From the shores of Madagascar to the steppes of Mongolia, from the metropolis of Miami to the oasis of Ziz, the age old question rages – who is your ultimate Lord? To what authority will you bow? To man? Or to God? From the beginning, God has demanded man’s submission to himself, yet ever since the fall man has been in constant rebellion against this command. God gave his law and man broke it. God commissioned prophets and man neglected them. God sent his only begotten Son who witnessed to the Father, but rebellious man rejected the Christ and crucified him. It seemed like man had been victorious.
Then Jesus rose.
What is the importance of this fact? Why is it that so many deny or downplay it? Is it really an unchanging, inflexible message?
The Significance of Christ’s Bodily Resurrection
Shortly after Christ’s resurrection, Peter preached an important sermon to a crowd of interested Jews. He said, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs… God hath raised up” (Acts 2:22, 24). Why was it so important that God had raised Christ from the dead? Why did it have such a prominent place in the apostle’s teaching? If Jesus’ life were simply a good example for us to follow then his resurrection could hardly be so important that Peter would stress that all the apostles were witnesses to it (Acts 2:32). Why hammer on such an incredible fact, such foolishness to the world, if Christ were just a good teacher whose maxims should be followed if we want a happy life? What was the real meaning of the resurrection to the apostles? Paul, in a sermon to Greeks on Mars Hill, proclaimed that God has “appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). The resurrection gave the apostles the assurance that Christ was indeed who he claimed to be, the Son of God. He is judge! Had he not risen again we could have no assurance that his words are true. But Christ did rise again, and for this reason Peter says, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). The resurrection proves that Christ is Lord! The resurrection proves that what he said is really the Word of God, and it provides the basis for the apostle’s call to “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Thus, the resurrection occupies the central place. Without it, the message is meaningless. Once the truth of Christ’s resurrection from the dead is admitted, then we are logically forced to the conclusion that his teachings and claims have been corroborated, that he really is the Son of God, the Savior.
The Battle over Christ’s Bodily Resurrection
Not surprisingly, sinful man very often refuses to accept the validity of an event that would require such radical changes in his lifestyle. The reaction of many today is the same as the reaction of the Greeks in Paul’s day – “when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter” (Acts 17:32). Some completely deny the resurrection, because if they accept that the resurrection of Christ is a literal, historical event, then the conclusion inevitably follows, that the rest of the Bible’s teaching must also be taken seriously. Being sinful, they are not willing to submit to God’s authority and his revealed will. Since the fall, man’s pride has made him wish to be a law unto himself, not acknowledging God and not submitting to his Word. Then there are others who, while not outwardly denying Christ’s death and resurrection, deny that they are completely sufficient for salvation. Not only is this position inconsistent with the Bible, it boils down to a works salvation. Once again, man’s pride steps in the way as he tries to bring his own righteousness before God as the basis for justification. However, this righteousness is insufficient, because no matter how holy we are in the future, we can never make up for the sins we have committed in the past. Confidence in anything other than Christ’s death and resurrection as paying the price and confirming the acceptance of that price will always fail. The difference between a true Christianity that believes in the literal resurrection of Christ and a false Christianity or religion that does not, is the difference between man trying to save himself and man trusting God for that salvation completely accomplished on the cross.
The Unchangeable Message of Christ’s Bodily Resurrection
“Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other” (Acts 4:10-12). The apostle’s message of the life and resurrection of Christ was an absolute message. There is no other way to God; no other way to have our sins forgiven. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). In our day, the relativistic concept of “truth for you, no truth for me,” has run rampant. However, this is exactly the opposite of everything Christianity teaches. There is an immutable, unchanging God and he is a God of truth! (Malachi 3:6, Deuteronomy 32:4) Moreover, he is holy and just. Only through the death of his own Son could we be forgiven of our sins. By raising his Son from the dead, God testified that he is powerful and will perform all his promises. Our faith in Christ is not vain, “for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This message is unchanging and unchangeable!
The resurrection is important because it points to the Lordship and authority of Christ. If we deny the resurrection, we have denied God’s authority and turned to man instead. However, the Bible clearly claims that there is only one way to be saved, and this way is rooted in an immutable God. The resurrection is at the heart of the gospel! Christ really is who he claimed to be and really accomplished what he claimed to do! He rose from the dead! What better proof could we ask? We have the best basis for our faith – the sovereign, almighty God of the universe who has demonstrated his grace by planning a way of salvation, his love by sending his Son to die for us, and his power by raising Christ from the cold grip of death and exalting him to sit at his right hand, where he makes intercession for us! (Romans 8:34)