So What's the Big Deal?

Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ so important?

by Gary C. Burger, MDiv

The Apostle Paul knew why the resurrection is so important

The following passage written by the Apostle Paul very clearly shows that Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection of Christ. The passage is found in First Corinthians 15: 12-19, 32.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men...If the dead are not raised, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.' (New International Version)

The Context

To make sure we understand the points Paul is making lets first look at the context.

First, Paul was writing this in response to the Stoic belief, by some in his day, that a dead body can not or should not be resuscitated. To the Stoics the human body was bad. Seneca, who lived in Paulís time, referred to the body as "the detestable habitation of the soul, and vain flesh in which the soul is imprisoned." The idea of the soul being freed from the bondage of the body was accepted but a resurrection of the physical body was hard to go along with. In our contemporary culture that worships the human body it is not as hard to accept.

Second, Paul wrote this around 25 years after the crucifixion of Christ, meaning that there were still eyewitnesses of the event living that could validate or invalidate what he wrote. So he knew he was accountable to write the truth.

Paul's Points

First, Paul makes it clear that trying to persuade people to become Christians and live Christ-like lives is not the main message of Christian preaching. Christianity is not just an alternative philosophical or religious system. It is not meant to be just another alternative lifestyle. The resurrection is so central, so inextricable that it is an all or nothing proposition. Either Jesus rose from the dead and Christianity is the one and only true escape from our sins or it is nothing - worthless, useless.

Second, if Jesus did not rise from the dead then that makes Christians a bunch of liars. If we say that God, the Father, raised Jesus, the Son of God, back to life but he did not, then we are wrong. We are saying that God did something, he, in fact, did not do. That would be terrible thing for a Jew of that day to be caught doing.

Third, their faith is futile. If Jesus did not rise from the dead then he was not God. If he was not God then he was just a mere man like all the rest of us, with his own sins to pay for. The purpose of Christian faith is for salvation from our sins not a self-improvement project as in other religions.

Fourth, there is no hope of being reunited with our dead Christian friends and family members. The term "fallen asleep" is a figure of speech Paul used to indicate the temporary nature of someoneís death.

Fifth, if all these things are true then Christians have really been duped and should be pitied. Why didnít Paul, instead, say that Christians would be a laughing stock? Why is the Christian to be pitied if the resurrection and thereby Christianity is found to be false. I think it is because many non-Christians, atheists, agnostics and even followers of other religions respect the serious devotion and sacrifices of (authentic) Christians. Many people appreciate, admire and even applaud the true Christianís good intentions, example and lifestyle. Even though they donít believe in God or the resurrection themselves they are silently cheering for the underdog, secretly hoping they succeed at doing good because after all the world needs more good people.

Sixth, even if this evil world needs more good that good can not be logically found in Christianity if the resurrection is pulled out from under it. Pull out the one pillar holding all of Christianity up, that is, the resurrection, and there is no meaning and purpose to life. If we are going to cease to exist when we die than there is to ultimate purpose to our life. Why work hard to help ourselves or others? Why do good? Why build buildings? Why write books? Why discover the laws of nature? Why prolong life with medicine? Why do anything but live for our own selfish pleasure? That is what the Epicureans of Paulís day had concluded. We might as well just "party hearty" and "drink Ďtill we drop." But even the fun of partying and sensual pleasures has its limits. After their anesthesia wears off the pain of meaningless and purposelessness is even worst. Isn't it?

Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ so important to you?

At this point you might be thinking, "Well, that is all ancient history and philosophy and I donít really care about religion anyway. It doesnít concern me." If we apply the converse of all this to the question of why the resurrection is so important we can understand how important it is to every person in the past, present and future.

First, and most importantly, we can be saved from our sins. If Jesus rose from the dead then he proved his claims to be God. This means that he could pay the penalty of our sins through his death on the cross. How does that work? Well, Paul in his letter to the Romans (6:23) writes,

"For the wages (payment, penalty, consequence) of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

In other words, we all have sinned against God and, as a result, are separated from him. We are spiritually dead to him. All of our own efforts at improving ourselves, doing good and even trying to become spiritual are fruitless. We do not possess the power to overcome this barrier of death between us and God and what he wants us to be. The founders and leaders of the worldís great religions all started out trying to overcome their sinful nature. But, no religious system of dos and doníts can perfect us. It is as impossible as a dead person bringing himself back to life. We are powerless to do it. Through Christ, however, we have the opportunity to not only be forgiven for all or our sins but also to be given this spiritual life. And this spiritual life is never ending - eternal. This is a free gift. We can not earn it. We can only accept or reject it. This is what Easter is all about.The rest of the positive benefits flow from the above passage:

  1. Christians are true witnesses of what God has done to raise Christ from the dead
  2. We can look forward to being reunited with our dead loved ones if they, too, received the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life.
  3. We are not to be pitied but applauded for our wise choice in accepting Christ's salvation. We exist for a purpose. There can be meaning and purpose to everything we do. We can help mankind and glorify God with our labor, our discoveries, our creativity and service because it all now has meaning.


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