With all the recent conversation I’ve been having with different
people about Reformed theology, missional theology, emergent theology
and just what do each of us mean by loaded terms like “the gospel”, I
thought it was worth spending some more time talking about what I
understand as “the gospel”.

Well, first and foremost, it’s the good news that Jesus is risen from the dead (see Romans 10:9).

I was recently reading another post by an Orthodox blogger which I thought expressed it rather well:

The
resurrection of Christ from the dead is in fact the first real Gospel
proclamation – “Christ is risen!” This is where the particularly
Christian message begins. It is only after His resurrection and after
the apostles had begun proclaiming the resurrection that they saw a
need to record the Master’s teachings and the events which made up
His life. Christianity thus begins with the Good News that “Christ is
risen from the dead!”

Now I recommend
you read the rest of that article as well but at this point I am
cautious that misunderstanding might creep in. “Is Matt denying
justification by faith? Is he downplaying the atoning significance of
the cross?” Well no, of course not, the resurrection without the
crucifixion is like a plot twist without a plot. I think the
crucifixion and the life that precipitated it has major significance
for how we understand Jesus, our relationship with our Creator and how
we live our lives.

What I am alluding to however, is this, that the various atonment metaphors we find in the New Testament are all post-resurrection
insights. That while the crucifixion chronologically preceded the
resurrection, witnessing to the resurrection chronologically preceded
detailed development of atonement theology. Atonement theology may
therefore be thought of as an important dimension of the good news, but
I don’t see it as the good news in a totalistic sense, or in the most
original sense. The good news in its most raw and original form was
that proclaimed by Mary Magdalene, “I have seen the Lord!” And I feel
uplifted just being on the receiving end of that message.

6 thoughts on “The Gospel begins with the Resurrection

  1. Good post.
    I love reading the parts in Acts when the people ask the Apostle’s to defend what they are doing and preaching. Always they tell the story, which talks about God working in Isreal and Finally Jesus of Nazareth. The conclusion of the message ends like this usually “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” Notice that they ephasize the cruxifiction as our vicious and evil act against him, and God’s ressurection as God’s victory through him. That is the story point. And this story about killing the messiah but God raising him from the dead also produces this theological point “When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways”.
    I guess I say that the traditional Atonement theology does not go against, but compliments and enriches, the ‘Christus Victus’ theology(I’m not sure If I spelled that right) and vice versa.

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  2. This is an extremely interesting post and a question I have often thought about. I guess it gets to what we think the crux of Christianity is. I think a lot of people would agree that Christianity begins with the resurrection.
    I wonder, though, if this means we subscribe to a faith that is primarily passive — about receiving forgiveness — rather than assertive — taking up the cross and following.
    I worry that too much focus on the resurrection robs the gospel of its good news as Jesus defined it to John while he was in prison. Or put another way, if the resurrection didn’t happen, would the way of Jesus still be worth following?
    Thanks for the post.

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  3. Well I would argue the resurrection carries a number of implications, and this is where we move on from the gospel in its rawest form and into the more detailed elaborations.
    Firstly, because Jesus is risen, and because through his resurrection we are birthed into a living hope (1 Peter 1:3), we can affirm that sin and death do not have the last word. Therefore we should not fear death and we should not fear the crucified life. The ultimate weapons of the state and the market, inflicting death and suffering, have been rendered powerless and the temptations of Satan have been relativised. So, this isn’t a call to passivity at all. Quite the contrary, the resurrection empowers us for action.
    A few related concepts I would draw attention to here are, firstly, the resurrection of Jesus as the first fruits of the harvest and, secondly, hope as the motivation for sacrificial living.
    There is a theme in scripture, often more implicit than explicit, of Easter morning being the dawn of the new creation and Jesus being the new Adam. You catch a bit of this with the risen Jesus being mistaken for “a gardener” at the end of John’s gospel and old Adam / new Adam comparisons in some of the letters of Paul. In effect, while the Kingdom of God has not yet come in fullness, it has already been inaugurated. The beginning of the new beginning has started. The King now sits on the throne, the future Kingdom has begun breaking into the present, it is time to start living in the light of that.
    To this I would add some interesting reflections of John Piper from his book “Future Grace”. John points out that if you look at the Bible carefully and where the apostles grounded their motivation for sacrifical living, it wasn’t, as you would expect, in thankfulness for the grace already received but in hope for the grace that was still to come. In other words, it was their hope in their future resurrection / glorification / Kingdom citizenship that they found strength for the struggles in the now, and that this future hope was firmly grounded in what God had already done. So its all interlinked really.

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  4. Isaiah, I don’t know if I would even call this Christus Victor theology as that relies heavily on “ransom” metaphors.
    What I am suggesting, rather, is that the good news is a simple message with many implications and that a variety of atonement metaphors can hang off it. Here is how Scot McKnight put it:
    “Atonement language includes several evocative metaphors: there is a sacrificial metaphor (offering), and a legal metaphor (justification), and an interpersonal metaphor (reconciliation), and a commercial metaphor (redemption) and a military metaphor (ransom). Each is designed to carry us…to the thing. But the metaphor is not the thing. The metaphor gives the reader or hearer an imagination of the thing, a vision of the thing, a window onto the thing, a lens through which to look in order to see the thing. Metaphors take us there, but they are not the “there”
    From these metaphors later theologians developed even more elaborate atonement theologies: the “ransom to Satan” model of Gregory of Nyssa, the “satisfaction” model of Anselm, and the “penal substitution” model that is so popular today. These all shed light on the Easter event in different ways but I find it immensely helpful to keep coming back to that simplest of messages, “Jesus is risen”
    But that being said, yes, I would agree that the “traditional” (ain’t that a loaded word) atonement theology does not go against, but compliments and enriches, other atonement theologies.

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  5. What you just said reminded me a lot of a chapter in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis were he talks about the cruxifiction and what is all means.
    Also I have question: There is a theology movement/idea that talks about the cruxifiction as when all the evils of the world ‘ganged up’ so to speak against Christ. Is that Christ Victus or am I confusing that with something else.

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  6. A lot depends on which atonement theory you regard as “traditional”.
    G.B. Caird expounds (in his commentary on Revelation) the forensic theory from the point of view of Christus victor, which makes a whole lot more sense to me than the theories that make the forensic theory central and interpret the rest in the light of that.
    To summarise: Christ is accused in the Jewish court, and found guilty of blasphemy. He is accused in the Roman colonial court and found guilty of sedition, and sentenced to death, and the sentence is carried out. He is executed.
    But in the court of ultimate appeal (switch to Zech 3) he is vindicated. He is wearing dirty clothes, but they are our clothes, not his. He put them on when he was baptised by John in the Jordan, at the lowest place on the surface of the earth.
    So a clean robe is put on him, the verdict of the lower courts is reversed. But in earthly courts it is possible to reverse the verdict, but not the sentence.
    But Christ is risen from the dead. The sentence is reversed, and the accuser of our brethren (cut from Zech 3 to Rev 12) is cast down, and there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8).
    And so in the Orthodox Church at Easter instead of the Trisagion we sing “As many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ Alleluia” – they took away his dirty clothes which are ours, and we get the clean clothes which are his.

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