Here is a letter written by Shammah, my favorite biblical scholar, to a question that arose from a recent teaching I did on resurrection. Part of the question asked was if I had contradicted myself concerning my saying that we would be judged by what we do and not what we think. Earlier in the teaching I said that we would not be saved if we failed to believe Christ was raised from the dead. I liked Shammah's answer so much I wanted everyone to read it. It is printed in its entirety and worth the read. Here it is....
Sorry I couldn't get to this earlier. I was in Memphis today.The answer to this question, if it was thorough, would have to be really long. However, here's the short version.
1. Yes, there's a little bit of a contradiction there. Not a complete contradiction, but there is a contradiction.
2. Very little about spiritual things is absolute. In other words, things that are generally true tend to be almost always true, not always true.
3. There's a difference between being saved here and being saved on judgment day.
Let me explain.
On the last day, when we face God, the Bible teaches that we will be judged by what we do, not what we think.
The Bible also teaches that humans are fallen. We've inherited a tendency to sin--a sin nature that lives inside of us--from Adam.
Thus, we need two salvations. We need to be saved on judgment day, but in order for that to happen, we must first be saved here. If we are not saved here, our sin nature will drive us--or at least most of us--to live lives that will result in our being condemned at the judgment.
Belief in the resurrection is part of being saved here. It's right at the core of what compels us to believe in Jesus. He's "proven to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead" (those words poorly paraphrased from Romans 1, but the thought is accurately quoted).
Jesus empowers us to overthrow our sin nature. He frees us from being the race of Adam, and he births us anew as a new human, spiritual and alive in God.
Thus, belief in the resurrection does have to do with salvation--the salvation we experience here so that we can live a life that produces the good deeds that will go before us to the judgment.
Since the apostles were appointed by Jesus specifically to be witnesses of the resurrection, I'd recommend finding modern witnesses of the resurrection. Abba referred to the strongest evidence of the resurrection there is: the apostles.
It has always struck me that Jesus was able to live with 12 men, training them and traveling around with them, for 3 years, and at the end of those 3 years, they believed he was God.
Who could do that?
They believed he was raised from the dead. They claimed to have seen him. Pretty much all of them were put to death for their belief. Not one of them fell away or denied him.
Contrast that with Joseph Smith, who started the Mormons. He got 9 people (I think that's the right number) to sign as witnesses that they had seen the golden plates from which Joseph Smith had translated the Book of Mormon. However, before they died, more than half of them (6, I think) had recanted their testimony.
None of the apostles did.
The apostle Paul is a 13th one. He was a witness of the resurrection, but he saw Jesus years after the others.
He was whipped, beaten with rods, stoned, imprisoned, over and over again.
He never stopped claiming that he'd seen Jesus Christ risen from the dead and that his whole life was based on that moment.
That's what convinced me at first. It made me say, "Jesus is alive, he's really the Son of God, and I'm going to have to change my life to conform to his wishes."
When I made that decision with conviction in my heart, the Holy Spirit descended on me, and my whole life transformed.
I want everyone else to make that decision. I want everyone else to receive the Holy Spirit and have fellowship with God. I don't want you or anyone else to be satisfied with something else--something mediocre like reading the Bible and being good.
I'm okay with you questioning yourself and being messed up some. Go after belief. Tell God you want something more. Tell him you want a conviction of spiritual things that is deep down in your very bones, placed there by the Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures say, "If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those that ask him."
Never be satisfied with something less than greatness. Don't ever confuse greatness with being famous. Housewives, janitors, and homeless people can be great. Greatness is found in wisdom, and Jesus Christ is wisdom. I want him to live in you, and I want you to have a wisdom that comes from him.
"In all your getting, get wisdom," said Solomon.
There is a promise not just that God will give the Holy Spirit to those that ask because he is a good Father, but it is also promised that those who seek will find. In the seeking, you prove yourself worthy to receive the treasure. In the giving of yourself to obtain, you prove yourself worthy of possessing.
So, on a less lofty and more earthy note, I suggest you look at the evidence of the resurrection, and that you think about what the resurrection says about Jesus. He overcame death. Nothing can hold him, and he has promised to forgive the sins and transform the lives of those who receive him ... who forget their old lives and follow him.
"Listen, oh daughter! Consider, and incline your ear. Forget your own people, and your father's house, for so the King will greatly desire your beauty. Worship him, for he is your Lord" (Ps. 45).