Acts 26:8, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?”
This morning, people still find many Biblical tenets fantastically unbelievable, and most of the incredulity stems from inability to understand it fully. For example, many today will deny that Jesus Christ is fully God as well as fully man, since that concept blows the mind’s circuits. The fact that such a concept is a mystery is undeniable (I Timothy 3:16), but mysteries do not necessarily entail an untruth. Much of life is a mystery to me, but my lack of understanding does not change the existence of these truths. For some, the idea of the resurrection of our bodies when time shall be no more is thought to be so utterly fantastic that it is nothing more than a children’s fairy tale. However, to someone who knows something of Biblical foundations, the idea should not be unbelievable but completely believable.
Our study verse is set in the midst of Paul’s appearance before King Agrippa. He has already made his case before Felix and then Festus, but King Agrippa’s arrival warrants another hearing. So, Paul stands before these 3 magistrates, but primarily speaks to Agrippa since he had already spoken to the other two. Paul actually enjoyed this hearing (Verse 2), and the reason for that happiness is found in verse 3, setting the stage for the premise of all of Paul’s arguments. Agrippa, unlike other magistrates, had a good knowledge of the Jews’ religion, customs, and beliefs about various things. Because of this knowledge, Paul hinges many of his arguments on the teachings of the prophets of the Old Testament, but his questions hinge upon Agrippa’s understanding of the power and consistency of God as well.
If Agrippa knew what the Jews thought and had in the Old Testament, then he knew the Genesis account of the creation. Knowing that the Book described an entire universe formed out of nothing, Paul presses the argument. If God can create something from nothing, how hard would it be for Him to take that something and fashion it again as something? The resurrection is not a new body, but a change of the old body. No matter the condition, the resurrection starts with the premise that the remains of the body are fashioned again into another body (Job 19:24-25). For someone who had not heard of or been acquainted with the God of the Old Testament, the resurrection could be an incredible thing, but for people who believe in the literal creation of the universe from nothing by God, the resurrection should be well within His power.
Furthermore, Agrippa had other accounts familiar to him. Notice the language of verse 3 again. Agrippa was not just casually acquainted with these things. He was an expert in all questions and customs among the Jews. Therefore, he knew more than just that there were prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah, he had read them extensively and heard many of the discussions about the harder questions of the law. Many times in writing his defenses of the resurrection, like in I Corinthians 15, Paul would quote extensively from the Old Testament. The writings of the prophets bear great testimony to the truth of the raising from the dead. (Isaiah 25:8 as a good example) Therefore, the concept of the resurrection should not have been alien to Agrippa on that level.
Another appeal that Paul had from Scripture was that the Old Testament linked the resurrection by illustration to nature. Job describes this in Job 14:1-15. In Job’s declaration of life after death, he mentions the observation of a tree that is cut down. Though the tree is gone with nothing but the aging roots in the ground, yet through the presence (scent) of water, it will sprout again. Even nature’s courses (set in place by a very intelligent Creator) show forth the reality of life after recession through the season’s courses and the examples of things like trees that Job gives us. Agrippa was more familiar with these things than other people that Paul stood before. As Paul’s discourse ellipses back to the resurrection in Acts 26, it causes Festus to accuse Paul of insanity for believing these things. To some today, someone would have to be incredibly insane to believe the truth that we shall be raised from the grave some sweet day.
Beloved, today we should look at Paul’s question as though he asked it to us. Why should it be thought incredible that God should raise the dead? Do we believe that He verily created something from nothing? Amen and amen. Do we believe that all that the prophets declared is verily true and without error? Amen again. Do we see and observe the change and “rebirth” cycles in nature? Surely so. Why with all this evidence screaming about should the resurrection be thought incredible to us?
Most of the incredulity about the event stems from lack of ability to grasp it. I freely confess that the idea of “sleeping dust” coming forth in an instant to be fashioned into a glorious immortal body is more than my mind can logically project or fathom. I simply have no experience comparison with which to base it. However, the reality and power of that event does not hinge upon my ability to mentally project it. It is grounded in the reality that the heart of the resurrection – Jesus Himself – has all power in both heaven and earth. He can do – and does – whatsoever He will. No matter the condition of the “dust,” it shall come forth. Burned, consumed, torn of beast, or scattered to the far corners of the globe, none of it has landed outside the watchful eye of Him who shall one day raise it. Incredible? Let us not be found thinking so, but rather let us be found rejoicing in hope of the glory of God knowing that one day we shall stand before Him wholly in not only spirit and soul but body as well.