*This post is an excerpt from my latest book A Journey to the Cross
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (v14)
A gospel without the resurrection isn’t really the Gospel.
Let’s ponder that for a moment. If an unbelieving friend were to ask you, “What’s the Gospel?” What would you say? I imagine most Christians would say something to the effect of “Jesus died on the cross for my sins.” This is definitely a significant piece of the Gospel. Paul says so in v3. Jesus’ death offers forgiveness. It brings about reconciliation. And it sets us free. All of that is good news. However, His death isn’t the full story. At best, it’s only fifty percent.
Another way to rephrase the opening statement would be, the cross isn’t good news if it doesn’t include the resurrection.
The astounding claim about Jesus in the New Testament is that He’s Lord of all! But if death ultimately beats Jesus at the cross, isn’t death, and the sin that causes death, the real ruler of the world? Therefore, without the resurrection, all the benefits of the cross are called into question. And if that’s the case, as Paul says, we’re still enslaved to sin and death. Therefore, we’re not really forgiven, reconciled, or free.
The reason all the disciples abandoned Jesus at His arrest (Mark 14:50) and death was that they had no category for a defeated or dead Messiah. In their minds, a crucified Messiah was a failure. A dead savior doesn’t save anyone. And in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul states explicitly that if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, our faith is useless. He even goes on to say it’s futile (v17). The disciples were confronted with this reality at Jesus' death. After abandoning Him, they hid away for fear that they might be next. While in hiding, they must have wrestled with the question of whether or not the last three years of their lives had been a waste of time. They had nothing to show for their cause except a dead leader.
But three days later, everything changed.
In 1 Corinthians 15:5, Paul writes that Jesus appeared to the twelve disciples. Meaning, because they were in hiding, He had to go look for them because they weren’t on the lookout for Him. It wasn’t as though they were waiting by the tomb on Sunday morning wondering when Jesus was going to walk out of the grave. They didn’t expect resurrection. But once they experienced it, everything changed. We see in the book of Acts that the fear that had driven them to hide, had melted away. Their faith was reignited. They banded together to become a courageous and unstoppable force that spread the message of God’s salvation to the entire world.
Faith for faith’s sake is useless. It’s the object of our faith, not the faith itself, that saves us. The good news of the Gospel is that we have a risen Savior, not only a crucified one. Salvation from death was secured when Jesus defeated it three days after He was crucified. Without the resurrection, our faith means nothing.
We all go through seasons in our spiritual journey when our faith is up and down. Sometimes it’s strong, and we’re bold and courageous. Other times it’s weak, and we want to run and hide. But it’s important to remember that it’s not about our faith. It’s about the person in which we place it.
So, no matter what season we're in, we must remember that Jesus has been raised from the dead. And because of that, no matter if it’s strong or weak, our faith isn’t useless. Because of the resurrection, it has the power to save.
1. How would you describe your faith in this season of your spiritual journey?
2. How have you seen a deeper understanding of the resurrection impacted your faith?