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!