The Keystone Of Christianity
For the past thirty-three years Dr. E. Schuyler English has been president of The Pilgrim Fellowship, as well as editor of its missionary paper, The Pilgrim. It is from this paper that his timely article on the doctrine of the resurrection has been reprinted by permission.
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
The doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a trivial and inconsequential appendage to Christianity, to be accepted or rejected at will. It is an integral part of the Christian faith. If Christ arose from among the dead, the Gospel is gloriously true. If He did not come forth from the tomb, Christianity is established upon a tissue of lies and bound up in cunningly devised fables, and our hope is no more than a fabric of dreams which will end forever at death.
Let us make it crystal clear that, in speaking of Christ’s resurrection, we are alluding to the resurrection of His body. There is no ambiguity in what the New Testament teaches. It was not the spirit of our Lord that was crucified and placed in the tomb; it was His body. It was not a spirit that walked the Emmaus road with two of Christ’s disciples; it was a man, the resurrected Christ. It was not a spirit that stood in the center of the Eleven in a room in Jerusalem and declared: “Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have” (Luke 24:39).
The Fact of Christ’s Resurrection
There are certain laws of evidence that are required in the establishment of any historical fact. The two most vital of them are: (a) there must be documentation of the event, made by reliable witnesses; and (b) there ought to be some memorial in existence, begun somewhere near the time of the event under scrutiny, and regularly commemorated until the present time. For example, how do we know that George Washington lived and was the first President of the United States? Literature contemporaneous with his life is abundant. Furthermore, there are paintings and statues of him, and every year the date of his birth is celebrated in the United States.
Concerning the resurrection of Christ, there were six contemporaries of our Lord in His earthly life, men of reliability, whose influence has always been for good, who have documented His resurrection: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, and Paul. All of them declared without equivocation that Christ arose (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; 1 Peter 1; 1 Corinthians 15). Bear in mind that all six of them were eye-witnesses of, or closely associated with, the events they recorded. It was not the spirit of Christ these men saw, and handled, and ate with, and heard, but Christ Himself. His resurrection altered their lives.
As to the memorials of the resurrection of our Lord, there are two that are universal: (a) the Church itself; and (b) the observance of Sunday as the Lord’s Day, in contrast with the Sabbath, which is Saturday.
The Necessity of Christ’s Resurrection
There are five reasons why our Lord’s bodily resurrection was necessary: (a) because He is the Son of God, with all power; thus it was not possible that death should bind and retain Him (Acts 2:24); (b) as proof to mankind of His Person; for by His resurrection He was declared to be the Son of God (Romans 1:4); (c) to establish that the Bible, and Christ’s witness concerning Himself, are true; (d) as a vindication of God’s wisdom and holiness; and (e) in order to show that God’s justice has been satisfied, and that all who believe in Christ are justified in the sight of the Almighty (Romans 4:25).
The Meaning of Christ’s Resurrection
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain; ye are yet in your sins.” Thus His resurrection is an essential of the Christian faith, without which man is hopeless and lost. But He was raised; He did ascend into heaven; He is exalted on high. And, because He lives, we shall live also, in accord with His promise (John 14:19). Moreover, He lives today in the heart of every believer (Romans 8:9; Galatians 2:20). The Christian life is the out-living of the in-living Christ.
The Christian faith is grounded upon a fact unquestionably established. Christ arose.