Witnesses of the Resurrection
April 20, 2014 | Andy Davis
Resurrection of Christ
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a sermon on the Book of Acts. The main subject of the sermon is the history of the Christian church and how it is eternally indebted to Christ.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
So in my mind this morning, as I'm thinking about it, I'm thinking about the privilege that I have had to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus in many nations around the world, and I've not always been there at Easter, but you know, Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus every day. We celebrate it many, many times a day. We rejoice in this resurrection victory. Amen? We celebrate it all the time. So for us, this is just a day to focus on it, but every single day we celebrate, and I've had the privilege geographically, of being all over the world.
And I have been in Japan with our brothers and sisters there, the land of the rising sun, they are the first major nation on earth to celebrate every day and Easter Sunday in particular, and I was at a sunrise service in Japan, isn't that awesome? So we got to begin the relay race of praise and glory and honor, giving thanks to God for the resurrection of his son. And then just like a relay race, I love this, this picture in my mind, as our brothers and sisters in Japan passed the baton on to our brothers and sisters in China and all over that country, in some hidden secret places, in some public places, there are Chinese brothers and sisters praising God right now, for his resurrection victory, for what Jesus accomplished, and they're giving thanks.
And then as it continues to move on, our brothers and sisters in India, a diverse nation, many different places, worshipping and praising God, coming from different castes and with different testimonies, coming to faith in Christ. And then they pass the baton on to our brothers and sisters in Christ in Iran. Think about that, what it would be like to be a Christian in Iran, what it would be like to worship, praising God, but knowing at any moment, the Islamic secret police can break in and stop it and arrest you and interrogate you. But they are there and they're worshipping God and they're praising him, and so the relay race is passed on.
I think about Africa. I've been in Kenya and how awesome it is to worship in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is one of the greatest mission fields of the 20th century, where the gospel exploded in Sub-Saharan Africa, and they're just tens, hundreds of millions of Christians in Africa praising God, and they're worshipping and they're wearing colorful outfits, and they're singing with exuberance, and they're praising God. And then the gospel moves on to Western Europe where you would think it's a burned over district where the Gospel isn't powerful there anymore, and there are many nominal Christians in Italy, in Spain, in France, in England, but there are genuine believers too. There are brothers and sisters in Christ that are assembling and worshipping.
And then it makes a big leap across the Atlantic Ocean. I don't know what's going on in the Azores right now, but I'm sure there are Christians there praising God and now it's our turn. It's our turn to stand up because the sun never sets on the empire of Jesus Christ. Amen? And we get to stand up now and we get to praise God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we'll pass it on to the other time zones in the US, and California will get it eventually and on it will move. And you know, it's not gonna end when the sun sets finally on the 24 time zones. We're gonna keep worshipping. Amen? We're gonna thank Him forever and ever.
And this is a partial fulfillment of the vision that the Apostle John had on the Island of Patmos. Revelation 7, He saw people from a multitude greater than anyone could count from every tribe and language, and people and nation standing before the throne in front of the Lamb. And they were saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb. To them, it belongs forever and ever, and Salvation belongs to the Lamb who died, who shed His blood to redeem people from every tribe and language and people and nation." We get to celebrate that now, but where did that vast, that diverse, that huge church of Jesus Christ come from? What's the history of that?
And I also have the privilege, not just of missions work and being in all kinds of nations, but my focus and my study, my Christian study was on church history. I get to go back in time and think about brothers and sisters, who are long since deceased now, who have worshipped the same Jesus, they've had the same hope in resurrection, they served in hope, and they died in hope, not receiving the things promised. But they knew that the best was yet to come even as they died, and they are now absent from the body, and they're present with the Lord and celebrating. We go back and we trace back, and Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it's planted, it grows and becomes a tree so vast that the birds of the air can perch in it's branches." And so that is with the Church of Jesus Christ.
Now, this vast tree, this beautiful, fruitful tree, trace back now to a single room. A single room, the upper room there in Jerusalem, where Jesus went and appeared on that first Resurrection Sunday, and he gave evidence of his resurrection to them and he unleashed them to preach the gospel. And the beginning, from that first seed to the growing of that plant of the church of Jesus Christ is told in the book of Acts. And so what I wanna do today is I wanna trace out just the very beginnings of the Church. What I wanna show is how central to that growth was the proclamation of the resurrection. It was central to everything. The preaching that Christ is risen, that death has been conquered, that we have eternal life, was central to the spread of the gospel and how glorious that was. So that's what we're gonna do today.
We don't have a particular passage we're working through, but we're going to begin in the Book of Acts, and we're gonna look at how they preach the resurrection. And my desire is that by feeding, as Joel was talking about feeding on the Word, our faith will be strengthened. And you'll have a stronger vision of the glory of God in the resurrection of Christ, and you'll have a stronger sense of your own assurance of your salvation, and you'll feed on this and you'll be filled with joy, because we have, as Joel mentioned, we have those two infinite journeys in front of us still laying up before us. And that is that we should grow in grace in the knowledge of Christ, and we should become more and more like Christ, conformed to Christ, holier and holier, and that we should take this Gospel and spread it to near neighbors and to distant nations who have never heard his name, the external journey of worldwide evangelism and discipleship.
I. Apostolic Job Description: Witness to the Resurrection
So we wanna start in the Book of Acts, and I wanna start with what I call the apostolic job description, and that was to witness to the resurrection.
Now, Jesus in his lifetime, pulled aside 12 of his disciples, his followers, and he called the 12. It says in Mark 3:13-14, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve of them---designating them apostles--- that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.”
So there was that proximity in that relationship, and they were seeing what he was doing, how he was ministering and what he was saying. They heard with their own ears. They were the apostles, the 12. Now after the resurrection, he unleashed them as I've said, as witnesses. In John Chapter 20, Jesus, though the doors were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." And they were absolutely overjoyed, they saw His hands and His side. And then again, Jesus said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me even so, I am sending you." It says in Luke 24:46-48, “He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’”
And again, at the beginning of the book of Acts, in Acts 1:8, he said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” So these apostles were called to be witnesses to Christ, but specifically witnesses of the resurrection. Now, you know that one of the 12, Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, and went and hanged himself, and so his position was open. And there in Acts Chapter one, the apostles sought to fill that position. As they were waiting for the promised Holy Spirit, the Apostle Peter said these words in Acts 1:21-22, he said, "It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us [to Heaven]. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection." You hear that? That's a job description right there, their job was to witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the apostles, and so they filled that position.
"These apostles were called to be witnesses to Christ, but specifically witnesses of the resurrection."
Now, throughout the book of Acts, testimony to the Resurrection was central to the growth of the church. I went through the book of Acts and I just identified many, many places, I wouldn't say they're all the places, but many places where they clearly testify to the resurrection of Christ. You've already heard Joel read one of them. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, it says in Acts 2:24, "But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him." So there, at the beginning of the church, on the day of Pentecost, preaching the resurrection. Then in the very next chapter, Peter and John healed a lame beggar and then took an opportunity to preach to the crowd that gathered, when they saw him walking and leaping and praising God and as they came together, Peter preached a tremendous gospel message and then said this in Acts 3:15, "You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this."
And then again in the next chapter, the guards, it says in Acts 4:2, were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, and proclaiming in Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, you see there, not just that Christ has been raised, but that through him, we also might be raised from the dead, that we might have this gift of resurrection. Then on trial before the council in that same chapter, Acts 4:10, Peter says very boldly, "Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man [this lame beggar] stands before you healed." In the very next chapter, on trial before the Sanhedrin, Acts 5:30, there they are preaching boldly before this Jewish Sanhedrin, and they said, "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead--whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree."
Again, boldly proclaiming the resurrection of the dead, then if you go ahead to the end of Acts Chapter 7, there we have the testimony of Stephen. And what an awesome testimony to resurrection, that is. Stephen boldly preaching the Gospel, rejected, aggressively, by the Sanhedrin. Just before he died, he said, "Look… I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." So there's a clear testimony to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his ascension. And then at Cornelius’ house, Peter preached to the first Gentile convert, this godly man, Cornelius brought to faith in Christ. And this is how it happened. Peter's preaching these words, "We are witnesses of everything Jesus did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem." Acts 10:39 and following,” They killed Him by hanging Him on a tree…” Verse 40,”… but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen-- by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”
So that's central to the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, the resurrection of Jesus. Then if you go ahead to Acts 13:29-33, there the Apostle Paul on his first missionary journey, preaching in the synagogue there at the city in Antioch, said this, this is at verse 29, and following, "When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children by raising up Jesus."
And then again, if you go ahead to Acts 17:2-3, in Thessalonica, the Apostle Paul, “As his custom was…went into the synagogue, [there in Thessalonica], and on three Sabbath days, [three successive weeks], he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, [verse 3] explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.’ he said.” And then later in that same chapter in Athens, in Acts 17:31, there he is before the philosophers on Mars Hill, the egg heads of Athens, you know, the philosophers, they love to debate and talk about all these ideas. The culmination of his message is Judgment Day and resurrection. Acts 17:31, "For he has set a day, [God has set a day] when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
And then at the end, if you skip ahead to Acts 25:19, there are other references, but just go ahead to the end of the book, Festus was talking about the apostle Paul. And he summarized Christianity at this point in Acts 25:19, talking about the Jews. And it said, “Instead, they [the Jewish leaders] had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” So that's the center piece of what this Roman procurator was saying about Christianity.
Some disputes about the Jewish religion and about this dead man named Jesus, who they are saying is alive. And then again on trial before Agrippa in Acts 26:22-23, Paul says this, "I'm saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen-- that the Christ would suffer and, [is] as the first to rise from the dead…" Oh just rejoice in that word, "As the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles." He's the first fruits. We're the rest of the harvest. Amen? And so that is the joy. That's why we celebrate. That's why we're happy. Joel was talking about, in effect, talking about chains that had bound him up. Charles Wesley wrote about it in And can It Be. We're imprisoned in chains, and when the gospel comes, it liberates prisoners. Amen? It sets them free. All over the world, this gospel is bearing fruit and growing. All over the world, it's setting prisoners free, and that's why we rejoice because we're not afraid of death anymore. Amen? At least we ought not to be. My desire as I'm preaching is that your faith would grow stronger and stronger and that you will never again fear death, because death is just a doorway into eternal joy. So this is clearly the greatest news that has ever been proclaimed in the history of the world.
"My desire as I'm preaching is that your faith would grow stronger and stronger and that you will never again fear death, because death is just a doorway into eternal joy. So this is clearly the greatest news that has ever been proclaimed in the history of the world."
II. Power for Witnessing to the Resurrection: The Holy Spirit
Now, where did the power for witnessing to the resurrection come? It came from the Holy Spirit. The witness to the resurrection was constantly opposed as it is today. In every nation on earth, there are enemies of this message, fighting against it, trying to hold it down, trying to suppress the truth and unrighteousness. They're trying to hold back the Gospel. There are enemies everywhere. This world is dominated by Satan and his human puppets, and they're dancing on the end of his satanic strings, and they're in positions of power and authority, and they use those positions of power and authority, whether political authority or academic authority, or authority in industry, in companies they use their police authority, they use their authority to oppose the spread of the gospel, the spread of this message of resurrection. It's been going on from the very beginning. Initially, the Apostles had to face the wrath of the very same people who killed their lord and savior Jesus, the Sanhedrin.
Peter in particular, had to face his own fears of suffering and dying, the very fears that had made him deny even knowing Jesus. He had to face his fear of death, and in Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested by the High Priest and his associates and they were brought before them on trial, a preliminary inquisition at that point. But in chapter five, the Sanhedrin imprison and beat the apostles. By the time you get to chapter seven, Stephen is martyred, he's stoned to death for his faith. And immediately in the next chapter, a great persecution breaks out against the church in Jerusalem, and the church is scattered, and it continues to get worse and worse. In Acts 12, King Herod joined the persecution of the messengers of the Gospel. He had James the Apostle killed with the sword, and he had Peter imprisoned intending to do the same thing to him. And as the gospel began to spread more and more, the messengers of the resurrection had to face greater and greater enemies.
In Asia Minor, unbelieving Jews consistently organized opposition to the Apostle Paul as he tried to go from place to place. Everywhere he went, they went. They pursued him, they dogged his steps and tried to stop the preaching of the resurrection. And in Philippi, the owners of a slave girl, had Paul and Silas arrested because they lost some money, and so they were there in jail because of the resurrection, the Gospel of the resurrection. In Ephesus, some Gentile idol makers, again, enraged that they were losing money, started to riot and were ready to kill anyone that would testify to the resurrection, so it continued. In Acts 22, Paul stands before his own countrymen there in Jerusalem, and they had already tried to kill him, they had already rioted, and it was only the presence of the Roman police that shut that down. And for the rest of the Book of Acts Paul is under arrest, and therefore to witness to the resurrection took great power and courage and great boldness to witness to the resurrection. And friends, I'm not trying to be a harbinger of dark days, but it's our responsibility to say, “look around you, in our culture, in this country, it's going to get harder and harder to witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
The church of Jesus Christ has had a very comfortable congenial relationship with the surrounding culture and with the government up until this point. It's been very unusual in church history. It's not usually so congenial, but those days are coming to an end, and we need to be ready to suffer, to take the message of the resurrection on, just as our brothers and sisters suffered to win the Roman Empire in three centuries, they were willing to die for their faith. And so where did that power come from? Where did that courage come from? Well, you've already heard it. Acts 1:8, "…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
I don't think it's blasphemous to say that the death and resurrection of Jesus alone, the greatness of that message alone, is all that's needed for the spreading of the Gospel. We also need the power of the Holy Spirit, and without the power of the Holy Spirit, we will remain locked in the upper room. Amen? We will not go boldly out in the streets, and so we are as reliant on the Holy Spirit for power to witness, as we are reliant on Jesus for forgiveness of sins to begin with. We are absolutely reliant. We must have the power of the Holy Spirit, or we will not witness. And so look at the boldness of Peter and John in Acts 4, go ahead and flip there and look. It's just one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. They're all my favorite chapter in the Bible, but anyway, I love it because it just shows so clearly the effect of the Holy Spirit on Peter in particular. Do you remember the story? Peter and John had healed the lame beggar and they preached, and then they were arrested for preaching, and the next day in Acts Chapter 4, they have a chance to make their defense. Beginning of Verse 5, it says, "The next day the rulers, elders and teachers of the law, met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and the other men of the high priest's family. They had Peter and John brought before them and they began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’”
Now, I've said this before, I'll say it again. Pray to God that you get such an easy question like that. You wanna be a witness? Ask God that someone who doesn't believe in Jesus would ask you a question like that. That's awesome. If you can't walk through that wide open barn door, then come back and get some more evangelism training, because we can walk through barn doors like that one. By what power or what name did you do this? But still understand, understand the great temptation to fear, to terror. These were the very same men who had killed Jesus. These were the ones that Peter had just a very short time ago been afraid of, mortally afraid of. And here's the key to everything. We look at verse 8, "Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit... " Do you see that? That's the key to everything. “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is, “the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.” Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.’"
Now, that's the sound of boldness, isn't it? That's the sound of an unashamed testimony to Jesus Christ. And that's the very thing at the end of that chapter that they prayed for. Remember? Peter and John were released, they went back to their own people, they assembled together, and they prayed and they asked God, and they said in Verse 29, "Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness." That's what they prayed for, not, consider their threats to make sure they don't carry them through. They didn't pray for that. They said, "…consider their threats and give us boldness, [oh Lord]. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
In verse 31, "After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly." Do you see that? Right there in verse 33, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaiming the message of the resurrection boldly. Let's ask God to give us the filling of the Holy Spirit, that we may proclaim the message of the resurrection boldly. Look at verse 33, it says there very plainly, "With great power the apostles continued to testify [to what?] to the resurrection..." It's just a summation of the whole Christian message. They testified to the message of the resurrection, and much grace was upon them all. Isn't it amazing how they face the threats of imprisonment and death, not that the threats would go away, but that they would have the boldness to preach the gospel.
We see also the boldness of Stephen in Acts 7. Don't you love that? How afraid was Stephen to die? Not afraid at all. There was no fear. As a matter of fact, amazingly also there was no hatred in him either. No fear. No hatred. I see a man still alive, still on earth, but already in heaven. I mean, the Holy Spirit can do that. It's just almost caught up to the third heaven at that point, being stoned to death, a very violent way to die. But he had reached the end of his very convicting message, preached boldly, and he says in Act 7:54, “When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit [There's the key. The power of the Holy Spirit], looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look’, he said, ‘I see heaven open, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ At this they covered their ears, and yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.” He was already gone, he was free, and he had no vindictive-ness toward his enemies. He loved them. He prayed just as Jesus did. "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing." And then he was gone.
But it's only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Look at verse 55, "Stephen full of the Holy Spirit...” said these things. So all of it linked the resurrection and the Holy Spirit. How does the Holy Spirit give us power and boldness, how? Well, above all things, He illuminates the scriptures to you. You read the scriptures, and they just start to come alive. As Joel was talking about, and it's been beautiful, brother, to see that happening in your life, and it's been a beautiful thing to see it in my life, that as we open up text after text and the Holy Spirit's there and they come alive, or actually they were always alive. We come alive to them. Amen? And we just start to glow with the joy, and we start to glow with the truth, and we start to lose our fear of man and start to lose our fear of death, and we start to become more and more certain, not only that God loves us, but what a marvelous thing that is. And how wonderful it is that the Almighty God of the Universe loves us and has adopted us.
"How wonderful it is that the Almighty God of the Universe loves us and has adopted us."
And so the illumination happens, and he fills you with a sense of God's infinite majesty and power and greatness. And He fills you with a deep love for Jesus, and a yearning that he be honored and glorified. The Holy Spirit fills you also with the love for other people and a yearning that others would know the same joy you know, and he frees you from worry about consequences, just like Stephen was completely free from consequences, not worried about that at all. And He strengthens your sense of His presence. He fills you with spiritual power, much like a yacht, and its sails. It's suddenly filled with a gust of wind and starts to move and cut through the water, and so the Holy Spirit fills us and we speak our faith in the resurrection. That's how it happened. And off you go. Off you go, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And so they witnessed to the resurrection by the power of the Holy Spirit.
III. Witnessing to the Resurrection by Prophecy
They also witnessed to the resurrection by prophecy of scripture. God has given us a lasting testimony of the resurrection in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, through prophecy; in the New Testament through history, and through the Epistles. The New Testament, looking back on the event, the Old Testament looking ahead to the event, and we can learn from the book of Acts how to use prophecies to preach the resurrection. And how awesome is that? Remember how it says in Luke 24, "Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." That's the Holy Spirit now. The Holy Spirit opens our minds to see Christ in the Old Testament. Christ said there in Luke 24, "This is what is written: That Christ will suffer [and die] and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations…You are witnesses of these things, [based on the scriptures.]”
And so you heard what Joel read, Acts chapter two, go ahead and turn there and look for a minute, if you would, Act 2:23-32. There Peter shows you how to do it. Do you want evangelism lessons from the master? Go to the apostles in the book of Acts, and there's Peter on the day of Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit. And beginning of verse 23, talking about Jesus, "This man [Jesus], was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him…” And here he's quoting Psalm 16. So just go back to Psalm 16. Don't do it now, but there it is, Psalm 16 written a thousand years before Jesus, a thousand years, but not fully understood until the day of Pentecost, I believe. They understood then because Jesus had showed them what to say, so there's Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit. “David said about him: [verse 25] ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence." Now, verse 29, “Brothers,” here's where he applies it. "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. [Verse 30] But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead…” That's the prophetic gift, "Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned at the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact."
So that's how to do it, friends. Say, “Okay, David wrote this Psalm a thousand years before Christ, it speaks very specifically about decay, that didn't happen, someone who died and never decayed. David decayed. Who is he talking about? He's talking about Christ, It's a clear prediction of the resurrection of Jesus.” So we see the same thing in Acts 13. Go there for a moment. In Acts 13, Paul’s preaching in Pisidian Antioch. And there he says, "Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that the message of salvation has been sent. [Verse 27,13:27] The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in the tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people."
Now look at verse 32, "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers, he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm... " So he goes to Psalm 2 there interestingly. "As it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son; [today I have begotten you.]’ The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay is stated in these words: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ So it has stated elsewhere: ‘You will not let your Holy One see decay.’ So he is combining lots of verses together into a powerful argument. "For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed, but the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay."
So Paul's consistent pattern, if you can see it the Act 17, every synagogue he goes into, he opens up the scriptures and reasons with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that this Jesus is the Christ. And so we prove the resurrection today from the scriptures. That's what we do. People are gonna say to us in this increasingly secular country of ours, this increasingly pluralistic country of ours, they are gonna say, "What makes Christianity different than any other religion?" Fulfilled prophecy, and the person and work of Christ, specifically the resurrection of Christ. That's what makes it different. And we have the responsibility to sharpen our understanding of the word of God, so that we are able to share the Old Testament prophecies so effectively and prove that Christ rose from the dead from that.
Okay. We don't have physical evidence. We can't touch the grave clothes. We can't go into the empty tomb no matter what the tourist agencies in Jerusalem say to you. Alright, I don't know what hole in a rock they're showing there. I just think it would be God's way that none of them really were to tomb. I think it's probably under a condominium right now. I think that's probably where the empty tomb is. That's God's way. He destroys artifacts so that our faith might rest in the Word of God alone. And you will be saved of your sins based on your faith in the Scriptures alone, only by your faith in the scriptures that they testify to Jesus. That's how you'll be saved, and that's why preaching is so powerful and effective, because the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword.
IV. Witnessing to the Implications of the Resurrection
So, we need to witness also, as they did in the book of Acts, of the implications of the resurrection. I wanna give you three glorious implications quickly. First of all, and this is for all of us, but specifically for our unbelieving guests, non-Christians, because Christ has risen, your sins can be forgiven. How sweet is that? Meditate on that. Because Christ has risen, your sins can be forgiven. Look at Acts 13. You're right there already. Verses 36 through 39, "For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed." Verse 37, "But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you."
Do you see that? See, the word “Therefore”. Because Christ has risen, I am proclaiming to you the forgiveness of sins. Through him, everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. That's powerful, isn't it? So this is it, because Christ has risen, if you trust in him, your sins, all of them are forgiven. Our sins are many, and they are mighty. They are as many as the hairs on our head, they are as mighty as the Rocky Mountains, because we have sinned against a holy God and against his Ten Commandments, because we have worshipped other gods than him, because we have been idolatrous and worshipped and served created things more than the Creator, because we have not honored his Sabbath, we have not honored our parents, our fathers and mothers or obeyed them because we have had murderous thoughts in our hearts and adulterous thoughts in our hearts, because we've had covetous thoughts in our hearts, because we are liars.
As the scripture says, all people are liars. We have violated God's holy laws, and by the grace of God, through the atoning work of Jesus Christ, all of that toxic waste of our sin was put on him, and he dies in our place, giving us a perfect righteousness that we must have to survive Judgment Day, and he'll give it to you free as a gift. And God testified to the truth of all of this by raising Jesus from the dead. because Christ is raised from the dead, your sins, all of them can be forgiven.
Secondly, since Christ is risen, you can live forever. You can live forever. I love this in Acts 3:15, "You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this." How awesome is that? Jesus is the author of life. Let him write, “Life” on the pages of your book. Amen? Let him write, “Eternal life” across the record of your sins. Amen? Let him testify to you that because he lives, you also will live and you'll live forever. And that because he has a resurrection body, someday you will too, and in that resurrection body, you will live forever. And in that world surrounded by other resurrected people, there'll be no more death. Amen? And no more crying, no more mourning, no more pain. Christ has defeated death, He has taken the stinger out of the Scorpion, and we never need to be afraid again. Amen? He has freed us from fear of death. And as we've already noted, Christ would suffer and is the first to rise from the dead. There's a vast harvest yet to come. Oh, that each one of you, each one of you who hears me right now will be part of that harvest. Amen? That every one of you would be raised into eternal life.
Third implication, since Christ has risen, we can and must live a holy and righteous life. Because Christ has risen, we can and must live a holy and righteous life. Paul said in Athens, "God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of of this by raising Him from the dead." Someday God is going to judge every person who's sitting and listening to me today. Are you ready for Judgment Day? Are you ready to stand when the court is seated and the books are open and every careless word you've ever spoken are recorded accurately there, and you have to give an account. Are you ready? Are you ready?
And as Paul said, speaking of himself as a Christian, a believer, justified by faith, he said this in Acts 24, "I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. [Therefore] So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." Because there is life after death, because there actually is something beyond the grave, it is not let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. It is appointed for each one of us to die and after that to face judgment. And for us as Christians, because Christ has risen, we are risen into a whole new kind of life by the power of the Holy Spirit. We should strive always to keep our conscience clear before God and man. Three implications.
V. Success in Winning Converts by Witnessing to the Resurrection
And finally, success in winning converts by witnessing to the resurrection. Success. We want success. Amen? We'd like to see a vast harvest of people from every tribe and language and people and nation standing around the throne. I wanna see it with my own eyes. Amen? And you know, some day we will. I'd like to see some foretaste of it though, wouldn't you? Wouldn't you love to see more and more converted? And so there we go to the end of Peter's sermon in Pentecost, Acts chapter 2. It says, "Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day." Isn't that awesome? Wouldn't that be incredible to see 3,000 people converted in one day? Incredible harvest.
And so it is also a harvest by Peter and John. And by the way, it's a progressive harvest, you know Josephus estimated that there was a quarter of a million Jewish pilgrims in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost. Well, many of them would have stayed over 40 days later, for, I mean, at the time of Passover, many would stay 40 days later for Pentecost. So maybe hundreds of thousands there. 3,000 converted. That's actually numerically, a small number. Absolute number, big number, 3000 people is a lot of people, but statistically a small number, but God wasn't done yet, and so there's more and more people to get converted, more people. Gradual victory. He wanted a 2,000-year victory over Satan. Amen? Day after day after day, winning the elect. And so in Acts chapter Four, the priest and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John and they arrested them. But it says in verse 4, " But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about 5,000." Just keeps growing. By the time we get to Acts 13, the Word of God has been being preached all over Asia. There's no place where they hadn't heard it. Amen? Spreading and spreading.
So what applications can we take from this look of the Book of Acts? Well, first, come to Christ. Come to Christ. I can't see into your souls. I don't know what's happening inside you. I can see the looks on your faces. I can see that some of you are wondering when this message will end. Really soon. Really soon. But some of you also are wondering, "What's gonna happen to me when I die? Am I ready to die? I am a sinner. My sins are numerous. And they are mighty, but I know that I'm not a Christian." What's going on inside your heart? Can I just plead with you? On the basis of this Easter message, repent and believe in Christ, because the scripture says very plainly, if we believe in our heart, if we confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we will be saved. It's really that simple. You don't have to do anything. Just repent and believe, and you will be saved. Trust in Him.
Now, if you've already done that, like Joel was talking about, it's been years since you did that, now, let the message of the resurrection make you happy today. Just rejoice. Can I just urge all of you, just let your cares and burdens fall off your shoulders. Let those chains down. Just let them fall to the ground. Cast all your burdens on the Lord. Feel the sense of lightness and freedom that you're gonna feel when at last you are drawn out of this world into Heaven. It's coming sooner than you can possibly imagine, so let's be joyful between now and then. Amen? Because I consider Paul said that our present sufferings aren't even worth comparing with the glory that’ll be revealed in us. Let's live like it. Amen? Let's rejoice. At least for today. Amen? I know Monday's coming. I know Monday's coming. I know that. But rejoice in the resurrection. Let it make you joyful. The God who raised Jesus from the dead physically, and who raised you from the dead spiritually, will take care of all lesser problems easily. Let Him do it.
And therefore, be filled with hope. Look forward to the future. Don't dread the future. Look forward to the future. Be filled with hope. And be witnesses of the resurrection. You're not an apostle. None of us are. We're not eyewitnesses to the resurrection, but we have the Scriptures. Amen? And we have the indwelling Holy Spirit, and that is enough. And then finally, pray for FBC, all of us to have power through the Holy Spirit, to be fruitful, evangelistically. That we would even this week, share the Gospel, the news of resurrection.
This is how it's gonna go, tomorrow, you're gonna go to work maybe, and you're gonna have a co-worker, and you're going to initiate the conversation, that's your job as the evangelist to initiate the conversation. And you're gonna go like this, "How was your weekend?" Wink, wink. We all know where we're going on that. "How was your weekend?" I had a weekend too. Anyway, "How was your weekend?" "It was fine." "What did you do?" "Just got some things done on Saturday, whatever." "What did you do yesterday?" "Just relaxed, eased into the day a little bit. It's nice to have some time to sleep in and then, don't know, my wife and I were gardening, so we were working on that and then watch some of the game at night and went to bed." They might have the common courtesy to ask, "What did you do yesterday?" Maybe they won't, but either way, tell them, say, "Well, yesterday, yesterday I went to church and I had the greatest time hearing the greatest news that there has ever been in history." "Oh, what's that?" "Christ is risen." "Well, that's old, isn't it?" "Yeah, but it's still the greatest news that's ever been in history. And it fills me with joy to know that someday, even though I'm gonna die someday, I'll live forever. But what about you? Have you ever thought about that? Are you still thinking about it?” And off you go. Pray that God would make you fruitful. Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for the opportunity that we've had today to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit. We thank you for the glory of this message, and we thank you, O Lord, for all the things we've experienced today. We thank you for all of the children, how beautiful they looked and how filled with joy. O Lord, protect each one of them. I pray that you'd bring each one to repentance in an early faith in Christ. We thank you for all the prayers and the Scripture readings and Joel's testimony and the music, and we thank you for this message and now fill us with joy and set us into this world, to give hope to those who presently have none. In Jesus name, Amen.