"A Serious Neglect" - Part 3 - by Dr Ern Baxter
I’m not trying to verbally abuse you, I am trying to underscore that our altar calls are all Cross-orientated. He died for men. He died for you. Paul said that if He hadn’t been raised from the dead you’d still be in your sin. You know we come out with such things as, “He raised both hands at Calvary – can’t you raise one for Him?”. What in God’s Name has that got to do with the Gospel? (*laughter*). “He walked all the way to Calvary for you – can’t you come down the aisle for Him?”. Can you imagine Peter on the Day of Pentecost saying how many are going to hit the aisle? (*laughter*). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the martyr in criticising the liberalism of his day, said “It underscores the fact that it does not deal with the Resurrection but only with Jesus up to the Cross. The historical Jesus. This is the dead Christ who can be thought of like Socrates. Only the Risen One makes possible the Presence of the Living Person and gives the presupposition for Christology no longer dissipated into historical energy or an intuitive sense of Christ”. You see liberalism said Christ only rose in the thoughts of His disciples. It was a thought thing – they were inspired by the thought of His ongoing influence. Rubbish, balderdash! Jesus Christ rose physically from the dead and said, "Check me out. A spirit doesn't have a body like I've got. Come on Thomas - stick your finger in the wound".
Christ is risen! Let's say it! If you can handle it - that's where it all begins. Richard Gaffin again, "Christianity, at least the Christianity of the New Testament, is a religion of Resurrection". George Elton Ladd; "The important point at the moment is that the Ressurection of Jesus was the central proclamation of the early church. It is clear that not the life of Jesus, not His teaching, not even His sacrificial death was the central emphasis in the earliest Christian proclamation. It was the Resurrection of Christ. Yet Paul proclaims an impossible truth - the whole Gospel is encapsulated in the proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus. The entire New Testament was written from the perspective of the Resurrection. Indeed the Resurrection may be called the major premise of the early Christian faith".
Whether you agree with me or not, are you hearing what I am saying? How many of you will agree, and don't be bamboozled by me - be honest, how many of you will agree that as you think of your Christian evangelicalism, the Cross has been the major thing? How many will agree with that? Yes.
Now someone says, you're against the Cross. Of course I'm not against the Cross! I am not against the Incarnation, I'm not against the the impeccable life, I'm not against the miracles, I'm not against the Cross, I'm not against the Resurrection, I'm not against anything - I'm just saying to you that you can't stop half way on the journey and say this is it! You haven't got a complete story, until you have a complete story.
Again George Elton Ladd; "In fact the Resurrection stands as the heart of the early Christian message. The first recorded Christian sermon was a proclamation of the fact and significance of the Resurrection. Peter said almost nothing about the life and earthly career of Jesus". In fact all he said was, "Jesus of Nazareth, a Man". That covered the whole pre-Cross thing. Jesus of Nazareth - a man. "You did with wicked hands take and crucify but God raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand and He has shed forth this". Why are you going to stop at His death? It's just not intellectually defensible! You can't read the Bible and do that! Somehow someone has scuttled our reading of the Bible! We preachers have scuttled it - we have stopped at the Cross. The whole appeal to men is that Jesus died for you. Try to find that in the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Apostles is the only inspired definition of post-Pentecostal evanglism that we have.
And every reference to the preaching of the Gospel gravitates around the Resurrection. The Cross is an accepted fact! There had to be a Cross to be a Resurrection! But the Resurrection is the positive side of the Cross! The Cross is negative. It made an end of sin, it made an end of the old Adamic nature, it made an end of our debts, it made an end of the whole old thing. He made an end of it and went down into death. And if He was not an adequate sacrifice for all that and if He had not been able to wipe it out, He would have stayed there. But the fact that the Lord Jesus so adequately met all the demands of God was the fact that He rose from the dead! Christ is alive today! O'er death and hell holds sway! Risen, ascended, glorious! Christ is alive today!
I don't worship the historical Jesus! I worship the contemporary Jesus! I don't sing "Jesus keep me near the Cross!". I sing, "I see Jesus crowned with glory and honour!". (*applause*).
I'm not a teacher. I'm a preacher/teacher. Let me quote my good friend H M Ridderboss. "Everything that Jesus spoke and did on earth is now determined to the Church by and through His Resurrection. It is not the figure of Jesus who once wandered through the fields of Galilee nor is it the historical picture of the Nazarene which formed content of Paul's preaching". Now for you ministers and I am addressing you primarily who labour in your study and the Word and doctrine, you must have come to the same bewilderment that many Pauline schoalrs have come to and that is why Paul said so very little about Jesus earthly life and ministry. Very little! People said why doesn't Paul say more about it? Because Paul sees that the significance of Christ now is not the Christ of Galilee, it is the Christ who is alive at the right hand of God to oversee the Government of God as the King and Prince exalted at God's right hand!
If you are going to do it - do it! (*applause*). D G Dunn, a very exciting New Testament scholar and very current, says, "The experience of Jesus as risen has such compelling power that henceforth He and it became the driving force in their lives - the touchstone in their hermaneutic, the norm for their Gospel". You can't write the biography of Jesus and stop at the Cross.
Tomorrow: Part 4.