Text — I Corinthians 15:1-6
Subject — Resurrection
Theme — Christ’s Resurrection
Propositions — Examining the modern way of thinking of Christ’s resurrection
Purpose — Therefore having looked at the modern way of thinking about Christ’s resurrection let us praise God that in the Scriptures He provides clarity for how we should think about the Resurrection.
15 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
The great premises of the Bible is that
God is real
God is Holy
Man is a sinner
Man is accountable to God
Man has sought to displace God for himself as god
God intends to judge men for this high handed rebellion
Man can find safety from that judgment in the judgment of God that fell on Christ
That God is satisfied with us because He is satisfied with His judgment that fell on Christ is attested to by the Resurrection. The Scripture’s say that Christ
“was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”
The Scripture teaches that because of Christ’s death and resurrection “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
So … no bodily resurrection of Christ, no possible sense of relief from the inescapable sense of God’s just wrath and opposition to us.
The resurrection then is instrumental to the Christian faith. Without the real live resurrection of Jesus Christ from the doldrums of the grave there is no such thing as Christianity.
Of the import of the bodily Resurrection to the bible believing Christian there can be little doubt. In this Passage in Corinthians Paul turns to the importance of the resurrection of Jesus repeatedly.
14and if Christ hath not risen, then void [is] our preaching, and void also your faith,
17and if Christ hath not risen, vain is your faith, ye are yet in your sins;
18then, also, those having fallen asleep in Christ did perish;
19if in this life we have hope in Christ only, of all men we are most to be pitied.
The Early Church Father Chysostom realized how important the resurrection of Christ was to the spread of Christianity.
“For in what were the disciples confident? In the shrewdness of their reasonings? Nay of all men they were the most unlearned. But in the abundance of their possessions? Nay, they neither had staff nor shoes. But in the distinction of their race? Nay, they were mean, and of mean ancestors. But in the greatness of their country? Nay, they were of obscure places. But in their own numbers? Nay, they were not more than eleven, and they were scattered abroad. But in their Master’s promises? What kind of promises? For if He were not risen again, neither would those be likely to be trusted by them. And how should they endure a frantic people. For if the chief of them endured not the speech of a woman, keeping the door, and if all the rest too, on seeing Him bound, were scattered abroad, how should they have thought to run to the ends of the earth, and plant a feigned tale of a resurrection? For if he stood not a woman’s threat, and they not so much the sight of bonds, how were they able to stand against kings, and rulers, and nations, where were swords, and gridirons, and furnaces, and ten thousand deaths by day, unless they had the benefit of the power and grace of Him who rose again? Such miracles and so many were done, and none of these things did the Jews regard, but crucified Him Who had done them, and were they likely to believe these men at their mere word about a resurrection? These things are not, they are not so, but the might of Him Who rose again brought them to pass.”
Many years later another minister commented on how central a particular understanding of the resurrection is to the Christian faith.
“This truth (Resurrection) is so important that nothing in religion can exist without it. The apostles diligently confirmed it in the first churches; and for the same reason it was attacked by Satan and denied and opposed by many. This was done in two ways: first by an open denial of any such thing – “how can some of you say that there is no resurrection from the dead?” (1 Cor 15:12); and second, those who did not dare to attack it directly expounded it in an allegorical way, saying that “the resurrection has already taken place” (2 Tim. 2:18). Observe that our apostle in both cases does not only condemn these errors as false but declares positively that their admission overthrows the faith and makes the preaching of the Gospel vain and useless.”
(John Owen, Commentary on Hebrews 6)
This evening, following the Scriptures and following 2000 years of Church history we want to spend our time considering different ways the modern Church thinks about the resurrection.
The premise is that as Christians we not only have to affirm the resurrection but that we also have to affirm a very particular resurrection — the resurrection that we find in Scripture.
So what are some of the ways in which the resurrection is confessed today by the Church?
I.) Aesop Fable Resurrection Thinking or Irrational Fundamentalism
This is the way that a large percentage of the Church today thinks about the resurrection. There is a affirmation that the resurrection is existentially true (subjectively true) though it is likely false in terms of its historical reality.
In this way of thinking the resurrection (as well as all of Christianity) becomes like a Aesop fable. We can learn truth from Aesop fables but nobody really thinks the fables themselves are historically true.
We may say there is much to be learned from the Fox who fooled the Crow out of her cheese by falsely flattering her on her singing abilities but no one really believes that a Fox and a crow had a conversation regarding cheese.
Many people want to treat the miraculous accounts of Christianity in just such a way.
“Yes, yes … the lessons that we learn from letting the “truth” of the resurrection impact us are all very well and good but let us not get too cheeky in actually believing that this really happened in history.”
For these types of folks the resurrection and Christianity, as a whole, is one giant Aesop fable.
Emil Brunner, one of their wise men now long dead but still influential underscores this thinking in a couple quotes
“God and the medium of conceptuality are mutually exclusive.”
“All words have only an instrumental value. Neither the spoken words nor their conceptual content are the word itself but only its framework.”
“God can speak His word to a man even through false doctrine”
What Brunner is telling us with these quotes is that there is no getting at objective truth. And if there is no getting at objective truth then the what we believe is no longer the issue but only the “how” we believe — the passion with which we believe whatever we believe.
That this has entered into modern culture is seen everywhere. As one example I offer the film “Serenity,” a film I quite like.
In the scene where the Christian pastor figure of the crew, aptly named “Shepherd Book” dies he grabs the Captain (Mal) and says,
“I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.”
As your Shepherd Book I want you to know I don’t care if you just believe in something. I want to know if what you believe corresponds to what God says you must believe.
As such for these types of people it is not what is believed about the resurrection that matters, in terms of content, but rather what matters is the passion with which one believes whatever content one assigns to the resurrection, or similarly, what matters is not believing set truths about the resurrection but rather what matters is having a powerful encounter with a individually defined resurrected Christ thus coming away with a meaningful experience.
“What we require of belief is not that it make sense but that it be sincere….Clearly, this is not the spirituality of a centralized orthodoxy. It is a sort of workshop spirituality that you can get with a cereal-box top and five dollars.” Curtis White — “Hot Air Gods”
This way of thinking about the resurrection insists that personal experience and individual encounter can do for us what the divine record of redemptive history can not do for us. Why try and surmount 2000 years of History in order to find out with precision what God says happened when you can have your own meaningful experience.
Here we see that the objective content of God’s revelation in Scripture gives way to the Jesus encounter — an encounter that is each and every person variable.
Such an encounter has the advantage of canceling out the time chasm between us and the historical Christ who rose from the grave so many years ago and makes us to be contemporaries with Jesus.
Those who have a Aesop’s fable resurrection generally believe that the Scriptures are all paradox and contradiction and given such a paradoxical revelation that can mean anything, it usually does mean any number of things to different people.
And the result of this in the modern Church today does not confess the same resurrected Christ together but rather all confess different Christ’s together. We may be part of the same denomination and perhaps even attend the same Churches yet the resurrected Christ we are all confessing is, potentially, as different as each and every individual doing the confessing.
And all of this is important is because it is not that we believe in some kind of resurrection that matters but rather that we believe in a very particular God defined resurrection that matters.
Now what is behind what we have briefly discussed here happens in two different opposite ways.
1.) Assume the supernatural can’t be true. If it is not true then miracles like resurrection have to be reinterpreted
2.) Presuppose that God is so transcendent that we can’t reach Him.
So … what is the answer to this way of thinking about the resurrection?
We have to be confident in God’s recorded revelation.
1.To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. (Is. 8:20)
2. II Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
3. I Cor. 10:5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,
We have to do all we can to attend and support Churches which understand what is at stake in this redefining of the Resurrection. As the years unfold and some of you who are younger look for a Church as your life takes you beyond these boundaries look for a place where the Christ of Scripture and a Historical real resurrection is a reality. Make it a matter that is non-negotiable.
This Historical real resurrection is what the Holy Spirit speaks of in I Corinthians 15. Paul there doesn’t speak of “it being true to me.” He calls forth the historical evidence. He cites the witnesses that can be called forth. He is not speaking of a resurrection that was based on the truth that Christ has arisen in his heart. The Scriptures everywhere testify to the historicity of Christ’s resurrection. He has flesh and bones that one can examine by touching. He eats breakfast with His disciples. Christ’s resurrection is as historical as your birth.
For you parents, you must train your children to think this way. If you leave them to imbibe the zeitgeist they will very likely abandon your faith.
Teach them that the resurrection was not just spiritual but real and because it was real it had impact.
We must be careful of the “Spiritual” Resurrection that wherein we have been resurrected. There is a tendency for the Reformed to make “Spiritual” speak Plato as if to mean “non intrusive in our every day to day lives.”
We have been resurrected so that our relationship to the old Adam is superseded by our relationship to the new Adam. This explains why the expectation is that we would walk in “newness of life.” We are resurrected beings and though we are not yet all that we one day will be we are creatures who live in this present age as walking and living in the age to come. Like Legolas in Tolkien’s work we live in two worlds at the same time but the creational age in which we have been resurrected is impinging on all around us that has not yet been resurrected. In some sense then we, as the resurrected, are the bearers of resurrection life to all that we come in contact with.
This reality of having been NOW resurrected with Christ is why Paul can write about our now being seated in the Heavenlies with Christ. It is why he could write that we have been NOW translated to the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, whom He loves. It is why he could write that our citizenship is in heaven, keeping in mind that heaven is invading this present wicked age via His resurrected citizenry.
The “NOW” of our Resurrected status can not be hidden under the bushel of the “not yet.” The Kingdom as come and we are citizens of that future creational age Kingdom bringing the aroma of Christ and that Kingdom unto all we come in contact with.
By John Updike
Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.
The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.
And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.
Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.