The Centrality of The Resurrection Part II

The Centrality of The Resurrection

Part II

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

Rom 10:8-10

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.

 

The Centrality of the Resurrection Part I

The Centrality of the Resurrection

Part I

The resurrection of Jesus Christ has been so neglected by followers of Jesus that we might wonder whether they are really the followers of the same Jesus Christ of the first disciples.  From a casual reading of the New Testament, but especially the Book of Acts, the early disciples not only believed in the resurrected Christ but also made the message of the resurrection along with the death of Christ the centrality of their preaching.

It is the church’s faith in the resurrection of her Lord that makes the Christian faith different from all other faiths.  Without the resurrection, the Christian faith is nothing more than a lifeless religion.  Everyone who professes to be a Christian must ask himself whether he really believes in the resurrection or is it simply a doctrine that one believes because of tradition.  The answer to this question can be found by reflecting on what impact it has had on your life.  Do you think and life as though Jesus is alive and coming back to judge the living and the dead?

Let’s take a look at early preaching of the first century church.  We can begin in the book of Romans.  The apostle Paul in Romans 10:9-11 said that belief in the resurrection is one of two of the foundational beliefs that makes one a Christian and is required for salvation.  “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.”  As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (Rom. 10:9-11).

In his opening remarks in the book of Romans, Paul said that the resurrection of Jesus established His Lordship and His authority for the believer “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” (Rom 1:4).  Without the resurrection, Jesus would not be the Christ.  For how could a dead man be the Christ and how could a man who was convicted as a common criminal and executed be the Lord and Savior of the world?  We will see that it was the resurrection that justified Jesus and all those who believe in Him as their Lord.

During the ministry of Jesus, the disciples felt privileged that they were chosen to be the disciples of the master.  However, after his arrest, trial, and crucifixion they were not so proud.  In fact, some were ashamed, believing that maybe they had made a great mistake.  To them it looked like the political and religious powers had demonstrated that this Jesus they followed was a common criminal, a liar, and a false prophet.  They were disillusioned and ashamed of their faith and their commitment to this man.  They were perplexed at how they could have been so deceived and so wrong about the one that they had put their hope and trust in.

However, the story was not over yet for God raised Him from the dead.  In raising Him from the dead, God renewed the hope and trust of the disciples in their Messiah.  Years after the resurrection, the apostle Peter speaks about the renewal of their hope through the resurrection when he said, “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3- 4).  Note that the apostle speaks of living Hope, a Hope that can never again be diminished by the death of its author.  But God did more than that, for in the resurrection God spoke to them confirming everything that Jesus had told them and even more.  He revealed numerous new truths through the resurrection event.

One of those truths is that the disciples of Jesus will never be put to shame again.  “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame (Rom. 10:9-11).  On the Judgment Day many people will be ashamed of what they have said and done.  But the resurrection is the believer’s assurance that his sins have been forgiven and that he will never be ashamed before the living God.  The apostle Paul said, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom 4:25).  “Who is he that condemns?  He is Christ Jesus, who died and more than that was raised to life where he is now at the right hand of God interceding for us” (Rom 8:34-35).  For the apostle Paul, the resurrection is the evidence that the believers’ sins are forgiven and that they stand justified before God.  Without the witness of the resurrection we are still dead in our sins.  “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17-19).

Moreover, it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that sets Him above all earthly authorities.  It was the religious and political powers that condemned Jesus to death.  They said He was guilty of blaspheming and rebellion against Rome.  The religious leaders said that His crucifixion would be a witness to the fact that He was accused by God.  “Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree.”  They said that according to law of God, He must die.  But in the resurrection, God reversed their decision and said that the accursed one is the justified one.  In this, He set Jesus up over the Old Testament Torah (Law).  In this, God demonstrates through the resurrection that Jesus is greater than Moses and the Old Testament law.  The Romans sealed His tomb with the seal of Caesar which was the symbol of absolute authority.  The seal said, “This man will stay in the tomb.”  But over and against all of this, God raised Him from the dead, showing that the authority of Jesus is greater than the authority of Rome or any earthly authority.  In fact, His authority is even greater than natural law that says that death is permanent.  It was after the resurrection that Jesus said to His disciples, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given unto me.”  Therefore, for the believer there is no authority or power in heaven or on earth that is greater than the authority and power of Jesus.  The resurrection is the witness of His authority and power “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” (Rom 1:4).

One reason why we pray through Jesus Christ to the Father is that we believe that He has special authority in heaven and earth.  He himself said after the resurrection, “All power has been given to me in heaven and earth” (Matt 28:18-19).  The reason we can believe that He has all power in heaven and earth is because He demonstrated it by raising Himself up above and conquering every power in the universe.  The greatest of those powers which stands against God and man was death.  In the resurrection Jesus the Christ destroyed death for all those who believe in Him.  It is also the resurrection that gives us the assurance that death has been defeated and that life now reigns in the person of God’s son.

It is through the resurrection that we can have the assurance that our sins are forgiven and that we have eternal life.  The apostle John says, ” I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life (I John 5:13-14).  John says we can have the assurance of eternal life through faith in Christ.  This assurance comes to all who have placed their faith in the resurrection of Christ.  This assurance has nothing to do with one’s goodness.  If it did, no one could have assurance for no one could be good enough.  How would you know when you completely satisfied the demands of God?  The believer’s assurance of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life is based on the authority of Jesus.

The resurrection also defines which God the Christian believes in.  In the first century there were a multitude of gods to choose from.  There were the Greek gods and the Eastern gods.  There were the gods of the heavens and there were gods of the underworld.  However, for the Christians there was but one God.  That one God was defined as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “the God who raises the dead” (Rom. 4:24).  Not only does the resurrection define God, it also places Him above all the powers of the universe.  For He is the God of life who stands above the deadness of the universe.  He is the God of life and resurrection.  You see, the most powerful force in the creation before the coming of Christ into the world was death, but in the resurrection God raises Jesus above the forces and power of death.  Think about it.  Doesn’t science teach the second law of thermodynamics which says that everything is dying?  When God raised up Jesus, He set a new law in motion.  The apostle Paul calls it the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2).  If you believe in Jesus, you will receive His Spirit and will live, even in the face of death.

 

(To be continued)

Rom 11:33-36

 ” Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments,

and his paths beyond tracing out!

   “Who has known the mind of the Lord?

Or who has been his counselor?

 “Who has ever given to God,

that God should repay him?”

 For from him and through him and to him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen.”