Belief in Christ's Resurrection Not OptionalA Toronto church chose to dispense of Jesus in reference to the Resurrection this past Easter.
Having just celebrated Holy Week (the name I prefer to "Easter," which all too often merely conjures up visions of bunny rabbits and chocolate eggs), which culminates with the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead, it behooves us to reflect seriously on the true meaning of this miracle in relation to our faith.
Can we be true Christians without believing that Jesus rose from the dead?
According to a recent news report, at least one church in our land thinks it is time to change our thinking about the biblical account of the resurrection. The item is titled "Taking Christ out of Christianity" and is from the March 22, 2008, edition of the Globe & Mail:
That triumphal barnburner of an Easter hymn, Jesus Christ Has Risen Today - Hallelujah, this morning will rock the walls of Toronto's West Hill United Church as it will in most Christian churches across the country.
But at West Hill on the faith's holiest day, it will be done with a huge difference. The words "Jesus Christ" will be excised from what the congregation sings and replaced with 'Glorious hope.'"
Needless to say this is a far cry from the stated beliefs espoused by this church's denomination as set forth in the Apostles Creed.
I quote from that creed as follows. It says of Jesus that He ". . . was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead . . ."
Since the Gospel is mainly concerned with saving us humans from our sinful and lost condition and restoring us to fellowship with God our creator, it is crucial that we "get it right."
We cannot "get it right" without believing that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The Apostle Paul sets us straight on this fundamental and crucial point. Speaking to the believers of his day and to us, he says: "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection from the dead, then Christ is not risen, and if Christ is not risen then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty" (1 Corinthians 15:12-14).
No resurrection of Christ – no salvation! It's as simple as that.
We are not really Christians if we deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, a fact so intimately connected with the ultimate resurrection of all believers at His Second Coming.
To quote Paul again: "If in this life only we have believed in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable." Ah, but he doesn't stop there, thank God. "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:19-20). Hallelujah!
Believing that God raised Jesus from the dead is of course not the sum total of the Christian faith but it is an indispensable link to our final redemption.
Hear Paul's prayer for us, "…that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.
“That power is like the working of His mighty strength which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 1:18-20, NIV).
Spiritually speaking, as far as believers are concerned, God has already "raised us up together and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6). Practically speaking, in our everyday lives, we are to show forth the risen Christ who has saved us to eternal life by His grace.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Bert Warden is a former missionary and retired C&MA pastor. He and his wife Lena are members of Sevenoaks Alliance Church in Abbotsford.
Originally published in Abbotsford Mission Times, March 28, 2008.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2008 Christianity.ca.