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Evidence-Based Faith

Acts 10:39-43
'We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.' (NIVUK)

Peter's address to Cornelius about Jesus had none of the feel-good sentiments of some modern preaching. It was not designed to excite emotions by showing how trusting Jesus can make for a happier life. It was a succession of facts; historical evidence of the life, death, resurrection and future rule of Jesus Christ. The presentation was raw evidence from the mouth of an eye-witness (2 Peter 1:16).

The message focussed on the circumstances and consequences of Christ's death. 'They killed Him' (referring to the Jews) was an interesting expression considering that the Roman soldiers carried out the execution, overseen by a centurion … and Cornelius was a Roman centurion. What Peter meant was that without the hatred of the religious leaders, no charge would have been brought to Pilate. But whatever the worst which religion could do, God vindicated His Son in resurrection.

The risen Christ was not a public spectacle, as was His crucifixion. God chose the apostles to be eye-witnesses as men who saw, talked, ate and drank with Jesus after the resurrection. They were so convinced that He is the Passover lamb whose blood atones for sin and allows God to forgive sinners, that all were willing to suffer extreme persecution (most died violently). Their preaching was very potent: through Jesus you can be forgiven, but if you cannot believe in Him as your Lord then you will face Him without any defence, as your Judge.

Gospel preaching is not shaped by what people want to hear, but by what God wants them to hear. The key is a challenge: to believe that the blood-sacrifice of Jesus enables people, who admit they are sinners, to be forgiven. Without that essential ingredient there is no good news. It is true that such faith brings joy and peace, but suggesting that ‘people will feel better if they come to church’ is not the gospel. Gospel communication urges us to submit to God's assessment of ourselves as helpless sinners, and dare to trust that only the blood of Jesus Christ can bring God's forgiveness. That was the apostles' doctrine borne out of observed evidence (Acts 2:36-38). There is no other gospel known to the apostles (1 Corinthians 2:1-5), and no other gospel to share with friends and colleagues today.

Lord God. Thank You for providing a way for me to be forgiven: I am totally indebted to the death of Jesus Christ. Forgive me for failing to share the true gospel, either out of ignorance of what it is or out of fear of the social reactions of other people. Please help me to love them so much that I am willing to be rejected by some so that some others will hear the true gospel and be saved. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams