"Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?"
Earlier this week I was reading Acts 26. The apostle Paul is under arrest and he has received an opportunity to make a defense of his case before two rulers, Agrippa and Festus. In the midst of his testimony he speaks the words I quoted, and when I read them I had to stop for a moment before continuing on.
That claim of Paul that God raises the dead is critical for everything we believe as Christians.
Paul is not claiming that God merely has the power to raise people from the dead. If a person believes that there is a God, and then believes that same God created the world, then it would not be unreasonable to also believe that the same God who created life would also have the ability to restore to life any person whose life had ended. There is nothing inherently Christian in believing any of those things.
It is the fuller context of Paul's testimony that brings out the significance of the claim that God raises the dead. Paul's point is not just that God can raise the dead, but that in fact God did raise from death Jesus of Nazareth. Paul had a personal encounter with Jesus after the resurrection, a encounter that changed Paul's life from one of persecution of Christians to one of total devotion to Jesus as his Savior and Lord.
Like Paul, we are in a relationship with God through Jesus. We may not have seen him in the flesh but we believe, like Paul, that God raised him from the dead. And believing in the fact of the resurrection is all the proof we need to believe everything else the Bible teaches us about the significance of Jesus, for both this life and eternity.
Later in his testimony Paul says this is what Jesus told him would be the new purpose of his life's work:
"I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me."
This task of opening eyes is one that belongs to each of us today. It is not easy work and there will be many times when it looks like we have been failures at it. But it is the work that all Christians are called to.
May we be people like Paul, people who continue to look for ways large and small, direct and indirect, that give us the opportunity to point people toward Jesus.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.