Dr. L. Nelson Bell, a distinguished physician, writer, missionary to China and father of Ruth Graham, said: “There is no sadder commentary in contemporary theological deviations than the contortions of those who evade, spiritualize or deny the fact of the Resurrection. Without the Resurrection, there is no Christianity.”
The Scriptures confirm this. “[This is] the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to youtextunless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you … that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, NKJV).
The Apostle Paul wrote about the implications of the death and Resurrection of Christ. He stated that this truth was to be personally experienced: “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10, NKJV).
Paul’s passion was to go beyond the common understanding of the Gospel faith. He maintained a holy fear that God’s grace and his own preaching would be in vain without the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Before his conversion, Paul attempted to establish his own personal perfection before God. He boasts, “Once I had confidence in myself” (Cf. Philippians 3:4). After his conversion he realized it was futiletexta total wastetextcompared to the “excellence of the knowledge of Christ” (Philippians 3:8, NKJV).
To know Christ is to renounce any human effort and value that could gain favor from God. Acceptance by God is through Christ alone, for the Lord is our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6).
Here, then, is the process for acceptance by God: knowledge to faith, and faith to experience. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17, NKJV). Some would redefine the approach to God, emphasizing the relevance of experiences instead of the primacy of the Word of God. But the Scriptures insist that the heart must be convicted of its wicked reliance on self, that each person must repent and must have faith in Christ’s atoning death and victorious Resurrection. The confession of faith in the Resurrection verifies the power of God in salvation (Romans 10:9-10).
What is this power?
The power of the Resurrection is the continued effect of the saving righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul defines the essence of his message, “We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord” (2 Corinthians 4:5, NKJV). Because He is risen, His full name now expresses the summary of the Gospel. At His birth He is named Jesus, “for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, NKJV). In His ministry He is Christ, the Messiah (Matthew 16:16). But by His resurrection from the dead He is “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness” (Romans 1:4, NKJV). This was the ultimate message for the Church, birthed at Pentecost.
Peter, full of the Holy Spirit, preached, “This Jesus God has raised up … [and] exalted to the right hand of God. … God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:32-33, 36, NKJV). This theme continues throughout the New Testament. The words of Scripture are inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16) and inerrantly, writers were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Like a heat-seeking missile toward the target, the Word of God accurately reveals the purpose of God.
The selection of the titles of our Lord in Scripture give glorious insights. For example, the Lord Jesus is called “Savior” two times in the Book of Acts, but He is called “Lord” more than 90 times in the same book. The first-century Church had “great power … [and] gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all” (Acts 4:33, NKJV). The new Christian community in Jerusalem lived out His ruling presence as their Lord in sacrificial giving, compassion toward the needy, a new unity, bold witnessing and a holy fear following sinful hypocrisy (see Acts 4 and 5). Since Christ is risen, Paul writes, “so we also should walk in newness of life. … Reckon yourselves dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:4, 11, NKJV). This total life change can ensue only from the efficacy of the death, Resurrection and the virtues of the risen Lord.
As the death of Christ removes the penalty of sin and declares the believer to be righteous before God, the Resurrection of the Lord empowers the believer in a transformed life. Both aspects are divine works of grace. By Christ’s Crucifixion, He becomes my Savior; by His Resurrection, He becomes my Lord.
Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!