The fact of the resurrection of Jesus is “of first importance” to the Christian claim that Jesus of Nazareth is “the Christ” (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Mt. 16:16). Christianity, in essence, stands or falls with the resurrection. If the resurrection was a real historical event, then every person should confess that Jesus is the Christ. If it is false, no one should. It is, therefore, nearly impossible to overstate the significance of the resurrection of Jesus.
Paul argues that if Jesus Christ was not raised from the dead, then several consequences follow for the Christian faith (1 Cor. 15:12-19):
- Our preaching is in vain (v.14);
- Faith is in vain or futile (vv.14, 17);
- Christian evangelists are misrepresenting God when they claim that He raised Jesus (v.15);
- Christians are still in their sins (v.17);
- Dead Christians have simply perished (v.18);
- Our hope in Christ is only in this life (v.19);
- And, Christians are, of all men, most to be pitied (v.19).
On the other hand, the New Testament teaches that if Jesus was raised from the dead, several critical facts obtain:
- Jesus is declared to be the Son of God in Power (Rom. 1:4);
- It is possible for us to be saved (1 Pet. 3:21);
- It is possible for us to be resurrected from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20-21);
- We are delivered from the fear of death (1 Cor. 15:51-57);
- Jesus’ personal return in glory is guaranteed (1 Thess. 4:14-17).
Given its significance, every Christian should desire to be confident in the Bible claim that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead on the third day. And, every Christian should be ready to make the case for the resurrection to others. But, how can we have this confidence and how do we make this case? We were not there. We did not see Jesus live or die, be buried or resurrected, nor did any one of us see Jesus after His resurrection. We might, in fact, wonder whether it is even possible for us to verify this claim or justifiably believe it ourselves, not to mention making the case for the resurrection to anyone else.
So, where do we start in justifying our belief in and in making the case for the resurrection of Jesus?
Since the claim of the resurrection is found in the Bible, that’s really where we should start. And, that is where the historical argument for the resurrection begins. Traditionally, the case for the resurrection of Jesus has consisted of a three-step argument:
- The gospel accounts are authentic.
- The text of the gospel is pure.
- Therefore, the gospel accounts are reliable.
In other words, this argument contends that the gospel accounts: 1. were written by actual disciples of Jesus, 2. have been transmitted accurately, and, therefore, 3. are accurate and reliable historical accounts. I look forward to examining this argument with you in our next blog.
Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith (3rd edition): Christian Truth and Apologetics (pp. 334-342). Crossway. Kindle Edition.