Monday, July 16, 2018

A Powerful Fact of the Gospel

     In the book Great Preaching on the Resurrection, Christian theologian W. B. Riley makes an interesting point when he writes:
"[The Old Testament scholar Hermann] Gunkel tells us that they claimed an empty grave for Zeus in Crete. What if they did? What came of it? Who became apostles of that faith? What proof of their position did they present? What movement dominating the centuries did they originate?"1 

     It wasn't until after the apostles saw the risen Christ in the flesh that they turned the world upside down.  They couldn't stop talking about it and telling people what they saw. Take a look at Peter's first sermon in the book of Acts where he  boldly preaches the Gospel to the unbelieving Jews and 3,000 people got saved! Pastor Chuck Swindoll, the founder of Insight for Living and Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, affirms:
Look at [Acts] chapter two, verse 41 . . . . ‘Those who believed’ what Peter said (this is a reference to Peter’s first sermon, which we’ve not taken the time to go into; you’ve read it, and we’ve studied it before); ‘Those who believed’ what Peter said (that’s the Gospel), they believed that Christ died, and was buried, and that Christ rose again from the dead - miraculously and bodily, and was seen by those around Him, and they believed in Jesus Christ with their hearts, and they believed the message, that’s called the Gospel, and the result is they were baptized, and added to the church that day about 3,000.”2

     The power that transformed the apostles was the fact that they saw the resurrected Jesus! Not merely that someone told them about the resurrection of Jesus, but they saw Him! And He wasn't a ghost. Jesus said to the apostles after His resurrection: "Look at My hands and My feet. It is I Myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have" (Luke 24:39). This highlights the fact that the groundless gospel which excludes Christ's resurrection appearances from the gospel is in other words the ghostly gospel! The groundless gospel of the non-buried and never-seen savior is the ghostly gospel! But the risen Christ manifested was the power which enabled the apostles to "turn the world upside down" (Acts 17:6, ESV) and led to the founding of the Christian community. Reginald Fuller writes: 
"We conclude, therefore, that the appearances to Peter and to the Twelve share a common function. In these appearances the Risen One initiates the foundation of the eschatological community: they are 'church-founding appearances'".3 

Similarly, Thiselton writes: 
"Our understanding of the fourth line [of 1 Corinthians 15:3-5], 'He appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve' (v. 5), cannot be isolated from all of these major considerations set forth already on the basis of vv. 3b and 4....Wilckens rightly discusses the issue as one of foundation: 'It was the appearances...which inspired belief...and led to the founding of the primitive community.'"4 

The words of Free Grace theologian William R. Newell are appropriate in conclusion:
"this good news concerning Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and appearing, ‘is the power of God unto salvation unto every one that believeth.' [See Romans 1:16.] There is no fact for a preacher or teacher to hold more consistently in his mind than this.”5 
“Again we repeat that it is of the very first and final importance that the preacher or teacher of the gospel believe in the bottom of his soul that the simple story, Christ died for our sins, was buried, hath been raised from the dead the third day, and was seen, IS THE POWER OF GOD to salvation to every one who rests in it – who believes!6 
“This story of Christ’s dying for our sins, buried, raised, manifested, is the great wire along which runs God’s mighty current of saving power. Beware lest you be putting up some little wire of your own, unconnected with the Divine throne, and therefore non-saving to those to whom you speak.”7 


ENDNOTES:

 1 W. B. Riley, Great Preaching on the Resurrection, Curtis Hutson, Editor (Murfreesboro: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1986), p. 39.

2 Chuck Swindoll, “An Original Snapshot of the First Church, Part 2,” Series: The Great Commission, Insight For Living Ministries (Thursday, June 14, 2018, Moody Radio), http://insight.org/broadcasts/player/?bid=3137 (time-stamp: 06:37 minutes - 08:21 minutes).

3 Reginald Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, p. 35.

4 Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, pp. 1198, 1202.

5 William R. Newell, Romans: Verse-by-Verse: A Classic Evangelical Commentary, pp. 18-19.

6 Ibid., p. 19, emphasis his.

7 Ibid., p. 21.

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