Monday, July 16, 2018

A Powerful Fact of the Gospel

     In the book Great Preaching on the Resurrection, Christian theologian W. B. Riley makes an interesting point when he writes:
"[The Old Testament scholar Hermann] Gunkel tells us that they claimed an empty grave for Zeus in Crete. What if they did? What came of it? Who became apostles of that faith? What proof of their position did they present? What movement dominating the centuries did they originate?"1 

     It wasn't until after the apostles saw the risen Christ in the flesh that they turned the world upside down.  They couldn't stop talking about it and telling people what they saw. Take a look at Peter's first sermon in the book of Acts where he  boldly preaches the Gospel to the unbelieving Jews and 3,000 people got saved! Pastor Chuck Swindoll, the founder of Insight for Living and Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, affirms:
Look at [Acts] chapter two, verse 41 . . . . ‘Those who believed’ what Peter said (this is a reference to Peter’s first sermon, which we’ve not taken the time to go into; you’ve read it, and we’ve studied it before); ‘Those who believed’ what Peter said (that’s the Gospel), they believed that Christ died, and was buried, and that Christ rose again from the dead - miraculously and bodily, and was seen by those around Him, and they believed in Jesus Christ with their hearts, and they believed the message, that’s called the Gospel, and the result is they were baptized, and added to the church that day about 3,000.”2

     The power that transformed the apostles was the fact that they saw the resurrected Jesus! Not merely that someone told them about the resurrection of Jesus, but they saw Him! And He wasn't a ghost. Jesus said to the apostles after His resurrection: "Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have" (Luke 24:39). This highlights the fact that the groundless gospel which excludes Christ's resurrection appearances from the gospel is in other words the ghostly gospel! The groundless gospel of the non-buried and never-seen savior is the ghostly gospel! But the risen Christ manifested was the power which enabled the apostles to "turn the world upside down" (Acts 17:6, ESV) and led to the founding of the Christian community. Reginald Fuller writes: 
"We conclude, therefore, that the appearances to Peter and to the Twelve share a common function. In these appearances the Risen One initiates the foundation of the eschatological community: they are 'church-founding appearances'".3 

Similarly, Thiselton writes: 
"Our understanding of the fourth line [of 1 Corinthians 15:3-5], 'He appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve' (v. 5), cannot be isolated from all of these major considerations set forth already on the basis of vv. 3b and 4....Wilckens rightly discusses the issue as one of foundation: 'It was the appearances...which inspired belief...and led to the founding of the primitive community.'"4 

The words of Free Grace theologian William R. Newell are appropriate in conclusion:
"this good news concerning Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and appearing, ‘is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth.' [See Romans 1:16.] There is no fact for a preacher or teacher to hold more consistently in his mind than this.”5 
“Again we repeat that it is of the very first and final importance that the preacher or teacher of the gospel believe in the bottom of his soul that the simple story, Christ died for our sins, was buried, hath been raised from the dead the third day, and was seen, IS THE POWER OF GOD to salvation to every one who rests in it – who believes!6 
“This story of Christ’s dying for our sins, buried, raised, manifested, is the great wire along which runs God’s mighty current of saving power. Beware lest you be putting up some little wire of your own, unconnected with the Divine throne, and therefore non-saving to those to whom you speak.”7 


 1 W. B. Riley, Great Preaching on the Resurrection, Curtis Hutson, Editor (Murfreesboro: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1986), p. 39.

2 Chuck Swindoll, “An Original Snapshot of the First Church, Part 2,” Series: The Great Commission, Insight For Living Ministries (Thursday, June 14, 2018, Moody Radio), (time-stamp: 06:37 minutes - 08:21 minutes).

3 Reginald Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, p. 35.

4 Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 1198, 1202.

5 William R. Newell, Romans: Verse-by-Verse: A Classic Evangelical Commentary, pp. 18-19.

6 Ibid., p. 19, emphasis his.

7 Ibid., p. 21.

Friday, July 6, 2018


     Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, author of the Hebrew-Greek Keyword Study Bible and many other books, has written an excellent commentary on 1 Corinthians 15 which I came across while doing some research for one of my articles. The book is titled Conquering the Fear of Death in View of the Empty Tomb
     By the way, in case any of you are wondering, Zodhiates affirms that the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 includes the four facts of Christ's atoning death, His burial, His resurrection on the third day, and the fact that He was seen afterwards by His disciples. 
     There are so many great quotes in this book! I wrote some of them down, but there are others too which I just did not have the time to write down. The book is massive. If I remember correctly, it's over 800 pages - and this is just commentary on 1 Corinthians 15! Here's what Dr. Zodhiates says in a chapter of the book titled: 


"He was buried . . . (I Cor. 15:4a)."

     "Here, then, a few sorrowful friends laid the mangled body of Jesus, consigning to a sepulcher the One whom they had hoped to see on a throne. Oh, the depth of the Saviour's humiliation! Here we witness the Prince of life, who holds in His hand the keys of hell and of death, and in whom we all 'live, and move, and have our being,' brought to the dust of death in a borrowed grave. Yet with what loving reverence was He attended and His body prepared for burial. Surely the decent solemnities of a funeral are not displeasing to God. There is a respect due to the body, especially that of a Christian as the temple wherein God has been served and honored. It is designed to be rebuilt in another world, and it ought not to be cast away like common dust in this one. 
     Since Christ's body was to be raised to life in three days, why was it necessary that it be committed to the grave at all? Why could it not have remained in the home of Joseph of Arimathea as safely as in his sepulcher? The reason is stated by Paul: 'He was buried, and . . . he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.' The phrase 'according to the scriptures' applies both to the burial and to the resurrection. Christ was buried in this manner so that the prophecies concerning Him as the Messiah should be fulfilled. So minute and precious were these prophecies that they not only foretold His incarnation, His passion, and the glorious resurrection that was to follow, but also His burial and the very mode and circumstance of it. His burial in the heart of the earth was prefigured by Jonah's enforced stay for three days and three nights inside the great fish; and Isaiah had expressly declared concerning Him, that He 'made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death' (Isa. 53:9).
     Under the circumstances, it seemed humanly impossible for these prophecies concerning Christ's burial to be fulfilled. The Roman law, under which the Savior was put to death, allowed no interment to the bodies of those who died on the cross; and lest any pitying hand should take their bodies from the tree and cover them with earth, a guard was usually stationed around them for several days.
     We are accordingly told by Matthew that the centurion, and those that were with him, still remained on the hill of Calvary, watching Jesus, after He had given up the ghost (Matt. 27:50-56). And even if these difficulties could be surmounted, there was another obstacle to be removed before He could have an honorable burial. The Jews had a public burial place for all who died as criminals, and if any interment were allowed to Jesus by the Romans, this pit appeared to be the only grave in which His countrymen would allow Him to rest.
     But what are difficulties and obstacles to God? He caused the very people who crucified His Son to prepare the way for the fulfillment of the prophecies that proved His deity and condemned their unbelief. The Jewish law required that malefactors should be buried on the day of their execution; and to prevent their city from being ceremonially unclean on the succeeding sabbath, certain men besought Pilate that the sufferings of the dying criminals might be ended and their bodies taken down. Pilate granted their request, and no sooner was it granted than the rich and honorable Joseph of Arimathea came forward to rescue the body of Christ from the hands of His enemies and to lay Him in his own new tomb. What infinite wisdom foretold these details; what infinite power fulfilled them! A mighty God never lacks means and instruments to fulfill His purposes. He often passes by those whom we might expect to be employed in His service and singles out others who will perform His will with the greatest glory to Himself."1


1 Zodhiates, Conquering the Fear of Death in View of the Empty Tomb (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), pp. 47-49.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A Good Response to Zane Hodges on Bible Translation

     Recently I came across a statement by the late Zane C. Hodges from a July 1964 Bibliotheca Sacra article in which he's reviewing William F. Beck's New Testament in the Language of Today.[1] In the review, Hodges writes,
"If in Solomon's day it could be affirmed that 'of making many books there is no end,' in our own day it might equally be said that of making many translations there is no end. Indeed, the proliferation of English versions of the Bible in modern times is so bewildering that each additional one ought to be required to furnish compelling justification for its existence."[2]

     While there is, of course, a point to be made there; in response to Hodges I would quote a statement from the NIV's Committee on Bible Translation from June 1978 (revised August 1983), when they say: "There is a sense in which the work of translation is never wholly finished. This applies to all great literature and uniquely so to the Bible."[3]


[1] This is a Lutheran translation of the Bible called The Holy Bible: An American Translation.

[2] Bibliotheca Sacra 121 (July 1964), pp. 268-269.

[3] From the Preface to The Holy Bible, New International Version (Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1973, 1978, 1984).