Thursday, April 9, 2009

Good Thoughts for Good Friday

This is an academic look at the doctrinal implications of the death and resurrection of Christ, i.e. "the gospel." It is an excerpt from an
article written by Dr. Kevin Bauder. It's lengthy but worth the read.

The gospel is not primarily about the amelioration of social, economic, cultural, or environmental evils. It may entail these things, but it is about the forgiveness of personal sins, of individual transgressions of divine law. Because God cannot overlook our sins, He has provided a substitute to bear His wrath in our place. Therefore, the gospel affirms that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen of many witnesses. [See I Corinthians 5:1-7]

The gospel deals with historical events: the death of Jesus on the cross, and the subsequent resurrection of His body from the tomb. The gospel is not an ethical code, a moral philosophy, a liturgical ceremony, or a system for self-improvement. Rather, it deals with historical events, real happenings that occurred in space and time.

The gospel, however, does not merely narrate these events. It explains them, and the explanation is what makes the difference. That Jesus died on the cross, by itself, is not even a particularly interesting fact. Thousands died on Roman crosses whose names we do not care to know. What matters is not merely that Christ died, but that He died for our sins. When this explanation is attached to the event, it constitutes a doctrine.

The same is true of Jesus’ resurrection. That a corpse might be resuscitated is certainly a scientific curiosity, but not necessarily a matter of any spiritual interest. What grips us about Jesus’ resurrection is that “Christ is risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” We understand that “since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” With Paul we affirm that “as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we have confidence that “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” These affirmations explain the significance of Christ’s resurrection. Attached to the event of Christ’s resurrection, they are doctrine.

The foregoing implies that the gospel is irreducibly doctrinal. Without doctrine, we have no gospel. In some sense, doctrine does save, because the gospel itself is doctrinal.

Moreover, the doctrines do more than simply repeat the core affirmations of the death of Christ for our sins and His resurrection from the dead. The proposition, “Christ died for our sins,” implies that we had sins, that eternal judgment for sins is approaching, that our sins required condemnation, that we could not deliver ourselves from that condemnation. The same proposition implies that Christ was a qualified sin bearer, which implies both His deity and His humanity, which in turn necessitates the virgin birth. The fact that we know these things “according to the Scriptures” implies both the authority and the veracity of the written Word of God.

These doctrines [...] are essential to the gospel. [They] must be guarded as a precious heritage.


  1. Did Dr. Bauder cite 1 Cor. 5 instead of 1 Cor 15, or is that just a Utah typo? :-)

  2. You are correct; I meant I Corinthians 15, not 5. That was my insertion in the brackets; please do not think Dr. Bauder would get those passages mixed up! A Freudian slip on my part? I'll never tell. But thank you for the correction, sir.

  3. Freudian? Never crossed my mind. I just assumed a malfunctioning "1" key.

    Could you please pray for my mother? And for me. She had a nasty case of pneumonia a while back, and came out of the hospital at about 50% mental and physical capacity. I've been a full-time gracegiver ever since.

    She's really slowed down, and in the last three days hasn't eaten hardly at all. Sleeps most of the time. I think she's making a decision to be "absent from the body" and present with the Lord.

    She's comfortable and pain-free. Just weak and (I guess) leaving slowly.



Your turn. What do you think?