“And we declare to you glad tidings – that promise which was made to the fathers, God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus.” Acts 13:32-33
In the 13th chapter of the book of Acts, it is recorded that Paul stood up in a synagogue in Antioch and gave a message regarding the Gospel, or good news, of Jesus Christ.
Paul starts by making it clear who he is addressing:
“Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen.” Acts 13:16
Paul knew that he would be mostly addressing Jews, but that there were also some God-fearing Gentiles (non-Jews) who were familiar with the Scriptures. He then goes on to give a brief history of the people of Israel starting from the time of Moses and their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, and ending with the time of David. Paul then establishes that Jesus was the Savior that was promised to be a descendant of David:
“From this man’s (David’s) seed according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior – Jesus.” Acts 13:23
Paul then described how Jesus was confirmed to be the Savior and the Messiah by John the Baptist, then he explains that the prophecies concerning Him were fulfilled by His being condemned to death.
“And as John was finishing his course, he said, ‘Who do you think I am? I am not He. But behold, there comes One after me, the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to loose.’” Acts 13: 25
After this, Paul takes the time to not only established the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead, after being buried in a tomb, but he also established that Jesus appeared to many in resurrected form, and on many occasions, and that those who saw Him had attested to this fact. Paul also made it clear that not only was the resurrection of Jesus a fulfillment of prophecy, but it was a fulfillment of the promise that was made to the fathers of Israel, and was for the children (as quoted in the Scripture verse above).
Paul concludes his message by making known to the listeners that the forgiveness of sins is offered through Jesus which would allow them to be justified before God:
“Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Acts 13: 38-39
Then Paul gives a final warning to any who would reject this message in disbelief, quoting a prophecy from the prophet Habakkuk.
It is interesting that the Gentiles were more interested in Paul’s message than the Jews. The Jews left the synagogue after Paul’s message but the Gentiles stayed and begged Paul to return the next Sabbath and tell them more. (By the way, the next week the whole city showed up to hear Paul.)
The question I have regarding this account of Paul’s preaching in the synagogue in Antioch is why did Paul put so much emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus when presenting the Gospel? Was this a one-time situation that Paul presented or was the resurrection an important part of the Gospel needing to be emphasized? I’m convinced that it is the latter, that Paul saw the resurrection as an important part of the Gospel. Sadly, it is also my observation that there is not enough emphasis placed on the resurrection when presenting the Gospel today in our western culture.
In the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians, Paul makes it explicitly clear that the Gospel is centered on two events: First, that Jesus died for our sins. Second, that Jesus was raised from the dead and His resurrected body was witnessed by many.
“Moreover, brethren, I declared to you the Gospel…….For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures, and was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve, after that He was seen by over five hundred at once….”1 Cor. 15:1-6
My experience has been that most times today in our western culture the Gospel is focused on the forgiveness of sins and justification, but the resurrection is only mentioned in passing or is totally disregarded. Why is this?
It is clear from the Scriptures that the resurrection is an integral part of the Gospel. Why? What makes the resurrection an important part of the Gospel?
Regarding Jesus being the promised Messiah, His resurrection establishes the fact that Jesus is now the living King who has ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, with all things placed under His authority. His resurrection and ascension into heaven were both witnessed and recorded. It then became clear that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of not seeing corruption, and that He was the promised King of God’s kingdom and of heaven who first needed to suffer and die at the hands of sinners, as prophesied, as a payment for the justification of believers.
“And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’ Therefore He also says in another Psalm: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’ For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw no corruption. Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Acts 13: 32 – 39
Additionally, we see that the resurrection establishes our hope, and this is critical. Paul knew that the resurrection of Jesus established the fact that all who are “in Christ” will also be resurrected in the future. This is the promise that we base our hope upon and is the focus of our faith.
Some of the Corinthians at the time of Paul’s writing of 1st Corinthians were stating that there was not going to be a resurrection, and thus Paul’s exhortation in chapter 15 was to correct this error:
“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.” 1 Cor. 15: 12-14
What did Paul mean that their faith would be “empty”? I believe he was saying that their faith would have no focus, or no hope ( if they didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus). Consider what Paul says next:
“Then also those who have fallen asleep (died) in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” 1 Cor. 15:18-19
The “good news” of the Gospel is that Jesus came to deliver us from the curse. He became a “curse” on our behalf so that the curse would be removed from us. Death is a part of the curse. Death, and the fear of death, has caused mankind to be in bondage and without hope. Most of mankind don’t even recognize that this hopelessness is the root cause of their bondage. Jesus came to fulfill the promise made by God to deliver us from death, and deliver us from the bondage, and from the penalty of sin that results in death. The resurrection of Jesus Christ established the fact that those who are “in Christ” will also be resurrected to eternal life, thus establishing the hope of eternal life for all who are “in Christ” by faith in this promise. It is critically important that we shift our hope from the shallow false hope that the world offers us to this blessed hope of eternal life!
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (died). For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward, those who are Christ’s at His coming. “ 1 Cor. 15:20-23
Placing our hope totally in this promise of eternal life and the promise of a resurrected body requires that we put to death our worldly hopes that are associated with our earthly, physical life. Dying to this world (with Christ) severs us from the strong desires and longings of our carnal nature, since they are rooted in this false worldly hope. We are then free to allow our spirit to grow and become a major influence in our life. This spiritual growth is mostly due to our focus on the hope of eternal life with Christ in heaven.
As you can see, this hope is critical to our maturity as Christians. We must also be sure to establish this hope as we communicate the Gospel to others so that they too can be set free from the hopelessness of death and have the hope in the promise of eternal life as an anchor to their soul.
Paul has much more to say about the hope we have in a future resurrection and what our bodies will be like. I would advise you to read this entire chapter of 1 Cor. 15. The end of the chapter is amazing and very encouraging as it paints a picture of what we have to look forward to:
“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Cor. 15:50-58