The Necessity of the Resurrection

On Easter Sunday of 2021, Senator and Pastor Raphael Warnock tweeted the following:

For those who cannot see the image, the Tweet stated: “The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others, we are able to save ourselves.”

Keep in mind, in addition to being a newly elected Senator from Georgia, Warnock is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The tweet generated so much push-back that it was eventually deleted from Warnock’s Twitter feed, but as we all know, what’s on the internet is there forever.

Where to begin with what’s wrong with this?!?

There is nothing more transcendent (surpassing the ordinary, exceptional) than the resurrection of Jesus, nothing more essential than the resurrection of Jesus. You cannot be a Christian if you deny that Jesus is raised from the dead, for that is the Good News of the Gospel: Jesus, through His life, death, and resurrection, has made perfect atonement for our sins and has saved us from God’s wrath. There is no way in which “a commitment to helping others” will ever bring about our own salvation – this is why the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus were necessary in the first place. Fallen man was utterly unable to do enough good to bring about salvation.

I could go on.

Instead, I’ll just drop a little Calvin here – I think he clarifies why we can never distance the Christian message from the resurrection.

Next comes the resurrection from the dead. Without this what we have said so far would be incomplete. For since only weakness appears in the cross, death, and burial of Christ, faith must leap over all these things to attain its full strength. We have in his death the complete fulfillment of salvation, for through it we are reconciled to God, his righteous judgment is satisfied, the curse is removed, and the penalty paid in full. Nevertheless, we are said to “have been born anew to a living hope” not through his death but “through his resurrection” [1 Peter 1:3]. For as he, in rising again, came forth victor over death, so the victory of our faith over death lies in his resurrection alone. Paul’s words better express its nature: “He was put to death for our sins, and raised for our justification” [Rom. 4:25]. This is as if he had said: “Sin was taken away by his death; righteousness was revived and restored by his resurrection.” For how could he by dying have freed us from death if he had himself succumbed to death? How could he have acquired victory for us if he had failed in the struggle? Therefore, we divide the substance of our salvation between Christ’s death and resurrection as follows: through his death, sin was wiped out and death extinguished; through his resurrection, righteousness was restored and life raised up, so that—thanks to his resurrection—his death manifested its power and efficacy in us. Therefore, Paul states that “Christ was declared the Son of God … in the resurrection itself” [Rom. 1:4], because then at last he displayed his heavenly power, which is both the clear mirror of his divinity and the firm support of our faith. Elsewhere Paul similarly teaches: “He suffered in weakness of the flesh, but rose again by the power of the Spirit” [2 Cor. 13:4]. In the same sense Paul elsewhere discusses perfection: “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection.” Yet immediately thereafter he adds, “The fellowship of his death” [Phil. 3:10]. With this Peter’s statement closely agrees: “God raised him from the dead and gave him glory so that our faith and hope might be in God” [1 Peter 1:21]. Not that faith, supported by his death, should waver, but that the power of God, which guards us under faith, is especially revealed in the resurrection itself.
So then, let us remember that whenever mention is made of his death alone, we are to understand at the same time what belongs to his resurrection. Also, the same synecdoche [a figure of speech in which a part represents the whole] applies to the word “resurrection”: whenever it is mentioned separately from death, we are to understand it as including what has to do especially with his death. But because by rising again he obtained the victor’s prize—that there might be resurrection and life—Paul rightly contends that “faith is annulled and the gospel empty and deceiving if Christ’s resurrection is not fixed in our hearts” [1 Cor. 15:17]. Accordingly, in another passage—after glorying in the death of Christ against the terrors of damnation—he adds by way of emphasis: surely “he who was dead has risen, and appears before God as our mediator” [Rom. 8:34].

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. Ed. John T. McNeill. Trans. Ford Lewis Battles. Vol. 1. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011. Print. The Library of Christian Classics.

I cannot say why Pastors would come out and deny the necessity of the resurrection, but I can tell you that this has been a heresy refuted by the Church from the very beginning. This is the whole point behind 1 Corinthians 15. The Church has no hope for life and ministry if it leaves the One who purchased it. But, oh, if only those who take to the pulpits of America’s churches would hold fast to the Gospel, the proclamation of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of all who believe! Then we would see renewal and reformation across the land.

Let us cling to the Risen One,
who bears the scars of Calvary,
that His glory might be known,
and grace be giv’n to you and me.

SDG

A Note for Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving Eve, I thought I’d take a break from the study of Jeremiah Burroughs’ work on the Causes, Evils, and Cures of Divisions in the Church, and offer, instead, a brief word from John Calvin on Gratitude.  This comes from the “Golden Book of the True Christian Life,” which was originally part of Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion, and is a wonderfully practical devotion on  basic Christianity.  I share today just a couple of his concluding points as a guide to gratitude in the coming celebrations.

Earthly things are gifts of God.

  • The first principle we should consider is that the use of gifts of God cannot be wrong if they are directed to the same purpose for which the Creator himself has created and destined them. For He has made the earthly blessings for our benefit, and not for our harm.
  • If we study why he has created the various kinds of food, we shall find that it was His intention not only to provide for our needs, but likewise for our pleasure and for our delight. If this were not true, the psalmist would not enumerate among the divine blessings “the wine that makes glad the heart of man, and the oil that makes his face to shine.”
  • Even the natural properties of things sufficiently point out to what purpose and to what extent we are allowed to use them. Should the Lord have attracted our eyes to the beauty of the flowers and our sense of small to pleasant odors, and should it then be sin to drink them in? Has he not made the colors so that one is more wonderful than the other? Has he not made many things worthy of our attention that go far beyond our needs (Ps. 104:15)?

True gratitude will restrain us from abuse.

  • Let us discard, therefore, that inhuman philosophy which would allow us no use of creation unless it is absolutely necessary.  Such a malignant notion deprives us of the lawful enjoyment of God’s kindness. And, it is impossible actually to accept it, until we are robbed of all our senses and reduced to a senseless block. On the other hand, we must with equal zeal fight the lusts of the flesh, for if they are not firmly restrained, they will transgress every bound.
  • If we want to curb our passions we must remember that all things were made focus, with the purpose that we may know and acknowledge their Author. We should praise his kindness toward us in earthly matters by giving Him thanks. But what will become of our thanksgiving if we indulge in dainties or wine in such a way that we are too dull to carry out those duties of devotion or of our business? Where is our acknowledgement of God, if the excesses of our body drive us to the vilest passions and infect our mind with impurity, so that we can no longer distinguish between right and wrong?
  • For many so madly pursue pleasure that their minds become enslaved to it. Many are so delighted with marble, gold, and painting, that they become like statues. The flavor of meats and the sweetness of odors make some people so stupid that they have no longer any appetite for spiritual things. And his holds for the abuse of all other natural matters.  Therefore, it is clear, that the principle of gratitude should curb our desire to abuse the divine blessings.

In short, enjoy the bounty of creation, this is God’s good gift to you. But always keep in mind it is His gift, meant to direct our devotion and gratitude, not to the gift, but to the giver.  Let gratitude keep you from taking God’s gifts for granted, and from overindulging in His gifts.

Have a very blessed Thanksgiving!

SDG