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WHY NATURAL MEN REJECT THE
BODILY RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, June 27, 2010

“And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (Acts 4:1-4).


Peter and John went into the Temple at three in the afternoon. A man whose feet and ankles were deformed from birth was there. He was carried to the gate of the Temple to beg for money each day. Just as Peter and John were about to go into the Temple, this man asked them for money.

“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ancle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God: And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him. And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon's, greatly wondering. And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” (Acts 3:6-12).

A crowd gathered to look at this man, “walking, and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8). They had seen him, as a deformed cripple, begging there for many years. How could he now walk, and even leap? A large crowd gathered to look at this amazing sight. Peter began to preach to them. But Peter did not focus on this miracle. He quickly moved from this healing to the message of the Gospel. Peter said to the crowd,

“Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses”
       (Acts 3:14-15).

In that verse Peter gave the two parts of the Gospel: the death of Jesus, and His resurrection,

“And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead” (Acts 3:15).

The Apostle Paul gave the death of Christ and His resurrection from the dead as the two inseparable parts of the Gospel in I Corinthians 15:1-4, which ends with the words,

“…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

That is the very same Gospel that Peter preached to the crowd that gathered at the entrance to the Temple. He preached on the death and resurrection of Christ, and his sermon ended with the words,

“Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26).

Now, then, there were two reactions to Peter’s sermon.

1.  The priests and the other religious leaders of the Temple were “grieved [very disturbed] that [Peter and John] preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2).

2.  But five thousand were converted!

“Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (Acts 4:4).

Those are the same two reactions to the preaching of the Gospel that we see, in a greater or lesser extent, throughout the Book of Acts – and indeed throughout Christian history – and even today. Some are disturbed by the Gospel and reject Christ. Others believe the Gospel and are converted. The outcomes of the two reactions are summed up in the words of Christ that Spurgeon often quoted,

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

Those are the two reactions to hearing the Gospel: people are either grieved and disturbed, or else they believe in Jesus and are converted. The outcome is that they are either saved” or “damned” (Mark 16:16).

It is a common error of modern man to think that these ancient people were easily convinced of the resurrection of Jesus, and that, today, man is more sophisticated and “scientific” – and so, they think, it is harder for modern man to believe that Christ rose bodily from the dead. Yet that theory is not true at all, as one can easily discover by reading the Bible and Christian history. Let us briefly examine the rejection of the resurrection in ancient times as well as today; then give the reasons for this rejection; and, finally, give the antidote to it.

I. First, the rejection of Christ’s bodily resurrection by ancient as well as modern man.

It is clear from our opening text that the ancient religious leaders rejected Peter’s preaching on the resurrection,

“And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold [in jail] unto the next day: for it was now eventide” (Acts 4:1-3).

Peter and John were put in prison for preaching the resurrection of Christ. This is called “the first persecution.”

Again, a few days later, the Apostles were put in prison by these religious leaders for preaching on the resurrection during “the second persecution.”

“Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree” (Acts 5:29-30).

The “third persecution” began when Stephen preached on the resurrected Christ,

“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” (Acts 7:55-58).

Saul’s reaction to Stephen’s words on the death and resurrection of Christ was swift,

“As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3).

I could go on and on, through the Book of Acts, showing how many of the religious leaders, and even common people of Israel, rejected the preaching of Christ’s resurrection.

The Apostles’ preaching on Christ’s resurrection was also rejected by Gentiles. At Lystra they “stoned Paul [and] drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead” (Acts 14:19). At Philippi, certain Romans beat Paul and Silas and put them in prison (Acts 16:23). At Athens, on Mars Hill, Paul preached to the Greeks that God “hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). The majority of these Greeks either mocked Paul for preaching on the resurrection of Christ, or simply wanted to hear about this again as a novelty, “So Paul departed from among them” (Acts 17:33). In the city of Ephesus, there was a huge riot among the Romans when Paul preached “about that way” – which undoubtedly focused on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ (Acts 19:23-41). When Paul returned to Jerusalem, he was taken prisoner because he preached about “one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive” (Acts 25:19).

History tells us of the continued persecution against Christians, primarily for preaching the resurrection and Lordship of Christ. There were ten great persecutions, in which many thousands of Christians were crucified, burned at the stake, or thrown into various provincial arenas, and the Colosseum at Rome, where they were torn to pieces by wild animals – simply because they believed in the resurrection and Lordship of Christ.

But let us go back earlier for a moment. Before He died on the Cross, many times Jesus told His Disciples that He would be crucified and rise from the dead. But each time Jesus told them this would happen to Him, they did not understand it, and did not believe that it would really happen. For instance, in Luke 18:31-34 we read what Jesus said to them,

“Then he took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge him, and put him to death: and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken” (Luke 18:31-34).

Even after Jesus rose from the dead it is very clear, in all four Gospels, that the Disciples did not believe that He rose from the dead until He confronted them in His resurrected flesh and bone body,

“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them” (Luke 24:36-43).

What does all this show? Why, it shows that even His own Disciples rejected His bodily resurrection until they were forced to admit it! And both the ancient Jews and ancient Romans reacted strongly, again and again, rejecting Christ’s bodily resurrection. So it is foolish for modern men to think that these ancient people were easily convinced of Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead.

What is more, the Docetists and incipient Gnostics were heretics within the churches who rejected Christ’s physical resurrection – repeatedly teaching that Jesus rose as a spirit, rather than rising from the dead in the same flesh and bone body, as the Scriptures teach,

“Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).

So it should be no surprise that modern liberal scholars have rejected the literal, physical resurrection of Christ’s flesh and bones! We should not be surprised that the liberal Harry Emerson Fosdick called Christ’s bodily resurrection “blasphemy,” that Rudolf Bultmann called it “a myth,” or that Dr. George Eldon Ladd of Fuller Seminary said that His resurrection was not “a dead corpse returning to physical life” (These quotations are taken from Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D., The Battle for the Resurrection, Wipf and Stock, 1992, pp. 87-107 – I highly recommend Dr. Geisler’s book! You can order it from Amazon.com). Now that brings us to the next point.

II. Second, why both ancient and modern men have rejected Christ’s bodily resurrection.

Well, they reject Christ’s bodily resurrection today for the same reason they did in ancient times – because they are in a natural state, unregenerated, blinded by sin. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,

Man has not changed at all. All the changes about which men boast so much are external. They are not changes in man himself, but merely in his mode of activity, his environment… Man as man does not change at all. He still remains the same contradictory person he has been ever since the Fall (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Truth Unchanged Unchanging, James Clark Publishers, 1951, pp. 110, 112).

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned”
       (I Corinthians 2:14).

Again, Dr. Lloyd-Jones said,

Man has turned his back upon God and has enmity towards God and is trying to live out his life in this world without God and apart from God…And of course you find this great story unfolded in the pages of the Bible and it is the whole key to the understanding of secular history, man fighting against God, refusing to humble himself before God, and arrogantly and proudly doing the exact opposite, so what you have in the Bible is an account of the conflict between the glorious God and man in sin (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., “Surely the Wrath of Man Shall Praise Thee,” sermon on Psalm 76:10).

Man in a state of sin is a “natural man” (I Corinthians 2:14a). He refuses to believe in Christ’s bodily resurrection, and in the rest of the Gospel, “neither can he know them” in his sinful, unconverted state (I Corinthians 2:14b). As Dr. Lloyd-Jones said, “Man has not changed at all.” Modern men reject the bodily resurrection of Jesus for the same reason ancient men rejected it – because they are in a “natural” condition, never having been converted! This brings us to the last point.

III. Third, the miracle of Christ’s bodily resurrection can only be known by one who is converted.

The miracle of the bodily resurrection of Christ will always be hidden to man in his natural state of sin. The Apostle Paul said,

“If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost”
      (II Corinthians 4:3).

You must be converted to know the reality and importance of Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead. In real conversion there is usually first a desire to know Christ. This comes by hearing the Word of God, followed by conviction of sin, and culminating in full trust in Christ. The power of sin in the mind and heart is broken, and the convert comes to Christ, believes in Him, is regenerated, born again, into “fellowship…with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3).

Then, in a real conversion, you will know Him who died on the Cross to atone for your sin, and rose again for your justification – in the same flesh and bone body that was nailed to the Cross. I know that is what happens because it happened to me, and to many others in our church when they were converted. When you come to Christ in a real conversion, then you will know that He is risen as He said!

Do you feel the emptiness and hopelessness of life without Christ? Do you feel the hold that sin has on your heart and on your life? Do you feel the fear of living and dying, “having no hope, and without God in the world”? (Ephesians 2:12). Do you feel the need for Christ to pardon your sin and give you a new, regenerated, converted heart?

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

(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: Acts 4:1-12.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith: “Wounded For Me”
(by W. G. Ovens, 1870-1945, and Gladys W. Roberts, born 1888).


THE OUTLINE OF

WHY NATURAL MEN REJECT THE
BODILY RESURRECTION OF CHRIST

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide. Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand” (Acts 4:1-4).

(Acts 3:6-12; 8, 14-15; I Corinthians 15:3-4;
Acts 3:26; 4:2-4; Mark 16:16)

I.   First, the rejection of Christ’s bodily resurrection by ancient as well
as modern man, Acts 4:1-3; 5:29-30; 7:55-58; 8:3; 14:19; 16:23;
Acts 17:31, 33; 19:23-41; 25:19; Luke 18:31-34; 24:36-43, 39.

II.  Second, why both ancient and modern men have rejected Christ’s
bodily resurrection, I Corinthians 2:14.

III. Third, the miracle of Christ’s bodily resurrection can only be
known by one who is converted, II Corinthians 4:3; I John 1:3;
Ephesians 2:12; Mark 16:16.