The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the
nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you,
and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age"
March 6, 2016
1) Evidences of Faith: Eyewitness Testimony (Jim Robson)
2) News & Notes
Evidences of Faith:
"And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your
faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God,
because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He
did not raise up -- if in fact the dead do not rise" (1 Corinthians
15:14-15). The conviction that Jesus rose from the dead lies at the
very heart of the Christian's faith. Therefore, if we can be certain
that He did rise, then we can be certain that we are correct in
following Him. Likewise, if we cannot be certain that He rose, then
our faith as Christians is without a substantial foundation. It is
of the utmost importance, then, that we can be completely certain of
Jesus' resurrection. But, how can we be certain, seeing that we were
not present to witness it for ourselves?
This question can be addressed in a number of ways. One way to
approach this question is to take a hard look at those who claimed
to see the risen Christ: are they reliable witnesses, or a bunch of
charlatans? If they are frauds, then there is no reason to follow
Christ over any other philosopher or religious figure -- for
example, Gandhi or Buddha or Muhammad. However, if the individuals
who testified of Jesus' resurrection prove to be reliable witnesses,
then we have solid reason to place our faith squarely in Him. Paul
indicated that hundreds of individuals saw the risen Christ (1
Corinthians 15:6), but for our purposes we will focus on the handful
of witness who knew Him best: the apostles.
In order to determine whether we can believe their testimony, we may
start with the question, "What did the apostles have to gain?" If we
are going to believe that these men fabricated the resurrection
story, then we ought to be able to determine a motive. In point of
fact, however, they did not have much of anything to gain. They did
not attain wealth for their efforts, nor is there any evidence that
they tried to. They did not achieve any political power; in fact,
all of their efforts at preaching were focused on the spiritual
well-being of the hearers, and no attempt was made to form any kind
of political or social movement. Indeed, so far from gaining
anything, the apostles suffered grievously for their teaching. They
were arrested, imprisoned, and beaten. They were ostracized by the
rulers of their own people. Some of them were even killed for their
beliefs. These things being so, there is no apparent reason for them
to conjure up such a lie. The necessary conclusion, then, is that
they were honest men.
To see this point even more clearly, consider in particular the
apostle Peter. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter was so afraid
of punishment that he denied knowing Jesus not once, but three times
(Matthew 26:69-75). After seeing the resurrected Jesus, and watching
Him ascend to heaven, this same Peter began publicly preaching that
Jesus is the Christ, and that he himself was a witness (Acts
2:32-36). In fact, Peter had grown so bold that, when he was
arrested for preaching Jesus, he proceeded to preach Jesus to those
who had arrested him (Acts 4:8-13)! It is difficult to explain such
a drastic change in Peter's character, unless he truly believed that
Jesus had risen from the dead: the fabrication of a lie would never
transform a coward into a hero, but witnessing a Man risen from the
Another question that may be asked is, "Were the apostles just a
bunch of dupes?" This is a fair question. It is not enough to know
that they were honest men; there is, after all, such a thing as an
honest mistake. Perhaps they so badly wanted to believe that Jesus
had risen, that they were easily convinced. To answer this, we may
begin with Mark's account:
"Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared
first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She
went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.
And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they
did not believe" (Mark 16:11).
Far from being easily persuaded, these men appear to be downright
skeptical. And the account continues:
"After that, he appeared in another form to two of them as they
walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the
rest, but they did not believe them either. Later He appeared to the
eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and
hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen
Him after He had risen" (vs. 12-14).
The apostles seem to have been reluctant to believe that Jesus had
risen, rather than eager to believe it.
Most famous in this regard, of course, was the man from whom we
derive the expression, "doubting Thomas":
"Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them
when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, 'We have
seen the Lord.' So he said to them, 'Unless I see in His hands the
print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails,
and put my hand into His side, I will not believe'" (John 20:24-25).
Clearly, these men were not easily persuaded of the resurrection.
Therefore, the fact that they became so thoroughly convinced of it
that they were willing to suffer and die in order to preach it to
others, gives us compelling reason to believe their testimony.
A Hostile Witness
So far, we have looked at the apostles who traveled with Jesus while
He was on earth in order to establish the reliability of their
testimony, and we have found them to be credible witnesses. Now, let
us look at another individual who claimed to see the risen Christ,
and examine his credibility as a witness. Let us look at Saul of
Tarsus. When we first encounter Saul of Tarsus, he is guarding
the clothes of those who are stoning Stephen to death (Acts 7:58).
Stephen was put to death because he was proclaiming Jesus as the
Christ, and rebuking those of his countrymen who refused to believe
in Him. We are told that "Saul was consenting to his death" (Acts
8:1). Moreover, Saul was not content with the death of one disciple.
On the contrary, "he made havoc of the church, entering every house,
and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison" (8:3).
When many of the disciples fled from Jerusalem, Saul was not content
to let them go:
"Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples
of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to
the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the
Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to
Jerusalem..." (Acts 9:1-2).
Clearly, Saul was vehemently opposed to the notion that Jesus was
the Messiah. It did not seem likely that he would ever become a
When we consider Saul's training, and his place in the Jewish
society of that day, it is not surprising that he was opposed to the
gospel of Christ. Saul was a Pharisee, and the Pharisees were one of
the more powerful sects among the Jews. The Pharisees regarded the
gospel as a threat to their position and their nation (John
11:47-48). Not only that, they constituted the strictest sect among
the Jews (Acts 26:5): they were determined to preserve the precepts
of the Old Testament, the law of Moses (Acts 15:5). The disciples of
Jesus Christ, of course, were preaching that God had made a new
covenant with mankind through the blood of Christ, and therefore the
law of Moses was no longer in effect (Hebrews 8:7-13). Such teaching
would seem like blasphemy to a Pharisee: and Saul, being a very
zealous young Pharisee, was determined to see this teaching stamped
So then, let us consider Saul of Tarsus. As any Pharisee, he was a
well-educated and well-respected member of his society. His position
in life appeared to be secure and comfortable. To him, the gospel of
Christ appeared to be blasphemy, and repugnant to everything he
stood for. His zealous opposition to the gospel caused him to
ruthlessly persecute those who believed and taught it. It would seem
abundantly evident that such a man would never become a disciple of
Yet, he did become a disciple: and not only a disciple, one of the
most energetic and well-known gospel preachers of all time. As you
may already know, Saul of Tarsus is the man who is better known to
history as the apostle Paul. The question is, what made him change?
What could convince such a hostile opponent of Jesus to become one
of His most ardent followers? According to Paul, it was the fact
that he saw the risen Christ:
"I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into
prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me
witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also
received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in
chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished. Now it
happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon,
suddenly a great light shone around me, and I fell to the ground and
heard a voice saying to me, `Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting
Me?' So I answered, `Who are You, Lord?' And He said to me, `I am
Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting'" (Acts 22:4-8).
The result of this vision was that Paul believed in Jesus, was
baptized, and immediately began preaching the gospel to others (Acts
If there ever was a man who was unlikely to admit to seeing Jesus
risen from the dead, that man was Saul of Tarsus. And yet, he not
only admitted it, he boldly proclaimed it throughout the Roman
Empire. Our next question might be, what did Saul have to gain by
becoming a preacher of the gospel? The answer is that, like the
other apostles, his efforts to spread the gospel resulted in
persecution and suffering, as he wrote to the church at Corinth:
"From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three
times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was
shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys
often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my
own countrymen, in perils of Gentiles, in perils in the city, in
perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among
false brethren..." (2 Corinthians 11:24-26).
In exchange for his life of security and comfort, Paul received a
life of suffering and danger. Clearly, he did not claim to have seen
Jesus for the sake of personal gain. Paul must have truly believed
that he had seen the risen Christ.
So then, the question that remains is whether Paul had the mental
stability to make him a believable witness. We may begin to answer
this by noting that he appears to have had the respect of the rulers
of his people. As mentioned above, when Saul went to the chief
priest and asked for letters to the synagogues of Damascus, he was
given them. He even called upon the high priest and the council of
elders as his witnesses, when defending himself before the mob in
Jerusalem (Acts 22:5). It is not likely that the rulers of the
nation would have placed such trust in a man whom they regarded as
unstable. Moreover, when we read Paul's writings (Romans through
Philemon), it appears that he was a highly intelligent man who had a
completely rational mind: his method of argumentation is thoroughly
logical. It is reasonable to conclude, based upon the available
evidence, that Paul was in his right mind.
We have every reason, therefore, to regard Paul as a reliable
witness. He had nothing to gain by his testimony, and much to lose.
He had every reason to deny that Jesus had risen from the dead. He
gave every appearance of being a sane and rational man. So then, we
may add Paul's testimony to our long list of reasons to believe.
And, we may ask those who do not believe this question: why not? As
Jesus said to Saul, "It is hard for you to kick against the goads"
-- Via Watchman Magazine, July 1, 1998
News & Notes
We extend our condolences to all the family and friends of James
Taylor (Martha Lively's brother) of Ocala, Florida, who
passed away March 8. Let those of us who are Christians be
remembering all his loved ones in prayer.
Penny Medlock returned home Friday from a more than one-week
hospital stay and is now doing much better.
James Medlock had not been well recently, but has made
Let us also continue to remember in prayer Myrna Jordan, as
she is recuperating from her recent surgery; and Rex Hadley,
who had been in the hospital last week, due to having trouble
We will be having a Gospel Meeting March 18-20 (Friday -
Sunday) with Ron Edwards preaching. Friday and
Saturday services will begin at 7:30 P.M. Sunday services will
be at 9 A.M., 10 A.M., and 3 P.M. All are invited!
WordPress version of this week's bulletin:
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith
comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John
8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10;
5) Be baptized in water for the
remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not,
salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM
& 5 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Ladies' Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
(Gospel Observer website)