Cook County News-Herald Spiritual Reflections for April 20, 2019
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (ESV)
Of first importance. Of primary importance. Of greatest importance. They all mean the same thing. There is something you should know about God and the way things work in the world, something that is more important than other things. The apostle Paul offers the content of first importance in four parts: Christ died for our sins (in accordance with the Scriptures); Christ was buried; Christ was raised on the third day (again, in accordance with the Scriptures, which were, at that time, what we recognize today as the Old Testament); and that Christ appeared to real people subsequent to His resurrection.
In this abbreviated summary of the events surrounding Easter, the apostle highlights three aspects of God’s plan to bring the human beings He created and loves back into relationship with Him. We see that God promised a Savior, God provided a Savior, and that God proved Jesus Christ is the Savior.
The opening account of the Bible describes God’s creation activity. God created everything that exists that is not Himself. God is self-existent, never having been created He exists eternally. Everything else that exists is created by God, as nothing else but God is self-existent. God created the heavens and the earth and God created the human beings who populate the earth. He created them to know Him and join Him in the perfect joy He has in His existence, but they turned away. They chose to reject the Creator’s plan and go their own way in the world.
They sought ultimate independence and found ultimate condemnation. Their sin led to death, a punishment from which they were powerless to save themselves. They incurred a right and just guilt not only for themselves but for all who came after them. They could never again be as morally good and upright as their rejection of God was bad. They were in bad straits and since they could not help themselves only God could help them.
God promised to save them. He promised a Savior would come who would defeat the deceiver and restore women and men and girls and boys to their Creator. The Savior would be fully human but also fully God for only in that mysterious and glorious arrangement could the ravages of sin be fully rectified. Not only did God promise such a Savior, God provided that Savior in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, fully human, fully God, the perfect provision.
Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, lived before God a sinless life, never failing to love God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength and his neighbor as himself. He obeyed the commands of God and the purpose of God. He lived his life a representative from God for the rest of us. And that’s how he died, a representative for the rest of us.
Jesus Christ laid down his life on the cross, not suffering death for his own sins, but suffering death for all our sins. He was the promised Savior God provided. He met the requirements for innocence and, because He was God, met the requirements for justice as well. Jesus gave up his life, the innocent for the guilty, the holy for the unholy, the faithful for the faithless. He suffered and he died. And they buried him.
But a promise and a provision are not enough. Why? Because Jesus died. Death is the inheritance of the guilty not the innocent. If he died, then he must have been guilty, right? If death is the punishment for guilt, then death means guilt, and a burial tomb is simply a monument to justice, a sinner getting what they deserved. Paul says Jesus died for our sins and they buried him. Know why? For proof.
The burial of Jesus serves as the proof that Jesus died but that isn’t really the proof we need, is it? We need proof that as our representative Jesus lived a sinless life that did not deserve to die. The tomb proves he died for our sins. What proves that God accepted Christ’s death as sufficient punishment for sin? If Jesus is dead, we have no way of knowing whether the promise and provision worked.
What proof do we need? We need an empty tomb. An empty tomb, a dead but resurrected Savior means not only that God accepted Christ’s death on our behalf, but that God does not judge Christ worthy of death for his own sin. Life is what all innocence deserves. Life is what God gives the deserving Savior who died for our sins but had no sins of his own for which to die. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead proves the promise and provision of God of a Savior capable of restoring us to love and life and fellowship with our Creator.
That’s why the life and death and resurrection of Jesus are of first importance. We are powerless to save ourselves so God in love has saved us through His Son, Jesus. Salvation from sin is not a matter of social justice or political affiliation. Salvation and peace with God is a simple matter of faith in Christ, that his life and death satisfy God’s righteous requirement on your behalf, and that through him, through faith in Jesus, God extends the further promise of eternal life.
Eternal life will be our subject for next week!