“THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRIST’S RESURRECTION”
First Corinthians 15.17
Our summer camp in Wrightwood convenes tomorrow. The theme of our camp this summer is The Resurrection, with the resurrection referred to, of course, being the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
To suggest to you the breadth and depth of this topic of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, two factoids related to contemporary scholars N. T. Wright and Gary Habermas. Wright is the author of The Resurrection of the Son of God, a very scholarly and in depth examination of Christ’s resurrection that runs to more than 800 pages. Gary Habermas, on the other hand, who is the chairman of the philosophy and theology department at Liberty University, has written more than twenty-five books and more than one hundred articles published in journals and magazines, with the vast majority of them bearing directly on Christ’s resurrection. I mention those two men and make you aware of their works only for the purpose of laying to rest any notion you might have that the resurrection of Jesus Christ, though it occurred two thousand years ago, does not bear directly on life in the twenty-first century affecting you and me. Their books were written in response to real needs and real interest being expressed now by all kinds of people in the world.
Even more impressive to a Bible-believing Christian is First Corinthians chapter 15, which is given over to a presentation of the whole topic of resurrection. However, if you will pay particular attention to First Corinthians 15.17, you will especially see the relevancy of Christ’s resurrection. The Apostle Paul writes, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” Little room is left for argument if the preeminent spokesman for Christianity, the Apostle Paul, indicates that the Christian faith rises and falls on the resurrection of Christ. If Christ is not raised from the dead, as a historical fact and a real event, our faith is vain and we are not saved from our sins.
Coming into this issue from another direction, let me state that anyone who does not believe the resurrection of Jesus actually took place is not a Christian, for Christianity can be compared to a stool that stands on three legs, with the raising of Jesus from the dead being one of the three vital legs on which our faith rests. No resurrection of Christ . . . no Christianity. It is as simple as that. Therefore, you can see, the resurrection of Christ is as important a doctrine as there is in the Bible. As well, the resurrection of Christ is one of those Christian doctrines that actually occurred in history, which is to say that it should be historically verifiable. It will come as no surprise to you that a subject which I will deal with a dozen times over five days is not a subject that I can fully present to you in the course of one sermon. However, the last thing I want to do here before we go to camp for a week is remind you of the importance of Christ’s resurrection.
First, THAT WHICH IS ESTABLISHED IN HISTORY CAN BE BELIEVED
You will sometimes hear people insist that unless something is proved by science it simply should not be believed, since only science lays claim to the truth. However, science is an extremely limited field of inquiry, being restricted to that which can be observed. Thus, though scientists can consider that which occurred in the past, science cannot consider that which occurred in the past. Only history can do that. Would you deny that history provides a basis for believing certain things to be true, even though science is incapable of speaking to the matter? If you do, then you do not know that Abraham Lincoln was the president of the
However, if history is not to be believed, and understanding that science simply cannot speak to that which it cannot observe and experiment with, then you do not really know much of anything. How do you know Elvis sang Blue Suede Shoes? How do you know the first atomic bomb was dropped on the city of
Second, THAT WHICH WAS PREDICTED BY THE PROPHETS ACTUALLY OCCURRED
There are hundreds of predictions made by the prophets of God in the Old Testament that history tells us actually occurred. Let me share just a few of those well-known predictions:
In Genesis 15.13, Abram was told in a dream that his descendants would be strangers in a land not theirs, that they would serve those inhabiting that land, and that they would be afflicted for four hundred years. Of course, we know that is exactly what happened with the Jewish people in the
Approximately a thousand years later, in Jeremiah 25.11-12 and 29.10, the prophet predicted the captivity of the Jewish people in the
There are many, many more predictions born out by history. How about Micah 5.2, where it was predicted that the Messiah would be born in
It is important that I point out that He would be born of a virgin, which reminds me of yet another objection voiced by Stephen’s college professor. I might have raised this point this morning, had it crossed my mind. Please turn to Isaiah 7.14: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Stephen’s college teacher said this Hebrew word translated “virgin” could also refer to a young maiden who is not a virgin. Keeping in mind that words always have a range of meanings that are governed by the context in which the words are used, look back to verse 11, where Jehovah says to the wicked king, Ahaz, “Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.” Is it a great thing for a young woman to give birth to a child? No. It is certainly no sign of any significance, since young women have babies all the time. For “the Lord Himself to give” Ahaz a sign, in the context in which this word is found, the Hebrew word almah must be understood to refer here to a virgin. Did what the prophet predict come true? Certainly. The virgin did give birth, as it was foretold.
Listen to this Messianic psalm, penned one thousand years before the time of Christ, Psalm 16.10: “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” David, who was a prophet, predicted Christ’s resurrection from the dead, and his prediction, along with the other relevant predictions of the prophets, are shown in history to have been fulfilled.
Third, THAT WHICH JESUS PREDICTED ABOUT HIMSELF ACTUALLY OCCURRED
The Lord Jesus Christ predicted His resurrection a number of times. Mark 8.31 records such a prediction, as does Mark 9.31. However, we will read only one passage, Mark 10.32-34, recording words spoken several weeks before His crucifixion:
32 And they were in the way going up to
33 Saying, Behold, we go up to
34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.
The night before His crucifixion, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” so it is crucial to tie together what He said would happen with what did happen. We can know things from history. The prophets predicted Jesus would rise from the dead, as they predicted many other things that happened. In addition, Jesus predicted His own resurrection from the dead, as He predicted His crucifixion. Therefore, history, the entire Old Testament through the prophets, and the credibility and truthfulness of Lord Jesus Christ Himself, are linked to His resurrection from the dead.
Fourth, JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH IS A CREDIBLE CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
Justification is that Bible doctrine that speaks of God granting the status of righteousness to a sinner based upon the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on
But for justification, there would be no possibility of salvation from sins, since there are none who are righteous, and no one can possibly address sins he has already committed. Justification, however, results in God’s pronouncement of innocent status for the sinner who is actually guilty by experience. How is this possible? Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left its crimson stain, but He washed it white as snow.
There is, however, a Biblical principle that requires two or three witnesses before a fact is established as being true. Therefore, how do we know, in addition to the fact that the Bible says sinners are justified through faith in Christ, that sinners are in fact justified through faith in Christ’s sacrifice? The resurrection. The resurrection verifies and validates what the Bible says is true. Read with me what Romans 4.25 tells us in connection with Jesus Christ’s resurrection: “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” One of the great proofs provided by Christ’s resurrection from the dead, in addition to showing that He is the Son of God, in addition to showing that He is God the Son, is to show that His substitutionary sacrifice for our sins on Calvary’s cross was pleasing and acceptable to God the Father. If there had been no resurrection, there had also been no justification by faith, no salvation of any kind.
We know from our text that if Christ be not risen then our faith is in vain. However, the vanity of our faith apart from Christ’s resurrection is not only in view of the fact that we are yet in our sins. There is another great implication connected to Christ’s resurrection.
First Corinthians 15.20 identifies the Lord Jesus Christ in His resurrection as a kind of first fruit, as the initial example of more to follow. Verse 23, again, identifies Him as a kind of first fruit. Thus, not only did Christ rise from the dead, but God’s plan is for Jesus to be the first of many to rise from the dead, with the righteous dead of all ages, including those who are dead in Christ and those who are Christ’s at His coming, also experiencing resurrection.
This must be so, for as the lake of fire is God’s plan for the eternity of the damned to suffer torment for their sins throughout time immemorial, so it must be admitted that there is no conception of eternal existence for the righteous dead but by means of the resurrection. Paul makes his way through First Corinthians chapter fifteen explaining that eternity will be an entirely different mode of existence than we are experiencing presently. For the righteous, existence in eternity is suitable only for those who are resurrected.
Finally, THE ENTIRE CHRISTIAN FAITH IS CONTINGENT UPON A
Paul stated it succinctly for us in our text: “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” In other words, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the linchpin event on which Christianity stands or collapses. To admit this would be foolish if what was at stake was an election to high office, or the winning of a debate. In such cases, no one ever intentionally reveals the one thing that can bring their side down and show them to be wrong, to show their faith to be fallacious, to reveal their religion to be ridiculous.
However, the Apostle Paul admits to one and all that the resurrection is that one historical event that, if not real, shows Christianity to be false. Why would Paul make such an admission? No Hindu, or Buddhist, or Mormon, or Muslim, would ever admit to their religion resting upon a single historical event? Want to know why? Because only Christianity is historical, and rests upon undeniable historical events for its authenticity. All other religions make claims that cannot possibly be verified by history.
Compare the Christian faith to every other belief system in existence. What other belief system makes claims to be verified by history? What other belief system made claims about what will happen in the future, to be compared by the actual events when they come to pass, as with the prophets’ predictions and as with Christ’s predictions?
Christianity is unique among the world’s religions in that only Christianity is genuine. No religious leader in history, be it the Buddha, be it Mohammed, be it anyone else you can think of, ever claimed that salvation was in his person, except Jesus Christ. As well, no miracles such as Christ’s resurrection from the dead are associated with any founder of any of the world’s religions.
So important is this matter of Christ’s resurrection, that if there is no resurrection there is no salvation, there is no credible Christian faith, and we are still in our sins. However, so well established in history is Christ’s resurrection, that only those who refuse to believe He rose from the dead can deny the fact once the evidence is properly examined.
 Jeremiah 22.30