Easter faithDr. Coleman never disappoints as he shares his insight about how Christians receive the faith that comes with Easter. – Bob

 

Where do We Get Our “Easter Faith”?

Easter FaithI remember standing on the hillside in the cold darkness waiting for the sunrise, even before I understood the full meaning of Easter.

Easter was a time to celebrate the coming of light out of the darkness, life out of death. The “sunrise service” was a part of my childhood in Tennessee.

As I grew older I came to understand the meaning of Easter. I feel that there are three levels or stages in understanding its significance.

The first level is simply the historical—the EVENT. Something happened a little more than 2,000 years ago.

When we speak of Jesus, we speak of a definite time and a definite place—we read of this event in the Bible.

But on this level, the Bible becomes only a history book, and the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus become mere history.

If we stop there, Jesus’ death is seen in the same light as the assassination of Abraham Lincoln or John F. Kennedy.

It is imperative and very natural that we move toward a second level—DOCTRINE.

When the early disciples sought to understand and explain the meaning of the event, they began to develop theological doctrine, a teaching accepted and proclaimed within the life of the church. (Read, for example, Romans 6:1-11 and I Corinthians 15:12-19.)

I can truthfully say that I never had any trouble with the story of Jesus, his death, his resurrection. I believe it because of my church background.

The historical event had now taken on the dimension of “church teaching.” My mind had no problem with this. This intellectual acceptance, however, still does not get at the genuine significance of the “Easter faith.”

The third level is where the meaning of the Easter event becomes real in our lives as Christian EXPERIENCE. I think this is what the apostle Paul was saying when he wrote to the Galatians,

“I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live: yet not I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

To Paul, the crucifixion of Jesus means nothing simply as an event in the past or a doctrinal idea in our minds; it must become a part of our experience.

I am so thankful for my parents and my church. It was in my home and at my church so long ago that I felt love and care.

In that human love and care I saw demonstrated God’s love and care. They were sensitive to my spiritual needs and longing, and through their lives they were saying to me: “Somebody loves you!”

When I was 9, I asked: “Who?” They responded: “God does.” In that moment of love and understanding the event and the doctrine converged into my very own personal experience.

The meaning of Easter is well expressed in that old church hymn that declares: “You ask me how I know he lives, he lives within my heart.”

Prayer: Father, the mysteries of the cross and resurrection and the deep riches of the gospel are far beyond our comprehension.

We thank thee that we have seen the cross that gives life, and the resurrection that gives hope, even though we understand little of its meaning.

Reveal to us more of its meaning and may we live in its power through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

About the Author

G. Byrns Coleman is a retired Professor of Religion and Chair of Department of Religion & Philosophy, Wingate University, Wingate, NC . He is also a member of Wingate Baptist Church .

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