Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Big Clue (Yet Another!)

If Christ is not risen, says St. Paul (I Corinthians 15:14-18), then:

1) The Apostles' preaching is empty.
2) The Apostles are false witnesses.
3) Our faith is futile.
4) We are still in our sins.
5) Believers in Christ who have fallen asleep have perished.
6) We Christians are of all men most to be pitied.

It's that fourth item that grabs my attention just now. "Ye are still in your sins," says St. Paul.  If Christ be not risen, we are still in our sins!

Huh? How's that? Even if Christ never rose from the dead, wouldn't it still be true that He died for our sins? Wasn't it Jesus' work on the Cross that paid for our sins? Wouldn't God the Father have already collected His due in blood, misery, and death before the Resurrection or lack thereof? And wouldn't that still free us from having the penalty collected from us? So how is it St. Paul teaches that without the Resurrection, we would still be in our sins?

It's because all the foregoing is not what the Cross was ever about.

The truth is, the Cross and Resurrection are two aspects of one event:  new life, and this time Immortal Life, being bestowed upon those who had deserved, and incurred, death.  The blood shed on the Cross is viewed, in Scripture, as the blood of the original Passover Lamb:  the effective sign that keeps away the Angel of Death.  Blood, in biblical thought, is life.  So upon the Cross, Jesus pours out His own Life-blood for us; and in the Resurrection, He renders death, which had held us captive, impotent.  In the two events together, Cross and Resurrection, we behold forgiveness raining down from heaven in the form of the gift of everlasting life.  We see our penalty not vicariously paid, but abolished. 

But it takes the two events together to accomplish this. If there were no Resurrection, we could believe ever so much in the Atonement, but death would not yet have been abolished; we would still perish, just as St. Paul says.  Now death is an effect produced by sin (not by God and not with any help from God!) and is the enemy's chief weapon against us.   (Hebrews 2:14)  Thus, if there were no Resurrection, the effect for us would be the very same as still being in our sins; death would still hold us captive regardless of God's alleged change of attitude toward us.

"If Christ be not risen, ye are still in your sins."  That should serve as a big clue:  St. Paul neither taught nor believed in what we today call the Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement.


Mike Gantt said...

Well said. His resurrection/exaltation is the focal point. With it, an understanding of His death comes along.

Steve Robinson said...

Another dot connected well. Very good.