I think its fair to say that evangelicals tend emphasize the cross of Christ to the neglect of his resurrection. More hymns are written about the cross. More sermons are preached on the cross. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing a cross-centered and cross-focused ministry. But I do wonder if we have not lost a balance to which the New Testament holds firmly, a balance between the importance of both cross and resurrection for the full work of salvation.
This balance shows up clearly in the opening verses of 1 Peter. Peter affirms in one breath that the people of God are sprinkled with the blood of Christ (1:2) and given new birth through the resurrection of Christ from the dead (1:3). For Peter, a holistic and fully developed doctrine of salvation maintains that we are forgiven through the atoning and substitutionary death of Christ on the cross and that we are given new life through Christ’s resurrection. Death without resurrection is not good news. And neither can you have resurrection unless first you die. Both are necessary to a fully Christian and biblical understanding of salvation.
I wonder if our emphasis on the cross to the neglect of new resurrection life is not behind a tendency in some quarters of American Christianity to focus on salvation as forgiveness while neglecting an understanding of salvation as transformation into a new life. Its not a far stretch of the imagination to correlate this matter with an emphasis on justification to the neglect of sanctification which also characterizes some corners of American Christianity. Again, let me say that I’m not arguing for a de-emphasis on the cross. I am arguing for a balanced emphasis on both cross and resurrection. The cross and resurrection of Christ is not an either/or issue; it is always both/and.
So, let us, with Peter, maintain a fully Christian and biblically balanced understanding of this great salvation. We have been cleansed by the blood of Christ shed for us on the cross. We have been forgiven our transgressions and granted new birth into the new creation by virtue of union with our crucified and resurrected Lord. We now look forward to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.