Christology Series: Christ's Resurrection
Christ’s resurrection is an essential aspect of the gospel and our Christian faith. In Romans 10:9, Paul said, “… 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.” Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul describes the resurrection, as well as other fundamentals of the gospel, as of “first importance.” In 1 Corinthians 15:14 and 17 (ESV) Paul taught that if Christ has not been raised from the dead, our “faith is in vain” and “futile.” There is no Christian faith apart from the resurrection.
Its importance is demonstrated throughout the New Testament. The Gospels give testimony to the resurrection. In Acts, the apostles proclaim it throughout the world. The Epistles assume a resurrected, ruling Christ. And, Revelation predicts his coming to rule on the earth. As Wayne Grudem said, “the entire New Testament bears witness to the resurrection of Christ.”[i]
Therefore, we must ask, “Why is the resurrection so important and what are its implications for the Christian life?” There are many crucial implications:
Christ’s Resurrection Ensures Our New Birth
In John 3:3 (ESV), Christ said that in order to enter God’s kingdom, we must be “born again.” By nature, we are dead in our sins (Eph 2:1). Romans 6:23 (NIV) says, “the wages of sin is death.” Death refers to separation. People are separated from God as a penalty of their sins, and if never born again, they will be separated from God eternally. Spiritually speaking we are dead to God and the things of God, which is why we need to be born again. We need new life.
In Scripture, our receiving this new life is attributed in part to Christ’s resurrection. First Peter 1:3 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” In Ephesians 2:5-6, Paul said something similar:
even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you are saved!—and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus
When a believer accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, they are identified with Christ in his death and resurrection. Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.” Christ’s resurrection delivers believers from spiritual death (and one day, physical death).
When somebody is physically dead, they have no sensitivity to stimuli. They can no longer enjoy or respond to beautiful music, a gentle breeze, or powerful words. This is also true of those who are spiritually dead in sin. They cannot respond to God, his Word, or worship; but when they are born again, they inherit spiritual life and therefore sensitivity to the things of God. They become hungry to know God, worship him, serve him, and others. They are spiritually equipped to worship God throughout eternity. This is what happens to a person at the new birth. In Scripture, the believers’ new birth is attributed to being spiritually resurrected from the dead through identification with Christ’s resurrection (1 Pet 1:3, Eph 2:5-6).
Christ’s Resurrection Ensures Our Justification
In Romans 4:25 (NIV), Paul said this about Christ, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Christ’s resurrection was basically a declaration of God’s approval. It was a divine guarantee, a receipt of payment—proving that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice for sin.[ii] Therefore, those who trust in Christ are justified—meaning they are declared righteous, as though they never sinned. Wayne Grudem said it this way:
By raising Christ from the dead, God the Father was in effect saying that he approved of Christ’s work of suffering and dying for our sins, that his work was completed, and that Christ no longer had any need to remain dead. There was no penalty left to pay for sin, no more wrath of God to bear, no more guilt or liability to punishment—all had been completely paid for, and no guilt remained. In the resurrection, God was saying to Christ, “I approve of what you have done, and you find favor in my sight.”[iii]
Remembering that we have been justified is especially important when the enemy comes to condemn us because of our sins and failures. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” God doesn’t accept us for our righteous works, whether in salvation or in sanctification. He accepts us because of Christ’s righteous works (2 Cor 5:21). Therefore, we can always run into God’s arms, accept his forgiveness, and enjoy his intimacy. Christ’s resurrection is a proof that God accepted Christ’s payment for all our sins—past, present, and future. Certainly, this isn’t an excuse to live in sin. It should be a motivation to run from it (cf. Rom 6:1-4). Romans 2:4 says, “God’s kindness leads you to repentance.”
Christ’s Resurrection Empowers Us to Conquer Sin and Live Righteously
In Christ’s death, he paid the penalty for our sins and broke the power of sin over our lives. But, through the resurrection, Christ empowers us to live righteously. In Romans 6:4, 6, and 11-13, Paul says:
Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life… We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin… So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness.
Being dead to sin doesn’t mean that we no longer have a sin nature (v. 11)—we do. However, we are no longer slaves to that nature (v. 6). Because of Christ’s resurrection, we have been empowered by God’s Spirit to “live a new life” (v. 4). One day when we die and go to heaven or when we receive our glorified bodies, we will be delivered from the presence of sin all together. However, until then, we must walk in the resurrection power, which comes from Christ, to conquer sin and live righteously. In Ephesians 1:18-20 (ESV), Paul prays for us to be aware of this resurrection power at work in us. He says,
having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know … what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places
But not only do we need to know the power of the resurrection in our lives, we must also access it (cf. Eph 3:16, Phil 3:10). We do this by abiding in Christ. In John 15:5, Christ said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me—and I in him—bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing.” If we’re not abiding in Christ through daily prayer, Bible reading, worship, obedience to God, fellowship with the body, and serving, we won’t produce much fruit. The resurrection power won’t operate in our lives as it should. We’ll find ourselves constantly falling to sin and temptation and unmotivated to serve God. In fact, apart from abiding, we can’t do anything truly honoring to God.
Through his death and resurrection, Christ conquered sin, and because we are identified with both in our salvation (Rom 6:4), we are also empowered to conquer sin and live righteously (Rom 6:11-13). In light of this, Tony Evans said:
Therefore, if you and I have sin in our lives that is overcoming us and beating us down, it is because we have adopted faulty thinking. We are living as if Christ's resurrection life within us is theoretical and not real. The analogy is this. If death is real and not just theoretical, then your new life in Christ and your new power over sin are real and not theoretical. If you will learn to identify with your new life in Christ (Ephesians 2:5), rather than with your old life in Adam, you will have new victory in Christ rather than old defeat in Adam. You and I need to learn to think in terms of, "I am not what I used to be, so I don t have to act like I used to act."[iv]
Likewise, in the context of speaking about Christ’s resurrection and our future resurrection, Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” We should stand firm in the face of all trials, including persecution, death, temptation, and failure. We must not only stand firm but endeavor to serve the Lord wholeheartedly. Christ’s resurrection empowers us to conquer sin and live righteously.
Christ’s Resurrection Ensures Our Future Resurrection
In Scripture, Christ’s resurrection is commonly linked with the believers’ future resurrection. Consider a few verses:
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:20
But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself.
Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
1 John 3:1
Christ is called the firstfruits of those who have died (1 Cor 15:20) because, like the firstfruits of a harvest, his body pictures what the future harvest will be like, when those who follow him are resurrected.[v] As Paul and John said (Phil 3:21, 1 John 3:1), our bodies will then be like his.
Since our glorified bodies will be like Christ’s, we must ponder, “What is Christ’s glorified body like?” Charles Ryrie notes several characteristics:
Christ’s resurrection body had links with His unresurrected earthly body. People recognized Him (John 20:20), the wounds inflicted by crucifixion were retained (20:25–29; Rev. 5:6), He had the capacity (though not the need) to eat (Luke 24:30–33, 41–43), He breathed on the disciples (John 20:22), and that body had flesh and bones proving that He was not merely a spirit showing itself (Luke 24:39–40).
But His resurrection body was different. He could enter closed rooms without opening doors (Luke 24:36; John 20:19), He could appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:15; John 20:19), and apparently He was never limited by physical needs such as sleep or food.[vi]
In 1 Corinthians 15:37-38, Paul compares the glory of our new bodies with the difference between a seed sown into the grown and the plant which eventually comes from it. This clarifies that our glorified bodies will not be totally new in the sense of being made out of previously nonexistent material; they will, in fact, come from our natural bodies. As Paul said, the seed of our bodies, which will be sown into the ground, will be raised “imperishable,” “in glory,” and “in power” (1 Cor 15:42-43). They will be made fit for the kingdom, as they will no longer age, die, or decay (1 Cor 15:50). They will be glorious, just like our Lord’s body.
Christ’s resurrection is crucial to our faith. Because of it, we are born again, justified, sanctified, and glorified. Christ’s resurrection power resides in believers, enabling them to conquer sin and live righteously, and one day, through it, God will resurrect and glorify our natural bodies (cf. Rom 8:11). Apart from Christ’s resurrection, our faith is in vain and futile (1 Cor 15:14, 17). Thank you, Lord, for the resurrection!
What stood out most in the reading and why?
Why is Christ’s resurrection so important for our faith?
What are some applications of Christ’s resurrection for Christian living?
What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?
[i] Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 608). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
[ii] Evans, Tony. Theology You Can Count On: Experiencing What the Bible Says About... God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Angels, Salvation... Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.
[iii] Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 615). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
[iv] Evans, Tony. Theology You Can Count On: Experiencing What the Bible Says About... God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, Angels, Salvation... . Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.
[v] Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 615). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
[vi] Ryrie, C. C. (1999). Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (p. 310). Chicago, IL: Moody Press.