The Bible says that we are to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. There are answers and evidences for the reliability of the Christian faith. You do not have to leave your brains in the car when you go to church. And, you do not have to abandon your intellect to believe the Bible or the essentials of the Christian faith.
For example, as we approach this Easter holiday, there is intelligent evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
First, what do Christians mean when they speak of the resurrection of Christ? They are not talking about reincarnation. Reincarnation is a soul going from one body to another body or object. It would be the belief that when a person dies, they come back in another form.
Christians are not talking about resuscitation. Lazarus was resuscitated (John 11). Resuscitation is when the body stops and then it starts again and is later subjected to the laws of life and death.
Resurrection is when a body dies and then is raised never to die again. That is a resurrection. That is Easter.
In Acts 1:3 it says, "to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God." During the 40-day interval between His resurrection and His ascension back to heaven, Jesus Christ, through personal appearances, demonstrated that He had literally been raised again from the dead. The Scripture says these evidences were indisputable.
Discussing the resurrection brings us to the very core of the Christian faith because the resurrection of Christ and Christianity are inseparable. If there is no resurrection, if Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead, then the Christian faith does not exist. Christianity would be discredited and found to be false, and God would be a liar.
In I Corinthians 15:14-18, Paul says the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is essential. The apostle has just talked about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and has told us that it is an indispensable part of the Gospel. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus died, He was buried, and three days later He was raised from the dead. That's the Gospel. In I Corinthians 15:14 Paul says, "And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty." If there is no resurrection, the Bible is not true and its only value would be as literature.
Paul also says that "Your faith is also vain." In other words, without the resurrection, the Bible has no value, and what you have trusted in for your eternal salvation is meaningless.
I Corinthians 15:17 says, "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins." If Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead, then you are not forgiven, and you are still under the penalty of sin. Without the resurrection, God and man are not reconciled.
I Corinthians 15:18 says, "Then also those who have fallen asleep (dead people) in Christ have perished." If there is no resurrection, then every born again believer in the Lord Jesus that has died has only ceased to live and they are not present with the Lord. They are dead and they are going to stay dead forever.
I Corinthians 15:19 says, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable (deserving pity)." Paul says that if all we have is hope in Christ for right now, we are deserving of pity.
The night Jesus Christ was crucified and buried, the disciples were afraid. They were huddled behind closed doors. They feared for their lives. Their hopes were dashed. They had believed that He was the Savior of the world, the Son of God, and now He was dead and buried.
Three days later the disciples have unwavering faith. They are convinced that Jesus Christ is alive again, and they are filling Jerusalem with the story of Christ. Most of these men were martyred for their unwavering claim that Jesus Christ's physical body was raised from the dead.
The resurrection of Jesus makes possible our eternal future in heaven. I Peter 1:3, says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead."
The resurrection is our foundation of hope. Christians believe that though they die, they will live again because Jesus Christ died and rose again. The Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead will make our earthly bodies alive, and when Jesus comes, you will be reunited with Him. The resurrection is essential to Christianity and is the basis of hope for all who believe.
The Rev. Chris Reynolds is pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Christian Academy in Jonesboro.