Category Archives: God’s Wisdom

According To Scripture: Study #3 On The Resurrection

He Is Risen

Generally, I prefer presuppositional apologetics to evidential apologetics. Presuppositional apologetics start from the premise that, since the Bible is the ultimate authority for faith and practice, Christians can make the case for Christ solely from its pages. But in 1 Corinthians 15:5-7 (which we’ll study today), Paul augments his Scriptural substantiation for Christ’s resurrection by listing eyewitnesses who could testify to having seen the resurrected Lord.

Looking at these verses in context within the larger passage, we trace Paul’s progression from Scripture to eyewitnesses to his personal testimony.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. ~~1 Corinthians 15:5-7 (ESV)

Before we go over the eyewitnesses that Paul identifies, let’s briefly mention the witnesses he omits: the women. Liberal scholars often point to this omission as evidence of Paul’s supposed misogyny. Please don’t fall for such nonsense! Instead, remember Paul’s former position as a Pharisee. He understood that Jewish Law at that time disqualified the testimony of women. Therefore he builds his case by citing witnesses that everyone in First Century Corinth would consider credible.

The first witness Paul brings to his readers’ attention is Cephas (verse 5), better known as Peter. None of the commentaries I read explained why Paul singles Peter out here, so (although I admit to having a theory about this matter) it’s probably prudent not to speculate. Let’s be satisfied that Paul begins with Peter, whom Christians knew and respected.

The verse continues by stating that Jesus appeared to the Twelve. Since Judas had already committed suicide, this designation troubles some people. It needn’t. Even after Judas died, people commonly referred to Christ’s immediate disciples as the Twelve.

Verse 6 can be perplexing because the gospel writers never directly record a post-resurrection appearance to 500 people at one time. Yet commentaries agree that this event happened when He met the disciples in Galilee (Matthew 28:10, Matthew 28:16-17). Jesus had already appeared to the Twelve in Jerusalem, but His main ministry had taken place in Galilee. Consequently He would have to go to Galilee to show Himself to His followers there.

Paul points out that many of those 500 witnesses were still alive and able to verify having seen the risen Christ. The Corinthians could easily interview those who were still living. Paul includes them as evidence that the resurrection wasn’t simply an idea that the apostles concocted.

Finally, in verse 7, Paul says that the Lord appeared to His half-brother James, and again to the apostles. Really, there isn’t much to say about this verse, other than to point out that James held a high position in the Jerusalem church. That being the case, he understandably would have been influential in testifying to Christ’s resurrection.

Paul’s appeal to these eyewitnesses certainly strengthens my faith that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. I marvel at His faithfulness to provide so much objective evidence proving His resurrection. Studying this passage encourages me to worship Him for making the resurrection irrefutable.

Has this study strengthened your faith? Or has it raised questions? The Comments Section here, as well as on The Outspoken TULIP Facebook Page, offers you the opportunity to intact with each other, as well as with me, about each week’s study. I would honestly love reading your responses, and learning how the Lord uses His Word to deepen your worship of Him.

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A Stubborn Fact Of History And How It Causes Me To Worship The Lord

IMG_2034Boston’s role in the American Revolution has captivated my imagination since I moved to the Greater Boston Area almost sixteen years ago. Visiting historic sites and going on countless Freedom Trail walking tours has delighted me. And I’ve come to think of key figures like Abigail Adams, James Otis, John Hancock and Paul Revere as people I actually know.

Yesterday John and I went to Paul Revere’s grave marker at the Old Granary Buying Ground to attend a ceremony commemorating the 200th anniversary of his death. What a thrill! The ceremony included fife and drum music, a color guard from the USS Constitution (wearing period uniforms), three of Paul Revere’s descendants and the ringing of the bell (a bell Revere had cast) at King’s Chapel. Oh yeah, and remarks from the Masons of Massachusetts’ 89th Grand Master.

Sigh.

Prior to the program, my optimistic husband tried to soothe me with the thought that many men joined the Masons simply to advance their standing in the business community. They didn’t really get into it. We assured ourselves that, since Paul Revere was a Puritan, that must have been the case.

Not exactly (as a friend of mine says during his segments on Paul Revere in his Freedom Trail walking tours). The Grand Master told us that Revere served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts between 1794 and 1797.

I left the Granary feeling the same grief that I felt when I first learned that my beloved Abigail Adams embraced Unitarianism later in her life. I so want to imagine these people who founded our country to have been solid Christians, but (as John Adams famously said), facts are stubborn things. My Revolutionary heroes have tragic flaws.

Last night I thought a bit about my sadness over Paul Revere’s involvement in Freemasonry. Although it disappoints me, it also reminds me to worship only Jesus Christ. I  can appreciate — and even admire — Paul Revere, Abigail Adams and the others who took part in the efforts leading to America’s Independence.  They can still be my heroes. In some respects, dear Abigail can continue to be my role-model. But the Lord uses my knowledge of their false beliefs to protect me from idolizing them. For that kindness, I worship Him.

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Why Shouldn’t My Faith Inform My Politics (And Every Other Area Of My Life)?

Faith Informs Politics

Participating in a political argument at Thanksgiving doesn’t exactly demonstrate wisdom, so I hate admitting my folly. But one comment my relative made during that heated exchange has stayed with me in a positive way, causing me to reflect on how deeply the Lord influences how I think.

Of course, when she said, “Your faith informs your politics,” she meant it in a negative manner. As she saw it, I vote the way I do, not because I think through the issues for myself, but because the white evangelical establishment dictates my political opinions. Had I been sharper at that moment, I would have countered that her world of academia informed her politics. Missed opportunity!

I’ve thought a lot about her remark over the years, and I’ve concluded that my faith indeed should inform my politics. In fact, it should inform every area of my life. I don’t mean, as my relative insinuated, that I should mindlessly obey my pastor and elders as if they have some Orwellian control over me. I do mean, however, that the Lord has authority to show me how to align every area of my life (including my politics) with His revealed will in Scripture.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~~Romans 12:1-2 (ESV)

As God’s Word renews my mind, I start seeing things like abortion, homosexuality, military actions and economics from a Biblical perspective. Occasionally, I’ll question positions that my pastor and elders take, and I’ll vote my conscience (a fact that would quite probably shock my relative), but I do my best to base my decisions on clear Biblical principles.

My faith really should inform every decision I make. If it doesn’t, I betray a lack of trust in God’s wisdom, if not a deliberate rebellion against Him. Essentially, I follow Eve in declaring that I know more than He does.  That His Word has no bearing on how I conduct my affairs.

In truth, I don’t want anything I do to be divorced from the clear teachings of Scripture. Every area of my life, and maybe especially my politics, absolutely must reflect the Lord’s priorities and principles rather than those of the world. My relative may dismiss my politics as  mindless obedience to my church if she wishes. But if God’s Word informs my politics and all other areas of my life, I know I can rest easy.

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Alfie Evans And The Arrogance Of Doctors

This weekend, a Twitter friend encouraged me to blog about Alfie Evans, the disabled toddler who died because the British courts refused to allow his parents to seek treatment in Rome (at Pope Francis’ expense). The Twitter friend based her request on a Tweet I had sent:

Could Have Beeen Me

When I was born, the doctors told my mother that I’d never be anything more than a vegetable. They advised her to put me in an institution and forget she ever had me. By God’s grace, my mom was a stubborn Irish woman who didn’t often think doctors knew what they were talking about, so she took me home. As time progressed, her decision vindicated her; here I am blogging, after all! Not the most vegetative activity, to be sure!

But over the days since I sent that Tweet, I’ve struggled with whether or not my situation really compares to that of Alfie Evans.

On the one hand, I believe the courts definitely should have permitted his parents to take him to Rome. First of all, as parents, they should have had the final say, just as my mother had when the doctors determined that I’d live in a persistent vegetative state. I proved the doctors wrong. Alfie may well have proven his doctors wrong as well.

On the other hand, I regret having implied that Alfie’s situation would have turned out as favorably as mine did. It very well could have, I suppose. Obviously, the doctors made enormous miscalculations about my future. But little Alfie may not have grown up to attend college, get married and find useful ways to occupy his time. By using myself as a measuring rod, I subtly suggested that Alfie should live because he might surprise the world in the same way I did.

Alfie Evans should have been given the chance to exhaust every possible treatment. But not because he might gain all the abilities that I have. Rather, his life had value simply because he was created in the image of God. If treatment in Rome could have enabled him to live at any level, he should have been allowed that opportunity. Maybe he really would have surprised the world.  It breaks my heart that we’ll never know.

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What I Don’t Know And Who I DO Know

Why me?

People usually ask that question when something bad happens to them, implying that they don’t deserve the calamity. But I’ve been asking that same question in reference to my salvation. Why would the Lord choose me, a stubborn sinner full of pride and self-love, to receive His wonderful gift of salvation? Oh, I suppose I could flatter myself that He knew I’d be faithful to serve Him (or something silly like that), but I kinda know better after 64 years of living with myself. In truth, I haven’t any idea why He saved me.

I don’t know a lot of things, actually. For all my study of God’s Word, I see more and more that the work of the Holy Spirit far exceeds my intellectual abilities. How does the Spirit speak through the pages of Scripture? I can’t explain it.

But I know the Lord Jesus Christ. And because I know Him, I know He’ll keep His promises to me. Again, I don’t know  why He promises me an eternity of worshiping Him in heaven, or why He will grant me His inheritance, but I know I can trust Him to fulfill those glorious promises. And today’s hymn encourages me to rely only in Who He is.

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The False Comfort Of Pope Francis

Thoughtful BoyIf you haven’t yet seen the video of Pope Francis assuring a grieving child that his atheist father went to heaven (because said dad allowed all four of his children to be baptized), I suggest that you Google it. Not because it should soften your stance on either the Roman Catholic Church or on Christ’s claim to be the only means of salvation (John 14:6), but because it puts forth a question that Bible-believing Christians absolutely must face as we console the bereaved.

Obviously, the pope failed to give the little boy either a Catholic answer or a Biblical one. I’d guess that many bloggers (both Christian and Catholic) are burning up their keyboards explaining why this pope erred in his response to the boy. As well they ought! But I want to explore an angle of this situation that probably hasn’t received the attention it requires.

As I watched the video, I cried. Since my dad died when I was 10 and my sister was 7, I understand some of that little boy’s heartache and confusion. He loved his daddy, and he desperately needs some way of coping with a loss that he can’t understand. Although I care passionately about sound theology, I also passionately believe that heartbroken children must be treated with compassion, and in age-appropriate ways. So despite my manifold disagreements with the Catholic Church in general and Pope Francis in particular, I appreciate the man’s tenderness toward a hurting child.

Alas, compassion never excuses perverting truth. And the truth is that good works don’t admit anyone into heaven. Pope Francis offered that poor little boy a false assurance about his father’s eternal state. Far worse, he reinforced the erroneous notion that salvation rewards human goodness. As a result, he inoculated the child (as well as everyone else in the audience) against the truth that salvation comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope Francis should have allowed for the slight possibility of a deathbed conversion, but then he should have moved the focus to God’s perfect justice. As a just Judge, the Lord deals with each person justly, and according to His eternal purposes. Although we lack the prerogative to make a definitive declaration about anyone’s eternal destiny,  we can encourage those who grieve to trust God’s authority to make the right decision.

At that point, it would have been best to acknowledge the pain of the very real likelihood that the loved one won’t be in heaven. When my mom died, many people suggested a deathbed conversion, and I admit that possibility. But the most comforting comment I received came from a man at church who said, “I’m so sorry. That must be hard.” Rather than offering a comfort that may or may not be true, this man acknowledged that I faced Mom’s death Biblically, despite the sadness involved. His words affirmed that my pain over her probable rejection of the Gospel is legitimate. Pope Francis should have given the little boy that sort of validation.

From there, we should gently remind the grieving person of his or her own responsibility to repent of sin and believe that Jesus died to bear the punishment for the sins of all who believe in Him. We can’t do anything about our departed loved ones other that trust that God will glorify Himself in how He judges them, but we certainly can make our own election sure by believing in Him.

In situations such as the one with this sweet little boy, of course we must extend compassion. But true compassion never sugarcoats truth with a false gospel. That little boy deserved so much better.

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Jesus Doeth All Things Well

This past week, I struggled with the sin of worry. Disability forces me to be dependent on government programs (never a good thing) and one of those programs didn’t seem to be operating properly. Thankfully everything got sorted out Friday, but until then I battled to trust God’s sovereignty.

In the midst of the struggle, I came across a lesser known Fanny Crosby hymn that the Lord used to both convict me of my sinful anxiety and assure me of the Father’s care for me. I share it here as a reminder to myself, but also as an encouragement to you. Whatever befalls us, we need to trust that Jesus really does all things well.

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