another Easter thought

This came up yesterday in class:  Romans 4:25 says that Jesus was “raised for our justification” and 1 Corinthians 15:17 says that if Jesus is not raised then we are still in our sins.  Paul seems to have more in mind here than the resurrection merely provides proof that Jesus is God or that his atonement on the cross took.  Somehow the resurrection has legal implications:  it is essential for our being declared righteous before God (yes, I don’t think the New Perspective has proved its case against the traditional Reformed understanding of justification).

I have thoughts on this, but before I share them, I wondered what you think.  In what sense is the resurrection as important as the cross for our justification?  I think that we usually say that the cross took care of our sin problem and the resurrection defeated death.  So what does Paul mean when he says that the resurrection defeats sin?






16 responses to “another Easter thought”

  1. Without yet venturing into HOW, ROmans 10:9 jumps to my mind as further evidence THAT the resurrection is essential (and one of those “Don’t Stop Believing” essential doctrines) to our salvation.


  2. “what does Paul mean when he says that the resurrection defeats sin?”

    Perhaps it works in the sense that death is the ultimate weapon of sin, and so the defeat of death is a sort of disarming of sin?

  3. Yooper

    If Jesus had not risen from the dead, he would have been an impostor, mere dust and not the Christ. We would still be under the law and in our sins. But…I Corinthians 15:20…

  4. Last week, I went out with a friend with a video camera to do a ‘word on the street: resurrection day edition’. We went to the GVSU campus, the street corners of downtown Grand Rapids, and then I came back a interviewed some students at the Cornerstone Undergrad (in the Student center where the little cafe is). These are the questions I asked:

    Are you a Christian?
    Can you explain what the message of the gospel is?
    What is the greatest hope for the Christian?
    Why do Christians celebrate easter?
    What does the word ‘resurrection’ mean?

    Most of the people responded that they were a Christian. But, the concerns I had going into these interviews have been confirmed. Except for a couple students at cornerstone (one being a bible major), none of the other people interviewed included the resurrection as part of the gospel message and no one (except the bible major) mentioned the resurrection as the greatest hope for the Christian. It wasn’t until I mentioned Easter that people talked about Jesus being raised from the dead and even then they didn’t make the connection between him being raised and our bodily resurrection.
    What this tells me is that the resurrection is not being preached very often as part of the gospel; it is being seen as the message that comes “after” the gospel. Most people explained the gospel as just Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. This also tells me that the resurrection is not being taught well. I recieved a lot of mixed views from Christians as to what the resurrection actually is.
    This also relates to the post I wrote before doing these interviews, which can be read here:

    Endnote: I will be using the video interviews as the introduction to a message I have been invited to give at the church where I am a member (Berean Baptist Church). The message will be titled “Who are the Easter People?”

  5. Darrell Yoder

    Hi Mike…long time student, first time commenter…

    Shouldn’t it be natural for us to think that justification requires the resurrection? What kind of justification would come through a dead savior?

    Perhaps we can think of justification in two parts: 1) removal of guilt for sin, and 2) reception of his righteousness to our account. The later would never happen without the resurrection, perhaps because we would still be dead (the resurrection brought life). And the former by itself would be strange and incomplete (no guilt but no righteousness…what would that be?).

    Another angle on the same thought….Paul wrote in Romans 5:12-21 that death entered the world through sin and that sin and death together reigned over the the world until Jesus brought grace and righteousness. Death and sin are united. Where there is sin there is death, and where there is death (read: separation from God) there is sin. So the resurrection was necessary for any and all of salvation, including all parts of justification, because through the resurrection, death was abolished (1 Tim. 1:10) and with it sin.

  6. Gary T. Meadors

    There would not be a question for first century thinkers…they did not bifurcate items in a category like us “modern” Westerners. Note how baptism views the parts as a whole. Its a bit like trying to make a distinction between preaching and teaching from a Western perspective and forcing it back to the NT.

    Of course, when this world is your home, bifurcation is natural.

  7. aaaaaand cue comment by Dr. Wittmer about how Dr. Meadors is, in fact, a closet drunk. Ahhh, I miss GRTS chapels.

  8. mikewittmer


    We need to not bring that up on this site or we might scare him away. Gary is a bit skittish when he’s had a few beers (allegedly). By the way, you’d like the GRTS advertisement now hanging in our restrooms. It shows Gary at Sea World with a rabid seal drooling behind his head. This semester is not the same without him.

    In case any non-initiated are wondering, a couple of years ago I started an unfounded rumor that Gary has a drinking problem, and since it took off so well, I just keep repeating it. By now I’ve said it so much that it has become my truth, and no one can convince me otherwise.

  9. eph5v2

    Regarding I Corinthians 15:17 – “still in your sins.” Is Paul talking about being unjustified, or is he talking about being unregenerate? Still in our sins may mean we are still dead in our sins, living in sin (Eph 2:1-5). We are born again through the resurrection (I Peter 1:3), and we have a new life in Christ through the resurrection (Romans 6:3-4). So still in your sins in I Corinthians 15:17 could simply mean that we have not been raised to a new life if Christ is not raised – and not be directly related to justification.

  10. Mike,

    Richard Gaffin (of WTS/Phila.) writes about these connections in his book The Centrality of the Resurrection (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed 1978; reprinted as Resurrection and Redemption, 1987), 33-74.

    Here’s an online essay along somewhat the same lines, although Gaffin is not as explicit about the connection between Christ’s resurrection and justification here.

    I believe Sinclair Ferguson has written along the same lines.


  11. Having studied and been an avid reader on the the New Perspective since 2006, I would say that most would agree that Jesus was raised for our justification, but that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was much bigger than merely our “getting right with God.”

    While the crucifixion and resurrection include this aspect, its not the entire picture. The cross and resurrection have far reaching implications back into Israel’s story as well as into the re-creation of the entire cosmos.

  12. Yooper

    Shouldn’t the unbelieving Jews still be offering animal sacrifices today? Was the Temple really the only place that sacrifices could be offered?

  13. Mike,

    Wow, this is actually some pretty heady stuff, and I’m glad the blog is coming back to a focus on discussing relevent and challenging theological points. These last two posts have asked some hard questions about the significance of death in Christian theology, and I, for one, am really wrestling with the implications of my understanding of death, resurrection, faith, and justification within my entire theological framework. I almost feel as if I need to send a check to the seminary since you are still contributing to my theological education.

  14. [quote]Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was much bigger than merely our “getting right with God.” [/quote]

    The NP presents a crucifixion that accomplishes such vague and–well, *unnecessary*–nothings that I don’t see how anyone could call it “bigger” than fulfilling the ancient promise of redemption found in the Law and the Prophets.

  15. Bartels,

    Well maybe we should just kick Colossians out of the canon as it is probably “*unnecessary*” with how it portrays Jesus work on the cross.

    And while we’re at it how about those *unnecessary* promises to the Jews, ya know the one’s about the coming messiah. I mean all those exilic and post-exilic prophets who got caught up in what the world would look like when God stepped into time and space and provided a Messiah. If only they would have gotten the “necessary” parts down…but I guess thats why Paul wrote Romans, especially chaps. 1-3.

    next time try finishing the quote.

  16. “Finish the quote?” Dude, the whole post is four inches above… And all I have to say about your response is: that’s a nice set of non-sequitors. Are you a collector?

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