Is Your Faith in Vain?

We just finished celebrating the event which is the highlight of the Christian calendar and indeed central to the Christian faith. The resurrection has special implications in several areas. Where the sacrifice on the cross paid for our sin and gave us peace with God, the resurrection conquered death and guaranteed that the redeemed would likewise be resurrected and see God face to face!

Without the resurrection of Christ and his people, the Christian faith is indeed pointless. Moreover, it must be a REAL resurrection to afford us any benefit at all!  Fake resurrections are a dime a dozen in the religious world. Many cults and false religions pay lip service to the resurrection, while denying its essence: the resurrection of the body from the grave. As we have recently pointed out in “RINO: Resurrection in Name Only,”Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to believe Christ was resurrected but they deny the physical resurrection by simple redefinition. They use the term “resurrection,” but in their teaching, resurrection is actually recreation, a type of “clone resurrection.” Jesus – and you, Christian – never come out of the grave – and are in fact, dead forever. Their god, Jehovah, makes a copy of you, stamps the copy with your traits and memories, and calls it a “resurrection.” But the faith of the JWs is entirely in vain. Why should they care that their clone lives on, when they are still dead, dead and dead? And did I mention dead?

Very sadly, it is not just cult groups who deny the resurrection. We also point out in the above article that a leading Evangelical scholar, Murray J. Harris, in his book From Grave to Glory, also implicitly denies the physicality of the resurrection. Like the JWs, he does this by redefining the term. Yes, he claimed Jesus was “bodily” raised from the dead, but the raised “body” was not physical.  According to Harris in this book, Jesus’s physical body was not integral to His resurrection body. Harris proposed that in its normal state the resurrection body was invisible, intangible and non-corporeal. In the view he defended in his book there is no connection between the physical body and the “resurrection” body.

Since Harris taught a mere “spirit resurrection,” how did he get around the fact that Jesus appeared to his disciples in His physical body complete with His crucifixion wounds? Jesus, he claimed, merely manufactured bodies for the eyes of the disciples for evidential reasons, so that the disciples would be convinced that He had been raised. Inconveniently, Jesus had told his disciples in John 2:18-22 that HE would raise up His body. Therefore, if Harris was correct, a ruse was needed. So Jesus used a manufactured body with manufactured wounds to deceive the disciples so they would believe His body had been raised, as He had promised!

Many people do not know that the JWs, as Harris does in his book, use this exact same “manufactured body” excuse for Jesus’ appearances. It is perfectly fine to agree with our JW acquaintances about the weather or the time of day, but it’s not good if we find ourselves in agreement with their teachings concerning the resurrection…

“But,” some may object, “aren’t these just small details? Does it really matter whether Jesus body was raised physically or merely spiritually?” Yes, it matters. Any Tom, Dick or Harry false teacher can claim that his “dear leader” was raised from the dead “spiritually,” even if his body is demonstrably rotting in the grave. Mohammed, Sun Myung Moon, Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh and Buddha – along with all other false religious leaders and muckety-mucks – are still in their graves – what’s left of them anyway! The whole point of Jesus’ resurrection is that His grave was EMPTY! The stone was rolled away precisely to confirm this! If the Jewish leaders could have produced the body of Jesus, the faith would have died in its infancy. But they could not.

Our understanding of “resurrection” comes from the Scriptures. Job said:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. (Job 19:25-27)

Job’s claims are simple. His redeemer isn’t “forever dead.” His redeemer not only lives, but in the future He (Jesus) “will stand upon the earth.” This will be the REAL redeemer and NOT another – not some phony clone/copy redeemer.

Job knew that his current body would die and disintegrate, yet he was certain that “in the flesh,” i.e. in his body, with his own eyes, he would see God! We recently discussed this passage with Dr. H. Wayne House and he pointed out that in Hebrew the idea is that although Job recognized his body was corruptible and deteriorating, properties would be added to it which would make it incorruptible. Paul affirms this view in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44.

The importance of proper teaching on the resurrection cannot be overstated. The Apostle Paul begins what is perhaps the longest section on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15 with these words:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

The last few words – unless you believed in vain – are often twisted to teach that a believer can lose his salvation, i.e. “believe in vain.” It does sound rather ominous, we admit. You are saved by the gospel, unless you have believed in vain. (Oh no! Did I believe in vain? If anyone could believe in vain, it would have been me!) But no, the verse in context concerns the resurrection of Jesus. The gospel is the resurrection – Jesus died, was buried and rose again. If you receive this gospel, you are saved. The only way you could believe the gospel in vain is if the resurrection is not true, if Jesus, in fact, never came out of His grave.

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then even Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:13-14)

He restates the idea in verse 17:

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain. The grave is your destination, though not your final destination, because you must still answer for your sins.

Thankfully, Paul promises that we needn’t worry that our faith is in vain because he further states:

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. (I Corinthians 15:20)

Oh Hallelujah!

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
“O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

Not only is our faith not in vain, but we should stand firm, knowing that our work on Earth also is not in vain!

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

We are not still in our sins – our faith is not in vain. And we can cheerfully do the work of the Lord while we are here, knowing that it isn’t wasted effort.Ω

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