Friday, April 14, 2006

Easter and 1 Corinthians 15

When discussing eternal subjects and events with believers and unbelievers alike, sometimes we tend not to emphasize one key event. The necessary subjects that we do tend to bring up are sinfulness (mine), holiness and righteousness (God's), and the sacrificial offering to reconcile the two (Christ's death on the cross). All of these subjects are vital, absolutely vital, if one is to truly understand and receive the true gospel.

Did you notice anything that may be missing from that list of major things that need to be understood? What about this?

"if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain...and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. "
(1 Corinthians 15:14,17 NASU)

Have you ever been reading the Bible and come across a verse that you "kind of knew" was there or that you "had heard before", but when reading it for yourself you sit back and say "Wow!" Well that was my reaction when I read this chapter a few years ago. This is not to say that prior to that time I had thought that the resurrection of Christ was somehow of minor importance, but my reaction was more to the blatantness and bluntness of Paul here.

Think about this for a minute with me. Our faith is built, most significantly, upon a series of the most foolish ideas ever to assail the mind of man.1 Now take this knowledge (that the death and resurrection of Christ is, in fact, very foolish and absurd) and not only communicate to someone that this is one of the bigger theological issues in the Christian faith...but it is the central issue in the Christian faith.2 I say that with a little hesitation, but I think that I have it right. In the story of the Cross we have most of (if not all) the key theological concepts that the Bible communicates. These concepts are either directly involved in the crucifixion story or are necessary context to properly understand the action, those involved, and its repercussions.

a side note:

If we know this, we should have all the more compassion in our hearts, voices, and minds when people that we witness to throw up objections. These objections should not stop us from pressing (even pressing hard) with the truth of the gospel. However when people do reject it and call it foolish, we should not immediately respond by saying that it isn't. We need to proclaim it, defend it from the Bible and history, and let the Holy Spirit convince the hearer of its truth when He converts their soul.

the main point:

When we witness, we should make it a point and the intention of our hearts to faithfully bring up the issues of sin, righteousness, judgment, the cross, and the empty tomb. I think that as we go through these subjects, each new one will expose new walls and objections that a person must wrestle with prior to truly trusting in Christ (I believe).

Also, pastors and leaders of the Church should never avoid, sugar-coat, or make light of this issue. This should especially be the case around Easter.3 I can think of fewer ways that a pastor or Christian teacher can do greater harm than by not standing firm on what the gospel is built on and preaching that very thing without trying to make it inoffensive for the hearer. It needs to be offensive, because we should be offended at how wretched we are.4

1 I Do not use the term "foolish" in a flippant way, here. We are told that when we preach the gospel, it is a stumbling stone to Jews and foolishness to gentiles. Furthermore, we know that the gospel (the word of the cross) is foolishness to everyone who is perishing, but is the source of our hope and power as believers. (1 Cor 1:17-25)

2 The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ brings into focus the key concepts in the Bible. In short (and incomplete), here is what I mean:
  1. God the Father was soveriegnly overseeing and in all ways controlling this event. (Eph 1:9-11, Isaiah 53:10)
  2. The Holy Spirit was the method by which Christ put on human flesh, therefore this is how God could suffer and die in our place. (Matthew 1:19; Luke 1:35)
  3. Christ fully being both God and Man, perfect in righteousness and blameless, so He is able to be the supreme sacrifice demanded to satisfy God's holy wrath (John 1:14, Colossians 2:9)
  4. Humanities sin - the reason for the sacrificial death of Christ (Romans 3:23; 6:23)
  5. Holiness of God - that God would require a punishment of value of Christ (being God Himself) shows that His holiness is no small thing. (1 Timothy 6:16; 1 John 1:5-10)
  6. Planned Redemption - In Chris's ministry, we know that He did things that were "to fulfill the words of..." the prophets. This means that all of the work that Christ did, including His death and resurrection, was planned from before humans ever sinned or were created. (Isaiah 53:5,6, Matthew 26:56)
3 I received a flier that a local church sent out advertising for Easter services. One of the problems was that the flier spoke more about what you would wear, or didn't need to wear ("fancy duds and pastel ties" or "hats"), and never mentioned the cross, the resurrection, or even Jesus at all.

4 Please read Being Offensive is Necessary for more of my thoughts on this issue.

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