As one becomes entrenched in Christian Apologetics and studying the evidence for the Christian worldview, it doesn’t take long to discover the many convincing arguments for the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the grave. There are scores of solid arguments for theism in general (philosophical, scientific, etc), but as ambassadors for Christ, we are making a defense specifically for Christianity. The arguments for the resurrection of Jesus are extremely important for Christian Apologetics and typically the first place apologists go when directing people to the God of Christianity.
Most importantly, the resurrection is the cornerstone of the the gospel itself, yet it seems we don’t place a lot of emphasis on it in our evangelism, preaching, or conversations. Why is that?
It certainly isn’t because the New Testament gives us this precedent. Paul couldn’t have emphasized the importance of the resurrection any stronger than he did to the Church at Corinth:
1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
How many times when the gospel is presented do we hear “Jesus died for your sins”, “Jesus took the punishment for you”, or any other statement about the death of Jesus (which is ABSOLUTELY important), yet the resurrection is barely mentioned, if at all? I witness this in Churches, social networking, websites, conversations, and pretty much anywhere professing Christians are.
What must I do to be saved?
If you believe Jesus died for your sins, you’ll be saved. Come to the cross and ask for forgiveness.
Are those true statements? Absolutely… but the good news doesn’t end at the cross. (Don’t even get me started on “ask Jesus into your heart” or I might blow a gasket)
We recently sang a song in our Church called “The Gospel Song”. Now you would think a song with that ambitious of a title would include the culmination of the gospel itself (and possibly more than four lines, but that’s not a biggie).
Holy God, in love, became
Perfect Man to bear my blame
On the cross He took my sin
By His death I live again
The song has a nice melody and the overall theme is solid enough… but… and I may be straining at a gnat here… where in the Bible does it say “by His death I live again”? That doesn’t even make sense, logically or Biblically. From what I can see in the Scripture, it’s by His LIFE we live again.
Paul stresses this continuing in 1 Cor 15:
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
and in Romans 6:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
and these are just two isolated passages…
Even though we know that without the resurrection Christianity is dead in the water, this tends to get lost in the gospel-shuffle sometimes. Maybe we want people to know their sin has such a great cost that we focus so much on the cross (very understandable), yet we forget the best part of the good news.
Obviously I am not saying we should avoid sharing the virgin birth of Christ, His perfect and sinless life, His deity, His substitutionary, sacrificial, and propitiatory death in our place, or the importance of the cross. I’m not even saying we should avoid singing songs that may focus specifically on a certain aspect of the gospel (just don’t name it “The Gospel Song”, dude).
My point is when we’re sharing the gospel in any forum (conversation, Sunday School, Facebook, sermon, etc), the resurrection is not some footnote to be thrown in at the end (or even worse, completely ignored). I believe Christians need to get back to this crucial point of emphasis in sharing the gospel. The cross isn’t the only part of the gospel. It’s a fundamental part of the gospel, yes, and when we share the gospel, we need to share ALL of the good news. What better news is there than Jesus is alive and death is swallowed up in victory???
I don’t believe Paul is wrapping up the entire gospel in this portion of the “Roman Road” (as if the entire gospel could fit in a single verse), but note where his focus is. The only elements of the gospel he mentions specifically are the Lordship of Christ and the resurrection.
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved
Read through the book of Acts and go to each of the sermons preached by the Apostles. Every time the gospel is preached, the resurrection is there, typically as the main point of emphasis. Without the resurrection, there is no Gospel. There is no eternal life. We’re still dead in our sins and should be pitied by everyone because we’re a bunch of pathetic fools who worship a dead God…
but He’s not dead… He is risen, just as He said. We need to deliver as of first importance those things the apostle Paul records for us in what most scholars say is the oldest Christian creed in existence:
that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures
that He was buried
that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures
and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me.
The resurrection isn’t something only apologists use when we’re presenting the minimal facts approach in a debate. Learning the minimal facts approach has made me appreciate the importance of the gospel in evangelism, and also impacted my own personal walk with Christ. I believe all Christians should embrace and study the minimal facts approach, with the primary motivation to share the good news that Christ is risen (He is risen indeed!).
The resurrection is the most important portion of the gospel and it is the main evidence God has given to prove that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah who came from the Father’s side to save men from their sins. The importance of the resurrection cannot be overstated… so let’s not make it a footnote.