When most Christians discuss salvation, they place the greatest emphasis on the death of Christ for our sins—the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ that satisfied God’s need for justice. Jesus took the punishment for our sins enabling us to be reconciled to God.
However, the Bible teaches another important aspect of salvation is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If this event is so important for our salvation, why is there not a doctrine of the resurrection explaining its significance? Most doctrinal statements mention the resurrection along with Jesus’ death and give no further explanation as to why the resurrection is important. James A. Fowler back in 2001 issued a call for a resurrection theology.  I have not seen any attempts to address this issue. Why?
The Bible emphasizes the importance of the resurrection in regards to our salvation as the following passages show:
1. Romans 10:5-11 states that belief in Jesus resurrection is necessary for salvation.
2. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 is an original confessional of the Christian faith. The part of the confessional dealing with the death and burial of Jesus is in the past tense. The part dealing with his resurrection is in the perfect tense which is a past event with present consequences. Why does the Bible treat these two events differently?
3. 1 Corinthians 15:12-18 states that if Jesus was not raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins.
4. 1 Peter 3:21-22 states we are saved by the resurrection of Jesus.
As we have repeatedly said in this blog, we must deal with what the entire Bible says and not just pick certain passages to form our theology. God put the above verses in the Bible for a reason and we must determine what that reason is.
Explanations for the Purpose of the Resurrection
Some say the resurrection is a guarantee of the believer’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). If Jesus was raised from the dead, then we can see our resurrection is a possibility. While this is true, it does not address why the resurrection is important for our salvation.
Some say the resurrection validates the person and message of Jesus. Romans 1:1-6 makes this point. The problem is that it is a firmly established fact our ability to know what is true diminishes the further we are away from an event in space and time (see the post of March 14, 2011 entitled “Proofs for Christ’s Resurrection”). God made us finite; he knows we cannot have definitive proof for the resurrection. So why would God validate his message to us using a method that is not available to us?
Why is it so important to God that we believe in an historical event such as Christ’s death and resurrection? What we believe about these events does not make them true or false. The only reason God would want us to believe in these events is because of the effect they would have on our lives.
The reason Christ’s resurrection is important for our salvation is because salvation is more than the forgiveness of our sins; it is the renovation of our soul. Christ dying for our sins removed the penalty but God has bigger plans for us than to merely forgive our sins. God purpose for us is to make of us a new creation, to renovate our soul so it becomes like him. Because of Jesus’ death for our sins, we are now to be dead to sin. Because of Jesus’ resurrection, we are now to be alive to God (Romans 6-8-14). And being alive to God involves more than our belief system, it encompasses our entire soul.
If salvation is just a matter of belief, then the resurrection simply validates the message of Jesus and guarantees our resurrection. The problem with this view is the Bible teaches the resurrection is necessary for our salvation and those who believe we obtain salvation through belief do not have an explanation for this. That is why they have not developed a resurrection theology. The view of salvation being the renovation of our soul explains why the resurrection is necessary. Salvation is more than the forgiveness of our sins; it is the change of our soul so it becomes more like God. Since we are sinful creatures, it involves us becoming a new person; it requires we become a new creation; it requires we be resurrected to a new life. Christ is our example. He died for our sins but he did more than secure our forgiveness, he was raised to a new life and he wants us to experience that new life as well.
We now know why the passage in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 refers to the death and burial of Jesus is in the past tense while his resurrection is in the perfect tense which is a past event with present consequences. Jesus death took care of our sins and there is nothing more that needs to be done about our sins (Hebrews 10:17-18). Jesus’ resurrection, which is also a historical event, has a present consequence which is the new life God wants us to live. The work that Jesus did is more than to just forgive our sins, he rose to enable us, in the present, to be a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is actively helping us achieve this new life (Hebrews 7:25). The passage of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 makes little sense if we believe salvation is solely by belief but makes perfect sense if we believe salvation is the renovation of our soul.
In the next few blogs, we will discuss the practical side of salvation—what the renovation of our soul means in our daily lives.
 James A. Fowler, “A Call for Resurrection Theology”, http://www.christinyou.net/pages/restheol.html, 2001.