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If Jesus Hadn’t Risen Would You Still Be a Christian?

by Bob Russell

If it could be proven that Jesus didn’t really conquer the grave would you still be a Christian? If archeologists in Jerusalem discovered the body of Jesus of Nazareth would you remain a follower of Christ? Would you keep living for Jesus because of His compassionate example, His inspirational teaching, His noble moral standards? Or would you abandon any pretense of following in His footsteps?

If Jesus had not risen from the dead I would not be a Christian because that would make Jesus a false prophet. He clearly predicted on several occasions that He would conquer the grave. Matthew 20:18-19 records Him saying, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

Jesus made it so apparent that He was going to come back from the grave that His enemies stationed Roman soldiers to guard His tomb to prevent His disciples from stealing the body and claiming He had fulfilled His promise. If He didn’t do it then Jesus would be a liar and unworthy of our allegiance.

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead our sins aren’t forgiven. The resurrection verifies Jesus’ identify as the Son of God and proves the efficacy of His atoning death. But if the resurrection didn’t happen, the idea of His paying for our sins on the cross is a myth. The Apostle Paul expressed that succinctly in 1 Corinthians 15: “If Christ has not been raised your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.…If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Cor. 15: 14, 17 & 19)

Also, if Jesus has not risen from the dead there would be no hope of us conquering death. If Jesus, who lived a perfect life, didn’t raise from the dead, those of us who are imperfect have zero chance of doing so. That would make following Christ a dead-end journey. Why bother to sacrifice worldly pleasure or possessions? Why take the initiative to be generous or compassionate toward others? If all we are is just road-kill, if we die and vaporize, then our lives are meaningless.

If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead you probably wouldn’t be a Christian either because it’s doubtful you would have heard about Him. His First Century followers would have remained in hiding and His life-story would have been quickly forgotten. The New Testament wouldn’t have been written, the disciples wouldn’t have been martyred, the current calendar wouldn’t have been implemented, the church wouldn’t have been established and influential leaders like Saul of Tarsus would never have been transformed.

But praise God, the story of Easter is true! The spectacular miracle of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave really happened! ”But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

Jesus didn’t just speculate about the possibility of life after death, He personally demonstrated it. His disciples were so emboldened by His resurrection appearances that they were willing to be martyred for their faith. And we are assured, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you.” (Romans 8:11)

Several years ago I was a guest on a local radio talk show. The host was uncertain about his personal beliefs but seemed to be honestly seeking the truth. During a break in the program he asked me a few difficult questions about the Christian faith. I responded, “To me, everything centers on Jesus’ resurrection. If Jesus Christ literally conquered the grave that changes everything.” He thought for minute and mused, “I agree. That’s huge.”

I think many who call themselves Christians don’t see the issue as clearly as that radio personality did that night. We underestimate the importance of Easter. Easter is the hinge of history. The Apostle Paul considered the resurrection of Christ the preeminent doctrine of our faith. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

A belief in the bodily resurrection is so pivotal to the Christian faith that Paul considered it essential for salvation. “If you confess with your mouth, ’Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) You can waver on a few Biblical doctrines but the reality of Easter isn’t negotiable.

“But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)


   Bob Russell is retired minister of the Southeast Christian Church, Louisville, KY.

Gleaned from www.bobrussell.org

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If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:8