Reason for Our Hope (1)
O. C. Birdwell
The constant attacks on the basic principles of our belief in God should cause us to give more time and attention to the reason for our hope. The scriptures charge us to be ready to give answer to every man who asks a reason for our hope (I Pet. 3:15). Because of this charge and the pressing attacks from the critics of our faith, we present the material on the above subject.
Before discussing The Person of Christ, The Work of Christ, and Man's Required Obedience, let us consider what God has done on our behalf in creation and revelation.
God Has Spoken
God has taken the initiative in revealing himself unto man. Were it not for his willingness to reach out to man and make known the existence of God, and his concern for lost humanity, man would be ignorantly groping in darkness and despair.
God has revealed himself in what we call nature. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork" (Ps. 19: 1). Observant men who are aware of the glory and magnitude of the expanded universe should believe in a supreme being. What the Athenians could see, hear, and touch caused them to build an altar to "an unknown God" (Acts 17:23).
God has revealed himself by speaking to man. He spoke in Old Testament times to the fathers by the prophets; he speaks to us today through His Son (Heb. 1: 1, 2). Since God has spoken, man is no longer ignorant of His will. That which was formerly a mystery and hidden concerning man's salvation is now revealed from God (Eph. 3:1-3).
God Has Acted
God has not just spoken unto man, he as acted in man's behalf. God acted in creation. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen. 1: 1). In opposition to the position that God acted in creation, theories of evolution are presented. While we shall not deal with these theories in this paper, men need to know that evolution as a substitute for creation is no more than a theory, and as a theory stands in, the face of many stubborn facts that make it unreasonable and untrue. But above all, the theory stands opposed to what God has revealed about the matter.
God acted in man's redemption. Man has been bought back by the blood of Christ on the cross. God's action in redemption was ordained even from the fall of man. Promises concerning God's impending blessings upon all the human family were made unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Old Testament prophets spoke often of the Messiah. Paul said, "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born Of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Gal. 4:4). The redemption provided by God is through Jesus Christ. Who Jesus was and what he came to do has such a direct bearing on the Reason For Our Hope we now turn our attention to a study of The Person of Christ.
"Who is Christ?"
The question, "Who is Christ?" has been propounded for almost two thousand years, and is still being asked today. The enemies of Jesus asked, "Who is this that speaks blasphemies?" (Lk. 5:20, 21). The disciples asked, "Who then is this that even the winds and sea obey him?" (Mk. 4:41). Herod inquired, "John I beheaded, who is this about whom I hear such things?" (Lk. 9: 9). When Jesus came into Jerusalem, "All the city was stirred, saying, who is this?" (Matt. 21: 10). Peter correctly answers all the questions when he says, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16).
Claims of Deity
One of the clearest and most forthright claims of deity was made by Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth. From the book of Isaiah -he read, "The Spirit of the Lord, isr upon me, because he anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor . . ." U. 4:18). After reading these and a few following lines from Isaiah, he said, "Today hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears" (v. 20, 21).
In John, chapter five, Jesus says that the Father, John the Baptist, Moses, the scriptures, and the works he did bear witness of him that the Father had sent him. To the Jews Jesus said, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad (Jo. 8:56). He affirmed his prior existence with the Father by saying, "Before Abraham was born, I am" (Jno. 8:58).
Jesus claimed close association with God (Jno. 10: 30), the power to forgive sins (Mk. 2:5), the ability to bestow life (Jno. 4:10, 15), the truth to be taught by Him (Jno. 8:31-32), and to be the one by whom God would judge the world (Jno. 12:48).
The Character of Christ
John R. W. Stott stated that he received a letter from a young man who wrote, "Almighty God had two Sons. Jesus Christ was the first; I am the second" (Basic Christianity, p. 34). The man wrote from a mental hospital. Many people are deluded and their character does not coincide with their claims. But this was not the case with Jesus. His character does correspond with his claims.
Jesus affirmed his sinlessness, (Jno. 8:46). In this the apostle Peter concurs. He speaks of Jesus as "A lamb without blemish or spot. . . Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (I Peter 1: 19; 2:22). John said "in him is no sin" (I Jno. 3: 5).
Seldom do enemies testify to one's character. Yet, listen to those before whom Jesus stood. Pilate said, "I, having examined him before you, found no fault in this man "touching those things whereof ye accuse him" (Lk. 23:14). Herod agreed with this judgment (v. 15). The thief on the cross said, "This man has done nothing wrong" (Lk. 23:41), and the one who betrayed Jesus stated, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood" (Matt. 27:4).
The Resurrection of Jesus
Luke records in Acts 1: 3 that Jesus "showed himself alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing unto them by the space of forty days, and speaking the things concerning the kingdom of God." One of the most convincing testimonies of the resurrection of Christ is the acceptance of the gospel of his resurrection by thousands of his contemporaries. About 3,000 were baptized in one day (Acts 2).
Some of the evidence of the resurrection is as follows: (1) the tomb was empty. (2) The grave clothes were there and apparently undisturbed (Jno. 20:1-10). (3) The Lord was seen by "witnesses that were chosen before of God" (Acts 10:41). Some were, Mary Magdalene (Jno. 20); the women returning from the sepulcher (Mt. 28:9); the ten in the upper room U. 24:36); disciples at the sea of Tiberias (Jno. 21); James (I Cor. 15:7); more than 500 at one time (I Cor. 15); and Saul of Tarsus (I Cor. 15:8). (4) The disciples were charged after the resurrection and ascension. They "turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6). The gospel was preached to all creation (Col. 1:23). Many of them died rather than deny the faith they so dearly held.
In the next article we shall deal with Christ's Work as it relates to the Reason for Our Hope.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 29, pp. 10-11