Dr. John Hartmann

Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God

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The Apostolic Witness of Jesus Resurrection

July 31st, 2011 · No Comments

The Book of Acts tells the story of the Gospel’s spread from Jerusalem to Rome in a period of about 30 years after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to heaven. Luke focuses on the work and witness of the apostles as the foundation for the church and its mission to preach the gospel of salvation in Jesus in all nations.

Before ascending to heaven, Jesus, after His resurrection, appears to the chosen witnesses alive from the dead and commands them to wait in Jerusalem for the promised baptism of the Spirit, in which they would receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. The Holy Spirit baptism came upon them at Pentecost, 10 days after Jesus’ ascension to heaven. They indeed received power for witness, and began boldly to proclaim that Jesus of Nazareth, rejected and condemned by the leaders of the Jewish people, was now risen from the dead, a fact to which they were witnesses.

The apostles, first and foremost, were witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection, and in that witness, laid the foundation for our faith, once and for all time. The apostle Paul expounds this point in 1 Cor 15, where, in summary, he insists that if Christ is not raised from the dead, then the apostles are false witnesses, our faith is worthless, and we are still in our sins, unforgiven, and without hope of eternal life; in fact, we are of all men most to be pitied, if Christ is not raised from the dead.

The truth of the matter is this: Jesus has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who sleep. Paul makes clear that besides the apostles and a few other chosen witnesses, over 500 had seen Him alive from the dead before His ascension to heaven, and that even as he wrote 1 Corinthians (at least 20 years after the Lord’s resurrection) most of those 500 eyewitnesses were still alive and able to testify of what they had seen. Jesus, Who was crucified for sins as a penal substitute Who bore the wrath of God in the place of sinners, is now risen, and has been seated at God’s right hand in heaven, far above all the powers of darkness. He, in His resurrection conquered death, which is the common lot of all men since death entered the world through Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12). Thus, we, because of Jesus’ resurrection, have confidence that God has accepted His sacrificial death as the payment for sin, which provides assurance of forgiveness of sins and hope of eternal life to all who repent and believe in Him for salvation. As Paul says in Romans 5:1-2, we, having been justified by faith, have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and now boast in hope of the glory of God, of being glorified together with Christ, and, in that glorification, receiving an immortal, imperishable body, like unto the Lord’s gloried body (Phil 3:20-21; Col 3:4; 1 John 3:1-2; 1 Cor 15:20-24).

So, what is the proof that the Apostle’s witness concerning Jesus’ resurrection is credible and totally trustworthy? If our whole faith rests on the credibility of their testimony, it is absolutely essential to know that is true. The answer to our question is simply this: that as the apostles bore witness concerning Jesus’ resurrection God confirmed their witness with signs, wonders, miracles, and various gifts of the Spirit wrought through their hands in Jesus’ Name. This established their witness as true, and guarantees that our faith is not in vain, that we, in Jesus, have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, and a sure hope of eternal life; it also means that we are truly freed from the power of sin, so that we may live a sanctified life unto God in the power of the Holy Spirit, and bear fruit unto eternal life.

This study allows us to have a good understanding of the broad layout of the books of the NT, given to us by God as inspired writings that together comprise the “canon” (rule) for our faith, as the people who are in covenant with God through Jesus’ blood. These books may be laid out as follows:

The Gospels: which tell us of the Incarnation, the life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, as well as His commissioning of the apostles to take the gospel to all nations. This lays the first layer of foundation for everything else.

The Book of Acts: important because it provides the historical link between the Gospels and the Epistles written to the churches. We here find the witness of the apostles, the Lord’s confirming of their witness with signs and wonders, the spread of the gospel geographically, the gaining of converts, the establishing of churches in various cities and regions, and the ordaining of Holy Spirit appointed leadership that would have the responsibility of transmitting the apostolic faith to future generations.

The Letters: we here have the letters of Paul (13) and the General Epistles (Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter, 1-2-3 John, Jude). Most of these are written to church communities to remind them of what they had been taught, to instruct them further in the faith, and to correct errors in doctrine and practice. Included here would be 9 of Paul’s letters (Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians) and 6 of the General Epistles (Hebrews, James, 1-2 Peter, 1 John, Jude). Philemon, written by Paul, is a personal letter of appeal to a friend, while 2-3 John are also personal letters that assume a certain church background not entirely clear to us today.

The Revelation: this book of course tells us how the story ends with God’s final judgment of evil and of all men, and the glorious future that awaits the redeemed in a new heaven and new earth.

What should we do in light of all this? Recognize in Jesus a Savior from sin, in Whom we may find forgiveness, a new start, and the hope of eternal life. He came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15), to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:31-32). And if anyone is in Christ there is a new creation in which the old passes away and all things become new in Him. The Scriptures teach that a Day of Judgment is coming in which all will give an account to God and be recompensed in accordance with his or her deeds. It will be like a Great Law Court, in which the books will be opened and all deeds, good and bad, will be brought to light. As for the good deeds, no problem. As for the bad, the wrongs done, the sins committed, there is only one hope for sinners: they must be washed away and forgiven, blotted out, removed from the record. And the Bible teaches there is but one way: the Blood of Jesus cleanses the repentant from all sin. Read here 1 John 1:5-2:2; Rev 7:14; 22:14

Finally, let us commit our lives afresh to Jesus, to live with purpose as those called to two primary things: 1) Image- bearing, and 2) Mission in accordance with the grace-gifts allotted to us by God.

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