(1 Corinthians 15:1-11)
But Christianity, when it is all boiled down, has only a very few critical teachings by which we receive the gift of God’s salvation. The few fundamental foundations of Christianity include things like repentance, faith, baptism, receiving the Holy Spirit, eternal judgment and as Paul tells us here, the one foundation of primary importance is the resurrection.
The foremost and most important aspect of the resurrection is of course the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead after He was sacrificed on our behalf. It is in His resurrection that we now have the chance to find salvation and this is the point that Paul emphasises in this chapter.
Why is Resurrction of First Importance?
Paul makes the case in the first few verses. The basis of what he preached to the Corinthian church, being the gospel of Jesus Christ, in which they received salvation and in which they now stand. He then goes on to say this,
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, – (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
This is the basis of the gospel that we believe: that Jesus died for our sins and was raised for our justification.
Now you may wonder why this is of first importance. The reasons are quite few and quite simple.
At the base level, if there was no resurrection of the dead, there would be no Christianity.
Christianity as a religion exists ONLY because Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead. It is the resurrection and our faith in His resurrection that sets Christianity apart from every other religion in the world.
There was nothing miraculous about His death, since we all die eventually. But in the fact that He died without ever committing sin, Jesus was not bound by death and so was able to break the chains of death that bind all of mankind and beraised from the dead.
This is why the resurrection was and is so fundamental to Christianity and why it is of first importance. It is because if there were no resurrection, there would be no Christianity.
No other religion on earth offers the hope of salvation from sin and through the resurrection the hope of eternal life. Other religions claim to offer some of the things that are part of the Christian religion, but none offer resurrection of the dead and the hope of eternal life. And in particular, no other religion on earth offers this hope of salvation on the basis of faith.
Think about this for a moment. The Hindu religion (as do some others), offers a process of continuity of life through reincarnation, claiming that a person will return again after death in a different form. And the determinant of whether they come back as a cow or a frog is based on what they have done, that is, it is based on works not faith. This is inconsistent with the Christian gospel of truth where we are told,
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, – (Hebrews 9:27)
The basic tenets of Buddhism are that to exist is to suffer and that suffering has a cause, namely, craving and attachment. It goes on to say there can be a cessation of suffering and there is a path and a process to finding that cessation of suffering. Again the basis of finding peace is built on works to walk the path to cessation of suffering.
Most Buddhists never find the peace they seek because they cannot overcome the cravings of the flesh or the attachments to things. It is because man suffers from sin within his nature that they fail. The bible says,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, – (Hebrews 12:1)
The weights and sin which clings so closely are the passions of the flesh that exist in every man and woman. They cling so closely because they are part of human nature. We are born with sin and passions within us and no man or woman can cleanse themselves of these issues without the help of God, which is where Buddhism comes unstuck because they seek to do it themselves. And they fail because this is a form of self-righteousness and self-justification based on works, not faith.
I could continue and look at other religions, but there is little point. Christianity is the only religion that offers the hope of salvation through faith without works, and it is given to us as a gift.
The Power of the Resurrection
In the coming posts we will look at the power of the resurrection in more depth, but for now we must understand that it is in the resurrection we are justified.
Jesus died so that we may be set free from sin. He became the perfect sacrifice for sins.
Under the law of Moses, a sacrifice was necessary for the forgiveness of sin and there was no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.
The debt we incur because of our sin is to die. We earn death as our due because we sin, as the scripture says,
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – (Romans 6:23)
We earn death because of sin and in order to pay for sin under the law there had to be a death, typically of a lamb or other animal or bird as the different laws required.
But as the verse above says, we are given life as a free gift because Jesus died and was raised from the dead. He died as the perfect sacrifice for sin, but was raised for our justification and salvation.
In His Resurrction we are now able to take His death as our own, just as the animals died for the sins of the Israelites’ sins under the law, and through entering the resurrection of Jesus we receive life. We enter His death and resurrection by baptism and through faith we believe we have died with Him and have been raised with Him, no longer bound by sin or death and ready to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.
Now just as the Buddhists and Hindus and so many other religions require their adherents to undergo transformation, Christians also are transformed. But unlike those other religions this transformation is not done by our power or individual strength, it is the work of the Holy Spirit.
And the Holy Spirit knows what is perfection and what perfection truly looks like because the Holy Spirit knows and is known by both God the Father and Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit works within us at the direction of the Ftaher and the Son of God to bring us to perfection as we walk in Christ. This is not our doing but is the work of God.
Other religions can never bring their devotees to perfection because they do not know what perfection is or looks like. From a purely logical point of view, how can someone who is imperfect know what perfection looks like and thus achieve it? All mankind is imperfect because of sin and the passions, lusts and desires of the flesh, including the very highest leaders of these other religions. And if the leaders are imperfect, how can they show their followers the way to perfection? Bluntly put, they can’t and they will fail.
But the leader and the head of Christianity is Jesus Christ Himself, the perfect Son of God who knows what perfection is because He is perfect.
And His gift to us is the offer of perfection through His own death and resurrection so that we can be like Him; perfected in love like the Father.
This is the power of the resurrection in Jesus Christ. It is the ONLY path to perfection that exists. And best of all, we do not work for this but are given perfection through faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. By faith we have perfection now when we enter into His death and resurrection through baptism. It is then the work of the Holy Spirit in is to transform our lives so that we achieve perfection in fact as well as in faith. And by grace God overlooks all our imperfections until we are perfected in Jesus Christ.
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