July 14, 2014.
As we journey further into the 21st century, it seems that more and more people of the religious world are rejecting the literal resurrection of Christ. I would expect this from non-believing skeptics, but not from Christians. I don’t think there are a large number of those who wear the name of Christ that hold to this position with any fervor, nevertheless, they are out there, perhaps in a larger percentage among scholars. Regardless of the number of people who oppose the resurrection, I believe there is an important question to ask and discuss today: How important is the resurrection?
This is not a new topic of discussion. Throughout the years, many people all around the world have discussed the account of the resurrection of Christ. Even in Paul’s time, there were those who doubted the resurrection. The obvious group that opposed the resurrection was the Sadducees who opposed the immortality of the soul. There was also a group in the church at Corinth that did not believe in the resurrection, perhaps influenced by the Sadducees. Listen to what Paul writes to them:
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
(I Corinthians 15:12-19)
As Paul ends his letter to this church, he starts getting into some deeper concepts than at the beginning of the letter. There are a lot of interesting points and arguments brought up in the last few chapters, this being one of them. He explains here what he would refer to as of “first importance” (v. 3), the importance of not only the death and burial of Christ, but maybe even more so the resurrection of Christ. It is true that Jesus came to die in our place, to offer a perfect sacrifice that would cleanse all sin and offer salvation to the world. But of what good is His word if it were not backed up in power? How could he have defeated sin and death if he had not lived a perfect life and then proved death to have no power over him, by raising from the grave? The resurrection is our hope, for without it what on what do we base our faith?
This Paul’s argument in I Corinthians 15. If Christ was not raised, we have nothing. We are preaching error and misrepresenting God. Our faith is in vain. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then we will not be raised in the time to come, thus this life is all there is. Further, if Christ was not raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. Those aren’t my words, they are the apostle Paul’s. Without the resurrection, we have no hope.
Why? Why would we still be in our sins? Could not Christ just be a good moral teacher? C. S. Lewis does a good job of explaining this in his book Mere Christianity. There is no way Christ could have been simply a good moral teacher. If he was not who he said he was, he was either a liar or a lunatic. If he was who he said he was, then he is Lord. A good moral teacher is not an option. Further, a “good moral teacher” could not cleanse sins. He would have no power to do so. A price had to be paid for sin, and the wages of sin is death. Christ had to offer a perfect sacrifice, once for all (a study in Hebrews will thoroughly explain this concept). But even this was not enough to offer cleansing forever, because our great high priest would be dead. Thus it was necessary for Christ to raise from the dead, once and for all defeating the powers of sin and death that we may receive so great a salvation.
“I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(I Corinthians 15:50-57)
It was his life that preached the news. It was his death that gave the sacrifice. It was his resurrection that gave us hope. We have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, because he defeated death. This is why we are baptized for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38). It is not because of any work that we do (Titus 3:4-7), but a participation in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection; we die to our old life of sin, are buried with Christ and raised a new creature, just as he was raised, that we might walk a new life.
Our spiritual resurrection gives us our place in Christ. His physical resurrection gives us hope of our’s in the time to come. If Christ was not raised, we might as well throw off the Christian faith, for it holds no power. So I ask the question again.
How important is the resurrection?
Suggested Daily Reading: John 20, I Corinthians 15, Hebrews 9-10.
Grow strong in the faith.