Matt Hagee - Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
This morning, our text is found in 1 Peter 3:15, as we begin a brand-new sermon series entitled "answers, arguments and angry men". Before we begin, we're going to do something we've never done at church. Don't panic. But this week, I thought, considering the content and the importance and the weight of it, I wanted to create an outline for you to follow along with this message, so if you have a cell phone, pull that out, and take a picture of the screen. We're going to put up a qr code, and it'll give you access to an outline. Or you can go to jhm.org/answers because this is information that I want you to have.
I want you to study it. I want you to look at it for yourself, consider it, because today we are going to give you evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the Word of God is true. So let's read 1 Peter 3:15, as we consider, beyond a reasonable doubt, what the Word of God is and what that means in our lives. If you found that verse, say, amen. The Bible says: "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".
Heavenly Father, I ask that your Holy Spirit would saturate this sanctuary today, and every life who is watching, wherever they may be watching from. I ask that he would open our eyes to see the Revelation of your truth. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
You may be seated. Peter gives us a very clear commission. He says that we should always be ready. He didn't say we should some day be ready. He said, every day you live and breathe, everywhere that you go, you should be ready to give a defense of the hope that is in you. Now if we were in a courtroom, and I was going to appeal to the jury, the first thing that I would have to do is make an opening remark. They call this "opening arguments". And so my opening argument to you is this: that the Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report to us the supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claim that their writings are divine rather than human in origin.
Now this comment, this opening remark, comes from Dr. Voddie Baucham, one of the leading apologists in our generation. And I borrow it from him, because it's a paraphrase of what Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1. But in order for me to prove to you that the Bible is indeed a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses, I have to bring evidence to you that this is true. So what evidence do we have from these eyewitnesses? Remember this: in a courtroom, there is nothing that brings more credibility than one eyewitness unless you have multiple eyewitnesses. However, the one thing that is tremendously damaging is if any of the eyewitnesses give a contradictory account. This, in legal terms, is called "corroboration". Everyone is saying the same thing. And oftentimes, whenever you have corroborating stories and corroborating evidence, people start to believe that there is a conspiracy.
So let me begin by presenting to you the evidence that the Bible is a reliable collection of historical documents. We have the written affidavits of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. We have the opportunity to read the words of James, and Peter, and Paul, just to name a few in the New Testament. What you read in the New Testament are the affirmations of what they wrote during the life of Jesus Christ, fulfilling prophecies in the Old Testament. There are 66 books in this book, written by more than 40 authors. And they wrote it on three different continents over the span of 1500 years. There's no way that Moses writing the law in Genesis could have had any contact with the apostle John who's writing on the a Isle of Patmos 1500 years later.
However, in these 66 books, do you know what you find? You find thematic agreement. They all agree. Nobody takes a turn to the left, to the right. Nobody changes the narrative or the message. Every one of them tells the same story. And the story that they tell is a two-part tale. One, that God in heaven is at war with Satan. It's introduced in Genesis 3:15 when God is speaking to the serpent. And he says to the serpent, "I'm going to put enmity between your seed and her seed," speaking of Jesus. "You're going to bruise his heel. He's going to bruise your head". Just a few verses later, Genesis 3:21, you see the second part of the story, which is God's plan to redeem man. Because in Genesis 3:21, God went and he took animal skins, and he made a covering for the nakedness of Adam and Eve. It was a picture of his grace and his redemptive-covering work in the lives of men.
Now, 66 books later, do you know what Revelation is talking about? War with Satan and the redemption of man. In Revelation 20, Satan is defeated. He's cast into the lake of fire where he remains forever. In Revelation 22, the voice of the angel is speaking to all who will hear and all who will thirst: that no one will be denied if you want to come and drink freely of this water. What's the message? Of the vastness of all of those who wrote in the Word of God, in the 66 historical documents that I hold in my hand, it took over 1500 years from 30 plus authors with 40 different languages and different cultures, and different continents at different times. And do you know what? There is no contradiction! There's thematic agreement.
Now is that a coincidence? I don't think so. The only way that it can be reasonably explained is that they didn't get it from each other. They got it from a common source. And that common source was the Holy Spirit of the living God who told it to them. They heard these things in their various locations at their various times in their different languages by one source. And that source, according to 2 Timothy, is God. "All scripture," 2 Timothy 3:16, "is given by inspiration of God". Peter said it this way in 2 Peter 1:16 and 21... If you read verse 21, he says, "prophecy never came by the will of man, but by holy men of God, who spoke as the Holy Spirit moved them".
So what does that mean if the Holy Spirit spoke and all scripture is inspired by God? That means that we believe in the whole Bible, not a Bible filled with holes, but the whole Bible. So the first thing that I would submit to you, the jury, is that we have thematic agreement. It's hard to come by, but it's here. The second thing that I would submit to you, the jury, is we have historical validity. This is a valid historical document. And you say, "how can you prove that"? Well, one of the things that you want in historically valid documents is what they call "proximity". Proximity comes from those who were close enough to the action to speak with authority. The best is an eyewitness. And when it comes to the New Testament, here's how much eyewitness testimony we have.
Turn in your Bibles to Luke 1:1 through 4. When you look in Luke 1:1 through 4, Luke writes: "inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of the things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were", what? Eyewitnesses, "they were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered to them, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the", what? "Certainty," that you may have blind faith, that you may just put your vain hope in. That's not what Luke said. He said, "that you may know with", what? "Certainty those things which were instructed".
So what are we reading here? Luke, the physician, was hired by Theophilus. We'll call him "theo". And theo is a Greek who hears about this Jesus after the resurrection and the ascension of Christ. And he says, look. It's kind of hard for me to believe that he's virgin born. It's hard for me to believe that he did all these miracles. It's hard for me to believe that he's crucified and he's risen and he's coming again. So Luke, why don't you go down there and you interview some people and you find out what they saw? And you tell me if what they saw is different than what we heard. Luke starts by interviewing Mary. That's how he has so much information about the birth of Christ.
How else do you think Luke would know what Mary was thinking in her heart unless he asked her? Then he starts with the disciples. And he hears from the disciples what happened in the earthly life of Jesus Christ. And then he speaks to the apostle Paul in the prison in Rome. And this is where he hears about the things that took place in the Book of Acts. And Luke tells Theophilus, he said, I did it. Everything that they told you, it happened. He was the virgin-born son. He lived a sinless life. He died a sacrificial death. And on the third day, he rose again. Let's turn to 1 Corinthians 15, beginning in verse 3. He says, "I delivered to you at first all that I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scripture... And that he rose again on the third day according to the scripture".
And then in verse 5, he says, "he was seen by Cephas," which is Peter, "then by the twelve. And after that he was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, whom the greater part remain to this present day". So there were 500. And when he says, "the greater part," he means the majority. So let's just cut it down to the bare bones and say that the majority of 500 is 251. Two hundred and fifty-one, plus 12 apostles, plus Peter, plus Paul, because Paul gets down to verse 8, and he says, "then last of all he was seen by me also". When you do the math, there's more than 300 eyewitnesses to the fact that Jesus Christ lived, that Jesus Christ died, and that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead.
Whenever you want to know how true something is, you look for how much people had to say about it. And then you compare their notes. And in comparing their notes, you decide from there whether or not you have enough evidence to prove it's true. This is called "volume". So just for the sake of our conversation today, I present to you, the jury, the evidence of four historical figures. How many of you remember Julius Caesar? None of you lived when he lived, but you read about him in school. Did anybody ever stand up and denounce Caesar? "It's a lie"! "There was no Caesar". No. They told you this was a historical figure that you should know about because his Gallic wars were things that shaped the history of the world. Nobody denounces Caesar.
How many of you remember Aristotle and his poetics? Maybe if you took some Philosophy or psychology courses, people would talk about one of the fathers of psychology and Philosophy, and that would be Aristotle. How many of you ever got to read "the Iliad and the Odyssey" written by Homer? Urgh. Nobody stands in circles of English, discussing epic tales and denounces the life of Homer. So there must be volumes of material about these people. Well, let's start with the heavy weight, Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar was 100 B.C. To 44 B.C. And his Gallic wars are very important. And whenever we're studying history and we want to know about Julius Caesar, we take the file box and we look inside. And do you know what we find? Less than ten manuscripts. With less than ten manuscripts, we believe in Caesar.
Now the thing that's crazy when it comes to proximity is that the earliest manuscripts on Caesar are 900 years after his death. How many of you think they might have got a few things wrong? Alright, Caesar. We believe in you. Surely Aristotle. It's heavy stuff. Aristotle lived in 384 B.C. To 322 B.C. And if we were to search for the evidence of his wisdom. Less than five manuscripts. Less than five manuscripts. The earliest is 1900 years after his death. But we believe in Aristotle. Let's talk about my main man, Homer. Homer lived a short life. And if you'd have read his books, you'd know why. 500 To 480, the dude checked out before 21. In the 7th century is where we find the earliest manuscripts for Homer. And there's less than eight, but we don't denounce Homer.
Now, in the context of evidence, if you have enough evidence to believe in Caesar and you have enough evidence to believe in Aristotle and you have enough evidence to believe in Homer, and in one, you have ten, and in the other, you have five, and in the other, you have around eight, written hundreds and even thousands of years after they were on the face of the earth, I would like to submit to you the evidence concerning our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, written within decades of when he was here, when he died, and when he rose again. We don't have ten. We don't have five. We don't eight. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there's more than 6,000 documents that tell us Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. He lived in Nazareth. He worked in Galilee. He died in Jerusalem. He was buried in a borrowed tomb, and he rose on the third day! Six thousand.
You have the affidavit of Matthew. You have the affidavit of Mark. You have the affidavit of Luke, and of John, and of Peter, and of the apostles, and of all of the writers. And do you know what? None of them contradict each other! So if you have enough to believe in these bags of bones, then what keeps you from believing in your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? We have thematic agreement. We have historical validation. And finally, we have prophetic agreement. The Bible is the only book that tells history in advance. The doctrinal term is "prophecy". But prophecy is really nothing more than telling history in advance. It's not a prediction. Weathermen predict. Prophets tell you what's going to happen before it happens.
There are no weather prophets on the news. But when you read Bible prophecy, you don't hear about things that they talked about just before they happened. You hear about things that they talked about hundreds of years in advance. They talked specifically about dates and times and locations. And do you know how accurate they are? Not 80/20, not 75/25, not 90/10. One hundred percent accurate. Now, we could do this for hours, but I'm just going to close with two, and they both concern the individual we've been discussing most this morning, Jesus Christ. Let's talk about his birth. Micah, a prophet, not a predictor, Micah in Micah 5:2 and 3, he says Christ would be born in Bethlehem, seven hundred years later. Matthew 2:5 and 6, 700 years later, we read, "Christ is born in Bethlehem".
Now let's go to the death of Christ, Psalm 22. Psalm 22:1 begins with these words: "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me"? And when you read Matthew 27:46, what you read are the words of Jesus Christ on the day he was crucified in the same, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me"? You see, Psalm 22 is not telling about the death sentence of some common criminal. Psalm 22 is telling, line-by-line, verse-by-verse, with exact description about what would take place on the cross at Calvary the day that our Savior hung there and died. Not just another man condemned to die, but the one who died our death: that we would be free from the wages of sin.
Now here's the thing: the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 22 was so much of a prophet that he didn't even know what crucifixion was, because crucifixion wouldn't be invented for another thousand years. And when he described the crucifixion, he didn't describe any crucifixion. He described a crucifixion that started off with somebody saying, "my God, my God, why have you forsaken me"? And it ended with somebody whose heart was burst like wax and it had somebody whose garments were gambled for. Who was that? Jesus.
So the last thing you do in a courtroom is you make a closing argument. I gave you the evidence thematically, historically, prophetically. You, the jury, now have to make a decision. Is it true or is it false? For the condemned, is it life or is it death? Because if this word is true, then you and I are condemned. And the only way that we could ever have everlasting life is if we believe in the Jesus that this word tells us about.
So I leave it with you, and use the words of the apostle Paul in acts 17:30 and 31. He said, "truly, in times past, God forgave this ignorance, but now", now what? Now that Jesus has died, and now that Jesus has risen, and now that we know about it. "But now he requires all men everywhere to repent". Why? "Because there is coming an appointed day in which he will judge the world". If this is true, then this is true. And he says, "he's going to judge the world by the man that he has ordained, and given us this assurance, he raised him from the dead".
To those of you in the jury today and those of you who are watching, the evidence is overwhelming. The eyewitnesses agree with the prophets, and the prophets are not wrong. Jesus Christ was the one who was sent by God to die for sinners and give us everlasting life. He is the one who was buried on a Friday and raised from the grave on a Sunday. And those who believe in him have everlasting life. And with this, I rest my case.
Would you stand in the presence of the Lord? With every head bowed and every eye closed, you're in this place today and you say, pastor, I've never accepted the truth of God's word in my heart. I've never accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and my redeemer. And today, I want to receive Jesus Christ. I don't want to walk out of here denying him. I want to walk out of here living for him. If you want to receive Christ as your Savior, would you just raise your hand right where you are? Let me see it. There are hands being raised in this room, and I know there are many of you who are watching today, and you want Christ as your Savior as well. I want everyone in this room to repeat this prayer with me.
Lord Jesus Christ, today I thank you that your word is true, and it is breathed of the Holy Spirit, whose presence is in this place today. Today I receive your word, and I receive your salvation: that I may be forgiven of all of my sin. Today, Heavenly Father, I commit that I will give a reasonable defense of your truth to all who ask: that they may know your son and receive him too, in Jesus' name. Amen and amen.