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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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  • « Christian Preaching | Main | Images of the Savior (3 -- The First Gospel) »

    Where is Your Theology of the Resurrection?

    Recently I have been pondering the question: why in traditional theological circles is there such a lack of emphasis on the theology of the resurrection yet so much stress on Christ's death? Not to de-emphasize his atoning death but this oversight is especialy curious in light of the fact that in the New Testament there appears to be a great importance placed on the resurrection, at least, it seems, equal in emphasis to Christ's death, but we don't talk about or theologize about it much ... why? I have to ask because the implications of Christ's resurrection is a critical part of Christ's redemptive work in and for us.

    In light of the resurrection of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15 speaks of our present victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the work of Christ in his resurrection Paul is able to say in verse 58, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord." As we participate in his resurrection now and are seated with him at God's right hand, where He reigns over all his enemies, including the world, the flesh, the devil and death, then, in light of this, this should somehow translate to our living in the world now.

    We rightly place a great deal of stress on Christ's death and atoning sacrifice but often seem to leave off the saving dimension of Christ's resurrection. The finished work of Christ includes both his death and resurrection in NT biblical theology, because we would still be in our sins if Christ has not been raised from the dead according to the same 1 Corinthians passage. In seminaries and theology books very little space seems to be devoted to this, to a degree we should find alarming. Any victory we have now is from the life which Christ gives our mortal bodies in His resurrection (Rom 8:11). In Rom. 6 Paul also states that we are baptized into Christ's resurrection, which is the power that saves us through regeneration. It is not only what gives us a new heart that we might be raised up from being spiritually dead and so believe the gospel, but grants us the power to live a new life, have spiritual affections for Christ and the grace to live a godly life because of the ethical change that has taken place within us. The disposition in us toward death has been crushed by Jesus' resurrection.

    Since the "last days" were inaugurated with Christ's resurrection, we are living in the already/not yet time where Christ's victory over death is being worked out in and through us. There is no such thing, therefore, as Christian who lives in sin as a lifestyle. The resurrected Lord who lives in us is greater than he who is in the world. We may be deceived for a time, but the Spirit working in us compells us to cry ABBA Father and look to Christ in faith for the victory and mortification of any besetting sin. But we cannot do this as individuals since Christ has established his church as the agency for advancing his kingdom rule on earth (Eph 1:22). God calls us to do this through the weakness of preaching the gospel through which he will confound worldly powers and destroy all vain speculations.

    It is important to note Paul use of the word "firstfruits" in 1 Cor 15. Without historical background this may not make sense, but what it points to is the Jewish feasts of Passover and Pentecost, each of which had the first fruits of the harvest given to the Lord. These firstfruits were a sign of the full harvest that would come soon after. Of course, more to the point, these festivals were in the Jewish calendar to remember Israel being freed from Egyptian slavery (Passover) and the giving of the Law at Sinai (Pentecost). Here in 1 Cor. 15 Paul is saying that the Christ is our Passover, the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead ... with many more to follow. This is an act of God's grace alone, not something we work toward, yet that grace, that resurrection which we are untied to in Christ compels us to work, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved. There is nothing natural about this. Christ has saved us completely with no contribution owing to ourselves. His kingdom now reigns in His people and He is extending it by redeeming people and the creation through us. Even now, according to the Scriptures, all powers are being subjected to Christ with death being the last enemy.

    As we can see that this is no small matter which has profound theological and pastoral implications. There I would challenge and encourage the Reformed community to develop a more robust biblical theology of the resurrection.

    J.W.H.

    Posted by John on April 24, 2008 12:37 PM

    Comments

    Amen, brother!

    Alan

    How ironic that during easter season many preachers speak of the importance of the resurrection and that without it there is no Christianity, but then spend the rest of the preaching calendar ignoring all of the implications of Jesus' resurrection.
    I am not really sure why this de-emphasis, but in my pentecostal circles the reason, I only speculate, the cross is emphasized is because of the drama. There is alot of appeal to the emotion the cross evokes rather than the truth it establishes. There is no pity and guilt trip for a resurrected savior. I don't know.

    Yes and amen too!

    This is just another guess but here goes:::>

    How can I say this other than boldly? The devils don't want us thinking to deeply and strongly about these implications, not to diminish God's Sovereignty, but sometimes don't we reap what we sow?

    The two portions of Scripture I highlight:::>

    Eph 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
    Eph 3:9 and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,
    Eph 3:10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.


    ...and this one, a powerful reminder of the powerful impact upon one's soul when there is a testimony given to the Resurrection and when preached under the power and anointing of the Holy Ghost:::>

    Act 4:33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

    This article coincides with what I learnt lately. I attended a seminar last week and the following day during sermon, both talked about the lukewarm faith in christians nowadays and also many stop growing thinking salvation is the goal. To put it into the equation why people emphasize more on death than resurrection of Christ... [Christ's Blood atones and I am saved. FINISHED! I am going to heaven because I believe! John 3:16 said believe... and you will not perish.] I believe many 'believers' think that's what Christianity is all about: Salvation. (that can be quite self-centered and not Christ-centered, depends on how one sees it) And resurrection, the new life, has to do with afterlife, eternal life, not on this earth. So, the result is they think they have the ticket to heaven already and they don't need to do anything (afterall, it is free, isn't it?). So what next after BORN AGAIN? 'faith without works is dead...' I met some christians, they mix this up thinking these 'bring' salvation... but it does not, it is the result of salvation. It goes back to square 1, the regeneration of the heart, everything follows. It is indeed resurrection itself, dead heart comes alive! But not many churches preach that. The power over sin, evil and death, the power to love, to forgive, all come from the Living Christ alone, not me. Christ dies for us sinners and He is living now to intercede for us believers. If Jesus never resurrected, we are indeed cheating ourselves and others to believe in a dead god.

    Unlike so many articles, I liked how this one didn't try to tell people how to think about it but rather encouraged thoughtful dialog and study of the doctrine.

    This is something that, in my opinion, the Emerging Church is on to. Not that they have it totally right by any stretch, but it seems that they REALLY want to dive into what the resurrection means for the Christian life. I find it sad, though, that more orthodox groups don't seem to want to, in many cases.

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