Watergate proves the Bible is true. So says former White House special counsel Charles Colson, convicted felon and born-again Christian, who has drawn packed crowds to the Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church this week to hear his message.

The lesson of Watergate is that a lie cannot live for long, according to Colson.

"Here were the 10 most powerful men in the United States," he said, referring to the Watergate cover-up attempt. "With all that power, and we couldn't contain a lie for two weeks."

Applying the Watergate scandals to the New Testament and to current suggestions that accounts of Jesus' resurrection were a conspiracy perpetrated by His apostles, Colson insisted: "No way."

"Take it from one who was involved in conspiracy, who saw the frailty of man firsthand," he declared, "there is no way the 11 apostles, who were with Jesus at the time of the resurrection, could ever have gone around for 40 years proclaiming Jesus' resurrection unless it were true."

Had the New Testament account not been true, Colson continued, "Peter would have been exactly like John Dean" who, he said, led a parade of White House aides who talked to prosecutors to "save their own skins."

If the apostles' story about the resurrection had begun to unravel, as the Watergate cover-up did, Colson said: "They the apostles would have sold out to save their skins."

As he preached, worshipers of all ages filled the main sanctuary of the red and white, Colonial-style church that is the largest Southern Baptist congregation in the area. The throng spilled into both the social hall and the smaller sanctuary, where they watched his sermon on closed-circuit television.

Colson, who once told a federal judge that he had been "an arrogant self-assured man in the ruthless exercise of power," told the crowd that he has not forgotten what it had been like to be a powerful man.

"I could pick up a telephone and have a jet airplane . . . waiting for me at Andrews Air Force Base," he recalled. "I could call up the Pentagon and give orders to people at the Pentagon. I could change the budget."

Now, Colson, said, he preaches repentance. His fast-moving sermon was filled with reminiscence, wisecracks and political humor.

"When I went to prison I changed to a Democrat; I couldn't stand the thought of seeing a Republican in jail," he explained to about 1,500 eager listeners Monday night.

Columbia Baptist Church is spending $28,000 to sponsor "The Life Together Crusade" that began Sunday. Colson is to speak, for free, every night. A youth rally is scheduled for Saturday, featuring Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and place-kicker Mark Moseley.

At the close of Colson's sermon Monday night, 25 or 30 of the worshipers who had packed the church came forward in response to his appeal that they commit or recommit their lives to Christ.

The church's pastor, Neal Jones, admitted to being "a little" disappointed, but Colson, who joined Columbia Baptist Church after he was released from jail, said he was not.

"I don't want to know the numbers, or what the decisions were," he said afterward, adding that numbers of converts are not important, because it is "God who deals with people."

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and kicker Mark Moseley are scheduled to be at the Columbia Baptist Church revival crusade in Falls Church Friday night. The date of their appearance was reported incorrectly yesterday.