The Resurrection: Why a Defense?
An Essay By Benjamin // 3/30/2013
Perhaps the most common challenge faced by Christians throughout history is a challenge to the historicity of the Resurrection. Time and time again, the foes of Christianity have arrayed their forces against the factuality of the Resurrection, seeking to destroy this doctrine. As much today as in times past, the Christian must be prepared to withstand all such arguments, as we take captive every thought to the dominion of Christ.
But why should we defend the Resurrection? Of what significance is this doctrine to the Christian faith? In the first part of this essay, we will be examining the doctrinal significance of the Resurrection. After all, why should we care about the evidence for the Resurrection when we don’t understand its significance to Christianity? It would be utterly absurd, like arguing whether President Obama ate a banana yesterday for breakfast. If there is no importance to the argument, then the reason to argue disappears. This is why, in this first part, we will examine the reason for the defense.
The Apostle Paul clearly recognized the doctrinal importance of the Resurrection, for he wrote, “I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). According to Paul, the Resurrection is one of those doctrines that are “most important.”
But why is it of such importance? Paul makes clear this reason just a few verses further, where we read, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (Corinthians 15:17). Our very salvation is dependent upon Christ’s resurrection from the dead! But how can this be? Did not Christ bear the penalty for the sins of His people? And is not His perfect righteousness imputed to those who believe in His name? How then does Paul claim that our salvation is dependent on Christ’s Resurrection as well as His death? At first, these questions seem quite valid. Christ bore our sins, thus earning our forgiveness, and provided for us a perfect righteousness, available by imputation. He saved us from hell, and earned for us a place in heaven. What more is necessary for our salvation?
However, let us consider what hope for salvation we could have without the Resurrection. For what salvation could we have if Christ lay still in the tomb? Or, as John Calvin once put it, “What remains if Christ has been swallowed up by death – if he has been overwhelmed by the curse of sin – if, in fine, he has been overcome by Satan?” For if Christ has not risen, death has conquered, Satan is triumphant, and Christ, our only hope for salvation is utterly vanquished by the very powers which He was to save us from. If there is no Resurrection, then we are truly without hope and the dominion of sin is set up anew. For how can Christ rescue us from sin if He himself is defeated? As John Calvin said, “he cannot be the author of salvation to others, who has been altogether vanquished by death.” If Christ is still dead, we may as well turn to Mohammed or Buddha for salvation, for we certainly won’t find it in Christ.
Phillip Schaff once said, “The Resurrection of Christ is therefore emphatically a test question upon which depends the truth or falsehood of the Christian religion. It is either the greatest miracle or the greatest delusion which history records.” If Christ lives and has risen from the dead, then we can turn in confidence to Him for our salvation, for if He can rise from the dead, then surely He can bring about our own eternal life. But if He still lies in the tomb, then, as Paul writes, “we are of all men the most pitiable.” If Christ has not risen, we have trusted in Him in vain and will find our hope all for naught. Without Christ’s resurrection, there is no hope of salvation.
However, because of the resurrection, we have this confidence: that God has accepted the work of Christ. He has acknowledged Christ’s propitiation and active obedience, granting full atonement and justification to those who believe. God has accepted Christ’s work in its entirety, and in so doing, has accepted us because of it. The resurrection is truly the basis for our salvation in every way.
In addition, to this, the resurrection is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. The founders of every other religion remain in the grave, venerated in their final resting place on earth. But not Christ! Those that worship Him need not visit His tomb to pay homage. Instead, as Randy Singer wrote, “we make an audacious claim that no other religion even attempts to make: we worship a risen Savior.” No other religion has ever claimed an empty tomb for its founder, whether, Buddha, Confucius, or Mohammed. Only the Christian can claim to follow a living savior!
The Resurrection sets Christianity apart in one other way. Christ has been, in Paul’s words, “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” Of course, there are numerous other reasons for belief in the deity of Christ, but none so convincing as the Resurrection. Every religion has claimed to know and teach truth. But no other religion can validate its teachings with such an event as the Resurrection. Among all the founders of any religion, only Christ has proven the truth of His teachings, by His resurrection from the dead!
Christianity is the only religion to be validated, and that by an act so marvelous as Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It is in the resurrection that the Christian can find confidence that the promises of salvation will be delivered, confidence in the sovereign power of Christ over sin, over Satan, and over death!
It is the Resurrection that enables us to cry out, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) Thus, removing the Resurrection from the Christian faith is similar in effect to removing the oxygen from a glass of water! As such, it is paramount importance that the Christian stand ready to defend its historicity and truth. H.P. Lidden stated it well when he said, “Faith in the Resurrection is the keystone of the arch of the Christian faith, when it is removed, all must inevitably crumble into ruin.”
Let us then stand firm on the Resurrection, for it is the foundation of our faith. We must not be surprised, then, when the foes of Christ assemble against its truth. Instead, it is of paramount importance that we stand with a ready defense, that we might take captive every thought to the dominion of Christ!