Resurrection: Benefits for Believers

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February 11 2017
Author: Pastor Bill Henderson

Supplemental teaching for session Eleven of Wayne Grudem’s 20 Life-Transforming Truths 

Could it be possible that within the church today the resurrection of Jesus is comparatively undervalued? For example, for some, more emphasis seems to be placed on the rapture than the resurrection when one of these is not the focal point of the New Testament and the other is. Also, it’s fair to say that on the church calendar Christmas and its preparations tend to take precedence over Easter, even though we all know that if the tomb is not empty the cradle makes no difference. And if we share the gospel using, say, the bridge diagram, chances are we get to the death of Christ and zip-line towards a call for repentance and faith. Even when we do pause to value the teaching of Christ’s resurrection, more than not we’re focusing on arguments for its historical reliability. But as important as it is for its apologetic value, how does the resurrection of Christ really make a difference in our everyday lives?     

Here are three solid reasons why the resurrection of Jesus is a life-transforming truth:

1) Jesus was raised from the dead to give us eternal life. In the movie Braveheart, William Wallace got it right when he said, “Every man dies, not every man really lives.” Yes, these are facts of life. Death is unyielding. Life is worth living. But not everyone truly lives. However, while we cannot change our appointment with death, we can ensure that we live before we die – and afterwards. Jesus is the one who makes this possible: “I have come that they may have life, and live it to the full” (John 10:10). He defined eternal life as a relationship with God the Father and with himself (John 17:3). This eternal life begins here and now, yet it extends throughout all eternity. And it’s freely offered to everyone. That includes you. The resurrection of Jesus provides for us a new quality of life right here and now. But this life is not over when we die, because “we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us … to himself (2 Corinthians 4:14).

2) Jesus was raised from the dead to justify guilty sinners. Sometimes people are born with deficiencies, anything from an iron deficiency to a genetic heart defect to HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). I was born with something much more serious, a deadly deficiency. You were born with it too. It is a universal righteousness deficiency (Romans 1:18-3:19). Theologians call this original sin, an inherent fallen nature as a result of the originating sin of Adam (Romans 5:12-14). This sin of ours - our righteousness deficiency – means we are all condemned people, guilty before God. But thank God there is a solution!

The solution is God’s free gift of righteousness, a righteousness from God. This is a right standing before God as a result of God’s saving activity through Jesus Christ. For our part, solely by faith in Jesus, we receive acquittal from all charges brought against us because of our own sin. Justification is the word that refers to this legal declaration of acquittal which is motivated solely by God’s grace, His undeserved, unmerited favour (Romans 3:21-26). 

But why is it that God is able to freely and graciously justify sinners like us despite our righteousness deficiency? Romans 4:24-25 presents both the death and the resurrection of Jesus as the cause or ground of our justification: “He was delivered over to death for (because of) our sins and was raised to life for (because of) our justification” (4:25). Normally, Paul grounds our justification in Jesus’ substitutionary death, but here he also adds Jesus’ resurrection. This is because Jesus’ resurrection is God’s signed receipt that the death of Jesus is full payment for our sins. The cross and the empty tomb cannot be separated. The two events are dependent upon each other. Together they certify God’s approval of the finished cross-work of Jesus by applying the red stamp of “PAID IN FULL” to wipe out our sin debt forever. 

So how does this change our outlook on life? Because believers are justified through Jesus they never have to wonder if deep down God is angry with them. We don’t have to second guess God or worry that He might count at least some of our sins or that ONE ugly sin against us. If I get bombarded with negative thoughts about God’s non-acceptance of me because I don’t measure up to His standards, all I need to do is think resurrection! In the resurrection God was declaring his final approval of the finished sacrifice of Jesus. Christ is my righteousness. I have no more righteousness deficiency, so there’s no more penalty left to pay for my sin, no more wrath of God to bear, and no more residue of guilt. This was why there was no need for Jesus to remain dead, because while he died for our sins he rose for our justification.  

3) Jesus was raised from the dead to ensure our future bodily resurrection. In the New Testament, the term resurrection is a picture word. It literally means “standing up.” It refers to a dead body being raised to new life. And Christ’s resurrection was the first fruits of a resurrection harvest yet to come (1 Cor. 15:20, 23). Farmers knew that if the first ear of ripe corn had just been plucked then the rest of the harvest was not far behind. In the same way, Jesus’ physical resurrection guarantees ours. 

No one knows exactly what the continuity and discontinuity will be like or how God will gather our molecules from the sea and the ground, but he will put us back together again (1 Corinthians 6:14), in some ways just like we are, but in all ways new and better. Therefore, “we eagerly await a Savior from [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). This is why Jesus’ resurrection infuses us with hope. Like the first tulip that blossoms in the early spring and anticipates an entire flower bed of color, Jesus’ resurrection signaled that more resurrections are on the way. This includes yours— if you belong by faith to Jesus.

Conclusion: To believe in Jesus then, is to choose life before we die and after we die. Jesus’ resurrection was no afterthought, some kind of clean up event merely tacked on to deal with his dead body. Instead, we’ve zeroed in on the following three benefits: 1) living your life to the max in eternal relationship with God is impelled by the life power of the resurrection in the here and now, 2) feeling fearless about condemnation and confident in your justification before God is rooted in the cross guaranteed by the Risen Lord, and 3) anticipating the certain hope of your physical resurrection as a whole person in eternity future hinges directly on the security deposit of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the grave.  

HT: Braveheart, directed by Mel Gibson (1995; Paramount Pictures, 2000), DVD; N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: HarperOne, 2008); Donald MacLeod, The Person of Christ: Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1998).

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