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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Is Justification is the CAUSE of regeneration? | Main | What's my theology? »

    Images of the Savior (49 – His Resurrection)

    He is not here, for he has risen just as he said: come, see the place where the Lord lay. – Matthew 28:6

    When Jesus had poured out his soul as an offering for sin, having accomplished the Father's will and satisfied his wrath, he cried out, “It is finished!”, and laid down his life; and in those words, we have a certain hope that nothing remains for our salvation to be complete. The work has been done, the price has been paid, and we who have looked upon him are free from our sin and guilt forevermore. However, that climactic utterance was only half the story; and if the great event of the following Sunday had not occurred, it would have been stripped of all its power, and we would have remained “of all men most miserable” (I Corinthians 15:17-19), still lost in our sins, with no Hero to look to who could strip the devil and hell and death itself, and bring us out from under their authority. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is his final crown of victory, and the culminating stamp of approval from the Father: his work had been sufficient, his matchless power had been triumphant, he had won the day, and henceforth had but to wait at the Father's right hand, on his throne of glory, until all things were brought under his feet (Ephesians 1:19-23). The resurrection of Christ seals the greatest victory in history, and is the illimitable source of speechless joy, flowing forth in waves of delight and flooding his children with peace and happiness for all eternity. Come to the empty tomb with me, and let us lift up our voices in wonder at the blessed hope of the ages!

    Throughout Jesus' ministry we had seen glimpses of the centrality that his resurrection from the dead should possess, being that which, among other things, finally authorized his disciples to tell the world of his glory (Matthew 17:9); but after the event, its epoch-shaping significance becomes clearer yet, and it forms the essential capstone to that message of the ages, the Gospel of Christ, that he would commission his disciples to take to the world. The message of the gospel, as Jesus himself would proclaim before his departure, is this: “Thus it was written that Christ should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name unto all the nations” (Luke 24:46-47). Our only grounds for hope in this life and the next is that twofold promise of the scriptures, which was accomplished in real history, that Christ should die for our sins and rise again in victory. This was the message that Jesus sent his apostles to proclaim.

    Now, let us consider how well they proclaimed Christ's resurrection, and what great significance they saw in it, as their words and letters to the early church reveal. For we see from the beginning that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was to them but a shorthand for the gospel, as we may tell by their initial desire, before the day of Pentecost, to seek out a replacement for Judas the betrayer, who should be able to “be a witness to the resurrection” of Christ (Acts 1:22); and also, by their witness after Pentecost, which was consistently the testimony that God had raised Jesus from the dead, together with the manifold effects that necessarily flowed from this great truth (see, for example, Acts 3:15; 4:33, 13:32-33; 17:31, I Corinthians 15:3-4, etc.). From the earliest days of the Church, the resurrection of Christ has always been the non-negotiable conclusion to the gospel, without which the gospel would no longer be the gospel, but rather the saddest news in all history. Let us now note a few of the consequences of Christ's resurrection which the early disciples were quick to point out.

    First, the resurrection constituted the public declaration that Jesus was the Son of God. When the psalmist marked out a certain day as the day in which the Father begot the Son (Psalm 2:7), the New Testament authors were quick to see the day in which he raised him from the dead as the fulfillment of that prophecy (Acts 13:33; Romans 1:4). This is not to say that Jesus became the Son of God on this occasion; as his public ministry made clear, he considered himself God's unique Son long before his passion and resurrection; and as Romans 1:3 points out, he was in fact the Son of God before he was declared to be so by the resurrection. Let us note then: the fullest revelation to mankind of the relationship between the Father and the Son that from eternity inhered in the Godhead was the resurrection. Would you know God, and the blessed interrelationships of the Holy Trinity? Then you can do no better than to look to the resurrection as the display of who the Father is, who Jesus is, and even, as Romans 1:4 indicates, who the Spirit is; as well as how they relate to each other.

    Second, and very closely related, we see that the resurrection entailed the divine coronation of Jesus as the eternal Davidic King. As we examine this point, it becomes apparent that virtually all of the passages which speak of Jesus' declaration as the Son of God likewise speak of his coronation; from which we may gather that these are but two sides of the same reality. We have looked at Psalm 2:7; now look back at verse six. We mentioned Acts 13:33; now read further, through verse thirty-seven, and compare that account with the parallels in Peter's sermon, in Acts 2:24-36. In these passages, it is clear that the resurrection of Christ was the event in which he was given the throne of David; and that same event was likewise the acknowledgment that he was God's Son indeed, even as from the beginning the Father declared that the ultimate heir of the Davidic line would be none other than his own Son (II Samuel 7:12-14). And in addition, several further passages, such as Ephesians 1:20-23 bear out this same truth.

    Third, we see that by this event Jesus was qualified to become the Lord of all, the living as well as the dead (Romans 14:9), and the only Judge of all mankind (John 5:22-23; Acts 17:31). In the resurrection, Jesus manifestly became the Lord of life, able to dispense to whomever he chose the incorruptible life which he had won (John 5:25-26); but he also became the Lord of the dead, inasmuch as he became for a time one of them, and so uniquely qualified to rule them. For this reason, when he comes again and calls up the wicked dead, he alone will sit above them as their Lord, and pass the verdict against them, which will be the second death (Revelation 20:11-15), the misery of eternal separation from God.

    Fourth, we see that, by his own resurrection from the dead, Jesus won for his followers the sum of their inexhaustible riches, including the forgiveness of their sins and the possession of a perfect righteousness (e.g. Acts 5:31; I Corinthians 15:17; Romans 4:25; 8:34; 10:9; I Peter 3:21), the proclamation of his own marvelous light (Acts 26:23), freedom from the tyranny of death and the devil (Romans 6:9; Revelation 1:18; Hebrews 2:14-15), and a newness of life, in which they could henceforth walk in a manner pleasing to God (Galatians 2:19-20; Romans 6:4; 7:4). The only hope in this life for fallen mankind is the resurrection of Christ from the dead; for the only way in which our sinful nature, received by inheritance from Adam, might be mortified, is through union with Christ in his death, by which we die to our sin and pass safely through the judgment of God, sheltered in the breast of our Savior who underwent his just wrath on the cross; and likewise, the only way in which we might positively be pleasing to God is through union with Christ in his resurrection, by which we arise as new creations in whom the seed of God abides, which cannot sin (I John 3:9), but ever struggles with our crucified flesh, and will ultimately prevail by the power of God's Spirit (see Galatians 5:16-17).

    Fifth, not only do we have hope in this life through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, but we likewise have the blessed hope of an eternal and glorious life, corresponding to his own. When Christ died in his unglorified body, he was raised again with a body of incorruptible glory; and so we, who have been united with him, will be raised to the glory of an incorruptible life (I Corinthians 15:35-58). The resurrection to a new and blessed life in eternal fellowship with Immanuel is our most blessed hope; and it is a hope that has been rendered certain by Christ's own resurrection as the firstfruits of them who have fallen asleep (e.g. I Corinthians 6:14; Romans 8:11; 6:5; Philippians 3:10-11; Revelation 1:5; Acts 23:6; Hebrews 11:35).

    Brothers and sisters, what greater news could be told than this, “He is risen, just as he said!”? He is risen indeed, and in this certain and well-testified truth is our only source of hope and consolation, and our deep well of joy which all eternity cannot dry up. Christ is risen! He is the Son of God, the eternal King, the Lord of the living and the dead, the Judge of mankind, the One who has conquered the devil, which held us in bondage through fear of death, the One who has stripped death of its sting and the grave of its victory, the One who holds the keys to death and hell, the One who alone is the Resurrection and the Life. Oh, let us celebrate this greatest day in history, for all the ages of eternity! For Jesus died and rose again, not for himself, but for us, so that we might die to sin and live as new creations, ever looking ahead to the prospect of eternal life and joy in a glorious body like Jesus' own, in which we might dwell with our Savior forever in the blessed New Jerusalem.

    Groan, ye hills, weep forth your story,
    All your tearful homage bring:
    They have slain the Lord of glory –
    They have crucified your king;
    Tremble, earth! Ye stones, be riven!
    Lo! the sun itself grew dim
    When that darkness strove with him –
    See the place where they have striven.

    See the grave where they have placed him
    Lifeless in the black of night:
    It is opened! God hath raised him
    Unto everlasting light.
    Sing, ye hills, your wondrous story!
    Darkness’ powers strove in vain –
    Lo! the veil is rent in twain,
    For he lives the Lord of glory!

    Posted by Nathan on December 8, 2007 11:59 AM

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