RESURRECTION IN THE EARLY CHURCH
Rodney Branton COLGATE-ROCHESTER DIVINITY SCHOOL
Any student of the New Testament sees at once that the Resurrection is so embedded in the life and preaching of the early church that without it there would have been no church and no preaching. The evidence of the Synoptic Gospels shows clearly that without the experience of the Resurrection the demoralized disciples would never have become the apostles of a gospel that swept across their world like wildfire. The Resurrection is the one adequate explanation of the Christian Church. When the group, after its shock at the crucifixion, reassembled in Jerusalem, the Resurrection was the central topic of the preaching. The sermons in Acts are built around the affirmation, "God hath raised him from the dead . . of that we are witnesses."
The entire New Testament supports this point of view. Paul states the case pointedly when he says, "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. . . . If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" ( 1 Cor. 15:14-17). Paul is not here defending the Resurrection nor defining it. Rather, it is assumed, and from such an assumption he argues for the resurrection of all Christians. This is a definite indication that the Resurrection of Christ is held by the Pauline churches as an accepted fact of supreme importance. The importance of the fact is further affirmed in another passage where Paul, reflecting a more primitive idea than his own, states that Jesus, who according to the flesh was a son of David, was by the Resurrection designated the Son of God ( Rom. 1:1-4). But the Resurrection for Paul is not only of great Christological significance; it plays a great role also in the saving act of God, where it is the pivotal point. By it, man is himself raised to new life that is death-defying. "We were baptized into his death . . . our old self was crucified with