long and a half-inch thick. And to make sure he was dead, they speared him in the side to pierce both his lung and heart. He died the death we should have died. He died in our place for our sin.

 

Jesus Was Buried

Jesus was also buried and everyone involved knew where. The tomb was sealed with a Roman seal and guarded so nobody would mess with it. The chief priests, disciples, and followers of Jesus all knew where it as. It was under Roman guard. His body wasn’t misplaced; it was in a tomb for three days.

 

Jesus Rose from the Dead

Jesus rose from the dead. He showed up to his disciples and followers and then to over 500 people who saw him (1 Cor. 15:6). His disciples didn’t steal his body and promote a hoax they claimed to be true and for which they would all later be killed violently. He didn’t pass out on the cross, resuscitate later in the tomb, tear off the 75 pounds of linen burial cloths, push back an enormous stone by himself, and then overpower armed guards. His resurrection proved his victory over sin and death and ensures believers’ regeneration (1 Pet 1:3-5), justification (Rom 4:25), and future resurrection (1 Cor 6:14).

Praise God, we aren’t left to our own devices or efforts to imitate him. Thank God for the gospel!

 

What Billions of Christians Have Always Believed

The Apostles’ Creed, the oldest and most popular creed of the church, summarizes 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 and states, “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried…On the third day He arose again from the dead.”

This is what billions of Christian have always believed and what over 1 billion Christians will celebrate this Easter. There are good reasons for believing it and no good reasons not to believe it.

 

The evidence confirms that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is unique in all of history and worthy of all to be believed. It was a literal, bodily resurrection. That’s why we do not “save Jesus” and preach law without gospel. He saves us. That’s why we cannot “ignore Easter.

 

Post-Resurrection Appearances & the Beginning of Christianity

Post-Resurrection Appearances & the Beginning of Christianity

In this post we will investigate the post-resurrection appearances of Christ and the origin of the Christian faith.

A defense of the resurrection must give evidence for the historical validity of the events described in the New Testament, and it must show how the resurrection of Jesus provides the best explanation for this historical data.

 

The Post-Resurrection Appearances

In 1 Cor. 15:3-8, Paul says that Jesus appeared to Cephas, the Twelve, more than five hundred people at once, James, all the apostles, and finally to Paul himself. 1 Corinthians, an authentic letter composed by a man acquainted with the first disciples, actually claims that people saw Jesus after his death.

Because of the specificity of the list that Paul puts forth, it is fairly indisputable that Jesus actually appeared to the people that Paul mentions. The gospels all speak of post-resurrection appearances of Christ. It would be quite ridiculous to suggest that each of these events was a hallucination. Few scholars argue, therefore, that on different occasions different groups of people had experiences of seeing Jesus. They therefore question whether the experiences were actual physical, bodily appearances of Christ. However, Paul leaves no room for a merely psychological experience. His theology of the resurrected body ensures that he meant that Christ actually, physically appeared. This is confirmed by the gospel accounts. In light of this evidence, one can be certain of the fact that Jesus appeared to the people mentioned in 1 Cor. 15 after his bodily resurrection.

 

A Plausible Explanation

The resurrection is the most plausible explanation for the postmortem appearances of Christ. The alternative—the hallucination hypothesis—says nothing to explain the empty tomb. Nor does it explain the disciples’ belief in the resurrection. In typical psychological postmortem experiences, the person having the experience rarely would think that a dead person actually returned physically to life. As N.T. Wright argues, postmortem appearances in the ancient world would be more evidence that the person was dead than that he was alive.

Because of the diversity of appearances catalogued, it is highly unlikely that the hallucination theory can be held. Therefore, the physical resurrection of Jesus proves to be the best explanation for the postmortem appearances described in 1 Cor. 15.

 

The Origin of the Christian Faith

The fact that Christianity started and grew is evidence for the resurrection. William Lane Craig writes: “Even skeptical New Testament scholars admit that the earliest disciples at least believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead.” For Jews, the Messiah was viewed as a figure that would be triumphant and rule on David’s throne, not a figure that would be crucified and die.

The resurrection undid the catastrophe of the crucifixion. The Messiah, who had died, is risen! The resurrection validated and verified the claims that Christ had made about his own identity. The origin of Christianity rests solely on the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

The resurrection validated and verified the claims that Christ had made about his own identity.

To deny that the resurrection was the cause of the Christian faith, an alternative explanation must be given.  But there is no plausible alternative. Therefore, “Even if we grant, for the sake of argument, that the tomb was somehow emptied and the disciples saw hallucinations—suppositions which we have seen to be false anyway—the origin of the belief in Jesus’ resurrection still cannot be plausibly explained” (Craig).

 

Come Let Us Reason…

It stands to reason that Jesus Christ did in fact rise from the dead victoriously on the third day after his death. No alternative hypothesis can adequately explain the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances of Jesus, and the origin of the Christian faith. For this reason, one has no good reasons why not to accept this most central element of Christianity.

 

Jesus’ Tomb is Empty!

Jesus’ Tomb is Empty!

A defense of the resurrection must give evidence for the historical validity of the events described in the New Testament, and it must show how the resurrection of Jesus provides the best explanation for this historical data. In this post we will focus on the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.


The empty tomb

One of the easiest parts of the resurrection data to establish is the fact that the tomb is empty. Because the location of Jesus’ burial was known to those living in Jerusalem, it would have been unlikely that they would have believed the Apostolic preaching of the resurrection of Christ if there was not an empty tomb. Jesus’ burial is widely attested in early, independent testimonies, both biblical and extra-biblical.

Furthermore, as is often noted, women were not considered reliable witnesses in first century Jewish culture, so it would have been foolish for the authors to have fictionally constructed an account involving women in order to gain credibility.

The person who wishes to deny the resurrection of Christ is left with the unexplained mystery of the empty tomb that existed three days after his death.

Matthew 28:11–15 speaks of a myth that was spread among the Jews concerning the body of Christ. Apparently the Jews were saying the disciples stole the body of Christ. This is significant because the Jews did not deny the tomb was empty, but instead sought an alternative explanation to the resurrection. The emptiness of the tomb is a widely attested historical fact.

Just because the tomb of Christ was empty does not necessarily mean the resurrection happened. Indeed, there have been four alternative hypotheses to resurrection that have been advanced over the years.

 

Conspiracy theory

First, some offer the conspiracy hypothesis, which says the disciples stole the body of Christ and continued to lie about his appearances to them. On this account, the resurrection was a hoax.

This hypothesis is not commonly held in modern scholarship for several reasons:

  1. This hypothesis does not take into account that the disciples believed in the resurrection. It is highly unlikely that numerous disciples would have been willing to give their lives defending a fabrication.
  2. It is unlikely that the idea of resurrection would have entered the minds of the disciples, as such an event was not connected to the Jewish idea of a Messiah. The scholar William Lane Craig writes, “If your favorite Messiah got himself crucified, then you either went home or else you got yourself a new Messiah. But the idea of stealing Jesus’ corpse and saying that God has raised him from the dead is hardly one that would have entered the minds of the disciples.”
  3. This hypothesis cannot account for the post-resurrection appearances of Christ.

 

Apparent death

The second hypothesis attempting to explain away the resurrection is the apparent death hypothesis. This view says Jesus was not completely dead when he was removed from the cross. Once in the tomb, Jesus was revived and escaped, thus convincing the disciples of his resurrection.

This view is difficult to hold for a few reasons:

  1. It is unlikely that a half-dead man would have been capable of even getting up to walk, much less moving the stone that sealed the tomb, over-powering Roman guards, and fleeing from sight.
  2. This theory cannot account for the disciples’ attribution of resurrection to Christ, for if they had seen him after he was revived, they would have merely thought he had never died.
  3. It is also foolish to think the Romans, who had perfected the art of killing people, would have let one slip by without ensuring he was dead.
  4. Finally, given the physical torture described in the Gospel accounts, it is highly unlikely that Jesus could have survived.

 

Wrong tomb

Third, the wrong tomb hypothesis suggests the women had gotten lost on their way to the empty tomb and accidentally stumbled upon the caretaker of an empty tomb. When the caretaker said, “Jesus is not here,” the women were so disoriented they fled, their story later being developed into a resurrection myth.

Like the other theories, virtually no one holds to this view. There are at least three reasons:

  1. First, this theory does not explain the post-resurrection appearances, and it is spurious to think that such a simple mistake would have led a first-century Jew to think a resurrection had happened.
  2. In light of the early evidence that is available concerning the location of Jesus’ tomb, it is almost impossible that the women would have confused its location.
  3. This hypothesis emphasizes that the caretaker of the tomb said that Christ was not there, but it passes over the next phrase: “He is risen!”

 

Displaced body

Fourth, some propose the displaced body hypothesis to explain Jesus’ resurrection. This theory says Joseph of Arimathea placed Jesus’ body in his own tomb but later moved it to the criminal’s graveyard. The disciples were not aware that Jesus’ body had been moved and therefore wrongly inferred that he had risen from the dead.

Because of the spurious nature of this theory, virtually no modern scholars hold to it:

  1. This theory cannot account for the post-resurrection appearances of Christ or the origin of the Christian faith.
  2. It is uncertain why Joseph would not have corrected the error of the disciples by simply showing them where he had moved the body of Jesus.
  3. The criminal graveyard, most likely, was quite close to the crucifixion site, so it would have made little sense why Joseph would not have simply buried Jesus there in the first place. In fact, it was against Jewish law to allow a body to be moved after it had already been buried.

 

The resurrection really happened

In light of these failed hypotheses that attempt to disprove the resurrection, the person who wishes to deny the resurrection of Christ is left with the unexplained mystery of the empty tomb that existed three days after his death.

 

The Resurrection Is Credible & Historical

The Resurrection Is Credible & Historical

Of all the teachings of Christianity, no doctrine is more central than the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Put bluntly, if Jesus Christ claimed to be the savior but remains dead in a tomb after a brutal crucifixion, his claims were, and are, meaningless. However, if Jesus did rise from death, then his claims to deity, his bearing the penalty of our sins in our place on the cross, and his statements about the afterlife are vindicated.

 

No future without the resurrection

Without the resurrection, Christians have no savior and are left without hope of a future resurrection, since Christ himself did not rise. Paul writes in 1 Cointhians 15:14 and 17, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” On this basis alone, it is fair to say that Paul saw the resurrection as the lynchpin of the Christian faith.

Throughout the history of the church, the truth of the resurrection has been attacked from every angle. New books and television media appear questioning the truth of the resurrection, by re-hashing old theories about what happened to Jesus’ body. Since the resurrection is crucial to Christianity, Christians ought to be concerned with giving an apologetic defense of it.

 

Historically credible accounts

The first step is defending the resurrection from the detractors is to establish the fact of the historical events that took place as conveyed in the Gospels.  As William Lane Craig notes in his book Reasonable Faith, “The issue is whether the gospel narratives are historically credible accounts or unhistorical legends.”

The resurrection can be defended by showing that the Gospel accounts were:

  1. authentic—that they were written by the authors who claimed them
  2. pure—that they were not changed from their original form
  3. reliable—that the apostles were neither deceived nor deceivers

Even Bart Ehrman, the notorious New Testament critic, says that “we can say with some confidence that some of his disciples claimed to have seen Jesus alive.”

 

Not only an empty tomb

In his impressive book The Resurrection of the Son of God, N. T. Wright establishes the fact of the historical events that took place as conveyed in the Gospels. He sketches a map of ancient beliefs about life after death in both the Greco-Roman and Jewish worlds. He then highlights the fact that the early Christians’ belief about the afterlife belonged firmly on the Jewish spectrum, while introducing several new mutations and sharper definitions. This, together with other features of early Christianity, forces the historian to read the Easter narratives in the Gospels, not simply as late rationalizations of early Christian spirituality, but as accounts of two actual events: the empty tomb of Jesus and his appearances.

Since the resurrection is crucial to Christianity, Christians ought to be concerned with giving an apologetic defense of it.

The Gospel accounts are historically credible, not merely mythological legends embellished over time.

In the next two posts, we will see that the resurrection is the best explanation of the historical events, over and against rival hypotheses.

 

Nestorius: Know Your Heretics

Nestorius: Know Your Heretics

John Calvin said in his Institutes of the Christian Religion that Nestorius “devised a double Christ!”

 

The early church taught that Jesus Christ was one person with two natures: a divine nature and a human nature.

Nestorius (c. 381-451) was a monk from Antioch before he became the bishop of Constantinople in 428. He so emphasized the two natures that Nestorius basically turned Jesus Christ into two persons. Wanting to avoid any “mixing” of the divine and human natures of Christ (as Eutychesdid), Nestorius over-emphasized their distinctness.

He argued that there are places in the Gospels where the human nature of Jesus is being described, and others where his divine nature is the subject. In doing this, it seems as if Nestorius has made two persons exist in Christ—two acting subjects, two “he’s”. 

Christ is two natures in one person

Cyril of Alexandria was the main proponent of orthodox theology in response to Nestorius. Cyril condemned Nestorius’ stance of two subjects present in Christ because it meant there were also two persons—a human and a divine—present in Christ. In response to Nestorius’ position, Cyril wrote: “If any one distributes between two characters or persons the expressions used about Christ in the gospels, etc…applying some to the man, conceived of separately, apart from the Word, others exclusively to the Word, let him be anathema.” 

Nestorius’ under-emphasis of the unity between the two natures of Christ is dangerous because Jesus Christ is the one and only mediator between God and humanity.

Both the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451) condemned Nestorius. He claimed later that he was simply misunderstood and he believed in Christ’s two natures in one person. 

Stephen Nichols notes of the Chalcedonian Creed, “In affirming Christ as two natures in one person, the Creed repudiates directly and explicitly the teachings of Apollinarius, Eutyches, and Nestorius…Against Nestorius, the Creed holds Christ to be two natures in one person without division or separation. It denies that Christ is two persons, two ‘he’s.’”[1]

Why the unity of Jesus matters

Nestorius’ under-emphasis of the unity between the two natures of Christ is dangerous because Jesus Christ is the one and only mediator between God and humanity.

This unity of the one person of Jesus Christ is called the hypostatic union. It is important that we get this union right—Jesus Christ is the God-man. It is precisely in the unity of the person of Jesus Christ and his sinless life, death, and resurrection that God reconciles lost humans with his perfect self.

Two natures, without separation

A disjoining of the two natures would result in a failure in the means of Christians’ salvation. This is why the Chalcedonian Creed says, “our Lord Jesus Christ…for us men and for our salvation…[is] recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated in two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.”[2]

 

Gnostics: Know Your Heretics

Gnostics: Know Your Heretics

Gnosticism is not a specific heretical movement in church history, but rather a broad umbrella term categorizing a loose collection of false beliefs.

Questions concerning the origins of Gnosticism are still unsolved. Some think Gnosticism originated as a heresy that diverted from orthodox Christian teaching, while others see the movement as an independent, non-Christian movement stemming from paganism.

What does it mean? 

Everett Ferguson breaks down the diverse teachings of Gnosticism into eight categories:

  • A preoccupation with the problem of evil
  • A sense of alienation from the world
  • A desire for special and intimate knowledge of the secrets of the universe
  • A psychological (body and soul) and ethical (good and evil) dualism
  •  A cosmology wherein all beings are derivative from the first, originating principle
  • A hierarchical anthropology of different classes of human beings with fixed destinies
  • A radically realized eschatology that denied the resurrection of the dead
  • A variety of ethical implications ranging from libertinism and asceticism

The Gnostic teaching on salvation was not based on Christ. Instead, “The content of the Gnostic gospel was an attempt to rouse the soul from its sleep-walking condition and to make it aware of the high destiny to which it is called.”

“The body is meaningless”

Some New Testament books contain corrective teachings to the Gnosticism that challenged Christianity. For instance, the spiritual elite at Corinth seemed to pride themselves on a special spiritual knowledge or mystical experience. They also questioned the resurrection and believed the body to be meaningless (which had profound moral consequences—such as promiscuous sexual behavior). 

At Colossae, believers observed special ascetic practices by keeping ceremonies from the Jewish calendar and worshipped intermediate angelic powers. These proclivities illustrate two of the main tenets of Gnostic thought. 

Jesus is above all

The Apostle Paul challenged the Gnostic heresies with a robust Christology. His solution to the false views of the body, the resurrection, and morality was to point them to the supremacy of Christ in his incarnation, life, death, and victorious resurrection.

The Gnostic teaching on salvation was not based on Christ.

Gnosticism was composed of such a broad variety of beliefs and teachings that it was challenged by many of the early church fathers, such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Epiphanius, and others.

Gnosticism Today 

The broad teachings of the Gnostic movement comprise a surprising similarity with much of the New Age Movement today. But the best reason to be acquainted with Gnosticism is the popularity of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The DaVinci Code, in which much information from the Gnostic gospels is appealed to as factual truth. Some Christians, upon reading Brown’s book, find their faith shaken by the stories that oppose the teachings of Christianity. Those who find their faith weakened can look both to Scripture and church history for a refutation of the false teachings of Gnosticism

Jesus Is for Losers

Jesus Is for Losers

American Jesus

Stephen Prothero’s American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon investigates the various constructions of Jesus in American history. He argues convincingly that what Americans have seen in Jesus has been a reflection of themselves. The versions of Jesus that Prothero sees in American cultural history—Enlightened Sage, Manly Redeemer, or Superstar—are mainly reflections of American ideals and hopes.

Friend of Losers

In the Gospel accounts of Jesus, we see another version: Friend of Losers (Thank you to Steve Taylor for the brilliant song “Jesus is for Losers”). Jesus loved the spiritual losers: swindlers, whores, and drunkards. These were not people “achieving growth in noble virtues.” Jesus told us what to think about his mission for losers: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Good News

The good news is that we are all “the sick” who are in the scope of Jesus’ mission. In his commentary on Galatians, Martin Luther explains the good news this way: “Although I am a sinner according to the Law…nevertheless I do not despair, because Christ lives and he is my eternal and heavenly life. In that righteousness and life I have no sin or death. I am indeed a sinner according to the present life and its righteousness, where the Law accuses me. But above this life I have another righteousness, another life, which is Christ, who does not know sin and death but is righteousness and eternal life.”

Freedom and Joy

The result of this good news being true might be freedom and joy—freedom because we are not God’s enemy and joy because we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously. When Jesus showed up on the scene, he said he brought the kingdom of God. And this kingdom looked like a party to which all the losers were invited. The blind received sight, the lame could walk, and the sick were healed. There was much to celebrate in this kingdom. And many of his parables ended with celebrations and joy. Why do we see so little of this joy or freedom? Have the old Pharisees, with their dour legalism, scared us away from joy and freedom? Have we domesticated the extravagant grace of God by relying on moralist techniques and disciplines? Have we overlooked the fact that we are known and loved by God? Have we forgotten that we are accepted and we don’t deserve it?

The Bible is VERY Consistent

The Bible is VERY Consistent

The chart above represents the 63,779 cross-references found in the Bible.  A single arc depicts each cross-reference. Compare this to the 439 alleged contradictions from the chart Sam Harris commissioned (reported in Fast Company).

This cross-reference chart does not prove the Bible is not filled with contradictions, but it is a graphic representation of the unity, harmony, and consistency of the Bible.

 

Some Major Themes Throughout The Bible

God’s initiative—“I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God” (Exod 6:6-7 and also see Gen 17:7, Exod 19:4-5, Lev 11:45, Lev 26:12, Deut 4:20, Deut 29:13, 2 Chron 23:16, Isa 7:14, Isa 8:8, Jer 32:38, Eze 37:27, Zech 2:11, Zech 8:8, Ezek 34:24, 2 Cor 6:16).  Christ is the embodiment of God’s desire to dwell among God’s people  (Exod 25:8, Exod 29:42-45, Lev 26:9-13, Ezek 37:26-28, Matt 1:23, John 1:14, Eph 2:21, Rev 7:15, Rev 21:3).

God’s initiative despite our disobedience and rebellion—“If we are faithless, He remains faithful” (2 Tim 2:13 and also see Exod 34:6-7, Numbers 14:19, Ps 6:4, Ps 31:17, Ps 44:26, Ps 51:1, Ps 109:26, 1 Thess 5:24).

God’s initiative despite our disobedience and rebellion resulted in the cross—“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly….God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:6-8 and also see 1 Cor 15: 3-6, 1 Pet 3:18, 1 John 2:2. 1 John 4:9-10).

 

Scriptures Bear Witness About Jesus

The reliability of the Bible is important, not so we feel better about having an answer to the flimsy claims of skeptics, but because the Bible contains all things necessary to our salvation.

Jesus makes it clear that studying Scripture is a means to an end (saving knowledge of Jesus Christ) and not the end in and of itself: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

 

Commenting on this passage, Martin Luther writes about how to read the Bible:

    Here Christ would indicate the principal reason why the Scripture was given by God. Men are to study and search in it and to learn that He, Mary’s Son, is the one who is able to give eternal life to all who come to Him and believe in Him. Therefore, he who would correctly and profitably read Scripture should see to it that he finds Christ in it; then he finds life eternal without fail. On the other hand, if I do not so study and understand Moses and the prophets as to find that Christ came from heaven for the sake of my salvation, became man, suffered, died, was buried, rose, and ascended into heaven so that through Him I enjoy reconciliation with God, forgiveness of all my sins, grace, righteousness, and life eternal, then my reading in Scripture is of no help whatsoever to my salvation. I may, of course, become a learned man by reading and studying Scripture and preach what I have acquired; yet all this would do me no good whatever. (Luther’s Works, 51, 4)

 


 

Doug Wilson picked two randomly (#208 and #211) and deals with them to show how contrived these “contradictions” are. Matt Perman wrote a post regarding the appearance of contradictions and some of the hard texts of the Bible.

As a sidenote and just for fun, the Sam Harris/Fast Company chart on the supposed errors of the bible has a few of its own:  “contradictions” #7 and #9 are duplicates as are #263 and #264 as are #323 and #324. #404 should read “by” and not “buy.” #406 reads “When when did the transfiguration occur?” That sentence only needs one “when.”