Mar

29

2013

Matthew Barrett|12:01 AM CT

Why the Resurrection Changes Everything

Does the resurrection of Christ matter? Does it truly make a difference? The apostle Paul sure thought so. In writing to the Corinthians, Paul was faced with the startling news that some in Corinth denied the future resurrection of the body. Such a view was adopted by many in the Greco-Roman world. Death was the end. Actually, not much has changed since the first century. Today, the same view is held by skeptics of the faith.

What was so shocking, however, is that in Paul's day, some Christians, who affirmed the bodily resurrection of Jesus, nonetheless denied the future resurrection of the body. Paul responds with boldness, arguing that you cannot have one without the other. If there is no future resurrection for believers, then Christ himself has not been raised! And if Christ has not been raised, then everything changes. Let's explore the consequences of the resurrection of Christ for the Christian life.

1. The resurrection of Christ is inseparable from the gospel of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul begins by reminding his brothers of the "gospel I preached to you . . . by which you are being saved" (15:2). This gospel, Paul says, revolves around the death of Christ, who "died for our sins in accordance with the Scripture" (15:3). But notice, Paul does not end there. Christ did not remain dead, but he was also "raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (15:4), before appearing to his disciples.

Have we, as gospel-centered, gospel-saturated believers, left the resurrection out of our gospel message? I know I am guilty. After reflecting on an opportunity I had to share the gospel with an unbeliever, I suddenly realized that not once had I mentioned, at least in any depth, the resurrection of Christ. I fear that my experience is not my own, but that of evangelicals everywhere. But Paul teaches us that we must come to grips with the biblical reality that the resurrection of Christ cannot be divorced from the death of Christ when we speak about the gospel. Should we separate the two, we will seriously miss the significance of the resurrection for our salvation. As Thomas Schreiner states, "Christ's death and resurrection are inseparable in effecting salvation."

2. The resurrection of Christ is the fuel that ignites our preaching to a lost world.

Ask yourself this: Would your preaching look any different if Christ had not risen from the dead? If your answer to that question is no, then there is a serious problem. For Paul, the resurrection of Christ made all the difference in the world when it came to preaching. If Christ has not been raised, Paul says, "then our preaching is in vain" (15:14).

The reason is simple: you are misrepresenting God, for you are preaching that he raised Christ when he did no such thing (15:15). In short, if Christ did not rise from the grave, we have no good news.

3. The resurrection of Christ saves.

Perhaps the most sobering statement Paul makes in 1 Corinthians 15 is that "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (15:17). So often we limit our understanding of salvation to the death of Christ. And certainly the death of Christ, as Paul says in Romans 3:25-26, is the very basis of our justification. It is through his "one act of righteousness" (Rom. 5:18), the "propitiation by his blood" (Rom. 3:25-26), that sinners are declared righteous in God's sight. But there is more, much more, to be said. Not only does the substitutionary death of Christ save, but so also does his resurrection. For example, Paul states in Romans 4:24-25 that like Abraham we are counted righteous for we believe in him "who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification."

By raising Jesus from the dead, God declared his satisfaction and approval of the payment Christ made on our behalf, for our sins, on the cross. And as those who are in Christ (Rom. 6:6-11; Eph. 2:6; Col. 2:12; 3:1), God's approval of Christ's substitutionary death, demonstrated in raising Jesus from the dead, is likewise directed towards us, so that when we believe we receive the favor of God. Therefore, our justification is a real consequence of Christ's resurrection. No wonder Paul can say that "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). And if we are still in our sins, we have no confidence, no assurance of our salvation whatsoever. It is no overstatement to say, then, that the resurrection of Christ saves.

4. The resurrection of Christ is the basis for future hope.

How practical Christ's resurrection is—precisely because Christ has been raised, we can tell those looking into the casket of their loved ones that this is not the end of the story.

If your loved ones believe in Christ then even though they have "fallen asleep" they have fallen asleep "in Christ" (1 Cor. 15:18). And since they are united to this resurrected Christ, they have not perished but their soul has gone to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23), and they await that day when they will receive their resurrected body. As Paul tells the Corinthians, Christ's resurrection is the firstfruits of that great harvest to come. Though death came by the first Adam, in the second Adam "shall all be made alive" (15:22).

Apart from the resurrection of Christ, we have no future hope. As Paul says in no uncertain terms, if Christ has not been raised then we, out of all people, are to be "pitied," for our hope in Christ fails to extend beyond this present life (1 Cor. 15:19). But since Christ has been raised, we are those who can look death in the face knowing that it has no final victory, no lasting sting (1 Cor. 15:54-55).

I love how Paul ends 1 Corinthians 15. "Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (15:58). Because Christ is risen, we, as those who are in Christ, have every assurance that our labor in sharing this gospel of the risen Christ is not pointless or without purpose, but will matter for all eternity. Therefore, do not forget this Easter that the resurrection of Christ changes everything. Without it, we have no gospel, no salvation, no saving message, and certainly no future hope.

Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is assistant professor of Christian studies at California Baptist University (OPS), as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is the author of Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration (P&R) and co-editor of Four Views on the Historical Adam (forthcoming, Zondervan). He also edited Whomever He Wills: A Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy. He is the author of several other forthcoming books, which you can read about at matthewmbarrett.com.

Categories: Bible Study, Theology
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  • http://www.takeacopy.com/ John Dunn

    The resurrection of Christ is the basis for present new life and power. For in His resurrection we also have been raised with Him (Eph 2:6) to a newness of His resurrection-life that is actively and powerfully at work *in us* and *through us* by His Spirit, transforming us into His heavenly image from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor 3:18). The indwelling ministry of the Spirit is one of life-giving righteousness (Rom 8:4, 2 Cor 3:6-9)

    But sadly, this Spirit-empowered, experiential Gospel that once gave dynamic life to the New Covenant community was exchanged long ago in the academies for a bookish intellectual knowledge about the Gospel. We now have churches filled with knowledge but very little of the Spirit's resurrection life and power.

    I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).

    You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness (Rom 8:9-10).

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  • Kenton

    I think it is unfortunate that as a whole, Christianity has lost sight of the cruciality of the resurrection, such that the resurrection is only ever a confirmation that the check cleared, as though it has absolutely no value in and of itself, and is just secondary to the cross. That or its value lies almost exclusively in sanctification. The centrality of the resurrection of Jesus is far more significant that this, however.

    Without the resurrection, the crucifixion has no effect. It does nothing. That seems clear from 1 Corinthians 15. The resurrection is what makes the crucifixion effective. But the resurrection is also worth more than this.

    1) The resurrection is the means by which Jesus becomes enthroned as Messiah and Savior (Acts 2). Therefore, without the resurrection, there could be no outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and no final redemption of the world.

    2)the resurrection is the means by which Jesus becomes our enduring High Priest (Hebrews 7). Therefore, without the resurrection, there could be no true access to God, and no real intercession from above. More importantly, there could be no final forgiveness of sins. The author of Hebrews says, "he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."

    3) the resurrection is proof that Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead (Acts 17). Therefore, without the resurrection, there's no judgment of the world, no execution of God's wrath and justice, and there is no establishment of the kingdom of God.

    4) the resurrection is the declaration that Jesus is the Son of God (Romans 1). And I don't really mean God the Son. It declares that Jesus is the Son of God, the Adamic/Davidic Son who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, the first to rise from the dead, and therefore the one who has the preeminence over all things. The connection between the resurrection/everlasting life and sonship is not only found in John and Romans, but also in Luke 20:36, where Jesus directly connects being a son of God to being a son of the resurrection. Interestingly, Jesus also states, "they cannot die anymore" because of this, which is very similar to what Paul says, "We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him."

    5) the resurrection is the means of our justification (Romans 5). It is often said in evangelical circles that the cross is the primary and only means of our justification. And it's true that Paul does say that we are justified by his blood. But what is interesting is how the author Hebrews describes Jesus' propitiatory sacrifice.

    In Hebrews 9, he states, "but into the second [section - the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle] only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people... But when Christ appeared... he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption." I quote all of this because the author of Hebrews gives the very strong impression that it is the resurrection that secures, or makes effective, Christ's death on the cross. In other words, it is through the resurrection (and ascension) that Christ applies his work to us, so that without the resurrection, Christ's death has no effect. The resurrection gives the cross its meaning.

    But that isn't all. Justification as defined by Reformed theology, is the divine declaration that condemned sinners become justified sinners with Christ's record of righteous living, made right with God the Judge. And then having done that, adoption and sanctification and inheritance become additional benefits. However, that doesn't seem to be the way that the New Testament describes our justification (in many different terms). Rather, when we consider that justification is being made right with God, being declared righteous, and entering into covenant with God (the biblical term for right standing with God), we also can note what it is that man lost in his condemnation, and therefore what is restored in justification. In short, Ephesians 1 provides a significant basis for my belief that adoption IS justification, that justification is characterized by sonship in covenant, since that is what Adam lost, and that's what is declared about Christ in his baptism (Luke 3), transfiguration (Luke 9), resurrection (Romans 1), and session at God's right hand (Hebrews 1). The reason why all these are Adamic/Davidic, and why I believe that these are the basis for justification, is that Ephesians 2 states that we have been made alive and raised and seated with Christ in the heavenly places, and this in contrast with being dead in transgressions and later, without God in the world and strangers to the covenants of promise. As we know, Christ was raised from the dead and seated with God in the heavenly places, so we are seated at the right hand of God. If that's not a position of right standing with God I don't know what is. So therefore, without the resurrection, we have no righteousness (our faith is futile, we are still in our sins).

    6) the resurrection is the grounds for the hope of the gospel: our resurrection from death and our inheriting of and co-reign with Christ in the kingdom of God. We are raised with Christ. We are seated with Christ. We reign with Christ. So if Christ is not raised, we have no hope of these. He is the firstfruits, and after that, those who belong to him at his coming.

    Hence, the resurrection is very central to the gospel (which is more than just Christ died for our sins, but also the ultimate purpose for our redemption from sin). Without the resurrection, we have absolutely nothing.

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  • http://www.takeacopy.com/ John Dunn

    Kenton,

    A Glorious Amen!