Thursday, January 28 2021
“Could evangelism be easier?” That depends. Evangelism does not need to be overly complex, as many have made it. Throughout the churches of Christ, many teach programs requiring the memorization of hundreds of Bible verses. The trainers use of a number of pamphlets filled with questions and 30 or more scriptures about the church but not so much about the hope of the gospel. When the trainer is finished training the trainee, he is already burned out or frustrated because no one wants to study with him. What can we do about this? Consider the examples of Jesus, the apostles, and the evangelists in the Bible.
Christians should follow the examples of asking discussion questions to hear why people believe what they believe and then teaching a few scriptures ready to share the gospel with others (especially our unchurched friends who are open to faith in God and Christ). Christians should also consider the various ways that we have for sharing these passages such as posting on social media, asking a family member, friend, or coworker what they think of a scripture, mentioning a scripture in passing conversation to a neighbor, and requesting to come by one’s home and talk about God.
Here are my suggested scriptures for your consideration and reference in personal evangelism:
1. Predictions of the Coming Messiah: Isaiah 53
2. The Identity of Jesus: Acts 2:22–24
3. Witnesses of Jesus’s Resurrection: 1 Corinthians 15:1–8
4. Hope of the Resurrection: John 6:39–40
5. Warning of God’s Judgment: Matthew 7:13–14
6. Obeying the Gospel: Luke 9:23–24; Romans 6:3–6
This list comes from a number of examples of evangelism in the Bible. Evangelists in the Bible supported their faith in Jesus by referencing preexisting predictions of the coming Christ as Peter did in Acts 2:14–36 and Philip in Acts 8:26–40. They used these scriptures to launch into sharing the life of Jesus (Acts 2:22–24). They further supported the gospel with witnesses of Jesus’s resurrection (Acts 2:32; 13:30–31). Jesus’s resurrection opened the door to teach hope of eternal life (Acts 17:18, 32; 23:6; 24:15; 26:6). They warned of the coming judgment and pleaded that people repent and be baptized (Acts 2:40; 13:38–41; 17:30–31). Christians should proclaim that very biblical presentation today.
The Christian must rely on Jesus and the Bible for persuading others about the truth of the gospel for faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17). After studying the gospel according to scriptures like these, then Christians can plead with friends and family members, who share the same faith and hope in the gospel, for the need of churches to repent and restore New Testament Christianity. The effective evangelist starts with the gospel and then the Lord adds to the church. Thank God for these biblical examples of evangelism.
Tuesday, January 26 2021
Is there any archeological evidence for the core Christian belief of Jesus’s resurrection? Yes, there is archeological evidence that supports the Christian faith in Jesus’s resurrection. Archeologists continue to uncover artifacts of ancient Jewish tombs and monuments. Artifacts are material evidence that rely on the corroboration of primary sources according to the legal-historical method. The evidence from archeology aligns with the historical sources for the resurrection of Jesus. Historians have authenticated Jesus's earliest followers who testified of Jesus’s resurrection. Jesus's apostles told all that they witnessed, saw, heard, touched, and ate with Jesus who was bodily alive after death (Luke 24; 1 Corinthians 15:1–8).
The following 3 archeological finds support the truth that Jesus’s followers believed that they witnessed Jesus bodily risen and alive from the dead and they told the world:
1. Jehohanan’s Ankle and Nail – A bone-box of a crucified man named Jehohanan was found in a tomb of Jerusalem that demonstrated that one could receive an honorable burial after crucifixion. Bone-boxes or “ossuaries” contained the bones of the deceased a year after one’s death. The Jews buried in this way in preparation for the coming resurrection of the dead. Some critical scholars have doubted that Jesus had an honorable burial according to the custom of the Jews because the Romans crucified Jesus as claiming to be king in rebellion against Rome. However, the remains of Jehohanam’s ankle and nail disprove that assumption.
2. The Nazareth Inscription - The Nazareth Inscription is a marble tablet in the once insignificant town of Nazareth that gives a Roman imperial decree in Greek from Emperor Claudius (AD 41–54). The inscription warns of capital punishment for those who move a body from a grave or tomb. Why would Emperor Claudius have this posted in Nazareth in the first century? The best and most obvious explanation is the spread of the message of Jesus’s empty tomb and resurrection. The emperor of Rome blamed Jesus’s empty tomb on theft and this event was so significant that he posted a decree.
3. The Bone-Box of James the Son of Joseph – The discovery of a bone-box with the inscription of “James, the son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” The inscription on the bone-box noting 3 names is too specific to be any other than James the brother of Jesus of Nazareth. Not only was Jesus’s tomb empty but no bone-box exists for Him like His brother James.
Where is the bone-box of Jesus? Where is His grave? Where is Jesus's body? Why is Jesus's tomb empty? With these noted artifacts, each person can observe that Jesus of Nazareth lived, died, and was buried. No one knew where Jesus’s body had gone soon after His death. Something about Jesus’s empty tomb disturbed the whole world so that Caesar Claudius recognized the insignificant town of Nazareth in the province of Judea. These artifacts are supporting evidence of the message that spread early in the first century when people claimed to have witnessed Jesus alive from the dead. This evidence challenges everyone to explain the missing body of Jesus and the witnesses of His resurrection that started a movement that changed the world. The earliest claims bear the most explanative power that explains the message of Jesus’s resurrection from the dead. This is even more reasonable considering the universe must have a supernatural, superpowerful, and super-creative cause that brought life into being from nonliving material.
Christians have concluded that Jesus resurrected from the dead. One cannot be a Christian unless that person believes that Jesus bodily resurrected. The apostle Paul stated, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV). Furthermore, Paul observed, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Therefore, Christians thank God that Jesus rose from the dead.
Thank God that Jesus did resurrect. The apostle Paul taught, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him” (Romans 6:8–9).
Thursday, January 21 2021
Is Jesus’s tomb empty? Did Jesus have even a tomb? Did Jesus really receive an honorable burial? Critical scholars have wrestled to answer these questions, but the faithful have confidence in the facts. The following list includes basic facts from obvious sources for Jesus’s burial and empty tomb:
1. One of the earliest sources that attest to Jesus’s burial comes from Saul of Tarsus who taught the account that he received at conversion. Saul also called Paul wrote, “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” (1 Corinthians 15:3–5 ESV). Critical and believing scholars agree that this statement of faith predates the writing of 1 Corinthians to about AD 35 a few years after Jesus’s crucifixion. This confession of faith aligns with Peter’s preaching that David's body remains buried in his tomb but Peter and witnesses attested that Jesus resurrected (Acts 2:22–29). Furthermore, Paul’s teaching about baptism confirms his faith in Jesus’s burial. Paul taught that baptism was a burial uniting a believer with Christ in His death (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12). As a witness of the empty tomb, Peter connected baptism with having power “through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21; cf. 2 Peter 1:16).
2. Another significant fact is that Joseph Arimathea, a council member of the Jewish supreme court, placed Jesus’s body in his unused tomb (Mark 15:43; cf. Matthew 27:57; Luke 23:50; John 19:38). Many would have refuted claims like this if Joseph of Arimathea did not exist and did not bury the body of Jesus. Joseph’s family would have certainly objected. However, no contrary testimony exists as would have remained if Joseph of Arimathea did not bury Jesus’s body in his tomb.
3. Another significant detail supporting Jesus’s empty tomb is that women and not the apostles were the first to find the tomb empty. This account comes from Mark 15:46–16:8. The earliest Christian writers include Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John who wrote that women were the first witnesses to find empty the tomb of Jesus and experienced hearing from messengers that Jesus had resurrected from the dead (Matthew 27:61; Luke 24:1–3; John 20:1). Anyone finding the empty tomb of Jesus before Jesus’s apostles would have embarrassed the apostles especially because they report that they hid in fear (John 20:19). This criterion of embarrassment affirms Jesus's tomb was empty.
4. A hostile source from an ancient Jewish denial of Jesus’s resurrection claimed that the guards at the tomb witnessed the disciples of Jesus taking His body from the tomb (Matthew 28:11–14). However, this conspiracy accusation against Jesus’s disciples did not stand without witnesses because the apostles attested of Jesus’s resurrection despite the threats of persecution. Furthermore, the accusation proves that Jewish leaders set guards at Jesus’s tomb, and thus Jesus must have been buried in a known tomb that was confirmed to be empty.
The big question is “What happened to the body of Jesus?” Many past skeptics have suggested a few possible alternatives for who took Jesus’s body, but now unbelieving scholars assume an agnostic position and give no plausible explanations. The assertion of such possibilities is a faulty way of reasoning and finding the truth.
The basic facts for Jesus’s burial and empty tomb continue encouraging many to consider the empty tomb, ancient predictions, and witnesses of Jesus’s resurrection. The apostles proclaimed these evidences and so should we (Acts 2:22–36; 13:26–41; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3–11).
Tuesday, January 19 2021
When Jesus cried out and yielded up His spirit in His death on the cross, the earth quaked, rocks split, and tombs opened. After Jesus resurrected, many saints resurrected bodily and came out of the tombs and appeared to many in Jerusalem (Matthew 27:50–53). The centurion who oversaw Jesus’s execution was in awe seeing the earthquake and its effect so that he declared, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54). Why did these saints resurrect when Jesus resurrected?
Jesus’s resurrection is the power of resurrection for all. Did Jesus need to be buried in a tomb for others to come forth from the tombs? Christ predicted, “Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28–29 ESV). Jesus promised to resurrect everyone who believes in Him on the last day (John 6:39–40). He revealed, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:54).
The apostle Paul wrote that those who have united in Jesus’s death by baptism will rise in a resurrection like Christ’s resurrection (Romans 6:4–5). How so? Paul spoke of the power of the Holy Spirit revealing, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11). Paul taught, “Knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence” (2 Corinthians 4:14). The faithful will resurrect bodily as Jesus resurrected. The apostle Paul noted, “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by His power” (1 Corinthians 6:14). Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection. He is the beginning of the coming resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20–26).
The nature of the resurrected will be bodily and spiritual. The natural body will change and put on the immortal and imperishable nature. The apostle Paul revealed, “So is it [the glory] with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:42). How can this be? The mortal body does not dissolve forever but resurrects and changes (1 Corinthians 15:51–52). “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). Paul noted that the resurrected will not put off the body but put on the new nature as he also stated, “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened — not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:4). Otherwise, “I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50). The body must change to enter the heavenly homeland.
For this reason, the apostle rejoiced, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Jesus’s resurrection is the reason that the gospel is the power of God to salvation (Romans 1:16). Jesus’s resurrection is the source and the reminder of the hope of eternal life. Paul declared, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:23–24a). Therefore, let us proclaim the gospel of Jesus’s resurrection with hope of eternal life.
Thursday, January 14 2021
Many lack faith in God by lacking faith in God’s promises. However, Abraham had no unbelief that hindered his faith. Paul reported, “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness.’” (Romans 4:20–22 ESV). Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac because Abraham believed that God would allow him to return home with Isaac (Genesis 22:5). It is written, “He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back” (Hebrews 11:19).
Why did Abraham believe that God would resurrect Isaac? This is not because the Scriptures report that God told Abraham that He would resurrect Isaac. Abraham believed that God could resurrect the dead and would resurrect Isaac because God keeps His promises. God promised, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named” (Hebrews 11:18; cf. Genesis 21:12). Many misotheists (haters of God) revile the Bible for teaching that God would command a father to kill his son. However, Abraham’s faith demonstrated that he believed God was just and there was no evil in sacrificing his son, because God promised to bless the nations through his son. Abraham believed that God must intend to resurrect the innocent and just.
God saves those who trust in Him specifically those who share the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:13–16). God’s grace is promised to more than the Israelites who received the Law but to all who have faith among all nations of the world (Romans 4:16). For this reason, Paul reported that Abraham is the father of all the faithful among the nations. Paul wrote, “as it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’ — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17). Trusting in God is believing that God brought everything in the universe into existence, so God can restore even recreate the bodies of the dead to life.
The Pauline writer of Hebrews declared, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). In other words, faith in God is the only view that accounts for everything and makes sense of reality. The faith that perceives the attributes of the Creator in the creation is the faith that a Christian must have. The writer of Hebrews further explained, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
Abraham believed in God’s power to create, resurrect, and prepare a place for the resurrected. By faith, Abraham obeyed God and went to live in the Promised Land because “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Christians live the way that Abraham did because the faithful like Abraham look forward to a city in a heavenly homeland that God has designed for them when they resurrect. Those who die in faith “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:16).
For Abraham, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Do you have faith like Abraham? Do you believe God will resurrect the faithful and believe in God’s coming judgment? Jesus’s resurrection is the gospel of hope that Christians proclaim as Jesus's resurrection is essential to the Christian faith. Thank God that Jesus bodily rose from the dead.
Tuesday, January 12 2021
People are fascinated with other worlds in books, movies, video games, and vacations. Most like to think of the experiences of traveling to foreign places. The anticipation in planning to travel is a part of the joy. Why does the anticipation of a better place appear to be innate within most people? Many dream of a better life. What about the afterlife?
Some describe death or the afterlife as a great adventure. Many debate whether life exists after death. Beliefs about the cause of all life determine what someone believes about the afterlife. While nothing is what rocks dream about, people dream of other worlds. Engineers design roving robots to detect their environment before they create them in one place and test them for use in anticipation for other locations. Why do humans desire better homes? Why do so many look forward to an afterlife?
People can see that the cause of the universe must exist beyond the universe and its natural laws. No mindless cause of the universe can decide how intelligent life would come to exist and understand its origin. However, the intelligent Cause would engineer intelligent life that can reason that the original cause of the universe is the intelligent Creator. Therefore, one must think rightly about God who created human life to want to keep living and who made every place of people to dwell. For God, another world to come is no challenge for Him.
By a reasonable faith in God, Christians hope for life in a renewed body resurrected never to die (Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:53). The Christian faith is the most reasonable hope for human life to be restored to life after death by the Creator of all living things. The afterlife is apparent in trusting the witnesses of Jesus’s resurrection. The hope of eternal life fills Christians with joy to live another kind of life now and forever. Those who rise again to eternal life must have a compatible place to live. Jesus gave hope to His followers by overcoming death and preparing a place for them (John 14:1–3; 1 Corinthians 15:20–28; 2 Timothy 1:10). Christians look forward to a city in a heavenly country designed and prepared by God for the faithful (Hebrews 11:10, 16).
In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus of Nazareth taught His disciples while sitting on a mountain by first proclaiming blessings as the conditions of joy and happiness that align with the character of those who are faithful to God. Jesus’s blessings foretold of the coming kingdom that His followers looked forward to entering (Matthew 5:3–12). Jesus described the kingdom of heaven as a place of comfort, fulfillment, and mercy for those who mourn sin, hunger for righteousness, and are merciful to others. The kingdom of God includes the meek inheriting the earth that is the heavenly land (Matthew 5:5; 19:28–29; cf. 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1–2). In that kingdom, the pure of heart will see God, and those who make peace will be called “sons of God” (5:8). Jesus encouraged His followers to express joy when others curse, persecute, and slander them (5:10–12). Why? The teacher taught His students that the kingdom of heaven is theirs. The kingdom of God is worth the trials of life, so we trust God.
Do we have the character of those who inherit the kingdom? The character of those entering the kingdom are humility in spirit, mourning human rebellion, meekness in self-control, hunger for righteousness, merciful in abundance, purity in heart, makers of peace, and enduring persecution for righteousness. By the hope of the kingdom of heaven, Jesus called His followers to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13–16). The glory of those faithful to God is like a city on a hill that no one can hide. The follower of Jesus is a light that illuminates an otherwise dark room so everyone can see (5:15). Followers of Christ give light so that others can see their works and praise God (5:16).
Thank God for the hope of eternal life! God help us to live by the character of the kingdom according to Jesus’s preaching!
Thursday, January 07 2021
How do most people study baptism? Initially, most who study what the Bible says about baptism gather as many scriptures as they can about baptism. Then, they read them and harmonize them to come to a conclusion. That is a word study. No one needs to be an academic to do this. Every Christian should continue to do word studies as long as they are understanding those scriptures according to the surrounding texts.
Despite such a common approach to studying a subject in the Bible, many people still directly contradict each other about baptism and more. Why do so many disagree with each other on biblical subjects? Some add teachings from their background that align with their family, friends and, or church to interpret baptism in a more agreeable way. Furthermore, many search out more scriptures that appear to disprove what other scriptures appear to say. That may be a confusing process, but this allows them to believe what they are comfortable with accepting. However, Christians can and must agree in unity. The apostle Paul wrote, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10 ESV). Agreeing to disagree about essential teachings is not a biblical option for Christians.
How people study the subject of baptism in the Bible does not reveal any fault with Jesus, His Apostles, or the Bible that they quote and added more by the guidance of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Peter 1:20–21). People feel ashamed for mishandling a message or action of those whom they respect. Reinterpreting someone's words to dismiss someone’s message has always been dishonest and wrong. Christians must remain honest in how we study and understand the Scriptures. The apostle Paul taught Timothy, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). Bearing false witness of the words of Jesus and His Bible is an act of great dishonesty to faithful followers of Jesus. The Bible is not always easy to understand, and no action worth its time is always easy. Peter observed about Paul's letters, "There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:16). The ignorant and unstable are those who try to disprove scripture with scripture so they can support what makes them comfortable.
Paul warned Timothy, "Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:13). Furthermore, Paul urged him, "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:14–15). By these words and earlier warnings about living in the last days, the apostle declared, "Every Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16–17). In a chaotic world where everyone seems to contradict oneself from last month, Christians have an anchor and foundation for the truth that Jesus relied upon and taught.
Now when believers return to the subject of baptism, what do we find? Who should be baptized? What did Jesus say about baptism? What is the purpose of baptism? These are great questions that everyone needs to study honestly. Thank God for His written Word!
Monday, January 04 2021
God has given power and authority for Christians to act as free people. "For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God" (1 Peter 2:15–16 ESV). For this freedom, Christians obey the governing authorities but obey God over government (Titus 3:1–2; Acts 4:19; 5:29).
While Christians live as free, how can Christians stand against oppression and tyranny (cf. Isaiah 1:23; Micah 7:3)? As has been said many times, if the righteous, God-fearing, pro-family, pro-life, hardworking, and freedom-loving people stay out of politics, then who does that leave to make policies under which we live and struggle to survive? The whole of the Christian life is freedom in full action against the oppression of evil. The Scriptures do not depict the church forming armies or ministers acting as informants to assassinate government officials (Ephesians 6:12; cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4). What can the faithful do especially when the "authorities" are illegitimate and act contrary to their laws and promises?
The church has a number of ways to stand against oppression and tyranny:
God brings justice to evil rulers (2 Thessalonians 1:6–9; cf. Psalm 2:10–12; 125:3). Throughout the Old Testament, God demonstrated His providential wrath on evil rulers and evil nations. The Israelite prophet Daniel declared, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21). God has not changed. He will judge all. Thank God for His justice and mercy!