You can’t have one without the other: why the resurrection is essential to the gospel

Maybe you’ve been there before. Maybe not.  You’re on a trip and flying out momentarily, so you buckle up, get comfy, and find an album you love on your brand new iPhone 27 (hey, it could happen!) that you just waited 48 hours in line for yesterday, outside in the freezing cold.  You plug in your ear buds, press play and close your eyes … and hear nothing! And you lose it!!!  You stayed up all night transferring everything from your old phone to this one – not to mention freezing your butt off just to get the new phone – only now to have this piece of junk fail you!  You’re moments away from stabbing a pen into the screen when, quietly and sincerely, a 4 year old girl sitting on the aisle-seat toddles over and plugs in the dangling headphones cable into your phone and goes back to her seat.  This is what the kiddos like to called getting “PNWED!”

The waiting. The freezing. All the effort to transfer data: useless without plugging in the headphones!

An image similar to this came to me today as i was reading Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church.  In chapter 15 he begins by giving us one of the quickest and most succinct tellings of the Gospel (historia salutis) in verses three and four:

“For i delivered to you as of first importance what i also received: 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 …”

Now if you’re like me you’ve read this in the past and tended to focus on the first action of Christ viz. “died for our sins”, when thinking/speaking of salvation.  “What is the gospel?”, someone might ask you: “that Jesus died for your sins bro!  He suffered on a Roman cross in your place to absorb the holy wrath of God that you deserved b/c of your sins.”, you reply.  And there is nothing incorrect about what you just said! In fact, it may even lead one to wonder why Paul even “tacks on” all that other stuff about being “buried” and “raised on the third day” and “appearing” to all these people.

But the reason Paul does this is not to paint a broader picture, or prop up the “real” gospel message with extra details.  The reason is that without the resurrection you actually don’t have the gospel!

Just 10 verses later, Paul starts to kick the legs out from under a gospel presentation that focuses solely on Christ’s death, like Barry Bonds to a pelican, and then spends the rest of the chapter talking about nothing but resurrection.  He says without the resurrection, his (and all the other apostles’) preaching is in vain.  Without the resurrection they are misrepresenting God.  Without the resurrection our faith is in vain.  And finally, the ‘lights-out’ punch comes in vs. 17 when he writes,

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

You ever come across verses like this: verses you’ve read a hundred times, that feel like you’re reading them for the very first time?  It feels like this has to be an epic “typo” of some kind when you really see what Paul is getting at here. That everything:

– the Incarnation of Jesus as a baby, born of a virgin,

– the life of perfect obedience,

– the betrayal and horrific suffering,

– even the substitutionary death on the cross,

ALL MEANINGLESS if Jesus stays in the tomb!

(… take a moment and just let that sink in)

It’s little wonder that he follows this profound statement, that should rob our very breath, by adding,

“If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

The resurrection is essential to all these aspects of the life and substitutionary death of Christ b/c it is the very capstone of them; the place where God places His eternal seal on them all and says, “Accepted!  Paid in full!”

Romans 6:10 says, “For the death He died He died to sin, but the life He lives He lives to God.”  Hebrews 10:14 says, “For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”  This ‘perfection’ for us only comes if Christ’s work is accepted and then applied to us.  Finally, in Philippians 2, after speaking of Christ’s Incarnation, life and death, Paul writes, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus: the true and only hope of the Gospel and the King’s Seal on Christ’s Person and work on our behalf, making it effective unto salvation.  Because of this, we can now worship and praise this living and glorified Saviour in heaven with all its host crying,

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing.”

Take it away, and the heavens – along with us – fall silent.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.”  Luke 24:5,6

2 thoughts on “You can’t have one without the other: why the resurrection is essential to the gospel

  1. Excellent stuff man. Have you read Richard Gaffin’s Resurrection and Redemption? It is one of the best books I’ve see on showing the function of the resurrection in Paul’s soteriology.

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