Be Ready to Give a Defense (CFRB Evening Service)

Turn in your Bible to 1 Peter 3:13;

1Pe 3:13  Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?
1Pe 3:14  But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED,
1Pe 3:15  but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;
1Pe 3:16  and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

 


 


May God bless the reading of His Word.

Let us pray.


Paul poses a unique question, one that we should ask ourselves as Christians on a regular basis.  Who is there to harm us if we prove zealous for what is good?

Think about that question for a moment.

I’m sure that your first answer is no one, doing good can’t result in harm? Can it?

After that initial thought, you think about the ridicule from your acquaintances who aren’t Christian. 

Maybe you even recall the persecution of Christians around the world, in the Sudan, Nigeria, the Philippines, and then you shudder -- doing good CAN result in harm.

Peter knew this as well, look at the next line of this passage;

1Pe 3:14  But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. AND DO NOT FEAR THEIR INTIMIDATION, AND DO NOT BE TROUBLED,

So Peter answers his rhetorical question with a practical answer.  Even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. 

Because we are blessed, we are not to fear intimidation nor be troubled. Rather, we are to “sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts.”  We are to make Jesus, our Lord, holy in our hearts.  That is, we are to worship Jesus as our Lord, praising Him, realizing His holiness and the Truth that He is.


If that were all that there was to it, it would be easy. 

Doing good, worshipping Christ, we can do that right?

But wait there is more…

“always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you”

That’s where I want to camp out for awhile. 

I want to give you some starting points in your ability to defend the hope that is in you. 

I urge you to take notes, and explore the information that I am going to touch on so that you can do as Paul admonished Timothy in 2 Tim 2:15, when he wrote;

2Ti 2:15  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Where do we start?

How about at the beginning?


First you need to be able to defend your belief about the Scriptures.  The Baptist Faith and Message says in article 1;

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is the record of God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. It reveals the principles by which God judges us; and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.

Don’t cower when someone tells you that the Bible is inaccurate, full of errors, edited by men to forward a religion that is no more or no less value than any other.  Instead, give a defense.

The historical accuracy as far as the number of manuscripts, their lack of variation, and their close proximity to the times about which they are written, make the New Testament the most historically accurate document that we know of.

We have more than 8,000 copies or portions of copies of the books of the New Testament canon.  The earliest of these copies push right up against the edge of the 1st and 2nd century, less than 70 years after the events they describe, and probably less than 20 to 30 years after the original autographs were written.




By way of comparison, we have less than 5 copies of any work of Aristotle, and the oldest of those are more than 1300 years after the originals.  Yet, no one will tell you that you are not reading the actual words of Aristotle.  So why do we cower when they say that the Gospels have been changed?

They haven’t!

I also like to point out the example of the Hittites.  You know who the Hittites were, they are talked about all the time in the Old Testament.

Well, in the late 1800’s “enlightened” people started to point to the fact that we had no knowledge of a Hittite civilization and because of that the Bible was mythical.

Well in 1876 an archeologist, A.H. Sayce, found a set of tablets in Turkey which he thought might be evidence of a Hittite civilization.  Ten years later, a German, Henry Winckler, found more tables near Boghoz-koy Turkey.  Based upon these tablets Winckler found five temples a citadel and several thousand more tablets.  What he had discovered was the ancient Hittite capital of Hattusha.

Now, scholars spend there entire careers researching and documenting the “non-existent” Hittite civilization.



We know that the Bible is full of prophecies that have been fulfilled hundreds of years after their prediction.

God predicted the fate of Tyre, Sidon, Nineveh, Babylon and other cities and nations.

God recorded Nebuchenezar’s dream of the statue so that we could see that He knows the order of kingdoms, and appoints the times and rulers of those kingdoms.

He recorded Daniel’s vision to show us the progression of nations from Alexander the Great, until the final one world government.

Even more importantly, the Bible contains the prophecies about the Messiah.  These prophecies span centuries, and numerous writers.   All of these prophecies, concerning the Messiah’s first coming were fulfilled completely, by One Man, Jesus Christ.


This brings us to the next bastion of our Christian defense. Jesus Christ was born in the flesh.

He is real.  

Many people think of Jesus as some imaginary or mythical figure.   This heresy has even crept into the very inner circles of Christian faith in the form of liberalism.  The fact that such liberalism exists even in what we know as the “Church” makes it doubly essential that you be able to defend the historical nature of the Gospels and consequently the historical truth of Who Jesus is. 

The Gospels are the primary evidence of what we know about Jesus.  But there are other documents that are other extra-biblical writings, that admit that Jesus lived, and that He was crucified.  Among these works are writings in the Babylonian Talmud, which is a Jewish holy book, Tacitus’ Annals, who was a Roman historian of the time, and the writings of Thallus, who was a Samaritan apologist.



While the reality of Christ as an historical figure is admitted by even such a secular publication as Time magazine, there is another attack that needs to be defended against.  It is the attack of who Jesus is. On one extreme we have the Jewish person, who believes that Jesus was a blasphemer, a sorcerer, and anathema.  On the other extreme you have those who believe that Jesus was a good man, a moral teacher, even a prophet, but they do not believe that Jesus was God.

We can start with what the Old Testament says about the Messiah and how every one of those prophecies was fulfilled specifically and undeniably by Jesus Christ. 

There are more than 100 prophecies in the Old Testament which relate to the first appearance of Christ.  All of which were fulfilled about Him.  Many of these prophecies have absolutely no means of being “set-up” by Jesus himself as they were things that happened to Him.  It started before His birth, with His genealogy, continued with His birth to a virgin, in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, thru His death, when they cast lots for His clothing, ad ended in His ascension to Heaven.

For any single person to fulfill this number of prophecies, which were made at the latest, 500 years before His birth, is phenomenal.  Fulfilling only 30 prophecies has been likened to covering the entire state of Texas to a depth of two feet with silver dollars and then having a blindfolded man pick out a single specific coin on the first attempt. 

Consider the simple fact that Jesus was born at the expected time according to the prophecy of Daniel.  Because of Daniel’s prophecy of the weeks, the Jewish community was expecting the appearance of the Messiah at precisely the time that Jesus lived.

Every Jew, who is told that Jesus was anathema, and a blasphemer, needs to look at these prophecies in the light of what the Old Testament says about the Messiah, and how Jesus meets these criteria.  Of particular note are Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, and the book of Daniel.  A careful examination of this matter has brought some of the most learned rabbis throughout the centuries to a saving knowledge of Jesus as Messiah.

For those who believe that Jesus was a good and moral teacher and that He never said that He was God, we need to take them to the words of that good and moral teacher Himself.  Because Jesus, on several occasions made reference to the fact that He was God.

Let’s look first at John 14:6-7;

Joh 14:6  Jesus *said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Joh 14:7  "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."

We’re familiar with John14:6 where Jesus says that He is the way the Truth and the Life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.  It is always a point of controversy between Christians and those who advocate tolerance.  How could Jesus be so arrogant as to say what He does?  Was He mad?

That’s why we need to look at John 14:7.  In that verse He states that if they had known Him they would have known the Father.  Then He says something even more profound, for from now on the disciples know Him, the Father, and have seen Him, all because they have seen Jesus.

For an even more explicit example of Jesus saying that He was God, turn in your Bibles to John 8:58-59.  Jesus is talking to the Pharisees.  They are asking Jesus about who He thinks He is.  Jesus says;

Joh 8:58  Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."

The first thing we need to understand is that every time Jesus says truly, truly, or most assuredly I say to you, or verily, verily or however your translation interprets those words, He is emphasizing a point that He does not want you to miss.  He is literally saying, Amen, Amen. So whenever you see this phrase, pay attention.  Jesus is sharing an important truth.

But what is that truth?  It seems to be almost a translation error.  Jesus says, “before Abraham was, I AM.”  In English you would think that this translation should be before Abraham was, I was.  But that is not what Jesus meant to say.  Jesus uses the words and the tense I AM for a very specific reason.  To see that reason turn to Exodus 3:13:

Exo 3:13  Then Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God, furthermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.

Here we see God the Father talking to Moses.  Moses is asking how he is going to assure the Israelites that their God, the one true God has sent him.  God tells Moses; “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'“  God the Father’s name is I AM.  

This name is where we incorrectly derived the name Jehovah.  It is more accurately expressed as YHWH.  It is referred to as the tetragrammaton, literally the four letter name.  This name is held in such reverence by the Jews, and I suggest should be held in the same reverence by Christians that it is never spoken.  Instead the Jews refer to this name as “HA SHEM”, the name.

So why would Jesus use this name, unless He was telling the Pharisees, definitively that He was God? 

The Pharisees understood what Jesus was saying.   They pick up stones to kill Him. This is the penalty for blasphemy.  They understand exactly what Jesus is saying, you need to understand it as well…Jesus said He was God.


We can know that what the Bible, God the Father, and Jesus all say about Jesus is true because of the last truth that I want to discuss.  That is the truth of the resurrection.

The tombs of Ghandi, Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, David Koresh, Jim Jones, all are occupied.  No one will dispute this fact with you.  The tomb of Joseph of Arimathea does not contain the body of Jesus, and oddly that cannot be disputed either.  Yet people will argue with you all day long about the resurrection.  They will tell you that Jesus faked his death; that His disciples snuck Him out of the tomb and revived Him, or that someone stole Christ’s body.

We have already talked about the reality of Jesus’ life, and the extra-biblical evidence that Jesus indeed was crucified.  So to defeat any of the arguments that turn around the fact that Jesus really didn’t die on the cross, let us look at crucifixion itself.

Crucifixion has one purpose, death. 

Make no mistake about it the Romans were very adept at their craft.  We know that Jesus was scourged first.  This was not atypical.  Scourging itself entailed being whipped by a cat of nine tails that had bone and metal fragments embedded in it.  The whip was typically dipped in tar or resin and then in broken glass.  The whip was slammed into the victim’s back and then dragged across the back ripping skin, muscle, and even bone.  This process was repeated 39 times, for it was thought that 40 times would cause death.


Then Our Lord Jesus, bleeding profusely, the primary muscles of His lower back in tatters, was forced to carry His cross to the site at Golgotha.  Jesus was already in a weakened condition, we know that Simeon carried Jesus’ cross for Him because Jesus was so weakened.

At Golgotha, the place of the skull, Jesus was laid on the cross, arms outstretched, and massive spikes were driven through the points of His wrist and ankles.  Then the cross was elevated, leaving the entire weight of Our Lord’s body to pull on His anchors.  There was no way that Jesus could lift Himself, and that was the idea.  Unable to lift Himself the fluids began to build in His lungs.  Surviving crucifixion was not an option.

At the very end, when the guards were getting ready to break the legs of anyone living, so that they would die even more quickly, they opted not to break Jesus’ legs, as they thought that He was already dead. 

But our Roman executioners, skilled in their craft, had a mechanism for checking for any pretenders.  The executioners thrust a spear into Jesus’ side, look for the telltale signs of death, and they found it.  The water mixed with blood that came out when they pierced Jesus was the confirmation that He was dead. 

Though they didn’t understand the internal medicine aspects of it, they were witnessing the affirmation that the pulmonary sac had burst and that Jesus was indeed dead.


Were Jesus to “fake” His death, there had to be another death to undergo.  As we have seen, death by crucifixion was horrendous, public, and verifiable.  There was no faking, or revival.  It was not possible.  That is part of the reason that Jesus choose this means of death, for on the cross Jesus not only assured His death, but the death of our sins with Him.

What about the accusation that Jesus’ body was stolen?  Who was to steal it?  If the Jews stole it, they would be doing nothing but aggravating the situation.  As a matter of fact it was the Jews that asked Pilate to post the guard to make sure that the body was not stolen. 

Perhaps it was the Romans? That doesn’t make any sense either.  The Messiah was the focal point of Jewish hope.  A resurrected Messiah would be a threat to the authority of the Roman rule.  It would create a great furor among the Jews and possibly lead to revolt.  It was the very thought that Jesus would lead a physical revolution against Roman rule that caused Judas to seek after Jesus’ cause.  It was his realization that such a revolution was not to take place, that Jesus was telling them that He would soon die on the cross, that caused Judas to betray the Christ.

Then of course there is the thought that maybe some grave robbers stole the body.  But this doesn’t make sense either.  Grave robbers of the time stole the valuables out of the tomb, not usually the body, and what valuables did Jesus have?  Jesus Himself offers these words found in Matthew 8:20 to acknowledge His poverty;

Mat 8:20  Jesus *said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

So who does that leave? The only “obvious suspects” are the disciples.  But before we go casting dispersions upon these men and women, let us look at their actions at the discovery of Jesus’ missing body, and later as they are forced to face death or recant their faith.

First, turn to John 20:6-10 and let us look at the actions of the conspirators;

Joh 20:6  And so Simon Peter also *came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he *saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
 
Having perpetrated this horrendous fraud, do they immediately start proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, because His body is gone? 

No. 

John, who was there, tells us what they were thinking. 

They did not understand that Jesus must rise again. 

They were dejected. Not only was their Lord dead, but His body had been taken.  What were they to do? 

They went home.

They didn’t start perpetrating their “fraud”.

They went home.

They didn’t run through the streets of Jerusalem screaming, “He is risen, He is risen.” 

They went home.

John himself writes; ”For they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.”

How could they perpetrate this fraud…they didn’t even realize what the fraud that they were accused of was supposed to be perpetrated.


We have considered the disciples, their state of mind, and their actions at the time of the disappearance of Jesus’ body. 

Let us for a moment consider the actions of the disciples when faced with the ultimatum of death for their faith. 

Of twelve disciples, one committed suicide after betraying Jesus, ten were martyred for their faith, and only one, the one called the beloved disciple of Christ, lived to see a natural death.

Ask yourself this simple question.

Would you die for a lie?

If you accept the shallow, unfounded argument, that the disciples lied, then you are saying that the disciples would die for a lie.


But why debate the theft of Jesus’ body?  We have the historically accurate witness of first Mary, then the two men on the road to Emmaus, then the disciples on several occasions and then up to 500 people at one time, all occurring over a period of 40 days, that Jesus not only arose, but that He walked and talked, cooked breakfast for His disciples, and discussed the Scriptures.

The Gospel writers all affirm the resurrection.  Don’t fall for the lie that Mark doesn’t.  The copies of the text of Mark that don’t make reference to Christ’s resurrection all have blank space where the missing passages should be.  Perhaps the copyists simply could not bring themselves to write what they had a hard time believing.  No one knows.  However, there are far more copies of Mark that all have the resurrection verses in them.

The very fact that the Gospels all claim that Jesus is resurrected brings us to the last point of defense that we can discuss tonight -- there is a distinct lack of any refutation of the claim that Jesus is risen from the dead from contemporary sources. 

No one at the time the claim was made refuted the fact that Jesus was risen. 

They didn’t bring out a body. 

They didn’t refute the statements of hundreds of witnesses. 

The arguments aren’t there, because it was generally agreed that He arose.


Dear believer, we’ve barely scratched the surface of our defense of our hope, the hope that we have in our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 

I urge you to study the facts of your faith and be willing to defend it.  Don’t wimper or simper or doubt. 

Be bold, be accurate, and stand up for your faith. 

Christianity has been given a back seat, and denigrated as mythology. 

It has been attacked by lies and half truths, and it is your job to defend the Faith and share it with others.

    The Bible is the most historically accurate and well documented document in history!
    Jesus the Christ was born and lived in the time the Bible says!
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