For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
- 1 Corinthians 15:3-11
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- Romans 5:6-8
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
- John 3:16-21
“If we ask for something more than simplicity, it is silly then to complain that the something more is not simple.”
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I read this C. S. Lewis quote yesterday and it struck me that I have encountered too many people that complain that Christianity is too simple for them to believe. Maybe it’s because they end their reading at John 3:16 without reading to the end of the paragraph. That might explain their confusion about it being simple. God does not simply wish us to believe that Jesus existed and walked the earth 2,000 years ago. Even believing what Paul says in the quoted Scripture from 1 Corinthians doesn’t put us over the hump. We must believe and trust as if our life depended upon it, and it does.
That sounds easy to say, and quite simple, but is it really?
One person that I was witnessing to said that he had committed sin that God could not forgive. No amount of argument could convince him of anything else, but the truth lay upon this person’s inability to forgive himself. He held onto the guilt of something done in wartime, and he would rather go to Hell than to believe in Heaven, for he felt unworthy of Heaven. None of us are worthy of Heaven, but God forgives us, at least those who accept Jesus and trust in Him without reservation. That’s what the Scripture from Romans 5 above is talking about. The 1 Corinthians Scripture is proof to those in the first century that Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death and showing that we too have power over death. Anybody from the first century could have argued against Paul’s claims, but they remained silent. There were too many witnesses to argue against it. The Romans 5 Scripture gives the reason for that death, that God loved us so much that His Son, Jesus, died for us, even though we do not deserve it.
Is that simple or is that complicated? It seems to have complicated my discussions with many non-believers. Other people refused for me to quote Scriptures due to all the errors in Scriptures, but they refuse to listen to any cogent argument that the Bible doesn’t have errors. I would bring up “errors” that they did not know about in order to show how those were not errors. They would say that I might be right, but it was the ‘other’ errors that bothered them.
What other errors? They had no idea. They had read about books that discussed errors, not even reading the “Cliff Notes” version of the book. They simply heard about a book written by a PhD, so it must be fact, in which the Dr. Something Or Other said that there were errors. Thus, they disbelieved in the Bible, a book they had never read, because someone with a higher education degree said that the Bible had errors in it. We’ll call this ‘expert’ Dr. S.O.O. (for Something Or Other). Dr. S.O.O.’s book is yet another book that the non-believer never read.
How can anyone fail to accept the simplicity of Jesus dying for our sins, and just for believing and trusting in Jesus, we’ll go to Heaven forever and be with Him? How can they reject that simple belief in favor or believing in a different book that they had never read? Now, that is too simple to be called ‘simple.’ Psalms 14:1 comes to mind in saying that only a fool says that there is no God. If you are going to quote someone, you should at least read the book.
But Dr. S.O.O., who could be a number of people, but a couple are prominent, is quoted by so many. Most of the ‘errors’ are scribe errors in spelling, changes over the centuries due to grammar changes (i.e. No one says “The John said” … not anymore. We now say “John said” … but how can someone call that an ‘error’? Simple, it’s not an error.). And it really boils down to the few passages that the NIV puts in italics with a note that the earliest known manuscripts do not have those bits, like the ending of Mark 16 and the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. It does not mean that even these passages were added later by a scribe. It means that they could have been added, until older manuscripts can be found that have those bits. The theology of the Gospels stands the same, whether those stories are included or not.
I could go on, but about halfway through the writing of this post a paragraph or two ago, I learned that my Sunday school teacher has just passed away. Two months ago, we joked about silly things at a prayer meeting. A week or so later, he discovered that his white blood cells were extremely low. He had quarantined himself long before the COVID-19 quarantine. As they did tests to find that he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, his energy level and stamina dropped drastically. Our weekly phone calls became labored as his breathing started to suffer. Less than 10 days after his first treatment of chemo, he was gone. I had volunteered to take over the Sunday school class until he was better. He said that he would send an e-mail to the class letting them know, but he never had the energy to do so.
I was going to post this next week, but I’ll add to today in honor of him.
If anyone understood how simple it was to be a Christian, it was my Sunday school teacher. He simply loved everybody. He didn’t really like the joke that I would tell about the two of us, but I told him that we were brothers in two senses. We both loved Jesus, and we were both bears. But I was the Grizzly Bear and he was the Teddy Bear.
Whether you are a grizzly bear or a teddy bear, if you love Jesus and trust in Him, you will be saved. It can get complicated, but that part is simple.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.