YouTube Live Stream recorded on April 12, 2020
I watched an online movie last year’s Good Friday. It is about an atheist who wants to prove that Christianity is a hoax. In his attempt to do so, he ends up becoming a Christian in the end.
The title of the movie was “A Case For Christ”. According to Wikipedia, this was the plot of the movie: “In 1980, Lee Strobel’s (Mike Vogel) award-winning, investigative reporting earns him a promotion to a legal editor at the Chicago Tribune. Things at home aren’t going nearly as well. His wife Leslie’s (Erika Christensen) new found faith in Christ compels Lee to utilize his journalistic and legal training to try and disprove the claims of Christianity, pitting his resolute atheism against her growing faith.”
Lee Strobel become a pastor eventually and he wrote more books about Christianity. His story was a good reminder to all Christians that our faith is grounded on a specific historical truth, and if proven otherwise, it render us hopeless and lost.
According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19:
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.
Our hope for resurrection is tied to Christ’s resurrection. This is why we need to understand this essential doctrine in order to understand how we can live as resurrection people here on earth. This is what we will study this afternoon as we close the Lord’s Day. We answer the following questions: (1) How did Christ rise? (2) For what purpose did he rise? (3) What are the benefits, or fruits of his resurrection?
How did Christ rise?
Zacharias Ursinus (ZU) wrote several important things we need to remember whenever we are talking about Christ’s resurrection:
- Christ did truly rise, that is, his soul did truly return to his body, from which it was separated by death, and He did truly come forth from the sepulcher in which his body was laid…
- He rose the same person, the same Jesus Christ, very God and very man, which had died; He rose according to the nature in which he had suffered, which was his human nature, his true human nature, the very same which it was in essence and properties, not deified, but glorified, having laid aside all the infirmities to which it was subject.
- He rose by his own power, that is, he vanquished death, throwing it from himself, quickened his dead body, reunited it with his soul, and restored to himself a blessed, heavenly, and glorious life, and that by his own divine virtue and power.“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” “I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again.” “As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickens them, even so the Son quickens whom he will.” (John 2:19; 10:18; 5:21)
- He rose on the third day in the manner just described: Because the Scriptures which contain all the predictions and types relating to the Messiah, declare that He would rise on the third day; as the type of Jonah, etc. Because it was proper that his body should rise free from corruption; and yet not so soon after his death as to leave any doubt that he was truly dead. It is for this reason that He rose on the third day, and not on the first.
In summary, Christ’s resurrection was a bodily resurrection and it is not going back to bodiless existence as a spirit. This is the first and second points made by ZU. Christ resurrected himself. It is by the power essential to the being of God. The Father and Spirit is essentially one with the Son. And this essential power uniquely involves every person of our Triune God. This would be the third point. And lastly, Christ was truly dead before truly rising out from it. This is the important expression in the Apostles’creed, “…on the third day, he rose from the dead.”
The historical significance of such event is often considered irrelevant in our modern context. We believe this comes only from them and not from ourselves. We justify this by saying: “To see, it to believe”. However, if you think about it, even those who witness the event personally, like the guards who fled. They saw it but it did follow that they indeed believe. They were filled with fear knowing that the empire would punish them for such neglect. Instead of embracing their fate, they feared men more than God. So events personally witnessed or narrated by another witness may be accepted or not and without faith, it does not make any difference in our lives.
But as Christians, Peter reminds us that “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).” Faith is main difference. It is wrought by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. It receives such testimony to be true.
Do we understand how Christ was raised? Do we believe the divine witness of Scripture or we rely on our own understanding? Do we receive the testimony of those eyewitnesses with regard to the event that followed after Christ’s death?
Our hope is grounded in Christ’s resurrection. We have to remember in everything that happened his atoning work at the cross impacts how we live our lives today. We anchor our lives in the resurrected life of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The person of Christ is united to us by the Spirit. His resurrection is ours as well. We are living in this spiritual reality here on earth. While remaining in this body now, we are all waiting for our bodily resurrection. This is why It is important for us to understand the ground and purpose of Christ’s resurrection.
For what purpose did Christ rise?
ZU again listed down important points for us to ponder:
- For his own glory and for that of his Father. “Declared to be the Son of God, by the resurrection from the dead.” “Father, glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you.” (Rom. 1:4; John 17:1) The glory of the Son is the glory of the Father.
- On account of the prophecies which had been uttered in relation to the death, and resurrection of Christ.
- On account of the dignity, and power of the person that rose.
- Christ arose that he might carry on the office of mediator, which he could not have done had he remained under death.
- Christ rose for our salvation, and that in three respects: 1. For our justification. 2. For our sanctification. 3. For our resurrection and glorification
In summary, Christ’s resurrection demonstrated the glory and power of God. Christ becomes one with his people by fulfilling the work of a mediator. It fulfilled Scripture and vindicated God’s promises as true. He inaugurates his mediatorial office. He secures all the saving benefits we all enjoy in Him namely justification, sanctification, resurrection and glorification.
The resurrection of Christ made us one with Christ where all the benefits of life become ours as well. In his death, we received forgiveness of our sins while in his resurrection, we received new life. We sometimes have this idea that we can have Christ for our justification but not for our sanctification and even glorification. We may receive forgiveness but we need to double our effort in making sure we live a sanctified life because it is now solely up to us to “hopefully” persevere in the end. We often think that God had done his part and now we have to do ours. However, this is far from the truth. We don’t have half a savior but a whole Christ and our Savior provided us the whole saving benefits of salvation from end to end, from justification to glorification.
This leads us to our final point, the fruit of Christ’s resurrection.
What are the benefits, or fruits of his resurrection?
Again, ZU summarized it well in his commentary. Speaking about the general benefit we receive from Christ’s resurrection, he wrote:
The fruits of the resurrection of Christ, which have respect to us, are various. Speaking in a general way, it may be said that all the benefits of Christ’s death are also fruits of his resurrection; for his resurrection secures the effect which his death was designed to have. Christ by his resurrection applies to us the benefits which he has merited for us. In this way the benefits of his death and resurrection are the same, unless it be that they have been merited for us by his death differently from what they are conferred upon us by his resurrection.
It was not necessary that the act of meriting should continue through the entire period of both the old and new church. But it was different with the act of bestowing and applying these benefits. This was to continue forever. And hence it was necessary also that the mediator should exist in every period of the church, that he might always confer the blessings which he was once to merit, and which it was not possible to confer without a mediator. As it respects the church which existed before the incarnation of Christ, the mediator bestowed the benefits of his death which had not yet taken place, by the power and efficacy of his resurrection yet to come; but now he confers these benefits upon us by the power of his resurrection as having already taken place.
ZU clarified for us that the benefit and fruit may be said to be the same because Christ’s death and resurrection may be taken as a whole. It cannot be separated. Yet they remain distinct. He also clarified that the act of meriting or the meaning of the accomplishment of the redemption. This happens uniquely during a specific time in history. However, the bestowing of such benefits continues from the beginning after Adam’s fall until Christ’s return in the end. The Old Testament saints receive the benefits prior the accomplishment while for us in the New Testament, we receive them after its accomplishment in history. This makes Christ, the mediator of the one Covenant of Grace both in the Old and New Testaments.
Now, ZU still mentioned several specific benefits for us. I only picked two important points. First, the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ’s bestow in his church in order to grow them in maturity. Second, our bodily resurrection found in the resurrection of Christ.
On the first point, ZU wrote:
Another benefit resulting to us from the resurrection of Christ is the gift of the Holy Spirit, through whom Christ regenerates us and raises us up unto eternal life. It was necessary for him first to throw off death from himself, and then from us; and it is necessary for us to be united to him as our Head, that the Holy Spirit may thus pass over from him into us. Hence he now obtains and grants unto us, since his resurrection from the dead, the Holy Spirit, and through him unites us to himself, regenerates and quickens us. It is true indeed that the godly also in the church of old were endowed with, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit; yet the influences of the Spirit were not then enjoyed to the extent to which they now are under the New Testament, and that by the power of his resurrection which was then still to come. The Holy Spirit, by whose virtue alone we are regenerated, could not be given without the resurrection and ascension of Christ into heaven. Hence it is said, “The Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39)
God provided us the edifying and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit in the church. This is one of the most important benefits we can receive that enables us to persevere in the end. It also allows us to live godly lives which help everyone in their spiritual lives. But while this benefit may help us in this life, we still await the final benefit of our bodily resurrection and final glorification.
As for our second point, ZU wrote:
The resurrection of our bodies is another fruit of the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ is a pledge of ours, Because he is our Head, and we are his members. Much of his glory as our Head depends upon, and results from the glory and dignity of his members. It is true indeed that Christ would exist and would be glorious in and by himself, even though his members were to remain under the power of death, yet he would not be a head, or king, etc., in as much as no one can be a head without members, nor a king without a kingdom. Christ therefore is head only in respect to his members.
Our waiting will not be in vain knowing that our head has been resurrected. The whole body connected to the head will soon be resurrected bodily and glorified finally.
Are we looking forward to the great benefits of our resurrection in Christ?
Are we living our lives according to the reality that was accomplished already by our head, our mediator who is Christ?
ZCRC (Imus), our Christ died, resurrected and now sit in glory in heaven ruling over us in his Word and Spirit. Let us be encouraged by the witness of Scripture and live accordingly which our doctrine teaches. May the Lord continue to be his people. Amen.