Thursday, September 25, 2014

Legalism and Antinomianism - two sides of the same coin?

Legalism can occurs in many forms in the church today. Some may insist conformation to a certain church practices, or a certain membership of a sect before one can be saved. This is a big heresy because by depending on our own efforts to achieve our own salvation, essentially we are saying we reject the redemptive work of Christ. Galatians 2:21 clearly says:
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Gal 2:21 NIV)
In fact, when we say somebody has “fallen from grace”, that does not mean that he has committed a public sin, but Galatian 5:4 says, it means that person is depending on his own efforts to achieve his own salvation. Furthermore, legalism always have the tendency to major on the minors and minor on the majors.
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4 NKJV)
The other extreme can also occurs in church today. It is the form of complete liberalism or antinomianism. It is a form of living in total disregard to the righteousness of God even as someone who allegedly professes to be a follower of Jesus.

Someone who practices antinomianism would say to himself since God loves to forgive so much, why not give him more opportunity to forgive? If forgiveness is guaranteed, that means we already have the total freedom to do whatever we want including sinning as much as we want. Or an antinomian may think, since God is so loving, He would not judge me or he may say, well sin may not be so bad after all as it teaches valuable lessons. Or he may justify his basis for indulging in the sinful vices of the world by saying that he needs to stay in touch with the culture around him.

As Roman 3:8 and 6:1 says:
Why not say—as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say—"Let us do evil that good may result"? Their condemnation is deserved.
(Rom 3:8 NIV)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?
(Rom 6:1 NIV)
However, someone who justifies his habitual sins or has totally no regard to God’s righteousness actually does not really understand the seriousness of sin.

As the Life Application Study Bible comments:
“God's forgiveness does not make sin less serious; his Son's death for sin shows us the dreadful seriousness of sin. Jesus paid with his life so we could be forgiven. The availability of God's mercy must not become an excuse for careless living and moral laxness.”
Similarly Gal 5:13 exhorts:
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal 5:13 NKJV)

In fact, freedom or license to sin is no freedom at all, because once we misuse it to indulge in sinful behaviors, it is no longer a freedom. It binds us and enslaves us to bondage to Satan or our own sinful habits. Christians, by contrast, should not be slaves to sin, because they are free to do right and to glorify God through loving service to others.

Titus 2:11-13 brings even a step further to say that the grace of God, when properly understood actually teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions.
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Tit 2:11-13 NIV)
This is in line with Paul’s command in Roman 13:8 and Galatians 5:13-14 that it is imperative for Christians to remember that although we are no longer under the Law (Rom. 6:14) to attain salvation, we still need to fulfill the Law of love.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
(Rom 13:8 NIV)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
(Gal 5:13-14 NIV)
In other words, we are perpetually “in debt to Christ” for the lavish love he has poured out on us. The only way we can even begin to repay this debt is by fulfilling our obligation to love others in turn. Because Christ's love will always be infinitely greater than ours, we will always have the obligation to love our neighbors (2).

My understanding is that actually legalism and antinomianism are two sides of the same coin – and in both cases, they are threats to the Christian life because they promotes self-focused or self-centered obsession rather than giving glory to God. If we are self-centered on our efforts to achieve the ultimate good (salvation), we always have the tendency to be proud of ourselves, and tend to look down on others who could not achieve what we achieve. We feel a sense of superiority: self-indulgence.

On the other hand, if we totally disregard God’s righteousness, thinking that since God has already taken care of my after-life, my life here on earth is mine to enjoy and to navigate in any way I want so as to maximize my self-fulfillment and gratification on my short life here on earth – again, self-indulgence. The only way to get out of these two extremes is to always focus our gaze on Christ on the Cross – his sacrifice for mine, because of my wretchedness and utter hopelessness as a result of the devastating consequences of sin, and therefore I am forever indebted to Him, and forever be grateful to Him, and therefore, my life is now His, and only in Him, I can live my life to the fullest, in serving Him by serving others.

1.    Life Application Study Bible: New Living Translation. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1996
2.    Antinomianism. In: Dictionary. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM). Available at URL: Accessed 16 September 2014

The Jerusalem Council and what can we learn from this council

The primary issue dealt by the Jerusalem Council was whether Gentile believers should comply to the Mosaic law in order to be saved.

The Judaizers had wanted the Gentiles to be circumcised (Act 15:5). I could imagine if this issue was not handled properly, it could have potentially split the church and if that happened, what we would have today are two different religions.

Of had the Judaizers won that day, the Gentiles would have been required to be circumcised and this would have brought the message of Jesus back to square one. Christianity would have been part of Judaism or another form of Judaism.

The situation was so intense that Paul, Barnabas and others decided to take the issue to the apostles and elders in Jerusalem (Acts 15:2). Although this was seemingly a human decision, Paul later revealed in Galatians 2:1-2 that he went up there “by revelation”. 

There, in a speech, Peter gave four compelling reasons why the Gentiles need not comply to the Mosaic Law:

1.    It was God’s will that the Gentiles should hear the message of Christ (Acts 15:7)
2.    And that the Gentiles had been given the Holy Spirit, thus, proving the genuineness of their salvation (Acts 15:8; 2:4)
3.    Why would the Jews want to impose a yoke that they themselves could not bear? (Acts 15:10)
4.    The salvation that was received was by the grace of God to everyone, both Jews and Gentiles and not of their own works (Acts 15:11)

Later, James also gave a speech. James's judgment was that Gentile believers did not have to be circumcised, but they should stay away from food sacrificed to idols, from sexual immorality (a common part of idol worship), and from consuming blood (Lev 17:14) or eating meat of strangled animals.

But if circumcision is unnecessary for salvation, then why were these restrictions imposed? These restrictions were given not as prerequisites for salvation but for respecting the “weaker” brother (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 8). The counsel to respect dietary restrictions was intended to demonstrate love and respect for the Jewish Christians. Because of their background, Jewish Christians would have struggled to share a meal with Gentiles who would not comply with the traditional Jewish dietary customs (cf. Acts 15:19–21). In short, love seems to be the motivating factor in resolving this conflict.

A number of other lessons could also be learned from this issue confronted by the Jerusalem council:

1.    Paul and others were courageous to confront the issue.
2.    All sides must be given a fair hearing before a decision would be made.
3.    The discussion should be done in the presence of wise counsel (leaders who are spiritually mature and trustworthy to make wise decisions).
4.    One the decision is made, everyone should then abide by the decisions.

1.    Tenney, Merrill C., and Walter M. Dunnett. New Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1985

2.    Life Application Study Bible: New Living Translation. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1996

3.    Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the Old and New Testament: David C Cook, 2010.

4.    Gospel Transformation Bible: English Standard Version: Crossway, 2013.

The Physiology of the Early Church

I would liken the characteristics of the early church as a healthy spiritual body whose head is Jesus Christ Himself.

Below are the physiological characteristics of this spiritual body as gleaned from the mentioned scriptural verses:

1) The head
Acts 4:32 says that the believers "were of one heart and one soul". They were focused on Jesus, the head (Eph 5:23; Col 1:18). The body is connected to the central commander that allows for smooth, coordinated execution of the various functions of the healthy body. Imagine if the individual organ parts want to execute functions autonomously and independently from the central nervous system that controls and coordinates them.

2) The heart

The heart pumps and distribute blood and supply of oxygen and nutrients to the various organs according to their requirement, functions and metabolism. The organs that require more will be distributed more. The heart will ensure each organ does not lack the needed blood supply. At the same time, the heart does not pump excessively more than what is required by that particular organ. In certain critical conditions such as bleeding, the body can also redistribute blood from one organ to another organ that requires more. The organ that has more blood reserve cannot hoard the excessive blood and refuses to give out its blood reserve when another organ critically needs it for its own survival.

Acts 4:34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked

Acts 2:44-45 all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone has need.

3) The limbs
The limbs of the church are actively working to extend the love of Christ to all people.

That's why Acts 2:44 says (the church is) .....having favor with all the people

The limbs also exercise daily to keep the body healthy just like the church exercise their faith daily as in Acts 2:46 says (they)...continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house.

4) The gut
The gut needs to absorbs essential nutrients and not junks. The church has a good intake of spiritual diet
Acts 2:42 continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers

5) The immune system
The immune system mounts up a immune defense at the first instance of detecting a threat that can harm the body.

Acts 6:1 records an internal conflict between two groups of Jews in the body - the Hebraic and the Hellenists. This conflict if not contained, is a threat that can drive a wedge that divides the church. The church does not neglect it or allow it to spread even though it may seem "petty" as compared to the "bigger" plan of winning souls through evangelism.


How does understanding the political, cultural, and geographical context of 1st century Israel help us better understand New Testament scriptures?

Understanding the political, cultural and geographical context of the 1st century Israel helps us
1.    To understand passages in the New Testament that would have otherwise make little sense
2.    To have a greater appreciation of the depth and richness of passages in NT
3.    To see the continuity of the story of God’s interactions with His people from the end of the OT to the beginning of the NT
1. Understanding the political, cultural and geographical context of the 1st century Israel helps us to understand passages in the New Testament that would have otherwise make little sense
For example, in John 4, when Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, He was leaving Judea and heading towards Galilee. And He said that He must go through Samaria.

Without a proper understanding of the geographical as well as the political background of these regions, Judea, Samaria and Galilee, this passage makes little sense. Galilee was the northern region of Israel and Judea was the southern region. Samaria was the region in between of Galilee in the north and Judea in the south.

Historically, after the reign of Solomon, Israel was weak. This was because, as 1 King 11:1-13 says, Solomon broke God’s commandment by taking in multiple foreign wives and concubines, although God has clearly said to the Israelites in Deut 17:17 that they must not intermarry with foreign wives, nor they with them as they surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods. This led to the break up of the nation of Israel into the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom and the two tribes of the Southern kingdom. All kings of the Northern Kingdom were wicked and they practiced syncretism. They easily accepted pagan worship and failed to be faithful to God despite repeated warnings from prophets such as Elijah, Elisha, Amos and Hosea. 2 Kings 17:7-36 describes the reasons for God’s anger so much so that God decided to send the Assyrian army as “the rod of His anger” (Isa 10:5) to invade the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C.

When the Assyrian took over, their strategy to ensure that the Israelites would not revolt was to deport a large number of Israelites from Israel while leaving some of them in Israel; and in return, brought in a large number of non-Jews into Israel to intermarry with the Jews. As a result, a mixed race was brought up known as the Samaritans as many of them settled in the capital city of Northern Kingdom, Samaria. As a result of their syncretism practices, many of the Israelites did not consider them as part of the Jews but rather, considered them heretical.

Because the temple in Jerusalem was located in the Southern kingdom, the Samaritans could not go to Jerusalem to worship God. Also, when the Israelites from the Southern kingdom later returned from the Babylonian captivity, Babylon, they refused to allow the Samaritans to assist in rebuilding Jerusalem (Ezr 4:1-4; Neh 2:19-20; Neh 13:28). As a result, the Samaritans set up an alternative temple at Mount Gerizim, the place where the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman took place.  By the time of Christ, the tension between the Jews and the Samaritans was so strong that they would avoid each other as much as possible. Therefore, a Jew who travelled from Judea to Galilee may avoid passing through the town of Samaria. Instead, he may travel through Perea on the east to Galilee.

But if we understand the geography of the land of Israel, the land is divided into four longitudinal strips: the coastal plain, the hill country, and the Jordan valley and transjordanian plateau. In order for a Jew to detour to Perea, he had to go through the mountainous route to the other side of the Jordan valley. Yet, because of the strained relationship between a Jew and a Samaritan, a Jew may be willing to take this tougher route. Not so with Jesus. Furthermore, according to the Jewish culture of the day, a Jewish man does not speak to a woman in public, let alone a Samaritan.

He breaks down barriers. His gospel penetrates to all men, regardless of race, status and nations. This is accomplished later on by the Holy Spirit through the ministry of Philip to the Samaritans in Acts 8.

2. Understanding the political, cultural and geographical context of the 1st century Israel helps us to have a greater appreciation of the depth and richness of passages in NT

One of the most popular parables in the bible is the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. But to have a greater appreciation of this story, we would need to understand the cultural background of the first century Jewish people.

First of all, for a younger son to demand the father to give him his inheritance while the father was still alive is a strange request. This is because according to the Jewish culture, the inheritance would not be given to the sons until the father pass away. Demanding for inheritance while the father is still alive is akin to wishing the father dead!

Furthermore, according to the first century Jewish custom, a Middle eastern man never ran! Matthew Williams explains:

“If he [the Middle eastern man] were to run, he would have to hitch up his tunic so he would not trip. If he did this, it would show his bare legs. In that culture, it was humiliating and shameful for a man to show his bare legs.

Kenneth Bailey, author of The Cross & the Prodigal, explains that if a Jewish son lost his inheritance among Gentiles, and then returned home, the community would perform a ceremony, called the kezazah. They would break a large pot in front of him and yell, “You are now cut off from your people!” The community would totally reject him.”

Matthew further explains that probably the father ran in order to get to his son before he entered the village. By doing so, two consequences occur:

1.    First the father would have humiliated himself by exposing his bare legs and doing something, which was unconventional at that time – run! This would have to be a decided action by the father.

2.    But secondly, by doing so, he would have prevented his son from the humiliation. He got his son before the community gets to him, so that the community would not have performed the kezazah ceremony – a permanent rejection of the son. The father had taken the full shame that should have fallen upon his son.

Isn’t that the bible says, “We love Him because He first loved us. (1Jn 4:19 NKJV)”?

3. Understanding the political, cultural and geographical context of the 1st century Israel helps us see the continuity of the story of God’s interactions with His people from the end of the OT to the beginning of the NT

From the close of the OT to the beginning of the NT is a long period of 400 years.
But when we open the NT, we see King Herod coming into the picture. Who was he? Why was he governing Israel? Was he a Jew? Or was he a Roman?

During this period of time, a lot of events had happened. Firstly, after the Persian period where King Cyrus permitted Jews to return to their homeland, came the Greeks primarily through the conquest of Alexander the Great. During this time, the Greeks intended to spread their Hellenistic culture including the Greek language far and wide. Unfortunately, Alexander died young; and after him, the empire was divided into four areas among his four generals. Israel was then controlled by the Egyptian Ptolemies. Later on, the Syrian Seleucid gained control over Israel. The Seleucids attempted to spread Hellenism throughout their empire. The Jews were forbidden to practice their religion and the temple in Jerusalem was turned into a pagan shrine. This led to Mattathias and his five sons to revolt. After the death of Mattathias, the leadership was left to one of his sons, Maccabeus. This eventually led to a short period of Jewish independence known as the Maccabean period. Later on, unfortunately, the Maccabean rulers became progressively dictatorial, corrupt, immoral and even pagan. Internal strife led to Jewish people asking Roman general Pompey to come and restore order. Pompey did so, but along with that he also brought in Roman rule.

Towards the end of the Maccabean period, Antipater, the father of Herod the Great, emerged. Antipater was an Idumean. Idumea was the territory just south of Palestine. This was the home of the Edomites. Edom or Esau (Gen 25:29-30) was the brother of Jacob; and therefore, the Jews never regarded the Idumeans including Antipater and Herod the Great as pure Jews. Jews viewed them as pagans. But Antipater capitalized on the chaotic situation at that time when the Maccabean rulers were weak and convinced the Romans to allow his son, Herod the Great to rule over Israel when Pompey took over this nation. This was the “King” Herod who came into the scene in Matthew 2 who ordered for all male babies aged 2 years and below to be killed as he was threatened by the one born King of the Jews (Matt 2:2)

Tenney, Merrill C., and Walter M. Dunnett. New Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1985

Williams, William C., and Stanley M. Horton. They Spoke from God: A Survey of the Old Testament. Springfield, MO: Logion/Gospel Pub. House, 2003

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible: New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2010.

Williams, Matthew. The Prodigal’s Father Shouldn’t Have Run. In: Q Ideas website. Available at URL: Accessed on 27 August 2014.

Grudem, Wayne A., C. John Collins, and Thomas R. Schreiner. Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible: A Guide to Reading the Bible Well. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012.

Three Major Events Preceding the Lord’s Return

Regardless of whether one holds to the view of pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation or post-tribulation, the vast majority of Christians could agree to the core ingredients of biblical eschatology as expounded in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.  First and most importantly, to the vast majority of Christians, the second return of Jesus Christ is a sure fact. It is a sure fact because it is mentioned in the Bible (Matt 24:30, 25:31; John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 1 Cor 15:23; 1 Thess 4:16; 2 Thess 2:1; Rev 1:7). The Bible is trustworthy. Jesus mentioned it, Paul mentioned it, John mentioned it.

In 1 Thess 4:13-18, for example, it is comforting to know the that for a Christian, we do not need to grieve hopelessly:

But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1Th 4:13-18 NKJV)

Although not many details are known, 2 Thessalonians also mention three major events that would occur preceding the Jesus’ return:
  • There will be a sudden acceleration of apostasy from godliness (2 Thess 2:3)
  • There will be the removal of some restraining influence (2 Thess 2:6-7)
  • There will be unveiling of the incarnation of evil who will be animated by Satan and who will oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God (2 Thess 2:4,9). (Ref: Chapter 15 The Gentile Church And the Pauline Mission: Acts 11:19 to 15:35 in Tenney, Merrill C., and Walter M. Dunnett. New Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1985, page 284)

As scary as it may seem, knowing that these events would come should prepare us and not caught us unprepared. Ultimately, despite the fact that we do not know all details for certain, we know for certain the essentials.  As Ravi Zacharias likes to quote the British philosopher G. K. Chesterton who argued that, for the Christian, joy is the central feature of life and sorrow is peripheral, because in the gospel the fundamental questions of life are answered and it is the peripheral ones that are relatively unanswered. For the atheist, sorrow is central and joy peripheral, because only the peripheral questions have answers and the central ones remain unanswered. Ultimately it is not so much of how much we know or even what we know, but in whom we know…and trust!

Tenney, Merrill C., and Walter M. Dunnett. New Testament Survey. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1985

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: The Rose Book of Bible Charts Volume 3

The Rose Book of Bible Charts Volume 3 is a 220-page reference book that is so packed with REPRODUCIBLE Bible charts, Bible timelines, and Bible overviews.

Its stunningly beautiful visuals certainly add depth to my study of the Old and New Testament.

Among the topics covered include the 100's of facts at a glance, the various aspects of spiritual disciplines, our identity in Christ, the attributes of God, insights into the book of Proverbs, the book of Acts, forgiveness, the book of Revelation.

Every page of this book is just so packed with information; so much so that I would say we could conduct home group bible studies based on materials from every page of this book. I especially love the colorful charts in the book.

In fact, the materials covered in the book are not only feeding my mind but ministering to my heart as well. For example, on page 17, in a text box on “Does Forgiveness mean reconciliation?”, I felt a sense of relief of the heavy burden I am carrying when I am reminded that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation.

“Forgiveness involves letting go of vengeance and hatred for being wronged. Reconciliation can be described as “restoration to harmony in relationship”. One person can forgive, but it takes two people to restore a broken relationship. Forgiveness alone neither guarantees nor demands reconciliation. Often much more is needed before reconciliation can (or should) take place, for example: repentance, restitution of the wrong, gaining back trust, or evidence of genuine change. If forgiveness is taken to mean “going back” to the offender as if nothing ever happened, then people will end up only with a cheap imitation of reconciliation, far unlike the genuine harmony in a restored relationship described in Scripture (1 Thess. 5:11; Rom. 12:10).” (Ref: “Does Forgiveness Mean Reconciliation” in Rose Book of Bible Charts Volume 3, page 17).

Similarly, on page 19, the author of this chapter says that on this side of heaven, we may not be able to forgive to the extent that we want to because we are still imperfect people in an imperfect world. What we are called to do is to continue moving forward and not to give up.

The chapter of money (pages 20 - 28) also contains a number of financial health checklist to keep our attitude towards money checked. In that same chapter, great tables listing scriptural verses from the book of Proverbs on money as well as the do’s and don’ts with money from the scriptures are also given.

The different suggestions on prayers such as the A-C-T-S method, the Lord’s prayer, as well as honest answers about prayers such as “When God says No”, “When God seems silent” and “Waiting for God to Answer” are comprehensively described.

A checklist on spiritual gift meant to help the readers to discern where they would fit in the church’s many ministries is given on pages 43-44. However, what I would like to see is the reference(s) where this checklist is taken from. As a matter of fact, many of the charts and tables given in the book do not have bibliographical references. I think this is a weakness of the book which should be rectified in future editions.

The chapter of spiritual disciplines contain some great lists and tables with scriptural references. For example, on page 45, a list of the metaphors of sins are given. Sin:

  • Captures (Prov. 5:22; Heb. 12:1)
  • Enslaves (Gen. 4:7; John 8:34; Rom. 7:14, 23; Gal. 3:22)
  • Is deadly (Rom. 6:23; 5:12; Eph. 2:1)
  • Is a sickness (Ps. 32:1–5; Isa. 53:5; Matt. 9:2, 5; 1 Peter 2:24)
  • Is impurity (Zech. 13:1; Ps. 51:2; Isa. 1:18)
  • Separates (Isa. 59:1–2; Eph. 2:12–16; 4:18)
The latter two sections of this book are about the various selected personalities from the Old Testament and the New Testament and the last chapter is on issues related to Christian and the church today. These issues include baptism, the Lord’s supper and creeds (and heresies).

In short, to me, this is a marvelous reference to have. Tons of materials that would probably be sufficient to last for more than a year of small group bible studies. Beautiful and informative charts, graphics and tables. One thing is lacking though - the deficiency of bibliographical references accompanying the various charts, checklist and tables. Who wrote these checklists, and if these checklists purport to measure something, how accurate are they, etc.

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the digital version of this material from Rose Publishing as part of their products bloggers review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)

What if Jesus did not rise from the dead......

How would you respond to the person who says that it really doesn’t matter whether or not Jesus rose from the dead?

I would disagree with this person. I would first ask him: what is the one major difference between Christianity and all other religions? It would be the fact that the founder of Christianity is a living person whereas the founders of all other religions are already dead in the graves. In John 14:6, Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”. In other words, in Christianity, we are not just following a set of rules or laws or a prescribed path, but we are following a Living Person.

1 Corinthians 15:13-14 says that 
“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” (1Co 15:13-14 NKJV)

Hence, the question of whether Jesus really rose from the dead, not only matters tremendously but it is actually a pivotal point upon which whether Christianity would stand or collapse. As the 17th century philosopher John Locke said, "Our Savior’s resurrection is truly of great importance in Christianity, so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it."

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, He Himself would be a liar

Furthermore, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Jesus, His apostles including Paul would be liars. And if these people were liars, what worth would there be to follow their teachings?  As Jesus says in John 2:19-21,
"Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Then the Jews said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" But He was speaking of the temple of His body. (Joh 2:19-21 NKJV)

Jesus similarly said that He would rise from the dead in Matthew 16:21, 17:9 and Luke 18:31-33. Therefore, Jesus Himself would be a liar if He actually did not rise from the dead. He would not be worth following.

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, His apostles would be liars

His apostles would also be liars for the Bible says in Acts 4:33 that “with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”

Furthermore, Peter preached in Acts 2:23-24,
“Him (Jesus), being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Act 2:23-24 NKJV)

And he similarly said in Acts 4:10
let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.
(Act 4:10 NKJV)

And in 1 Peter 1:3, Peter says:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1Pe 1:3 NKJV)

If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Paul would be a liar

Paul would also be a liar. Paul says:
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Act 17:30-31 NKJV)

And in Romans 8:11,
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Rom 8:11 NKJV)

And in 1 Corinthians, he says

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that 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. (1Co 15:3-4 NKJV)

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1Co 15:20 NKJV)

More importantly, theologically, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, there are three things He would not be able to conquer:
1.    Jesus would not be able to conquer sin
2.    Jesus would not be able to conquer death
3.    Jesus would not be able to conquer hell

Jesus would not be able to conquer sin
Paul says
For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. (1Co 15:16-18 NKJV)

The evidence that Jesus conquered sins is that He rose from the dead. If He did not, then the above claim would not be fulfilled.

Jesus would not be able to conquer death

In the same chapter of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul also says that
“So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY." "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING? O HADES, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY?" The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.” (1Co 15:54-56 NKJV)

If Jesus Himself did not rise from the dead, what hope do we have to overcome death as claimed in these verses?

Jesus would not be able to conquer hell

Revelation 20:6 says
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. (Rev 20:6 NKJV)

The second death referred to in this verse is the spiritual death – the eternal separation from God into the lake of fire, the final everlasting hell. This second death is mentioned in Rev  20:14 and Rev 21:8

Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Rev 20:14 NKJV)

But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Rev 21:8 NKJV)

This second death can only be overcome by those who are in Him, those who have a part in the first resurrection. Therefore, if the resurrection of Jesus is not true, we would not be able to overcome this second death.

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