Week Commencing 7th October 2018
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on Romans 1:18-25, “Where’s all the evidence?”
DAY 1: Read 1 Peter 3:8-17
As we commence this 5-part series (3 Sunday sermons and 2 Wednesday night seminars), it is worth taking note of the Apostle Peter’s exhortation in verse 15, to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” Peter is speaking of our need to be prepared to give answers to those who ask us questions about our faith. Have you ever been asked a difficult question that you felt ill-equipped to answer? Have you ever come across a person who has profound questions and objections to Christianity that are not easily answered?
1 Peter 3:15 asks us to be prepared for those questions. What does being prepared look like? What is involved? At a basic level, we must be willing to speak of our faith in Christ. We must go into each day ready and willing to talk about our faith, naturally and unashamedly. In fact, I believe we ought to be seeking opportunities to share our faith, rather than passively waiting for them to develop. We ought to be looking for ways to gently and naturally introduce our Christian perspective into everyday conversations. If our faith in Jesus is the most important part of our lives, it should be reflected in our everyday conversations.
But at a deeper level, being prepared also involves anticipating the kinds of questions and objections that people are likely to ask. Over the years I have had countless conversations with sceptics and seekers, and there are only a handful of questions and objections that are regularly raised. It is not difficult to anticipate these common questions. Yet many Christians are blind-sided when they are confronted with such questions, simply because they have not anticipated them and prepared for them. Over the next three weeks, we will examine some of these common objections and questions, with the aim of equipping you to respond with clear, logical answers.
DAY 2: Read Acts 19:1-10
In this fascinating passage, Paul arrives at Ephesus while in the middle of his second missionary journey, and he ends up staying there for over 2 years – effectively becoming the pastor of the growing church that he founded in that city. Verse 8 indicates that, for the first 3 months, Paul attended the synagogue where he engaged in rigorous debate with the Jews, converting some and arousing the ire of others. Interestingly, we are told that he “argued persuasively” with the Jews (v.8). The Greek word used at that point is “dialegomai”, which means to reason, debate and dispute. After 3 months of this rigorous debate, verses 9-10 indicate that Paul ceased attending the synagogue due to growing hostile opposition, and he began holding meetings in “the lecture hall of Tyrannus”, where he had daily “discussions”. This is the same word, “dialegomai” (rigorous debate). Verse 10 then informs us that this continued for 2 years!
I have met some Christians who say that we should not bother entering into intellectual debate with sceptics, because it is only by the Spirit of God that people will be converted. They say that we should simply proclaim the simple gospel and not try to argue or reason with sceptics. But Paul, here and elsewhere, demonstrates the importance of defending the Christian faith in the face of objections and questions. In my experience, many people have genuine objections that form roadblocks to faith; serious questions that need to be answered before they will be willing to listen to the gospel at all. If we are to be effective witnesses for Jesus, we must “be prepared” to provide meaningful, rational responses, so that these roadblocks can be dealt with and people can come to a point where they are willing to consider the claims of Christ.
DAY 3: Read Romans 1:18-25
Today we begin to consider the topic of this week’s sermon – the objection raised by many sceptics that there is no clear, unequivocal evidence for the existence of God. Straight away, we need to note verse 19, which contradicts the claim that there is no evidence for God’s existence, when it says, “what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them”. God’s own opinion on the matter is that He has provided mankind with ample evidence of His existence. In fact, so clear is this evidence, that God declares that all mankind is “without excuse” (v.20).
Before we start to examine this evidence, it is important to note the distinction between evidence and proof. We cannot prove the existence of God. Over the years I have encountered many earnest seekers and sceptics who claim that there is insufficient evidence to prove the existence of God – and I completely agree with them! You cannot indisputably prove the existence of God. In fact, final and irrevocable proof of anything is impossible. Philosophically speaking, I cannot prove that I exist. I cannot even prove that the physical universe exists; that it is not some giant simulation into which I am plugged. For the most part, we must satisfy ourselves, not with indisputable proof, but with the weight of reasonable evidence which leads us to conclude that something is probably true. The same is true in regard to God. While I cannot indisputably prove His existence, the weight of observable evidence leads me to conclude that the most likely explanation of that evidence is the existence of an all-powerful Creator God.
We cannot prove God’s existence, but the evidence for His existence is overwhelming! “God has made it plain to them” (v.19). Tomorrow we will begin to examine the two ways that God has made it plain to us, according to Romans 1.
DAY 4: Read Romans 1:18-25 (again) and Psalm 19
In the first two chapters of Romans, Paul speaks about two “voices” by which God has revealed His existence to mankind: the voice of Creation and the voice of Conscience. This is an excellent passage to point people to, when they ask, “What about people who have never had a chance to hear the Gospel? How will God judge them?” According to these two chapters of Romans, God will judge them on the basis of how they have responded to His general revelation of Himself through Creation and Conscience.
Verse 20 speaks of the voice of creation. According to this verse, God’s divine qualities are “clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” This accords with the strong declaration of Psalm 19; “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech … their voice goes out into all the earth” (vv.1-4).
These scripture passages indicate that the beauty, majesty, complexity and order of the created universe provides overwhelming evidence for the existence of God, and reveals a basic understanding of His surpassing greatness. The declaration that this “voice goes out into all the earth” (Psalm 19:4) is reflected in the fact that every culture, in every age, has manifested a profound sense of the divine – a sense that there is a God to whom we are all accountable. This is why God declares, in Romans 1:20, that “people are without excuse.”
By Kevin Simington