Posted: April 19th, 2015 | Author: Grady Huggins | Filed under: Articles
One of the biggest roadblocks many face to believing in God and submitting their lives to Him is an objection regarding His character. “How could a loving God allow an innocent child to suffer and die? How could an all-powerful God allow evil to persist within the world? How could a compassionate and merciful God send anyone to an eternal torment in hell?”
These are not easy questions to answer. We may struggle comprehending God’s operation in many areas for the rest of our lives. But the scriptures do not sweep these questions under the rug or hide from them. By revealing to us the truth about God and this world in which we live, they can help us properly come to terms with these doubts and questions. Over the next few weeks I want to explore what the Bible says about these issues in a series of articles. I hope they will help you develop deeper convictions about both the sovereignty and compassion of God.
First of all, we need to recognize that God is not obligated to give an account of all His doings or get our permission to act within the world He has created. We cannot confine God to the limits of our own comprehension. He is an infinite being and cannot be successfully filtered through our finite minds. If we could fully wrap our minds around the nature and activity of God, we would be serving a pretty small God. Brother Bill Hall used to say, “I could sooner filter all the waters of Niagra Falls through a drinking straw, than filter almighty God through my mind.”
We often behave like little children complaining about the rules and restrictions of their parents. In their immaturity they cannot see the wisdom behind these decisions. Yet, they must trust that their parents know best and submit to their authority all the same. How much more should we respect God’s will in our lives? Even if He were to explain every detail of His reasoning in allowing certain things to happen in our lives, do we really think we would be capable of understanding? His perspective is not limited by time or space. It is not skewed by partiality or personal prejudice. There is literally no one in a better position to make decisions about how the annals of time should unfold.
The scriptures teach us that God is the potter and we are the clay. Isaiah warns us, “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker—An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?” (Is 45:9). How foolish it is for us to call our Creator to trial and stand in judgment over the way He operates in the universe. “Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves” (Ps 100:3).
There is much more that can be said in defense of God’s character, but we must begin by recognizing how foolish it is to limit an infinite God to the confines of our own human reason.
Posted: April 19th, 2015 | Author: Grady Huggins | Filed under: Articles
When unbelievers deny God, what they are mostly denying is a toned-down version of God. The concept of God gets brought down to a human level who cannot know more, do more, or have any more authority than the skeptic.
Since we cannot conceive of allowing something to happen, then we cannot allow for a God who would permit it. If we do not have the ultimate power of life and death, then we will not allow for a God to have such power. If we do not understand some great difficulties, then we cannot allow for a God who can understand them.
And if there is such a God who does have such power and knowledge, then we cannot believe in Him because He has not explained Himself to us adequately, for if He exists, then surely He must be amenable to us in some way.
These denials then often take the form of some straw-man. God, after He is lowered to the level of an ignorant, foolish, narcissistic brute who is no better than a power-hungry dictator, is thus caricatured and readily dismissed.
What we need to see is that all of these caricatures and denials are not dealing with the God of the Bible. They are dealing with some other version of a god that has been watered down and subsumed under the umbrella of the finite reason of faulty men. Such a god does not exist. That’s right. Such a god does NOT exist. If their version of God is what we are really dealing with, then I will join their ranks. The magical sky fairy is a myth. The flying spaghetti monster does not exist. The bearded sky clown is foolish. Any such version of God does not exist. I won’t defend it.
But that is not the God I believe in or defend. The biblical God has wisdom and knowledge unfathomable to a finite mind. He has the knowledge of perfect justice. Because of who He is, He has the power of life and death, and He can exercise that power in ways that we cannot comprehend.
The problem is that we cannot comprehend the fullness of divine power, knowledge, and authority, but we act like we do get it. Then, thinking we have this God figured out, we make ourselves out to be authoritative enough to put this God under our reason. No wonder such a God gets denied.
Ultimately, no one is in a position to deny the actual God who reveals Himself in Scripture. Think about it. If, in order to deny God, we bring Him under our reason, we fundamentally change who He is, then summarily dismiss this new version of God, then we still haven’t truly denied the God of Scripture. We’ve replaced Him with a false version.
Yet, in order to deny His existence, this is what we must do. I feel no need to defend the God that typical atheists deny, for they are denying a version of God who is far, far less than the true and living, almighty God.
We need reminding of this ourselves, for when we begin to doubt, it is almost certain that what we are doing is downgrading our concept of God in some fashion. What we are doubting is a watered down version of God that does not exist. The answer, then, is to give up the pride we have in our own conceptions of God. We need to quit putting Him in a box. We need let go of thinking that we have understood the One who can do exceedingly far above anything we can ask or think. These lesser concepts don’t even come close to the true God.
The bottom line is this: no one is in a position to deny the true, living God of heaven and earth. No one.
Posted: April 19th, 2015 | Author: Grady Huggins | Filed under: Articles
Amos was a stern, rural prophet who lived in southern Judah about 750 B. C. He did not consider himself a prophet, but answered God’s call to deliver a message to the northern tribes of Israel. He was called right out of the fields, where he tended sheep and worked the orchards (see Amos 7:14-15).
Religious conditions in Israel were at their spiritual worst. Idolatry was rife, morality was nearly extinct, social justice was perverted, ritual ceremony was heartless, and commitment to Jehovah was mired in ease and unconcern.
Amos, as noted, was not from the north, didn’t live among those people, and didn’t go north to stay. He came, as one preacher said, for a “gospel meeting”; he came because God sent him, was there to deliver God’s message to the nation, and returned home when his mission was complete.
The prophet minced no words in his indictment of Israel’s transgressions. He spoke to the “notable men” among them and accused the leaders of insensitivity and unconcern toward the nation’s spiritual sickness (see Amos 6:1-6). His message to both the leaders and the nation was a simple one: “Seek Jehovah, and ye shall live” (Amos 5:6). Put just a bit differently: “Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live…Hate the evil and love the good” (Amos 5:14-15).
Israel’s leaders took no steps to eradicate these evils and Amos saw nothing but doom for them. Violence was rampant, false balances and weights were used to cheat the people, the rich were swallowing up the poor, and idols were worshipped in the high places. Nothing but repentance could now spare the nation.
But Amos saw no signs of a change of heart. He, as a result, called on them to “prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:1-2). This was no call, as often explained, to repentance; it was an announcement of judgment and warning for the nation to ready itself for the winds of wrath now moving in from Assyria. The unyielding prophet saw judgment as a day of darkness, mourning, great lamentation—a bitter day! (see Amos 6:7-11; 8:7-12).
But why this judgment? Because God could no longer walk with them. And when God departs from a nation—woe, doom, and destruction follow. Amos raises an important question that must challenge any country or individual: “Shall two walk together, except they have agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The “two” Amos refers to are “God” and “Israel”—and the two can no longer walk together. The prophet says “seek God,” but Israel loves evil. In New Testament language the apostle John says “If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (1 John 1:7).
How can we read this and not think of the United States of America. Every four years in our nation we go through the same ritual that is now gearing up again. Candidates for the President of these United States conduct before our ears a symphony of promises and pledges—and oh how good they sound. They lift up hope beyond the fading twilight of a falling nation—and oh how beautiful it looks. And they challenge us to dream and fantasize of a new dawn—and oh how wonderful it feels.
But are these candidates with their promises, programs, and plans the real strength and hope of a nation? Hardly! “Righteousness exalts a nation; But sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov 14:34). Unless we as a nation agree with God, He can no long walk with us. And when He walks with us no more, woe be to us. Humility, morality, and goodness are far more important to the strength of this nation than economic strategies, health programs, and nuclear power. What our nations needs is change that seeks good” and “hates evil.” Then God will walk with us.
Posted: April 13th, 2015 | Author: Grady Huggins | Filed under: Articles
Some people think we’re crazy for believing and teaching the resurrection of Jesus. Paul experienced the same criticism—but unlike many of us, he knew how to respond.
“Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!’ But he said, ‘I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner’” (Ac. 26:24-26).
This exchange occurred near the end of an informal hearing before Herod Agrippa, just prior to Paul’s voyage to Rome. Agrippa was a figurehead king over the Jews who had no real power to decide Paul’s fate; that would be settled by Caesar when Paul arrived in Rome. But the king was curious about Paul’s faith, and the apostle was more than happy to oblige with a defense of his life and his message, centered around the death and resurrection of Christ (v. 23).
As a Roman governor, Festus had heard all sorts of wild tales from defendants who came before him. But this one from Paul took the cake, and he couldn’t help but exclaim in derision, “Much learning is driving you mad!” The Greek word he used is mania. Paul’s claim of resurrection, to his view, was the raving of a maniac. Paul was just crazy to believe and teach such foolishness.
Paul had heard this criticism before, so he was ready with a response. He assured Festus, “I am not mad . . . but speak words of truth and reason.” The Greek word translated “reason” here literally means “sober.” Other translations render the word as “rational” (ESV), “sane” (GWT), or “sensible” (NCV). His testimony about Jesus’ resurrection was not madness, but a perfectly reasonable account of the facts of history.
But notice that Paul did not merely assert his claim; he backed it up with evidence, evidence that Agrippa himself was already aware of: “The king . . . knows these things.” The circumstances surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus and the events that followed were “not done in a corner.” There were multiple witnesses, both friendly and hostile, who could corroborate the facts, and Herod was already familiar with this body of information. Paul’s appeal to this evidence apparently hit close to home, because Agrippa was almost persuaded to become a Christian (v. 28).
Christians today stand where Paul stood then. We are mocked as “crazies” by a skeptical culture that views the Jesus story as a baseless myth. But the Jesus story is not a myth; it rests on a solid body of historical documentation that withstands the harshest scrutiny. When we cite this evidence, we are, like Paul, speaking “words of truth and reason.” We can defend what we believe.
But before we nod approvingly, let’s ask ourselves one question: Can we articulate this evidence to those who do not believe? If we cannot, then upon what does our own faith rest? Habit? Peer pressure? Tradition? Upbringing? That’s not faith; that’s laziness.
When someone called Paul’s hand on his truth claims, he did not dismiss his critic as an idiot unworthy of further discussion. He appealed to the available evidence to defend his faith. In an increasingly hostile culture, we must be prepared to do the same.
Posted: April 6th, 2015 | Author: Grady Huggins | Filed under: Articles
“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2:16-17).
When Jesus shed the blood of the New Covenant upon the cross, the decrees and ordinances of the Old Covenant were “taken out of the way” having been “nailed to the cross” (Col 2:14). While God’s moral standards transcend both covenants and are continued in the ordinances of the New Law, the Jewish ceremonial laws were all brought to an end. The yearly festivals, monthly new moons, and weekly Sabbath days were all part of this obsolete system. Along with the food laws and sacrificial procedures of the Jews, these were merely a foreshadowing of the spiritual truths revealed in Christ. Today, Christ is the Lamb of God, the Bread of Life, and will one day provide us an eternal Sabbath rest (Heb 4:9).
But some argue that since the precedent for the Sabbath Law was established from the beginning of creation (Gen 2:3), it too transcends both covenants and is binding upon us today. Paul’s words in Colossians should be sufficient to show this is not the case, but let us explore what the scripture says about the Sabbath a little further.
When God established the Sabbath law, He told the Israelites, “…the sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed” (Ex 31:16-17). This is very similar to the sign of circumcision given as an “everlasting” or “age-during” (YLT) covenant to the descendants of Abraham (Gen 17:13). Yet today there is “no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised” in Christ (Col 3:11). God’s covenant with the physical descendants of Israel has been replaced (Heb 8:13). Thus, the Sabbath law as part of this system, has been abolished.
But didn’t Jesus and the Apostles keep the Sabbath? (Luke 4:16; Acts 17:1). Yes, they were also circumcised (Luke 2:21; Php 3:5), celebrated the Passover (Luke 2:41-42; 22:15-16), made animal sacrifices and participated in the temple worship (Acts 21:23-26). Does this mean we should continue to practice these things as well? Jesus and the Apostles were all Israelites and lived under the Old Covenant. Even after Jesus’ death they continued to live under Jewish national law and participated in it as far as it did not conflict with their New Covenant citizenship. Yet, this is not the law we live under today. As New Testament Christians the Jewish food laws and ceremonial laws are no longer binding upon us. These shadows have been replaced by the “law of Christ” (Gal 6:2).
Posted: April 6th, 2015 | Author: Grady Huggins | Filed under: Articles
A fundamental objective of the local congregation is to grow to maturity in Jesus Christ. To enable a group of Christians to accomplish this objective, God provided for various functioning units in the body. Each member is responsible to “give” something to others; not all are responsible to give the same thing. Likewise, each member is privileged to “receive” something from the others; but not all receive the same things. When the giving and receiving is taking place according to God’s design, the local church is functioning and moving toward spiritual maturity. Such is Paul’s discussion in Ephesians 4:1-16.
What is sometimes overlooked, however, is that spiritual growth of a local church will take place in direct proportion to the spiritual growth of the individuals which comprise that church. In other words, the (Kirkwood) congregation will never be any stronger than those Christians who are members of the (Kirkwood) church. If each individual here could focus on how “he” is doing, rather than how “we” are doing, then “we” would undoubtedly make progress.
For example, there is much to be said about “our teaching program.” On the other hand, there is more to be said about an individual’s “growth in knowledge and maturity in the Word.” One need not gloat over the excellent Bible study program if he is failing in his personal attendance of Bible classes, or if he is attending without genuinely studying and discerning the truth. The weakness of this Christian, due to his ignorance of God’s Word, becomes a liability to the group. He may correctly talk about “we” in reference to spiritual strength, but he certainly cannot talk about “me.” And when there are enough individuals who cannot talk about “me,” then the group can no longer talk about “we” in reference to spiritual maturity.
The key to spiritual growth in this congregation will be the personal growth of its individual members. The spiritual needs of individuals must be addressed! And those needs cannot be addressed until the needs are first discerned. This is one of the reasons why each member ought to “know” the elders, and why the pastors must “know” the sheep! Likewise, this is one of the reasons why one’s presence among the assembly (group) during worship periods is highly significant (Heb 10:24-25). Furthermore, this is one reason why personal relationships between members of the body of Christ are of the utmost significance (Rom 12:10ff).
Realizing the importance of relationships within the body of Christ ought to motivate every member to work toward developing and preserving those relationships. Every effort ought to be expended toward “striving to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). Every potential problem or contention ought to be approached from the standpoint of “if it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men” (Rom 12:18). Every exchange ought to be flavored with love and compassion, “each one counting the other better than himself” (Php 2:3).
Before any group of Christians can grow up together to maturity in Christ, they must first grow up in their relationships with one another (cf. Matt 5:23-24). As they come to “know” one another better in the Lord, they are able to specifically address the spiritual needs of one another. As they help one another with spiritual needs, they grow up together. God has provided shepherds of spiritual maturity to lead the flock in spiritual growth (Acts 20:28; q Pet 5:1-4). Likewise, God has provided every member to be a supporting unit (1 Cor 12; Rom 12).
May God bless each of us, as we strive to grow closer to one another, that we might ultimately grow closer to Him! After all, growing closer to God is the definition of spiritual growth!
Posted: April 2nd, 2015 | Author: Grady Huggins | Filed under: Articles
“What is man, that You should exalt him, that you should set Your heart on him, that you should visit him every morning, and test him every moment?”
Growing to be a person of godly integrity is the work of a lifetime, but whether we grow in this direction or not is determined by the many “little” decisions we make moment by moment. A human life is the accumulation of all its moments. There is no such thing as an unimportant decision.
Remembering the simple, momentary nature of life ought to be helpful to us if we’re serious about seeking God. Daunting tasks lose their power to discourage us when we break them down into each moment’s doable deeds. At any particular moment whatever should be done can be done. Taken individually, single moments are always manageable. But when we take on the burden of doing more than one moment’s work at a time, our burden is both impossible and foolish.
“The next hour, the next moment, is as much beyond our grasp and as much in God’s care, as that a hundred years away… The moment which coincides with work to be done is the moment to be minded; the next is nowhere till God has made it” (George MacDonald).
One of the most empowering questions a person can ever ask is this: what is the very best thing I could actually do right now, in this present moment? Forget the next moment or some other moment, what is the main thing that lies before me at just this moment? In the end, lives of great, climactic godliness result from a decision to do right by the ordinary moments. Obedience is not impossible. We must simply embrace, right now, whatever we know the Lord would want us to be doing right now!
Did our Lord not warn us to be careful about the “little” things? Did He not say, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10)?
Life is a long journey indeed, but although the steps that take us toward God are many, they should be taken—indeed, can only be taken—one at a time. The key to life is the peaceful, persistent management of the moments. “Take care of the minute, and the hours will take care of themselves” (Lord Chesterfield).
Posted: April 2nd, 2015 | Author: Grady Huggins | Filed under: Articles
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men… This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:1-4).
Do we share this desire of our Lord for the sin-sick world around us? How strong is that desire? How often do we pray for the lost souls we encounter day in and day out? How hard are willing to work to give them all an opportunity to hear the gospel? How long are we willing to labor with those slow to accept its call?
These are questions we should ask ourselves on a regular basis. We need to be reminded what God’s work is all about. We need to evaluate the role we are fulfilling in the furtherance of His kingdom. We need to rekindle the love of God in our hearts for this sin-stained world in which we live. With these thoughts in mind, let us turn our attention towards the evangelistic opportunities before us.
Our gospel meeting is quickly approaching, beginning only two weeks from today. Our guest speaker, David Thomley, has already invested much time and energy in preparing the lessons he will be presenting from God’s word. Yet, his efforts alone cannot make this meeting successful. What are we doing to prepare?
First, we can all be praying about it. Hopefully you have already been including our meeting in your prayers, but if not, start today. And keep it in your prayers every day from now until the last invitation is given Friday night.
Pray that our flyers and invitations will find their way to receptive hearts. Pray that each night will bring a host of eager listeners. Pray that God will grant Brother Thomley wisdom and grace in his speech. Pray that hearts will be convicted and lives will be changed. Pray that in all things God will be glorified.
Secondly, you can clear your schedules. We all make sacrifices for the things that are most important to us. If the Lord’s work and the edification of His body are given proper priority in our lives, we will be willing to drop everything else we’re doing in order to attend.
An empty pew doesn’t edify anyone. It isn’t able to greet visitors and make them feel welcome. It has no voice to join in worship, no heart to join in prayer, no mind to join in study of God’s word. Your encouragement is needed. Not to mention, the spiritual encouragement you will receive by being there as well.
Thirdly, you can invite your friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers. We have printed hundreds of cards and flyers to advertise our meeting. Yet, they won’t do any good sitting in the foyer. You can post flyers on bulletin boards in your local library, the laundry mat, or restaurants you frequent.
Be generous and indiscriminate in those you invite to our meeting. The people you may think least likely to come may turn out to be the most receptive. We cannot be the judge of others’ hearts. We must simply sow the seed and pray for God to give the increase.
On Saturday April 11th a group will meet at the church building at 9am to hand out flyers door to door in the community. I urge every able-bodied individual to show up with your walking shoes. There are thousands of individuals living within a couple miles of our building. Chances are at least one or two will come if we can get the word out to them.
We could not possibly have too many individuals aid in this effort. We will never run out of doors in the community. And we can always print off more flyers to attach to them. Our only limit is workers.
While there are other evangelistic efforts in progress we could discuss, we will save these for next month’s report. For now, let us all focus on doing our part to make this gospel meeting as successful as it can be. May it never be our negligence that hinders the work of the Lord.
Posted: April 2nd, 2015 | Author: Grady Huggins | Filed under: Articles
“…who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet 1:5).
Normally we think of our salvation as something already accomplished and, in a sense, that is certainly true. “He saved us… according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Tit 3:5). The cleansing of our sins and spiritual rebirth God performs at baptism can rightly be called salvation. We are released from the bondage of sin and raised up from the grave of spiritual death. We are given true hope, peace, and joy, where before our souls could only know fear, worry, and sorrow.
God has “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Col 1:13). We are no longer prisoners in the enemies camp, but soldiers in the Lord’s army. And as such, the helmet of salvation is not something we have to wait until judgment day to start wearing (Eph 6:17).
Yet, there is another sense in which this helmet is only the “hope of salvation” (1 Thess 5:8). Having been saved from our sins in the present, we have hope of being saved from their eternal consequences one day in the future. This is why Peter can say we are awaiting “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Though we may now be free from the guilt of sin, we still live in a world filled with its consequences. We still feel its pull and encounter its assaults day by day. Salvation, in its greatest sense, will not be accomplished till we cross heaven’s threshold into a land untouched by sin’s curse. There we can lay our armor down and rest in eternal safety.
We can have a certain amount of safety and security now. Indeed, we are “protected by the power of God.” Jesus assures His sheep that “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29). There is no safer place to be in this spiritual warfare than in the arms of an omnipotent God.
We can find confidence and comfort knowing the battle belongs to the Lord. He has provided us with impenetrable defenses. Fully equipped with His armor and girded with His strength we cannot lose.
Yet, we must realize we are still on the battlefield. God’s protection for His soldiers is a little different than His protection for His victors. We cannot lay down our armor yet. We still live each day in enemy territory. Now is the time to “take up” God’s armor and put it to full use (Eph 6:13). We must stand firm and fight until our Savior calls us home.
We are “protected by the power of God through faith.” We have a responsibility in this battle. We cannot sit back on the sidelines and watch God do our fighting for us. That’s simply not how it works. We must faithfully follow His orders if we expect to attain the victory He has made possible through Jesus.
This is what it means to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Php 2:12). It does not mean we must have the wisdom to draw up the battle plans. It does not mean we must have the strength to overpower the enemy. It does not mean we must have the courage to face him alone. It means we must carefully follow the orders of our commander, knowing that His wisdom, strength, and grace are the only way to victory.
And so, while we now can “greatly rejoice” in our salvation (1 Pet 1:5-6, 7-8), we must not deceive ourselves into thinking the battle is already over. In fact, it has just begun. The hope, peace, and joy we now experience in the Lord’s ranks are only a foretaste of what awaits us when our warfare has ended.
The outcome of this conflict is already determined; it has been since the foundation of the world. What remains to be decided is whose side we will be on when it’s all over. Will we continue to follow His orders in faith? Will we stand firm in the protection of His power that we may one day experience salvation at its fullest?
Posted: March 23rd, 2015 | Author: Grady Huggins | Filed under: Articles
Read 1 Corinthians 1, and note especially these statements:
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (vs. 18).
“For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (vv 22-25)
Think about the essence of the story of the Gospel. An uneducated Jewish peasant from a small, obscure town in Galilee claims to be the Son of God, works miracles, and teaches with authority, thereby silencing His opposition. His enemies, prominent Jewish leaders from Jerusalem, manage to get Him arrested, charged, and crucified as a criminal by Roman authorities. Three days later He is risen. His disciples soon after begin to proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and from this point the disciples grow and spread to the rest of the world.
A crucified Jewish, uneducated peasant from Galilee is the Savior of the world? Many reject the Gospel story precisely because it sounds so foolish to them. Again, think about the above account. Even in the first century the Jews stumbled over it and the Gentiles thought it foolish. Detractors will point to the silliness and unlikelihood of the idea that a man who was crucified on a Roman cross could be the savior of the world. After a good laugh at all those naive fools who believe such a story, unbelievers can then go on their way confident that reason has served them well. Yet it is here that they may fail to think it through.
Let’s take another look, and consider this:
1. There is no question but that the Gospel story arose during the early part of the first century. The story is claimed as historical (Luke 1:1-4), with the recognition that if it didn’t happen, Christianity as a whole is fallacious (1 Cor 15). Everything hinges on its historical truthfulness. The real question is, where did the story come from?
2. Would the story have arisen from within the Gentile community? Who could think that the pagan Gentiles of the day would concoct a story about a Jewish peasant who would have condemned their religious practices and whom they killed as a criminal? No, the Gentiles of the day wouldn’t have come up with it. Further, the charge that the story of Jesus was mirroring pagan stories falls flat when we consider that early non-Christian writers accused Christians of new, mischievous and superstitious beliefs. Why would Romans have a problem with a religion that mirrors their own beliefs? Why would they invent that kind of story? No, that won’t work.
3. Then it must have arisen from within the Jewish community. But which Jewish community would have invented a story about an uneducated, Galilean Jew from an obscure family who turns out to be the Son of God and long-promised Messiah? Which Jewish community was expecting their Messiah to be crucified on a Roman cross? Why would they invent the story of a man who condemned their attitudes and traditions as well?
Keep in mind these points, also: a) to claim to be the Son of God was considered blasphemy, so they condemned Him to die for it; b) to be crucified on a Roman cross was to be cursed; c) He was put to death at the insistence of His own people while His handful of disciples scattered for fear; and d) the Gospel accounts contain a number of embarrassing facts, including the way the disciples acted, making it unlikely that the later disciples just invented these things to the embarrassment of the apostles and early leaders.
You see, critics and legend-theorists have a problem here. The story of Jesus would not have come from a typical Jewish community who were expecting their long-awaited Messiah, only to tell a story about His being put to death, cursed, and committing blasphemy. It certainly couldn’t have come from the wealthy, ruling classes who despised what Jesus stood for, and the poor, uneducated Jews wouldn’t have been able to write about it so eloquently. Jesus was not a Messiah expected by any Jewish group, so which group would have invented Him to be such?
Yet, the story is there, and the irony is that those same details that critics think make the story foolish also make the story that much more unlikely to have arisen from within any typical Gentile or Jewish community, unless it really happened as described. The only alternative is to think that a bunch of uneducated fishermen, in conjunction with a very educated Jewish Pharisee were able to sell a fable that condemned all of them alike, gave them no cultural advantage, and had no other particular benefit (if untrue) except for false hope. Oh, and they had to be willing to stake their own lives on this lie while knowing all along they are lying about it all. All made up, right?
What best accounts for the Gospel story? Paul answers in 1 Corinthians 1, in a work written less than 25 years from the events described. The story of Jesus was a stumbling block to the Jews, and it was foolishness to the Greeks. The answer is that the story came about by the power of God, and the historical resurrection is the final piece of evidence that gives it its full strength. All of the details of the Gospel are best explained, not by an appeal to any particular Jewish or Gentile community, but by the simple recognition that it is what really happened. Sometimes, the simplest explanations are the best. The Gospel is indeed its own apologetic.
“Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well- pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (Vv. 20-21)
The Gospel is what it is in part because God didn’t want anyone boasting that they could have ever come up with such a plan to save mankind from sin. We won’t know God from our own wisdom, but only through His wisdom as displayed through the death and resurrection of the Son of God.