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THREE PROOFS OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, May 1, 2011

“For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).


In the 26th chapter of Acts Luke records Paul’s conversion testimony for the third time. The reason Luke gave it three times is easy to understand. Apart from Christ’s death and resurrection, there is no event in the history of Christianity that is more important than the conversion of the Apostle Paul.

Paul had been arrested because he preached,

“…of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive” (Acts 25:19).

And now Paul stood, with his hands bound with chains, before King Agrippa. Agrippa was a Jew himself. So Paul defended what he preached on the basis of the Old Testament prophecies of Christ’s resurrection. Paul also defended himself by saying that King Agrippa already knew about the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. The crucifixion and resurrection had taken place nearly thirty years earlier. Every Jew knew about it, including King Agrippa. So Paul said,

“…the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).

“This thing was not done in a corner.” That was a common Greek expression of the day. Dr. Gaebelein’s commentary says,

The ministry of Jesus was widely known in Palestine, and Agrippa would have heard of it. Jesus’ death and resurrection were amply attested, and the Christian gospel had now been proclaimed for three decades. Certainly the king knew of these things, “because it was not done in a corner” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Frank E. Gaebelein, D.D., General Editor, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981, volume 9, p. 554; note on Acts 26:25-27).

Many people today think that the resurrection of Christ was some obscure event that was only known by a few ignorant fishermen. But nothing could be farther from the truth! The resurrection of Christ was known by every Jew in Israel, and had been spoken of throughout the Roman world for close to thirty years! The resurrection of Christ had not been kept a secret!

“For this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).

Dr. Lenski said,

All that was said about Jesus was transacted in the very capital of the nation, and the Sanhedrin and the [Roman Governor] Pilate were involved, and Jesus was a national figure, whose fame filled even the surrounding lands. “Not in a corner”… not an obscure little affair that nobody knows anything about, but a thing that is so great and vital, so public and far-reaching, that [King] Agrippa has been obliged to give it his full royal attention (R. C. H. Lenski, D.D., The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961 edition, p. 1053; note on Acts 26:26).

“For this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).

The enemies of Christ had three decades to prove He had not risen from the dead. And yet they had failed. No matter how hard they tried, the enemies had failed to prove that Jesus remained dead after He was crucified. By the time Paul spoke to King Agrippa, thousands of Jews, and tens of thousands of Gentiles, were proclaiming, “Christ has risen from the dead.”

The resurrection of Christ is the foundation of Christianity. If Jesus’ body did not rise from the grave, there is no basis for the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul himself said,

“If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain [worthless]” (I Corinthians 15:14).

No wonder Christ’s enemies had tried so hard to disprove His resurrection! And yet they all failed. I don’t agree with Greg Laurie on many subjects, but I do agree with him on the resurrection of Christ. Greg Laurie gave three reasons why the enemies of Christ failed – three evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (Greg Laurie, Why the Resurrection? Tyndale House Publishers, 2004, pp. 13-24). I am going to paraphrase them.

“For this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).

I. First, the empty tomb.

The first proof of the resurrection of Jesus is the empty tomb. The fact that Jesus’ tomb was empty three days after He died is one of the great proofs of His resurrection. All the authors of the four Gospels are in complete agreement that Christ’s tomb was empty three days after He died. Many other witnesses also verified the fact of the empty tomb.

The oldest attack against Christ’s resurrection was that somebody stole the body of Jesus. The chief priests

“…gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept… So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day”
     (Matthew 28:12-15).

But this argument did not convince very many people. Common sense will tell you that the Disciples did not steal His body and pretend He was resurrected. Three days earlier the Disciples had fled for their lives when Christ was arrested and crucified. It is highly unlikely that these fearful men would have gotten up enough courage to steal the body of Jesus – and then begin boldly preaching that He rose from the dead – at the risk of their lives! No, that is an extremely unlikely argument! The facts simply don’t match up. The Disciples were hiding in a room with the door locked, “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). They were in shock. They did not believe He would rise again. None of Christ’s followers had the faith or courage to challenge the mighty Roman government and steal the body of Jesus. That is a psychological fact that cannot be overlooked.

The only other suspects, that could have stolen Christ’s body, were His enemies. The problem with that theory is that Christ’s enemies had no motive to rob His grave. The chief priests and other religious leaders put Christ to death because He threatened their religious system and way of life. The last thing these men wanted was for people to think Christ was alive again! That’s why these religious leaders went to great lengths to eliminate any appearance of His resurrection. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that they went to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate,

“Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first” (Matthew 27:63-64).

Pilate told them to take guards and make the tomb “as sure as ye can” – put guards at the tomb and secure it the best way possible (Matthew 27:65). So they sealed the tomb and placed soldiers there to protect it (Matthew 27:66). Strangely, it seems that these chief priests and religious leaders had more confidence in the resurrection of Christ than His own Disciples did!

The truth is that the religious leaders took extreme measures to keep Christ’s body from being stolen. They wanted to prove that Christ’s promise to rise from the dead was a lie. The religious leaders did everything they could to eliminate any chance of stories circulating that Christ rose from the dead. Stealing the body would have been the last thing His enemies would have done. But if they had stolen the body, they undoubtedly would have produced it when the Disciples began preaching His resurrection. But Christ’s enemies never produced His body. Why? Simply because they had no body to produce! The tomb was empty! Christ had risen from the dead!

“This thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).

The empty tomb is the first evidence of Christ’s resurrection from the dead, but there are more!

II. Second, the eyewitness accounts.

When Jesus was crucified, His Disciples were hopeless. Their faith was destroyed. They had no hope of ever seeing Him alive again. Then Jesus came,

“and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (John 20:19).

The Disciples saw Him alive again and again.

“He shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days” (Acts 1:3).

The Apostle Paul said that the risen Christ was,

“seen of Cephas [Peter], then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once…After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also” (I Corinthians 15:5-8).

Dr. John R. Rice said,

Consider how overwhelming was that witness of literally hundreds of people who had seen Jesus after His resurrection, some of them again and again through a course of forty days’ time! [Acts 1:3]. The Bible rule was “in the mouth of two or three witnesses.” Here were hundreds of witnesses. Many a man has been condemned to death on the testimony of one or two eyewitnesses.
      Only twelve mouths are required to agree on a jury to settle an important case. Here literally hundreds of eyewitnesses agreed that Jesus arose from the dead. Not one person ever appeared to say that they had seen His dead body after the third day, nor to contradict any of the evidence.
      The testimony of those witnesses – eyewitnesses, witnesses who had handled the Saviour, touched Him, felt the prints of the nails in His hands and feet, saw Him eat, communed with Him forty days – that testimony was stronger evidence than any case required before the Supreme Court of the United States or before any other court in the world…The evidence is so overwhelming that only those who do not want to believe and do not check the evidence reject it. No wonder that the Bible declares that Jesus “showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs,” Acts 1:3 (John R. Rice, D.D., The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1953, pp. 49-50).

“For this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).

The empty tomb, and the hundreds of eyewitnesses, are strong proofs of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. But there is more.

III. Third, the martyrdom of the Apostles.

If the resurrection was a lie why did every one of the Apostles go through so much suffering to proclaim it? The Apostles not only continued to preach the resurrection of Christ, they even died rather than deny it! As we read church history we find that every single Apostle [with the exception of John – who was tortured and exiled] died horrible deaths because they preached that Christ had risen from the dead. Dr. D. James Kennedy said,

      This is a vitally important fact. In the history of psychology it has never been known that a person was willing to give up his life for what he or she knew to be a lie. I used to wonder why it was that God allowed the apostles and all the early Christians to go through such suffering, such tremendous, unbelievable tortures…we have the faithfulness, the character, the suffering, and the death of these witnesses, most of whom sealed their testimony with their blood…Paul Little said, “Men will die for what they believe to be true…They do not, however, die for what they know is a lie” (D. James Kennedy, Ph.D., Why I Believe, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005 edition, p. 47).

These men died because they said that they witnessed Christ’s resurrection from the dead:

Peter – was severely scourged and then crucified upside down.
  Andrew – was crucified on an X-shaped cross.
    James, son of Zebedee – was beheaded.
      John – was put in a cauldron of boiling oil, and then
        banished to the island of Patmos.
          Philip – was scourged and then crucified.
            Bartholomew – was flayed [skinned] alive and then crucified.
              Matthew – was beheaded.
                James, the Lord’s brother – was thrown from the top of the Temple,
                   and then beaten to death.
                    Thaddaeus – was shot to death with arrows.
                      Mark – was dragged to death.
                        Paul – was beheaded.
                          Luke – was hanged on an olive tree.
                            Thomas – was run through with spears, and thrown
                              into the flames of an oven.
(The New Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, Bridge-Logos Publishers,
   1997, pp. 5-10; Greg Laurie, Why the Resurrection?
     Tyndale House Publishers, 2004, pp. 19-20).

These men went through terrible suffering, and died horrible deaths, because they said that Christ rose from the dead. Men don’t die for something they haven’t seen! These men saw Christ after He rose from the grave! That is why torture and death itself could not stop them from proclaiming, “Christ has risen from the dead!”

Peter beheld Him there on the shore,
Ate with Him there by the sea;
Jesus was saying, with lips once dead,
“Peter, dost thou love Me?”
He who was dead is alive again!
He who was dead is alive again!
Broken the strong, icy clutches of death –
He who was dead is alive again!
   (“Alive Again” by Paul Rader, 1878-1938).

These men were changed from unbelieving cowards to fearless martyrs – because they saw Christ after He rose from the grave!

Thomas beheld Him there in the room,
Called Him his Master and Lord,
Put forth his fingers into the holes
Made by the nails and sword.
He who was dead is alive again!
He who was dead is alive again!
Broken the strong, icy clutches of death –
He who was dead is alive again!
   (Paul Rader, ibid.).

How I wish our churches would learn to sing again that great hymn by Paul Rader! If you write to me and request it I will send you the music. Write to Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015 – and request the music for Paul Rader’s song “Alive Again.”

We could stack up even more evidence for Christ’s resurrection, but it would not convince you. Some people who saw Christ after He rose from the dead still “doubted” (Matthew 28:17). You must come to Christ by faith. The preincarnate Christ said,

“Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

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

I encountered the risen Christ at 10:30 in the morning, on September 28, 1961 in the auditorium of Biola College (now University) after hearing a sermon by Dr. Charles J. Woodbridge, who had left Fuller Theological Seminary in 1957 because of incipient liberalism (see Harold Lindsell, Ph.D., The Battle for the Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, 1978 edition, p. 111). And you can know the risen Christ as well – if you want to know Him enough to “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24). When you come to Christ your sins are atoned for and cleansed by His Blood – and you are born again by His resurrection from the dead. It is my prayer that you will soon come to Christ! Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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or you may write to him at P.O. Box 15308, Los Angeles, CA 90015.
Or phone him at (818)352-0452.

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: John 20:24-31.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Alive Again” (by Paul Rader, 1878-1938).


THE OUTLINE OF

THREE PROOFS OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).

(Acts 25:19; I Corinthians 15:14)

I.   First, the empty tomb, Matthew 28:12-15; John 20:19;
Matthew 27:63-64, 65, 66.

II.  Second, the eyewitness accounts, John 20:19; Acts 1:3;
 I Corinthians 15:5-8.

III. Third, the martyrdom of the Apostles, Matthew 28:17;
Jeremiah 29:13; Romans 10:10; Luke 13:24.