The Resurrection is "Of First Importance"
- Monday, March 25, 2013
I realized part of the power of the resurrection as a college student. Ironically, it was as a religion student at a Christian university that I began to wonder, "Is this Bible stuff for real?" I began asking questions within a few weeks of taking my first Old Testament Bible class. Issues that now appear simple in retrospect loomed like a towering wall of doubt that cast a dark shadow over both my head and my heart. My Bible professor asked questions I had never considered before, like the problems with a literal reading of Genesis 1. He asked why Ruth 1 would be in the Bible when the book didn’t even mention God. Similarly, he suggested that the Song of Solomon 1 was... well, about something besides the love of Christ for His church.
These questions don’t bother me as much now, but at the time I wasn’t even vaguely prepared to consider these issues. The questions then were exceptionally difficult to deal with, especially since for the two previous years I read my Bible almost nightly. Bible reading had become as much a part of my daily routing as brushing my teeth. At age 16, I discovered the power of daily Bible reading, and it changed me for the better – God became “real” to me. However, now that I had the chance to read and study the Bible with a scholar, I didn’t know what to do with it.
Nonetheless, I went to worship services, got involved in campus ministry groups, and worked for a Christian summer camp. Seasons of doubt and belief came and went. Then, the summer after my junior year, I discovered Josh McDowell’s More Than a Carpenter. I’m intrigued to think how such a simple book could impact a then third-year religion major, but after finishing McDowell’s book, I was convinced – the resurrection really happened. Confidence in the resurrection made everything else seem like a minor, secondary issue.
Today I find myself returning to the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. Paul says, "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me." For Paul, Christ's resurrection was of "first importance." The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 explains why the resurrection is so important. Similarly, Christ's resurrection became of first importance for my own faith, impacting it in two ways. First, the resurrection made faith more reasonable. Second, the resurrection made despair less reasonable.
THE RESURRECTION MAKES FAITH MORE REASONABLE
After reading More Than a Carpenter, there were a variety of reasons that the resurrection seemed reasonable. There were four issues that particularly struck me then, and continue to make sense to me today. The following points are the way I explain these issues to my students today.
1. Who would knowingly die for a lie?
Admittedly, people do die for something that is not true. However, who willingly dies fully knowing that what they claim is untrue? As far as we know, the disciples did not benefit from their claims about the resurrection of Jesus. Both the book of Acts and Church tradition suggest that the disciples received rebuke and persecution for their claims. So why put up with such tribulation if you know that what you claim is false?
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