Saturday, April 25, 2020


The resurrection, an event recorded in all four Gospels, referred to in the New Testament epistles, including the earliest of Paul's, and attested to in Acts, is one of those stumbling blocks that naturalistic readers find least easy to accept, and that embarrass even some committed Christians. Yet Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 most strikingly, but elsewhere as well, makes the resurrection of Christ the cornerstone of our hope.

Michael J Gorman writes,

For the apostle Paul, the resurrection of Christ was not merely one among many Christian convictions; it was the one that guaranteed the significance of all others and provided the rationale for the life of faith, hope and love expected of those who live in Christ. From Paul's perspective, to deny or misinterpret the resurrection is to undermine the entire Christian faith.

In his response to the Corinthians who denied the resurrection of the dead, Paul argued logically that if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, he says, "your faith is vain; you are still in your sins" (1 Cor 15:17). That is, Christ's death on the cross for sins (see 1 Cor 15:3) has no saving significance without the resurrection. It is merely the Roman crucifixion of a false messiah...

We must stress here one key point that contemporary Christians often fail to understand or try to avoid: that Christ's resurrection was a bodily resurrection. Paul was a Pharisee, not a Platonist, and he did not believe in the immortality of a body-less soul. Bodily resurrection does not mean simply the resuscitation of a corpse, but neither is it merely a metaphor for Christ’s ongoing existence in the Church as His body, or something similar.

Paul's Corinthian audience was apparently confused about the corporeality of resurrection, too, so the apostle develops some elaborate analogies to help the Corinthians understand that bodily resurrection means transformation, and thus both continuity and discontinuity with respect to our current bodily existence (see 1 Cor 15:35-57).

So much of our Christian hope makes little sense without the Spirit. As I mentioned in my last blog post, "The same Spirit which inspired the writers of the Bible is the Spirit which gives us understanding of it..." (London Yearly Meeting 1986 - Quaker faith & practice 27.34) But if Tom Wright is correct, there is abundant textual and historical evidence that makes perfect sense if a physical resurrection is a matter of fact, and very little sense otherwise.

Henri Nouwen, in one of the Daily Reflections published on the Nouwen Society's website, wrote:

The resurrection of Jesus is the basis of our faith in the resurrection of our bodies.  Often we hear the suggestion that our bodies are the prisons of our souls and that the spiritual life is the way out of these prisons.  But by our faith in the resurrection of the body we proclaim that the spiritual life and the life in the body cannot be separated.  Our bodies, as Paul says, are temples of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19) and, therefore, sacred.  The resurrection of the body means that what we have lived in the body will not go to waste but will be lifted in our eternal life with God.  As Christ bears the marks of his suffering in his risen body, our bodies in the resurrection will bear the marks of our suffering.  Our wounds will become signs of glory in the resurrection…

John Ortberg is well aware of the staggering implications of a belief based on such a claim:

There is a second revolution. This time we know the revolutionary's name. We know where he lived. We know how he lived. We know what he taught. We know how he died. This is, Jesus said, the way life works. You have to be willing to sacrifice something if anything is ever going to be the way it is supposed to be. No sacrifice, no harvest. Only it isn't seeds this time; this time it's you.

What got released on [Easter] Sunday was hope. Not hope that life would turn out well. Hope that called people to die: die to selfishness and sin and fear and greed, die to the lesser life of a lesser self so that a greater self might be born. And many people did. This hope changed things. Because of their belief in the resurrection of the body. Because of Sunday.

A hope that is not only undefeated by the possibility of death; a hope that calls us to die, metaphorically or literally, is an indefatigable hope, a faith and a hope that endures all things (1 Corinthians 13); a hope that in the end is indistinguishable from love. It is out of this love that we can pray, and out of his glorious risen life that our Lord Jesus is in truth the Christ, the mercy of God:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV)

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