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About Doctrines

Resurrections



As we have commented earlier, the Resurrection of Jesus is the heart of the Christian doctrine.

1 Corinthians 15:14
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

Paul has written earlier in Romans that it is by the Resurrection that God has proven the effectiveness of Jesus' mission.

Romans 1:4
and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

It is clear, then, that the Resurrection is the capstone of Jesus earthly mission and is the true foundation of preaching and spreading the Gospel message. God may grant eternal life to us because He has proven His ability to overcome death by the Resurrection.

On the other hand, the concept of the Resurrection is difficult. How can a man be brought back to life after being in the grave for two nights? This is truly a miracle, and if one desires not to find God involved in the affairs of mankind, miracles are unwanted events. If the Resurrection is so important to the Gospel, but mankind wants to avoid miracles, how do you deal with such an issue?

In theology, the art of apologetics is the positive defense of the Scriptures. It is an exercise combining upon fact, knowledge, and logic to arrive at a positive "proof" of various portions of the Gospel message. Not everyone views the power of apologetics in the same light. Many see it as a useless exercise. The Gospel is based upon faith, "justification by faith," so man's proof is of little benefit and apologetics is useless.

On the other hand, apologetics is one of the disciplines that help pastors and teachers clearly understand the Bible so that it may be presented in a variety of methods to an unbelieving world. In this sense apologetics is extremely valuable. And, occassionally you will encounter an intellectual who may be led to the doorway of faith by reason and logic. At these rare times, knowing the "facts" is the path to salvation.

The Jewish religious leaders understood the potential value of an empty tomb. One might read the Words of Christ as saying He would rise from the grave. An empty tomb would be some proof of such an event. Accordingly, the leaders went to Pilate and made arrangements for the tomb to be guarded and sealed (Matt 27:62). After the Resurrection, these same leaders paid the Roman soldiers to spread the rumor that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus (Matt 28:11).

On the other hand, we need to remember that the Gospels do not use the empty tomb as the basis for faith. Faith is always presented as belief in Jesus, who is seen as having risen from the grave. The Resurrection is accompanied by other miracles, such as the removal of the stone by the angels (Luke 24:31, 36; John 20:19, 26). The events shows the emptiness of the tomb, but is designed to allow the disciples to discover and communicate the Resurrection. It is not a basis for faith, it is part of the proof of God's actions. In fact, the disciples first response to the empty grave was one of frustration and disbelief. The empty tomb did not convince them of the Resurrection. It is the appearance of Jesus that provides the proof.

There are 10 appearances of the Risen Christ recorded in the Gospels and in 1 Corinthians 15. Sometimes Jesus appeared to just a couple of people. At other times He appeared to as many as five hundred. When He appeared to Paul on the Damascus road, only Paul could see and realize who He was. If it takes only two or three witnesses to prove an event, there are more than enough witnesses to prove the Resurrection.

There are, of course, critics of these appearances. They include mass hallucination and dreams or spiritual appearances rather than earthly appearances. Others argue that Christ only fainted and did not die. Each argument attempts to avoid the power of God at work in the life of Jesus and the world. Each raises many more questions than they answers.

We need to remember that the Resurrection is a witness to what God has done in the life of Jesus. It clearly affected the life of the disciples, but they were not part of the Resurrection. As a result of the resurrection of Jesus human lives were transformed. Look, for example at the changes in Paul. Consider the abuse Paul endured for Christ. The transformations of Christians is not termed resurrection but salvation. We will discover that Paul's characterization of the power of the Resurrection is that now we may be "in Christ."

Also, we must remember that in Scripture, the Resurrection of Jesus, His exaltation to the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33), and the giving of the Spirit (John 20:22) are all to be seen as a single complex of events. Although the elements may be viewed as separate happenings, the New Testament pictures them as being tightly integrated in the process we call salvation.

So, from a logical view point, there would only be three alternatives to the empty tomb – the disciples took the body, their foes took the body, or Jesus rose from the grave. The changed lives of the disciples argues against the first position. It would be difficult to steal the body and then maintain the changes in the approach, dedication, and boldness of the disciples if they knew they were living a lie. One or two of them might have continued the lie for a length of time, but history shows us that the last Apostle to die was John. This was around A.D. 100, some 70 years after the Resurrection. This is an extremely long time to continue a lie. And, remember, as well, that many of them were severely persecuted and killed for their efforts.

The second proposition is unlikely as well. If the bad guys had taken the body, they could have stopped the movement cold by producing the body of Jesus and proving the falsehood of the Resurrection. This did not happen. In fact, Matthew tells us it is this very group that blamed the disappearance of the body on the disciples.

This leaves only one other alternative. Jesus rose from the grave. The Resurrection is real and proves the power of God.

Of course it does! Would I have asked such a question if there was a negative answer? Consider the following. They are not all of the "proofs" of the Resurrection, but they form a considerable body of evidence.

What all of this amounts to is that Christ rose from the dead. And the logical arguments Paul sets forth in the Corinthian verses quoted above form the best proof that exists. Christianity is a vain religion if Jesus remains in the grave. It becomes as useless as any other religion or cult. There is no power to the God of Christianity if Jesus remained in the grave.

C.S. Lewis is generally created with making the statement that Jesus is either a lunatic or He is God. Consider the implications. If Jesus is a lunatic, that is, if He did not rise from the grave, if He is not Who He claims to be, then the Bible itself is not the revelation of / from God. And if the Bible is not true, then we have no picture of God the Father. And, if we have no picture of God the Father, then we have no personal relationship with God. This personal relationship is the entire basis of Christianity. This is the relationship Paul has discussed throughout this letter.

So, if there is no relationship, then, there is no God to worship and praise. Paul is correct. If the Resurrection did not occur, then our faith is empty and vain. We are forever lost.

But, take hope. Christ has risen from the dead. This is the point made so explicitly by Paul in these verses. Jesus died and arose and has complete dominion over death. God truly is omnipotent and controls all things. The death of Christ was foreshadowed in the Old Testament sacrifices and this is a key element. For Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, the "propitiation." As such "He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God." Jesus has offered Himself as the once for all sacrifice for sin. As such, He lives to the glory of God.

And this is what we are to do. Since we have become part of Christ in the sense of joining Him in faith, we, too, are to live to God's glory. We die to sin with Jesus and we live to God's glory with Jesus. The discussions of this and the many of the following chapters will direct our attention on what it means to live to God's glory. Here, Paul uses the language of imputation. We are to "reckon" or count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. This is the power of justification by faith.

We should view ourselves in the same fashion as God views us – dead to sin and alive in Christ. This is the power we should account to our benefit. This is the power we should draw upon. This is the power that should assure us of our place in God's family. This is the power that proves to us we are saved. This is the power of God to salvation (1:16). Being dead to sin, we are new creatures freed from sin's bondage, alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

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