April 12, 2009
In Acts 2:32, we have record of the apostle Paul’s words: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” Alistair Begg helps us understand the implications of this verse. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides factual evidence for belief, the response of our lives must be celebration and thankfulness for the forgiveness and freedom found in Him.
Sermon Transcript: Print
I’ve chosen as my text for this morning one verse from Acts chapter 2. It is the record of Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. I’ll tell you that verse in a moment, after we have paused and asked God to help us as we look at the Bible together:
O God, what we know not, teach us; what we are not, make us; what we have not, give us. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Our text is Acts 2:32, where Luke records for us that Peter, in the course of his remarks to the Jerusalem crowd, makes this statement: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.”
The one who speaks is none other than the one who had denied Jesus so straightforwardly not so long before. He is now speaking, and he is confronting the crowd not with a philosophy that they might adopt nor with a program for them to assume but with a person. He is offering to them “this Jesus,” whom he declares as risen from the dead. And in this, he brings us to the indispensable heart of the Christian faith: Christianity is Christ—Jesus Christ risen from the dead.
Now, it’s only a matter of some seven weeks since the Gospel writers tell us that all of Jesus’ disciples deserted him and ran away. It’s only seven weeks since Peter himself had denied any knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth. And so the obvious question to anyone who is reading the record and thinking this out is this: How do we account for such a radical change? What is it that explains how Peter goes from denying Jesus some seven weeks previously to standing in the streets of Jerusalem, affirming his faith in Jesus as the risen Lord? Because remember, on Good Friday, the disciples were totally demoralized. On Easter Sunday, they were actually thoroughly bewildered. John even tells us in our reading earlier, doesn’t he, that even though when he encountered that scene in the empty tomb, that was for him an aha moment, a moment of belief, yet he adds parenthetically, “But the disciples—we the disciples—still did not understand the fact that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”
You see, the telling thing about what Jesus had been saying to them was not that he was going to die. Anybody going around saying, “I’m going up to Jerusalem, and I’m going to die,” we say, “Well, it’s significant that you know you’re about to die, but that doesn’t mark you out as different, because we are all going to die.” No, the staggering thing about what Jesus kept saying was, “I’m going up to Jerusalem, and I will suffer at the hands of cruel men who will crucify me, and I will die, and on the third day, I will rise again.” But somehow or another, that piece of the puzzle had never fallen into line for them.
And yet now here he is, along with the Eleven, we’re told—the eleven of them together, along… Ten plus himself, making eleven, because Judas is now gone. And the eleven of them are together, and their cowardice has been replaced with courage. What is the explanation? Well, Peter himself tells us what the explanation is: “The reason that I’m standing here,” he says, “the reason that I’m here to proclaim this story, is because God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses to the fact.” Jesus had risen from the dead. Peter and the others were clearly convinced that this was the case.
Now, when you think about it, absent this conviction, it’s hard to imagine that there would ever have been such a thing as Christianity. Now, we have grown up, of course, with an awareness of Christianity. Our whole history as a nation is completely impregnated with Christianity. But when we trace it back to the events that are recorded for us in terms of the death of Jesus, it is inconceivable that there would be such a thing as Christianity were it not for the fact of the resurrection. A Scottish theologian of an earlier era, F. F. Bruce, put it succinctly when he wrote, “If Jesus had not risen from the dead, we should probably never have heard of him.” If Jesus had not risen from the dead, we probably would never have heard of him. What’s the story about another crucified Galilean carpenter? What’s so significant about that? How would that ever have launched a movement? On what basis?
Now, when you look at the evidence, it’s surely a matter of significance that none of the apostles determined to provide us with a set of theories and proofs and explanations—that they didn’t sit down in a room somewhere in Jerusalem and say, “You know, we’re eventually going to die, there’ll be a lot of people come afterwards, and I think the best thing we can possibly do is write a definitive explanation of the resurrection.” They don’t do it. Why? Because they can’t. Why? Because it’s never been done before. It is mysterious. What has happened now in Jerusalem is a dramatic inrush of the power of God.
It is not that the news has now arrived that before this happened, there wasn’t a hereafter, and now there is a hereafter. Everybody knew there was a hereafter. The Jewish people were looking for the day when the Messiah would come. No, the drama is that in a way that is just as revolutionary as when God created the universe, what he has now done in Jesus is re-create things—restart, as it were, the whole time clock. And in this dramatic moment, the lives of these disconsolate disciples have been transformed. No, they do not write down proofs and explanations, but they do provide proofs and explanations. And what are the proofs they provide? Themselves. They are the evidence of the resurrection of Jesus. There is no explanation for them—their presence—nor for their proclamation apart from the fact that Jesus had actually risen from the dead. And the lives of those who followed in their track were the lives of those who were changed completely by contact with Jesus.
And I wager that those of you who’ve come here today, perhaps as a result of the invitation of a friend or of a work colleague, have arrived here not as a result of somebody giving you elaborate proofs and explanations and theories but because you have identified in the individual who invited you something different about that person—especially if you knew them before they professed faith in Jesus. If you knew what they were before and you know what they are now, you may have accepted the invitation to say to yourself, “Maybe there is just something in this Jesus thing, because that character was one … before he met Jesus, but he is a different person now. So I am prepared, on the strength of his changed life, to consider the claims of Christ.” That is the right way to go at it, because that is exactly how these apostles went at it—not an elaborate reiteration of theories and speculative principles but the staggering evidence of a transformed life.
So, taking a leaf from their book, I am not going to spend the balance of my time providing proofs and explanations and arguments in defense of the claims of the resurrection. You can get all of that material by going to our bookstore, and there is an ample supply that will answer all of your questions and some that you haven’t thought of. Instead, what I want to do is gather the remainder of our thoughts under three headings—familiar words to us that we employ in this context purposefully. In our consideration of this text—“We are all witnesses of this fact: that God has raised Jesus from the dead”—I want you to note three things: that the Bible’s claim concerning the Easter story is, number one, that it is historical, that it actually happened; number two, that it is rational, that it makes sense; number three, that it is empirical; you can put it to the test. All right?
First of all, then, the material that is presented to us is historical. Peter on this occasion is not coming up with some cleverly weaved, flowery tale, some innocuous story about spirituality, some inoffensive proclamation about an impersonal God. No! When he writes his second letter, he says, “When we wrote these things to you about the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we did not present you with cleverly invented stories. We just told you what happened. We told you what we were like, we told you what we thought, we told you what happened, and we explained to you how it was that we were changed.”
Anybody who wants to dismiss Christianity has somehow or another to reckon with the inevitable impact that Jesus has made upon the world. Every person that is jingling change in their purse or in their trouser pocket has evidence within the clutch of your hand that the birth of Jesus of Nazareth has marked the time scale of our era: AD, not BC. There was before Jesus, and then there is the year of our Lord, Anno Domini. Everybody has to say something about that if they’re going to deal with it. Christianity is historic.
Paul, when he writes concerning this in his classic chapter on the resurrection, gets to the nub of it in one sentence, and I’ll give you the sentence: “If Christ,” says Paul, “has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? That’s 1 Corinthians 15:14. If Christ has not been raised, preaching is a waste of time, and any professions of faith are absolutely facile. So there’s no sense in the New Testament records of faith in faith—of us believing something, and by our believing it, we make it happen; we make it believable by our own sort of experience. No, there’s none of that at all. Christianity falls flat on its face before that kind of thing. It can provide no basis for that that supposition. No, it is historical.
Now, in that same chapter, Paul is quite honest when he says in the appearances of Jesus, on one occasion, he appeared to five hundred people at one time; and then he adds, “most of whom are still living.” You get the significance of that, don’t you? Because if the people were still living who saw Jesus alive, they would be able to verify it. And if, of course, those people said, “We didn’t see Jesus alive,” then they would be able to dispute it. But there is no record of anybody standing up and saying, “You know, what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians was an absolute nonsense, because there was no five hundred people.” Yes, there were!
For example, I can tell you that I’ve written a new book on the Beatles. It’ll be coming out on September 1. (I haven’t. You can relax.) But I’ve written a new book on the Beatles in which I will explain that the Beatles were born in Glasgow, that their names were Fred, Ian, Colin, and Sean—and Bill; there were five of them, not four of them—and that they’re all alive and well and living in the Outer Hebrides. And how well do you think the book is going to sell? It’s not going to sell at all. Why? Because it’s a complete load of nonsense. And everybody is alive and able to verify the fact that just in the last few weeks, they saw Paul McCartney and they saw Ringo Starr performing in New York. So Paul says that “there were five hundred people alive that Jesus saw at the one time. They’re still alive now. They’re able to refute my claim. You can go and ask them if you want.”
“Well,” says somebody, “it’s very well arguing out of your Bible, but it’s just your Bible, after all.” Well, do you want to go to the Roman historians? Do you want to go to the Jewish historians? Do you want to go and consider them—Josephus and Pliny and others? That’s fine. And if you do—and so you should if you’re questioning, if you’re wondering—then you will find that in those secular, non-Christian records, each of those writers affirm the fact that the followers of Jesus worshipped him as God, that they referred to him as Messiah, and that this individual was crucified in Judea when Pontius Pilate was the governor. In other words, the Jewish and Roman historians confirm the record that is provided of the historicity of the events concerning Jesus of Nazareth.
So, when we consider this historical dimension of the Easter story, we are forced to recognize that there is no middle ground. This is either true, or it is not true. Either the Bible is true when it says that in Jesus, God has entered into time; that this Jesus has lived a perfect life in the fulfillment of God’s plan; that this Jesus has died in the place of each of us who have not lived perfect lives; and that on account of his substitutionary death on the cross, those who trust in this Jesus will be accepted by God not on the strength of their trust but on the strength of what Jesus has provided in his death—either that is true, or the New Testament is the record of a lie; it is a monumental fabrication; it is an elaborate hoax such as has never been perpetrated in the history of humanity, over a period of two thousand years, involving billions of people who today, in multiple languages around the world, are affirming the fact with Peter, “We know that Jesus is alive. We are testifying to the reality of this truth.”
You see, Buddhism gets on fine without Buddha. Buddha said to his followers, “Don’t worry about me. Worry about my Dharma. Worry about my doctrine. All that matters is my doctrine. I don’t matter,” said Buddha. “I will go away, but I will leave you my teaching.” You can’t do that with Christianity. Christianity is Christ. Without a risen Christ, there is no Christianity. Karl Barth, the German theologian, puts it succinctly when he writes, “Christianity does not exist for a moment or in any respect apart from Christ.” “Does not exist for a moment … in any respect apart from Christ.” The whole thing collapses. Think it out! Historical.
Secondly, rational. Rational. It is historical; that’s the claim: it actually happened. It’s rational; it makes sense.
Well, somebody says, “It doesn’t make sense to me. I reject it.” Well, that’s all right. You may. But I don’t think you can honestly reject it on account of its irrationality. It may make us feel better to suggest that. That’s what Richard Dawkins does in his book The God Delusion. Fascinatingly, as he spends all those hundreds of pages dismantling the idea of God, rejecting the notion of God himself, claiming that he’s just hitting on any god and all god but doing a masterful job of seeking to dismantle Christianity—and yet when it comes to the issue of the resurrection, he doesn’t even touch it! He doesn’t even interact with the material! In fact, this is about all that you get from him: he is prepared to say, “Jesus probably existed,” but he goes on to say, “But the idea that he came back to life after being dead is absurd.” End of story. So Mr. Dawkins, Professor Dawkins, said it’s absurd. Are you prepared to take his word for that without examining the evidence? This evidence is so alarming, so compelling, so unbelievable that you’d better examine it.
If you got a letter in the mail this past week telling you that you were the lost heir of a gigantic Scottish castle—that you were the chieftain of the McCocadedecadedecadees and that you have a castle beyond description—don’t you think that such a bizarre idea ought to be checked out? I mean, just in case? Just in case? So wouldn’t you check this out, Professor Dawkins?
You see, the issue of Christianity, the nub of it, is here: either Jesus is the person he claimed to be—Son of God, suffering Savior, risen Christ, ascended Lord, coming King—or he’s not. And the rationality in this is that the claim of Christianity, the resurrection story, makes sense of the big picture of life—makes sense, if you like, of the big questions of life. It makes sense of the New Testament evidence, but that’s not my concern at the moment—the empty tomb and all of those things. But it makes sense of the questions that we all face.
Gauguin, the painter, who lived down in the islands and painted some of those very interesting paintings, has these three magnificent canvases somewhere in France, I think it is, and all written in French. But they’re just big canvases, and they carry three questions. Canvas one: “Who am I?” Canvas two: “Where did I come from?” Canvas three: “Where am I going?” Three vital questions. Three unavoidable questions. “Who am I? Am simply a collocation of atoms? Am I just some kind of soup, some kind of stew, that has just been put together? That I don’t matter? That I have no essential being? That I only make myself significant by authenticating my existence, as Sartre said: There is no essence in the self. There is no selfhood. There is selfhood in an object, but there’s not a self in a person. Therefore, I am nobody. I am nothing.
No, well, you see, when you come to the Gospels, Jesus says, “No, I can tell you about this.” Here’s the answer to the big questions. First of all… Let me give it to you in the good, the bad, the new, the perfect.
First of all, the Bible says that God created the world, and he made it absolutely, bang-on perfect. He created men and women for a relationship with himself, and every created person owes their life and their breath to God.
The bad news is that man, who was created for a relationship with God, determined to turn his back on God and instead to worship other things rather than God—started to worship himself, or worship his success, or worship his stuff, or whatever it might be; create little God substitutes, because he knew he had to worship someone. He can’t explain it, but he does. Maybe Dylan was the one who got it: “You gotta serve somebody.” But he knows somehow or another that he does clamber after something or someone. And that is an evidence of the fact that we’re turned in upon ourselves, that we are alienated from God.
The new: the new is found in Jesus. Jesus has come as the perfect man. Jesus has come as the one who is able to bridge the gap between God, who has made us for himself, and we who have turned our backs and run from him. We cannot make the jump from here to here. God knows that, and he has sent the Lord Jesus Christ, who, in his cross, if you like, is the ultimate “bridge over troubled waters.” And when a man or a woman comes to believe in him, they discover that their sins are paid for and that all of the perfection of Jesus is credited to their account, and in ways, again, that are so immensely mysterious that finally, only poetry can help us get to the point where we say,
Behold him there, the risen Lamb,
My [great and] spotless righteousness,
The great, unchangeable I Am.
What the hymn writer is saying is this: Jesus is the person he claimed to be, and Jesus is the one who bore the punishment for my sin. And because Jesus has given to me all of his righteousness, then I am accepted in him.
And the story’s not finished. Because there is a new world coming. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. And eventually, all that we see now “through a glass, darkly,” we will see “face to face.”
That brings us to our third and final word, and the word is empirical. Empirical. It is historical; it actually happened. It is rational; it makes sense of the facts. It is empirical; in other words, it will stand up to the test of human experience.
You understand. You’re an engineer; you create a stress machine, or you do something in the lab—you do your diagrams and everything else—and eventually, there comes the day where the machine does what it’s supposed to do. And we move that day from the realm of that which we know intellectually to be viable to that which becomes empirically verifiable, so that by observation, by experience… I mean, theologically, we would talk in terms of the fact that the resurrection story provides for us intellectual integrity and provides for us existential reality—that experientially, this is the case. Now, don’t immediately go wrong and say, “Oh, I think I understand what you’re saying. You’re saying that Christianity is true because it works.” No, the Bible says that Christianity works because it is true. And there’s every difference in the world. It works, says Christianity, because it’s true.
Now, let me just draw this to a close by suggesting to you that you can test it along a number of lines.
The empirical test, or the observable test, in relationship to the cries of the human heart. The human heart cries out for meaning. For meaning, right? We’ve already mentioned that in Gauguin’s paintings. Shakespeare says, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women are merely players: everyone has his exits; everyone has his entrances.” Is that it? That life is just
a poor player
[Who] struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: … a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
[And] signifying nothing.
What kind of meaning is there in that? Sartre says the same thing, doesn’t he? “Here we [are],” he says, “all of us, eating and drinking to preserve our precious existence and … there is nothing, nothing, absolutely no reason for existing.” “PS: Have a nice day!” So you go home to your Easter lunch, and you sit down to it, and eventually you say to your wife, “There is absolutely no reason for this lunch. There is absolutely no reason for this day. There is absolutely no reason for me. There is absolutely no reason.”
Now, listen, and listen carefully: America is at the end of a significant era in which it has imbibed from the milk of Sartre and Freud this foul concoction, Freud suggesting that Christianity simply addresses the neuroses of life, that sin is a Christian neurosis; you can be dealt with psychologically; you don’t need to go into that neuroses factor; you have no need of this Jesus; it’s only for a certain kind of weird person. And Sartre joins him, and he says, “And yes, and by the way, you don’t even need to go that far, because frankly, the whole thing’s a waste of time. There is no point. There is no meaning. There is nothing.”
And you know what Jesus says? “I have come that you might have life and that you might have it in all of its fullness.” Jesus says, “I am the source and the sustainer of all created reality.” Jesus says, “I am of cosmic significance.” Jesus says, “I am a personal entity.” Jesus says, “I may be known by you. I came for you.” Answers the cry for meaning. Answers the cry for freedom. For freedom!
Was Janis Joplin really expressing her heart when she sang so masterfully, so sadly,
Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose;
Freedom ain’t worth nothing but it’s free.
And feeling good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues,
Good enough for me; good enough for me and Bobby McGee.
But it wasn’t good enough for her, was it? Because she was held in the grip of the very substances that offered to her the disguise of freedom. The ’60s allowed everybody to take their clothes off and go to Woodstock and do whatever they wanted with whoever they wanted. And now the legacy of it is here for us to endure, not enjoy, because we’ve understood now—at least some who are prepared to face the facts—that the real freedom is not the freedom that breaks the bounds of parental jurisdiction or of social configurations, but the real freedom we need is the freedom from ourselves, from our own selfish hearts, from our jealousy, from our resentments, from our self-pity. And Jesus says, “If the Son [makes] you free, you will be free indeed.”
There was a musician—I use the word loosely—in the ’60s. There was a double album, and I can’t remember his name. His name was, like, Wild Man Hickok or something like that. I know that sounds like Bill Hickok, but anyway… And just this morning, as I was reviewing my notes, I remembered. He sang with no music. He had no music. He couldn’t play an instrument. He recorded a double album in the ’60s. And so the song would start like—you would just hear him going, “Dur dur dur dur dur, dur dur dur dur dur dur dur.” That was his guitar. And then he’d like, “Boom chick a boom chick a boom chick a boom.” He did all his own instruments. But all I can remember is that he had a refrain, and it went like this: “Cool, baby, that’s really free.” “Cool baby, that’s really free.” And I thought about it this morning as I was reviewing this, and the notion was, “I got freedom for you, baby. Come on! Freedom!” Bondage!
It answers the cry for forgiveness. For forgiveness. You’re not going to meet somebody, and then they’ll tell you in Starbucks, underneath the disguise of their smile and under the story of where they’re going and what they’re doing, that the longing of their heart is for forgiveness, but many of them—and you may be here this morning, and this is you: if you could find the story that gives you a clean page, a fresh start, the promise that none of your sins will be brought up against you, but they will be banished as far from you as the east is from the west and buried in the deepest ocean, you may be interested in that. Well, let me tell you: here it is. And it is found in this resurrection story. It answers the cry for forgiveness.
Neil Young, again in the ’60s—you remember his line when he says,
[I] think I’ll pack it in and buy a pickup,
[And] take it out to LA,
[And] find a place to call my own, and try to fix up,
[And] start a brand-new day.
But you see, you can’t get that fresh start by moving geographically. You will never get that fresh start by rearranging the externals of your life. It is a mythology that is foisted on you again and again that suggests that “if I could only get that weekend cottage, if I could only get that thing, if I could only get rid of her, if I could only have this…” No. There’s only one place that those cries are answered.
The cry for love. The cry for hope. For hope. I know we put “hope” on our little card, didn’t we? But I’m about fed up with hope right now. I went back to the ’60s again this week. All the time I went back. Was Giscard d’Estaing the president of France in the ’60s? I think he was. And I only know one quote from him, and it’s by memory. This is what he said: he said, “The world is unhappy, because it doesn’t know where it is going, and it senses that if it found out, it would discover that it is headed for disaster.” Okay? Fast-forward to March 4, and the prime minister of the United Kingdom has his day in the sun addressing a joint Congress. And the heading in the Daily Telegraph is what? “Brown appeals … for help to save the world.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Listen to how John put it: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him may be saved.” And the way the world is saved is by the life-changing impact of individuals. And you see, the resurrection—and with this I must stop—but the resurrection answers the cry of the human heart for God, the suffocating distress that we feel in our awareness of being alienated from him. The symbol of Christianity is not the dead figure of a crucifix. It is the figure of Jesus triumphant, out from an empty tomb, with the cross broken beneath his feet. Jesus is risen. He’s not two thousand years away. He is here, and you may call on him and find him to be a Savior and a Friend and a King.
I want you just to stop for a moment, and I want you think about what this means. Some of you want to go away and research this. For some of you, this is troublesome, and I understand that. Some may even find it offensive; I’ll be disappointed about that. But I suggest to you that the idea of some middle ground, some pantheist view, some acceptable, impersonal God is a complete and utter waste of time. Either Jesus is the resurrected Lord, or else he told lies; that would make him bad. Or else he is deluded; that would make him mad. Or else he told the truth; and that would make him God.
Now let me pray for you:
And now, O God, we go out into this day either trusting in you or trusting in ourselves or in someone or something else. We pray that you will arrest us, convict us, and change us.
And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each one who believes, now and forevermore. Amen.
 John 20:9 (paraphrased).
 Matthew 17:22–23; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22 (paraphrased).
 F. F. Bruce, The Spreading Flame: The Rise and Progress of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958), 221. Paraphrased.
 2 Peter 1:16 (paraphrased).
 1 Corinthians 15:6 (NIV 1984).
 Josephus, Antiquities 18.3.3; 20.9.1; Pliny the Younger, Letters 10.96.
 Karl Barth, Credo (London: Scribner’s, 1962), 159.
 Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London: Bantam, 2006), 97.
 Dawkins, 157. Paraphrased.
 Bob Dylan, “Gotta Serve Somebody” (1979). Lyrics lightly altered.
 Paul Simon, “Bridge over Troubled Water” (1970).
 Charitie Lees Bancroft, “Before the Throne of God Above” (1863).
 See Revelation 21:1.
 1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV).
 William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2.7. Paraphrased.
 William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 5.5.
 Jean-Paul Sartre, The Diary of Antoine Roquentin, trans. Lloyd Alexander (London: John Lehman, 1949), 151.
 John 10:10 (paraphrased).
 Fred Foster and Kris Kristofferson, “Me and Bobby McGee” (1971). Lyrics lightly altered.
 John 8:36 (NIV 1984).
 John Otway and Wild Willy Barret, “Really Free” (1977). Lyrics lightly altered.
 See Psalm 103:12.
 See Micah 7:19.
 Neil Young, “Out on the Weekend” (1972).
 Andrew Porter and Toby Harnden, “Gordon Brown Appeals to US Congress for Help to Save the World,” Daily Telegraph, March 4, 2009, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/gordon-brown/4940060/Gordon-Brown-appeals-to-US-Congress-for-help-to-save-the-world.html.
 John 3:17 (paraphrased).
Copyright © 2023, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.