Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 20 Number 3 March 2018
Page 10

Unseen but Not Unknown

David R. Pharr

When Peter wrote to Christians who lived in the provinces of Asia Minor, his purpose was to encourage their steadfast faithfulness even when being subjected to a “fiery trial” by their enemies (1 Peter 1:7; 4:12). Such should be expected because of their love for and faith in the Savior. He explained: “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). They had not themselves ever seen Jesus, yet they loved and believed in Him. In their faith, He was unseen, but not unknown!

Some today might imagine that it was easier for those who lived in New Testament times to be believers because they were closer to the time Christ was on the earth. The fact is that most Christians in the early church never saw Jesus in person. His ministry was in a very small part of the world, and though He was seen by many of His own countrymen, that was a very small segment of humanity. What is yet more significant is that it is His resurrection that is the basis of our faith, and only a few—very few—saw Him after He was raised. In 1 Corinthians 15:4-8, Paul gave a partial list of those who saw Him, to which can be added Mary Magdalene, certain other women, and Cleopas and his friend who walked with Him to Emmaus. The emphasis is on the apostles, to whom Jesus “showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3). Paul was the last person given this privilege (1 Corinthians 15:8).

It is fair to ask, therefore, "How was it that so many became believers in the resurrected Christ when they had never seen Him?" The answer is that they were convinced by the eyewitness testimony of the apostles. That this was the Lord’s method is explained in Acts 10:40-42, where the apostle spoke of Christ being raised and shown openly, but “not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us [apostles]. . .” The divine method was that the truth about Christ would be made known to the world by the testimony of the apostles, who were appointed for this task. In giving them their commission, Jesus said, “And ye are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:49; cf., Acts 1:8). Thus, their preaching emphasized, “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32).

However, this raises the question: “Why should the testimony of these men be accepted? What makes them credible?” Jesus had explained that their testimony would be joined with that of the Holy Spirit (John 15:26-27; cf., Acts 5:32). The Spirit would guide them “into all truth” (John 16:13), which assures us the Spirit guided their testimony in the New Testament. Yet, how can we know that their witness is true? Every eyewitness must be measured by the following standards.

Were the witnesses competent? Were they capable of giving facts intelligently? The New Testament itself demonstrates their intelligence and ability. Incompetent men could not have produced such documents.

Were they in a position to know the facts? One cannot testify unless he has seen the thing and unless he recognizes what it is that he has seen. Jesus was not a stranger to the apostles. When he showed them that he was alive “by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3), they knew it was certainly Him and that they had watched Him die and He had been buried.

Was their testimony because of preconceived bias? Were they so expectant that He would be raised that they assumed it was true? The fact is that they did not expect the resurrection at all. They thought the cross was the end of their hopes and could not believe until Jesus proved Himself to them.

Did the witnesses agree among themselves? It was accepted that two or three witnesses could establish a matter. Yet, even two or three sincere witnesses might have some disagreements. Among the apostolic witnesses, however, there are no contradictions. Their testimony is 100% in perfect harmony.

Finally, it is obvious that witnesses are not credible unless we are convinced they are reliable persons. Can we be sure the apostles were men who could be trusted to tell the truth? We can indeed be sure because they were willing to die for their testimony. Men may do many things to cover a lie, but none will die for a cause he knows is false.

We have not seen Jesus, but we know Him by the message of the Gospel (John 20:30-31). In the words of Simon Peter, “We have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69). He is unseen, but not unknown!

What’s in a Name?

Royce Pendergrass

Royce PendergrassFor quite some time now as Alice and I have been driving, we’ve been noticing and making note of the names that people have placed on their church signs and buildings. Here are a few of the names that we’ve recorded: Lifesong Church, God Family Church, Living Word Church, The Church Alive, Victory Life Church, River of Life Church, Cowboy Church and, if you can believe it, Whatachurch. It’s amazing! Folks have really gotten creative, and I can only guess that the effort is to try to establish individuality. That seems to be a really big ego booster today, and I know of no other reason anyone would attempt to put a name on an entity that God Himself already named.

Some of these “church” names might interest someone enough that he or she would be curious enough to just go there to see what else was being offered. Someone might be enticed to become a member because of the newness and the excitement found there. However, what about the Truth? One must always be concerned that the truth of God’s Word is the number one priority in a body of people who claim to be His children.

We’ve all heard the old question, “What’s in a name?” Does it make any difference anyway? Of course, it does! How do you think a husband who married the wife that he loves would feel if she took another man’s name rather than his? Some might say they wouldn’t care, but don’t you believe it! If he truly loves his wife, he wouldn’t want her to wear another man’s name.

So it is with our Lord. In speaking of Christ being in God’s presence, Paul told the Ephesian brethren that God “set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, power, might and dominion and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and has put all things under His feet and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church which is His body…” (Ephesians 1:20-23). God gave His Son the name of Jesus, which means Messiah or Savior. It is a name that is blessed above all others. Did you notice that it says in this Scripture that God made Jesus the Head of the church because the church is the body of Christ? This thought is reiterated in Colossians 1:18, “He [i.e., Christ] is the head of the body, the church.” God gave the designation of “the head of the church” to Christ, not to someone else.

Paul told the Roman brethren that “we, being many, are one body in Christ” (Romans 12:4). Though a congregation may be made up of many members or only a few, they are still the one body of Christ if they are practicing His teachings. Without a doubt, God has made it plain and clear in His Word that Christ is the Head of the church. God made Jesus head over all things and especially head over the church. So, there can be no doubt that the church should wear His name, not some made-up name that humans have created—to their shame.

The definition of “church” is “a body of Christians.” The word “Christian” means “belonging to Christ.” So, if Christians belong to Christ, why would they even want to wear another name? Paul made it really easy for us to understand in Ephesians 5:23, “The husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church and He is the saviour of the body.” How can anyone misunderstand that?

Don’t be enticed by a fancy, exciting name. It may sound good, but in reality, it will lead you to a place of eternal punishment. It’s my prayer that, if you’re not already a member of Christ’s church, you will study and learn what He wants you to do and become a part of Christ’s body. The name is important!

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