If Christ Be Not Risen
Many years ago, the world was turned upside-down by a few preachers who consistently taught that the crucified Christ had risen from the dead (Acts 17:1-6). Even the man who had thrice denied his Lord declared repeatedly that Jesus the Christ was alive again (John 18:15-27. Acts 2:32; 3:15). Certainly no element in the apostolic message was emphasized more than the resurrection of our Lord.
This doctrine is vitally fundamental to the Christian faith, a fact which was recognized in the early Church, as clearly indicated by the sermons in the Acts. Therefore, it is pertinent to ask why this truth is not more prominent in contemporary preaching. Everyone ought to be made aware of the full significance of Jesus’ resurrection, for if Christ be not risen …
He Made False Claims
Before He was crucified, Jesus predicted that He would be raised from the dead on the third day. His disciples heard Him make this claim explicitly and frequently (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19).
Had Jesus not risen, His followers would have been filled with grief and disappointment (John 20:11-15. Lk. 24:21). Worse still, He could have been justly declared guilty of falsehood and exaggeration; or at best, suspected of delusion and fantasy.
Had this been the case, memories of such a fiasco could scarcely have led to the founding of the Church, the establishment of Christian doctrine, and the world-wide spread of the gospel. All this became possible only after the death and resurrection of Jesus, when the disciples came to realize the significance of the prophecy which earlier they had misunderstood so often (Lk. 18:31-34; 24:7-8). Then, with a fresh comprehension of the Scriptures, they joyously worshipped and proclaimed their risen, ascended Lord (Lk. 24:45-46, 51-52. John 2:22).
Had Jesus failed to rise, such results would have been either ridiculous or impossible; for not only would His friends have lost all confidence in His words, but also His foes would have been revelling in opportunities of proving the falsehood of His claim.
One day, the Jews heard Jesus say, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19); words which were later used to charge Him at His trial, and to mock Him on the cross (Matt. 26:61. Mk. 15:29-30). Although the Jews apparently (and perhaps deliberately) misinterpreted His words at the time, certainly they eventually realized the significance of the prophecy that He would rise again. Possibly this realization came to them as they heard Him say on another occasion, “so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40). Their full appreciation of His claim was revealed in their fear that the predicted resurrection would actually materialize, and in their effort to thwart any attempt to simulate it (Matt. 27:63-64). Their fear was culminated in the report that Jesus was indeed alive again; and their effort was frustrated by their total inability to prove the falsehood of the report.
The preachers in the early Church were fully persuaded that Jesus’ claim was not false. They had every reason for being thus convicted: not only did they have concrete, first-hand evidence to crystallize and substantiate their own belief, but also, they had no contrary evidence to shatter their conviction or to hinder the preaching of the resurrection and the founding of the Church. Every attempt to produce any such contrary evidence has been based on other than historical ground.
The established facts of Jesus’ historical resurrection confirm the truth of the prophecy which He made before His death. We can rest assured that His claim has been fully authenticated, and we can place complete confidence in this, and in every other statement which He made.
As Christians, we can find continual refreshment in the knowledge that He is indeed alive, but we should endeavour more frequently and diligently to impart this essential knowledge to others, for if Christ be not risen…
He Is Not The Son Of God
Great portions of the New Testament fall to shambles if Jesus Christ is not the Son of God. And if Christ had not risen from the dead, the Church never would have possessed the most important proof that He is indeed the Son of the true God. The doctrines of His resurrection and of His divine Sonship stand or fall together.
In the first place, if His prophesied resurrection had failed to take place, He would have been guilty of a false claim. Such guilt is completely incompatible with any rational concept of divine Sonship.
Furthermore, divine Sonship implies divine life, which cannot be reconciled in any sense with the thought that the divine Son might experience final conquest by death.
On one occasion, Jesus spoke of His coming death and resurrection, while at the same time professing a complete consciousness of His divine Sonship (John 10:17-19). Were these words not completely true, they would surely have been symptoms of the utmost madness, as the Jews were quick to point out. And any delusions about His purposed resurrection would certainly lead anyone to suspect delusions about His professed relationship to God the Father. In other words, if He was wrong about His resurrection, who could feel confident that He was not wrong about His divine Sonship?
However, this record has been left to us by the apostle John, one of Jesus’ most intimate associates. This strengthens our confidence in the doctrines of His resurrection and His divine Sonship.
John enjoyed the enviable experience of a close communion with the Lord Jesus Christ. But in addition, he lived long enough to witness the growth and development of the Christian Church, the remarkable organism that came into being through preaching which emphasized above all else the glorious resurrection of the One Whom every true Christian worships and serves. Later in life, John wrote one of the world’s most magnificent pieces of literature, the beloved fourth Gospel. The specific purpose of this great work, he expressly declared himself, was to prove “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31); and this grand statement of purpose is set in the midst of detailed passages describing events connected with the Lord’s resurrection. John was a confirmed and unshakable believer in both the resurrection and the divine Sonship of Jesus Christ, and his unique record leads every honest reader to the same belief.
Paul never lived to read this divinely inspired masterpiece, but he too was a most thoroughly convinced believer in the resurrection and divine Sonship of Jesus (Gal. 1:16). The two doctrines are inseparably linked in his epistle to the Roman Christians: Paul referred to Him as the One Who was “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:4).
Glory to God, there is adequate evidence that Jesus rose from the dead, never again to die! His resurrection declares and substantiates His claim to divine Sonship (Matt. 26:63-64. John 10:30-38; 20:28). Therefore, in proclaiming the gospel and in presenting the Saviour to the world, it is essential that we give due prominence to the doctrine of the resurrection. If men and women fail to realize the significance of this doctrine, they will fail to appreciate the character of His person and the nature of His death, for if Christ be not risen…
His Death Was A Defeat
The Jewish leaders seemed confident that His apparent inability to save Himself was a clear indication that Jesus’ claims were false and that He was surely not the Son of God (Matt. 27:38-44). Quite possibly they were smugly satisfied that in putting Him to death, they were proving conclusively the vanity and guilt of “this deceiver” (Matt. 26:63-66).
Had their diabolical scheme succeeded ultimately, their triumph would no doubt have been secured for all time. Even the followers of Jesus realized that in His death, their hopes were dashed to the ground (Lk. 24:19-21). There can be no question whatsoever that in the mind of friend and foe alike, the death of Jesus spelled the defeat of Jesus — apart, that is, from His subsequent resurrection.
The Bible recognizes death as an enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). Had this enemy been victorious in combat with Him who professed to be the Son of God, surely no one could fail to conclude that in His death and defeat, the would-be Saviour had finally been unmasked as something much less than divine (cf. Phil. 2:6-11. Heb. 1:8; 2:14).
John, the beloved apostle, realized fully the extent to which the resurrection established as an essential victory, the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:17-18). Because He is risen, we know that He has been victorious. Because He is victorious, we know that He is Lord. Because He is Lord, we know that He must be confessed as such (Rom. 10:9).
This is the joyous note that should be sounded whenever the gospel of Christ is preached, for the doctrine of salvation is indissolubly bound up with the doctrine of the resurrection. Indeed, if Christ be not risen…
God Can Neither Justify Nor Sanctify
In his letter to the Romans, Paul connects our justification with the resurrection of Christ (Rom. 4:24-25) in such a way as to make it clear that apart from the resurrection, there would be no justification at all.
With even greater clarity, he told the Corinthian believers that “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:17). After all, the gospel is good news, and justification depends upon the sinner’s acceptance of this good news: “that Christ died for our sins … and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1-4). Without the resurrection, there would be no Good News — and therefore, no justification.
But since He has been put to death on account of our offences and raised again on account of our justification, we can now enjoy full justification through faith, and glorious enduring peace with our God (Rom. 5:1).
The Apostles recognized that God’s approval of His Son was essentially linked with His resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:22-24). Furthermore, His resurrection and subsequent exaltation are described together in contexts which indicate that the Father was as well pleased with the death of His Son, as He was with His life (Eph. 1:20. Phil. 2:5-11).
The Christian’s sanctification is also dependent upon the doctrine of the resurrection, as revealed by Paul in several passages (e.g., Rom. 6-8. Col. 3). This is a matter of vital importance. Positionally, every Christian has been sanctified in Christ (1 Cor. 6:11). Through faith in Him, we are identified with Him in death, burial, and resurrection. In the sight and reckoning of God, we are set apart as holy ones through union with Jesus Christ our Lord.
Possibly there are many Christians, however, who have failed to appreciate the fundamental connection between our position and our practice. Before God, every believer in Christ is faultlessly righteous and spotlessly holy. Failure to manifest such character in practical living can be traced largely to our failure to realize how the resurrection of Christ is related to our achievement of experimental righteousness and holiness, for if Christ be not risen …
The Christian Has No Power
The power of the early disciples amazed the multitudes with whom they came in contact (Acts 1:12). Peter attributed all of these amazing phenomena to the living Christ who was working powerfully through His saints (Acts 1:33).
Paul describes the means of practical righteousness and holiness in writing to the Romans: “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:11). He had experienced the power of this truth in his own practical life, as described in another Epistle, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal. 2:20).
Paul prayed that the Ephesians might know the resurrecting power of God working in their hearts and lives (Eph. 1:19-20). He himself craved a deeper knowledge of Christ and of the power of His resurrection (Phil. 3:10). The practical value of such a deeper knowledge was also stressed in his letter to the Colossians (Col. 2:9-13; 3:1-10).
Here, then, is the key to the successful Christian life, in which practical righteousness and holiness are demonstrated consistently as a matter of every day’s routine: a clear perception of the crucial fact that only the power with which God raised His Son is adequate for such a life; and a full surrender to the One with Whom we have been so intimately identified in His death, burial, and resurrection.
No one can stress too much how important is the doctrine of the resurrection to the Christian’s spiritual prosperity and joy, for if Christ be not risen …
The Christian Is Most Miserable
The Christian faith must either offer a resurrected Christ, or offer nothing at all. The Christian gospel is either a gospel of resurrection, or it is worse than a ghastly farce (1 Cor. 15:13-19).
But every Christian should be fully assured that his joy is founded upon the certainty of incontrovertible fact — the historical fact that Jesus rose again from the dead.
Concrete proof of this fact is still with us: the existence and the message of the historical documents comprised in our New Testament; the formation and development of the Christian Church; the continual celebration of the Lord’s Supper; and the traditional commemoration of the Lord’s Day as the day of resurrection.
Here are four pieces of evidence all of which are subject to the scrutiny of the most critical; all of which never have been adequately explained apart from the literal, bodily resurrection of our Lord.
And, of course, when the human heart is truly ready to do God’s will (John 17:7), and when the contrite soul is prepared to fully surrender to Him who is Lord of all (Rom. 14:9. Rev. 1:17), there follows an experience of revelation which convinces the mind and spirit beyond all doubt, that in Jesus Christ the risen Lord, each one of us can wholly confide forever.
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After we have committed a thing to Christ, our faith and patience will be tried, and often the very worst thing may happen. Nevertheless, God will let nothing happen to prevent the coming of the salvation and deliverance for which we prayed. When we have committed it to God, and have the assurance He has undertaken, there is nothing to be afraid of but doubting God.