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Acts 1:3 by Robert Dean
Series:Acts (2010)
Duration:1 hr 0 mins 28 secs

Many Convincing Proofs; Acts 1:3

 

Acts 1:3 NASB "To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over {a period of} forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God."

It is very important to understand this word that is translated "convincing truths" because we live in an era today when as a result of the influence of German philosophy, specifically that of Emanuel Kant at the end of the eighteenth century, which has the tendency to think of all religious belief as merely something that is internal, something subjective, something that you feel, something deeply personal, something that isn't necessarily external, objectifiable or something that is subject to rational investigation—it is distinguished from that. So today when we talk to people about proving what we believe it is like somebody rubbing their fingernails on a chalk board; it doesn't make sense in terms of the way they have been trained to think about religion. For them religion is something that is just their personal subjective belief. The worst case scenario of that that we find today is the people who have just a religious smorgasbord and they take a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and throw in a little bit of something else, mix it all together and come up with their own little pagan brew.

That is irrational because the little bit of this and the little bit of that doesn't necessarily have to be logically consistent, doesn't really have to fit; and it really insulting to the various religious beliefs because many of them have been hammered out over the years in terms of some sort of logical coherence. The question is: how do you know it is right? How do you know it is true? Because as soon as you come along and make some claim related to Christianity that Jesus is the only savior they are going to look at you and say you are wrong. What is your criterion for determining what is right and what is wrong? Where do you get that value system? It is not a matter of choosing something that makes you feel good and comfortable but something that actually is true. You have to be able to have some sort of value system, some sort of external criterion that you can bring to these great questions. Of course, down through the ages philosophers and theologians have done that.

What we see here in the Bible is that the Bible assumes that truth can be validated, confirmed. That is not so say that ultimate truth can be proven. There is a difference between confirmation and proof. Confirmation demonstrates the consistency and the validity of something, and that is a little bit different from something that would be construed as an absolute truth. So if you ask, can God exist, you can't prove God exists from an external authority because God by definition is the highest of authorities. So to what would you appeal that would be a higher authority than God. Proof in one sense would demand that you have a higher authority to appeal to than God, but if God is the highest authority then there is no higher authority. We can look at the Bible and say that the Bible is consistent, the Bible reflects the assumptions that it presents, the Bible has evidence that it is true that we can look at; but proof in terms of a demand from a rationalistic, empirical, scientific framework is limited because the scientific worldview is inherently limited, it operates in the sense of a closed universe epistemologically. And yet to define truth we have to be able to go beyond that closed epistemological universe.

Luke uses this word tekmerion [tekmhrion] which means to present something in a convincing or decisive manner, to give evidential proof that is self-sufficient. When we talk about evidences they provide a certain measure of confirmation, but an evidence is always open to interpretation. Someone may come and say you just say that is what it means but I don't have to believe it. Just because a certain DNA is found at a crime scene doesn't mean that that person is guilty. So people can operate on an irrational framework and just reject whatever is presented because they don't like where it goes, they don't like where the conclusions go. So what Luke is saying here is that Jesus presents empirical verification to His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and it is convincing, overwhelming evidence that He was dead and now is alive. And it fits the rules of evidence. Remember Jesus us appearing to His Jewish disciples who have been trained in the Torah, the Law of Moses. In the Law of Moses nothing can be accepted unless it is confirmed by two or more witnesses. Jesus goes far beyond that and it going to confirm it not by the simple eyewitness testimony of two witnesses, there are going to be over 500 witnesses who can claim that they had seen the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ: that He rose from the dead physically, bodily from the dead. And this had an unbelievable impact on the life of those who lived in Jerusalem and Judea at this time.

There is a branch of theology that is going to be developed more and more as we go through our study of the book of Acts, i.e. the study of apologetics. Apologetics has nothing to do with making apology. It is a recognized branch of theology that has to do with the rational evidences or proof of Christianity.

1.  Apologetics is simply explaining why we believe what we believe. Some may say this has to do with faith, that faith is not rational. They have already revealed what they are talking about; they have excluded faith as having anything to do with knowledge. Biblically speaking, faith is another basis for knowledge because faith isn't something mystical, faith is when you are trusting in the authority of someone else to tell you something that you haven't personally witnessed or seen yourself. There are many ways in which we all live our lives. There is nobody who can operate on the basis of only believing what they have personally seen, measured or experienced. We believe in hundreds of thousands of things every single day and we believe them to be true because people we think we can trust witnessed or observed those particular events. We constantly believe in eyewitness testimonies of someone else. We believe because we trust the authority that informed us, and that is what Biblical faith is: trusting in someone else who has informed us with information we can't quantify, measure or evaluate on our own. The person who has revealed that to us is God, and because it is God what He says comes with a measure of self-authenticating power to us. But it also has evidence. God never does anything in private that He didn't validate in public.

2.   

Faith in Christianity therefore is not the opposite of thought but it is the very foundation for thought because we believe that God has informed us through His revelation of key pieces of information that are fundamental to truly understanding and interpreting the events around us. Biblical faith is not mystical, it is not subjective; the basic claims of Christianity, of the Old Testament, are all open to validation and verification. Again and again when we read the Old Testament we see comments like "those are there to this very day," and the writer writing in his time is reminding the people that they themselves can go down there and see that pile of rocks down by the Jordan river, or they can go over to this other location and see that, or they can talk to a person and get their first person evidence. For the person, though, who has bought into the thinking of modern philosophy faith is in itself non-rational because they approach the data with the assumption that you can't know truth. They may not have ever thought about it that way but that is really what has been frontloaded into their thought system through the education that they have received and the background that they have received via modern philosophy, etc. They have a view of knowledge that is truncated. Knowledge is restricted to only that which you can know through empiricism; it is only through direct observation that you can have any true knowledge. Really? Can you prove that? No, you can't. Empiricism always falls apart eventually; it always has historically; because there are things that go beyond our experience. As we have seen, no one can operate or live their life on the basis that the only thing that they are going to believe to be true is what they have directly measured, seen, observed; they have to operate on trust at some point. It is faith in human ability, faith in God's revelation that under girds everything.

3.  The key verse for apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15 NASB "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts [thinking], 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." The word apologia [a)pologia] translated "make a defense" is a courtroom term that describes a legal argument in defense of a client or a position. So you set forth your view. The issue for us is that if someone was to ask us why we believe Jesus rose from the dead, how would we answer that? You can't just say because the Bible says so. Giving a rational defense of the gospel is part of evangelism. The apostle Paul saw this as clearly a part of his particular ministry, Philippians 1:7 NASB "For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel…" Part of his job as an apostle was to defend or make a case for the truth of the gospel. Later in verse 16 he says, "…knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel." That was the apostle, but what about me? Jude 3 NASB "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints." Contending for the faith means to fight for the faith, to fight for what is right and what is true and not just let error slip in. This is a different word than apologia but it has that idea of wrestling for the truth or contending for the faith. So we are to be involved in that. Titus 1:9, focusing on pastors, leaders NASB "holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict."

4.  Apologetics involves a couple of different aspects. There are different approaches to apologetics: pre-suppositional apologetics, evidential apologetics. For now we want to focus on Christian evidences. There are different types of Christian evidences. The first is evidence on the reliability of the Bible. There are all kinds of evidence on the reliability of the Bible. Archeology has never ever disproved anything in relationship to the Bible. They may claim that we have never found anything to confirm it but that doesn't mean that it has been contradicted; it just hasn't been found yet. The Dead Sea scrolls confirm the veracity of the Hebrew text and how well it was preserved. Then there are thousands of New Testament MSS and verses that are quoted in sermons from the second and third century writings which confirm that nothing has changed. In contrast to the liberals in the 19th and early 20th centuries all of the New Testament actually had to have been written in the first century and not later by men who were eyewitnesses of the very events that they describe. If they were eyewitnesses of the resurrection and were writing to people who lived in Jerusalem where the resurrection occurred, it would be very easy to disprove them to be false. But rather than disproving them what happened was an explosive new religion—Christianity—that can only be explained if the resurrection is true. There were also miracles and fulfilled prophecy. Approximately 25 per cent of prophecy in the Bible is unfulfilled, but 75 per cent of the prophecies that are in the Old Testament have been literally fulfilled exactly as history written ahead of time. There are evidences for Jesus' deity—the things that He did: walking on the water, healing, giving sight to the blind, raising people from the dead. If we are familiar with religious texts and we read the accounts of the Gospels, then read some of the apocryphal gospels that were written in the late second or third centuries they get fantastic, very imaginative and strange. You can't read the Biblical accounts and then read these other gospels without observing that they are very different. Then compare that with what is found in other religious systems, they are very different.

In Acts 1:3 Jesus is giving evidence that He actually rose from the dead; that He was physically dead and then three days later He rose from the dead. He had a new physical body that could eat, drink, and the wounds in His hands and side could be felt. The disciples were not expecting Him to rise from the dead. They were in fear of their lives and were moving down the road with their lives. Jesus was dead: I guess we just made a big mistake with Him, now we are going to have to figure out what we are going to do now. Then they began to hear that Jesus rose from the dead and had appeared to some of the disciples. Others would say they didn't believe that. They were just like you and me, they were not going to go around and think that somebody did that, they weren't predisposed for that. Don't belittle that generation by saying they were just prone to that. You can't read the literature written by the Romans, the Greeks and the Jews of that time, like Josephus, and think that they were just prone to believe these kinds of miracle stories and supernatural things as if they were mental midgets. They weren't. They were highly educated and trained people at that time and they were just as skeptical of somebody claiming to have been raised from the dead as you or I would be. Yet they were completely convinced so much by the evidence that it absolutely changed their life.

The first thing that happened on the resurrection day, before dawn, was a massive earthquake that was so great that it causes the stone—one source says that it would take up to twenty men to move it—to move out of place. This makes sense within the text because when the women were going that morning to finish the preparation of the body Mark tells us that they were asking each other how they were going to get in. At that time an angel appeared. There were Romans guards who were dumbfounded; they had never seen anything like this. There was the angel who appeared as a bright white light and they are scared motionless. Then the angel addresses the women, which must have really confused the guards. Here was this angel ignoring them and telling the women not to be afraid because Jesus had risen from the dead. It is at that point that Mary Magdalene runs in and sees that the body has gone. Then she turns around and takes off leaving the other three there. She goes to tell Peter and John. Then the angel, along with another angel, invited the other three women to come and see the place where Jesus' body had been. Then they were ordered to go and tell the disciples. Mary Magdalene had already gone to tell Peter and John and they are going to turn around and run as fast as they can to get back to the tomb. While they are running back the angel has told the other three women to go tell the rest of the disciples, so they are gone by the time Peter and John arrive. While the other three are leaving Jesus appeared to them—Matthew 28:9, 10. That is the first appearance to those other three women. He told them to go and tell the disciples to meet Him in Galilee.

Peter and John run to the tomb, discover it is empty, and go home. After they left Mary Magdalene finally catches up and saw someone near the tomb, thinks it is the gardener. Then the Lord Jesus Christ reveals Himself to her and she sees that it is the Lord. The other women make it back to the other disciples and they don't believe them. They were not predisposed to believing that Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus told them He was going to be crucified and they didn't believe that; He told them that He would be raised from the dead and they didn't believe that. They are scared to death after the crucifixion because they think that the Romans will come after them because they were followers of Jesus. They turned into cowards, they are hiding, they don't want to cause any kind of disruption that would bring attention upon themselves; they just want to get on with their lives because they made a big mistake thinking that this Jesus was somebody special and that He as the Messiah. There were a lot of people at this time who claimed to be the Messiah. Jesus did things nobody else did. He raised people from the dead, which the rabbis had taught would only be done by the Messiah; He gave sight to the blind, which the rabbis taught would only be done by the Messiah. And yet, He was crucified, He died. They guessed they had made a mistake. So they are in hiding; they don't believe what the women tell them.

At the same time that day the guards leave, there is no reason to guard an empty tomb. They go back to report to the Sanhedrin which bribed the guards to say that the disciples stole the body. The Sanhedrin then began to send messages out to try to get ahead of the story with their interpretation. We get them today. People are always trying to get ahead of the bad news and put their own spin on it.

Later on that afternoon Jesus appears to two disciples, not of the twelve, on the road to Emmaus. He cloaks His identity so they don't recognize Him starts asking questions about what they had been doing and what was going on in Jerusalem. They tell Him about Jesus being crucified and they are disappointed, they had heard that He rose from the dead and don't believe that. Then Jesus says let's look at the Bible, and He goes from Genesis to 2 Chronicles, all of the Hebrew Bible, and shows again and again all of the prophecies and promises about the Messiah and how all of it pointed to Jesus and how He fulfilled every single one of those promises and prophecies—the ones that applied to the first advent. Then they realize who it is that is talking to them and they believe that He has been raised from the dead. At dinner that night He eats dinner with them and then goes on. They decide they are going to run back to Jerusalem to tell everybody there what they saw. Somewhere along the way they hear that Jesus had also appeared to Peter. We are not told about when Jesus appeared to Peter but we know from 1 Corinthians 15:5 and Luke 24:34 that Jesus appeared to Peter alone somewhere at some point because all of a sudden people are saying he appeared to Peter, and then He appeared to the rest of them. These are the third and the fourth appearances.

The fifth appearance is that when they are there telling the eleven disciples that Jesus has risen from the dead and had appeared to them then Jesus appears to them. Thomas isn't with them. This is given in John 20:19-25. Jesus instructs them and now they believe in the resurrection.

The sixth appearance occurs eight days later when He appears to the twelve and Thomas is present. Jesus tells Thomas to put his hand in His side and feel the nail prints in His hands and feet, and immediately Thomas falls down and worships Him. Thomas saw, he had that empirical evidence. What did Jesus say? He said that it was great that Thomas believed because he saw, first hand experience; but blessed are those who are willing to trust the eyewitness accounts and without seeing Him directly will still believe that He rose from the dead.

The seventh appearance. He is in Galilee and appears to the disciples on the shore of Galilee at Tiberius. They had been out fishing all night and not found anything and Jesus told them to put the net on the other side of the boat and they would catch more than they ever imagined; which they did. They realized that this was really Jesus.

The eighth appearance is still in Galilee, and He appears to 500 hundred and teaches on the mountains there. And there were many, many others who He appeared to, so it is not something that was private. It was empirically verified by those who saw the resurrected Jesus. We know He appeared to James, and then we are told on Luke 24:44-49 He appeared to the disciples again at other times and taught about the kingdom of God throughout this period of time which we are told also in Acts chapter one. Then His final appearance was at the ascension.

How many eyewitnesses are needed to confirm the event, according to the Torah? Two. How many does Jesus have? 500+.

Another line of evidence is from the negative side, and that is the guard at the tomb. The penalty for falling asleep at the tomb is death, so the Romans had a very harsh disciplinary system in their military. These guards were set because the Sanhedrin—remember that Jesus had taught that He would be raised from the dead, and the Pharisees remembered that—went to the Romans and said to protect the body so that nobody claims that He rose from the dead; put a guard on the tomb. This could have been anything from ten to thirty soldiers, probably a smaller number. They also sealed the tomb—Matthew 27:66. They would run a cord or rope across the rock and seal it with wax and the imperial seal on either side so that no one could break that seal upon threat of death. Nothing happened until that Sunday when there was an earthquake and the stone rolled away. After the women left the guards tell Caiaphas they were guarding it, and angel appeared and Jesus rose from the dead. He left and we decided to come back because there was nothing to guard. So they give a sort backward testimony supporting this and the fact that they went back knowing that there was the death penalty for falling asleep indicates that they hadn't fallen asleep on the job.

A third line of evidence is the change in the disciples. Here were these disciples who were running, hiding and fearful. Peter denied knowing Jesus at all. They are afraid that they are going to be the next ones arrested and crucified by the Romans. Yet, once Jesus rises from the dead they have the courage and conviction that He is alive. This shapes the rest of their lives, they are no longer fearful. All but one of them dies a martyr's death—John is the only one who lives to die at a ripe old age—and they are all willing to give their life for the statement that Jesus rose from the dead. They were willing to die because they knew it was the absolute truth. It completely changed their whole lives because they knew that Jesus had risen from the dead.

The fourth major argument is that the birth of the church can only be explained if the tomb was empty. All of the people who came to Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost heard Peter, James and John and others telling them that Jesus was crucified, was buried, and He rose from the dead. If He didn't rise from the dead it was very simple for the Sanhedrin to disprove that—open the tomb and let then see His body—but they couldn't. They didn't have the body, the evidence, because the tomb was empty. There was this explosive growth and within a year there were 15-20,000 people minimum in Jerusalem who are believing that Jesus is the Messiah, He has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven and will return at some point in the future.

Without the resurrection there is no Christianity. If Jesus didn't rise from the dead then Christianity is the most cruel, heartless religion in all of history. Christianity offers hope of eternal life on the basis of the fact that Jesus conquered death.