Wednesday, October 26, 2016

First Things First: Bodily Resurrection

In this series, I'll be going through the first column of my doctrinal perspectives chart, defining each topic and defending its priority. Reference the chart for more information.

Doctrine: Bodily resurrection of Christ

Definition: After dying on the cross, Jesus was resurrected in His physical body never to die again

Why it's primary: The resurrection of Christ is clearly a paramount doctrine in Paul's philosophy of Christianity. He says, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain...And if Christ has not been raised your faith is futile and you are still in your sins," (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17). A literal, physical resurrection is an essential part of the gospel.

In his sermon at Pentecost, Peter delivered the gospel to the Jews. He expressed to them in the clearest terms the fact that Jesus was crucified and died: "This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men," (Acts 2:23). In the next verse he says, "God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it," (emphasis added).

There's much to dwell on in this short excerpt from such a great sermon. For immediate purposes, though, it's enough to focus on the reason why Jesus was physically resurrected.

Two terms are found in the English translation of the Greek New Testament that are incredibly important in each reader's interpretation of the text. The two terms are "because" and "so that." It may seem strange that these would carry weight since they are both so common; however, all words convey ideas and there are major ideas expressed through these terms. "Because" will often express reason and "so that" will express purpose.

Here are some examples:

Example A: I am going to the store because we need more bread.
-For what reason (i.e., Why) am I going to the store? I am going to the store because we need more bread.
Example B: I am going to the store so that I can buy bread for us.
-For what purpose (i.e., Why) am I going to the store? I am going to the store so that I can buy bread for us.

Peter's explanation of the physical resurrection of Christ follows Example A above. His defense of the risen Savior did not have to do with God's ultimate purpose in this instance. Rather, he appealed to natural law. He defended a physical resurrection with a physical principle.

God the Father raised up God the Son because it was not possible for Him to be held by death.

Peter was able to plainly state the resurrection of Jesus from the dead as an acceptable fact due to the superior, transcendent nature of Christ over death. After all, death is a result of sin (see the article on that here) and all die because all sin. Jesus Messiah, on the other hand, never sinned (Hebrews 4:15) and therefore could never permanently die. It was not possible for Him to sin; it was not possible for Him to be held captive by death.

This all ties in with the gospel because fallen, sinful, imperfect man is in need of a pure and perfect Savior. If Jesus never physically rose again it would mean two things: (1) He was in sin just like the rest of mankind and (2) He didn't make a perfect sacrifice. The sacrifice had to be pure (read that here) and Christ's sacrifice was just that. His physical, bodily resurrection proves it.

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