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