Often times in our day to day interactions we hear someone say something that sounds like it’s from the Bible or even hear something we’ve read or heard in church knowing it’s from the Bible. Therefore, we don’t put much thought into the validity of the quote and we’ll affirm it with a hearty “Amen.”
And, too often, I’ll hear something and I think to myself “that’s not what that means.” Usually, the person speaking isn’t trying to be careless or malicious with their use of scripture. It’s usually just being spoken from ignorance. So, I’ve decided to write about one of the often quoted yet misused scripture quotes that we hear thrown about. One that I’ve even misused in the past:
Philippians 4:13 ” I can do all things through Christ “
We see this verse used on athletic clothing and sports banners. We say it before big tests. We say it when beginning our work week at a place we’d rather not work. We use it as a self affirmation when going to job interviews. It has become a Christian mantra for completing any daunting task.
At first the verse seems pretty upfront and plain. However, there’s a simple principle one can remember when using Bible verses, “Never read a Bible verse.” This means that all verses are surrounded by other verses and chapters and all verses should be read and used in context with the complete message in which it was stated.
So what does this verse really mean? Let’s look at the immediate context.
Philippians 4:10-14“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.“
Paul, the writer of Philippians had been through great distress during his travels proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles. But these times were full of beatings, stonings, prison, and shipwrecks (2 Corinthians 11:25). It is likely that Paul during his earlier days came from a place of affluence. Paul knew what it was like to have and to have not.
What Paul wants the reader to know here is that because of the power of Christ he can be content in all situations. No matter what he is facing he knows Who is ultimately in control.
As he said earlier in the chapter, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. -1 Corinthians 15:3-8
The crux of the Christian faith hangs on this one issue. Previously, I stated that one of the evidences for Jesus being who He said He is was the fact of the resurrection. Here, I will discuss why we can believe in the resurrection without reservation. I will discuss some of the arguments used against the resurrection and give rebuttals to those arguments.
1. Swoon Theory– This argument against the resurrection states that Jesus did not die on the cross, but was just weak and passed out (or swooned). When His tomb was found empty and He was seen alive after His death, it wasn’t because of a postmortem resurrection. It was because He didn’t die in the first place.
Rebuttal: While it is probable that a person can seem to die and not be dead, it is unlikely that this is what happened to Jesus for the following reasons:
Jesus received the horrible 39 lashes before His crucifixion. This was not just done with a regular whip but with a Roman flagrum. The flagrum had one handle with multiple lashes on the end. It is often called the “cat of nine tails.” However, the difference in the “cat” and the flagrum is the flagrum had barbs, bones, and/or shards of glass on the end of each whip. The cat is less brutal with smooth or knotted lashes. Each blow of the flagrum would have torn at Jesus’ flesh and muscle fibers. Jesus received 39 such blows from the Roman flagrum, and this was before the crucifixion.
Such scourging would have caused profuse bleeding from Jesus’ body. When the Roman soldiers placed the robe on Jesus, it would have created a temporary bandage for the wounds on His back. However, the robe was then ripped off, peeling the scabs that were beginning to form along with more flesh from His body. And this was before the crucifixion.
Next, Jesus was made to carry His cross (most likely just the crossbeam) to Golgotha. The distance from the place of the scourging to Golgotha (the hill of the crucifixion scene) is believed to be about 650 yards, or 6.5 football fields in length. The cross beam would have been approximately 100 lbs of solid wood. Imagine Jesus being made to carry that weight for that length after the beating He’d just received. Imagine the amount of blood He’s lost and is still losing at this point…before the crucifixion.
The crucifixion. Not much needs to be said on just how horrible the crucifixion was on the body. For sake of brevity you can read this PDF from The Journal of the American Medical Association on the details of the crucifixion.
The PDF also includes the spear through Jesus’ side that, by evidence of description, went into His heart. Needless to say the Romans were expert killers and would not have easily mistaken an alive man as being dead as it would have likely meant their life for Jesus’ if they were wrong.
Jesus body was wrapped in burial clothes. When scripture tells us that Jesus called out Lazarus from the dead, He didn’t tell Lazarus to undress himself from his grave wrappings. He knew that others had to undress him. Yet people who hold to the swoon theory would have to believe that will all the trauma inflicted on Jesus’ body, and being in a tomb with no water or food for 3 days to regain His strength, He was able to unwrap Himself. This might be possible for God incarnate, but no mere human.
Jesus would have also have to have rolled the large sealed stone away by himself and sneaked past the Roman guards in His condition.
2. The Stolen Body (or Conspiracy) Theory- This argument states that the disciples stole Jesus to further their cause and give credibility to their Messiah.
Rebuttal: In Matthew 28:11-13, the guards were bribed into saying that the disciples stole the body during the night. But why would they have to be bribed to say that? Why couldn’t they just say it if it were true? Because they knew it wasn’t true. To say that the body was stolen on their watch would have also meant that 1) they were overpowered or 2) they were asleep. If they were overpowered they could have said so, but this presents a problem that I’ll bring up later. If the soldiers fell asleep, they wouldn’t have been paid with a bribe; they would have paid with their lives. This was the case in Acts 12 when the Angel helped Peter escape from jail.
Also, the disciples began to die preaching a resurrected Christ. With Stephen being the first martyr in the Book of Acts, it only makes sense that they would have produced the body to avoid their own deaths. Some people have even argued that, as afraid as they were (Peter, the boldest disciple, denied Jesus 3 times from fear and the other disciples hid in fear), then someone might have produced some other body and claimed it was Jesus to make the persecution stop. But they couldn’t. Jesus had risen, and they knew it.
3. The Hallucination Theory- This theory says that because the disciples were so eager to believe in a risen Savior, they were hallucinating when they saw Jesus.
Rebuttal: One problem with this theory is that the disciples weren’t expecting a risen Jesus. They didn’t understand what He meant when He foretold of His resurrection. Thomas even doubted that He had risen when he was told. Yet, so many people witnessed the risen Jesus on several different occasions, it’s highly unlikely that hallucinations are to blame.
Another problem with this theory is that Jesus was actually touched post resurrection (Matthew 28:9).
Also, followers like Thomas who doubted Jesus had risen, and nonbelievers like James and Paul, who ended up being converted after a post-resurrection encounter, all stand as proof of Jesus rising from the dead. Oh yeah, there’s 500 others who saw the resurrected Jesus, also. That’s why it makes no sense to argue that the soldiers guarding the tomb were overpowered by people who sought to steal the body.
It must also be noted that the first response to news of the empty tomb was not a joyful “He rose like He said He would!” Rather, Jesus’ own disciples became suspicious. They said that the women who first witnessed the empty tomb and spoke with the angel, we’re speaking nonsense (Luke 24:11). And lastly, they thought someone moved Jesus’ body (John 20:2,15).
Finally, hallucinations last for short moments, seconds to minutes at a time. If the resurrected Jesus was just a hallucination, it lasted for 40 days!
4. The Argument from Low Probability- One of the most common arguments I’ve heard is that history isn’t based on events of low probability. “People can’t rise from the dead, therefore Jesus couldn’t rise from the dead.” Lawrence Shapiro professor in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, states “…we’d say that the ‘base rate’ for rising from the dead appears to be small indeed: one in several billion, at best, I should think.”
Rebuttal: What people really mean is that they don’t believe in miracles, or, “Based on my naturalistic worldview, Jesus couldn’t have risen from the dead.” However, this same worldview makes the highly improbable claim that life evolved from non-life and that these elements came from nothing. Regarding the probability of life evolving from non-life, “The probability of [a self replicating peptide] forming randomly, in sequential trials, is approximately 1 in 1040” In his interview with Lee Strobel, Dr. Stephen Meyer claims that “The probabilities of forming a rather short functional protein at random would be one chance in a hundred thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion. That’s a 10 with 125 zeros after it!”
As we can see the odds for the resurrection are exponentially better than what we are being taught concerning the origins of life from a naturalistic worldview. They say the resurrection is unbelievable because it’s a miracle yet they push the idea that life came from non-life which would be a far greater miracle!
After Lee Strobel examined the evidence for the Resurrection he turned from his atheism. “In short, I didn’t become a Christian because God promised I would have an even happier life than I had as an atheist. He never promised any such thing. Indeed, following him would inevitably bring divine demotions in the eyes of the world. Rather, I became a Christian because the evidence was so compelling that Jesus really is the one-and-only Son of God who proved his divinity by rising from the dead. That meant following him was the most rational and logical step I could possibly take.”
The evidences are overwhelming for the Resurrection. It is arguably the single most significant event in all of human history. No other prophet, priest, or king that died is alive again. Only the God-man Jesus Christ had the power to conquer death and the grave. Because of this fact we can have hope that death is not the end. That our bodies in all their frailties will be glorified and we will no longer be bound by sickness and decay. Believe on the One who made this possible. The Bible calls Jesus the firstborn from the dead, meaning all who believe in Him will follow this example.
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” -Jesus
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.- C. S. Lewis
In Plato’s famous work The Republic, written around 380 b.C., he gives an allegory commonly known as The Cave. In this discourse he describes people who are trapped in a cave from birth. The inside of the cave is all they know. They are chained by the feet and neck so that they can only face the back of the cave. Behind them is a fire. Between the people and the fire, objects past by casting only shadows for the people to see in front of them. From these shadows the people come up with all types of stories, theories, and philosophies. They form their realities based on the shadows they see on the wall not realizing they are only illusions of real objects. In fact they took great pride in their abilities to interpret the pictures on the wall.
One day, one of the people is freed from his lifelong prison. He finds his way outside the cave into the glorious sunlight. However, since he’d been in the dark all of his life, the sunlight hurts his eyes. After a while, his eyes become adjusted to the bright light and he begins to see plants, animals, trees, himself. He sees the shadows that he saw in the cave only to come to the reality that shadows are mere representatives of actual objects and people. He sees that these objects have colors. He then realizes that it is the sun by which he sees everything and after a while he can even gaze upon the very source of light itself.
He then returns to the cave. The sunlight has not only exposed the true world to him but it has also made the cave seem much darker than he remembers. Because his eyes haven’t readjusted, the darkness doesn’t fit like it used to, per se. Neither does the ignorance of being in the dark. He tries to explain to his fellow man that they are being kept in darkness and tries to make them understand the experience he just had. But they are so set in their perception of reality. They’ve believed it all their lives. The illusions of the darkness believed by everyone cannot compare to the truths of a “mad-man”; even though this mad-man is the only one who knows the truth. His new found freedom and attempt to free the others is met with so much disdain and mistrust that they plot to kill him.
Plato’s cave allegory has had many interpretations over the past 2300 years. To him it was a picture of the teacher attempting to free the masses from ignorance. His teacher, Socrates, was killed for this very thing. However, when I read it, I immediately thought about the life of Jesus. He was the “illuminated One” who sought to free people from their bondage to darkness only to be killed as a result. However, He was never in bondage like the rest of us. He only came in the form of the rest of us.
I also thought about the process of the new birth through Him.
Like the people inside the cave, we are all born in spiritual darkness (Ephesians 5:8). Since the fall of Adam and Eve, each of us has been born with Adam’s sinfulness imputed into us (Romans 5:12). Our perception of reality is flawed because of this sinful nature and the proprietor of the cave has kept us chained in ignorance (2 Corinthians 4:4). One day, by the grace of God, someone is freed from the chains. He is led to the opening of the cave. This new experience can be scary for some as they begin to see things differently. Although it is scary, there is something liberating about it all. He begins to see things like he has never even thought about seeing them. Then he sees the Sun (Son) and has now been born again.
But he can’t wait to tell the rest of the cave-dwellers what he has experienced. As he reenters the “cave”, the new believer understands that this way of darkness is no longer fitting to him (1 Peter 1:14, Romans 6:2). As he tries to tell the others, he is seen as a foolish man (1 Corinthians 1:18). In many cases, these attempts to free the others from their deeply held ignorance, leads to being ostracized or even death.
I must also point back to my personal testimony. Before I had even heard of Plato’s story, I described understanding the power of the Gospel in a very similar way. Instead of a cave, I had been living under a rock my whole life. In my blindness I’d heard and believed stories of the sky (God’s forgiveness) but my actions proved I was still in darkness. But, when I got saved the rock was removed and I experienced the breadth and length and depth and height and immensely beautiful color of the sky (Ephesians 3:18). I was never the same.
God is not willing that any of us should perish by remaining in the “cave” (Hosea 6:4, 2 Peter 3:19). Jesus, in John 3, tells Nicodemus “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” And “For God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” In John chapter 8, He says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
You too can come out of the cave, from under the rock and experience a new life. The abundant life (John 10:10). If you read this blog and do not know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, please send us an email (Theologetics3.firstname.lastname@example.org). We would love to tell you more about how to have a personal relationship with Him!