No Resurrection, No Dice

March 31, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: Psalm 67, Proverbs 31, and 1 Corinthians 15–16.

After quietly but insistently weaving the theme through the whole book, Paul comes at the end of 1 Corinthians to one of the most resounding statements of gospel hope anywhere in the Bible in chapter 15. And this proclamation of the gospel centers on the risen Lord.

Every since reading N. T. Wright’s magnificent The Resurrection of the Son of God a few years ago, I have become increasingly aware of the way that the resurrection pervades the New Testament. As evangelicals, we are mostly a crucicentric people, focused quite narrowly and specifically on the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. This is good, to an extent: if we lose the atonement, we have lost the gospel. On the other hand, I am ever more aware, as I listen to sermon after sermon, that we simply do not preach the resurrection of Christ enough. Certainly, we do not follow closely the example of the church in Acts and the apostles in their writings, where the resurrection is always front and center, and where as Paul puts it:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

—1 Corinthians 15:14–17 ESV

Over and over again, Paul hammers home the reality that we are saved from our sins—we are justified—by the resurrection of Christ no less than by his death (cf. Romans 4:25). Indeed, with his death alone we would be lost, trapped, dead just as we were before his coming. But with his resurrection we participate in the life of the Godhead. He has died the death we ought to die, and in this we rejoice. But we rejoice all the more that he is the firstfruits of the final triumph over both sin and death in the resurrection from the dead. In Jesus we do not have merely an exemplary martyr for the cause of right living—we have a risen Lord.

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 refuses to let us take the death of Christ as sufficient on its own. He refuses to let us think that things end when we die. He refuses to let people embrace a view of life that ends with the here and now. As ever, he points to eschatalogical1 hope. The bodies we inhabit will be made new—not replaced, but transformed into something glorious. We walk in the light of the age to come, in the world which with us groans for redemption but not for a moment believing that the here-and-now is all there is.

  1. As a side note, can we please stop saying this like “scatalogical” with an ‘e’ tacked onto the front? The ‘e’ gets the emphasis, just as it does in “eschaton”, and the ‘a’ sounds roughly like “uh” (or if you want to sound precise, “ah”).