Text: I Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. (2) For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (3) And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. (4) And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: (5) That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Religious Tradition vs. Pagan Philosophy
Paul told the church at Corinth that he “determined”—which means to me that he decided after deep reflection—to “know nothing among them save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” It is quite likely that Paul wrestled with the question of how to best reach the pagans with the gospel, of whether to approach them with religious tradition (the Jewish approach) or with pagan philosophy (the Greek approach). Some wonder if Paul may have worked through this on Mars Hill in Athens when he utilized a philosophical approach to reach the pagans. There is no certainty on this point.
Regardless of the Athens angle, Paul had “determined” that he could not win the Gentile world by using the wisdom of man. He could not win the world by presenting the gospel in a way that removed the offense and folly of the Cross. The answer for the world is not religious tradition or secular philosophy. The answer is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Paul, “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” presupposes the resurrection. As Paul argues elsewhere, there is no reason to preach Christ crucified if Christ is not raised from the dead (I Corinthians 15).
The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. If this story is true, then God has intervened in history to make all things new. Thus, all religion must be reinterpreted in light of the resurrection. Any religion that does not confirm to this reality is false worship, and thus, idolatry. All philosophy must be reinterpreted in light of the resurrection. Every philosophy that does not account for the meaning of life with the resurrection as its fundamental explanation is a deeply flawed, indeed, false, philosophy of life. All religion and philosophy must be reoriented toward—in and through—the Cross.
All Knowledge Must Conform to Christ
In fact, all knowledge must be conformed to the truth of the gospel to be true knowledge. All knowledge must die and be resurrected with Christ in order to live as true knowledge. This means that every realm of life, all knowledge—reality as we know it in everything—must be conformed to the reality of the new creation that arose with Christ in His resurrection. Science must conform to the reality of the resurrection. Politics must conform to the reality of the resurrection. Education must conform. Entertainment must conform. Medicine must conform. Environmentalism must conform. Social services must conform. Social justice must conform. Technology must conform. Sports and recreation must conform. The family must conform. And, believe it or not, theology must conform!
The church—and this is the most crucial, for on this all other conformance depends—must conform. The church is the means by which the kingdom of God breaks into the world. Nothing on earth can experience resurrection apart from baptism into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. The only way all of the areas of life and culture can conform is to be transformed through the lives of individuals within each area that bring the power of the resurrection to bear upon it. Science cannot be saved unless scientists are saved! Politics cannot be saved unless politicians are saved! And so on.
Of course, we affirm that the fullness of the new creation awaits the resurrection at the end of history when the Lord Jesus returns victorious over all nations, but we also affirm, and we boldly affirm it, that the resurrection of Christ in the middle of history has brought the end of history to us in advance. Christ brought the future into the present. We already know the outcome of history, and it is Christ, the only thing worth knowing!
The Resurrection as a Present Reality
The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. The new creation had already broken in upon the world, and the future is now. The first century world of Jewish believers expected Messiah to come and make all things new all at once. But Jesus, the true Messiah, revealed that God’s kingdom rule over creation would come gradually like leaven in the meal. And this gradual coming of the kingdom would begin in the personal resurrection of Jesus as the embodiment of both Yahweh and humankind as the federal head of the new creation. The resurrection, then, would be the “seed planting” of the KOG. This “seed planting” would spread throughout the field of the world by being planted in the lives of individual believers, who would then extend the vine of the kingdom into every field of personal endeavor. Through the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrection breaks forth in the earth through the individual lives of believers, and through the lives of believers, the resurrection breaks forth into all creation, subduing the enemies of Christ as He rules from heaven through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit in believers.
Paul declares that, in the resurrection, Christ Jesus has become a new kind of human, a glorified human, and now, a “life-giving spirit” (I Corinthians 15:45). The man, Christ Jesus, has now been “omnipresenced” in the universe, and because we have been baptized into Him, we share in His life-giving Spirit, which flows into all of us as the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit mediates Christ to us, and we mediate the presence of Christ to the world. Thus, His resurrection is flowing through us into all creation as the catalyst of the coming universal resurrection and the new creation.
So often on Easter the focus is primarily on Good Friday, when Jesus died, and Resurrection Sunday, when Jesus rose again. In other words, we usually see Easter as a time to reflect on the past, on what God did in Christ back then, way back on Calvary. And this is good, as far as it goes. But Easter must be more than a memorial service. Easter must be a continuing celebration, which, in fact, we celebrate every Lord’s Day, of the ongoing work of Christ’s resurrection now in us! We must see more today than just what Jesus did; we must see what Jesus is doing!
To only preach about yesterday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, without preaching about today, good Monday and ordinary Tuesday, is to drastically reduce the gospel down to mere memory. But the resurrection of Jesus is much more—so much more—than mere memory. It is the living witness of the daily presence and power of Christ to make all things new! We are living between the push of Easter Sunday and the pull of the Second Coming, both moments pulsing with the power of Christ’s resurrection in the world.
When we preach about Easter we are preaching about Jesus, about His present work at the right hand of the Father, about His ever-living intercession as priest for us and His ever-subduing reign as king for us. And through our baptism into Christ, we share in His resurrection and stand to minister daily, both in the weekly corporate worship and in our daily work as agents of Christ’s dominion in the world. The resurrection of Jesus continues daily in the resurrection that works in us and flows out of us into a world dead in sins and trespasses. We are Christ’s life for the world, and we are hastening the coming of Christ and the resurrection of all things.
Conclusion: Celebrating Easter
Do you want to celebrate Easter? Then, do more than attend an annual service to honor a parent or please a spouse. Do more than paint eggs and chase bunny rabbits around the lawn. Do more, do much more! Celebrate Easter by hearing the gospel, the story of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection; by believing that story, for it is true; by participating in that story through repentance and baptism confessing Jesus as Lord and being filled with the Spirit; and by living out the ongoing story of the resurrection in your world until the story of Christ’s victory is complete in the last resurrecion. Celebrate Easter so that the world may know “Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” which is the only thing worth knowing!