1 Corinthians 15:17 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
Easter will be widely celebrated in the Western Christian world this April. Some of us in the Christian family of churches do not follow the Christian calendar of holy days. Nevertheless, Easter presents an opportunity for us all to remember a central and indispensable element of Christianity, namely the bodily resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. Apart from this central fact there is no Christianity. Paul says this very thing in 1 Corinthians 15:17. Taken in the context of the whole of chapter 15, and indeed the whole of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, without the resurrection being an indisputable reality, all the essential tenets of Christianity evaporate. That is to say, without the resurrection of Christ there is no atonement for sins, (and therefore no forgiveness of sins); there is no everlasting life to be given to the believer, (therefore faith is vacuous of all benefit); and there is no Holy Spirit who has been purchased to be given to the believer, (therefore no one to apply the benefits of Christ’s redemption to the soul of the believer). So let’s take these three things in order.
In Romans 1:4, Paul says “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” In other words, Jesus was vindicated by the resurrection. The force of this is seen in the words “raised for our justification” in Romans 4:24-25: “but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Without the resurrection, the crucifixion is not demonstrated to be acceptable to the Father as the payment of the penalty of our sin. No resurrection, no atonement. No atonement, no forgiveness of sins. No forgiveness of sin, no Christianity worth having. See 1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”
2. No Everlasting Life
Jesus, preparing his disciples by his teaching before his crucifixion, gave them the wonderful promise of everlasting life. This is an indispensable part of real Christianity. For if there is no resurrection of Christ that demonstrates that he is able to give life, then is there is no credible promise of everlasting life. Jesus told Martha this wonderful truth, John 11:25-26 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
3. No Holy Spirit
This gift of everlasting life is inseparably connected to the gift of faith with which Jesus graces the believer. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This eternal life and faith is an impartation of the Holy Spirit. These are blessings that the believer possesses now. John 5:24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” All this is accomplished in the believer by the Holy Spirit; he is the giver of life sent from the savior above. Even as the Apostle John comments in John 7:39 “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” So we see, that unless Jesus is risen and exalted to the right hand of the majesty on high, He cannot send forth the Holy Spirit into his church. No resurrection, no Holy Spirit for the believer.
Here is Christian faith: Jesus died for your sins and you are trusting in Him as the sole reason God would forgive you for your sin; Jesus is risen from the dead and you trust Him as your living Lord to bring you to God and to give you new life by His Holy Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
Why do these things matter to you and to me? They matter because these things are essential to your salvation and to mine. Paul writes in Romans 10:9-10 “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ demands two things of us. First, since by the resurrection Jesus is set before us by the Father as the Lord of all, we owe to Jesus our recognition, complete allegiance, and faith-filled obedience. Secondly, this response of open public confession must flow from a genuine trust in Jesus as alive. We must believe he is raised from the dead. The glorious promise is that if we truly acknowledge our Savior and trust in Him than we shall be saved. We will be forgiven, cleansed, renewed, and raised from the dead. We will be in fellowship with God now. We will be cared for by our Savior in death. We will see Jesus in glory and we will take part in the renewal of all things in the heavens and on earth. Everything depends on the resurrection of Jesus. There is no Christianity without it. And for you and me, there is no salvation without it.