Richard Ritenbaugh, asserting that there is far more corroboration of evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ and his life experiences than that regarding Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar, lampoons the smug, self-important 'scholars' who craft contorted, mind-bending, absurd theories of supposedly more believable explanations for the "impossible" resurrection of Christ. Tacitus and the Talmud, both highly respected non-Biblical sources, corroborate the veracity of the events of the Crucifixion. Nevertheless, crackpot theories abound, attempting to explain away this event, including: (1) the women, confused about direction, went to the wrong tomb, (2) the disciples stole the body and then claimed He was resurrected, (3) the disciples colluded on a bogus deception, (4) someone else died on the cross in His place, and (5) the whole event of the crucifixion, as well as the multiple occasions in which He talked to people, was a powerful mass hallucination, (6) Jesus was not really dead but preserved Himself with a drug-induced coma, allowing Him to later escape from the tomb. Pilate, the Centurion, and Joseph of Arimathea all corroborated the stark reality of Christ's death. The precautions Pilate took to seal the tomb refutes any notion of the disciples stealing the body. The vast number of eye witnesses precludes any notion of a hoax or collusion on the part of fanatic followers. The once timid followers of Christ were emboldened by His resurrection, and were now willing to put their lives on the line. Twenty-seven separate documents—the books of the New Testament—provide evidence of Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, providing far more evidence than the minimum required in a court of law. All of this testimony gives us confidence and hope of a resurrection for us as well.
While we must express some of our own faith as we come to salvation, the great bulk of "saving faith" is a gift of God, given graciously and miraculously as part of God's creative process in us. In particular, John Ritenbaugh uses the examples of Abel and Enoch to illustrate the pattern of faith through which God walks His people.
John Ritenbaugh examines our society's inability to deal with reality, turning instead to media-concocted distortions. By refusing to believe God's Word, rejecting His doctrine, society does not find God to be real (including many church-going people, who pick and choose their own beliefs apart from Scripture). He cannot be real to people who refuse to adhere to His Word, which is a far more reliable gauge of reality than the most observant eyewitness. If we allow His Word to illuminate our lives, we will make the necessary steps to conform to His will, diligently keeping His commandments. We can account for God's seeming delay in His plan by realizing: 1) His schedule is on His time, not ours; 2) a delay allows more to be called, 3) giving us more time to overcome; and 4) lawlessness has not yet reached its peak. What God puts us through is designed to reveal reality to us. Accepting His doctrine without looking for loopholes will keep us true.
John Ritenbaugh, using Lot's wife as a sobering example warns us that God does not want us to maintain close associations with the world because it almost inevitably leads to compromise with godly standards, jeopardizing the consistency of the Christian witness to God. Much of ancient Israel's (as well as modern day Israel's) problem stemmed from a false sense of security (pride) apathy (from an abundance of food) and a luxurious life of ease (from spending time in self indulgence). Not many of us will be able to stand before the spiritual onslaughts of the world having the pride-filled, overfed, and unconcerned attitude (Psalm 30:6-7) - an attitude causing Lot's wife to love the world and Lot to linger and procrastinate.
John Ritenbaugh explores the conversion of Cornelius, a Gentile. This event is nearly as pivotal a benchmark as the original Pentecost because the Gentiles at this point are given the same portal of salvation (repentance, belief in Christ, and receipt of God's Holy Spirit) originally offered to Israel. This portion of Acts highlights: (1) The church's initial resistance to Gentiles fellowshipping in the church, (2) God's leading the church into the right understanding of Gentile conversion, (3) God's using Peter (originally relatively rigid and unyielding in his scruples) instead of Paul (more cosmopolitan), and (4) Jerusalem's acceptance of Gentiles (originally considered ceremonially unclean from the Jewish point of view) apart from the influence of Judaism. Peter's vision about the unclean beasts is to be interpreted metaphorically or symbolically rather than literally: Gentiles are not to be regarded as impure or ceremonially unclean.
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