Saturday, June 23, 2018

Because He Lives, We Live Forever

The event central to the life of Jesus Christ and to the New Testament is His resurrection. Not only does this event underscore the radical character of the uniqueness of Christ, but it sets Him apart from all other earthly religious teachers. Buddha is dead. Confucius is dead. Gandhi is dead. Muhammad is dead. Jesus and Jesus alone has returned from the grave. So astonishing is this event that it, more than any other event in the Bible, has provoked controversial interpretations of modern scholarship which have attempted to recast or remold it to fit the twentieth-century mindset. Today, the radical announcement of the resurrection of Jesus has been neutralized and relativized.

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul attempted to answer those who in his day saw the Resurrection as a nonhistorical, figurative event. Paul believed strongly that without a real, historical resurrection, the Christian faith is only an exercise in futility. To give oneself in total commitment and sacrifice to a dead man is foolishness. Paul says that the Christian faith stands or falls with the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And Paul backs his belief with evidence. Paul tells us that these things were set forth in Scripture many centuries before. He knew that Christ had been raised from the dead not because he believed in myths or fairy tales, but because Christ appeared visibly to Peter, then to the Twelve, then to 500 people at one time. Then He appeared to James and all apostles, and “last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Corinthians 15:7). Paul is saying that on the basis of the testimony of these witnesses he is persuaded that Christ, in fact, has come back from the dead.

The resurrection of Christ is the most difficult truth in the New Testament because it is as axiomatic in our culture as it was in the first century—that the one thing that is absolutely final is death. Once a person is dead, that person stays dead. That is the law of all laws. Show me a faith healer who has been successful practicing his or her trade in the local cemetery. Yes, there are stories of people who have been resuscitated after being left for dead, but there are no substantiated stories of people who have come back from the dead after being in a grave for three days. Three days after Christ screamed on the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” God screamed back and shook the earth to bring His Son back from the tomb.

If Christ is indeed raised from the dead, that means that last miserable enemy—death itself—has been vanquished. Christ’s resurrection means our resurrection. Because He lives, we live forever.

Paul concludes his case in 1 Corinthians 15 with this statement: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (v. 58).

Paul says, “Be steadfast.” Do not be blown about by every wind of doctrine. Don’t cave in at the first sign of trouble. Run the course until the end of the course. We are to be steadfast because God is steadfast. We can be steadfast and immovable because Christ is risen from the dead. Paul then says, “Always abound in the work of the Lord.” We are not to casually every now and then throw in a moment’s commitment. Our lives ought to demonstrate an abundance of work for the things of God. Why? “Because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Your labor in Him is not an exercise in futility.

Everything we do—every word we say, every breath we take—counts for something. No one can ever tell you that what you are doing today is futile. We ought to take every human act seriously because every human act has eternal significance. This is the Good News. And at the heart of the Good News is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “He is risen.” This message has been proclaimed from city to city and from nation to nation. “He is risen” was the very first proclamation of the Gospel in the early church. It is still the most important proclamation of our faith. “He is risen.” “He is risen.” Because He lives, we live forever.