Why is the Resurrection Important?

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Picture1Have you ever played Jenga? It’s the game where players take turns removing wooden blocks from the stack until someone finally makes the tower fall. If so, you’ve probably made a huge mess by pulling out the block that supported the whole stack. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the central “block” of Christianity. Without it, nothing else matters. Without the literal resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith is pointless and empty. If the resurrection is not an historical event, then all New Testament preachers are liars and deceivers including myself. Without the resurrection, we are not forgiven and our sins are still counted against us. Without the resurrection all who have died trusting in Christ are lost forever. If Christ was not raised from the dead, we will not be raised from the dead either. In short, without the literal, historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; there is no forgiveness of sins, we are not justified and saved, we are all false prophets, Christianity is a waste of time and pointless, there is no heaven available to us, and when we die we either cease to exist (best case) or spend eternity in hell (worst case). Christianity falls apart. Everything we believe falls apart (1 Cor. 15:12-20).

The resurrection is the most important truth claim of Christianity. It is the pinnacle of all Christian truths, and all truths, period. All other Christian truths unite in the resurrection of Christ: heaven, hell, sin, judgment, the love of God, the person of Christ, faith, unbelief, and the list goes on.

The only thing necessary for the Roman government or the Jewish leaders to have crushed Christianity before it got “out of hand” would have been to produce the crucified body of Jesus. Yet this smoking gun has never been provided.

What has been provided, however, are four eyewitness accounts by men who were present during the crucifixion, burial, and following days who maintain with uncanny harmony that they saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion. One of whom was a medical doctor who asserted that Jesus showed himself alive by many “infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3). We also have the testimony of Paul who claims that over 500 individuals saw Jesus alive at one time and at the time of his writing, many of them were still alive to verify that claim (1 Cor. 15:6). Add to this the fact that all but one of Jesus’ disciples were brutally killed for this testimony and many were tortured and imprisoned but never changed their story. Many others in addition to the disciples were martyred as a result of their faith in the resurrection of Jesus.

Without the resurrection, Christianity falls apart. God has provided ample evidence for the reality of the resurrection, however. This Easter, I pray that each of you reading this post will “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9).

Believing in Jesus

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That Jesus is an actual historical person cannot be overemphasized. His life, ministry, and execution are well-documented historical facts. Even his miracles are spoken of in historical writings outside the Bible.
When we talk about placing faith in Jesus, we are talking about placing faith in him for forgiveness and salvation, but we are also talking about believing the facts about him. He was a lower-class Jewish man who would have been called Yeshua, or Iesous to Greek-speaking individuals. He was born approximately 4 BC in Bethlehem to a young woman who was a biological descendant of David, the warrior-king of Israel. He was raised in Nazareth by Mary his mother, and Joseph his adoptive father. He learned the carpenter’s trade from Joseph and lived in obscurity for most of his life. Jesus (Yeshua) was an actual person. He most likely would have had a favorite food, a unique personality, and a circle of personal friends growing up. Jesus (Yeshua) was a person who existed on earth and left his footprints wherever he went. At the approximate age of 30, Jesus (Yeshua) was baptized by an eccentric prophet/preacher named John and subsequently began a preaching and miracle ministry that lasted over three years. He acquired many followers, most famously, the twelve disciples, eleven of whom would continue Jesus’ ministry after his death. Jesus’ ministry was brought to a sudden end when he was arrested during the Jewish Passover week in Jerusalem. He was convicted of blasphemy and executed by Roman crucifixion, perhaps the cruelest means of execution ever devised.

 

In addition to these facts, the Christian Gospel maintains the following to be equally true based on the witness recorded in the New Testament by eyewitnesses and Jesus’ own personal testimony recorded in the four Gospels. Jesus’ lack of a biological father on earth is due to the fact that he is the Son of God. His mother was a virgin when she conceived and when she bore Jesus. Jesus (Yeshua) fulfilled many ancient prophecies from the Old Testament and is in fact the foretold Jewish Messiah. Jesus had existed for eternity before being born in Bethlehem for he was and is God. Jesus is God, specifically the second person of the Trinity. His biological link to David through Mary is not incidental as he was of Davidic descent by divine direction and design, his lineage being before promised in the Old Testament writings. Jesus’ death was and is a vicarious atonement for the human race, particularly the elect – those who respond to the Gospel and are saved. Jesus was raised from the dead three days after his crucifixion. This resurrection was testament to his identity as the Son of God, the sinless one. The body of Jesus was glorified, that is, repaired from its damage and restored from any curse of sin. His body was raised eternal and glorious, that is, it is similar in appearance to a normal human body, but is of a supernatural and eternal quality. It is with this body that Jesus ascended back to heaven and is soon returning bodily to reign over creation as the King over all kings and Lord over all lords. Through Jesus’ incarnation as a man, his death, and his resurrection; God became man. God is now both God and man and will be so for all eternity. It is through this “adoption” of the human nature by God, that God and men will be able to fellowship throughout eternity.
This is Jesus as the Bible presents him. This is what all true Christians confess about Jesus Christ. I pray this is your confession as well.

The Truth of the Gospel: 1 Timothy 1:1-20

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We live in an age where the truth of the Gospel is constantly challenged. The exclusive nature of the Gospel and the righteous commands of God make our message unpalatable to most. As a result, a more agreeable alternative to biblical Christianity is often sought. This is nothing new. Paul constantly countered the arguments of false teachers during his ministry. Timothy was a young pastor who Paul had placed at Ephesus to lead the church and to deal with problems emerging there (vs. 3). In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he charges him to teach the truth and prevent false teachings from invading the church.
Paul says many at Ephesus had turned from the truth to empty debates brought on by false teaching (vs. 5-7). These individuals wanted to become teachers of the law like Jewish rabbis, but didn’t even understand what they claim to believe. Their teaching consisted of myths and genealogies loosely based on elements of Judaism (vs. 3, 4). The end result was a legalistic heresy that offered salvation by works. While the law serves a legitimate purpose in the New Testament, it is not a means of salvation. We are saved by God’s grace, not our works (Ephesians 2:8, 9). Paul tells Timothy to guard against this teaching because it is powerless to transform lives or produce genuine faith (vs. 4, 6).
Unlike the empty message of the false teachers, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has life-changing power. Paul is an example of radical Christian conversion. He had been a “blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man.” His life prior to Christ was committed to defending Judaism and destroying Christianity (Philippians 3:4-6), but God had chosen him to be a minister of the Gospel (Acts 9:15). Paul’s conversion perfectly demonstrates the authentic change that takes place through salvation, “he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Jesus extends mercy to the worst of sinners and transforms them into trophies of God’s grace. In verse fifteen, Paul encapsulates the mission of Christ in a short statement, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The integrity of the Gospel is eternally important because it is only through Jesus that we can be saved and transformed (Acts 4:12).
Paul illustrates and explains the “shipwreck” of apostasy with the story of two Christian teachers who fell into heresy: Hymenaeus and Alexander. Paul says the cause of their error was their abandonment of “faith and a good conscience” (vs. 19). They began as superficially convincing Christians, but ended up with a doubting heart and a dirty conscience. They failed to believe the Gospel and they failed to obey the Gospel. Rather than change their lives to align with the truth, they modified the message to fit their lives. The result was poisonous and they were excommunicated in order to preserve the unity and integrity of the church (vs. 20). Paul uses this tragic example to demonstrate that faith and a good conscience are indispensable traits for the Christian.
There are opponents to the Gospel who would do away with it entirely. Then, there are those who would like to take the more agreeable points of Christianity, but leave out the more controversial elements. The problem with that approach is that a partial Gospel is a powerless Gospel. From the garden of Eden to the garden tomb; from creation ex nihilo to the consummation of the age, there is not one element of the Gospel that is dispensable. This is why we must “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3) and “fight the good fight” in the face of opposition and false teachers (vs. 18). We must disregard the sinister suggestions of the slithering serpent, and echo the words Jesus prayed only hours before his crucifixion, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). 
This post was originally published in the Baptist & Reflector, January 29, 2013.