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This is a continuation of a previous newsletter article.
For Part I, click here.
It’s interesting to note that the religions of the world are really all in agreement on some very fundamental matters. Although they may differ on specifics, the central focus of all religion is upon some work or works which must be done in order for man to be acceptable to some god or gods. Christianity, when defined Scripturally, stands apart from all religion; it differs not just on specifics but on that very central focus. For the message of Christianity is that no work of man’s hands can ever render him righteous in the sight of the one true God; thus the need for a savior, a redeemer, a substitute: the Lord Jesus Christ.
But Christianity does not only differ from the religions of the world in the matter of its central focus. It also differs in regard to its central figure.
Generally speaking, the world’s religions each find their origins in one great teacher (or, in a few cases, a series of teachers). Though these individuals vary in some ways, all are recorded as being humble men, “special” men; men with a spiritual connection. All of them taught, and the things they taught can sound remarkably similar. Many writers have, for example, tried to show the commonality of all religion by pointing out statements of Jesus Christ which seem to echo the tenets of Buddhism.
Jesus Christ was indeed a great teacher, perhaps the greatest teacher of all time. But the great significance of Jesus Christ lies not in what he taught, but in who he was. Any true student of the Bible recognizes that the majority of Jesus’ teaching was not about morality or the proper conduct of life. It was about himself!
Just as the Old Testament writers spoke of a coming redemption, Jesus, in his short earthly ministry, spoke of that same redemption, which he himself would accomplish by his sacrificial death on the cross.
But there’s more! Jesus not only died, he got up again and lives today at the right hand of the Father. It is this resurrection of Jesus Christ, rather than his teaching, which defines Christianity.
What does this resurrection, this ancient event, have to do with us? Everything! Consider the following verse, concerning Jesus Christ, our Lord:
And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.:
The resurrection was not a secret. Throughout the Old Testament, as well as in the teachings of Jesus himself, we find reference to the resurrection (see also I Corinthians 15:3, 4).
By raising Christ from the dead, God declared with power that this was indeed His son, the only Messiah, and that the price for man’s redemption had been paid.
Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
The resurrection is good news for all mankind. In the cross we have the complete work of Jesus Christ for mankind’s restoration to God. But in the resurrection we have God’s assurance that this work is indeed complete, once and for all. This is why the recorded preaching of Jesus’ disciples, and all true preaching, makes reference not only to the cross, but to the blessed truth of the resurrection.
And we have even more in the resurrection. Consider one of the statements Jesus made about the church that he would build, that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Many scholars recognize that the word hell (Greek: hades) is not referring to the fiery underground place of Greek mythology, but rather to the grave. In other words, to death.
Hebrews 2:14, 15
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Oh, how the fear of death looms over the lives of the men and women of this world. But Jesus Christ conquered death; he broke through the gates of the grave. And he did not do it for himself alone. The Scriptures refer to our Lord as “the firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18), indicating that others are to follow! All who are in Christ are assured of ultimate victory, even over death itself (see also I Corinthians 15:55–57).
That ultimate victory will include each believer receiving a new, glorified body like the Lord’s. This event has not occurred yet, though it is assured and paid for by Christ (maybe today!), but even now Christ’s resurrection is the source for great potential change for the believer.
Romans 6:4, 11
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Because of the resurrection, the Christian can experience new life right now. Ephesians tells us that the power which raised Christ from the dead is available, now, to those who believe.
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power,
which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Would this be sufficient power to work miracles? To resist sin? To change a habit? To change a life? This, too, is ours in the resurrection.
The resurrection sets Jesus Christ apart from all of the would-be saviors that the world has offered, and continues to offer today. He, and only he can introduce himself as, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:18, NIV)
Because of his resurrection, we have the assurance that he is the promised redeemer, that those who believe on him are cleansed, truly and forever. Because of his resurrection, we are free from the fear of death, and look forward to eternity with him. Because of his resurrection, we have the power and authority to walk as he did on the earth, right now.
I Corinthians 15:14, 20
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.