Pastor Chuck DeVane
Special to The Sentinel-Record
Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord."
-- John 20:18, ESV
The term "social gospel" was coined by Walter Rauschenbusch. He believed the purpose of Christ and Christianity was not to reconcile man and God by grace through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; but, rather to go in Jesus' name and eradicate societal evils like poverty, racism, and injustice of any real or perceived kind.
While achieving such earthly goals is a noble pursuit, adherents of the advancing "social gospel" jettisoned the eternal truths of the historic, biblical, orthodox gospel of Jesus Christ. They denied the inspiration of Holy Scripture, did not believe the death of Christ was an atonement for sin, and could not accept the literal resurrection of the Lord, saying He lived on in personality only.
I believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ because of the authority of Holy Scripture.
John offers some unique details concerning the resurrection of Jesus, especially elaborating on Mary Magdalene's encounter with the empty tomb and the risen Christ. The other Gospel writers, Matthew and Mark and Luke, include different details but do not differ in the definitiveness of the story. The tomb was empty. Jesus was then seen alive. He did not swoon and recover. He did not dissipate to dust so that only His personality lived on. Jesus was dead. Jesus was buried. Jesus rose from the dead.
The Law, the Writings, and the Prophets point to Jesus. The Gospels identify Jesus. The Epistles explain Jesus. The Revelation affirms all that happened in the first coming of Christ and points the way to the second coming of the Lord. All of the Bible points to the incarnation, atonement, resurrection, and return of the Lord Jesus Christ, without a single contradiction or error!
I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ because of the testimony of trusted eyewitnesses.
I like the way John inserts himself into the story. He does brag a little, however, noting that he could run much faster than Simon Peter. I try to stay humble about my sports success as a high schooler and collegiate, but I don't mind telling you in my youth I was probably the fastest white boy in the whole state of Georgia.
John makes the resurrection of Christ not only biblical, but personal. He was there. He watched Jesus die. He returned the third day and witnessed the empty tomb. He said he "believed," an experience in the past with present and future implications. John's belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ changed and controlled his life forever.
For some reason, Mary is often portrayed wrongly in two extremes, as either a hooker or Jesus' wife, and there is certainly no evidence for either. Jesus did cast demons out of her and she did become a devout and generous follower. She showed great love for Jesus, great courage in approaching the tomb, and was given the honor by God of being the first preacher of the full gospel of Jesus Christ, that He lived, He died, and on the third day, He rose again.
I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ because of the reality of personal experience.
I was not there, 2,000 years ago, when Mary, John, and Peter peeked into the empty tomb, nor when Mary wrapped her arms around the Lord, nor when the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ began to spread. I was not there, 2,000 years ago, when an aged Apostle John bent over to write onto a papyrus words that would become the Gospel of John. I was not there, 2,000 years ago, when Jesus Christ died, was buried, and on the third day rose again.
But I was there, almost 40 years ago, when Jesus walked into my college apartment, into my heart, mind, and soul, saved me from my sin and took over my life as Lord. No, I did not hear His audible voice. No, He did not walk in, bodily, physically, so that I could actually see Him. But it was much more than just His personality. Christ came to me through the Holy Spirit, the word of God, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I began to follow Him that day, and will never stop.
I believe if He had not risen from the dead, bodily, physically, He could not have come spiritually into my life. I have had a life-changing encounter with the Spirit of the Son of Almighty God, who loves me, died for me, and rose again, literally and bodily, from the grave because the Bible, reliable witnesses, and my own experience of grace tells me so!
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]