Lee Strobel’s “The Case For Christ” was one of the first books I read when I was searching for truth about the Christian faith. As a skeptic I had so many questions, but Christians I asked could not answer them. Most of my questions were about deciphering truth from a faith and a book that seemed so old. But, then I was introduced to authors like Strobel who wrote about his own search for truth concerning God and the Christian faith, and he did it from an intellectual point of view!
If you have questions about the veracity of the Christian faith, or are just searching for some answers to tough questions, listen to what Strobel has to say in the video clip below and then pick up one of his books. His work is not only about Jesus, although that is the most important part, but he also tackles the creation vs. evolution debate in “The Case for A Creator,” and he gives a profound presentation on the problem of evil, suffering and doubt in his book “The Case for Faith,” (I highly recommend viewing that one on DVD for its full impact). Some of his books are on DVD, some are on YouTube, and some come in children’s versions. Also check out one of his newest: “The Case for Grace.”
Take some time to listen to this 46 minute presentation as Strobel summarizes his personal story from atheism to faith in Christ Jesus, and gives some of the hard evidence for “The Case for Christ.”
Like Strobel, I was skeptical of Christians and the faith in general, but reading his work, along with C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” and Josh McDowell’s “More Than A Carpenter,” made me want to go back and study the Gospels of the New Testament with intention that I had not had before.
One important thing I discovered is that the Gospels are historical narratives (they report truths of real people, places, times and events). Therefore, the author and audience to whom it was originally written along with the broader context of the passages are extremely important to know. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you read the New Testament Gospels:
1. The Gospels require you to grasp some background information regarding their historical context, culture and social norms. Many good study Bibles will help you with this but I also recommend these easy to read resources:
- The Essential Companion to Life in Bible Times, by Moisés Silva (Key insights for reading God’s Word)
- The Esential Bible Companion, by John H. Walton, Mark L. Strauss, and Ted Cooper Jr. (Maps, themes, timelines, key people and terms)
- Playing With Fire, by Walt Russell (How to read the Bible with correct interpretation)
- Killing Jesus, by Bill O’Rilley and Martin Dugard (Great insights on the history and culture of the times before, during and after Jesus)
Historical and Cultural Context of the Gospels:
Politically – A Roman world
Culturally – A Greek world
Religiously (in Jerusalem) – A Jewish world
Spoken languages of the day – Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and Latin
2. There are four Gospels that record eyewitness accounts of the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus. Each one is written in the first century A.D. to a different group of people by an author with a specific purpose in mind. Read each Gospel in its entirety (in one sitting if possible) and then focus on studying specific passages knowing the author, audience and purpose.
This overview might be helpful:
Matthew: Written by the Apostle Matthew, Jesus’ disciple. Written to Jewish Christians to show a picture of Jesus as the promised Messiah. Matthew writes with a focus on what Jesus said – His discourses; His prophecy fulfillment; His long sermons and Mountain theology that would resonate with the Jews because of Moses’ teachings in the Old Testament.
Mark: Written by John Mark who was a companion of both Apostles Peter and Paul. He gives his own eyewitness account along with much of Peter’s experiences. Mark writes to Roman Christians to show Jesus as a servant of both God and man. Mark writes with a focus on what Jesus did – His servanthood and His miracles.
Luke: Written by Luke the Physician, Historian and companion of the Apostle Paul. Luke investigates and gives a “detailed account of what had happened.” Written to Greek Christians and Gentiles in general to explain Jesus as the Son of Man and Savior. Luke writes with a focus on what Jesus felt as a man – His human side; His parables; His prophecy fulfillment and the eyewitness accounts of His life to confirm the reports already circulating in the first century.
John: Written by the Apostle John, Jesus’ disciple and one of His closest companions in the inner circle of three. Written to the Church, both Jew and Gentile in the later first century to prove Jesus’ Deity and to combat the growing heresy of Gnostic and other philosophical teachings creeping in the early Church. John writes with a focus on Jesus as the “Word” and evidence for His Deity that includes His power over nature and life itself through the miracles He performed. He includes seven specific “I AM” statements (YHWH).
3. The Gospels contain some of these characteristics and focus points:
- The Gospels are historical narratives and are considered primary sources because they were written during the life and times of those who witnessed Jesus, unlike “Gnostic” and other so-called gospels that were not written until well into the second century A.D. and beyond.
- The Gospels present Jesus as the “New Covenant” and show how He fulfills the Old Testament Covenants through victory over death and Satan’s attempt to crush the righteous seed (Genesis 3:15).
- One of the primary goals of the Gospel writers is to prove that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the only one who fulfills the hundreds of prophecies about the coming Messiah in the Old Testament.
- The centrality of the Gospels focus on the Kingdom of God now and to come.
- The Gospels present the “Good News” of Jesus Christ who brings us salvation by the grace of God (hesed), not of our own works, so that we can live in relationship with Him now and in His house for eternity.
- The Gospels reveal the character of God through the person of Jesus.
- The Gospels introduce the Holy Spirit, third person of the Trinity, given to us by Jesus when we come to faith in Him in order to teach us truth found in the Scriptures.
- The Gospels give us Jesus’ teachings on how to live in the “last days” including a glimpse of Heaven and hell.
J. Warner Wallace, Homicide Cold-Case Detective, is another important role model for me in Christian Apologetics. He is a former atheist who, because of the evidence, became a Christian and has written several books including Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene and his latest book Forensic Faith. Check out this 28 minute interview with Wallace as he talks about the validity of the Gospels:
Please make this an important part of your life’s journey because what we believe now has eternal consequences, all ideas have consequences, and we will be without excuse when we stand in front of our Creator. We will not be able to claim ignorance because the evidence is everywhere. God has laid the truth out there and it’s easy to find if we’re willing to look (Romans 1:18-25).
Join us next week as we further explore the Case for Christ.
You will not find this material in the public school curriculum even though it is based on solid evidence and grounded in research. It is ironic that following the evidence to where it leads stops at the door of our public schools as they will not let a “Divine footprint” in! Join us as we examine evidence for Christianity and learn how to become a thoughtful defender and ambassador of your faith.
Click into the resource page of this website to view many of the top Christian thinkers and apologists along with some of their work; connecting to these types of resources is essential in your Christian growth.
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