So if Christ were truly raised from the dead, then everything is changed. Lives are transformed (See 2 Co 3:18). Destinies are changed. Hope springs forth in the hearts of those who have lived in despair. Gospel living becomes the identity of those who believe the gospel.
The gospel of the resurrection remains the foundation upon which we emotionally stand (1 Co 15:1,2). The Bible is primarily about the gospel of the Son of God in order that we understand the eternal work of God through the incarnate and risen Christ. Corinth could sort out their ungodly behavior only if the resurrection penetrated to their hearts in order that they have the motive (heart) to change their behavior. When one understands the heart of God that is revealed through the gospel, he or she has the heart to live the gospel life.
Since the Bible is about the revelation of the heart of God through the gospel, then the legalist must step back for a moment and take another look at how he uses the Bible. The legalist usually considers the Bible a “combat manual” to win legal arguments in theological discussions. He preaches the Bible to establish “sound” doctrine in order that thinking be correct, regardless of behavior. He memorizes Bible passages in order to be ready to win any theological arguments that may come his way. All these things are honorable, but what the legalist must not forget is that his motive (heart) for preaching and confronting error is the gospel. If the motive for his use of the Bible is first based on reaffirming the gospel in his own life, then the reason for his use of the Bible changes. It changes from his use of the Bible to accomplish theological conquests to helping people to be transformed into the image of Christ (See Rm 12:1). He begins preaching Jesus and not prooftexts.
When the early disciples first received the gospel (1 Co 15:1), they had no Bibles. Even those on the A.D. 30 Pentecost had no New Testaments to study among themselves. When the early evangelists went about preaching the gospel, they carried no Bibles to be distributed among the people. The apostles laid hands on certain individuals in order to be blessed with the gift of knowledge (See At 8:18,19). But this blessing was limited to the presence of the apostles to distribute the miraculous gifts.
Therefore, to the astonishment of the legalist, the baptized disciples lived the transformed gospel life simply because they based their faith on the foundation of the gospel. What transformed their lives was the message of the gospel, not the memorization of a host of scriptures, or even daily Bible reading, for there were no Bibles. They sacrificially lived the gospel without some organizational structure of religion. The book of Acts is actually a history of the work of the gospel at work to transform lives, as well as lead lives. And all the time, we have been using the book of Acts to find “prooftexts” in order to win this or that theological argument with “the denominations.” In all our biblicism, we have lost the heart for godly living in our scurried search to find prooftexts to win arguments. A teacher of the Bible will be more effective in changing the thinking of others when he allows the gospel to transform his own life.
In view of the preceding, consider what Peter said in 1 Peter 3:15 would be the impetus that would inspire people to ask questions concerning our hope. As we read through this statement, we see gospel living as the spark that inspires inquiry:
But sanctify Christ as Lord God in your hearts and be ready always to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear.
Those who sanctify in their hearts the One who gave up being on an equality with God, will not give an arrogant answer to those who ask him questions concerning his hope. Answers will always be “with meekness and fear” by those who have in their hearts the incarnate Son of God. And because we live by the gospel, others are inspired to ask why we are motivated to so live. The Bible is about defending the gospel of Jesus because the gospel is the primary foundation of our living. Christians who live the heart of God always have inquiries directed to them concerning their hope. People seek to know what makes Christians behave as they do.
When we understand that the gospel must be the totality of our world view and motivation for our behavior, it is then that we begin to understand that answering inquiries concerning our hope is simple. Our answer is not based on knowing a catalog of appropriate scriptures, nor what we consider to be the best translation of the Bible. It is based on the message of the gospel and how effectively we have translated the gospel into our lives.
We can think of a host of questions that the world today often asks the Christian. For an example of one, a common question that is directed to Christians today is his or her belief concerning homosexuality. The answer to this commonly asked question is simple. Our first response to this question would be, “Was Jesus raised from the dead?” If Jesus were not raised from the death, then we have the right to live as we please. Paul said it this way: “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Co 15:32). If the dead are not raised, then we have a right to live as homosexuals, or in any manner we so choose, as long as we can get away with it within our society.
The question, therefore, is not about homosexuality. It is about the gospel. If indeed Jesus were raised from the dead, then everything changes in our lives. It is then that we must consult His word for direction. Otherwise, His word means nothing, because Jesus would have been just another good religious man of history.
Paul concluded his logical arguments concerning the centrality of the resurrection to the gospel message with the following statement to the Corinthians:
Be not deceived, evil company [with those who deny the resurrection], corrupts good morals. Awake to righteousness and do not sin, for some have no knowledge of God [through the gospel]. I speak this to your shame (1 Co 15:33,34).
Paul warned Timothy of some who taught that there was no more resurrection (See 2 Tm 2:17,18). Believing the gospel should lead to an increase of ungodliness (2 Tm 2:16). If one does not believe in the resurrection, then his faith is overthrown (2 Tm 2:18). But if the gospel is believed, and obeyed, then there is a paradigm shift in one’s behavior. The changed is so drastic that one’s closest friends will ask consider what is happening in the transformed life of their friend.
[Next lecture in series: October 2]