When engaging with unbelievers, focus on clearing away objections so that they can hear and consider the claims of Jesus in Scripture. What are the key claims of Jesus of which people are often unaware? In the last post we looked at Jesus’ claims to be God. Here we look at a few more claims with which an honest unbeliever has to wrestle.
- Jesus claimed to be the Messiah promised in the Old Testament
This is an especially helpful claim if the person to whom you are talking is Jewish, but it also refutes objections about the God of the Old Testament being different from the God of the New Testament, or the objection that Christianity evolved from Old Testament religion. If Jesus fulfilled what the Old Testament promised, then there is no conflict between the Old and New Testaments.
- In John 5:39, 46 Jesus claimed that all the Old Testament Scripture spoke of him.
- In Luke 24:27 Jesus showed the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that the whole Old Testament pointed forward to his life, death, and resurrection.
- In Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus told the crowds gathered to hear him on the mountain that he came to fulfill the law, not do away with it.
- In addition, Jesus fulfilled more than 300 specific prophecies in the Old Testament.
- Jesus claimed to be the only way to be reconciled to God
In John 14:6 Jesus explicitly claims to be the only way to God, the ultimate truth, and the only source of life. Showing an unbeliever that Jesus claimed to be the exclusive way to be reconciled to God refutes the idea that Jesus only thought of himself as one possible way to God. If there are many ways to God, and Jesus claimed to be the only way, this would make Jesus egotistical, narrow-minded, and bigoted. Therefore, he could not be just a good, moral teacher. He either is the only way to God, or he isn’t, and is not worthy to be followed.
- Jesus rose from the dead
Christianity is the only religion whose founder rose from the dead and was seen by hundreds of eyewitnesses. Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate proof of his deity and his identification as the promised messiah of the Old Testament (Rom. 1:1-4). Even skeptical historians who deny Jesus as the Son of God cannot escape the historical facts that three days after Jesus was buried his tomb was empty.
Gary Habermas, professor at Liberty University and expert of the resurrection of Christ estimates that 75% of critical scholars (those who reject Christianity) believe that Jesus’ tomb was empty. In other words, the historical evidence for the empty tomb is very strong. On top of that, the belief that Jesus rose from the dead is the best explanation for what happened in the weeks following Jesus death. The transformation of a ragtag group of terrified followers into a powerful movement attracting thousands who proclaimed the resurrection of a crucified criminal can only logically be explained by the fact that Jesus rose again.
The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection have a number of features that lead many scholars to consider them reliable. First, the initial eyewitnesses of Jesus after his resurrection were women (Matt. 28:5-7). In the culture at that time the testimony of women was considered to be worth only half of a man’s. So, if you were inventing the resurrection story, you would never include women as the first eyewitnesses. You would perhaps write civil authorities or religious experts. Since women are, in fact, credited with being the first to see Jesus, the Gospel accounts more likely accurate. Second, when the women told Jesus’ disciples that the tomb was empty and that they had seen Jesus, the disciples didn’t believe them at first (Luke 24:11). This shows that the disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead. Third, some critics believe that the accounts of Jesus’ life and resurrection are legends rather than factual history. However, the examples we have of legends arising in antiquity (the ancient world) all demonstrate that such legends take hundreds of years to emerge. The Gospels, however, were written within 20-30 years of Jesus’ life, clearly not enough time for legends to arise. So, anyone who wants to argue that the Gospels are legends is arguing against the way history works.
By challenging unbelievers with these claims and facts of Jesus, you put before them the most important question any person has to answer—what will you do with Jesus? This is the goal of apologetics—getting unbelievers to face up to the claims of Jesus and show that Jesus is who he claimed to be and can save them from the sin which condemns them.
In the next post we will see how, in addition to showing them a truly biblical portrait of Jesus, it is necessary to show the unbeliever the beauty, glory, and rationality of the Christian faith.