Friday, December 03, 2021

There is Power in the Resurrection of Jesus

By EMN Updated: Apr 19, 2014 11:34 pm

Sanyü Iralu, Shalom Bible Seminary

What is the center of the Gospel message? is a question that theologians, the world over, have debated many times. Because Paul was one of the theological stalwarts, it has also often been asked, “What was the center of Paul’s theology?” Rightly so, Paul’s talk of justification by Grace, which influenced Luther so much, is put forward as the center. Others would suggest that the Cross is the one. Still, some others would suggest salvation, and others, eschatology. There is no definite consensus and that is okay – we need not totally agree outside the periphery of basic Christian doctrines and their intrinsic value for Christian life.
Recently, I read the book “The Cross is not enough: Living as Witnesses to the Resurrection,” written by two scholars from Australia, Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson. They proposed a fresh slant on the idea that put the Cross as the main center of the Gospel and that, in the process, the resurrection has been ignored by many well intending Christians. One could probably agree with Clifford and Johnson, for instance when they say that too many artworks focus on the cross giving an unhealthy idea that only the cross matters above everything. The same two authors charge John Stott of being too focussed on the cross that he largely ignored the resurrection, likewise, even for Billy Graham who is faulted for the same kind of lapse.

Well, I do not intend to argue whether the Cross or the resurrection is/should be at the center of our Gospel message. All I can say is that perhaps, there have been lapses here and there, whereby too much emphasis has been placed on the Cross. Subsequently, the depressing sight of a dead savior on a cross, the pain, suffering, and humiliation associated with Christ’s sacrifice, have not been too inspiring for Christians to move forward more effectively. On the contrary, possibly, the momentous, glorious, joyous expression of the resurrection has been preached less, leading to much ignorance of the power of the resurrection. There is, therefore, the need to look beyond the cross and proclaim this wonder-of-wonders event, the resurrection, that is unique to the Christian faith. Having shared a few thoughts on both sides of the contention, I do believe that the resurrection of Jesus means significantly to believers.
1. Christ’s resurrection ensures our regeneration
When Paul talks about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:11, he seems to talk about it as the center of the gospel message in that it has a regenerative effect on those who accept that message. For instance, he talks about the gospel message that has been proclaimed, and which has been received and acted upon (v. 1). The content of that message includes the death of Jesus for our sins. This would be part of the didache, the traditional teaching in the early church, which included the mention of the burial and the rising of Jesus from the dead. Interestingly, Paul then goes on to recollect the names of people who had been impacted with the power of the message of the resurrected Jesus. This we can gauge by the way Paul mentions how Jesus APPEARED to several people (15:5-8), last of all, pointing to himself as one beneficiary who least deserved it. Here, Paul without any hesitation points to his sinful past when he persecuted the church of God. The implication is that the appearance of Jesus from the dead (here, Paul could be alluding to the Damascus Road incident) revitalized him and gave new directions to his life.
Yes, those who have experienced the regenerative effects of the resurrection can easily identify with what Paul says elsewhere: “God made us alive together with Christ and raised us up with him” (Eph. 2:5-6; Col. 3:1). Yes, all of us have been dead at some point in the past when we were lost in our own individual sins and wretchedness. Then we had lost all hope of rising up to new life. But somehow, somewhere, the power of the resurrected Jesus impacted our lives and we got a second chance. Oh, the grace of God and the power of the resurrected Lord! A similar situation in nature happens, when in the dead of winter, a lot of vegetation disappears and there is dryness all around. Come spring, many of the seemingly dead trees and hidden bulbs underground spring back to life. One clear example is the Easter Lily – they are in full bloom right now declaring the regenerative work of nature at its best!
Likewise, in the spiritual realm, there can be new life, new glow, new purposes. This is no mere academic/theoretical stuff. So why do we talk about Christ at all? It is because Christ did not only die but rise again to life guaranteeing our coming back to spiritual life and vitality in a similar way. This is the reason why we preach the gospel to others around; they also need to be roused from their spiritual deadness. This is the potential power inherent in the gospel of the resurrection – the promise and HOPE of new life. Jesus himself said that he came to give us that vibrant life – not just life, so so! But hope of life abundant which is ours through the resurrected Jesus.
2. Christ’s resurrection ensures our bodily resurrection
The Christian faith is the only faith in the whole world that talks about its initiator as rising from the dead. Why we are interested in pointing out this fact is again that aspect of hope in the Christian faith that marks it out uniquely. Paul, in fact, draws our attention to the great significance of the resurrection of Jesus, which to him, is the very basis of our faith in Jesus Christ. Most likely, Paul could be arguing with certain people in the early church who doubted the resurrection of Jesus. In effect, Paul is saying in 15:12-13 that the belief in the resurrection of Jesus is directly proportional to the belief that likewise, believers would rise from the dead (the same point is reiterated in 15:16). In verse 19, Paul talks about how life is meaningless if we die and are gone just like that. Here, Paul latches on to the universal desire inherent in each of us to prolong our lives. We all want to live well and long, and even after life is over, harbor hope that we will still rise to new life. Yes, Paul is sure that Christ’s resurrection is the basis for us to hope in a bodily resurrection after death for all who believe in Jesus.
Let us recapitulate on the significance of the resurrection. What does the resurrection signify? Firstly, it signifies that because Jesus died and rose again from the dead, we have hope of regeneration of our lives in its full sense while we are still here on earth. There is no greater joy in knowing this and experiencing this because of Christ’s resurrection. The second point is this: because Christ has risen from the dead, those who believe in him have hope of rising from the dead. Such hopes of renewal both at the point of rising from the depths of sin, depravity and hopelessness to new life and to new, fresh beginnings, even including having the hope of rising physically from the dead satisfies human being’s deepest desires. What a wonderful faith we have! What more can we ask for? Even more, how can we avoid reflecting on the significance of the resurrection of Jesus during this Easter? Reflect not once, twice, thrice. For behold, there is a goldmine of benefits that accrue to those who will take time to reflect on this event every day of their lives on earth. And perhaps, after all is said and done, the resurrection could well, be the center of the Gospel message!

By EMN Updated: Apr 19, 2014 11:34:58 pm