Christianity, a Clear Case of History

Implications of the Resurrection

If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God.
-Paul

During the course of a discussion on the resurrection, I was once asked, "Why do you place so much emphasis on the resurrection? Can't we just get on with Christianity?" That expressed a present concept of Christianity which has no connection to the historic events of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It equates Christianity with a moral code affecting man's relationship with man, but not touching man's relationship to God. It has absolutely nothing to do with faith in Christ. In effect, that means that the historic Jesus has nothing to do with modern Christianity. This concept not only misses the implications of the resurrection, but completely bypasses the implications upon the Christian faith itself if the resurrection did not in fact take place in space and time.

What the Resurrection Implies

The bodily resurrection of Jesus should obviously imply his godhood (Rom. 1:4). This in turn guarantees his total integrity and his consequent ability to make good on all his claims. Since the resurrection centralizes our trust in Jesus to be totally trustworthy to keep all his promises, then it becomes the ground of our hope for victory over the grave and for incorruptible immortality (John11:25; 1 Peter 1:3-4). It means that the Old Testament Scriptures are absolutely reliable accounts of the history they report, inasmuch as Jesus himself endorsed them as such. He referred to Jonah's experience in the belly of the fish as a historical prefiguring of his own experience for three days and nights in the tomb and so endorsed the historical reliability of the prophecy of Jonah (Matthew 12:38-41). He spoke of Noah as a real person of history, of the Ark as a real sea-going vessel, and of a worldwide flood which "took them all away" (Matt. 24:37-39). When asked whether it was lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause, he answered from his historical view of the first two chapters of Genesis that the home is based on God's moral law and that therefore "from the beginning" marriage was intended to be a lasting relationship (Matthew 19:3-9).

In essence, the resurrection implies that Jesus is the son of God and that the Bible is the word of God. It is conclusive that the genuineness of Christianity and the Bible's claim to inspiration stand or fall on the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
 

No Operating Power Without the Resurrection

The resurrection is the motivating power back of the Christian faith. We could no more expect to get on with Christianity without a belief in the resurrection than we could expect a jet airliner to fly without fuel, for in neither case would there by any operating power. It's the same with Christianity: modern men and women must accept God's terms of obedience of faith in Christ and a radical change of life from the inside out if they want eternal life. But if there is no eternal life after death, what sufficient power is there to motivate willful human beings to order their lives after the example of a dead Nazarene Jew? Only the real resurrection of Christ, as a guarantee of our own future resurrection, can induce a power-motive sufficient to accept his conditions in the face of opposition and persecution, and to maintain that life day by day, faithfully, to the death. Historic Christianity with its conditional requirements cannot be expected to exist, due to the very nature of humanity, without the spirit-impacting motivating power of the resurrection faith.

Those who have chosen a resurrectionless Christianity are being cheated by a religion (If you can call it that ) that is powerless to justify from sin, powerless to lift the quality of life above the present human characteristic of immorality, and powerless to give hope and encouragement when injustices are perpetrated upon the innocent to their deaths. Christianity without a resurrection is powerless to give any meaning at all to those faceless millions who are assigned, by no choice of their own, to the misery of hunger and bewilderment which presently characterizes the plight of so many human beings in underdeveloped nations and those pitiful members of humanity in slave-labor camps within the stranglehold of godless economies.

Call it what you will, but if it does not identify with the resurrection-empowered faith as defined in the New Testament, it is not Christianity. Christianity without a resurrection is a farce without a force.

IF CHRIST HATH NOT BEEN RAISED

In the book of First Corinthians, the apostle Paul viewed Christianity from the vantage points of the implications upon it if Christ were not raised from the dead. He said,

If Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain.
Yes, and we (the apostles) are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15:14-19)

Now that's about as honest as a man can be about his own position, especially when it's under fire. But Paul was a practical man, not a sentimentalist. He was convinced that Christianity was genuine on the basis of the Lord's resurrection. And he was just as convinced that without that one single event it was absolutely worthless. So he candidly laid out the whole matter of the value of the Christian religion, apart from a resurrection, from six points of view. He objectively lays it down that if Christ were not raised, then gospel preaching is vain, faith is vain, the apostles are false witnesses, we are still in our sins, believers have perished at death, and, therefore, Christians are of all men to be pitied the most. Consider why:

1. Gospel preaching is vain.

What would there be to preach without the resurrection? "Gospel" means good news, but good news about justification from sin and salvation from the death penalty would be meaningless without the resurrection. All that hocus-pocus about our coming back from the grave would be as vain as Houdini's boast to return from the dead. Christianity without a resurrection would be like a book without words.

2. Faith is vain.

It is impractical to conceive of the Christian faith apart from a personal faith in the resurrection of Jesus since the object of our belief in eternal life is the Lord Jesus himself. Without his resurrection there would be no one to look to perform the resurrection. Belief would be useless, even senseless. A so-called leap of faith would be irrational without Christ's resurrection, for who else has ever demonstrated his power to raise the dead and promised to raise us, too?

3. The apostles are false witnesses.

If the stories they told of Christ and his resurrection were not true, it would be ludicrous to regard them as sincere and honest men. From the outset, the apostles convinced thousands of people of the resurrection and consequently of the genuineness of their gospel. Among their evidences was their own personal eyewitness testimonies that they saw Jesus alive after the crucifixion (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 4:19-20; 5:30-32; 10:39-41; 13:30-31; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:3-8; 1 John 1:1-3). They said that they ate with him, talked with him, and handled him to see the marks of his crucifixion. But how could they be telling the truth if there was no resurrection of that same Jesus who was crucified? It would be a case, pure and simple, of lying. They would be false witnesses.

4. We are still in our sins.

Again, we are drawn back to the very purpose of Christianity-redemption from sin. Salvation from sin and death is inextricably related to the Lord's death and resurrection. Jesus taught that by his cross he would draw all men to him (John 12:32-33,) and Paul taught that the word of the cross had the power to save all men (1 Corinthians 1:18). Why? Because at the cross, Christ became our sin offering by paying the price of our sin and delivering us from its death penalty (Isaiah 53:5-11; Matthew 20:28; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:26-27; 2:14-15). Then he was raised from the dead, thus proving his deity and redemptive work on the cross. The first gospel sermon was calculated to produce belief in the resurrection of Jesus and, consequently, to put trust in him to provide remission of sins (Acts 2:22-39). Inasmuch as redemption from sin is certified by the resurrection, then without it there can be no redemption. This would mean that Christians are yet in their sins and, like it or not, Christianity would have no salvation to offer of any kind.

5. Believers have perished at death.

That is the only logical conclusion apart from the resurrection. Like the dog, Rover, when he's dead, it's over. Death would be our destiny, nothing more.

6. Therefore, Christians are of all men most pitiable.

How Christians in Paul's day could appreciate that statement. Persecuted, discriminated against, looked upon as fools by a world of unbelievers, and all for nothing! Denying themselves the only lives they would ever have. And for what! If Christ was not raised, they gave themselves for a meaningless sentiment, a false hope perpetrated by false witnesses. What a pity.

Of tremendous consequence is the resulting impact which life without resurrection must essentially have upon present humanity. I say essentially because we are threatened with war, poverty, famine, disease, injustice, certain death, and, if no resurrection, then oblivion. Therefore, without this belief, it turns upon human nature to survive in the best possible way. Life's essential goal would be the selfish philosophy to "get yours while you can." That is the very reason why nations built upon godless philosophies and why unbelieving individuals are presently engaged in attaining their desires with an unfeeling disregard for those who get in the way.

Paul knew this and commented that life without belief in the resurrection would lead to a fleshly emphasis on the present and a personal disregard for tomorrow. He philosophized that "If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (1 Corinthians 15:32). In other words, live it up now and hang tomorrow! What logic has the power to contradict that philosophy if there is no resurrection to a tribunal of justice and a sentencing to an eternal penalty?

The implication of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ are such that everything New Testament Christianity promises and stands for totally collapses without it. The Christian's trust in Christ and consequent hope for eternal victory over corruption and death could not be generated in our hearts without belief in the resurrection. My own motivation for writing this book is to challenge men and women to determine for themselves whether or not Christ was raised. This can be done only by exercising the powers of reason. Reason's function is to sit in judgment on the evidence and draw an honest conclusion from it. That evidence is of an historical nature; it is completely reliable and requires only a fair amount of reasons' effort.

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