Lew Wallace had been a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. A decade later he was a lawyer and trying to become an author. Coming into contact with one of the most famous atheists of his day, he was embarrassed. Not embarrassed by the two hours of anti-religion he absorbed during that conversation, but by his own indifference and ignorance of that area of life.
In an academic way, that encounter convinced him to study Christianity. Even as a nonbeliever he had always enjoyed the story of the wise men who came to Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth. He had even begun a fictional novel based around that event, which he also considered mostly fiction. Now, he thought, he would carry that story down to the equally fictitious crucifixion which would, in his own words, “compel me to study everything of pertinency; after which possibly, I would be possessed of opinions of real value. It only remains to say that I did as resolved, with results – – first, the book Ben Hur, and second, a conviction amounting to absolute belief in God and the Divinity of Christ.”
Closer to our own day, a Chicago Tribune journalist and atheist named Lee Strobel began a similar investigation. When his wife became a Christian, Strobel began exploring the historicity and truthfulness of that faith.
Explaining his quest, Strobel wrote, "Some people are more experiential . . . but because I come from a law background, a legal background, and a journalism background, I tend to respond to facts and evidence. My way of processing my spiritual journey was to ask the question ‘Is there any evidence that supports Christianity being true?’"
Ultimately, that two-year process convinced him that all evidence led to the conclusion that Christianity is true. As with Lew Wallace before him, Strobel acted on that evidence and made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ in 1981.
This coming Sunday is Easter. Millions of Christians across nations, cultures, denominations, and churches, will join in the ritual affirmation that Jesus Christ did rise from the dead. As my Orthodox friends express it, “Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!” That is what Easter is all about.
The 11th chapter of First Corinthians is all about the resurrection. The writer, Paul, might not have personally witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion, and almost certainly did not witness the resurrection. By the time of this writing, however, both were as real to him as could be. Paul used this chapter to emphasize the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
He began by saying “by this gospel you are saved…” then explaining this gospel as, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, … he was buried, … he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” And “…if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. …And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”
True belief in the resurrection of Christ also calls for a response.
Consider Paul, the man who started out as Saul of Tarsus. In the early chapters of the book of Acts, the resurrection had already taken place, but this Saul did not accept that as truth. Until … on a mission to persecute members of the young church, as recorded in Acts chapter 9, the living Christ appeared to Saul.
We don’t know how long this encounter lasted, but the recorded events outline a significant change. First the Lord grabs Saul’s attention with a bright light. Next comes Saul’s response, the question asked and answered “who are you, Lord?” Then, demonstrating what happens when a person comes face-to-face with the reality of the resurrection, Saul displays his change in faith/allegiance with the question “what shall I do, Lord?”
As with Saul of Tarsus, Lew Wallace, Lee Strobel and thousands of others through the last 2000+ years, the realization of the absolute truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ led to the genuine belief that the risen Christ is Savior of the world, and to the conscious commitment to trust in him alone for salvation.
There’s another point to be made. If the resurrection is genuine and true, then all of the works and words of Jesus Christ are equally genuine and true. “The Son of Man is come to seek and to save the lost.” “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
No wonder his post-resurrection followers were so determined to share the news of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ with all peoples. They believed, as stated by Peter in Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Let’s finish this off with words again from the apostle Paul. Many consider Paul to be the first, or, at least, the preeminent missionary of the early church. Essentially, he gave up all rights and privileges to his own life for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He wanted everyone to hear this good news and worked diligently so that all who heard might understand and believe as he did. One of his stunning declarations came in 1 Corinthians 9:16 where he wrote, “I am compelled [constrained, required, cannot-do-anything-but] to preach [proclaim, share, tell, bear witness].” And “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”
So, do you believe the resurrection?
So, what does the truth of the resurrection mean to you personally?
So, what are you doing about it?