In the world of biology, all organisms are classed or grouped together by certain similarities and separated by differences in their cellular makeup. These grouping are known as “kingdoms,” such as the “plant kingdom,” and the “animal kingdom.” Those are pretty obvious in their classifications, but other groupings such as bacteria and a kingdom known as “Prostista” (complex microscopic cells) have a far wider range of characteristics. So how do the biologists determine the criteria for classifying species? My Biology 101 textbook made a statement that drew my attention: “Evolutionary assumptions are generally used to decide which characteristics are most primitive and therefore most important.” In other words, in tracing a species’ changes and growth, classifications are based on the most basic characteristics—it’s “starting point”—as the most important. Please note, I am not endorsing an evolutionary perspective, but merely pointing to the way all life forms grow and change from their earliest state. For instance, all human beings start from the same organisms and from there a person changes and grows, but the basic building blocks of human life are evident throughout those changes. All humans share this starting point, regardless of gender or ethnicity or location. Thus we classify all humans differently from say plant life or bacteria.
So how does a biology lesson apply to a Christian devotional? I’m glad you asked. The Christian faith has experienced a tremendous amount of change over the past two-thousand years. Some of these changes have been positive, such as the agreement of the doctrines of the faith and some have challenged and strengthened the faith—consider the inspiration of the martyrs during the persecution of the church. Some changes have been hard, but necessary, such as the Reformation, which gave birth to Protestantism. From there we have multiple branches of denominations, each with their own traditions and structure. These are not bad things in themselves but they have changed the complexity of the faith. And yes, some changes have caused havoc, confusion and turmoil in the church. I’ll leave those unnamed so we don’t lose focus. The point is, all these changes have added layers to the basic truths of Christianity.
The question then becomes, when we strip away all these added layers what is the “most primitive and most important” aspect of the Christian faith?
Paul makes it very clear in his letter to the church in Corinth:
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time . . . Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appear to me also.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.
The death of Jesus Christ, His burial and His resurrection are the core, the root, and the foundation of the Christian faith. Paul said that those are “of first importance.” That does not mean that other doctrine of the faith are of lesser importance. We must recognize the humanity and divinity of Jesus, the incarnation and the virgin birth, but the heart of our faith is the fact that Jesus died, evidenced by His burial, and that He rose again, as seen by the many witnesses afterward. If your faith is built on anything other than this, if your confidence is in your religious affiliation, if you follow a Jesus who is a “good teacher and moral example,” if you adhere to traditions rather than truth, I dare to say you do not have saving faith. Only faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is saving faith. If your Christianity is not built on this single most important truth of all, then you should reconsider whether you truly are a Christian.
Why are these so important? Without the death of Jesus, our sin debt remains. Only Jesus could be the perfect sacrifice for your sin and my sin and the sins of all of humankind. Simply put, Jesus’ death paid for our sins. But why is it so important to know about His burial? Because without the grave His death is a question not a fact. Jesus was visibly buried in an earthly grave to validate His death. It is also important because, to borrow from Bill Gaither, “The empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.” The empty tomb was the first indication that Jesus’ followers had that He was alive. Jesus’ resurrection is the assurance we have of eternal life. Without His resurrection, we are trusting in a dead man with no power. But He is alive and He promises us that we will have life everlasting if we believe and trust in Him.
There are many facets to the Christian faith and we do well to learn about atonement, justification, sanctification, grace, Christology and the other great truths of Christianity. If you’ve never studied these important doctrines, I encourage you to do so. They will enrich your understanding of the Bible and of your relationship with Christ. Consider them the building blocks of your faith. But before you start building, make certain you are on the rock-solid foundation of “first importance.” Be sure your faith is resting on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Chris. “All other ground is sinking sand.”
Lord Jesus, there are many voices that claim to know the truth, but only Your Word tells us what is “of first importance.” Guard Your church Jesus lest we wander from the substance of our faith and lose our foundation. Amen.
 Charles Detwiler, Kimberly Mitchell and Norman Reichenbach, Life by Design, (Boston, Cengage Learning, 2014), 14.
 William J Gaither and Gloria Gaither, Because He Lives, (1971).
 Edward Mote and William B. Bradbury, The Solid Rock, (n.d.)