Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack: Christ’s conquest of death sets us free before God

The most important words ever spoken are, ‘He is risen. He is risen indeed’. There, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we encounter the pivotal point of all history.

Jesus, God incarnate, suffered and died on the cross, was buried - and rose again. He was not taken down from the cross still alive as Muslims maintain. A centurion, a man well acquainted with dead bodies, pronounced Him dead. His corpse was taken by friends and entombed. When they returned the tomb was empty; He had risen.

A bodily resurrection. Not a ‘spiritual’ resurrection, or ‘myth’ as theological liberals maintain, but a genuine resurrection of the body. Deny this and our faith is useless (I Corinthians 15:4). Nevertheless it is denied. The Rev Dr Lorraine Cavanagh, acting general secretary of Modern Church, a champion of ‘liberal Christian theology’, said recently: ‘An adult faith requires that it be constantly questioned, constantly reinterpreted. To ask an adult to believe in the Resurrection the way they did at Sunday school simply won’t do and that’s true of much of the key elements of the Christian faith’. And thus Christianity, and all that goes with it dies.

We forget the power of words when they become familiar. We refer to Jesus as ‘Lord’ without thinking of its impact or implications. On the day of Pentecost, Peter went into Jerusalem and, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the first Christian sermon. He told the crowds the startling news that Jesus, whom they had crucified, had been raised from the dead and is the Lord of all.

Peter’s great assertion—and that of the entire Christian faith—that ‘Jesus is Lord’ seems commonplace today, but it was treason in ancient Rome, as it has been to all totalitarian power. ‘Jesus is Lord’ was a direct denial of the common Roman slogan ‘Caesar is Lord’. By proclaiming a Lord greater than Caesar Augustus, Christians were earning the enmity of a totalitarian regime, and knew it.

Early Christians did not stumble into this conflict of worldviews blindly, they knew what impact words had. Even the term ‘gospel’ carried political freight. The Greek euangelion (good news or gospel) was used to announce the ‘good news’ of the ascension of a new emperor. When the early Christians began to speak and write of the ‘good news’ of Jesus they were proclaiming a new and different regime, a new way of living responsibly before God.

Like the Christians, the Romans took Peter’s proclamation that ‘Jesus is Lord’ seriously. Peter was crucified in Rome under the regime of Nero. Most of the original disciples died for refusing to renounce their faith in the risen Lord. Peter didn’t die defending a faith of mythic or abstract claims. He died proclaiming a faith based on the concrete reality of the resurrection and for proclaiming that faith’s implications for ordinary people.

The radical message of Easter is that Jesus Christ rose bodily from the dead, the tomb is empty. The empty tomb proclaims to the Roman Empire and all totalitarians that they have an expiry date. There is another kingdom where there is freedom. It is not coincidental that Easter happened at the time of the Passover, the great Jewish celebration of the freeing of God’s people from totalitarian enslaving power.

It is in light of the reality of God’s sovereignty in the resurrection of Jesus that we have freedom. Freedom, as we stand unmasked before God as individuals responsible for our choices and actions, is fundamental because all other freedoms come from that. The ultimate freedom we have is to stand before the empty tomb and accept or reject the Lordship of Christ.

The events of this week 2,000 years ago, which we remember and celebrate, teaches us among other things that freedom is the essential means to discover and join ourselves to the truth, knowing that ‘truth will set you free’ John 8:12. The perfect manifestation of truth is God the Son who proclaimed, ‘I am the way, and the truth and the life’ (John 14:6).

God has given us the responsibility of choosing. Freedom is the ability of every individual to exercise personal choice, rather than be subject to the choices of others. It is this fundamental freedom through Christ that has caused Christians to be persecuted by totalitarian regimes throughout history. Totalitarian ideologies, secular or religious, cannot stand competition.

It is said that the 20th century produced more Christian martyrs than the previous 19 combined. The 21st century looks to be well on the way to breaking that record. Muslims take the Christian claim to the resurrection and Lordship of Christ more seriously than many Christians appear to. Why else would they discriminate and persecute us in every Muslim majority country for proclaiming that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’.

The attacks on Coptic Christians on Palm Sunday this year were not just an attack on Christians, appalling as that was, leaving at least 44 dead. The bombs were a direct assault on Christianity itself. It is not Christians who are feared or persecuted by militant Muslims; it is the beliefs of Christians that are violently rejected.

In Western Europe, we do not have persecution of Christians. Yet Christianity is forced on the defensive in the areas of public morality and civic interaction. In the name of individualism, the freedom of the individual is rejected by those who would wish to put their stamp on civilisation by enforcing conformity to their rules regarding identity, language, association and free speech.

Faced with the greatest of all miracles, that God should die for us and then rise again, what do we choose? When Christians recover the confidence and certainty of Peter’s proclamation of the Lordship of Christ on that first Pentecost Sunday, only then will Christians return to making an impact on the world.

Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack

  • Phil R

    You are out of step….

    Does the church require that members believe in
    the Virgin Birth? Well, maybe or maybe not. Or the divinity of Christ? Heavens,
    no. Or the existence of Hell? Or the reality of the miracles? Or the physical
    resurrection? Or the exclusive truth of the Christian faith? Or even of the
    existence of God? Are you kidding me? This isn’t the 16th century! The modern
    church is .. well …modern. It holds such things as adiaphora – and slightly
    embarrassing adiaphora at that since we moderns know such things are
    indeterminable, and therefore (how should we say this) unimportant.

    But what does the modern church require of its members? It requires that
    they must accept the legitimacy of women as priests and bishops. And people who
    don’t agree should just get out! There is an insight in there somewhere to the
    actual functioning Creed of liberal Christianity.

    • Tricia

      The church is Ecclesia – the gathered. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again and Paul questions whether people have had the baptism of John or the baptism of the spirit. Parts of the church today is a gathering of semi believers because they have false teachers.
      I am a member of a C of E church which preaches Christ Risen. We have just had a glorious Easter Day service for all ages. I pray God will act mightily in this generation to bring people to Him.

      • dexey

        After a year interregnum we had our new vicar with us for the first time and preaching Christ Risen and amen to that.

    • Charitas Lydia

      You’ve said it. The orthodoxy of today’s C of E and other liberal churches is women’s ordination, gender equality and gay rights. The resurrection? What’s that?

    • Coniston

      You, and many others today, may well believe in such a church. But what is certain is that such a church will not continue, for what is the point of it? If it adapts to every twist and turn of ‘modern contemporary thought’ it will change repeatedly over the years and generations. Why should anyone wish to become part of it?

      • Phil R

        You must be an American or Scottish so humour is an alien concept

        The first paragraph was satire. (With some truth)

        The serious point was the second.

        • Coniston

          I was referring to both your paragraphs.

  • dexey

    “When Christians recover the confidence and certainty of Peter’s proclamation of the Lordship of Christ on that first Pentecost Sunday, only then will Christians return to making an impact on the world.” It is a big help when we have a committed Christian unafraid to speak her belief as a leader.

  • Sheik Rhat el Anrhol

    Old Jesus was certainly not averse to a bit of Thalidomide though eh? Never seems that bothered about starving or murdered children either.

    Mysterious ways? I’d say so!

    My sister in law is as holy as you can get but when I bring the above subject up, she just glowers at me in quiet frustrated fury.

    She’s nuts of course.

    • Phil R

      Who is nuts?

      Thalidomide…. What are you on?

      • Sheik Rhat el Anrhol

        Whether you understand it or not, my point is serious and fundamental.

        • Phil R

          What point would that be?

          • Sheik Rhat el Anrhol

            I am sure you are joking. Nobody here is that dense – surely?

    • Belinda Brown

      Yes he gave us that responsibility and freedom and we have failed miserably. He does nonetheless give difficulties and suffering a meaning through which they become easier to bear.

      • Sheik Rhat el Anrhol

        Corbynista grade rationalisation.

  • Under-the-weather

    `Deny this and faith is useless.

    There’s plenty of religious faith in the world which doesn’t require belief in the impossible, but belief that good can overcome evil, belief that you reap as you sow, and belief in reincarnation (you can bring your negatives back with you).

    • Sheik Rhat el Anrhol

      Yes. All successful civilisation and natural law is based upon `do unto others’ because it makes logical sense not to hurt other people or nick stuff off them since this keeps the peace for the population.

      You can give all this metaphysical meanings too if you wish.

    • Phil R

      And in Athiesm, belief that killing a man is no more significant than burning a lump of coal.

      • Under-the-weather

        That’s a ridiculous statement to make, even the Celts and Romans had a system of rules and punishments

        • Phil R

          The Celts and Romans were Athiest?

          However, I did not say that Athiests do not have rules and punishments. I am just stating a person’s worth in their worldview.

          • Under-the-weather

            The Celts believed in the Earth mother, and Romans ,Roman Gods, they didn’t believe in a single heavenly deity. However even if you consider modern hunter gathers they still function with “rules” based on a system of belief. The system of belief based on `morality` being the beginning element.

    • Tricia

      The belief is the divinity of Christ. God cannot remain in the grave. The grave had a purpose – the reconciliation between God and humanity. This is why Jews and Muslims find the crucifixion and resurrection difficult – God does not demean himself. Through Christ God shows his love for us and takes on himself all the sins of the world so that we may be reconciled in love with him.
      You will never understand this cerebrally – only when you open your heart to this knowledge. Isaiah “these people come near me with their lips and not with their hearts”.

      • Under-the-weather

        “God does not demean himself”
        God isn’t a person, creation is a force of nature and God, the origin of truth (wisdom- knowledge-universal mathematics), the sensation of love as we die in this life, may come from our own ‘higher self’ in another.

        • Tricia

          My comment is that Jews and Muslims cannot comprehend that God would take human form and go through death to rise again to atone for our sins and enable us to be with him forever. They see this as demeaning to God.

          • Under-the-weather

            Messiah means annointed one “In Bible times, people were anointed with oil to signify God’s blessing or call on that person’s life (Exodus 29:7; Exodus 40:9; 2 Kings 9:6; Ecclesiastes 9:8; James 5:14). A person was anointed for a special purpose—to be a king, to be a prophet, to be a builder, etc” https://www.gotquestions.org/anointed.html

            So being Messiah doesn’t equate to being God. However we could say that we are all God in terms of consciousness…and that to find God we have to look inwards rather than outwards.
            ohn 10:30 reads: “I and the Father are one.” Ephesians 4:6 reads: “One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” You are one with Source and one with all of your surroundings.

            In Matthew 16: 24, Jesus says: “If anyone wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” When Jesus told the people to “deny themselves,” he was referring to the illusion of the Self, or the ego. You are not your physical body, but rather the soul within. By denying it, you can access the real Self, the Christ consciousness.


          • Tricia

            The words “I Am” are seen as blasphemy by the Jews, this is why they wished to stone him to death. There are six “I Am’s” in the NT. When Moses encountered God in the burning bush he asked who was speaking and the reply was “I Am who I Am”. Jesus said he was God. Now he was either a fraud and a liar or he was telling the truth. As C S Lewis says “he did not leave us any other choices”. It is up to us to either accept or reject him on those terms.

  • John Thomas

    “In Western Europe, we do not have persecution of Christians. Yet Christianity …” – of course, Campbell, there’s a typo here, isn’t there – comma in the wrong place; it should read: “In Western Europe, we do not have persecution of Christians – Yet. Christianity …”

    • ChaucerChronicle

      Which totalitarian model should we use as a reference-point?

      1. Headcount reduction model; or
      2. The tactics of the former GDR? (for example).

  • John Thomas

    Resurrection reality: “A thing that did not actually happen can have no spiritual [ or any other] significance” – or words to that effect (US Christian writer Nancey Pearcey).

    • ChaucerChronicle


      Could you tell Nancey that there are no photos of the battle of Actium.


  • Politically__Incorrect

    “‘An adult faith requires that it be constantly questioned”. Substitute “questioned” with “doubted” and you have the motto of the progressive, liberal Christian. Doubt is an easy habit to slip into like laziness or over eating, and it yields nothing of value, just hollow doctrine made up on the hoof according to what’s trending on twitter. Such people are no more Christian than scientologists

  • James

    The asinine utterings of the The Reverendess “Dr” Lorraine Cavanagh proves yet again the perspicacity of St Paul when it came to wimmin.

  • David

    Thank you Dr Campbell for that excellent, concise article.
    A few years back, at a particular stage in my Christian journey, although an orthodox, conservative protestant, I struggled mightily with the question as to whether women should be ordained and lead churches. I read widely, in fact I hoovered up every book I could find on the subject, for and against and across all the traditions, Catholic, to Orthodox to plain protestantism. I knew that the early Church had deacons into the 11th century, so I sat on the fence, just like many.
    But gradually as I continued my journey into the heart of the faith, and watched the signs of the time, I observed how every single female minister I met in my denomination, Anglican, and others, were always liberal and pressing for further liberalisation, the legendary “progressive” stuff of both politics and theology. So slowly I grasped that women as church leaders represented the Trojan Horse for diluting the gospel, as expressed in the Bible, and rediscovered by the Reformation theologians.
    I now believe that St Paul was right. Women will not defend the gospel but, as a generalisation, they will promote a social gospel, putting feelings and emotions above the plain truth, and the full gospel, that we were handed by Jesus and the early Church. Nowadays I will only attend, be taught and serve as a Lay Minister by a theologically traditional, orthodox male minister.
    Women have a vital role to play in the churches but they should not be leading them, or taking a primary role in preaching and teaching the whole church. The Christian groups that survive will be those that adhere to the full gospel and are led by Biblically faithful men, with men and women working in many different roles to make the whole of their local church a growing, living, welcoming community of God.

  • Dominic Stockford

    “blood and water came from his side”
    He was dead.