The Importance of the Resurrection

Title: The Importance of the Resurrection
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Time: April 10th, 2015

Every year the Easter season comes and goes, and while it is celebrated around the world, I often get the feeling that people don’t really get the point and purpose of it, even though they know it has some profound meaning. There really is confusion today, perhaps more so than at any other time in church history, as to the basic meaning of such important things like the death of Christ on the cross, his burial and finally the resurrection. What do these things mean? What did they mean and what do they mean today? We know in fact that these things had a profound effect on the people of the first century because of the rapid growth of the Christian church. And we know historically they had a great effect on the development of the Western World, including all of Europe and also our own nation the United States. So there is no question that the life of Jesus, and in particular his death, burial and resurrection changed the course of world history. But why don’t these profound and earth shacking events have much of a powerful influence today? Yes, they do have some impact on people today, but it doesn’t seem that they grip the human soul the way they used to thousands of years ago, or even hundreds of years ago. It seems like in modern times their impact has lessened to the point that our culture celebrates Easter more out of historical remembrance than profound personal experience. How many people attending an Easter church service are truly gripped with the reality of the risen Christ today? I would guess that a majority is not; maybe even a vast majority is not. Why not? How can things that meant so much in earlier times mean so little to people today? One of the contributing factors is that people are largely ignorant of the true and profound meaning of the Easter events as they occurred two thousand years ago. They just haven’t been taught properly from the pulpits. Pastors and church leaders over the last twenty or thirty years have so emphasized “practical” Christianity – having the proper positive mental attitude, teaching principals of “success” from the Bible, and generally appealing to the practicality of Christianity over the theological or doctrine or moral aspects of the faith. The result is that most people today, even those who attend church regularly, don’t know the basic and essential theological teachings of the church, and if they do, they often don’t know them very profoundly. This must be corrected before it’s too late. So let me delve into some of the important theological reasons why Christ rose from the dead, and why the resurrection is so important for – or should be important for us – today. I’ll use as my text, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.

First, was it absolutely essential that Christ rose bodily from the dead? 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” As Christians we know that Christ indeed did rise from the dead on the third day because the Bible says so and we believe the Bible’s testimony, as have all Christians throughout the ages. But that’s not the question. The question is, “Was it absolutely essential that Jesus rise from the tomb?” If you stop and think about it, we remember Communion or the Lord’s Supper, and that calls to mind the Lord’s death on the cross for our sins. As the Lamb of God he was sacrificed in our place for our sins in order to pay the penalty of sin for all who believe. When we drink the cup of wine it represents Christ’s blood that was shed on our behalf on the cross, and when we eat the bread it represents the body of Christ broken for us on the cross. But what about the resurrection in the Communion or Lord’s Supper remembrance? It’s not there, or it’s not prominent in that activity we do in church. My conclusion, and I’ve talked about this before in other messages, is that of all the events in the Easter week celebration, the most important is Christ’s death on the cross on behalf of our sins. It was on the cross that he won our salvation through the forgiveness of sins. It was on the cross that he paid the penalty for sin. He carried out his atoning work on Good Friday, and when he said, “It is finished,” that represented that his sacrifice for sin was accomplished on our behalf. We are saved because of what Christ did on the cross. It need never be repeated because it is finished. Sin was paid for on the cross, your sins and mine were paid for by Christ on the cross. Now this was all done before the burial or the resurrection. So then when we approach the question, “Was it absolutely essential that Christ bodily rose from the dead?” we must say, technically, theologically, “No.” If he had died on the cross for our sins and his body was buried in the tomb and remained in the tomb would that have meant our sins hadn’t been atoned for? No. Before Christ, when God the Father accepted animal sacrifices, when he commanded they be slaughtered as temporary atoning sacrifices for sin, their bodies didn’t mysteriously vanish, rather some parts were burned in fire and other parts discarded. So there is nothing in the theology of atonement for sins that necessarily requires coming back to life. So the resurrection of Jesus didn’t take place because it strictly had to theologically. It happened for another reason.

Second, prophetically, the resurrection of Jesus had to take place. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Now when we move from a strict atonement theology to prophecy we see that because the Old Testament and the New Testament — or what we now know as the New Testament, specifically the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John record the prophetic words of Jesus as predicting the resurrection – in this sense we see it was necessary to fulfill prophecy. Notice the verse we’re examining says, “He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” What Scriptures? The Old Testament, the New Testament? What scriptures is the Apostle Paul referring to? Because the New Testament as we know it hadn’t been written yet, it must be the Old Testament. But let’s let the Apostle Peter show us an Old Testament prophecy of the resurrection of the messiah: “This man (Jesus) was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact,” Acts 2:23-32. That’s Old Testament prophecy of the resurrection; Psalm 16:10. But Jesus himself prophesied many times about his resurrection, for example, Matthew 16:21, “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” So as we can see, from a prophetic standpoint the resurrection had to happen because, well, God said it would in his Word. The prophecies must be fulfilled. But there’s a more practical reason why the resurrection needed to happen.

Third, the resurrection needed to happen to prove to us the promises of Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” We saw in the first place that the resurrection didn’t need to happen for strictly theological grounds because an atoning sacrifice could have taken place for our sins without any additional activity on the part of the sacrifice. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” it really was finished; our sins had been atoned, our forgiveness granted, our salvation one. But the resurrection needed to occur to fulfill prophecy both from the Old Testament and also the New Testament words of Christ prophesying his on resurrection. The resurrection fulfilled prophecy. But the most practical reason why the resurrection was important is that it confirmed Christ’s promises and reinforces the faith of the believer. There would have been something wrong, “What’s wrong with this picture?” if Christ had won our salvation but simply stayed dead in the tomb – I mean his body stayed dead, not his soul or spirit – presumably that would have still gone back to heaven to be with God the Father. But there would have been something incomplete, something missing. Yes, we still could have salvation, still forgiven of our sins, still atoned for, but the victory would not have been as sweet nor could it have been celebrated properly. The resurrection of Christ validated or authenticated all the promises given during his earthly ministry, as well as fulfilling all Old Testament prophecy concerning it. Let me use an everyday example. Many of us pay our bills on the Internet through online banking. Well, when you click on all the right buttons and send your payment you usually have to wait a few seconds for confirmation of the transaction. Depending on the system, you wait a few second or so before a message pops up on the screen saying your payment went through. Now let me ask a question, “If the message that says your payment was made and is recorded never pops up, did it really go through?” Maybe, probably, but we wouldn’t know for sure. I’ve actually had that happen. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes I’ll make an online payment and I’ll wait and wait but never get confirmation that it went through. So I have to wait for the next day or even a couple of days to verify it did indeed register as a payment. Now I had no way of knowing, even though it did go through. Now back to the reason for the resurrection – it’s to validate or authenticate that Christ’s death on the cross really did pay for our sins. Without it we’d never know for sure and our faith might waver. But with the resurrection, our salvation, our faith in Christ is strengthened and made strong.

Now do you see how important the resurrection of Jesus really is? It’s important for our faith that Christ rose from the dead. If he hadn’t, we might still have our sins forgiven, we might still be saved, but it sure would be harder to believe it without the validation or authentication of the resurrection. So God the Father mercifully gave us a great faith booster, gave us something for our faith to cling to, gave us a powerful miracle to lean on as we walk the Christian way – he gave us the resurrection. So now when we read the Bible, when we read the promises of God in the Bible, when we pray and put our faith in God we’ve got a supernatural miracle to rest upon in doing so, the resurrection. On Easter Sunday we celebrate the resurrection, we celebrate the great miracle that strengthens our faith and renews our hope in eternal life. It also reminds us that we are dealing with a supernatural God who is in control of life and death. Death isn’t a problem for God. He can raise us up from the grave and into heaven, no problem. If God the Father rose Jesus Christ up in body, mind and soul – because that was the plan to rise in all three ways in order to appear to the disciples and others as proof – then if God can do that, certainly he can raise you and me from death in mind and soul. Now the way it will work with us, because there’s no need for us to come back to life bodily – we don’t need to appear to our disciples (I hope you don’t have disciples, you shouldn’t have disciples) and we certainly don’t need to fulfill prophecy because there are no prophecies concerning our bodily resurrection, or at least there shouldn’t be! We only need to come to life mind and soul to heaven. But my point is, in the case of Jesus, if he was raised body, mind and soul by God the Father, certainly we can be raised mind and soul by the same power. In fact, that’s just what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8:11, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” So the resurrection gives us faith and gives us hope, not only in all the promises of God in the Old and New Testaments, but by way of example it gives us hope for our own spiritual resurrection when our earthly life is over. Because of the resurrection we have the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. Because of the resurrection we know that because of Christ’s atoning death on the cross, when we stand before God the Father our sins are forgiven and we are loved and accepted on account of Jesus. Because of the resurrection we are confident of life everlasting with God. Amen.

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