Intrinsically Christianity is an Easter religion. The resurrection of Christ is like a fire at the heart of the Gospel. The theme blazes through the reports, letters, and sermons of the New Testament. The Resurrection motivated the swift, hard thrust of the early Church. Behind its puissant evangelism stood the unchanging conviction that Jesus had overcome death and is eternally alive.
Nor did the primitive Church rest its case in historicity; Jesus’ resurrection presaged the future resurrection of believers. Yet the Resurrection was confined to neither the past nor the future. Its present-tense impact on the Church was terrific.
The New Testament reporters did not see Christ as having attained “immortality,” as the Greeks thought of it; he had returned from the grave wearing the wounds he had gotten at Calvary. The modern divine who said that Jesus’ body lies in some nameless Syrian tomb while his great spirit goes marching on would, according to Paul, make Christianity a miserable institution (1 Cor. 15:19). Moreover, Paul contends, if Christ rests in a “nameless tomb” preaching is a futile business; faith is meaningless; living believers are yet in their sins, and dead believers are all lost. Paul states flatly, if not grimly: no resurrection of Christ, no redemption for man. At this point, however, Paul rings a clear trumpet: Christ is not dead, he is alive! Redemption is a reality—because Christ did death in and left the grave empty.
Emphatically Paul links a man’s personal salvation to the Resurrection. Phillips’ translation of the Apostle’s word gives us an impressive message: “If you openly admit by your own mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and if you believe in your own heart that God raised him from the dead, ...1
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