Resurrection Of Jesus Christ
While many doubt the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it is the core belief of the Christian faith. A tenet commonly held by more than 2 billion professing followers worldwide is that Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, was crucified more than 2,000 years ago and laid in a tomb covered with a huge stone, typical of burial plots of ancient times, only to arise three days later. Recorded primarily in the four gospels of the Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; Christs victory over death, hell and the grave empowers every believer to hope for victory over sin to eventually inherit eternal life. What makes Jesus different from other spiritual leaders to whom other religions attribute deity is that He is the only one who died and rose again.
Each of the four gospels relay an account of the actual event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Matthew, Chapter 28 records Mary Magdalene and the other Mary arriving early at the tomb where the two women were met by the Angel of the Lord. The angel had apparently rolled away the tremendous stone from the mouth of the tomb, a feat which would have been humanly impossible. As the women gazed in awe at the empty sepulcher, the angel informed them that Jesus had risen. Both Marys ran to tell the disciples and as they ran, Jesus Christ appeared to them and declared that, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." He instructed them further to go and teach all nations, baptizing them in His Name, and teaching them to observe the His doctrine. Essentially, the Lord established a mandate for evangelism which has been followed by devoted disciples for centuries, as men and women continue to carry out the Great Commission.
Mark's account reiterates that of Matthew's, adding the presence of a woman named Salome at the tomb. But, it is Luke's account, as told from the heart of a well educated physician, which gives further evidence of the resurrection. A man of great observation and an eye for detail, Luke not only referenced Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and other women; but he recalls Jesus' invitation to the fearful disciples to, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have." (Luke 24:39). From a medical doctor's viewpoint, to actually touch the physical anatomy of the Savior, whom everyone believed to be dead, is more than ample proof that Christ lived then and still lives now, fully the Son of man and fully the risen Son of God.
John, Chapter 20, gives further evidence of the resurrection. The beloved John knew Christ in an intimacy; and his account takes Luke's revelation one step further. Not only does the Lord Jesus allow the disciples to view the nail-scarred hands, but the Lord breathes upon the disciples so that they may receive the Holy Ghost. The breath of God breathed upon what was to become new creatures was overwhelming physical, yet intimate evidence of the resurrection. Eight days later, Christ returned from the ascension to the Father in a glorified body to reassure a doubting disciple. This time, a glorified Savior walked through physical doors shut tightly in fear of religious persecution and allowed the disciples to handle and touch the open wounds of the crucifixion, as evidence of the resurrection: "Then he saith to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name." (John 20:27-31).
Skeptics who persist in rejecting the truth of a risen Savior may find more evidence throughout the Bible. I Corinthians, Chapter 15 is devoted to the Apostle Paul's persuasive argument in favor of Jesus' triumph over death: "Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain: and your faith is also vain" (I Corinthians 15:12-14). In addition to this passage, verses 19 through 21 of the same chapter bring more clarification: "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead."
Numerous other Biblical passages point to life after death for born again Christians. The four gospel accounts each declare that Jesus rose from the dead with all power in His hand, giving to all mankind the right to experience the forgiveness, grace and victory over sin. Those who choose to accept salvation by appropriating the benefits so freely given to us by God through the sacrificial act of the Lamb's blood shed at Calvary; are able to bear witness to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As men and women hunger to know the Lord, feast on the written Word of God, and fellowship with other believers; they will grow stronger in faith and have little difficulty believing and accepting the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The regenerated heart and spirit of a born again man or woman is proof positive that the Lord and Savior yet lives.
Water BaptismWhat is the purpose of water baptism? Christians use water baptism as a tool of identification and symbolization of a walk with Jesus Christ. In fact, there are several instances in scripture where Jesus commands believers to undergo the immersion ceremony. Since Jesus has proclaimed this command, most believers follow Christ in this symbolic manner. How is this rite carried out? Generally, a rectangular tank in a church, normally at the front behind the choir area, is filled with warm water. The tank has steps on both sides where the baptismal candidates enter and leave the baptism pool. The Pastor usually has passages of scripture that are read, he prays over the candidate, and then proceeds with the baptism. Water baptism in the Bible took place in rivers, lakes, streams and seas. Today, the opportunity is available to immerse within a building, which is very convenient for believers to have the rite completed in short order.
Throughout the Bible, whenever the purpose of baptism is discussed or mentioned, it often pertains to the action that is carried out after someone decides to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, was crucified for sins, and was buried and resurrected to eternal life. The believer must realize he or she is a sinner and repent or turn away from their sins (since everyone is a sinner, everyone sins). Then the person accepts Jesus into their heart to begin a personal relationship with Him. The Christian believes that Jesus' atoning death on the cross and his shed blood covers or cleanses of all sin. From that point on, the person is a new creation in Christ Jesus. The act of immersion and the purpose of baptism are the symbolization of this new life, or the symbolic burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The purpose of baptism is to show the world and other practicing Christians that the person being baptized wishes to identify himself or herself with Christ. Often, the phrase "following the Lord in baptism" is used. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist when He first began His ministry. The meaning of the word here is "baptisma" or "baptism" which means an immersion, submersion or emergence ("bapto"- to dip). Other instances of this word are used in the scriptures to describe difficult circumstances that Christians may experience, and also refers to the afflictions the Lord Jesus Christ underwent.
The word baptism is from the Greek meaning to immerse. The meaning is, to go completely under the water. The purpose of baptism in the Bible is practiced by many different religions, but in different ways. Not all methods of this ceremony are scriptural. No where in the Bible are there examples of pouring water over someone's head, or sprinkling them. You cannot infer this, even if the rite is not described, because the Greek word itself means to immerse under the water. Therefore, if someone has been sprinkled, or has had water poured over them, they have not been scripturally baptized. In the New Testament, the word describes a washing of the person - in this case, the washing of feet. The Greek word used in this sense is "baptizo" or "to baptize".
In the book of Matthew, when someone is baptized into the name of Christ, then that person is closely affiliated with the person whose name into which he is being baptized. During Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and baptized the disciples. This means He indwelled the believers with Christ's Spirit. The Holy Spirit was the helper of the Christians and taught them all things about scripture and truth. This is what is referred to as "baptized with the Spirit".
Water baptism in the Bible is always carried out after the person has come to understand his or her position of belief. If the person does not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He has the power to forgive people their sins, then there is no repentance, and therefore no forgiveness of sins. One can see then, that there would be no reason to go forward with the ceremony. However, once the person believes and repents, then the command is to be immersed. It means the person identifies himself or herself with Christ, determining to follow Him throughout life. Water does not cleanse the person of sin, but rather Jesus' sacrifice, His blood He shed on the cross accomplishes the cleansing. Submersion symbolizes this cleansing. Ephesians 5:26 ("the washing of water by the Word") uses the Greek work "ek" meaning "out of" in relation to the action of washing in the water, when speaking of baptism. What this is saying is that water is the symbol and not the vehicle of identification with the Lord. The person is literally being baptized out of their old life and emerges into new life.
It is important that careful study of the meaning of immersion in the Bible is carried out, so that the student understands how to apply this important command to their spiritual life. Jesus loves the believer, and wants identification with them. It may be that those who profess faith but never get baptized are ashamed to be identified with Christ. In order for the believer to show both God and mankind that there is no shame in identifying with Christ, the command of water baptism should be carried out as soon as possible after a profession of faith. It is a beautiful symbol, not only for the person being baptized, but for those who are witnessing it as well. It is a blessing!