​Reasons For Faith In Jesus’ Resurrection Part III: The Birth, Rapid Expansion and Martyrdom Of The Early Church

by PastorErick | 10/10/17, 9:21 AM

For the last number of weeks we’ve been going over various reasons for faith in God. The first few weeks we gave a number of logical arguments for simply believing in Someone beyond us (Cosmological argument, Fine Tuning argument, Moral argument, etc.). These logical arguments can tell us some things about this God (that He is powerful, beyond space and time, and that He is Just among other things), but they don’t tell us a whole lot more specific about Him. As a result, we ought not be surprised that virtually all religions teach that these characteristics are true of the Deity. Many people have stopped there. But I am convinced there is evidence to go further….

Therefore, in the last couple weeks I’ve been sharing with you specific reasons for why it is rational to believe that Jesus is the one true God. We’ve based this claim on His resurrection from the dead. Our case is simple:

Because Jesus rose from the dead, it validates His claim of Divinity.

What evidence is there to believe that Jesus actually rose? First we looked at the documentary evidence (specifically the gospels and 1 Corinthians 15). We saw two reasons to trust what we read in these accounts:

The Gospels/Epistles were written far too early to contain legendary material.

The Gospels/Epistles contain far too many counterproductive details to be legendary.

Today we’ll briefly look at another piece of evidence for belief in Jesus’ resurrection and that is the birth and rapid expansion of the Church.

How in the world can one account for the birth of the church apart from the resurrection of Christ? This question has puzzled unbelieving scholars for centuries. Here’s why:

From all accounts we have, the disciples of Jesus are not the type of folks that could just up and start a religion over night. What we are shown after the crucifixion of Jesus is a group of scared people hanging out waiting for the authorities to come get them (John 20:19). We are shown a group of men that typically don’t seem to understand much of what their Rabbi, Jesus has taught them. They are fishermen, former tax collectors and zealots, not politicians or charismatic religious figures.

And then, seemingly overnight this group of disciples begin this thing called the Church. They base this whole enterprise on one fact: They saw the risen Christ. Suddenly this group of uneducated men are boldly preaching to and persuading thousands. Suddenly this group of scared men are joyfully accepting prison sentences and beatings for their claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Within fifty years there are churches all over the Roman Empire (primarily consisting of Jews!) that worship Jesus (a man) as Lord (something absolutely unthinkable to any Jewish mind previously!). Seemingly overnight, the worship day is not Saturday, but Sunday (because that’s the day He rose). Suddenly, this group of Jews are no longer practicing the old Jewish ceremonial rites (feasts and memorials that had been practices for thousands of years!). Suddenly, they have new rites such as baptism and communion. How do we account for all this change happening so suddenly? How do we account for the fact that most of these disciples would face painful torture and death for their insistence that Jesus actually rose from the dead?

I mean if the original twelve disciples knew that their story about Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t true, than why were they willing to die for it? Many people have died for various causes, but they all deeply believed their cause was right and true. If the disciples were in on some sort of hoax, don’t you think that at least some of them upon facing excruciating pain and certain death would have simply admitted it was a fraud?

If it wasn’t true that Jesus rose from the dead, then how did each one of them hold up under such intense pain and torture? People will die for a cause they think is true (but may not be), but people don’t die for a cause they know is false.

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