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January 16, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is without foundation, and so is your faith. In addition, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified about God that He raised up Christ . . . And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Therefore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.”—1 Corinthians 15:14–19 (HCSB)
It would not be an overstatement to say that everything hinges on the resurrection. EVERYTHING. So often, we focus all our attention on the cross. Now, please don’t misunderstand me . . . the work of Jesus Christ on the cross is supremely important. It was on the cross that He paid the debt of our sins. If not for the perfect, sinless Lamb of God willingly giving Himself up as a sacrifice on the altar of Golgotha, sin would still have power and control over us.
So, please don’t think I’m in any way discounting the work of Christ on the cross. I’m simply pointing out that sometimes people put all their focus on the cross, when the cross was not the end of the story, nor the greatest moment of triumph in the story. If you really think about it, the cross of Christ was the darkest moment in history. Why? Because the Son of God had to suffer and die a horrible death.
In that moment, “God made him who had no sin to be sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). In that moment, Jesus took upon Himself all the sins of the entire world . . . past, present, and future, those who were weeping at His feet and those who were spitting in His face; those who would come to love, follow, and glorify Him and those who would hate, reject, and blaspheme against Him.
Imagine it as if you were one of the disciples. As far as they were concerned, hope died on the cross. And here’s the thing we need to remember: If Jesus had simply died on the cross and the story ended there, the disciples would have been right and we would have no hope. In fact, apart from the resurrection, “your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins . . . we should be pitied more than anyone.”
Why? Theologian Albert Barnes put it this way: “The pardon of sin was connected with the belief of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and, if He was not raised, they were still in a state of sin . . . Your sins are yet unpardoned. They can be forgiven only by faith in Him, and by the efficacy of His blood. But if He was not raised, He was an impostor; and, of course, all your hopes of pardon by Him, and through Him, must be vain.”
So why is the resurrection such a big deal? In a nutshell, it is the evidence that the dominion of sin is over. Remember, the penalty of sin, as laid out in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2, is death. So, had Jesus just died on the cross, it would essentially prove that sin still had dominion because death would have won! But the resurrection of Jesus means that the power of sin had been destroyed and the debt of sin completely paid for.
Finally, after thousands of years of periodic sacrifices of bulls and goats that stayed dead and only covered sins for a short time (like plugging a leak without actually fixing it), a sacrifice for sins was offered that God fully accepted. This sacrifice, evidenced by the resurrection, showed that the dominion of sin had been broken and that the penalty of sin had been removed for those who believe. We have hope because He stripped sin and defeated death of their power. We have victory because He conquered the grave!
1 Corinthians 15:56–57 (NIV) says, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” and Ephesians 2:4–6 (NIV) declares, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
So friends, as we approach the Easter season, look to the cross to remember the cost of your sin, but don’t keep your focus there because the grave is empty and our Lord is seated “in the place of honor at God's right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:20 NLT) and “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5 NIV).
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.