When I was in high-school (a Christian school) I had a history teacher whom everyone feared while simultaneously loved. It was a complicated feeling only made more complex when he humiliated you (which was bound to happen to everyone at some point). In one class, I don’t remember the context of the discussion, he asked me what the gospel was. I told him that the gospel was the action of God to save sinners through the death of Jesus on the cross (it was filled with many a “um” and “uh” but I got that out). He looked at me and told me I was wrong. I was shocked. What could he mean? He explained that all that I said was true but that it wasn’t enough. I hadn’t said anything about the resurrection. I would like to tell you that my forgetfulness was due to nervousness. But it was not. If I had to be honest (which is what I am attempting to be) it was because while I could see the need for the cross I didn’t quite understand the reason for the resurrection…except that it happened and we celebrated it every year.
My guess is that many believers find themselves in the same predicament. Actually that is not a guess. I have heard many believers and preachers recount the gospel and neglect the resurrection (of course I have heard some neglect Jesus altogether but that is a completely different problem). In essence we hold to 1 Corinthians 15:3 but forget verse 4. There are reasons why I think we so easily forget but before we go further maybe we should question, rather than assume, whether the resurrection really is intimately connected with the gospel in the first place.
So is the resurrection necessary? In verses 1 and 2 of 1 Corinthians 15 Paul tells the church in Corinth that he desires to remind them of the gospel which is saving them if they “hold fast” to it. Don’t miss that conditional “if.” It ought to shock you. What Paul says is that if we fail to hold fast to the gospel then our salvation is in vain. And then Paul goes on to remind the Corinthians (and us) of the gospel. He tells us of Christ’s death and accomplishment on the cross in verse 3 and then in verse 4 he tells us “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.” So when Paul wants to recount the gospel he speaks of these two main events: Christ’s death and resurrection. They are the two events of the gospel story that must be understood and believed for one to experience the saving grace of God. Without the cross the resurrection makes no sense. Without the resurrection the cross is meaningless.
The work of Christ in his death and resurrection are necessary to the gospel. The former makes the latter possible but what does the latter do? That is what we will turn our attention to in the coming posts. Here is a quick (read: non exhaustive) list of what the resurrection means for us. There is more though. The depths and mysteries of the gospel I don’t pretend to have plummeted. They are deep within the heart of God and are rich food for our minds, hearts and souls.
- The resurrection of Christ validates our faith.
- The resurrection of Christ means our sins are forgiven.
- The resurrection of Christ is God the Father’s vindication of all that Christ said and did – including his death on the cross.
- The resurrection of Christ is the promise of our own resurrection at the end.
- The resurrection of Christ guarantees cosmic renewal
- The resurrection of Christ is ultimately for God’s Universal Glory