|Volume 17 Number 2 February 2015||
Debate raged hot in the first century. Jewish rabbis clashed as they passionately lobbied for disciples. What was the issue you ask? In one word – resurrection! The sect known as the Sadducees denied there would be a resurrection of the human body after death, while the Pharisees affirmed it would be a future reality (Acts 23:8).
Long centuries earlier, the patriarch Job pondered the question: “If a man die, shall he live again” (Job 14:14)? Life after death has intrigued mankind for millennia.
Saul of Tarsus had been trained “at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22:3), a renowned Jewish teacher. Being a Pharisee (Philippians 3:5), he believed in the resurrection. However, initially Saul had not been convinced that Jesus was the genuine Messiah. In fact, he vehemently pursued those who claimed allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth. What convinced this man that Jesus was indeed alive?
Luke records some details of the conversion of this persecutor of the early saints (Acts 9, 22, 26). He was given the privilege of seeing the risen Lord. Later, Saul became known as Paul the apostle. He wrote extensively about the resurrection because some began to deny the resurrection doctrine (1 Corinthians 15:12). Paul listed some who were eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:5-8): (1) Cephas (Peter), (2) the twelve (apostles), (3) over 500 brethren at one time, (4) James, (5) all the apostles and (6) Paul.
Any lawyer making his case is pleased if he has an eyewitness to corroborate an event in question. How airtight would the case be if over 500 eyewitnesses could be called? Furthermore, at the time of Paul’s writing, he affirmed that the majority of the 500 eyewitnesses were still alive (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Christianity is unique among religions. Other religious systems have founders who are now dead. In contrast, Jesus is “alive forevermore” (Revelation 1:18). There shall always be the doubting-Thomas types in every generation. Christianity has its very foundation on the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:16-20).
How About Your Conscience?
Have you ever been troubled by a guilty conscience? I’m guessing your honest answer would be, “Yes.” Conscience is defined as “the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action.”
Few would deny that mankind possesses an innate sense of what he ought to do and what he ought not to do. There is a marked contrast between animals and man. Animals seem to act more instinctually. Humans are endowed with moral sensitivity.
Unfortunately, when men are bent upon doing evil, they often try to suppress the prodding of a guilty conscience. As an illustration, someone too bothered to wear an automobile safety belt could disable the buzzer that indicates an unlatched belt. Similarly, men become resourceful in coming up with ways to evade their built-in moral detector.
One attempt is to redefine right and wrong. The prophet Isaiah spoke of this rebellious maneuver. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20). If you call a horse a cow, the animal remains the same. To speak of an alternative lifestyle, an extra-marital encounter and recreational or social use of intoxicants does not change the moral standing of the activity.
Another means of quieting the conscience is by repeated disregard for its promptings. When interviewed, a mass murderer likely would admit that the first murder bothered his conscience, but the feeling lessened with each homicide. The Bible speaks of those who are “branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2) and who have “hardening of their heart; who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:18-19).
A third way to salve a guilty conscience is to find comfort in numbers. If “everybody is doing it,” then we feel it can’t be too bad. What about the masses who lived before the flood? Virtually everyone was thoroughly wicked (Genesis 6:5), and all but eight people were destroyed (1 Peter 3:20). “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil” (Exodus 23:2). Read Matthew 7:13-14. Right and wrong is not determined by popular vote!