The Resurrection of Jesus is not optional


Three days from now Christians around the world will celebrate Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. As that day approaches I have been thinking about that hope filled event and the promise I have from God that is rooted firmly in that first resurrection so many years ago when the followers of Jesus found an empty tomb.

It is almost unthinkable that anyone who calls themselves “Christian” would do so while at the same time vehemently denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus. I have personally communicated with at least two such people. One of them a church of Christ preacher, the other a badly deceived man who believes little about the Christ yet is a member in good standing in a church of Christ and is referred to as “brother” so and so by others. Can a person really be a Christian and deny that Jesus was raised from the dead? No.

The Apostle Paul both in his letter to the Romans and in his first letter to the Corinthians makes clear the importance of the resurrection of Jesus. First, in the Corinthian letter. In what is without question one of the most clearly stated definitions of the gospel in the Bible Paul wrote these words.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)

There is nothing more important than the gospel of Christ!  Paul first reminds the Corinthians of the gospel he preached to them, that they had received it, they were standing in it, and were being saved by it. (the proof of course is that they were holding fast to the gospel, had they not been their faith would not have been genuine) There are many things in the life of a follower of Jesus and in the life of a local church that are extremely important, however, there is not anything more important than the good news about what Jesus accomplished for sinners! Churches that keep the gospel up front and center do well. Those churches that don’t keep the gospel first don’t do so well.

Notice that there are three key parts to the gospel Paul preached. 1. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. 2. He was buried. 3. He as was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. This is important! If you take away the resurrection component you have nothing! Try sitting on a stool with two legs! Just so, a gospel without the resurrection of Jesus is no gospel (good news) at all! Paul went to great lengths to assure his readers that indeed Christ did rise from death.

Faith in Christ is useless if there was no bodily resurrection! Paul defends his resurrection teaching in the most certain terms possible!

 “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. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

See what Paul said: 1. If Christ has not been raised my preaching and your faith is a sham! 2. If Christ has not been raised I am misrepresenting God! 3. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 4. If Christ has not been raised those who died with faith in Him have perished! 5. Of all people we are to be pitied if Christ has not been raised. That is some pretty serious stuff!

Jesus’ resurrection was a “bodily” resurrection! Unbelievers parading as theologians and preachers will concede some sort of resurrection but not a bodily resurrection. They will cite 1 Corinthians 15:44 and ignore many, many other passages that are very clear about Jesus resurrected body.

It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (1 Corinthians 15:44)

In this passage Paul simply was giving a contrast between the natural body we are born in and the glorified body we will some day have like the body of Jesus.  He was not saying that Jesus’ resurrected body was some sort of smoky vapor or some ghostly thing that sort of comes and goes. No, the earlier section of chapter 15 makes clear his meaning of the later verses.

” and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:5-8)

Now we are talking here of evidence that would stand the scrutiny of a court of law. Eyewitness testimony is powerful! He appeared to Peter then to the twelve Apostles, then to over 500 “at one time”, and then to Paul himself. This Jesus was a real man! He was recognizable, he bore the scars of his crucifixion! Make no doubt about it, this Jesus who was crucified and buried was raised from the dead in a body! It was a glorified body, a body that would not die ever again, but none-the-less a real touchable body. For goodness sake, he walked with his friends, he appeared in a locked room with them, and he ate with them. The last time I checked, spirits don’t eat!

Now for the text I promised from Romans. This is where the rubber meets the road so to speak.

 “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:8-10)

How clear can a truth be? It matters not how long a person has been a member of a church, or a preacher, or a missionary, if that person does not believe God raised Jesus from the dead he is not a Christian. There is no Christianity without the resurrection of Jesus from the dead! It is not up for debate, it is not optional!

But Jesus was raised from the dead! And we believe that with all we are and know that He was the first of many. who like him will be raised to never die again. All of us are tying to live as long as we can. We take medicine, go the doctor when we think we should, and some folks eat a certain diet hoping  to put off dying as long as possible. But, all of us will die unless Jesus returns first. But we need not fear death at all! Because he lives, we too shall live with him and as long as he lives and that is forever!

On Sunday, rejoice when songs about Jesus being raised from the dead are sung! Because of his life we have life and have it eternally! He arose, thank God He arose!

Happy resurrection day!

Royce Ogle
Monroe, LA

 

Nuggets of Fudge – Reading the Bible Usefully


Of all the people I know, no one better exemplifies the Christ-life than my dear friend Edward Fudge. Those who know Edward will all agree that he is a Jesus-man. He is a gospel machine! One of the reasons I love Edward is that he keeps Jesus at the center of his teaching and living. Observing his life is a vital lesson on how to live and love for Jesus. And, Edward is also a Bible-man! He loves the Word of God and has studied many years mastering Greek and practicing that biblical language with a friend so he could better know what the Bible is actually saying.

With this introduction I gladly present a brief study on reading the Bible from Edward Fudge.

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For the person who follows Jesus, his body and blood are bread from heaven, the food of eternal life (John 6:48-58). This metaphor emphasizes the necessity of maintaining spiritual union with Jesus so close that his life sustains and nourishes us. But next to Jesus himself, the Scriptures are surely the best soul-food available here on earth. Here are three practical, scriptural pointers to help us maximize the blessing received whenever we read the Scriptures.

1—Begin with prayer. It often goes unstated in our humanistic culture, but Christianity is a supernatural way of life. Academic study, original languages, and all sorts of study “aids” can assist understanding when properly used, but none of those things can begin to substitute for divine revelation. Whenever we open the sacred writings, let us pray–as the Book of Common Prayer puts it–that God will enable us to “hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them” (John 6:45; Luke 24:45; Col. 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:7).

2–Keep Jesus Christ central. Scripture’s very purpose is to lead us to him (John 5:39-40; Luke 24:47; 2 Tim. 3:14-17). To miss Jesus is to miss the point of the Bible. Randy Millikan, a physician and cancer researcher, and one of the best Bible teachers I have known, delights to say: “Begin anywhere in the Bible and head straight for the cross.” Ask yourself and God how your passage points to Jesus Christ.

3–Remember that the purpose of your reading is not information for its own sake but spiritual transformation. We cannot stop with knowing, but go on to doing and being. Jesus came to make disciples, not scribes. On the last day, God will not ask how many biblical facts we can recite. Read with the intent of becoming more like Jesus (Matt. 7:24-27; Matt. 11:25-26; Col. 1:9-11).

EdwardFudge.com is Bro’ Edward’s website.

gracEmail is one of Edward’s greatest ministries. Click on the link to read past gracEmails or subscribe to have one of his brilliant studies, or personal notes of interest about his life and family, or ministry, delivered to your inbox 3 times each week, free of charge.

When you drink the cup of the new covenant


The following passage from 1 Corinthians 11 is the most often read section of Scripture when believers are about to observe the Lord’s Supper together. It is a quote from the Apostle Paul and in the quote Paul quotes Jesus. Here is the passage.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

I think because this passage is so very familiar we often miss the message and deep meaning given in it. Before I move on to the main focus of this meditation I want to point out some things that struck me as I read and re-read this text.

First, Paul’s credibility. This is not something Paul heard from oral tradition, or some one said…, he makes it clear that he received this account from the Lord. He got this message from Jesus himself. So perhaps we should pay closer attention.

Second, Paul’s repetition. “I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you”. This is obviously not the first time Paul has talked to the Corinthians about the Lord’s Supper. “Delivered” is past tense, he had said it before, and it is worth repeating!

Third, Paul’s reminder. When you do this you are preaching the gospel. “You proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” The gospel is covered. His death is the focus and we expect him to “come”. He could not come if he was still dead, so he must be raised from the dead! Each time we share in the Lord’s Supper we are teaching the gospel to one another, reminding one another of whose we are and the price paid, and of course that Jesus will come. We do it with that expectation!

Now to the part I want to focus on in this post.”This cup is the new covenant in my blood” said Jesus. So the question is raised, what then is the new covenant? Whatever it is it cost the blood of Jesus!

18 knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (1 Peter 1:18-19)

12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)

There is no doubt the new covenant Jesus acquired for us by his own precious blood was very costly. Nothing ever could be more worth more! But what is it? Here it is from Jeremiah.

39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. (Jeremiah 32:39-31)

This is only part of what God said about the new covenant by the mouth of the Prophet Jeremiah, but it is a very, very good part. This, dear soul, is what Jesus purchased with his own blood for you.

God’s new covenant is amazing. The depth of his love is overwhelming! Read these verses over a few times and see what Christ has done for us.

A new heart! (Ezekiel 36:26) He gives us individually and as a community of believers the desire to fear Him “forever”. Right away we can see this is no temporary decree. It will be good for us and our children. It is the sort of grace gift that invades the next generations.

Next, God says this new covenant is “everlasting”. He will not change his mind about it. He says “I will not turn away from doing good for them”. God’s mind is set on doing good for you forever!

Next he says he will put it in our hearts to fear him. This is important enough that he repeats it. Why would he do this? Verse 39 “that they may fear me forever“, and in verse 40 “that they may not turn from me”. This is God’s doing! The new covenant is a “forever” covenant. You will not need God longer than forever.

Finally, God says something very special. It shows the depth of his love for those who are his own. He will rejoice in doing us good! With all his heart and soul he will delight in causing us to fear him and to be faithful to him.

Jesus said “This is the new covenant in my blood”. He, not us, is the strength and promise and power and purpose of the new covenant.

How can you know you are truly in this covenant with God? Day after day, month after month, year after year you fear God and are faithful to him. You do those things Jesus commanded. You love him and your neighbor. You will not do it perfectly but you will desire to please the one who purchased your redemption with his own blood.

Now rest in and rejoice about your standing with God. Make no mistake about this, the strength of the new covenant is God, not how well you can perform. This kind of love demands humble surrender and unending joy from the beneficiaries of Jesus’ love work for sinners like you and me.

When you drink the cup, remember the Lord. It is the cup of his love.

Good News about Jesus


This is part of a comment I posted on a friend’s blog.

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The good news about Jesus’ work for the ungodly is not about our “doing” but His “done”. God was in Christ reconciling the cosmos to himself. We have been (past tense) reconciled to God by the death of His son. In Adam the law of sin and death reigns. Even those who had no law sinned and died. Just as Adam represented us in sin and death, the second Adam (Jesus) represented us in defeating death, hell, and the grave. When he died we died with him and just as a widow is freed from her marriage by death, so we are freed from the penalty of the law by the representative death of Jesus for us. He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made righteous.

The gracious offer of the gospel is the free gift of being set free from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and finally the very presence of sin. Sinners hear the good news, they repent of their unbelief, and beginning with confession and baptism, try the best they can to live a life pleasing to the Lord. Jesus said he came to seek and to save (only he saves…) that which was lost. He also said he did not come to condemn, and he didn’t appoint anyone else to condemn either.

Royce