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It was preached as a major proof for Jesus' claims. But it was also used to teach many other important lessons.
If the resurrection was so important in the preaching of inspired men in the first century, surely it should be just as important in our preaching today.
We will consider how gospel preachers in the New Testament used Jesus' resurrection in their preaching. That should show us how we ought to use it in our preaching today.
Gospel preaching about the resurrection, teaches importance lessons about the following subjects:
Romans 1:4 - Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power, ... by the resurrection from the dead. The resurrection was preached to both Jews and Gentiles as a major proof of who Jesus is. Today we need similar evidence to strengthen the faith of believers and also to answer the challenges of atheists, humanists, and evolutionists.
Consider a few of the many examples where the resurrection used to confirm Jesus' claims.
Jesus claimed His resurrection fulfilled prophecy and proved Him to be the Christ predicted by Old Testament prophets.
The main purpose of Jesus' miracles was to confirm that His teaching was from God and His claims were true. When a man claimed to have a message given him directly by God, people needed some way to determine whether or not this claim was true. If that man could perform acts that are impossible by natural law, people would know God was really working through him and would believe his teaching.
In many ways, the resurrection of Jesus is the greatest miracle that ever occurred, and is the one best supported by eyewitness testimony. It proves Jesus' claims and teaching are true. Surely, God would never have raised Jesus if He were a false teacher and not who He claimed to be.
[Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3f; Acts 14:3]
Here is an example of Jesus' appearances to eyewitnesses to prove He had arisen. These appearances persuaded people to confess Jesus to be "Lord and God." While we cannot personally see Him, yet the eyewitnesses wrote what they saw so we can believe Jesus is God's Son and can have eternal life.
The power of this claim can be seen when we realize that no other major religion even claims the founder of their faith arose from the dead. No such claims are made by Judaism for Moses, nor by Islam for Mohammed, nor by Buddhists for Buddha, etc. Why not? Because it would be so difficult to convince people it had been accomplished. But Jesus not only made the claim, He presents eyewitness testimony to convince honest people it is true.
The resurrection is a unique claim of the gospel of Jesus. [Acts 13:28-37; Matthew 12:39f]
After Jesus ascended to heaven, the apostles preached (as Peter did here) that the Jews had killed Jesus, but God raised Him and the apostles were eyewitnesses that He was alive again. This had even been prophesied in the Old Testament by David. This leads to the conclusion that Jesus is both Lord and Christ [1 Corinthians 15:4; Acts 17:3]
Note the amazing fact that this was prophesied ahead of time, making it a double miracle. It requires miraculous power just to be able to predict future events and have them be fulfilled. But to prophesy a specific miraculous event, such as the resurrection, would be miraculous on both ends - both the act of prophesying and the event predicted would be miraculous.
But the resurrection was predicted, not just by Old Testament prophets, but by Jesus' Himself during His lifetime (John 2:18-22; Matthew 16:21). Note how unlikely it would be that an impostor would ever keep His following after making such a claim: he would be proved a fraud 3 days after his death.
It is very hard to take people seriously when they make predictions that they will arise from the dead at a certain time, because their predictions fail. Jesus not only made the claim, He provides multitudes of eyewitnesses that He made good His claim, and people were converted by the thousands when this claim was preached. [Matthew 17:23; 20:19; 27:63; 17:9; 26:32; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; 9:9,10; 14:28; Luke 9:23; 18:33; 24:4-7,44f.]
Imagine the power required to raise somebody from the dead. Then imagine the power required to predict ahead of time that you were going to do it. Jesus and Old Testament prophets predicted that the Christ would arise from the dead. Many eyewitnesses testify that Jesus did so, exactly when He said He would. What greater proof could anyone want that Jesus is the Son of God?
[Note also Acts 3:15; 5:30; 10:40; 13:33ff; 17:3; 17:18,31, etc.]
Three future events are connected in Scripture to Jesus' resurrection:
1 Corinthians 6:14 - God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. The same God who promised to raise Jesus, has also promised to raise us. If we believe He kept the promise to raise Jesus by His power, then we must believe He will keep His promise to raise us up by that same power. [2 Corinthians 4:14]
1 Corinthians 15 - Vv 12-14 explain that Jesus' resurrection proves men can be raised by God's power. Vv 20-23,25,26 - Jesus' resurrection is the guarantee (firstfruits) demonstrating that He will raise us up. The first fruit to ripen, from orchard or garden, gives hope of more to come. So, Jesus' resurrection assures us there will be a harvest in which we will all be raised.
[1 Thessalonians 4:13-17]
Acts 17:30,31 - The assurance that God will judge us is the fact that He raised up Jesus. In order for all to be judged, we must first come back from the dead. The fact God has already raised Jesus demonstrates His power to keep His promise to raise and then judge us.
If a man came promising to give you an new house, most of us would be skeptical. But if he could produce a number of people to whom he had already given a new house, we would be more likely to believe.
The same God who promised to raise Jesus and fulfilled that promise, has also promised to raise us and judge our lives through Jesus. If we accept the proof that Jesus was raised, then we must believe God's promise that He will judge us.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 - If there is no resurrection of the dead, then our only reward for righteousness would have to come during this life. But if we believe Jesus died and rose again (v14), then we should also believe that, when He returns, the dead will be raised and we will be with Him forever.
1 Peter 1:3,4 - We are begotten to a living hope of an eternal inheritance by the resurrection of Jesus. If we die before Jesus comes again (as most men have), then to receive this reward, we must be raised. Jesus' resurrection proves that God will keep His promise to raise and reward us.
To Christians, Jesus' resurrection is important, not just because it proves to us who He is, but also because it is the basis for the hope of our own eternal reward.
[1 Corinthians 15:9]
Besides teaching us about our eternal destiny, Jesus' resurrection can teach us important lessons about our daily life as Christians:
Acts 2:36 - Jesus' resurrection (vv 23-32) proves to us that He is Lord and Christ. Luke 6:46 - Your Lord is the one you must obey.
2 Corinthians 5:15 - Jesus died for all so we should no longer live for self but for Him who died and arose for us. By dying and rising, Jesus purchased us. He bought us with the price of His blood, so we belong to Him and ought to let Him control our lives.
Illustration: Suppose I agree to sell you my car, and you pay me the price we agree upon; but when you come to take it, I refuse to give you possession! I want you to pay for the car, but I still want to control it and use it for my purposes. Likewise, many people want Jesus to purchase them from sin - accept His payment price - but don't want to turn over control of their lives to Him.
Romans 6:4-13 - Baptism symbolizes, not just Jesus' death, but also His resurrection (vv 4,5). In baptism, we undergo a death (like Jesus died on the cross) in that the body of sin is put to death or separated from us (vv 6,7). But we also undergo a resurrection in that we should walk a new life, one set apart from sin.
Why were you baptized into Jesus' death? To get rid of sins. You need this because the wages of sin is death (v23). But if we see the value of getting rid of sin, then we should also see the value of staying away from it after we have gotten rid of it.
This is symbolized by Jesus' resurrection. Just as He was raised never to die again, so we should be forgiven never to serve sin again (vv 8-13).
The person who asks Jesus to forgive him of sin, is committing himself to dedicate his life to living apart from sin. True, if we sin again we can be forgiven again, but not if rationalize, justify, and excuse the sins and then continue to refuse to repent and change. To continue in sin is to fail to see the meaning of Jesus' resurrection.
[Romans 14:9; 1 Corinthians 6:19f]
Ephesians 1:19,20 - We can have in our lives the power of God that raised up Jesus. We have considered how great the power must be to cause the resurrection. Imagine having that kind of power working in your life!
Ephesians 6:10-13 - Here is what this power can do in our lives. When Jesus was raised, He gained His greatest victory over Satan. Likewise, we can defeat Satan in his efforts to lead us into sin if we use the power God provides.
The resurrection of Jesus teaches great lessons to Christians. It not only proves we have great blessings ahead in eternity, it also proves the great responsibilities and great power we can have in our lives now.
[Romans 8:33-35; 1 Corinthians 15:58; Philippians 3:10]
If Jesus was not raised, our faith is vain and we are yet in sin. We are saved by His life, because He had to be raised after He died or we could not be saved! [Acts 13:38,39; Hebrews 7:25]
Jesus was delivered up for our sins and raised for [because of - NKJV] our justification [i.e., because we needed it, cf. Hebrews 2:9]. His resurrection is as essential to our salvation as His death. What good would it be for Him to die, if He was not raised? Had He not been raised, Satan would be the victor. But by rising from the dead, Jesus won the final victory.
We are reconciled through Jesus' death and saved by His life.
Calvinists (including some brethren) say this means Jesus' sinless life is imputed to us: God gives us credit for the good deeds Jesus did. If we sin, they say God just sees Jesus' good deeds in us and overlooks our sins, even if we never repent or ask forgiveness. So they fellowship all who have been baptized, even though they teach and practice error.
Where does the passage say that Jesus' sinless character or deeds are credited to us, or people are counted sinless even when they don't repent? Such a doctrine contradicts many other passages. Jesus' sinless life is no more imputed to us than Adam's sin is imputed to us [Ezekiel 18:20].
The "life" by which we are saved refers to Jesus' resurrection. We are reconciled by His death and saved by His life. Note that the death came first, then came the life. The "life" that saves is Jesus' life after the death: i.e., His resurrection. This simply confirms what we already learned from other passages.
Note how every condition of forgiveness and eternal life is tied by Scriptures to Jesus' resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 - To be saved, we must hear and believe the gospel, including the message of the resurrection.
Acts 17:30,31 - All are commanded to repent because we will be judged. What is the proof that this is true? The assurance of this is the fact Jesus was raised.
Just as surely as Jesus was raised from the dead, just that surely all men must repent of their sins in order to be ready for judgment. Have you repented?
Romans 10:9,10 - We must believe in the resurrection and confess Christ as Lord to be saved
Did you know that people cannot be saved who do not believe in Jesus' resurrection? Many people claim to be Christians - even prominent denominational preachers - who doubt or deny Jesus' resurrection. The gospel says that, to be saved, you must believe God has raised Him from the dead.
It is not enough to believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for your sins. You must also believe that He arose from the dead!
Then you must confess Christ as your Lord: the one who has the right to control your life. But remember that His resurrection is what proves He is Lord (1:4)
1 Peter 3:21 - In likeness to Noah's salvation, baptism saves us by the resurrection of Jesus. If you believe that Jesus' resurrection is essential to our salvation, that you must also understand that baptism is essential in order for you to be saved by the resurrection.
Colossians 2:12,13 - As in Romans 6:3-5, we are buried and raised with Christ in baptism. Forgiveness of sins gives us new life with Him. This new life refers to being "born again" to become a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). This occurs in baptism, not before. If you believe that Jesus' resurrection is essential to the new birth, then you must also understand that baptism is essential in order for you to be born again.
Note also the implication that baptism must be an immersion, for we are buried and raised with Him. Sprinkling and pouring do not satisfy, because they do not properly symbolize Jesus' burial or His resurrection.
And remember that we have already emphasized that Jesus' resurrection teaches that baptism must be followed by a faithful life.
Do you believe the evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead? If so, then you must accept the consequence that He is the Son of God. You must also believe that someday He will judge you and give you eternal life, if you obey the gospel and then live a faithful life. When people do not properly respond to the gospel, they demonstrate that they do not truly appreciate the meaning of Jesus' resurrection.
Copyright 2007 David E. Pratte; www.gospelway.com
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Second Coming of Jesus
Jesus' Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection
What Claims Did Jesus Make?
Deity of Jesus: God in the Flesh
Evidences for God, Jesus, & the Bible
Saul's Conversion & Jesus' Resurrection
The Bible Claims to Inspiration
The Importance of Bible Instruction
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.