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                        "A REASON FOR OUR HOPE"


INTRODUCTION

1. In 1Pe 3:15, we find Peter giving the following command:

   "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to
   give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that
   is in you, with meekness and fear;"

2. Here we learn that we are to always be ready to explain the basis of
   our hope...
   a. What reasons are there for the hope we have in Christ?
   b. We must be ready to provide such reasons!

3. In this lesson, I wish to share with you a reason for MY hope...
   a. There are many reasons I could give, for the evidences for my
      faith are many
   b. But this is where I would begin if I were called upon to give a
      reason for my hope

4. In sharing with you a reason for my hope, perhaps I can...
   a. Strengthen and confirm the hope of my fellow Christians
   b. Create faith and hope in the hearts of some who may not yet be
      Christians

[Let me begin by suggesting some facts which no one can deny, even if
one is an atheist or an agnostic...]

I. FACTS WHICH CAN'T BE DENIED

   A. JESUS LIVED...
      1. Only the most ignorant or prejudiced skeptic would question
         the historicity of Jesus
      2. The reason?  The evidence from unbiased sources:
         a. Roman historians attest to this fact
            1) Tacitus (112 A.D.) in his "Annals"
            2) Pliny the Younger (112 A.D.) in his letter to the
               emperor Trajan
            3) Seutonius (120 A.D.), a court official under Hadrian
         b. Jewish sources, while denying His deity, attest to His
            historicity
            1) Flavious Jospehus (b. 37 A.D.), a Jewish general and
               historian makes several references to Jesus
            2) The Talmud
               a) Books of Jewish law, they speak frequently of Jesus
               b) Denying not that Jesus lived, only that He was not
                  what He or others claimed
         c. Thallus (52 A.D.), a Samaritan historian who tried to
            explain away the darkness at the crucifixion
      3. So overwhelming is the evidence, even atheistic historians
         admit Jesus lived
         a. "One is obliged to say, 'Here was a man. This part of the
            tale could not have been invented.'" (H. G. Wells, Outline
            Of History)
         b. Will Durant spent two chapters on Jesus in his book, The
            Story Of Our Civilization

   B. EVIDENCE FOR THE NEW TESTAMENT AS A HISTORICAL DOCUMENT IS
      REMARKABLE...
      1. Its authors claim to write as historians or even eyewitnesses
         to real events
         a. Luke, the physician
            1) His gospel (Luke) and history of the early church (Acts)
               compose over a third of the New Testament
            2) He wrote as one describing historical events - Lk 2:1-4;
               Ac 1:1-3
         b. John, the beloved disciple
            1) His gospel (John) was written as an eyewitness account
               - Jn 20:30-31; 21:24-25
            2) In his epistle (1st John), he claimed to be an
               eyewitness - 1Jn 1:1-4
         c. Paul, the Jewish rabbi
            1) Half of the books of the New Testament are his personal
               letters
            2) He claimed to have been an eyewitness, along with others
               - 1Co 15:3-8
      2. As a historical document, it's evidence is remarkable!
         a. It was written soon after the events it records
            1) As stated by Nelson Glueck, former president of the
               Jewish Theological Seminary in the Hebrew Union College
               in Cincinnati, and renowned Jewish archaeologist: "In my
               opinion, every book of the New Testament was written
               between the forties and eighties of the First Century
               A.D."
            2) "We can already say emphatically that there is no longer
               any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament
               after 80 A.D." - W. F. Albright, Biblical archaeologist
         b. It is noted for its historical accuracy in areas that can
            be tested
            1) "It may be stated categorically that no archaeological
               discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference."
               - Nelson Glueck (noted Jewish archaeologist)
            2) "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are
               his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of
               the true historic sense...in short, this author should
               be placed along with the greatest of historians." - Sir
               William Ramsay
         c. The manuscript attestation is for the New Testament
            unsurpassed
            1) In the number of copies for the purpose of comparison
               a) There are over 4,000 Greek manuscripts, 13,000 copies
                  of portions of the New Testament
               b) Contrast that with other historical documents
                  (Caesar's "Gallic Wars", only 10 Greek manuscripts;
                  "Annals" of Tacitus, 2; Livy, 20; Plato, 7;
                  Sophocles, 100)
            2) In the time between the originals and earliest copies
               a) Fragments exist that are within 50-100 years;
                  complete copies that are within 300-400 years after
                  the originals were written
               b) Compare this with manuscripts of other classical
                  histories:
                  1/ "Histories of Thucydides" - earliest copy is 1300
                     years removed from the original
                  2/ "Histories of Herodotus" - earliest copy is 1350
                     years removed from the original
                  3/ Caesar's "Gallic War" - 950 years
                  4/ Roman History of Livy - 350 years (and the
                     earliest copy is only a fragment)
                  5/ "Histories" of Tacitus - 750 years
                  6/ "Annals" of Tacitus - 950 years (and there are
                     only two manuscripts)
         d. What variances that exist between the ancient copies are
            minuscule
            1) Only 1/2 of one percent is in question (compared to 5
               percent for the Illiad)
            2) Even then, it can be stated:  "No fundamental doctrine
               of the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading...It
               cannot be too strongly asserted that in substance the
               text of the Bible is certain:  especially is this the
               case with the New Testament." - Sir Frederick Kenyon
               (authority in the field of New Testament textual
               criticism)
      -- Such evidence for the New Testament has led to the following
         statement:  "The evidence for our New Testament writings is
         ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of
         classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of
         questioning.  And if the New Testament were a collection of
         secular writings, their authenticity would generally be as
         beyond all doubt." - F. F. Bruce

   C. IF NOT TRUE, THE NEW TESTAMENT IS A CAREFULLY CONTRIVED LIE...
      1. The writers of the New Testament leave us no alternative
         a. They are either "eyewitnesses" or "false witnesses" - 1Co 
            15:14-15
         b. Either the events occurred as described, or they are
            "cunningly devised fables" - 2Pe 1:16-18
      2. We cannot say they might have been sincerely deceived
         a. Especially in reference to the resurrection of Jesus
            1) They claim they ate and drank with Him afterwards - Ac
               10:39-41
            2) They claim they saw and touched Him - 1Jn 1:1-4
         b. They leave us no room saying they were MISTAKEN or
            DECEIVED!
            1) Some sympathetic skeptics have tried to offer this as an
               alternative
            2) That perhaps in their grief and loss over the
               crucifixion of Jesus they "hallucinated" or had grief-
               inspired "visions" of Jesus
            3) But "hallucinations" and "visions" are highly
               individualistic experiences
               a) One person might see the hallucination or vision
               b) But several or many people don't see the same vision
                  at the same time!
            4) As outlined in the gospels and also 1Co 15:4-8, the
               resurrection appearances of Jesus were often witnessed
               by many at the same time (over 500 on one occasion!)
      -- So they leave us no choice; either the New Testament is a
         "Book Of Truth," or it is a "Book of Lies"

[At this point I believe I can fairly say that no one can deny these
three facts:

   1) Jesus lived

   2) The evidence for The New Testament as a historical document is
      overwhelming

   3) If not true, it is a carefully contrived lie!

Given that these facts are undeniable, then consider with me...]

II. THE IMPLICATIONS OF THESE FACTS

   A. WE ARE FORCED TO MAKE A DECISION...
      1. Concerning Jesus
         a. We can't deny that He lived
         b. Therefore we must decide who He is
            1) Is He what His followers claimed, the Son of God?
               - cf. Mt 16:13-17
            2) Or is the New Testament's representation of Him false?
      2. Concerning the evidence of the New Testament as a historical
         document
         a. We can't deny the overwhelming evidence for the New
            Testament
         b. Therefore we must decide concerning its historical
            reliability
            1) Will we accept it on the same basis we accept other
               historical documents?
            2) If so, then will we either accept it at face value, or
               reject it and along with all other historical documents
               whose evidence are much less?
      3. Concerning whether the New Testament is true
         a. We cannot say that it was simply a sincere but mistaken
            effort to explain who Jesus was
         b. Therefore we must decide whether it is true, or a carefully
            contrived lie!
         -- It is this last issue upon which all else truly depends!

   B. THE IMPLICATIONS OF OUR DECISION...
      1. If we decide that the New Testament is a carefully contrived
         lie...
         a. Then we must concede that a book with the world's highest
            standard of morality was composed by a group of liars,
            frauds, and deceivers!
            1) For what book contains a higher standard of love and
               morality than the New Testament?
            2) E.g., Jesus' "Sermon On The Mount" (Mt 5-7), and Paul's
               "Discourse On Love" (1Co 13)
         b. We must also concede that a book with overwhelming evidence
            as a historical document was carefully put together to
            deceive
            1) Known historical names, places and events were carefully
               intertwined with bold-faced lies
            2) Solemn affirmations concerning its truthfulness are
               made, intended to deceive those to whom such
               affirmations were made
         c. We must also concede that we know nothing about Jesus
            1) For outside the New Testament, there is no reliable
               historical record of Jesus' life and teachings
            2) And how can we trust the record of liars, frauds, and
               deceivers?
         -- But is it reasonable or logical to draw such a conclusion?
      2. If we decide that the New Testament is true...
         a. We have a reason for our hope concerning salvation!
            1) For it tells us of the life and death of Jesus Christ
            2) And how we can receive remission of sins through His
               blood!
         b. We have a reason for our hope concerning this life!
            1) For it tells us of the teachings and promises of Jesus
               Christ
            2) And how we can have the peace and joy only He can
               provide!
         c. We have a reason for our hope concerning the future!
            1) For it tells us of His resurrection, ascension, and
               coming again
            2) And how we have the hope of our own resurrection along
               with eternal life!

CONCLUSION

1. One reason for my hope is therefore based upon three facts which
   can't be denied...
   a. Jesus lived
   b. Evidence for the New Testament as a historical document is
      overwhelming
   c. If not true, then it is a carefully contrived lie

2. I have spent over forty years studying the New Testament...
   a. To conclude that it is a carefully contrived lie makes no logical
      sense to me
   b. Instead, I am persuaded that it contains a sincere, truthful
      account of who Jesus is and what He did

The testimony of the New Testament, then, is a strong reason for the
hope that I have in Jesus Christ.   May it be a reason for your hope as
well!
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