The Centrality of The Resurrection
In part one of our series on the centrality of the resurrection we pointed out that in the earliest proclamation of the Gospel there was a heavy emphasis placed on the resurrection of Christ and his corresponding lordship. We saw that in the book of Romans the apostle Paul spent equal or more time on the subject of the resurrection than he did on the death of Christ for our sins. In fact, he contributes justification and salvation to the resurrection (Rom. 4:25, 5:9-12). He also points out that the resurrection is the proof God has given to all mankind that Jesus is His one and only unique son (Rom. 1:4).
In speaking about the centrality of the resurrection, we are not inferring that Christ crucified or dying for our sins is not central to the Christian gospel. Both the death of Christ and his resurrection are central to the New Testament witness. They are actually two sides of the same event. We can call this event the Christ event. The apostle Paul in speaking about the Christ event says that the death and resurrection are the central elements of the gospel of Jesus Christ and spoke about them as one happening or event (I Cor. 15:1-4). In one aspect we could say that his death was the beginning of the resurrection for it marked the beginning of his exodus from this world into glory (Luke 19:31). He has promised that all those that will put their faith in him will join him in that great exodus on the final day. His resurrection is a guarantee that they will be fellow sojourners with him into the heavenly places.
In part two of our series I would like to look at a few of the sermons of the early disciples found in the book of Acts in the New Testament. The first one is found in Acts chapter 2:22-36. The speaker is the apostle Peter and he is speaking for himself and the other apostles who were all witnesses of the resurrection. The following is his message to the very Jews, who crucified Christ.
22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man 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. 24 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. 25 David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 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. 31 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. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” ‘
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
In the above section of the book of Acts, we find the apostle Peter making a series of arguments for Jesus being the Christ. In making his arguments he calls upon five witnesses to the lordship of Jesus Christ. In verse 22, he points people to the witness of the life of Christ and the miracle’s God did through Christ. If nothing else the miracles were a witness to the fact that this man was approved by God. In verse 23, he points out to the people that even though God demonstrated his approval of Jesus through working signs and wonders and miracles through him, still the people put him to death. Then in verse 24 he again says that God bore witness to Jesus again by raising him from the dead. In verse 25 Peter points to the witness of Old Testament scriptures, pointing out that the resurrection was the fulfillment of the prophecy made by David in the Old Testament. In verses 29 through 31 Peter explains exactly how this prophecy was fulfilled by the resurrection. Then in verse 32 he points out the witness of the twelve apostles who all personally witnessed Jesus raised from the dead. Finally, in verse 33 he points out that the Holy Spirit was bearing witness to Christ and the resurrection by fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy, which predicted God would pour out his Spirit on his people in the last days, which was the very experience that Peter’s listeners had themselves witnessed (Acts 2:14-21). How could they deny what they were seeing and hearing? So we have the witness of the life of Christ, the witness of the resurrection, the witness of scripture, the witness of the apostles and the witness of the Holy Spirit all pointing to fact that Jesus is the Christ the Lord.
Some might object because they do not believe in the miraculous, but let me submit that the conversion of these 3000 people in itself is an evidence to the miraculous. In verse, 23 Peter said he was speaking to the very people who had crucified Jesus. His audience accepted his remarks about the miraculous signs and wonders that Jesus worked and his miraculous resurrection. If there ever was a group of people that could have disputed the miracles of Jesus and his resurrection, this was the group, but they did not. This also would have been an excellent time for the enemies of the Jesus movement to produce a body or for someone to have disputed the life and miracles of Jesus. However, there were no counter-witnesses to anything that the apostle Peter said.
I think it’s quite evident that we do not have the complete sermon that the apostle Peter preached in Acts chapter 2. What we have is an abbreviated version of the sermon. It is evident from verse 38 in the chapter that Peter also spoke to the multitude about the forgiveness of sins. In verse 40, it clearly stated that he spoke many other words to the audience. However, one thing we do know is that the Holy Spirit saw fit to record in Scripture this emphasis on the resurrection and lordship of Jesus. Which we will see is a pattern throughout the Book of Acts.
To be continued
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.