“Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 10:40-42
The Lord Jesus Christ, risen from the grave, after He had died on the Roman cross, is the only gateway of hope humanity has. This is the bold and uncompromising proclamation of the Biblical Christian faith. He had also said, “I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved” (John 10: 9), as well as the familiar “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). Our hopes in all other men and women end at their graves from which they have not risen. Only Jesus has returned from the regions of death, and with divine authority. Sending out His disciples, through the centuries, as His witnesses, He assures them that “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” (Matthew 28:18). To Christ, not to the arrogant and pompous world rulers with their nuclear bombs. Certainly not to Satan who the Lord has already defeated.
Two thousand years later, to what do we give witness? Of whom are we speaking? Is the Bible and its historical records all myths and legends? Why are Christians called to live with a different world and life view than the majority of the world? What are the facts of our faith? Are they reliable? Every generation of Christians, individually, must know what they believe. There are other religions in the world, as well as agnosticism and atheism, with different points of view. What makes the Biblical Christian faith distinctive? What makes it true in a post-modern world which rejects absolute truth and believes only in their versions of relative opinions?
The early church of the New Testament, seen in the Book of Acts, placed the risen Christ, alive from the dead, at the forefront of their message. On the day of Pentecost, birthday of the Church, the Apostle Peter proclaimed the amazing, astounding fact to which he was a living witness: “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.” (Acts 2:32). De-spite persecution and martyrdom the disciples repeated the incredible story of the Carpenter of Nazareth, “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 4:33).
Later, the converted Paul would write to the Roman church “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). In the great chapter discussing the subject of resurrection, Paul says to the church at Corinth, “..if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty…and if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).
Is the resurrection of Jesus largely taken for granted by the church today? Is it as mocked by unbelievers as is the promise of His return? Does this explain the widespread complacency, believers burdened by anxieties and fears? Do worldliness, materialism, secularism often overshadow the cosmic victory of Jesus Christ? The mission of the church is still to remind believers and to inform the world that Jesus, by His death and resurrection, has “abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10). What powerful good news in a world overwhelmed by evil! Because Jesus has conquered death nothing can ever be the same!
The Church has from the beginning taught that the Old Testament prophecies concerning the promised Messiah are fulfilled in Jesus Christ: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Saviour…and we are His witnesses to these things..” (Acts 5:30-32). Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension guaranteed His return as “Judge of the living and the dead.” According to the Scriptures, “He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets.” (Acts 3:21).
The good news to humanity comes out of these astonishing facts. There is hope for all who have seen their utter need of God’s deliverance from the world, flesh and devil. The faithful church is to keep saying “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43). Sin against God the Creator is man’s major problem. Man needs forgiveness and a new beginning. Christ came to provide this as the Gospel proclaims most famously in John 3:16. Peter in those early days preached, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
The great historical declaration concerning Jesus Christ demands a response. One either accepts with faith or rejects with unbelief. Ultimately there is no middle ground of neutrality. The Creator has come into His creation, offering man a free pardon for all his past and continuing blasphemies, idolatries and atrocities. The choice before every human being is life or death. Heaven or hell. The way to eternal life, under the rule of the risen Christ, is faith and repentance.
The basic, clear message of Biblical Christianity is largely despised today. Church pharisaic traditions, doctrinal distortions, sins of Christians and historical Christendom, have all obscured the simple but profound revelations concerning Jesus Christ. When that gospel is again found and presented simply and clearly, when hearers respond with faith from the heart, then the living witness of Christ’s “blood-bought church,” His “Bride,” is again manifest. Then will be seen a visible fellowship of united believers, standing resolutely in the face of rejection, who have placed their faith and lives in the death and resurrection of their Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ. In whose second coming they also hope.
May the Church in Saint Lucia return with prayer, repentance and certain faith to the fundamental Biblical truths concerning Jesus Christ our risen Saviour. More than ever today, given the increasing problems and challenges, we need to know the truth, reality and saving power of Christ. Only through the faithful witness of believers to their Lord will citizens desperate for hope know that indeed, Christ alone is the answer. Truly, God has “in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:2).