He Is Not Here, But Has Risen

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Luke 24:1-12

The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ which we celebrate today as resurrection sunday is one of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. He died and rose again thus reconciling sinful humanity to the Father through the efficacy of the finished work on Calvary. He died in our place as a ransom for our sins. He appeased God’s wrath for the punishment of our sins. (See Isaiah 53:4-6). His death and resurrection paved the way for everyone who will believe in Him to have a relationship with the father and to have eternal life.

As has been said already, the resurrection is a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection of Christ, there will be no Christianity. Paul says “…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1Corinthians 15:17). That is a very categorical statement. What Paul is saying is that, without the resurrection, we are still sinners living in sin and everything we have believed in the name of Christ is a hoax—if there was no resurrection.

Paul went further to say, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. These words speaks to us of the import of the resurrection in Christian doctrine. Randy Alcorn, in the book Heaven wrote that

The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of redemption…. Indeed, without Christ’s resurrection and what it means–an everlasting future for fully restored human beings…there is no Christianity”.

I will say that, if there is no resurrection, we better pack bag and baggage and walk away from the Christian faith. But thank God He “raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by [death] ( Acts 2:24). This is a wonderful testimony. Death couldn’t hold him captive. “God, His Father, heard His cry; Raised from the dead, He reigns on high”–Isaac Watts

The events leading to the resurrection points to one intriguing fact. The disciples disbelieved Him when He spoke about His resurrection all the while He was with them. John tells us that it was when Christ was raised from the dead that they remembered and believed what He had told them about His resurrection (John 2:22).

When Jesus died, the world of the disciples was shattered. All hope was lost (Luke 24:21). On the first day after the burial, Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and other women (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1, 10; John 20:1) went to the tomb to give Jesus’ dead body a befitting burial with spices prepared the previous day (Luke 23:56). The narrative clearly gives us an indication they were not expecting a resurrection either.  When they got to the tomb and didn’t find Jesus, their first thought was not that He had resurrected. Rather, “they were perplexed” (v.4). It was there; the truth of Christ’s resurrection was revealed to them:

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen (vv.5-6)

These are words of great hope. Christ is alive! Christ didn’t remain in the grave. He rose to give hope to those who will believe in Him for the forgiveness of their sins. Now, when the women told the disciples; they also didn’t believe: “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (v.11). All these ‘disbeliefs’ clearly indicates to us that the resurrection was not expected and couldn’t have been staged or fabricated by the followers of Jesus.

Why will they make up something they didn’t even believe or anticipated? Peter, we are told run to the tomb and and when he saw the tomb empty, he “went home marveling at what had happened.”(v.12).

Today, we have the testimony of Scripture telling us Christ is alive. We have no reason to doubt God’s word. Christ is alive!

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures … he was buried … he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1Corinthians 15:3-4)

Christ Died For Our Sins

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Image: Cover Photo for TableTalk Magazine (Ligonier.com), January 2015 issue

Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It is also the book of beginnings because it tells us  the origins of life and accurately explains the main problem of the world–Sin. From the first two chapters of Genesis, we are told of a Creator ―God― Who created the world and all that dwells in it (Genesis 1:1, 31, 2:26-27). After creation, God saw that everything He had created was good (Genesis 1:31).

But today, in contrast to Genesis 1:31, the world in its current state is not good. It is a world filled with pain, tragedy, wickedness, cruelty and every horror imaginable. How do we reconcile the current state of the world with God’s proclamation that “everything that he had made…was very good”. The answer is that sin entered the world. So;

What Is Sin?

Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God [a].Lev 5:17; Jas 4:17; 1 John 3:4

~Westminster Shorter Catechism Q14

In these words we see what sin is. Sin is breaking God’s law by omission or commission. In modern English, the words, “want of conformity” will read as “inability to conform to the law of God” or “failure to measure up to or obey God’s command”. In Greek, the word hamartia is used in explaining what sin is. Sin is “missing the mark” just like when an archer or bowman misses their target. And rightly so, we are all sinners because we have missed the mark of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23).

How did sin enter the perfect world God created one may ask? Again, we turn to the book of origins. In Genesis 2:16-17, we read of a commandment God gave Adam, the first created man, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”.

Fast forward to Genesis 3, Adam disobeyed God; he ate of the forbidden tree and by that act of disobedience, sin entered the world. Adam in the garden of Eden was acting as a federal head for all of humankind therefore his fall became the fall of all who will ever walk this earth: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”(Romans 5:12).

Except Jesus who lived a perfect life without sin, all humankind inherited the consequences and effects of Adam’s fall; physical and spiritual death. Our nature was badly corrupted and we were alienated from God. The Psalmist said “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).

What he means here is that he was born with a sin problem. He inherited sin. We are by ourselves unable to please God: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11-12). These words describe the helpless state of humankind without Christ. They are enemies of God, separated from Him and guilty of eternal damnation.

However God didn’t leave sinners to our fate to try to work our way to Him. God made the first move towards reconciling sinful humankind to Himself. If you read Genesis 3 again, we see that though Adam and Eve sinned, God’s mercy was manifested.

Firstly, God proclaimed what theologians refer to as protoevangelium–the first gospel. God announced His plans towards reconciliation. A curse was pronounced and a remedy for that curse was also revealed: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

The seed of the woman referred to here is Christ who the Bible speaks of by saying “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil”(1John 3:8). The works of the devil is sin that separated us from God. And it is this, Jesus died to destroy. He took the punishment that belonged to sinners. He died in our place to appease for our sins and reconcile us to the Father. Our sin was imputed to Him. He became our substitutionary atonement  (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 1:29).

Secondly, God covered the nakedness (guilt and shame) of Adam and Eve revealing a type of Christ’s imputed righteousness to those who will come to Faith through Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:21). Paul aptly captures this saying, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Corinthians 5:21).

Christ was murdered on the cross because of the sins of you and I. And He resurrected to give eternal life to all who will come to Him in Faith. This is the essence of what we celebrate as Easter. Christ dying for the sins of the world (John1:29). If you have not come to saving faith through Christ, you are condemned to eternal damnation and an enemy of God. One day, you will have to answer for your sins before a Holy God and nothing you will present will measure up to God’s Holy standard. Your good works outside of Christ are like filthy rags. Repent from your sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness.

Homowo: Can A Christian Eat Kpoikpoi (Kpekple)?

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Between now and September this year, the Ga tribe in Ghana will celebrate their festival homowo. Though I am not a Ga, I grew up in Osu–which has launched its homowo–and one of the fondest memories of those formative years is the celebration of Homowo, a traditional festival of the Gas which “…recounts the[ir] migration…and reveals their agricultural success in their new settlement. According to Ga oral tradition, a severe famine broke out among the people during their migration to present day Accra. They were inspired by the famine to embark on massive food production exercises which eventually yielded them bumper harvest. Their hunger ended and with great joy they “hooted at hunger” this is the meaning of the word HOMOWO”[1]

Before you proceed further, let me tell you my answer ahead of any explanation. My answer is Yes to whether a Christian can eat Kpoikpoi (Kpekle). While working on this article, I checked with a few friends about their views. One answer made me smile: “pray over it and EAT all you can

Now, as with every festival, there are celebrations and merry making and one of the highlights of this festival is a special food; Kpoikpoi: “…a Ga delicacy that is prepared during their popular festival Homowo. It is a corn food with unique texture and unusual flavour”.[2] It is enjoyed with palmnut soup and when there is a leftover, it can be fried to get a crispy texture.

What necessitated this article was an incident which occured recently at work. In a conversation with a colleague who is Ga, I informed her I will be paying her a visit during this year’s homowo celebration to enjoy Kpoikpoi in her home. Another colleague, a Christian friend, overheard our conversation and with shock in her voice, she exclaimed, “You of all people Enoch, I am surprised you are going to eat that“. Knowing what my friend was driving at, I took her aside and we had a discussion on the subject.

Now before the festival takes off in the different Ga communities, the priest, referred to as Wolomi, together with the paramount chief sprinkle Kpoikpoi to the gods thanking them for a bountiful harvest. After this, the festival is officially opened and every Ga household participating in the celebrations prepare their own Kpokpoi. So the common perception is that Kpoikpoi is pagan which in a certain sense is true because it is solely associated with the festival. No family prepares Kpoikpoi on a normal day. The assertion therefore of my friend was that I was going to eat food offered to idols or gods.

Fortunately, the Bible does explicitly address eating food offered to idols. There are some things the Bible is silent on, but this is not one of them. Paul, responding to a question by the church in Corinth on food offered to idols, wrote saying: “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth— as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father , from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1Cor. 8:1-6).

From the aforementioned text, I will attempt to expound why I said Yes, a Christian can eat Kpoikpoi (Kpekple).

Christian Liberty

Christian liberty “can mean that Christians are freed in respect to such activity that is not expressly forbidden in the Bible. Therefore one can feel free to engage in such activity as long as it doesn’t “stumble” or “offend” another Christian” (Rom. 14:12-16).[3]

The Bible, under the Covenant of grace doesn’t expressly forbid the eating of any food. In answering to the question of food offered to idols, Paul begins from a fundamental truth of Christianity. There is only one God. The Christian acknowledges only one true God who has revealed Himself to us through the incarnate God; Jesus Christ: “for us there is one God, the Father , from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist”.

Any other thing that exists by name as god or Lord, “so-called gods in heaven or on earth”, Paul says we know that “an idol has no real existence”. They are simply what they are, idols with no life; “They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them”. (Ps. 115:5-8).

We are emancipated from what Paul calls “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world”(Gal.3:9). Paul will finally say to the Corinthians: “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1Cor. 8:8). What food we eat or don’t eat have no effect on our relationship with God. We have the liberty to eat any food. Unless of course on medical grounds. So on the grounds of Christian liberty, I don’t consider it a moral issue or sin if I eat Kpoikpoi.

Boundaries On Christian Liberty

However, the same text that gives me my liberty, again puts what I would call boundaries around my liberty. Simply put, I can’t flaunt that liberty when other believers with a weaker conscience are involved. I can’t take a superior stand and consider myself a better Christian than the person who says no a christian can’t eat kpoikpoi or any other ‘forbidden’ food. That will put me in the category of puff up believers without love (1Cor. 8:1-2). Paul prescribes how we express our liberty when it comes to the eating or not of food offered to idols:

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged , if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble (vv. 9-13).

In exercising my Christian liberty, not only in food, but in everything I have liberty in, my fellow Christian’s conscience is also at stake. If my liberty will harm the conscience of my fellow believer. I better abandon that liberty out of love for my fellow Christian who has a weak conscience. That however doesn’t mean eating Kpoikpoi in itself is wrong or a sin.