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WHY I BELIEVE THE APOSTLES RATHER THAN
"NEWSWEEK" CONCERNING CHRIST'S RESURRECTION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, April 11, 2004
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).


Newsweek magazine produced a cover story on Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" in its February 16, 2004 edition, titled "Who Really Killed Jesus?" Predictably, Newsweek filled the article with speculations given to cast doubt on the truthfulness of the Bible concerning Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Newsweek attacked the reliability of the basic narrative of Christ's crucifixion. They drew on modern liberal "scholars" who reject the Bible, to cast doubt on Christ's death and resurrection. We have learned that popular secularist publications like Newsweek are no friends to Biblical Christianity. We are, therefore, not surprised when Newsweek said,

The Bible did not descend from heaven fully formed and edged in gilt. The gospel writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John shaped their narratives several decades after Jesus' death to attract converts and make their young religion… attractive to as broad an audience as possible (Newsweek, February 16, 2004, p. 48).

Putting that into plain language, liberal scholars said that we can't trust the reliability of the authors of the four gospels - because they twisted their message to make it acceptable to "as broad an audience as possible" (ibid.).

Is Newsweek right? No, it is not! I heard this same sort of attack on the Bible when I attended two liberal seminaries in the early seventies. The professors in those seminaries, like the writers of the Newsweek article, took every opportunity to cast doubt on the four gospels and the Apostles who wrote them. Yes, I do believe that the Bible descended from Heaven "fully formed." I do believe that God inspired the words of the four gospels. I believe what the Bible says about itself!

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable…" (II Timothy 3:16).

The words of the four gospels were given by God, theopneustos - God-breathed. After hearing all their arguments, that the four gospels are filled with myth and false editorializing, I long ago rejected these liberal, Bible-denying theories.

I did not close my eyes, and stick my head in the sand. I studied the matter very closely and came to the conclusion that the liberals didn't know what they were talking about. They were just blowing hot air. That's why I say that Mel Gibson's film, in spite of a few scenes based on Catholic tradition, is far closer to the truth of God's Word than the unbelieving propaganda put out by fuzzy haired liberal "professors" in San Francisco, or their cohorts at Newsweek magazine! And these Bible-rejectors won't do young people like you one bit of good. They have nothing to teach but skepticism. They reduce the gospel of Christ to a garbage heap of confusion and disbelief. In my opinion they don't have one positive thing to say to young people like you who are looking for the meaning of life. What your generation needs, more than anything else, is straightforward preaching on the basic truths that God has given to us in the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Why do I believe the writers of the four gospels concerning Christ's resurrection rather than today's liberal critics? There are three major reasons.

I. First, I believe what the Apostles said about the resurrection
of Christ because they were eyewitnesses.

The Apostles were there. They were not talking about something that happened two thousand years ago, as the liberal critics are. They were actually present and were eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Luke said that he was recording eyewitness testimony from the Apostles, who

"…were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word" (Luke 1:2).

Dr. Norman Geisler says, "Luke must have composed his gospel around A.D. 60, just before he wrote Acts…Since Jesus died around A.D. 33, this would place Luke only twenty-seven years after the events, while most eyewitnesses were still alive" (Norman Geisler, Ph.D., Systematic Theology, Bethany House, 2002, volume I, p. 549).

The Apostle Paul records,

"After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain [alive] unto this present…"
    (I Corinthians 15:6).

Most of these five hundred eyewitnesses were still living when the Apostle Paul wrote First Corinthians, "which even critics date by A.D. 55-56. This is only twenty-two or twenty-three years after" the resurrection of Christ (ibid.).

The Apostle John was another eyewitness of Christ's resurrection from the dead. John said,

"That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you…"
    (I John 1:3).

Concerning his own eyewitness account of Christ's resurrection, John said,

"This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true"
    (John 21:24).

The Apostle Peter said that he too was an eyewitness of the resurrection of Christ. He said that God "raised him up from the dead" (I Peter 1:21). Who could be a better witness than the Apostle Peter, who was there when Christ rose from the dead and saw the risen Christ himself? Peter also said,

"…we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (II Peter 1:16).

Even many liberal scholars admit that the New Testament books were written during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. The liberal archaeologist William F. Albright made this surprising statement:

Every book of the New Testament was written…between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D. (William F. Albright, "Toward a More Conservative View," Christianity Today, January 18, 1963, p. 359).

Even the extremely liberal John Robertson, who started the "death of God" movement, wrote a revolutionary book titled Redating the New Testament. He said, in that book, that "some gospels could be as early as seven years after the time Christ died and would put the reliability of the New Testament documents beyond reasonable doubt" (quoted in Geisler, ibid., p. 550).

I believe what the Apostles said about the physical resurrection of Christ because they saw Christ after He rose from the dead. They were eyewitnesses. They said,

"We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).

II. Second, I believe what the Apostles said about the resurrection
of Christ because of the many infallible proofs.

Please turn to Acts, chapter one, verses one through three. Let us stand and read these three verses aloud.

"The former treatise [the gospel of Luke] have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:1-3).

You may be seated.

Dr. Henry M. Morris gives the following comments on the words, "To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3).

"Infallible proofs" is one word in the [original] Greek (tekmerion) and occurs only this one time in the New Testament. It emphasizes that the evidences for Christ's resurrection were not philosophical speculations but certain facts…no other event of biblical history has been confirmed more certainly than His bodily resurrection. Not only His…appearances to the disciples, but also the otherwise inexplicable evidence of the empty tomb, the remarkable change in the disciples, the development and spread of the church as a result of its preaching, the change to worship on the first day of the week [Sunday]…in addition to the testimonies of the writers of the New Testament…All these combine to make it certain that Christ died for our sins and rose again for our justification (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender's Study Bible, World, 1995, p. 1176).

The fact remains that Jesus did show Himself "alive after his passion by many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3). He had to show that He had risen by "infallible proofs" or they would never have believed it. None of them believed that He had risen from the dead until He proved it to them. Dr. Norman Geisler points out that

Some critics have attempted to cast doubt on the validity of Christ's resurrection by insisting that He appeared only to believers, but never to unbelievers. Is this so?

It is incorrect to claim that Jesus did not appear to unbelievers. This is clear for several reasons. First, he appeared to the most hostile unbeliever of all, Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1ff). The Bible devotes much of several chapters to relate this story (Acts 9; 22; 26) [Saul became the believing Apostle Paul as a direct result of being confronted with these "infallible" proofs of Christ's resurrection].

Second, even Jesus' disciples were unbelievers in the resurrection when He first appeared to them. When Mary Magdalene and others reported that Jesus was resurrected "their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not" (Luke 24:11). Later, Jesus had to chide [scold] the two disciples on the road to Emmaus about disbelief in His resurrection, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken" (Luke 24:25). Even after Jesus had appeared to the women, to Peter, to the two disciples, and to the ten apostles, still Thomas said, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). He was hardly a believer in the resurrection.

Finally, in addition to appearing to His unbelieving disciples, Jesus appeared to some who were not His disciples at all. He appeared to His brother James (I Corinthians 15:7), who, with His other brothers, was not a believer before the Resurrection (John 7:5). So, it is simply false to claim that Jesus did not appear to unbelievers (Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask, Baker, 1992, p. 461).

Everyone that Jesus appeared to after He rose from the dead was an unbeliever in His resurrection! But they believed when they saw Him!

"To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days…"
    (Acts 1:1-3).

After they saw Him alive from the dead, they could boldly say,

"We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).

III. Third, I believe what the Apostles said about the resurrection
of Christ because these men were willing to die for their belief in it.

Dr. Henry C. Thiessen said,

The writers of the New Testament were honest. The moral tone of their writings, their evident regard for the truth, and the circumstantiality of their accounts indicate that they were not deliberate deceivers but honest men…their testimony endangered all their worldly interests, such as their social standing, their material prosperity, and even their very lives. What could be their motive in inventing a story that condemns all hypocrisy and is contrary to their inherited beliefs, if they had to pay such a price for it? As [William] Paley says, there is not satisfactory evidence that false witnesses have ever so acted in support of what they thought (Henry C. Thiessen, Ph.D., Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1949, pp. 100-101).

These men were willing to die rather than deny that they had seen the resurrected Christ. Take for instance the testimony of Stephen. Please turn in your Bible to Acts 7:55. We will read verses 55 through 59 aloud. Let us stand and read these five verses out loud.

"But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit" (Acts 7:55-59).

Stephen, one of the first deacons, died for saying that he saw the resurrected Christ in His ascended glory. You may be seated.

Then think of the deaths of the Apostles. Every one of them, but John, died horrible deaths for preaching that they had been eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia, killed by a sword wound.

Mark died in Alexandria, Egypt, dragged by horses through the streets until he was dead.

Luke was hanged in Greece.

John was boiled alive in a large basin of boiling oil during a wave of persecution in Rome. He barely escaped alive, and was horribly scarred for the rest of his life. He was the only Apostle to die peacefully in old age.

Peter was crucified upside down on an X-shaped cross, because he told those who killed him that he was not worthy to die the same way Jesus had died.

James, the brother of Jesus, was thrown more than a hundred feet from the southeast pinnacle of the Temple. When they saw that he was still alive, they beat him to death with a club.

James, the son of Zebedee, was beheaded at Jerusalem. The Roman soldier who guarded James listened in amazement as he told of the resurrection of Christ at his trial. Later, that Roman soldier walked beside James to the place of execution. Overcome by conviction, he declared his new faith to the judge and knelt beside James to accept beheading as a Christian.

Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael, was a missionary to Asia. He was whipped to death for preaching the resurrection of Christ.

Thomas was speared to death for preaching Christ's resurrection in India.

Jude, another brother of Jesus, was shot to death with arrows for refusing to deny that Christ had risen from the dead.

Matthias, the Apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas, was stoned and beheaded for his faith in the risen Christ.

Barnabas was stoned to death at Salonica for his belief that Jesus rose from the dead.

Paul was tortured and finally beheaded by the evil Emperor Nero at Rome in A.D. 67. Paul endured a long imprisonment at Rome before he was executed. During this time of imprisonment he wrote several of the books of the New Testament. Mrs. Hymers and I climbed down a ladder into the prison cell that Paul was in when he wrote those "Prison Epistles," when we were in Rome a few years ago. Paul was taken out of that dark dungeon and beheaded for his belief that Jesus rose from the dead.

All of these Apostles laid down their very lives for preaching,

"We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).

I believe the Apostles, because they were willing to die rather than deny that they had been eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ from the dead! They died saying,

"We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).

Newsweek magazine can belittle what these men wrote in the Bible. Newsweek can say what it likes about them distorting the truth of Christ's resurrection. John Meacham wrote the Newsweek article. John Meacham can say, as he did, that "The Bible did not descend from heaven," (ibid.) and that the Apostles distorted their narrative of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. But I wonder if John Meacham would be willing to be killed by a sword for his beliefs, as Matthew was. I wonder if he would be willing to be dragged to death by horses for his ideas about Christ, as Mark was. Would he allow himself to be hanged for his belief in Christ, as Luke was? Would he let them crucify him upside down, as Peter did, for his faith in the risen Christ? Would this Newsweek critic allow them to behead him, as Paul was beheaded, for writing this Newsweek article?

These unbelievers you read in Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report would never give up their lives for their beliefs. Why? Because their unbelief isn't that important to them. It's just an article they wrote to make money, nothing more.

Your liberal professor at the secular college you attend - would he be willing to lose his head or be boiled alive in a vat of oil for his ideas? Of course not. He's only teaching your class to make money. He has no higher motive than earning a salary when he stands up in your classroom and attacks the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But the Apostles were a different kind of men. They actually saw the risen Christ, alive from the dead after His passion and death on the Cross - and every one of them was willing to die rather than deny

"We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).

In closing this sermon, I want you to see what just one of the Apostles went through defending the resurrection of Christ. Turn in your Bible to II Corinthians 11:24-27. In this passage of Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us some of the things he went through because he preached that Jesus has risen from the dead. Stand and read II Corinthians 11:24-27. Read these four verses aloud,

"Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one [he was flogged five times as Jesus was before His crucifixion. Jesus was only flogged once!]. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep [the ocean]; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness" (II Corinthians 11:24-27).

You may be seated.

Would your unbelieving college professor go through such ordeals as the Apostle Paul did for the things he believes? Would he? Yet Paul went through all of that for boldly proclaiming

"We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).

They flogged him half to death five times. He was scarred for life. They beat him three times with rods. They stoned him and left him for dead, but he managed to crawl out of that heap of stones and go forth again to preach,

"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ" (Romans 1:16).

He preached, continuously, and finally paid the price of his gospel preaching with his life.

"…that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ" (Acts 17:3).

It finally cost him his health and his very life. But what else could he do? He was compelled to preach with the other Apostles,

"We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).

I say you can trust a man like the Apostle Paul. He gave up his life proclaiming, "Jesus Christ has risen from the dead." To me, the willingness of the Apostles to die rather than deny that they had seen the risen Christ, is one of the infallible proofs that we can trust what they saw - and what they wrote about Christ - who they saw personally for forty days after He rose from the dead. They all proclaimed, in the face of death,

"We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).

Will you believe these men who died preaching the resurrected Christ whom they had personally seen alive after His crucifixion? Or will you believe the fat, overpaid liberal who writes for Newsweek two thousand years later, and has never known the living Christ by personal experience?

Who do you want? Christ or Barabbas? Who will you choose - your liberal teacher in a secular college, or the blood-drenched Apostles who saw the risen Christ with their own eyes - and died saying so? To me, the choice is easy. I will stake my life on those honest Apostles, who died saying,

"We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).

Christ is alive right now. He died for your sins on the Cross. He arose physically from the dead. He ascended back to Heaven, where He is seated on the right hand of God praying for you. Come to Jesus. Believe on Jesus. Jesus will save you from the penalty of your sins and give you everlasting life.

"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).

Christ has risen from the dead! Hallelujah! Christ is alive forever more! Praise His holy name! Christ can save you from the penalty of sin if you come to Him! Hosanna in the highest!

Stand and sing the last song on the song sheet, number 4.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The strife is o'er, the battle done;
   The victory of life is won.
The song of triumph has begun,
   Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The powers of death have done their worst;
   But Christ their legions hath dispersed:
Let shouts of holy joy outburst,
   Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

The three sad days have quickly sped;
   He rises glorious from the dead.
All glory to our risen Head!
   Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell:
   The bars of heaven's high portals fell:
Let hymns of praise His triumphs tell,
   Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Lord, by the stripes that wounded Thee,
   From death's dread sting Thy servant free,
That we may live and sing to Thee.
   Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
("The Strife Is O'er" translated by Francis Pott, 1832-1909).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: I Corinthians 15:1-8.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: "The Strife Is O'er"

(translated by Francis Pott, 1832-1909).

THE OUTLINE OF

WHY I BELIEVE THE APOSTLES RATHER THAN
"NEWSWEEK" CONCERNING CHRIST'S RESURRECTION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).

(II Timothy 3:16)

I.   I believe what the Apostles said about the resurrection of
Christ because they were eyewitnesses, Luke 1:2;
I Corinthians 15:6; I John 1:3; John 21:24; I Peter 1:21;
II Peter 1:16.

II.  I believe what the Apostles said about the resurrection of
Christ because of the many infallible proofs, Acts 1:1-3;
Acts 9:1ff; Luke 24:11, 25; John 20:25; I Corinthians 15:7;
John 7:5.

III. I believe what the Apostles said about the resurrection of
Christ because these men were willing to die for their
belief in it, Acts 7:55-59; II Corinthians 11:24-27;
Romans 1:16; Acts 17:3; John 17:3.