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THE INWARD WITNESS TO CHRIST’S RESURRECTION
MY ANSWER TO “THE LOST TOMB OF JESUS”

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Morning, April 15, 2007
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).


The latest assault against our faith has come, as usual, during the Easter season. The attack was an attempt to undermine the very foundation of Christianity, by denying the bodily resurrection of Christ. Last year it was The DaVinci Code. This year it’s The Lost Tomb of Jesus, a Discovery Channel television special written and directed by Simcha Jacobovici and produced by James Cameron.

This TV special said that the tomb of Jesus was discovered, discounting the resurrection and supposedly “changing everything we know” about Christ. Furthermore, the special said that Jesus was married, with His remains buried with His “wife,” Mary Magdalene, and their son.

The so-called “tomb of Jesus” was discovered twenty-seven years ago. It contained several ossuaries (bone boxes) with the names Joseph, Mary, Jesus, Mariamene, Judah, and Matthew inscribed on them. The person named “Jesus” was not related to the woman named “Mariamene.” The movie assumes that the woman was Mary Magdalene, and that this is “evidence” that she was the wife of Jesus Christ! This is sheer speculation. The only conclusive facts are these: there is a tomb in Jerusalem, it contained nine bone boxes with the names given inscribed on them. At least two of the persons were not related by blood. That’s all! Everything else is merely guesswork – just a series of “what ifs.” What if Mariamene is Mary Magdalene? What if Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married? What if they had a child named Judah? You get the picture. The theme of the film is as flimsy as something you read in one of those cheap, gaudy supermarket tabloids.

The names on the bone boxes were extremely popular in first century Jerusalem. The name “Joseph” was the second most popular name in that period. The name “Jesus” was also very popular. Furthermore, the name “Mary” was the most common female name of that time.

       The Toronto Star reported on February 26, 2007, that “claims by a Canadian documentary film-maker to have found not only the burial place of Jesus but his DNA and evidence he had a son, are being dismissed as ‘fanciful and absurd’ by both church leaders and archaeologists.”

       Bar-lian University professor Amos Kloner, the Jerusalem District archaeologist who officially oversaw the work at the tomb in 1980 and has published detailed findings on its contents,… dismissed the claims. “It makes a great story for a TV film,” he told the Jerusalem Post. “But it’s impossible. It’s nonsense.”
        Kloner…said…the fact that such apparently resonant names had been found together was of no significance. He added that “Jesus son of Joseph” inscriptions had been found on several other ossuaries over the years.
        “There is no likelihood that Jesus and his relatives had a family tomb,” Kloner said. “They were a Galilee family with no ties in Jerusalem. The Talpiot Tomb belonged to a middle-class family from the first century.” (Jerusalem Post).


       …Amos Kloner, the first archaeologist to examine the site, said the idea fails to hold up by archaeological standards but makes for profitable television.
        “They just want to get money for it,” Kloner said.
        Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem who was interviewed in the documentary, said the film's hypothesis holds little weight…
        Pfann is even unsure that the name “Jesus” on the caskets was read correctly. He thinks it's more likely the name “Hanun.” Ancient Semitic script is notoriously difficult to decipher…
        Archaeologists also balk at the filmmaker’s claim that the James Ossuary – the center of a famous antiquities fraud in Israel – might have originated from the same cave. In 2005, Israel charged five suspects with forgery in connection with the infamous bone box.
        “Simcha has no credibility whatsoever,” says Joe Zias, who was the curator for anthropology and archaeology at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem from 1972 to 1997 and personally numbered the Talpiot ossuaries. “He’s pimping off the Bible…what does this guy [Cameron] know about archaeology? I am an archaeologist, but if I were to write a book about brain surgery, you would say, ‘Who is this guy?’…Projects like these make a mockery of the archaeological profession.” (MSNBC.com).

(The above quotations are taken from The Sword of the Lord, March 3, 2007, page 7.)

The New Testament documents are the best historical evidence for the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Dr. Ted Baehr says,

       “According to the New Testament, 500 people saw the risen Christ on one occasion and up to 3,000 people on several occasions. Also, St. Paul argues in 1 Cor. 15 that if the rich man’s tomb where they placed Christ’s body was not empty and if these people did not see Jesus alive after that, then the Christian faith is not true at all.
        “James Cameron and the Discovery Channel need a whole lot more evidence than this very questionable discovery, and more knowledgeable people to disprove the New Testament documents and 2,000 years of Christian teachings.”
        Baehr concluded, “The fact remains, Jesus Christ’s tomb was empty, he physically appeared to [hundreds] of people and ate with and spoke to them, the Romans and Jews who opposed Jesus and His followers at the time could not find his bones, and cowards like Peter, skeptics like Thomas, and vicious persecutors like Paul became extraordinarily brave men who underwent painful torture and death rather than deny that they had witnessed the resurrected Jesus Christ” (Movieguide, March, 2007, p. 39).

It is not my purpose in this sermon to give the various arguments for the resurrection of Christ. This morning I am simply going to give you the argument from personal experience, through conversion. Notice this in our text.

“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

That is a picture of conversion. The baptism spoken of here refers to the inward baptism of the Spirit, which occurs at the time of conversion. The sinner comes to Jesus by faith, and is united to Him in His death, burial and resurrection. That is real conversion “through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead”!

Baptism in water is the outward picture of what happens inwardly at the moment of conversion. Baptism by complete immersion in water is the correct form, because no other form pictures the convert’s death, burial and resurrection with Christ. As Christ died and was buried in a tomb, so the convert dies to his old way of life, which is buried with Christ. Then he rises to new life in Christ, pictured by being put under the water and then raised up from the water. Water baptism thus pictures the Spirit’s baptism into Christ. Then the convert rises with Christ, “through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

This shows us the true meaning of conversion. No one is ever born a Christian. He may be born in a Christian home, and even be raised as a Christian. Yet he will remain unconverted until he comes to Jesus, and is united with Jesus by faith.

To become a Christian convert, a person must die with Christ and then be born again. The Apostle Paul described this in Romans 6:4,

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

Thus, the new birth is not experienced by anything that we do. Dr. McGee correctly said,

“Through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” – salvation is accomplished by the resurrection power of God…we are joined to the living Christ (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson, 1983, page 350).

When you…trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit baptizes you into the body of Christ. It is by this baptism that we are identified with Christ, and we are also “risen with him” – joined to the living Christ (ibid.).

That is why it doesn’t do the slightest bit of good to “come forward” or say a “sinner’s prayer” or anything else that a human being can learn or do. The whole “decisionist” view of salvation is coming apart at the seams – because decisionism is false, not true to the Bible. Dr. McGee said, “Salvation is accomplished by the resurrection power of God.” It is not accomplished by human decisions or Lordship commitments.

“Ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

That takes salvation completely out of your hands and puts it completely in the hands of God, “who raised him from the dead.”

Do you perhaps wonder if that is true? Look at verse thirteen, and you will see the same thought. Let us stand and read verse thirteen aloud.

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13).

You may be seated.

Notice two words in verse thirteen, “dead,” and “quickened.” Before you come to Christ, you are dead, “dead in your sins.” That’s exactly the same thing the Apostle said in Ephesians 2:1 and 2:5.

“Dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

“Dead in sins” (Ephesians 2:5).

That is the spiritual state of every person before he is born again. Here in Colossians 2:13, the Apostle says the same words that we read in Ephesians, “dead in your sins.” A person will live and die in that state, dead in sins, unless God intervenes.

But that is exactly what God does – He intervenes. So, the second word in verse thirteen is “quickened” – brought to life! But note that it says, “quickened together with him” – with Jesus. The same power of God that “quickened” Christ, when He was dead in the grave, “quickens” a person when he is born again. That is the same thing the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 2:4-5,

“But God…even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

“Quickened” – that is “brought to life,” made alive from a state of spiritual death,

“through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

“And you, being dead in your sins…hath he quickened [made alive] together with him” (Colossians 2:13).

Dr. John Gill said,

They [the unconverted] were separated from God, as at death the body is [separated] from the soul, and so were alienated from the life of God, and so must be [spiritually] dead…And, like dead men, were insensible [unconscious] of their [condition]…helpless in spiritual things, being destitute of [in need of] spiritual life…and were moreover in themselves deserving of eternal death [in Hell] (John Gill, D.D., An Exposition of the New Testament, The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1989 reprint, volume 9, p. 189).

In this spiritually dead state, lost people are unconscious of their dreadful condition, their alienation from God and from the life of God in Christ. But the quickening power of God,

“Who hath raised him [Jesus] from the dead”…[makes it possible] for spiritually dead people to be quickened, just as Jesus was made alive in the tomb by “the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

When you are born again, you are quickened, as Charles Wesley said in his great hymn, “And Can It Be?” He spoke of being made alive, quickened, by the new birth. The fourth stanza of that hymn shows perfectly what we mean by that quickening which restores a lost man to life in Christ Jesus. Note what Wesley wrote in the fourth stanza of that hymn. It is his own testimony of “quickening,” that is, being born again.

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
   Fastbound in sin and nature’s night:
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
   I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
   I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
(“And Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

In the fourth stanza of that hymn, Charles Wesley gave a graphic picture of the new birth. Long his imprisoned spirit lay in a black dungeon, a picture of being dead in sin by nature. But then a quickening ray (of light from God) pierced his long dead soul. He awoke, still in the prison house of sin and darkness, when suddenly the dungeon “flamed with light.” He came to Jesus by faith, and so he said, “My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose (from the place where he was, in the dungeon of sin).” He tells us that his chains fell off and his heart was free. He was born again – converted, and he arose, went out and followed Christ. “My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth and followed Thee.”

But note that this marvelous experience of the new birth started with him fastbound (tied up in the chains of a prisoner, a real prisoner of his own sinful nature). It was only when the light of Christ broke through to his soul, that Charles Wesley could boldly say, “I rose (a saved man), went forth” (out of the dungeon) – by the quickening power of God – which made him a real living Christian at last! He ends that line by saying, “I rose, went forth [went out of the dungeon of sin and spiritual death] – I rose, went forth, and followed Thee [Christ].”

That is a beautiful and true expression of a man who was dead in sins being brought to life through the new birth, which Jesus spoke of when He said,

“Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

Charles Wesley ended that hymn, in its last stanza, by saying that he was quickened, made alive, by God in Christ.

Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness Divine (ibid.).

Charles Wesley could now say he was born again,

“And you…hath he quickened [made spiritually alive] together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13).

He was born again,

“through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Colossians 2:12).

Charles Wesley, and his brother John Wesley, had been dead in the darkness of “nature’s night” before they were converted. But light came to those two brothers in the midst of darkness. They were then quickened by God, joined to Jesus in His death, burial and resurrection – and both of those brothers were now born again, and they knew it, by the witness of God’s Spirit in their hearts. Later these two men became the founders of the old-time Methodist Church, a powerful evangelistic force throughout the world for more than a hundred years.

A few years before the two Wesleys were born again, they visited their father, Samuel Wesley, an aged minister, as he lay on his death bed. After the others had left the bedroom where he lay dying, Rev. Samuel Wesley took ahold of John Wesley’s arm and pulled him down close to his own face. It was then that he whispered those now famous words to his son, John Wesley. He said, “It is the inward witness, son. The inward witness. This is the proof, the strongest proof, of Christianity.”

John Wesley did not understand what his father meant at the time. So, for about three more years, John Wesley struggled, trying one decision after the other, trying his best to earn salvation by his own works and good deeds, commitments, prayers, and decisions. Yet on the evening that John Wesley was converted, it appears that his father’s last words came back to his mind with full force, because in a little Bible study group, where Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans was read, he said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust Christ, Christ alone for salvation.” It was the inward witness of the Spirit of God that confirmed to him that he had been born again.

Now, I end with this thought: I could give you many apologetic arguments for the bodily resurrection of Christ, but all of them would be arguments that appeal only to the mind, not the heart. That would do you no good, because the Bible says,

“With the heart man believeth unto righteousness”
      (Romans 10:10).

You could go on for many years without being certain, deep down inside, that Christ has risen from the dead. You might even wonder if that falsified bone box did perhaps contain the bones of Jesus.

I personally went on for about seven years trying to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. But I was still full of doubt and uncertainty. Then one morning, on September 28, 1961, the light of Christ broke into my darkened soul. Suddenly God made the resurrected Christ real to me. And I trusted Christ in that moment

“through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead…[and I was] quickened [made alive] together with [Christ]” (Colossians 2:12-13).

Like John and Charles Wesley, and their college classmate, George Whitefield, I too was born again, not by my own power or “decisions,” but

“Through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead…quickened together with [Christ]”
      (Colossians 2:12-13).

When you come to Christ, you too will be born again, “quickened” by “the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” Then you will know the fullness of the truth the dying Samuel Wesley gave to his son John. “The inward witness, son. The inward witness. This is the proof, the strongest proof, of Christianity.”

When you are born again, “quickened together with Christ,” you will be a born again child of God. And when you are thus born again, “Through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead,” no Hollywood movie or anti-Christian professor at college will be able to confuse you. You will be perfectly safe from their attacks on Jesus, because, “It is the inward witness, son. The inward witness is the greatest proof of our religion.” Charles Wesley captured his father’s thought in the fourth stanza of his hymn, “Arise! My Soul, Arise!”

His Spirit answers to the blood,
   And tells me I am born of God.
And tells me I am born of God.
   (“Arise! My Soul, Arise!” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

Come to Jesus. Trust Him without reservation. Be washed clean from your sins by His precious Blood! You can come, because God will draw you. Come and be “quickened together with Christ.” Then you will be able to say with the Apostle Paul,

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16).

Then you will know in your soul that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. And no one will ever be able to convince you that it isn’t so! Amen!

Let us stand and sing hymn number seven on your song sheets, “And Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley.

And can it be that I should gain
   An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
   For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies!
   Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
   To sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
   Let angel minds inquire no more.
Amazing love! How can it be,
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left His Father’s throne above,
   So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
   And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
   For O my God, it found out me!
Amazing love! How can it be,
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
   Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
   I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
   I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Amazing love! How can it be,
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

No condemnation now I dread;
   Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
   And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
   And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing love! How can it be,
   That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
(“And Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788).

(END OF SERMON)
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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:
“Christ Arose” (by Robert Lowry, 1826-1899).