“Pertaining to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”
In summary, Jesus Christ overcame death, made us be partakers of the righteousness of God in him at the cost of his death and resurrection. As a consequence we, God’s people have been raised to newness of life and have the pledge of a future resurrection, to eternal glory. As was his descent into humiliation, incarnation, birth, life, suffering, death and burial gradual. So to his ascent to glory was gradual also, resurrection, ascension, enthronement, heavenly advocacy and appointed to judge the world (Acts 17:31). Of course deniers from the start, there has always been (1Corinthians 15:12). This is why the apostle Paul here gathers so many witnesses for the resurrection, but he doesn’t waste words on such. You may ask why? Conducting his defence before king Agrippa Paul asks all those gathered, “Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead” (Acts 26:8)? They, Paul says, should have been expecting it, why? Because, “to this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22-23). He takes them to the revelation of God in Scripture. He doesn’t go about trying to prove it, again why? Because their response would simply be, O, what do you know, dead men do rise from the dead! It would not bring them to submission to God in Christ. If men will not believe the Scriptures they will not believe at all, “he said to him, “if they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead’” (Luke 16:31). Who is the determiner of what is possible and what is impossible? Our sovereign Lord and God is. Whether it be the creation in six days, a donkey speaking or the dead being raised to live. It is not proof that men need but submission to the self-authenticating, authoritative, word of God. We really need to get out of this penchant for proving everything. Let men learn from nature, the dead kernel of grain germinates and brings forth new life (John 12:24). This is both an image of the new birth and the resurrection of the dead. In everything earthly there is a reflection of things heavenly, it was all designed, made that way, purposely. Alas, all men are born blind, and, “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
1. The Prevailing Over Death:
The biblical fact of the resurrection is not a matter for argument, but faith. I think we need to learn from this and pay less attention to the deniers, and pay more attention to the confessors in churches today. Those I mean who confess the resurrection, accept the fact but who know nothing of its power. There are way too many today. So this stands as a warning also, assenting to the fact alone is not enough. A man is no better for confessing if he or she has not experienced the power, the blessing, the profit of Christ’s resurrection. There is a great need, as there was in John Wesley’s early days, for a recovery of vital, experimental Christianity. Bringing men to a solid, inward, vital religion, nothing else will do.
a) Death is Overcome: v54f This is mighty is it not, it was certainly in the days of the early church unheard of. I mean death is a fearful thing, “for what can a man give in return for his soul” (Mark 8:37)? Ask someone who is dying, it’s a certainty and ask them this question. What will you give if you could be given another ten or twenty years? What happiness there would be in the world if death could be got rid of? But here is the first profit for the believer, death has been overcome. There was the battle, the struggle first of course, on the cross, in death itself, and then the grave. Then for three days, silence. Hope is gone, “we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened” (Luke 24:21). But no, hope is not dead, death is. Death must hold its hands up and admit that he, Jesus Christ, is mightier. Enoch and Elijah cheated death, they skipped it, they did not overcome it. But Jesus Christ did. Now death is dead.
b) Defeated By Christ: v22 Death reigned from Adam to Christ, it has mowed down generation after generation, sparing none. But now, with a hint of mockery? “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)? Does Scripture really mean this? Yes! But you say death has not decreased over the last two thousand years? Death for the believer is no longer death, it’s just a shadow, there is nothing there. When I was a little boy back in Glasgow I had an awful fear of the dark. My older sister, and minder, when I had to go down into the dark cellar to fetch coal for the fire, who take my hand and say, “look, Jimmy, it’s just a shadow, there’s nothing there.” This is death for the believer in Christ, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). But instead of my sister holding my hand, the Lord will do that. Death for the believer is sleep (1Thessalonians 4:13-14). Contrast died and sleep. Jesus died so that we don’t, we sleep.
c) Christ”s Dying: v3b He really died and we really sleep. He experienced death fully, he suffered its pangs, he wrestled through it in its fullest extent. He cannot say he fell asleep, he died. Only believers in him can say that. But asleep is not just a word designed to put a spin of death, make it more palatable, a soothing expression, it is the reality. The terror has been removed from the king of terrors, the grievous has been extracted. To die is to go down, to sleep is to go up. One goes to sleep with the expectation of awakening refreshed, renewed. The resurrection is the link between the descent of the fearful dark night and the new dawn. We close our eyes and awake to an eternal day. No more evenings, no more dark nights, the sinners garments are cast off forever and we are adorned with the white robes and golden crowns. This is our first profit from the resurrection of Christ, death has been overcome.
2. The Participation in His Righteousness:
After the victory, the booty is shared. Christ has purchased, he won the fight over sin and death and hell, righteousness is ours. He comes distributing his righteousness amongst all his believing people. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This great and precious treasure is ours. A right relationship with and standing before God. Faultless. Now we know that was not our case, our status before. O yes, man was first made upright, created in righteousness but we all became guilty in Adam and stood guilty before the Judge. But now?
a) No Condemnation: v56f So this the second profit that is ours in Christ’s resurrection? In his dying, he gained this righteousness for us, not for himself. His conviction is our acquittal. He was convicted before the ecclesiastical court, the Sanhedrin. He was convicted before the state’s legal system, guilty, worthy of the death. A criminal before church, state and God, condemned. But in our place, he took what was due to us, his death is our life. So the booty he distributes amongst us is this perfect righteousness, granted, credited to us, we are just as though we had never sinned before God. We are as if we had accomplished the perfect obedience he accomplished. This gift is a very comforting gift (Psalm 68:18). Without this we would yet be devoid of any righteousness of our own, condemned as rebels before a holy and righteous God.
b) Made Partakers: v56f The emphasis here is upon the word made, “that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2Corinthians 5:21 AV). There is a warning to spectator here, you cannot remain such in this the great drama of God’s redemption. You must be sure to possess, to be a partaker of Christ’s righteousness. Otherwise, you remain a stranger to God his covenant of grace and his people (Ephesians 2:19). The resurrection of Christ is necessary to make us partakers of his righteousness. We are so wretched, stubbornly sinful we would never obtain or attain to this righteousness ourselves.
c) Made Not Become: v56f We cannot make ourselves right with God, this is God’s doing, absolutely, “because of him (God) you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). The best meal in the world is of no good if we don’t eat. The purest water will not quench our thirst if we do not drink. But this feast has been prepared at Calvary, all is finished, we are told to come to the wedding feast and dine. But we don’t, we have to be fetched. Thus, he arose mighty from the grave, and he comes and he calls effectually. He gives us the hunger. He gives us the thirst. And so we eat and drink. He gives us the ability to receive his gifts, so he not only gives but applies what he acquired in his death. So each resurrection day, Sabbath, Lord’s Day, the living Christ comes laden with his treasures, calling by the preaching of his word. He gives the gifts of repentance and faith by which we partake of the blessings of his death and resurrection. But his righteousness profits, it only benefits us inasmuch as we embrace him with a believing heart. “But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth, one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:8-11).
3. The Pledge of Our Resurrection:
It is according to the measure that the old man is mortified, that is the measure that the new life germinates in us. The old life, will, and its desires must needs be crucified. Our having been raised up supposes we have been laid in the grave, died with Christ. And now the new, the heavenly life has begun. The old has gone, it has the stench of a corpse hanging over it. This is the odour that hangs over humanity without Christ. No, not all are as sinful as they could be, for under God’s control, his common grace, a full expression of wickedness is often held back. But remove that? Death and destruction roar and rage like mad. But for the believer…
a) New Principle: v20f When an aeroplane comes into land or a ship to harbour the engines are thrown into reverse thrust, the machine is slowed down and begins to move in a different direction. As a result of this new principle of life planted in the believer, this is also the case. We are thrown into reverse thrust, now we are going in God’s direction instead of our old sinful way. This is more dramatic in some than for others, more noticeable, like the demoniac in the Gadarenes for instance. For others, the beginnings are often small, hardly noticeable to others. But now we have new principles of life, we act differently, we speak differently. We have been raised not resurrected. Like Lazarus (John 11), we speak of him being resurrected, he wasn’t. He was raised to life to die again. Resurrection is a totally different dimension altogether. But the new life is there, the gospel fruit begins to appear, and with it, a renewed battle each day. We are the branches, Christ is the vine, he lives in us, expresses his life through in us, and through us. Thus, we have a…..
b) Sure Hope: v20f Following our justification comes sanctification and glorification. The resurrection of the soul begins in this life, the resurrection of the body comes after. Here we are awakened from our sleep in sin, afterwards, we will be awoken from our sleep in the grave. Our bodies are sown in corruption, raised in incorruption. For his, Christ’s resurrection is our sure pledge, as Christ our Mediator arose, he being the head, we the body, we will follow him. And so we also have…
c) Sure Pledge: v52f When the trumpet is sounded we shall be raised. Alas for some this will be a resurrection to horror, it is not a blessing to all. This profit of which we speak is the believer’s in Christ. Our mortal, weak, infirm bodies will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. My grey hair will be gone, my memory renewed to perfection. I can recall events from my childhood days sixty-five years ago in Glasgow, but today, I move from one room to another and ask myself why did I come in here? The walking sticks and zimmer frames will be a thing of the past. Not infirmities, no growth or development, no decline in years, no invalids, no marriages. We will have the same bodies but they will be different, resurrection bodies, glorified bodies. So if you wanted to reduce the answer to our question, what profit is there for us, believers, in the resurrection of Christ, to three words. Justification, sanctification and glorification.
But as long as we are looking for earthly gain and glory, we are showing that we have no real desire for this profit. Those who do have this desire choose Jesus and those who choose Jesus also choose to live before they die. Because has been raised, their sins are forgiven. “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:16-17). Because Christ has been raised Scripture has been fulfilled, “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4). We can trust the word of God in its entirety. Because Christ has been raised every other kingdom that opposes his will fall and crumble at his feet. “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him” (1 Corinthians 15:24-27). Rome, Mecca, the kingdom of the Anti-Christ will all give way to the risen Christ. Therefore fear not little flock. Because Christ has been raised, our final enemy death is destroyed, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Because Christ has been raised we can face danger, even death for the sake of the gospel, “Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day” (1 Corinthians 15:30-31)! Because Christ has been raised, we can overcome the condemning power of the law, “the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57).
By faith I say, not rational assent. Faith, I mean, that is produced by a divine, supernatural illapse from heaven. The faith which is the immediate gift of God, a work of omnipotence, by the third Person of the Holy Trinity, the Holy Spirit through the gospel. Therefore, once again, because Christ has been raised our preaching is not in vain, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14-15). Christ has been raised, alive for evermore and reigning supremely at God’s right hand. This is why Jesus Christ is Lord and why you ought to bow the knee to him as your Saviour and Lord.
(© James R Hamilton, written 27th March 2016)