Sunday, April 21, 2019

Why Is Christ's Resurrection Important?

Jesus suffered and died to atone for the sins of his people. His sacrifice of himself was perfect and sufficient. What then could his resurrection add to this? Why do we gather for worship on the day of resurrection, rather than the day of his death? Why is the resurrection important?

The more you read the New Testament, and the more you look for references to the resurrection, you will notice that the apostles thought it was very important. You could look at the resurrection narratives in the four Gospels. You could look at the apostolic preaching in the book of Acts which strongly emphasized the resurrection. You could look at 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul reminds his readers of the vital importance of the resurrection as part of the gospel. But here I want to direct your attention to the book of Romans. Paul's epistle to the Romans gives at least four reasons why the resurrection is important.

1. Jesus Was Raised to Be Exalted
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God ... concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord..." (Romans 1:1, 3–4)
The resurrection confirmed Christ's claims and exalted him as Lord and Savior. First, this refers to the fact that His identity and claims were vindicated. His identity was central to His message. He had claimed to be the awaited Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of man who was prophesied in Daniel 7 who would save his people and judge the world (Mark 14:61-64). He had prophesied at least three times that he would be raised from the dead on the third day (Matt. 16:21, 17:23, 20:19), and even His enemies remembered this claim (Matt. 27:63). His resurrection was a divine vindication of His claims.

But it went beyond this. Every other time the Greek word in Romans for "declared" is used in the New Testament, it means to "appoint" or "fix," not merely to declare what already is the case. Romans 1:3-4 teaches that it was God's Son who was descended from David (thus he did not become the Son of God at His resurrection), but it does teach that he became the Son-of-God-in-power by his resurrection. He was no longer humiliated and weak, suffering for sin. It was at his resurrection that he was "given all authority in heaven and on earth" to apply the salvation he had purchased and to rule and defend his kingdom (Matt. 28:18-29, Acts 2:36, Psalm 2:7-8). He was always sovereign as God, but now he was sovereign also as Savior for the purpose of redemption.

The proper response to the Son-of-God-in-power is the "obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5). The response of those who met the risen Lord was to worship him and confess His true identity (Matt. 28:9, 17; John 20:28). It was also to go boldly and to make the nations His disciples (Matt. 28:18-20, Rom. 1:5).

2. Jesus Was Raised for Our Justification
"It will be counted [as righteousness] to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification." (Romans 4:24–25)
Justification is the opposite of condemnation (Rom. 8:33-34). It is a declaration that one is righteous, rather than a declaration that one is guilty and deserving of judgment.

The resurrection was the justification of Jesus - the declaration that he was righteous, that our sins which had been imputed to him were paid for. That weight was off of Jesus’ back. Death no longer had a legitimate claim on him. The atoning work of Christ’s death, because it was complete, led to His resurrection. By suffering and dying, Jesus was paying our debt, and in the resurrection God said “paid in full, you are free to go.”

This righteous sentence is imputed to believers. This righteousness is yours in Christ. He was “raised for our justification.” His justification becomes your justification when you are connected to Christ by faith.

Imagine if a man was raised to the rank of nobleman because of His brave deeds. Then later, this nobleman married a commoner, making her a noblewoman. The resurrection is like that initial declaration about the man's status. Jesus received His status as righteous and free of the claims of condemnation and death. Then, our justification happens when we are united to Him, just as in our analogy the woman began to share her husband's status when she married him.

And so, the suffering of Jesus (the atonement) is the basis for His resurrection, and the resurrection of Jesus is the basis for our justification.

This passage from Romans tells us that those will be counted as righteous who believe in God and His provision of salvation in Christ. So receive and rest in Jesus and rejoice in the peace with God that it brings (Rom. 5:1).

3. Jesus Was Raised for Our Sanctification
"We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his ... So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness." (Romans 6:4–5, 11–13)
The fact that we are pardoned and accepted as righteous in God's sight does not mean that our actions can go on unchanged. This is not because our works contribute to our status before God. Rather, this is because the only way to be justified is by being connected to Christ by faith, and being connected to Christ also changes us. If you are united to Christ, you have died with him and risen again as a new creation. Christ was raised so that you too might walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). You have been raised with Christ, ransomed and regenerated, born again to a new life by His resurrection (1 Peter 1:3).

But even though you have died and risen to new life, you still have the duty to act accordingly. You have been given the ability to live differently by Christ's resurrection, but old desires and habits die hard. This passage tells you to consider yourself dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (6:11). Let not sin reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions (6:12). Present your body parts as instruments for righteousness (6:13), rather than instruments of unrighteousness. Rather than a body of sin (6:6), your body is transformed by Christ’s resurrection to be a body of righteousness (compare with Rom. 12:1).

4. Jesus Was Raised for Our Glorification
"If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you." (Romans 8:11)
The final result of Christ’s resurrection is your glorification at his second coming. If you have been united to Christ by the Spirit, then your body shall be raised just as his body was raised. If you have been justified, you shall also be raised, acquitted, and blessed. Just as death had to let Christ go, so it will need to let you go at Christ’s command. Even though we have the tremendous comfort knowing that after we die we will be with Christ (Phil. 1:21-24, 2 Cor. 5:8), this disembodied state is temporary. Death shall not have the final word for us. It shall be the last enemy standing, but it too shall be overcome (1 Cor. 15:20-26).

Your mortal body, the one you have now, shall be raised to life and glory by the Father, through the Spirit, because of Christ’s resurrection. Your bodies shall be like Christ's body - physical, tangible, in continuity with our bodies before death (Luke 24:38-43). We shall not be ghosts. Like him too, your body shall be glorified, made free from weakness and morality. Your body will not be replaced, but it will be changed in a glorious and miraculous manner (1 Cor. 15:51-52).

And so we and all creation groans as we await the consummation of God’s redemptive work (Rom. 8:22-23). Things are not finished. But this is a groaning of exception and hope. Because Jesus was raised, believers can have a confident expectation of the coming glory, the redemption of their bodies and the renewal of creation.

Conclusion

Jesus is risen, and He is exalted on high! Behold your God and Lord, your prophet, priest, and king.
Jesus is risen, and you are justified! Behold in His resurrection the declaration of righteousness which is yours in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is risen, and you are given new life! Behold in His resurrection your new birth, a new beginning which is yours in Jesus Christ.
Jesus is risen, and you are promised future glory! Behold in His resurrection the assurance of your future resurrection, the redemption of your body, which is yours in Jesus Christ.

Humbly worship Jesus, your risen Lord!
Receive and rest in Jesus, your risen Savior!
Live in righteousness as those who have been raised with Jesus, your risen Head!
Groan with expectation and take heart, looking to Jesus - His body was raised and so shall yours!

“…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.” (Romans 10:9)

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