They say things come in threes. It is certainly the case in I Corinthians 15: 3-4. Writing to the church at Corinth the Apostle Paul speaks of the three vital aspects of what Christ Jesus came to this earth to do. This is how the NIV version of the Bible puts it.
‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance – that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’.
Here we have three categorical affirmations of primary importance. Note that first sentence where the writer says he passed this on to his readers as a matter ‘of first importance’. And what was it that he deemed so important? Firstly, he wanted them to know that ‘Christ died for their sins’.
Secondly, he didn’t want to leave the story there, he tells them ‘He rose again on the third day’.
And thirdly, he tells them it was all ‘according to the scriptures’.
There they are a trinity of truths that encapsulate the primary and crucial aspects of the gospel message squeezed into just a couple of short sentences. It’s the Easter story condensed into just a few words. All three points hang together as the three component parts of one supreme event. Indeed the most pivotal event of all time.
All three points are true and all of them have been attacked and assaulted viciously by critics both ancient and modern. Some argue that Jesus never really died at that time, they say He only swooned. Some have said he did die but the body was stolen from the tomb and the resurrection never ever happened in the first place. Others say that the Old Testament scriptures predicting the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are too tenuous to believe.
However, all three points have been repeatedly proved as being genuine against successive onslaughts and sorties of attack. All three have weathered the fiercest blasts of religious scepticism right throughout the centuries. So one might ask, ‘why are these triune points so resilient?’ Well, that’s relatively simple, it’s because they are true!
Amid the swirling currents of changing human speculation and philosophical attitudes this rock of redemptive truth remains absolutely secure and immovable. Make no mistake about it, the Christian Faith is solidly grounded on the bedrock of authenticated fact: Christ died for our sins, He rose again on the third day and it was all according to the scriptures.
So let’s break it down a little
When it says ‘Christ died….. ‘, this is a statement of fact within history.
When it says ‘….For our sins’, this is an issue of doctrine and the reason for His death.
When it says ‘Christ rose on the third day’ this is something supernatural that is uniquely evidenced.
When it says ‘According to the scriptures’ this is the background to the fact.
Theologians would put it something like this, we have an ‘avouchment’ in the fact that Christ died, which was an ‘atonement’ in the fact that it was for our sins. Following this we have a ‘supernatural resurrection’ in the fact that He arose on the third day and lastly we have a ‘foreseen fulfilment’ in the fact that it was according to the scriptures.
‘Christ dying’ is the Crucifixion.
‘For our sins’ is the Substitution.
‘Christ Rising’ is Justice before God being met.
‘According to the scriptures’ is the prophetic revelation of the Old Testament.
This is the trinity of truth which is the very centre point of the gospel. For many the cross is seen as nothing but a tragic end, whereas with Paul he proclaims it to be the essential beginning – the beginning of the Gospel. This is exactly why he says he’s passing these truths on as a priority – ‘of first importance’, as he puts it.
The fact that Christ died is something we can all historically research, it needs no special revelation from God. It is a statement of fact so well accredited that we can easily verify it ourselves – each of us can do this if we are so minded. However, the further truth that ‘Christ died for our sins’ is something that we could never know without divine revelation. God revealed this. As for the resurrection of Jesus, well, if you were to take the time to carefully study all the evidence surrounding it, you would find there is overwhelming proof that Jesus physically overcame the grave.
But of course you might well ask, ‘how do we know Paul is uttering a divine revelation when he speaks of Christ dying for our sins? How do we know it’s not just all human opinion? Well the answer is because it was according to the Old Testament Scriptures. His death and resurrection is the culmination of scores and scores of prophecies written hundreds and hundreds of years prior to the actual events taking place. Such prophecy is what a lawyer might call ‘proof absolute’.
So, one last time just in case you haven’t got it yet. First, we have a historical fact, ‘Christ died’. Then we have the revelation of its meaning, ‘He died for our sins’. And both, ‘the fact’ and ‘its meaning’ are authenticated through what the Old Testament scriptures foretold centuries before – and this is the case for the resurrection of Jesus Christ too.
This is what Easter-time is all about. Without this trinity of truth we simply wouldn’t have anything to celebrate! Easter just wouldn’t exist.
So have a wonderful Easter. Our prayer is that you will know the power of the resurrection in your life like never before in the days ahead.