What If? Suppose...
“What if (suppose) a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?”
Often, such statements (questions) as “Suppose…” or “What if…?” are uttered in response to a text in the Bible. Such words are sometimes genuine inquiries about the text, while, at other times, they are put forth as an exception-to-the-rule response, suggesting that God’s commands have exceptions.
In Acts 23.1-9, we read the account of the apostle Paul before the council and the high priest, Ananias. When Paul states that he is called in question over the “hope and resurrection of the dead,” a great dissension arose between the Pharisees and Sadducees. In v. 9, we read, “…some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ part stood up, and strove, saying, ‘We find no evil in this man: and what if a spirit hath spoken to him, or an angel?’”
“What if…?” The scribes of the Pharisees, upon hearing that Paul mentioned the “hope and resurrection of the dead,” began arguing heatedly with the Sadducees for they (i.e., the Pharisees) held the same belief as Paul. Their belief in regard to the resurrection would be valid only if it came from God. What if it did?
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the most significant event relative to man. It is the foundation of our hope; the reason for which we assemble, worship, study, and refuse to be “of the world” while in the world, support the preaching of the gospel, love our neighbors, and love each other as brethren. Simply put, there is meaning to our lives because of the resurrection. We don’t just imagine a fictitious thing we call heaven; we have credible proof of it: the resurrection!
“What if” the basis of our belief is from God? If so, then our convictions would be so strong that we would defend them with our lives! As Jesus’ example was, so also will ours be. We will die in defense of God’s word. Our lives will be living sacrifices. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12.1-2).
“What if” “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3.16)? We should not begin with “Do I believe this?” but first settle in our minds the question: Is it from God? Is it true? Did it indeed happen? What proof do I have that his Son was given in love for me? That proof is an empty grave…the resurrection from the dead. It is no surprise that efforts to deny the resurrection began immediately (Matthew 28.11-15), and denial continued thereafter (1 Corinthians 15.12). It continues to the present.
The reason for denying Jesus’ resurrection has never changed, nor will it ever. Do you know what the reason is? Think for a few moments on your answer. Are you struggling with the question? How does it make you feel as you give thought and meditation on your answer? There is a purpose for all these questions. It is not just to stall or frustrate you.
If you are uncomfortable with dwelling on the reality of the resurrection, it reveals the doubt and fear in your mind about it. You see, the resurrection compels you, obligates you, and places you in debt to obey Christ. In order to obey Christ, you must cease your life of sin. Herein lies the struggle. The reality of the resurrection calls upon each of us to stop sacrificing the eternal on the altar of the immediate.
Moses understood this (Hebrews 11.25). What about you? How does the resurrection affect you? Does it give you joy or anxiety? Do you look forward to Jesus’ return? What if there is a Day of Judgment? Is it from God? What effect do these words of Peter have on your heart: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3.10-12)? Your attitude toward the return of Jesus speaks volumes. Remember, you will never turn from a sin you don’t hate (James 1.14).