100 Answers in 100 Days

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Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Significance of the Resurrection

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

This verse tells us that the resurrection of Christ is so important to Christianity, that if it were not true there should be no Christian religion at all. It implies also, on an individual level, that if you don’t believe that the resurrection of Christ is a fact, then you ought not even call yourself a Christian; your faith is in vain and you are not saved. All of Christ’s teachings and all that the Apostles did and taught would be worthless if the resurrection were not true. Their teachings would all be a lie, in fact, and Christianity would be a false religion.

Having said all that, it’s not entirely clear why the resurrection of Christ is so important. In the previous verse of this Corinthians passage Paul gives a reason...

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:13-14)

Paul is speaking to some who did not believe that all people would be raised from the dead. He basically argues that if Christ was raised, then all can be raised. I think the resurrection of Christ is something they did accept, and there was no need to convince them that Christ was in fact raised. But I suppose that Paul could have made this point by demonstrating, for example, that Lazarus was raised. It doesn’t really get at the heart of why the resurrection of Christ is so significant.

I think the significance of Christ’s resurrection has everything to do with the atonement. On the cross, Christ bore the punishment for our sins. If He had not risen from the dead, we would not know that Christ’s sacrifice was sufficient. It’s probably not enough that He rose from the dead either, but also that He ascended into heaven to be with the Father. After all, if He had risen and then died again, He may have gone to hell for all we knew. And so we read of His ascension, and the Bible stresses that Christ is now with the Father. His atonement for our sins was sufficient, and we know this because of Christ’s resurrection and ascension. Paul reiterates the importance of Christ’s resurrection a few verses later. He says:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

Though Paul doesn’t refer to the atonement explicitly, I think this verse alludes to the impact Christ’s resurrection has on the atonement. If Christ were not raised, the atonement would have been ineffective and we would be “still in our sins”.

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