Romans 10:9 New King James Version (NKJV)
9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Every Christian says that they believe in their hearts that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. But what does it truly mean to believe in your heart? We have to take into consideration that in this verse Paul is a 1st-century Christian, writing to other 1st century Christians. They had a different understanding of human anatomy. For example, in the 4th century, BC Aristotle argued that the heart was the body’s most important organ and that it was responsible for human intellect. It wasn’t until centuries later that science advanced to the point of learning the true function of the heart. So in New Testament writing, it is safe to say that when a writer refers to the heart he is referring to our intellect, in essence, everything that makes us who we are. For an idea or a concept to penetrate that deep into our being, we require both faith and understanding.
For me, maintaining and maturing my faith required the acquisition of knowledge. In fact, there was a time in college where I almost walked away from the faith because of a lack of knowledge. I attended a Christian university and studied religion. To my surprise, during many of my courses, my professors would teach information that was contrary to the scriptures that I had read. After completing some courses I wondered how the Gospels could be true. I heard arguments about whether or not the Gospel writers had created an elaborate hoax or more accurately a big fat lie. I also learned of countless others who had claimed to be the Messiah. This was a shock to my faith and if I had not begun studying on my own I would not be a Christian today. In my quest to reaffirm my faith I came across three questions that solidified my faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
1. Why would someone die for something that they knew was a lie?
2. Of the many 1st century Jews who claimed to be the Messiah, what made Jesus different?
3. What is the proof of Christ in my life?
Why would they lie?
As a young Christian, I constantly came across the argument that the Apostles and Jesus’ disciples were simply liars. I heard many people claim that the New Testament writers had just made the whole resurrection story up. That sounds like a simple explanation for the extraordinary events that are recorded in the New Testament but does that argument really make sense?
A simple Google search reveals the most common reasons that people lie. Here are a few of the most common.
- To avoid punishment
- To gain fortune or fame.
Of these reasons for lying which would apply to 1st-century followers of Christ?
We certainly can’t say that falsely claiming Christ was raised from the dead would keep anyone from being punished. In fact, it was the exact opposite, followers of Christ were beaten and murdered in the most gruesome of ways. These weren’t people who had been tricked into believing that Christ was the risen Savior, these would have been individuals with firsthand knowledge. If they were in fact lying, all they would have had to do was admit that they were lying to avoid punishment. As a child, I can remember telling lies to avoid punishment but I cannot imagine telling a lie that would lead to punishment.
Another popular reason for lying is to gain popularity or some financial benefit. Would this apply to the Apostles? If you have ever read the Book of Acts you know for certain that this was not the case. In Matthew 5:11, Jesus makes it quite clear that if you follow Him, people aren’t always going to like you. We can see this clearly today, Christians are ridiculed and mocked but our current situation does not compare to the persecution that 1st century Christians endured.
Then in Luke 6:20 Jesus tells us that blessed are the poor, never in any Gospel does Jesus claim that his followers will gain earthly riches. These two verses alone make it impossible to believe that the apostles were lying about the resurrection for fame and fortune.
What about the others who claimed to be the Messiah?
Jews had long awaited the coming of a Messiah. During Jesus time period they believed that the Messiah would deliver Jews from the oppression of the Roman Empire. Many believed the coming Messiah to be a military leader who would defeat the enemies of the Jews and usher in a new Messianic Age. Many individuals came forward claiming to be the Messiah that the Jewish people had been waiting for. After each one failed to accomplish their goal, they died and their stories ended. But Jesus came with a different message, his approach to deliverance came from the inside out.
The only thing that was different or special about Jesus had to be the fact that he was sent from the Father. He wasn’t flashy or exceptionally handsome, in fact, he was physically so similar to the others around him that Judas had to kiss him on the check to identify him. The exceptional people of our time standout. If Lebron James was standing in the midst of a group of normal people, you wouldn’t need a signal to identify him. The description of Christ given in Isaiah 53 says that there was literally nothing special about his physical appearance. So if he was no different from the people of his time and by human standards less spectacular than the militants who claimed they would usher in the Messianic age by force, why are we still talking about him 2000 plus years later? The answer to me is quite simple, He is who He said is.
The change in my life is apparent
Tethered is the only word I could think of to express the way that Christ has changed my life. I accepted Christ as a wayward 17 year old and my walk has been far from perfect but through all of my trials and failures I have been anchored to the Savior. There have been times when my circumstances became so hard that I wanted to walk away from the faith but when the smoke cleared and the dust settle Christ was still there ready to welcome me back just like the parable of the prodigal son. There have been times when I completely blew it and disappointed everyone who had ever believed in me but even in my failure I never felt abandoned. 2 Corinthians 4: 8-9 describes my walk.
8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
If not for the Lord’s intervention and his presence I know that I would be the man that I am today. That is why I believe.