Of First Importance : Pastor's thoughts
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Of First Importance

by DAVID GOODFELLOW on 02/27/18

 

1 Corinthians 15:14 says, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty (in vain) and your faith is also empty (in vain).” I encourage you to read the whole chapter...seriously, read it.

 

When I lived in Glencoe, MN, I lived across the street from the railroad tracks. If you’ve ever lived near a train track, you know how loud the train whistle can be. After a while you get used to the sound of the train. You have a vague awareness of trains going by, but the noise has faded into the background. Familiarity can lull you to sleep. The same is true when living by anything that has noise…it soon fades in the background until someone who is not accustomed to it brings it up. We become dull of hearing and seeing.

 

It’s the same way with the Scriptures and the themes of the Bible. I mentioned during Advent, that we can “fall asleep” and let the significance of the birth of Christ pass us by. Since this is the Lenten/Easter season, I will focus on the resurrection. Paul tells the church in Corinth “as of first importance” (v. 3) about the significance of the resurrection. He didn’t want them to be lulled asleep or become dull of hearing. Simply put, Paul tells them and us very clearly that if the resurrection didn’t happen as a real, physical event in history, Christianity is worthless. He says that if Christ has not been raised, preaching the gospel is useless, faith is futile, and those who believe are the most pitiful people. Scholars, whether Christian or not, agree that without the resurrection, there is no Christianity.

 

Jesus made claims about Himself, claims to Messiahship and divinity (i.e. John 8:58-59). Jesus predicted His bodily resurrection and pointed to it as the “sign of Jonah” (i.e. Matt. 12:39 and Luke 11:29). The reason Paul is so categorically clear regarding the importance of the resurrection is because everything about Jesus is substantiated in the resurrection event.  C. S. Lewis basically said in Mere Christianity (55-56): Jesus was either an outright liar, a lunatic, or He was indeed Lord. We can be confident that Jesus wasn’t a sham or a madman. He is Lord.

 

Previously to C.S. Lewis two others "argued" the same thing.

 

In the mid-nineteenth century the Scottish preacher, John Duncan, formulated what he called a “trilemma.” In Colloquia Peripatetica (p. 109) he said: Christ either [1] deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or [2] He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or [3] He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable.

 

In 1936, Watchman Nee made a similar argument in his book, Normal Christian Faith. A person who claims to be God must belong to one of three categories:

 

First, if he claims to be God and yet in fact is not, he has to be a madman or a lunatic.

Second, if he is neither God nor a lunatic, he has to be a liar, deceiving others by his lie.

Third, if he is neither of these, he must be God.

You can only choose one of the three possibilities.

If you do not believe that he is God, you have to consider him a madman.

If you cannot take him for either of the two, you have to take him for a liar.

There is no need for us to prove if Jesus of Nazareth is God or not. All we have to do is find out if He is a lunatic or a liar. If He is neither, He must be the Son of God.

 

As one person asked me, “Why do you think it can be so easy to lose sight of the profound richness of familiar passages?” Something to think about.

 

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Smithfield Avenue Congregational Church
514 Smithfield Avenue
Pawtucket, RI  02860
401-725-5153