by Mike Ratliff
18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken. John 2:18-22 (NASB)
Without the resurrection of Christ, Christianity is just another religion based on ancient teachings of Men. It was the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection that God used in light of the teachings from Scripture to bring Jesus’ disciples into belief. His resurrection is what God uses in the Gospel to make it real in the hearts of those whom He effectually calls and regenerates. In other words saving faith’s reality is the Risen Christ.
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 (NASB)
1 Γνωρίζω δὲ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε, 2 διʼ οὗ καὶ σῴζεσθε, τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν εἰ κατέχετε, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 (NA28)
The Corinthians were saved through the preaching of the Gospel and that included the resurrection of our Lord. They received it and are standing in it and are being saved by it. The word “saved” in v2 translates the Greek verb σῴζεσθε (sōzesthe) the present tense, passive voice, indicative mood of σώζω (sōzō), which means, “save, deliver, restore to health, rescue.” However, the present tense means this action is taking place now and is continuous. The passive voice means that the salvation is taking place to the object of the verb not the object of the verb doing the action. That is very important to grasp. The indicative voice is also telling us that this action is taking place in the present. Therefore that one verb, sōzesthe, is often translated as, “you are being saved.” That means that Paul is telling the Corinthians that they are being made whole or complete, or are being saved concurrently while Paul is writing this passage. The Gospel has saved them (justified them) and is still saving them (sanctifying them) through its power. As we have seen, sanctification is the progressive redemption of a Christian through God’s power in removing them from sin and and its decaying power in their hearts. It is the reality of Christ’s resurrection that engenders hope in them. This hope is supernatural because it is part of genuine saving faith which exists only in the regenerate.
Paul recognizes that it is possible that some of the Corinthians may have believed in vain. That means these have a shallow, non-saving faith. These have entered by way of the broad gate rather than the narrow gate.
13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:13-14 (NASB)
“Both the narrow gate and the wide gate are assumed to provide entrance to God’s kingdom. Two ways are offered to people. The narrow gate is by faith, only through Christ, constricted and precise. It represents true salvation in God’s way that leads to life eternal. The wide gate includes all religions of works and self-righteousness, with no single way (cf. Acts 4:12), but leads to hell, not heaven.” – John MacArthur
Those who have believed in vain have done so as the demons believed (James 2:19). That means that they are convinced that the Gospel is true, but they are not regenerate so they have no love for God, our Lord, and righteousness. In contrast, those who have entered by the narrow gate, genuine believers, abide in Christ and “hold fast” to the Gospel.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 (NASB)
Christ’s death on the cross, his burial, and resurrection from the dead were prophesied in the Old Testament. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Peter, and Paul all quoted or referred to those passages. This is Paul’s first witness for his case for the genuineness of the doctrine of the resurrection. Then he gives us his next set of witnesses which are eyewitnesses to it. These were all recorded in the New Testament as support for the reality of Christ’s resurrection. Except for His appearing to Paul, the appearances listed in this passage took place in the 40 days prior to Christ’s Ascension. Even though Paul was an Apostle indeed, he was not saved until after Christ ascended. Paul’s salvation took place on the road to Damascus as he traveled to persecute the Christians there. (Acts 9:1-8; Acts 18:9,10; Acts 23:11; 2 Corinthians 12:1-7) Our Lord revealed Himself to Paul according to God’s purpose. He made Paul an Apostle. He was the last “one sent.” In other words, there are no more Apostles after Paul. Even though Paul had apostolic authority and God used him mightily in the Kingdom, he considered himself to be the least Apostle because he had persecuted the Church prior to his salvation.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 1 Corinthians 15:9-11 (NASB)
Paul knew that his ministry was God’s work through him. Here we also see that belief in Christ comes through the preaching of the Gospel. This is the “Good News” that God has provided the only way to escape His wrath for all people are children of wrath at birth. The genuine Gospel shows people the awful truth about their lost condition and what will happen to them unless God does something. That something is the narrow gate, our Lord Jesus Christ who is the only way of escape. That thing that cements the Good News as a reality is the proof of the resurrection. It proves to us that our salvation is supernatural and a work of God. Those who have believed are saved by faith through grace. The reality of that faith is the Risen Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria!