Less than 2,000 years ago, on a Galilean mountainside, eleven men were commissioned to launch what would become the largest cross-cultural missions movement the world has ever seen. It wasn’t the first time his disciples heard him speak of global mission, but this time was different. This time, their teacher—whose body they had seen beaten, crucified and placed lifeless in a tomb only three days prior—stood before them . . . alive (Matt. 28:16–20).
It goes without saying that if there was no resurrection, some of the great missions texts in the Bible would never have been recorded. The story in Matthew’s Gospel would have ended in chapter twenty-seven, before Jesus delivered his Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20). Luke’s account, similarly, would have ended with the crucifixion. It certainly would have never made it to part two, the book of Acts, where Jesus’s mandate to spread his gospel to the ends of the earth began to materialize.
But there are even better arguments for the centrality of the resurrection to God’s global mission.
“Without Easter, there is no mission, because without Easter, there is no gospel.”
Without Easter, there is no mission, because without Easter, there is no gospel.
- Without Easter, your faith is in vain and so is your message (1 Cor. 15:14).
If Christ is not risen, our faith rests in man with no authority, a god with no power, and a message with no validity. Worse yet, we labor in vain to advance a church with no savior. The very foundation of our belief, the testimony of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone, relies on the legitimacy of the resurrection. If Christ is not alive, the New Testament, along with its disciple-making mandate, is a sham (1 Cor. 15:15).
- Without Easter, you have no hope of being forgiven and neither do those who hear the powerless gospel you proclaim (1 Cor. 15:17).
In fact, if the tomb is not empty, you can be sure that your promises are. Your proclamation of freedom from the bondage of sin has no credibility. Your evangelism only shackles its recipients to a hopeless religious system, potentially ostracizing them from their families and threatening their only chance at a happy life at home in their culture. Please, keep your beliefs to yourself. If Christ’s tomb is not empty, you, poor friend, are still in your sins and there is no hope of eternal life for you or those who hear your empty message.
- Without Easter, it makes no sense to risk your life for the gospel (1 Cor. 15:19).
Cut your losses while there’s still time and delight in what you have left. I beg you! What do you gain by dying daily and risking persecution? Eat and drink your fill, for tomorrow you die (1 Cor. 15:31–32)! Laying down your life in service to a sorely mistaken dead man is imprudent at best. Paul was right that if the dead are not raised, then the Christian’s self-denial is foolishness. “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19).
But, friends, that is not the message we proclaim. Praise be to God!
We proclaim that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried,” and “that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). It’s on this foundation, as followers of Christ, that we stake our lives and our mission. Paul’s understanding of mission flows out of this understanding of the risen Christ (2 Cor. 5:15). He bought us in his death and resurrection, and we are now his. Therefore, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19, emphasis added).
“Because of Easter, the mission of God is our mission. And because Jesus lives, this mission will succeed.”
Because of Easter, the mission of God—to fill the earth with the knowledge of his glory—is our mission. And because Jesus lives, this mission will succeed.
- Because of Easter, all who put their faith in Him will live (1 Cor. 15:22).
Christ’s resurrection validates the testimony of the apostles and prophets. It fulfills the Old Testament and is the basis of the New. If Christ is risen, we can be certain that the gospel is true. All who place their faith in Christ will, like him, rise from the dead (1 Cor. 15:21–22). Because Jesus lives, we can share his gospel with confidence in its validity. All who put their faith in the Son will indeed live.
- Because of Easter, God’s mission to fill the earth with his image bearers cannot fail.
In his death-swallowing, victory-clinching, life-restoring resurrection, Jesus secured the eternal promises of God’s multiethnic redemptive plan. That plan involves saving sinners among every people group in the world. By emerging from the grave, Jesus effectively robbed sin of its power and established his royal authority over the cosmos, giving the hope of a heavenly makeover to all of God’s broken image bearers among every nation, tribe, and tongue. As sovereign Lord, Christ cannot fail. Therefore, in him, “we shall [indeed!] . . . bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49, emphasis added), and so fill the earth with the knowledge his glory.
- Because of Easter, we can lay down our lives freely for his mission.
Death is swallowed up in victory for all who have been buried and raised with Christ. Why, then, should we fear the prospect of dying for his sake? Why should we fear that which can only commence our transformation from perishable to imperishable, from dishonor to glory, from weakness to power, from a natural body to a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:42–44)? What’s more, why should we dread that which will swiftly usher us into the presence of God, at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11)? The fullness of joy that awaits us in glory should unshackle us from the love for this world (even love for our earthly bodies!). It should free us to say with the Psalmist, “You will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you.” (Ps. 73:24–25). When our love for life and earthly prosperity grow dim in the face of resurrection glory, we are free to lay down our lives for “the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord [our] labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
“If Christ is not risen, we are wasting our lives advancing a church with no savior. But because Christ is risen, then we waste our lives if we serve any other cause but the proclamation of his resurrection.”
If Christ is not risen, we are wasting our lives advancing a church with no savior. But because Christ is risen, then we waste our lives if we serve any other cause but the proclamation of his resurrection.
Jesus’s message on that mountain in Galilee was not just for his disciples. It was for you, Christian. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 18:20).
Join him on his mission, friends. He is risen!
Robert Wells V is a graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his family reside in Virginia where he serves on a team that trains international church-planters. They are currently preparing to a join church-planting team in Central Asia.
*All Scripture quotations are ESV.