“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.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-9 (ESV)
If you are wrestling with doubt, wondering if Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection for your / our sins was a real event, I want you to look closely at what Paul has written here. Paul assures us “as of first importance” that Jesus really did die on the cross and return on the third day as foretold in the Old Testament and promised by Christ Himself. But now… Paul offers proof.
Jesus appeared to Peter and the disciples. OK… but I want you to look at verse 6:
“Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive.”
In other words, at the time Paul was still writing this letter to the church at Corinth, there were still hundreds – hundreds – of eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ walking this earth. There was proof aplenty that Christ is risen from the dead, just as He promised! He’s saying, “Don’t just take my word for it. There are plenty of people who will testify to what I am telling you!”
Doubt is something we all deal with at one time or another, on one level or another. When life gets tough and troubles darken our door, we can find ourselves asking, “Where are you, God?” “Why are you allowing this?” “I can’t handle this – why are you not answering my prayers?”
If you find yourself questioning the veracity of God’s Word, consider this: Jesus at the Cross is the center of all of Scripture. It records the most astounding – and hard to believe – event that has ever occurred on Earth. And Paul – the Apostle formerly known as Saul, learned Pharisee who hunted down Christians (even holding the coats of Stephen’s killers), who had his own astounding face-to-face with the Risen Christ and pirouetted the world’s most amazing 180 degree life turn – Paul is not asking us to take him at his word.
Over five hundred eyewitnesses. Most of them still alive. Don’t just believe me… ask them!
And if the greatest, most outlandish claim of Scripture is true (and Paul is going to lengths to prove to the reader that it is), then why would we not believe the rest of the Bible? Why would we not trust God and take Him at His Word?
“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14, ESV). Hard to believe Paul would turn his life – his entire belief system – entirely around and face almost certain (and painful) death. Consider what Paul went through for the sake of the Gospel:
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:23-28, ESV).
Who would go to these lengths to perpetuate a lie? There must be something to the claims Paul – and the other Scripture writers – are making. And, indeed, there is. It is the fact that the Bible – 66 books penned by some forty writers over the course of about 1500 years in three different languages, all while holding remarkable continuity – is the Inspired Word of God, trustworthy and true. Just look at the intricacy of John’s gospel. Do you really think a simple, uneducated fisherman would have been able to write it? Well… with God, nothing is impossible!
Don’t just take my word for it…