July 23, 2020
1 Corinthians 15:12-28 (NIV)
To those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people (i.e., us):
It was my first class in my first year of seminary: “The Philosophy of Christian Religion.” Dr. Jerry Walls was the professor and one of my favorites. I will forever remember the jarring question he posed to the class on that first day. It went like this:
If today you received news of incontrovertible evidence that the bones of Jesus had been discovered, would you still retain your Christian faith?
He asked for a show of hands of those who would still believe, and practically every hand in the class shot up. People had obviously not accepted the hypothesis. He emphasized that we had to accept the hypothetical fact that the bones of Jesus had been discovered in order to respond to the question. Provided the verifiable truth of the claim that the bones of Jesus had been found, would you still have faith in Jesus Christ? Still all hands rose with certainty into the air. He asked a third time and to strengthen the hypothetical, he added that the likes of Billy Graham had verified the news. This time only one person lowered their hand. Dr. Walls championed this lone dissenter, looked at the rest of the class, and exclaimed, “With the exception of this one student, all of you are liberals.” (By this he meant that matters of faith are governed primarily by human experience rather than historical verities)
As one of the students whose hand was raised high I was stunned and yet quickly realized he was exactly right.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
If our faith is not anchored in the historical bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth then we, as Paul put it, “are of all people most to be pitied.”
It brings the old hymn to mind, “You ask me how I know he lives. He lives within my heart.” No. We might more properly say, “You ask me how I know he lives. On the third day he arose from the dead!” Our faith, while decidedly experiential, is not built on our experience but on the bedrock, foundational fact of the historical bodily resurrection of Jesus, as they say, period.
In today’s text, Paul comes at it from the other side. The Corinthians weren’t exactly denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus. They were denying their own bodily resurrection. Paul told them that to deny the resurrection of the body was also to deny the resurrection of Jesus. In other words, the bodily resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of the end of death; “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Because Christ is raised from the dead, all those who are in Christ will also be raised from the dead. There is no such thing as one without the other.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a spiritual metaphor. Nor is it a mythical reality. While there is a substantial body of evidence that may be marshaled in support of the resurrection, it cannot ultimately be proven. It is a matter of faith. One either believes in the efficacious, historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus . . . or one does not. The former is a Christian. The latter is something else entirely.
I’ll leave it at that today.
Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done; on Earth as it is in Heaven. On the third day He arose from the dead! Thank you for the resurrection of your son, Jesus Christ, who has won the victory. Come Holy Spirit and brand this truth into my heart and emblazon it in my mind until it forms the totality of who I am. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
- Do you believe in the historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ? On what do you base this belief?
- Why would you say we are of all people “most to be pitied,” if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not ultimately true?
- So what if they found the bones of Jesus today? Would you still be a Christian? Why or why not?
For the Awakening,