On the 9th of April, 2017, BBC News carried an interesting news article of a survey they commissioned. The headline reads: “Resurrection did not happen, say quarter of Christians“. The survey claims that “A quarter of people who describe themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.”¹
Responding, Reverend Dr Lorraine Cavanagh, the acting general secretary for Modern Church, which promotes liberal Christian theology is quoted to have said:
I think [people answering the survey] are being asked to believe in the way they might have been asked to believe when they were at Sunday school.
Science, but also intellectual and philosophical thought has progressed. It has a trickle-down effect on just about everybody’s lives.
So to ask an adult to believe in the resurrection the way they did when they were at Sunday school simply won’t do and that’s true of much of the key elements of the Christian faith.²
We live in a day and age where definitions and propositions are frowned upon, particularly when it comes to matters of faith. This sort of anti-precision attitude has somehow filtered into the church. We’re told, “don’t judge” “it doesn’t really matter what one believes as long as you’re morally upright, surely God won’t reject you!” “Christianity is a religion of love”.
But what has the Bible got to say to all this? Does it matter what a man believes, as long as he claims the name “Christian”?
Firstly, Christians are so named because of their belief in a historic person, “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22). Secondly, apart from the mighty signs and wonders and signs with which God attested or endorsed Jesus to the whole world, there can be no Christianity.
What are these signs or proofs that God used to authenticate Jesus? And to what purpose or end?
This is what Peter speaking on the day of Pentecost had to say:
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36).
Previously, he had expounded:
this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it wasnot possible for him to be held by it…This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing (vv. 32-33).
The thrust of Peter’s teaching here is that God has proved to the world beyond every reasonable doubt that Jesus is Lord and Christ, in that although He died, He was raised to life – an event that was witnessed by Peter and many others to whom the Lord showed Himself alive after His resurrection. The resurrection of Christ did not happen in a closet – it is a historic event that was witnessed by real, historic people who lived in Jerusalem at the time. Eyewitnesses documented it and passed it down to those who believed in Him. His tomb is still empty! Paul writing a short while later recounts how the Lord after His passion (suffering, death and resurrection) showed Himself to the apostles, to about five hundred disciples at the same time, and last of all to Paul himself as he journeyed to Damascus (Acts 15:1-21).
It is faith in Jesus Christ, His death which atoned for our sins, and His resurrection from death that saves (Romans 10:8-10). This is the content of the Gospel message.
No one can claim the title “Christian” who trivialises the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Such a person is nothing short of a false disciple and an imposter. A denial of the resurrection of Christ is a denial of Christ and Christianity:
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whomhe did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1Corinthians 15:14-20).
The resurrection of Christ forms the very nerve and fibre of the Christian faith. It assures all who believe in Him that they will live after death, be raised on the last day, just as Christ was Himself raised from the dead. Faith in the resurrection is the bedrock of the believer’s faith in the afterlife – a life that will be spent with the resurrected Christ in eternity. Any “Christian” faith that is not founded on the death and resurrection of Christ is no Christian faith at all. A professing “Christian” who denies faith in the resurrection of Christ has no hope for the life after death, and is of all people to be most pitied!
The progression of societal thought and norms, the expansion of human knowledge and achievement, or the development of scientific thought and discoveries cannot change the truth of God’s Word. People are free to believe what they may – this is a fundamental human right; nonetheless, the foundation of God stands firm and sure: The Lord knows them that are His (2Timothy 2:19). And all such, according to the Bible, are those who truly believe in their heart that Jesus is Lord – born of a virgin, lived a life of perfect obedience, died for the sins of many, was buried and rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
Someday He will come again, to judge the living and the dead (1Peter 4:5; 2Tim 4:1), and all true believers shall reign with Him forevermore (Rev. 20:6; 2Tim. 2:11-12)! Hallelujah!