Monday, April 28, 2014

What Does the Resurrection Mean for Me Today?

Yesterday morning, we heard a message from Greg Forseen, our church administrator, on reasons to believe the testimony of the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection as related in the Gospels.  He presented good, useful information to help each Christian in giving a defense.  I decided to go one step further and asked myself the question: What does the resurrection mean for today?  Sure, something happened two millenia ago, but what are the ramifications that make this event important in the twenty-first century?  I give some thoughts below from passages in canonical order.

Complete Work for Sin
But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also.  It will be counted 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.  (Rom 4:23-25)

All that was required to atone for all sin for all time was compressed into a few hours one afternoon outside Jerusalem as Jesus hung on a cross displaced from both heaven and earth.  He bore the full weight of sin’s guilt: he became sin (2 Cor 5:21).  The resurrection was testimony that the complete satisfaction for Adam and his posterity had been wrought.  We who believe are justified in Christ Jesus.  We can say, then, that while the cross dealt with the need for precious blood to ransom us (1 Pet 1:19), the fullness of the work is everything occurring from the crucifixion through the resurrection.

Fundamental to Belief
But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  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.  (Rom 10:6-10)

If Jesus did not rise from the dead there is nothing to believe, but if Jesus rose from the dead, and I do not believe, there is no true faith.  What I have is a sentimental ascent to an ideal but nothing in which trust is placed.  Without belief in a resurrection, no amount of altruism or philanthropy can suffice to overcome the spiritual deadness within.  Only trust in a risen Savior can do that.

Promises Validated
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  (1 Cor 15:3-5)

As God revealed himself through time, he was constantly pointing to the seed who would crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15).  That one was referenced as being the Lord’s anointed one who would ultimately reconcile Israel to God and God to Israel.  There was never a question of a promised one and the ultimate goal: what the Jews misunderstood was how that would be effected.  Isaiah was clear that a suffering servant would bear the punishment for mankind’s transgressions and iniquities (Isa 53:5-6).  The nation misconstrued this servant passage to be about them,* but this was never the case.  As Jesus points out to Cleopas and the other disciple on the road to Emmaus, the Scripture are about him (Luke 24:27).  All the promises pointing to his sacrifice and rising are fulfilled, so that we can rest assured of those foretelling his return.

Fundamental to the Gospel
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  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.  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.  (1 Cor 15:12-19)

When we share the good news of Jesus’ redeeming work for our sin, part of the message must be the resurrection.  As noted before, that was the seal of approval from almighty God that the work was complete.  We Christians rest on that fact.  The gospel message is not just for today however.  This is a promise that extends beyond the grave.  The promise of reconciliation and restoration was not just to be considered in a political sense.  The havoc death and the grave had wreaked will ultimately be fully restored in a new creation.  What we have in Christ is the beginning of that new creation (2 Cor 5:17), which will be completed when the new heavens and earth replace the old.  We live in expectancy of that future as whole creatures bearing new bodies—corporeal in some sense, yet different beyond description (1 Cor 15:35-49)

Living Hope
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  (1 Pet 1:3-5)

We have a living hope for the future because we have one who has conquered death.  What the Lord Jesus gained in his redemption will be revealed to us on the last day—an inheritance without measure or end.  What that inheritance entails is beyond our ken, I suppose, though was can be certain it will involve the presence of our Lord Jesus and the fulness of what was promised when we believed (Eph 1:3-14).

Access to God
Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.  (1 Pet 3:21-22)

Through the resurrection, we have access to God.  We make our appeal to Him because Jesus has achieved access for us by removing the veil separating us from God and making himself the way (Heb 10:19-22).  Where there had once been a barrier, there is no an invitation to come before the throne.

Does the resurrection matter to us today?  It certainly does.  Without our Lord rising again we would have uncertainty both in this life and the life to come.  Because he is risen, we can have full assurance of faith.

* Scripture is never to be personalized this way.  God’s word is a testimony of his interaction with man looking to the redeeming work in Christ.  When we make the Bible about us, we miss the point.

No comments: