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

The Offensive Gospel

It’s hazardous to preach the Gospel these days, as any offense made in our culture of “openness and toleration” will eventually get you canceled. We see this happening where Pastors are imprisoned for preaching the Word of God, calling all sinners (including those caught in sexual sin) to the grace of repentance and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. We read of people being silenced on Social Media for holding to Biblical teaching on morality and decency, while pornographic messages are freely displayed and celebrated. Faithfulness to the Gospel will win you no friends in this world today.

But this cancellation doesn’t necessarily come from those outside the Church. Preach the Gospel faithfully, consistently, and boldly, and there will even be some within the pews that will not like what they hear, and will either leave or work to push the pastor out the doors. The Gospel, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians is folly to those who are perishing.

On this note I wanted to share something that I read in D. Lloyd-Jones’ message on Romans 1:16-17 on the Gospel of God. Lloyd-Jones writes,

The gospel of Jesus Christ is always offensive to the natural man. If you find the natural, unregenerate man praising either the preacher or his message then, I say, you had better examine that preaching and that preacher very carefully. There are many ways in which we gospel is presented which are not offensive. Have we not read or heard sermons from those who depict Christ as a great hero and example? No one has ever been offended by that; in fact the world likes it. You present Christ as a great exemplar, and people will say, “That’s fine, that is marvelous.” What they are really saying is this: “Now I am going to follow Him; I am going to be like that. I can, of course! I have simply to make the effort.” There he I, rise up and go after Him. And the people are ready to do it because they think they are capable of doing it. When you tell them that He is One whom they cannot imitate, that He condemns all, then they will begin to show their teeth and hate your for it; but present Him as a hero, it will not annoy them.

Or again, take Christ’s teaching. The teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ is presented by some people as the most beautiful teaching in the world. The world likes it for that reason; it believes that it can take it up and put it into practice. But when the Sermon on the Mount is truly preached, when a man begins to know that it is to be “pour in spirit” and to “mourn,” and to have a “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” when he faces the real spiritual exposition of the law, he hates it because it condemns him; he does not want to feel “poor in spirit.” If we preach the gospel as beautiful teaching it will never annoy; it will never hurt.

Or how often is the Lord Jesus Christ presented as someone who can help us with our problems? “Are you in trouble? Is some sin getting you down? He is waiting for you, and He will take all your troubles away.” That never offends anybody. Such a “gospel” cannot offend people, because they are in trouble and they want help, and here is someone who is ready to help them at any moment. They only have to come to Him and He will do everything for them. Oh, how often has the Christ, the Son of God, been preached as if He were but a super-psychologist, who can help people to resolve their difficulties and to solve their problems and put everything right, and make them happy once and for ever! That does not offend anybody.

Do you know it is possible to preach the cross of Christ in a way that makes people applaud it? It is possible to preach it in such a way that it does not offend anybody. When the cross is truly preached it is a stumblingblock to Jews; it is folly to the Greeks. They hate it. It is an offense. And it is an offense to the natural man today.

The offense of the cross is this – that I am so condemned and so lost and so hopeless that if He, if Jesus Christ, had not died for me, I would never know God, and I could never be forgiven. And that hurts; that annoys; that tells me I am hopeless, that I am vile, that I am useless; and as a natural man I do not like it.

D.M. Lloyd-Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 1, The Gospel of God. (The Banner of Truth Trust; 2020) Pages 26264-266.

What we have to come to terms with is the humbling, wounding, offensive reality of the Gospel. We must come to see it as God’s merciful truth, painful though it may be. Only then can we understand the fact that, though I am hopeless, vile, useless before God in my sins, God has laid upon Christ my sin so that through faith in Him I have forgiveness and peace.

Though the world will certainly block their ears and cover their eyes, though the Church will certainly face growing tribulation because of it, we must never be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is an offense to the natural man, but there is no shame in it, for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

SDG