God, Heresy, And Modern-Day Shibboleths By Allan Turner

God, Heresy, And Modern-Day Shibboleths
By Allan Turner
It is impossible to make distinctions between God, His essence, and His attributes. “I AM THAT I AM” or “He who is” (Exodus 3:14) exists as a self-existent (Romans 1:23; I Timothy 6:16; John 5:26), eternal (Deuteronomy 33:27), infinite (Psalm 139:7-10; Isaiah 46:9,10; Jeremiah 32:27), immutable (Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17) Spirit (John 4:24). If He ceased to be any of these, He could not be God. In other words, God's essence (i.e., that which makes Him what He is) could not be anything other than what it is; and that which makes Him what He is, of course, is His attributes. Therefore, it is never correct to think of God apart from His essence or attributes. In fact, God does not have an essence; He is His essence, and He does not have attributes; He is His attributes.
For example, the Bible tells us that God is love (I John 4:8,16). It informs us that God's love is great (Ephesians 2:4), eternal (Jeremiah 31:3; Ephesians 1:4,5),infinite (Ephesians 3:18,19), and dependable (Romans 8:35-39). Nevertheless, what the Bible does not say about the essence or nature of God is just as important as what it does say. Although the Bible teaches that God is His attributes and characteristics, it does not teach that any particular attribute of God is God. In other words, the Bible is not saying, and has never said, that “Love is God.” On the contrary, what the Bible teaches is that “God is love” (I John 4:8,16). Clearly, then, the Bible instructs us that God is His attributes and characteristics. Anyone who believes the Bible, believes this. Consequently, God is, has been, and always will be Who and What He is at this exact moment.
Even so, there are those who argue that the attributes of God can be stripped from Him. In other words, some are saying that God's attributes can be separated from His essence, either in part or wholly. One such individual had this to say: This difference in the essence of God and the attributes of God has been noted, not just by denominational writers, but by some brethren as well. Brother Roy H. Lanier, Sr. wrote, “While the attributes of God are `distinguishing characteristics of the divine nature,' we must be careful to view them as something apart from the essence of that divine nature. To view the sum of the attributes as God is to deny the personality of God.” But unfortunately we have some brethren doing exactly that. One has written, “God is His characteristics and attributes.” (Ronny Milliner, “Fullness,” Faith And Facts Quarterly, October, 1991, p. 29).
There is no citation given for brother Lanier's statement, but it is taken from page 24 of his book on God, entitled The Timeless Trinity. I have read this book and have found it quite useful. However, I have not always agreed with brother Lanier's conclusions, and in this instance, I, once again, disagree with him. Ontologically (i.e., by reason of His Being), “I AM THAT I AM” or “He who is” (Exodus 3:14) cannot be anything other than what He is. He is, as we have shown from Scripture, self-existent, eternal, infinite, and immutable, and He cannot be anything less. Surely, this truth is part of what God was saying about Himself when He said, “I AM THAT I AM.” If not, why not?
Incidentally, brother Lanier believes that Jesus is the “divine-human” or “God-man,” who, while here on earth, “retained all the attributes of Deity” (The Timeless Trinity, p. 268). And on page 242, he said, Jesus “could not cease to possess the essential attributes of God, for he is immutable.” In other words, brother Lanier, unlike the one who quotes him, does not believe that the “divine nature” can be divested of the “attributes of Deity.”  
When Milliner writes: “But unfortunately we have some brethren doing exactly that. One has written, ‘God is His characteristics and attributes,’” I am resonably sure he is quoting me. I have written, and do believe, that God is His attributes and characteristics. Therefore, I happily plead guilty. Nevertheless, what I have not said is just as important as what I have said. In other words, I have not said, and I do not believe, that any particular attribute of God is God. For example, I am not saying, and have never said, that “Love is God.” What I believe and teach is that “God is love” (I John 4:8,16). This is clearly what the Bible teaches on this subject and anyone who believes the Bible, believes this. How is it, then, that some have the unmitigated gall to criticize those of us who believe and teach this?
It ought to be obvious that some among us no longer believe what the Bible teaches. These make fun of the “God-man” doctrine of incarnation. They scoff and call “silly” the idea that Jesus was “100% deity and 100% human.” They teach that the Logos, upon coming to earth, divested Himself of His “divinity” and “godhood,” and became “a man, just a man,” “an ordinary man just like you and me.” They say that Jesus, like every other man, “lusted” while here on this earth and, like every other man, faced death fearing there may not be a God or life after death.
When this blatant heresy first surfaced, I thought it to be a shocking, but small, digression among conservative churches of Christ. Frankly, I thought the reaction to a doctrine so blatantly heretical would be so immediate and overwhelmingly unfavorable that, once it was openly exposed, these false teachers would either be forced to repent or suffer the consequences of being marked as false teachers. Unfortunately, in many cases, the non-existent or, when it did come, slow, seemingly reluctant reaction of many to this false teaching has, in my opinion, emboldened these heretics to obscure their error by exploiting the false idea that the whole controversy over the deity of Jesus is nothing but a “preacher squabble,” which has, in turn, been aggravated by the esoteric character of semantics and the alleged mean, nasty, and cantankerous nature of certain personalities.
These unsubstantiated charges are, of course, an obvious smoke screen, and the Bible teaches us to expect nothing less (cf. Colossians 2:8; I Timothy 6:20; Ephesians 4:14; II Corinthians 2:11; II Timothy 3:1-9, II Peter 2:1-22, etc.). The heresy these false teachers preach and teach was accurately identified from the very beginning of this controversy. These teachers have not been misrepresented or misquoted. Their words have not been taken out of context, as their defenders allege. In fact, it is the very context of their writing and preaching that has been used to expose them. The evidence has been presented, and it is plain, clear, and incontrovertible. Nevertheless,  wrongly influenced by the bombast, ridicule, and ad hominem diatribes of the false teachers, the jury, in some places, has been slow in returning its verdict.
In the meantime, the doctrine of these heretics continues to be defended by so-called “faithful” brethren. Others, who would not themselves take this heretical position, continue to malign and wag their tongues at those who have exposed this damnable doctrine. Others, still, seem to be sitting on the sidelines, hoping the whole thing will blow over without anybody ever really noticing. These are heard to say, “The last thing we need is another controversy,” or “If we can't invoke Romans 14 in our differences, then we [we, means conservative churches of Christ—at] are going to divide and splinter into a thousand different groups.”
These last two groups, at least in part, are made up of those who worship at the totem of Self. These accentuate the positive and have learned to avoid the negative at all cost, and they have no love for “Mister In-between.” Instead of contending “earnestly for the faith which was once and for all delievered to the saints” (Jude 3), which takes guts, these are much more comfortable with a “feel good about yourself” gospel of Self-Love, which, not just incidentally, is a gospel that excites the minds and tickles the ears of a lost and dying world. Do not misunderstand what I am saying. These folks still continue to utter the shibboleths of a bygone era, but, in truth, they no longer have the stomachs for fighting the good fight of faith. A prime example of this attitude, whether consciously or unconsciously, is to be found in expressions like the following, which was taken from a “Why We Aren't Growing” article in a church bulletin: Desire For a Fight. One of the main reasons we have seen a decline in conversions is that we are constantly looking for fights among ourselves. No sooner has one “issue” been defeated (with no small losses) than we are busy looking around for the next big “issue.” From institutionalism to Grace-Fellowship—Calvinism to Deity-Humanity of Christ we eagerly wade into our necks in the blood of sometimes innocent Christians (i.e. babes in Christ). This is not to say that the truth should not be defended, but I think a party spirit prevails among God's people at this time.
Notice the shibboleth: “This is not to say that the truth should not be defended.” But, on the other hand, if one decides to defend the truth on any of the issues this brother mentions, he is already branded a spiritual gunslinger with an itchy trigger finger.
Brethren, we are drifting and do not even seem to be aware of just how far we are from shore. In order to defend the truth, one must be willing to stand againstfalsehood. We must not give lip-service to defending the truth and then cowardly shoot in the back those who believe and act upon what we say—this would be unconscionable!

"THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS" Chapter Five by Mark Copeland

OBJECTIVES IN STUDYING THE CHAPTER 1) To see the importance of walking in love, light, and wisdom 2) To understand the responsibilities wives and husbands have toward each other 3) To appreciate the high esteem and great love the Lord has for His church SUMMARY Paul continues to exhort Christians to walk in a manner worthy of their calling (cf. 4:1). Having described the need to walk in unity and in purity, he now urges them to imitate God and "walk in love" with Christ as their example. Such love requires that all forms of immorality and filthy speech not even be named among them. Since the wrath of God is to come upon the sons of disobedience, Christians must not be deceived by nor partake with those who engage in such evil deeds (1-6). Having passed from darkness to light in coming to Christ, we should also "walk as children of light". This includes producing the fruit of the Spirit such as goodness, righteousness and truth, thereby demonstrating what is acceptable to the Lord. We cannot participate in the shameful works of darkness, but instead must expose them. This we do by letting Christ's light shine in us, for such light will naturally make the darkness manifest by way of contrast (7-14). As the days are evil and the time is short, Christians must "walk as wise" and make the best use of their time. This requires an understanding of the Lord's will. Christians are also to be filled with the Spirit, as evidenced by singing together, praying with thanksgiving, and submitting to one another in the fear of God (15-21). The chapter ends with what we might describe as a call to "walk in matrimonial harmony". Wives are exhorted to respect their husbands, submitting to them as to the Lord. Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and even as they love their own bodies. In the course of such instructions Paul takes the opportunity to reveal the Lord's desire to present to Himself a glorious church, holy and without blemish, which is why He gave Himself for it (22-33). OUTLINE I. A CALL TO WALK IN LOVE (1-7) A. AS CHRIST LOVED US (1-2) 1. Be followers of God as dear children (1) 2. Walk in love as Christ loved us (2) a. Who gave Himself for us b. As a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God B. NOT IN IMMORALITY AND WORLDLINESS (3-7) 1. Things which should not even be named among saints (3-4) a. Fornication b. All uncleanness c. Covetousness d. Filthiness e. Foolish talking f. Coarse jesting -- Rather, giving of thanks 2. For such have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (5) a. No fornicator or unclean person b. No covetous man, who is an idolater 3. Upon sons of disobedience will come the wrath of God (6-7) a. So don't let anyone deceive you with empty words b. Do not be partakers with them II. A CALL TO WALK AS CHILDREN OF LIGHT (7-14) A. AS THOSE WHO ARE NOW LIGHT IN THE LORD (7-10) 1. Though once darkness, they are now light in the Lord (7a) 2. They should walk as children of light (7b-10) a. Bearing the fruit of the Spirit (or light) in all goodness, righteousness and truth b. Proving what is acceptable to the Lord B. HAVING NO FELLOWSHIP WITH WORKS OF DARKNESS (11-14) 1. Instead expose them (11-12) a. For they are unfruitful b. It is even shameful to even speak of those things done in secret 2. Which shall be exposed (13-14) a. When made manifest by the light b. Thus we should be the light which Christ gives us III. A CALL TO WALK AS WISE (15-21) A. WALKING CIRCUMSPECTLY (15-17) 1. Not as fools but as wise (15) 2. Redeeming the time, for the days are evil (16) 3. Not as unwise, but understanding the will of the Lord (17) B. FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT, NOT WINE (18-21) 1. Singing (19) a. Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs b. Making melody in your heart to the Lord 2. Giving thanks (20) a. Always for all things b. To God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ 3. Submitting to one another in the fear of God (21) IV. A CALL TO WALK IN MATRIMONIAL HARMONY (22-33) A. DUTIES OF WIVES (22-24) 1. Submit to their own husbands, as to the Lord (22-23) a. For the husband is the head of the wife b. Even as Christ is the head of the church and the Savior of the Body 2. Be subject to their husbands in everything, just as the church is subject to Christ (24) B. DUTIES OF HUSBANDS (25-32) 1. Love their wives, as Christ loved the church (25-27) a. He gave Himself for it b. This He did that He might: 1) Sanctify and cleanse the church through the washing of water by the word 2) Present it to Himself a glorious church a) Having no spot or wrinkle b) Holy and without blemish 2. Love their wives as their own bodies (28-32) a. For he who loves his wife loves himself b. For no one hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it 1) Even as the Lord does His church 2) For we are members of His body c. For in marriage man and woman become one, just as with Christ and His church C. SUMMARY OF DUTIES (33) 1. Let each man love his wife as himself (33a) 2. Let the wife respect her husband (33b) REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE CHAPTER 1) What are the main points of this chapter? - A call to walk in love (1-7) - A call to walk as children of light (8-14) - A call to walk as wise (15-21) - A call to walk in matrimonial harmony (22-33) 2) What are Christians to be? (1) - Followers of God as dear children 3) How are we to walk (live)? (2) - In love, even as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us 4) What things are not fitting for saints? (3-4) - Fornication - All uncleanness - Covetousness - Filthiness - Foolish talking - Coarse jesting 5) What is fitting for saints? (4) - The giving of thanks 6) Who has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God? (5) - No fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous person 7) Of what is a covetous person guilty? (5) - Idolatry 8) What is to come upon the sons of disobedience? (6) - The wrath of God 9) What are we now in the Lord? How then should we walk? (8-10) - Light in the Lord - As children of light, proving what is acceptable to the Lord 10) What is the fruit of the Spirit (light)? (9) - Goodness, righteousness, and truth 11) What are Christians to do regarding unfruitful works of darkness? (11) - Have no fellowship with them - Expose them 12) How else are Christians to live? Why? (15-16) - Circumspectly, as wise, redeeming the time - Because the days are evil 13) What other responsibilities do we have as Christians? (17-18) - To understand the will of the Lord - To be filled with the Spirit 14) What is either the means or the evidence of one filled with the Spirit? (19-21) - Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs - Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord - Giving thanks for all things to God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ - Submitting to one another in the fear of God 15) What are the responsibilities of wives toward their husbands? (22-24) - To submit and be subject to their husbands, as to the Lord 16) What is revealed about the relation of Christ to His church? (23) - He is the head of the church and the Savior of the body 17) What are the responsibilities of husbands toward their wives? (25-31) - To love their wives as Christ loved the church - To nourish and cherish their wives, as they do their own bodies 18) Why did Jesus love and give Himself for the church? (25-27) - That He might sanctify and cleanse the church - That He might present it to Himself a glorious church - That it might be holy and without blemish 19) What is Paul's summation regarding marital responsibilities? (33) - A husband is to love his wife as himself - A wife is to respect her husband

"THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS" Chapter Four by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE EPHESIANS"

                              Chapter Four


1) To see the importance of walking in unity and purity

2) To appreciate the gifts Christ has given the church for our 
   edification, and the need for each one to do their share


Beginning with this chapter and proceeding through the rest of the
epistle, Paul exhorts the Ephesians to walk in a manner worthy of their
calling.  Having described earlier how Jesus attained unity between Jew
and Gentile through His death on the cross, Paul now pleads with them 
to "walk in unity".  With humility, gentleness, longsuffering, 
forbearance and love, they should be diligent to maintain the unity of 
the Spirit in the bond of peace.  The unity of the Spirit is then 
defined as consisting of one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one 
faith, one baptism and one God (1-6).

Perhaps as motivation, Paul reminds them of the gracious gifts Christ 
gave His church following His ascension to heaven.  Such gifts included
the offices of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, 
which are designed to equip the saints for ministry and bring the body 
of Christ to maturity.  In this way, it should not be misled by false 
doctrine, but instead by speaking the truth in love should grow in 
Christ as each member does it share (7-16).

The last half of this chapter addresses the need to "walk in purity".
Contrasting how they once walked as Gentiles in licentiousness and 
greediness, they are reminded of the truth which is in Jesus.  This 
truth calls upon them to put off the old man with its deceitful lusts,
to be renewed in the spirit of their mind, and to put on the new man 
that is created in righteousness and holiness.  Therefore they are 
called upon to put away lying, anger, theft, and all forms of evil 
speaking, lest they grieve the Holy Spirit by whom they were sealed for
the day of redemption.  Instead, they are to speak with truth and 
grace, work hard to help those in need, and be kind, tender-hearted, 
and forgiving just as God has forgiven them in Christ (17-32).



      1. To walk worthy of our calling (1)
      2. With the proper attitudes (2-3)
         a. Lowliness and gentleness
         b. Longsuffering, bearing with one another in love
         c. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of
      3. The unity of the Spirit defined (4-6)
         a. One body
         b. One Spirit
         c. One hope of your calling
         d. One Lord
         e. One faith
         f. One baptism
         g. One God and Father of all

      1. For to each one grace was given as measured out by Christ
         a. As foretold in Scripture
         b. Having ascended far above all the heavens to fill all
      2. Gifts Christ gave to His church (11)
         a. Apostles
         b. Prophets
         c. Evangelists
         d. Pastors
         e. Teachers
      3. Purpose of such gifts (12-16)
         a. Equipping the saints for the work of ministry
         b. Edifying the body of Christ, till we all come to:
            1) The unity of the faith
            2) The knowledge of the Son of God
            3) A perfect man
            4) The measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ
         c. That we might no longer be children...
            1) Tossed about by every wind of doctrine
            2) Tricked by the cunning craftiness of those who lie in
               wait to deceive
         d. That we speak the truth in love...
            1) So we may grow up in all things into Christ, the head
            2) To cause growth of the body for the edifying of itself
               in love
               a) As we are joined and knit together by what each joint
               b) As every part does its effective work in doing its


      1. Who walk in the futility of their mind (17-18)
         a. With understanding darkened, being alienated from the life
            of God
         b. With ignorance, because of the hardening of their heart
      2. Who have given themselves over to licentiousness (19)
         a. Being past feeling
         b. To work all uncleanness with greediness

      1. Having heard and been taught by Him, and the truth which is in
         Him (20-24)
         a. To put off the old man which grows corrupt in its deceitful
         b. To be renewed in the spirit of one's mind
         c. To put on the new man which was created according to God in
            righteousness and holiness
      2. Therefore putting away things of the old man (25-31)
         a. Such as lying, instead speaking truth
         b. Such as anger, giving place to the devil
         c. Such as stealing, instead working to give to those in need
         d. Such as corrupt speech, instead speaking with grace to
            edify those who hear
         e. Such as grieving the Holy Spirit, by whom we were sealed
            for the day of redemption
         f. Such as all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil 
            speaking, all malice
      3. Instead be kind to one another (32)
         a. Tender-hearted, forgiving
         b. Just as God in Christ forgave us


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - A call to walk in unity (1-16)
   - A call to walk in purity (17-32)

2) How is the Christian to walk? (1)
   - In a manner worthy of our calling

3) What attitudes are consistent with the Christian walk? (2-3)
   - Lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, bearing with one another in
   - Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

4) What seven facets make up the unity of the Spirit? (4-6)
   - One body, one Spirit, one hope of our calling, one Lord, one 
     faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all

5) What gracious gifts has been given by Christ to His church? (7-11)
   - That which enabled some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists,
     pastors and teachers

6) What is the purpose of such gifts or functions? (12-14)
   - To equip the saints for service
   - To edify the body of Christ
   - To help all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of
     the Son of God
   - To help all mature and no longer be children, troubled by false

7) As we speak the truth in love, what are we to be doing?  What 
   assists us in this? (15-16)
   - Growing up in all things in Christ
   - Our connection to Christ as the head, and the effective working of
     every member doing its part

8) How should we no longer walk? (17)
   - As the rest of the Gentiles

9) How are those in the world walking? Why? (17-19)
   - In the futility of their mind and being past feeling, they are
     given to licentiousness, uncleanness and greediness
   - Their understanding is darkened, being alienated from God because
     of the ignorance in them due to the hardness of their heart

10) In contrast, what truth have we learned from Christ? (20-24)
   - To put off the old man which grows corrupt according to its
     deceitful lusts
   - To be renewed in the spirit of our minds
   - To put on the new man that was created by God in righteousness and
     true holiness

11) What sort of things are we to therefore put away? (25-32)
   - Lying, anger, theft, corrupt and evil speech, bitterness, wrath

12) What sort of things should we be doing instead? (25-32)
   - Speaking with truth and grace, working to help those in need,
     being kind, tender-hearted, forgiving others as God in Christ
     forgave us
13) Why should we be concerned about doing such things? (30)
   - Lest we grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom we were sealed for the day
     of redemption

Allah vs. the God of the Bible by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Allah vs. the God of the Bible

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

An honest and objective reading of both the Quran and the Bible reveals a significant clash between the two both in terms of how to conceptualize God, as well as in their respective depictions of the behavior of deity. Allah says and does things that the God of the Bible did not and would not say or do. The Quran’s representation of the sovereignty of God (like Calvinism) contradicts the character of God by attributing actions to Him that are unlike deity.
For example, the Quran repeatedly represents God, on the occasion of the creation of Adam, requiring the angels/djinn to bow down and worship this first human. All do so with the exception of Iblis (i.e., Satan), who refuses to do so on the grounds that Adam was a mere mortal:
Verily We created man of potter’s clay of black mud altered, and the Jinn did We create aforetime of essential fire. And (remember) when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am creating a mortal out of potter’s clay of black mud altered, so, when I have made him and have breathed into him of My spirit, do ye fall down, prostrating yourselves unto him. So the angels fell prostrate, all of them together save Iblis. He refused to be among the prostrate. He said: O Iblis! What aileth thee that thou art not among the prostrate? He said: Why should I prostrate myself unto a mortal whom Thou hast created out of potter’s clay of black mud altered? He said: Then go thou forth from hence, for verily thou art outcast. And lo! the curse shall be upon thee till the Day of Judgement (Surah 15:26-35, emp. added; cf. 2:34; 7:11-12; 17:61; 18:51; 20:116; 38:72-78).
This characterization of deity is completely unacceptable. This one incident alone illustrates that Allah is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible simply would not do what the Quran says He did. Numerous Bible verses convey the complete impropriety—even blasphemy—that the worship of a mere human constitutes. Humans are forbidden to worship other humans (Acts 10:25-26; 14:14-15). Humans are forbidden to worship angels (Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9). And, most certainly, angels are not to worship mere humans. The Law of Moses declared that worship is to be directed to God (Deuteronomy 6:13; 10:20). When Satan tempted Jesus, and Satan urged Jesus to worship him, Jesus quoted the deuteronomic declaration from the Law of Moses, and then added His own divine commentary: “and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10, emp. added). No one, and no thing, is the rightful object of worship—except deity!
Interestingly enough, Satan’s reasoning as reported in the Quran was actually biblical and right. Satan recognized that not only should angels not worship humans, but in view of his own angelic condition, Adam occupied a status that was beneath his own accelerated, celestial existence—a fact affirmed by the Bible: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:4-5; cf. Hebrews 2:9). The Quranic depiction of God ordering Iblis/Satan to worship Adam is a serious breach of divine propriety and a further indication of the Quran’s conflict with the Bible. [Once again, the Quran appears to have been influenced by Jewish sources, since the Talmudists also represent the angels as bestowing special attention and honor on Adam (Sanhedrin 29; Midrash Rabbah on Genesis, paragraph 8)].

The Value of Human Suffering by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


The Value of Human Suffering

by Wayne Jackson, M.A.

It has been said that there is no greater education than matriculating through the University of Hard Knocks. One thing is certain; many who have passed through the crucible of suffering will acknowledge that they have found themselves infinitely better for the experience—bitter though it may have been. Robert Browning Hamilton expressed this thought so wonderfully in verse:
I walked a mile with Pleasure
She chatted all the way,
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne’er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me!
Atheism, of course, alleges that the problem of human suffering represents one of the more formidable arguments against the existence of a powerful and loving God. It is not my intention to respond to that baseless argument here; I have addressed it elsewhere in detail (see Jackson, 1983). At this point, it will suffice simply to say at that God has, as an expression of His love (1 John 4:8), granted mankind free will (Joshua 24:15; cf. Isaiah 7:15). That free will enables human beings to make their own choices. Foolish choices can have devastating consequences (e.g., suffering). Thus, the responsibility for unwise choices is man’s, not God’s. The problem of human suffering is not irreconcilable with the love of a benevolent Creator. In this article, we will limit our discussion to the benefits that suffering can provide—if we are wise enough to learn the lessons.
First, suffering highlights the fact that we are frail human beings; that is to say, we are not God. Some, however, have no greater ambition than to be their own God. They are “autotheists”—self-gods. They imagine that they are accountable to no one higher than themselves. To borrow the words of the infidel poet, William Ernest Henley, they are the masters of their fate, and the captains of their souls! These rebels submit to no law save the self-imposed law of their own arrogant minds. But when we humans suffer, we are forced to focus upon our own weakness. There is no remedy within us (see Job 6:13). It is hard to be haughty when you are hurting. Pain can be humbling; it can slap smart-aleckness out of us, and open our hearts to greater vistas.
Second, suffering can draw our interests toward the true God. When one is in a state of anguish that offers little respite, the natural inclination is to turn toward a higher source for help. Only a deliberate and forced stubbornness can quench that urge. When we are hurting, the “God of all comfort” (2 Corinthians 1:3) is waiting to help. Joe, a personal acquaintance of this writer, was taught the gospel of Christ and happily embraced it, being united with the Lord in baptism (Romans 6:3ff.). For a while, this likable gentleman in his mid-forties struggled to remain faithful against the powerful, negative influences of a family that had zero interest in spiritual matters. Finally, he drifted away from conscientious service. Then, Joe suffered a severe heart attack. He hastened back to the Savior and maintained a contented fidelity until, some months later, his spirit slipped quietly away into eternity. Suffering can get our attention! David once wrote: “In my distress I called upon Jehovah, and cried unto my God” (Psalm 18:6).
Third, suffering can assist us in seeing sin in all of its hideous gruesomeness. The Bible clearly teaches that this planet has been heir to suffering as a consequence of man’s sin. This principle is set forth clearly by Paul in his letter to the Roman saints. He affirmed that “through one man [Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, so that death passed to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). At the beginning of human history, sin, in a manner of speaking, was “crouching at the door” (see Genesis 4:7); when grandmother Eve (and subsequently her husband) opened that door, horrible effects were allowed to descend upon their offspring (Genesis 3:22). And so death—with all its attendant evils—entered the human environment as a result of man’s rebellion against his Creator. When we suffer, it ought to be a sober reminder of how terrible sin is. While we cannot escape the physical consequences of sin’s high price, we can refresh our souls in divine forgiveness. When that is done, life becomes immeasurably easier.
Fourth, suffering aids us in seeing the real worth of things. When one passes through the experience of intense suffering, and perhaps comes to the threshold of death, the entire world can take on new meaning. The singing of the birds is more vivid than it ever has been. A fresh spring day makes the soul ecstatic. Family and friends take on a new preciousness. Christopher Reeve, who starred as “Superman” in the movies, was involved in a life-threatening accident, and discovered that in real life he was not as invincible as the character he portrayed. In recent interviews, Mr. Reeve commented that since being paralyzed, he has discovered a new zest for life. Indeed, suffering can provide a sharper vision of life’s priorities. As the poet John Dryden expressed it: “We, by our suff’rings, learn to prize our bliss” (Astraea Redux). He that hath an ear, let him hear what suffering whispers to the soul.
Fifth, suffering prepares us to be compassionate to others. There is an old adage that says, “Do not judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” I suggest another proverb: “One cannot comfort effectively until he has lain in the bed of suffering.” That may be a bit of an overstatement, but it contains a grain of truth. In the second chapter of Hebrews, the writer effectively argued that Jesus Christ, as our High Priest, is qualified to “succor” (ASV) or “aid” (NASV) those who are tempted. How is that so? Hear him: “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18, NKJV). The song lyric, “Are you weary? Are you heavyhearted? Tell it to Jesus; tell it to Jesus,” is wonderfully meaningful in light of this passage. It has been said that the difference between “sympathy” (from the Greek syn—with, and pathos—feeling) and “empathy” (en—in, and pathos) is that in the former instance one “feels with” (i.e., has feelings of tenderness for) those who suffer, whereas in “empathy” one almost is able to “get inside” the friend who suffers—because the one doing the comforting has been there!
Sixth, suffering sharpens our awareness that this Earth is not a permanent home. Peter sought to encourage early Christians (who were being persecuted) not to despair, by reminding them that they were but “sojourners and pilgrims” upon this Earth (1 Peter 2:11). The ancient patriarchs “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” and so they looked for “a better country, that is a heavenly [one]” (Hebrews 11:13-16). Paul reminded us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward” (Romans 8:18). It is not the will of God that men live upon this evil-plagued planet forever. We never will be “at home” until we are with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), and suffering helps make us “home sick.” Henry Ward Beecher once said: “God washes the eyes by tears until they can behold the invisible land where tears shall come no more.”
Seventh, suffering enhances our ability to pray. Praying is an instinctive human response to severe hardship. But effective prayer is a learned exercise. On a certain occasion during His ministry, Jesus was praying. After He had finished, one of the disciples requested of Him: “Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). These Hebrew disciples had been praying all their lives; yet, they observed something in the intensity of Jesus’ prayers that sent them “back to school.” With Calvary ever looming before Him, Christ plumbed the depths of prayer. Note the following: “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground” (Luke 22:44). A song suggests: “Pray when you’re happy; pray when in sorrow.” One should pray frequently, and in all moods; under the burden of suffering, however, one will learn how to pray as he never has prayed before.
Eighth, suffering tempers the soul and helps prepare it for eternity. Peter wrote:
[N]ow for a little while, if necessary, ye have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Just as precious metals are purified by the heat of fire, so life’s trials in general, and suffering for Christ in particular, build strength into the soul. Character does not happen by accident; rather, it is built! Out of the fires of suffering, the human spirit may emerge as precious as gold and as strong as steel.
Ninth, suffering nurtures the noblest virtues of which mankind is capable. Reflect for a moment upon the quality of courage. Civilizations universally perceive “courage” to be one of the prime traits of humanity, and, by way of contrast, cowardice is considered to be utterly reprehensible. Courage may be defined as the ability to act rationally in the face of fear. If, however, the human family were immune to hardship, danger, suffering, etc., there could be no “facing” it, hence, no courage. When we sit down to a delicious dinner with friends and loved ones on a balmy autumn evening, no courage is needed. Courage arises in the presence of danger. There are certain qualities that we simply cannot possess in the absence of hardship. Ralph Sockman wrote: “Without danger there would be no adventure. Without friction our cars would not start and our spirits would not soar. Without tears, eyes would not shine with the richest expressions” (1961, p. 66). And what of “patience”? John Chrysostom (347-407), one of the most influential figures among the “church fathers” of the post-apostolic period, described patience as “the mother of piety, fruit that never withers, a fortress that is never taken, a harbour that knows no storms” (as quoted in Barclay, 1974, p. 145). But could there ever be “patience” in the absence of difficulty?
Tenth, suffering separates the superficial from the stable. Paul cautioned the Corinthian saints against building up the church superficially. Some folks are of the “wood, hay, [and] stubble” variety, while others exhibit those qualities of “gold, silver [and] costly stones” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Saints of the latter category endure; those of the former do not. Why so? It simply is because the two groups are tested by “fire” (hardships), and that testing fire separates qualityconverts from those who really are not serious about their Christian commitment. Jesus once spoke of those who receive the gospel impulsively, and, for a while endure. Eventually, though, “tribulation and persecution” arise, and rather quickly the superficial fade away (see Matthew 13:20-21).
And so, while no one actively seeks suffering in his life, honesty compels us to admit that hardships do have value—great value. Certainly, the existence of suffering is not a valid reason for rejecting the Creator.


Barclay, William (1974), New Testament Words (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).
Jackson, Wayne (1983), The Book of Job—Analyzed and Applied (Abilene, TX: Quality).
Sockman, Ralph (1961), The Meaning of Suffering (New York: Women’s Division, Christian Service Boards of Missions, The Methodist Church).

Reasoning About the Resurrection of Christ by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Reasoning About the Resurrection of Christ

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

The resurrection of Christ is central to the faith of every Christian. Without a firm belief that “God has raised Him from the dead” (Romans 10:9), salvation from sin is impossible. Paul wrote: “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Without the good news of Jesus’ defeat of death, the Gospel is void of its power to save mankind (cf. Romans 1:16). If Christ was not “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,” there would be no “newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Rather, every accountable person would lie “dead in trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1,5) without hope of becoming “a new creation” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Truly, the resurrection of Christ provides the substance for the Christian’s hope and the solid foundation on which to build his faith.
Is it any surprise, then, that first-century evangelists put so much emphasis on Jesus’ resurrection? Peter specifically mentioned how the apostle chosen to take the place of Judas was to become a witness of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:22). A short while later, Peter preached to thousands of Jews in Jerusalem a sermon that hinged on the empty tomb of Christ (Acts 2:24,31-32). He then spoke in the temple about the Lord’s resurrection (Acts 3:15,26), and afterward witnessed to this fact before the highest court of the Jews (4:10; 5:29-32). The apostle similarly witnessed to the Gentiles, beginning with Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:30). Paul repeatedly spoke of the resurrection of Christ in Antioch of Pisidia (Acts 13:30,33,34,37), reasoned from the Scriptures about it in Thessalonica (Acts 17:3), and then gave testimony of this fact before both Festus and Agrippa (Acts 26:22-25).
First-century Christians frequently discussed the resurrection of Christ and were prepared to defend it using logical arguments comprised of sufficient evidence (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Acts 1:3; 26:22-23). Christ’s resurrection was fundamental to their faith and prominent in their preaching. It should be no less today. Hundreds of millions of people on Earth disbelieve in Jesus’ death-defying power. Skeptics scoff at the idea of Jesus coming back to life. Infidels in classrooms and media outlets throughout the world adamantly argue against it, alleging that “the bodily resurrection of Jesus did not happen on good biblical grounds,” and it certainly “did not happen on good historical grounds” (Barker, 1996).
In the past, we have discussed various irrefutable proofs for the resurrection of Christ (see Butt, 2002). In this issue of Reason & Revelation, we respond to four questions that skeptics are fond of asking as they attempt to discredit the Bible’s portrayal of this earth-shaking event (Matthew 28:2).


Most anyone who has spent much time reading the Scriptures knows that the Bible writers mentioned several individuals who rose from the dead. After the widow’s son of Zarephath died, Elijah prayed to God, “and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:22). A few years later, the prophet Elisha raised the dead son of a Shunammite (2 Kings 4:32-35). Then, after Elisha’s death, a dead man, in the process of being buried in the tomb of Elisha, was restored to life after touching Elisha’s bones (2 Kings 13:20-21). While on Earth Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:21-24,35-43), as well as the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-16), and Lazarus—who had been buried for four days (John 11:1-45). Matthew recorded how after Jesus’ death and resurrection “the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (27:52-53, emp. added). Then later, during the early years of the church, Peter raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-43), while Paul raised the young man Eutychus, who had died after falling from a third-story window (Acts 20:7-12).
All of these people died and later rose to live again. Although some of the individuals arose very shortly after death, Lazarus and (most likely) the saints who were raised after the resurrection of Jesus were entombed longer than was Jesus. In view of all of these resurrections, some have asked, “What is so important about Jesus’ resurrection?” If others in the past have died to live again, what makes His resurrection so special? The former editor of Biblical Errancy, Dennis McKinsey, once mockingly asked:
Why would it [Jesus’ resurrection—EL] be of any consequence since...many others rose before Jesus? By the time he rose this was a rather common occurrence. I would think it would have been met by a resounding yawn rather than surprise followed by: So what else can you do? Adam’s act of coming into the world as a full grown adult is more spectacular (n.d.).
Given the fact that Jesus is not the only person ever to come back to life, what is it that makes His resurrection unique? Why is the resurrection of Jesus more significant than any other?
First, the resurrection of Jesus is more significant than any other resurrection simply because the inspired apostles and prophets said that it was. Critics may sneer at this response, but it is a valid point. Jesus did certain things that others did, including being raised from the dead, but His actions were more significant because of the statements attached to them. Consider the miracles Jesus performed in order to set Himself apart as the Son of God and promised Messiah. Many people throughout the Bible worked miracles in order to confirm their divine message (cf. Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:1-4), but only Jesus did them as proof of His divine nature. Once, during the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, a group of Jews surrounded Jesus and asked, “How long do you keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24)? Jesus responded to them saying, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.... I and My Father are one” (John 10:25,30). These Jews understood that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in the flesh (cf. 10:33,36), and Jesus wanted them to understand that this truth could be confirmed by the miracles that He worked.
The miracles testified to His deity (John 20:30-31). Why? Because He said they did (10:25,35-38; cf. John 5:36). The miracles that Jesus performed bore witness to the fact that He was from the Father (John 5:36), because He said He was from the Father. A miracle in and of itself did not mean the person who worked it was deity. Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Peter, Paul, and a host of others worked miracles, with some even raising people from the dead. But none did so for the purpose of proving they were God in the flesh. The apostles and prophets of the New Testament worked miracles to confirm their message that Jesus was the Son of God, not to prove that they were God (cf. Acts 14:8-18). Jesus, on the other hand, performed miracles to bear witness that He was the Son of God, just as He claimed to be (cf. John 9:35-38).
Similarly, one fundamental reason that Jesus’ miraculous resurrection is more important to a Christian than the resurrections of Lazarus, Tabitha, Eutychus, or anyone else who was raised from the dead, is simply because the Bible writers explained that it was more important. There is no record of anyone alleging that Lazarus was God’s Son based on his resurrection, nor did the early church claim divinity for Eutychus or Tabitha because they died and came back to life. None of the aforementioned individuals who was resurrected ever claimed that the resurrection was proof of deity, nor did any inspired prophet or apostle. On the other hand, Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power...by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). His resurrection was different because of Who He was—the Son of God. Thus, just as the miracles He worked during His earthly ministry testified of His divine message, and hence His divine nature, so did His resurrection.
A second reason why Jesus’ resurrection stands out above all others is because it alone was specifically foretold in the Old Testament. In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter affirmed that God had raised Jesus from the dead because it was not possible for the grave to hold Him. As proof, he quoted Psalm 16:8‑11 in the following words:
I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my tongue was glad; moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your presence (Acts 2:25-28).
Peter then explained this quote from the book of Psalms by saying:
Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses (Acts 2:29-32).
The apostle Paul also believed that the psalmist bore witness to Christ, and spoke of His resurrection. In his address at Antioch of Pisidia, he said:
And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.” And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: “I will give you the sure mercies of David.” Therefore He also says in another Psalm: “You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.” For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses (Acts 13:32‑39).
Where is the prophecy for the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter? When did the prophets ever foretell of Eutychus or Tabitha’s resurrection? They did not. No resurrected person other than Jesus had his or her resurrection foretold by an Old Testament prophet, nor did any inspired apostle or prophet in the first century apply Old Testament prophecies to them. This certainly makes Jesus’ resurrection unique.
Third, Jesus’ resurrection is more significant than any other because He prophesied numerous times that He would rise from the dead, even foretelling the exact day on which it would occur. Jesus told some scribes and Pharisees on one occasion, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40, emp. added). Matthew, Mark, and Luke all recorded how Jesus “began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day (Matthew 16:21, emp. added; cf. Mark 8:31-32; Luke 9:22). While Jesus and His disciples were in Galilee, Jesus reminded them, saying, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up” (Matthew 17:22-23, emp. added).
Christians do not serve a lifeless lord, but a Risen Redeemer Whose tomb was found empty nearly 2,000 years ago.
Just before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus again reminded His disciples, saying, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20:18-19, emp. added). Jesus’ prophecies concerning His resurrection and the specific day on which it would occur were so widely known that, after Jesus’ death, His enemies requested that Pilate place a guard at the tomb, saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day...” (Matthew 27:63-64, emp. added). They knew exactly what Jesus had said He would do, and they did everything in their power to stop it.
Where are the prophecies from the widow’s son of Zarephath? Did he prophesy of his resurrection prior to his death? Or what about the son of the Shunammite woman that Elisha raised from the dead? Where are his personal prophecies? Truly, no one who rose from the dead except Jesus prophesied about his or her own resurrection. And certainly no one ever prophesied about the exact day on which he or she would rise from the dead, save Jesus. This prior knowledge and prophecy makes His resurrection a significant event. He overcame death, just as He predicted. He did exactly what he said He was going to do, on the exact day He said He would do it.
Fourth, the uniqueness of Jesus’ resurrection is seen in the fact that He is the only resurrected person ever to have lived and died without having committed one sin during His lifetime. He was “pure” and “righteous” (1 John 3:3; 2:1), “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). He was “a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19), “Who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). No one else who has risen from the dead ever lived a perfect life, and then died prior to his or her resurrection for the purpose of taking away the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29). Because Jesus lived a sinless life, died, and then overcame death in His resurrection, He alone has the honor of being called “the Lamb of God” and the “great High Priest” (Hebrews 4:14). “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many,” and because of His resurrection, “those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).
Finally, and perhaps most important, the significance of Jesus’ resurrection is seen in the fact that He was the first to rise from the dead never to die again. Since no one who has risen from the dead is still living on Earth, and since there is no evidence in the Bible that God ever took someone who had risen from the dead into heaven without his dying again, it is reasonable to conclude that all who ever rose from the dead, died in later years. Jesus, however, never died again. He rose from the grave to live forevermore. All others who previously were raised from the dead, died again, and are among those who “sleep” and continue to wait for the bodily resurrection. Only Jesus truly has conquered death. Only His bodily resurrection was followed by eternal life, rather than another physical death.
Skeptics have argued that “it’s the Resurrection, per se, that matters, not the fact that Jesus never died again” (see McKinsey, 1983, p. 1, emp. added). However, the inspired apostles said otherwise. Paul actually linked the two together while preaching in Antioch of Pisidia, saying, God “raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption.... He whom God raised saw no corruption” (Acts 13:34,37, emp. added). Paul also impressed upon the minds of the Christians in Rome how Jesus, “having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him” (Romans 6:9, emp. added). [Is it any wonder Paul testified before Agrippa and Festus how Jesus was “the first to rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23)? “[H]e was the first who rose again from the dead to return no more into the empire of death” (Clarke, 1996).] Jesus said of Himself: “I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am aliveforevermore” (Revelation 1:17-18, emp. added). Furthermore, the writer of Hebrews argued for a better life through Jesus on the basis of His termination of death. One reason for the inadequacy of the old priesthood was because “they were prevented by death.” Jesus, however, because He rose never to die again, “continues forever” in “an unchangeable priesthood,” and lives to make intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:23-25). As so often is the case, skeptics comment on the Bible without really knowing what the Bible says. To say, that “it’s the Resurrection, per se, that matters, not the fact that Jesus never died again” (McKinsey, 1983, p. 1), is to deny (or ignore) what the apostles and prophets actually stated.
Whether or not Eutychus, Tabitha, Lazarus, etc., rose from the grave, our relationship with God is not affected. Without Jesus’ resurrection, however, there would be no “Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). Without Jesus’ resurrection, no suitable High Priest would be able to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). Without Jesus’ resurrection, we would have no assurance of His coming and subsequent judgment (Acts 17:31). Without Jesus’ resurrection, “we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
Jesus’ resurrection is significant—more so than any other resurrection. Only Jesus’ resurrection was verbalized by inspired men as proof of His deity. Only Jesus’ resurrection was prophesied in the Old Testament. Only Jesus foretold of the precise day on which He would rise from the grave—and then fulfilled that prediction. Only Jesus’ resurrection was preceded by a perfect life—a life lived, given up, and restored in the resurrection for the purpose of becoming man’s Prince, Savior, and Mediator. And, only Jesus rose never to die again.


In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul wrote at length concerning the resurrection of the dead because some of the Christians in Corinth taught “that there is no resurrection of the dead” (vs. 12). As one of his proofs for the Christian’s eventual resurrection, Paul pointed to the fact that Christ rose, and showed that the general resurrection stands or falls with Christ’s resurretion, saying, “if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile” (vss. 16-17)! After hypothetically arguing from the absurd in an attempt to help the Corinthian Christians to see that their stance on the final resurrection completely undermined Christianity, Paul proceeded to demonstrate that Christ had risen, making the resurrection of the dead inevitable. It is in this section of Scripture that some find a difficulty. Beginning with verse 20, Paul wrote:
But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming (1 Corinthians 15:20-23, emp. added).
In view of the fact that Jesus was not the first person ever to rise from the dead (as previously discussed), some have questioned why Paul twice described Jesus as “the firstfruits” from the dead. Did Paul err? Was he ignorant of all of the previous resurrections? In what sense did Paul speak of Christ as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”?
One could respond reasonably to these questions by pointing out the aforementioned fact that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead—never to die again. In this sense, Christ is “the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18; Revelation 1:5). Another (and perhaps better) explanation to the question surrounding 1 Corinthians 15:20,23 and Paul’s use of the word “firstfruits” (Greekaparche) is to recognize the metaphor Paul employed. Under the old law, the firstfruits were the earliest gathered grains, fruits, and vegetables that the people dedicated to God in recognition of His faithfulness for providing the necessities of life. The Israelites were to offer to God a sheaf of the first grain that was harvested on the day after the Sabbath following the Passover feast (Leviticus 23:9-14). Paul used the term “firstfruits” in this letter to the Corinthian church to reinforce the certainty of the resurrection. Just as the term “firstfruits” indicates that “the first sheaf of the forthcoming grain harvest will be followed by the rest of the sheaves, Christ, the firstfruits raised from the dead, is the guarantee for all those who belong to him that they also will share in his resurrection” (Kistemaker, 1993, p. 548). Jesus is God’s “firstfruits” of the resurrection. And, like the Israelites, God will gather the rest of the harvest at the final resurrection. Paul seemingly wanted the Corinthians to understand (by way of metaphor) that Christ’s resurrection is a pledge of our resurrection. It is inevitable—a full harvest guaranteed by God Himself.


The most frequent reference to Jesus’ resurrection reveals that He rose from the grave on the third day of His entombment. Matthew and Luke both record Jesus as prophesying that He would rise from the grave on this day (Matthew 17:23; Luke 9:22). The apostle Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians that Jesus arose from the grave “the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4, emp. added). And while preaching to Cornelius and his household, Peter taught that God raised Jesus up “on the third day” (Acts 10:40, emp. added). Skeptics are quick to contend, however, that these scriptures contradict various other passages. For example, Jesus predicted that He would “be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31, emp. added). On another occasion, Jesus told His apostles how His enemies would “mock Him and spit upon Him, and scourge Him, and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again” (Mark 10:34, emp. added, NASB). In addition, He informed the Pharisees that He would be in the heart of the Earth for as long as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish—for “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40). How can a person be expected to believe that Jesus rose from the grave if Jesus and the Bible writers could not even decide whether He rose from the grave on the third day or the fourth day?
In an attempt to solve this difficulty, some seemingly well-meaning individuals have espoused the idea that Jesus must have been crucified on Wednesday or Thursday, rather than on Friday (eg., Scroggie, 1948, pp. 569-577; Rusk, 1974, pp. 4-6). Because Jesus could not possibly have been in the grave for three nights if He died on Friday and rose on Sunday, some believe He must have died a day or two earlier. However, this is highly improbable. First, Mark 15:42 states that the evening of Christ’s crucifixion “was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath,” and “[b]oth the Scriptures (Matt 27:62; Mark 15:42; Luke 23:54; John 19:14,31,42) and Josephus indicate the day of preparation is the day before the weekly Sabbaths, namely, Friday” (Hoehner, 1974, 131:245; cf. Josephus, 16:6:2). Second, if Jesus died on Wednesday and rose on Sunday then He must have risen from the grave on the fourth day rather than “the third day.” What’s more, all attempts to place Jesus’ crucifixion and burial on Wednesday or Thursday instead of Friday are based more on a misunderstanding of a Hebrew idiom concerning time than actual evidence.
While statements such as “on the third day,” “after three days,” and “three days and three nights” may appear contradictory at first glance, in reality they harmonize perfectly if one understands the more liberal methods ancients used to reckon time. In the first century, any part of a day could be computed for the whole day and the night following it (cf. Lightfoot, 1979, pp. 210-211). The Jerusalem Talmud quotes rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah, who lived around A.D. 100, as saying: “A day and night are an Onah [‘a portion of time’] and the portion of an Onah is as the whole of it” (Shabbath ix. 3, as quoted in Hoehner, 1974, 131:248-249, bracketed comment in orig.). Azariah indicated that a portion of a twenty-four hour period could be considered the same “as the whole of it.” Thus, in Jesus’ time one would have been correct in teaching that Jesus’ burial would last “three days and three nights,” even though it was not three complete 24-hour days.
Scripture is peppered with references which demonstrate that a part of a day was oftentimes equivalent to a whole day.
  • According to Genesis 7:12, the rain of the Noahic Flood was upon the Earth “forty days and forty nights.” Verse seventeen of that same chapter says it was on the Earth for just “forty days.” Obviously, “forty days” and “forty days and forty nights” refer to the same time period in this context.
  • During the reign of King Ahab, Israel and Syria “encamped opposite each other for seven days” (1 Kings 20:29, emp. added). Yet, “on the seventh day the battle was joined” and Israel killed 100,000 Syrian foot soldiers (20:29). Clearly, the two armies did not occupy their camps for a full seven days, but for six days and a part of the seventh. The remainder of day seven was spent in battle.
  • When Joseph’s brothers came to visit him for the first time since selling him into Egyptian bondage more than a decade earlier (Genesis 37:12-36), Joseph incarcerated them for “three days” (Genesis 42:17). The text then reveals that he spoke to them “the third day,” and 42:18-24 represents them as being released that day—i.e., the third day. If Joseph’s brothers (with the exception of Simeon, 42:24) were released on day three of their imprisonment, then the “three days” they spent in the prison (42:17) are not equivalent to three 24-hour periods, but rather parts of three days.
  • When the Israelites visited King Rehoboam and asked him to lighten their burdens (2 Chronicles 10:3-4), he wanted time to contemplate their request, so he instructed Jeroboam and the people of Israel to return “after three days” (10:5, emp. added). Verse twelve of that chapter indicates that Jeroboam and the people of Israel came to Rehoboam “on the third day, as the king had directed, saying, ‘Come back to me the third day’” (emp. added). Fascinating, is it not, that even though Rehoboam instructed his people to return “after three days,” they understood him to mean “on the third day” (cf. 1 Kings 12:5,12).
  • When Queen Esther was about to risk her life by going before King Ahasuerus uninvited, she instructed her fellow Jews to follow her example by not eating or drinking “for three days, night or day” (Esther 4:16, emp. added). Yet, the text then tells us that Esther went in to the king “on the third day” (5:1, emp. added).
By studying these and other passages, one can see clearly that the Bible uses expressions like “three days,” “the third day,” “on the third day,” “after three days,” and “three days and three nights” to signify the same period of time. Again, “[a]ccording to the Oriental mode of reckoning, three consecutive parts of days were counted three days” (Jamieson, et. al., 1997, emp. added).
From Acts 10, we can glean further insight into the ancient practice of counting consecutive days (in part or in whole) as complete days. Luke recorded how an angel appeared to Cornelius at “about the ninth hour of the day” (approximately 3:00 p.m.; 10:3). “The next day” (10:9) Peter received a vision from God and welcomed visitors sent by Cornelius. “On the next day” (10:23) Peter and the servants of Cornelius departed for Caesarea. “And the following day they entered Caesarea” where Peter taught Cornelius and his household the Gospel (10:24). At one point during Peter’s visit, Cornelius spoke about his encounter with the angel of God. Notice carefully how he began the rehearsal of the event. He stated: “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour...” (10:30, NASB, emp. added). Although the event really had occurred only 72 hours (or three literal days) earlier, Cornelius spoke of it as taking place “four days ago to this hour.” Why four days instead of three? Because according to the first-century method of reckoning time, a part of the first day and a part of the fourth day were counted as whole days. Surely one can see how this information aligns itself perfectly with Jesus’ burial taking place on Friday and His resurrection occurring on Sunday. A part of Friday, all day Saturday, and a part of Sunday would be considered three days in ancient times, not one or two.
Even though in 21st-century America some may find this reasoning somewhat confusing, similar idiomatic expressions are used frequently today. For example, we consider a baseball game that ends after only completing 8½ innings a “9-inning game.” And even though the losing pitcher on the visiting team only pitched 8 innings (and not 9 innings like the winning pitcher from the home team), he is said to have pitched a complete game. Think about the college student who explains to his professor that he worked on a research project “day and night for four weeks.” He obviously does not mean that he worked for a solid 672 hours (24 hours x 7 days x 4 weeks) without sleeping. It may be that he worked from 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. for four weeks on the project, but not 672 sleepless hours. If he only slept five or six hours a night, and worked on the project nearly every hour he was awake, we would consider this person as one who truly did work “day and night for four weeks.” Finally, consider the guest at a hotel who checks in at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, and checks out at 3:30 p.m. Thursday—less than 24 hours later. Did the man stay one day or two days at the hotel? Technically, the guest was there for less than one full day (24-hour period), yet the hotel legally can charge him for two days since he did not leave before the mandatory 11:00 a.m. checkout time. Considering how flexible we are in measuring time, perhaps we should not be surprised at how liberal the ancients were in calculating time.
Further evidence proving that Jesus’ statements regarding His burial were not contradictory center around the fact that even His enemies did not accuse Him of contradicting Himself. No doubt this was due to their familiarity with and use of the flexible, customary method of stating time. In fact, the chief priests and Pharisees even said to Pilate the day after Jesus was crucified: “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day” (Matthew 27:63-64, emp. added). The phrase “after three days” must have been equivalent to “the third day,” else surely the Pharisees would have asked for a guard of soldiers until the fourth day. Interesting, is it not, that modern skeptics charge Jesus with contradicting Himself, but not the hypercritical Pharisees of His own day.
The idiomatic expressions that Jesus and the Bible writers employed to denote how long Jesus would remain in the grave does not mean that He literally was buried for 72 hours. If we interpret the account of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection in light of the cultural setting of the first century, and not according to the present-day (mis)understanding of skeptics, we find no errors in any of the expressions that Jesus and the gospel writers used.


A gentleman once e-mailed our offices at Apologetics Press, questioning whether Jesus had the same body after His resurrection as He did before being raised from the grave. According to this man, Jesus “appeared to people He knew but nobody recognized Him.... It’s as though He had a different body”—and possibly one that was not physical.
At the outset, it is incorrect to assert that “nobody recognized Him,” because Matthew 28:9,17 clearly implies that at least some of Jesus’ disciples knew Who He was and worshiped Him. Moreover, that Jesus had essentially the same body after His resurrection that He had when He died on the cross is evident from at least three different passages. In Luke 24:39, Jesus stated: “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” Jesus expected His disciples to observe His physical body. Later in the same chapter, we read that Jesus ate a meal with His disciples (24:42-43; cf. Acts 10:41). And then in John 20:25-29, which is the most frequently cited passage in defense of Christ having a physical body, Jesus asked Thomas to touch His nail-scared hands and reach into His side that had been pierced with the Roman spear.
But what about those occasions when some of His disciples did not recognize Him? Do such verses as Luke 24:31,37 and John 20:10-16 represent a contradictory element in the resurrection story? First, just because the text says that the disciples thought they had seen a spirit when they actually saw Jesus (Luke 24:37), does not indicate that He looked different. Since they knew He had been killed, seeing His resurrected body caused them to think that He was in spirit form rather than physical. On one occasion, before Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, His disciples were startled at His appearance, supposing He was a ghost (Mark 6:49). A similar thing happened to Peter when some thought his unexpected presence must have been an indication that it was “his angel” (Acts 12:15).
Second, the reason the two disciples who were traveling on the road to Emmaus failed to recognize Jesus initially was not because Jesus had a different body, but because God miraculously prevented them from recognizing Him. Luke 24:16 indicates that at the beginning of their conversation with Jesus “their eyes were restrained,” but then just before Jesus vanished from their sight, “their eyes were opened and they knew Him” (24:31). Thus, the disciples’ recognition ability failed, not because Jesus possessed a different body, but because their eyes were miraculously restrained.
A final person often mentioned as not having recognized the Savior (allegedly because Jesus had a different body) is Mary Magdalene. John 20:11-18 certainly testifies of her initial inability to identify Jesus. The question is: Was Mary’s failure to recognize Jesus her fault, or the result of Jesus having a different body? As with the above cases, there is no indication in John 20:11-18 that Jesus had anything other than His risen crucified body (cf. 20:25-29). There are at least four possibilities, however, as to why Mary failed to recognize Jesus right at first.
  1. The Sun may not have risen all the way yet, thus making it difficult to see (cf. 20:1).
  2. Mary was engaged in deep weeping that likely obscured her vision (20:11,13). In fact, the first words Jesus said to Mary were, “Woman, why are you weeping?” (vs. 15).
  3. Considering Jesus’ clothes were taken from Him when He was crucified (John 19:23-24), and that the linen cloths which were used in His burial were lying in the tomb (John 20:6-7), Jesus likely was wearing clothes that made His exact identity less conspicuous at first glance. Perhaps His post-resurrection attire was similar to what a gardener or watchman would wear (cf. John 20:15).
  4. It also is possible that Mary’s eyes were restrained miraculously, as were the eyes of the disciples with whom Jesus conversed on the road to Emmaus.
Once all of the Scriptures are taken into account, one can see that Jesus physically rose from the grave in essentially the same body that was crucified on the cross. The fact that some of Jesus’ disciples did not immediately recognize Him in no way contradicts His physical resurrection.


The inspired accounts of the risen Redeemer have been the focus of much criticism through the years (cf. Barker, 1992, pp. 178-184; McKinsey, 2000, pp. 447-454). However, when the honest, open-hearted student of the Bible looks carefully at the evidence, he will come to realize that these criticisms are actually the result either of insufficient knowledge or hardened hearts. Truly, the more one studies the passages of Scripture in which Jesus’ resurrection is discussed, as well as the historical context in which this momentous event occurred, the more he will see how incredibly accurate and trustworthy the Bible writers were.


Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Barker, Dan (1996), “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?,” Debate with Michael Horner at the University of Northern Iowa, April 2, [On-line], URL: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/dan_barker/barker_horner.html.
Butt, Kyle (2002), “Jesus Christ—Dead or Alive?,” Reason & Revelation, 22[2]:9-15, February.
Clarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Hoehner, Harold W. (1974), “Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ—Part IV: The Day of Christ’s Crucifixion,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 131:241-264, July.
Jamieson, Robert, et al. (1997), Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Bible Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Josephus, Flavius (1987 edition), “Antiquities of the Jews,” The Works of Josephus, trans. William Whiston (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Kistemaker, Simon J. (1993), Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Lightfoot, John (1979 reprint), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (no date), “The Bible is God’s Word?,” [On-line], URL: http://members.aol.com/ckbloomfld/pamphlets.html.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (1983), “Commentary,” Biblical Errancy, February.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Rusk, Roger (1974), “The Day He Died,” Christianity Today, March 29.
Scroggie, W. Graham (1948), A Guide to the Gospels (London: Pinkering & Inglis).