That faith

April 3, 2012

The faith of the Apostles

Filed under: The Apostles — Tags: , , , , , — JMJ @ 1:38 pm

The testimony of death is what this author found as a nonbeliever to be a very difficult problem to get around. This is in reference to the last point on the above list: people who were tortured and executed willingly rather than deny their beliefs of Christ.

It is a challenging conjecture for any of us to think of what beliefs, if any, we would hold to the point of enduring torture or death. How long would you burn, or how much skin could you take being peeled away before screaming out whatever your tormentors wanted to hear? Until such moment comes, no one can say. But that moment did arrive for many who came before us, and history answers that they believed Jesus to be God-incarnate to their last breath.

The torturous end of Jesus’ closest followers and the torture and exile of another indicates something radical. Their lives and their writings may show us what they believed; but nothing as much as their deaths shows us just how much they believed Jesus to be risen.

Although many martyrs (people who died for not relinquishing their beliefs) and confessors (people who were threatened with death for the same) can be named throughout church history, it is the deaths of the apostles and other close followers which carry the bulk of evidence for Christ’s deity.

The apostles knew, lived, and worked with Christ daily for years. If Christ were a fake, no matter what the apostles might have previously preached or written, it is improbable that even one of them would have died for the sake of a joke or a lie. How rational is it that all of them would endure torture, eleven to the death, without even one wavering from their singular belief that Christ was God, and that he appeared to them after his crucifixion?

The fact that they maintained perfect unanimity on Jesus’ resurrection under torture, separately and over many years, is inconceivable unless they were each absolutely convinced of Christ’s claim to be the almighty God of the universe. The possibility that the apostles honestly mistook him to be God and only thought he appeared to them will be discussed later. But it is without a doubt that, rightly or wrongly, they were all totally convinced of Jesus’ deity to the end.

Here is how many of those closest to Jesus met their end:

  • Matthew – killed by stabbing as ordered by King Hircanus
  • James, son of Alphaeous – crucified
  • James, brother of Jesus – thrown down from a height, stoned and then beaten to death at the hands of Ananias (circa AD 66)
  • John – tortured by boiling oil, exiled to Patmos in AD 95
  • Mark – burned during Roman emperor Trajan’s reign
  • Peter – crucified upside-down by the gardens of Nero on the Vatican hill circa AD 64
  • Andrew – crucified on an “X” shaped cross by Aegeas, governor of the Edessenes, around AD 80
  • Philip – stoned and crucified in Hierapolis, Phrygia
  • Simon – crucified in Egypt under Trajan’s reign
  • Thomas – death by spear thrust in Calamina, India
  • Thaddaeous – killed by arrows
  • James, son of Zebedee – killed by sword in AD 44 by order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea
  • Bartholomew – beaten, flayed alive, crucified upside down, then beheaded

No group of individuals had closer contact with Jesus than those listed above. Their conclusion, even unto death, was that Jesus was God. Multitudes of unnamed Christians of the same and following eras likewise perished faithful to the conviction that Jesus is Lord. Pliny records an arrest procedure of many such Christians that today reads like a McCarthy-era transcript:

“Those who denied they were, or had ever been, Christians, and who repeated after me an invocation to the gods,… and who finally cursed Christ – none of which acts, it is said, those who are really Christians can be forced into performing – these I thought it proper to discharge.”

Tacitus, in his work Annals, tells us of the fate common to Christ’s faithful, under Nero, who refused to recant their beliefs:

“Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”

We often hear or say some variation of, “Your actions are speaking so loudly that I can’t hear what you’re saying.” The apostles and early Christians’ actions speak very clearly. Their actions matched their words. They walked their talk. Of course at this point, one might wonder what good their faithfulness did them – secure for them a horrible death? Where was their so-called loving God?

Christ did love these men, and these men loved Christ. These men could have denied their belief in Jesus and he probably would have forgiven them. But they loved the truth of God literally more than earthly life. Even one denial just to spare themselves from the moment might have become popularized as the “awful truth about Christ”, and the worship of Christ then greatly curtailed.

By the apostles’ obedience and sacrifice, Christ has allowed their deaths to become an extremely powerful witness to us of his person. They died because they loved Christ, and Christ let them die for him because he loves us. Belief in Christ is that important, and those who died knew it. So it is not God who devalues the apostle’s deaths, but us whenever we ignore the truth of Christ for which they surrendered their lives.

The deaths of Jesus’ closest followers are speaking to us. Their deaths have become evidence of Christ’s deity and ministry on earth. This is evidence of the Bible’s believability that no historian, scientist, or skeptic can ignore in clear conscience.

[From http://www.provethebible.net/%5D

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