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A Look at the Historical Fact of the Resurrection, Part 3

by Walt Windish

At Easter we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Many of us proclaimed “Christ is Risen!” It’s a proclamation that is full of joy. In my last two blogs, I gave reasons why we can be assured that the joy we express in the resurrection is tied to historical reality. Today I want to ask the question, “So What?” What does the resurrection mean to Christians? To answer that question, we need to look at what consequences the Bible ties directly to the resurrection.

When we looked at 1 Corinthians 15, we saw that the apostle Paul himself admitted that if Christ has not been raised then we are still in our sins and our faith is futile. We would be the people to be most pitied. (1 Cor. 15:17-19) But Christ is Risen! The capstone of our faith lies in that historic fact. But what does this mean practically in my life? [1]

When I was 29, the Holy Spirit used the birth of my daughter to awaken me from a decade-long spiritual slumber. Within a few years, I came to the point of wondering if I really believed what I claimed to believe. If my faith was in a fairy tale, then I was wasting what little time and money I was giving to the church. But if what I believed was true, it should change my life forever, and I needed to really live by faith in Christ (Galatians 2:20). This was the question that got me started in apologetics. Over the next few years, I realized that not only was my faith real, but the object of my faith, Jesus Christ, was very real, and the Bible was a historical account of his life, death, and resurrection. It took a while after that insight to figure out the so what?
 
First, let me take a paragraph to review some basics of the Christian life:

When we first put our trust in Christ, God declares us righteous, even though we still sin. That is because we are in Christ, and God declares us not guilty of our sins due to the price Christ has already paid. This is what we have put our trust in (Romans 3:21–26). This is what theologians call justification. [2]  The actual change towards holiness and Christ-likeness happens throughout our lives and is known as sanctification (John 17, especially vv. 14–19; also 2 Peter 3:18; Philippians 1:6). Finally, all believers will experience glorification when we are changed into holy immortals at the end of this age, and we will spend eternity with God (1 Corinthians 15:53, Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:17). These three phases of the Christian life illustrate why I can say that I was saved in the past (justification), I am being saved (sanctification), and I will be saved in the future (glorification). I’ve oversimplified these three concepts for brevity’s sake, but they are important to know. They describe the spiritual life of the believer.

The Bible has much to say about how believers should live out their lives (sanctification). Since we have been looking at the resurrection, I want to focus on the things that the Bible directly links to the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Here are some ramifications of the resurrection on our lives:

1. We can live with ongoing joy because we share in Christ’s defeat of sin and death.

Death was defeated when Christ rose from the dead. Although happiness is a transient emotion, we can experience real joy even in the hard trials of life, because we know that our Lord is using those trials to perfect us (James 1:2, 12) and we will ultimately be with him through eternity.

2. We can live with ongoing joy because we share in Christ’s defeat of sin and death.

We should have a very different view of death than those who are perishing. Although we see a lot of death on TV (as entertainment!), we don’t often speak of it in the context of our own death. Many people fear death because they view death as “the end.” But the apostle Paul sees it as a better life. “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  Even in his suffering, Paul realized that he was accomplishing the goal of all Christians, to bring glory to God and to advance the gospel (1:12). He thought it more important to continue his earthly mission, but he realized that if death should take him, he would wake to a better life. This is a truth all Christians should hold dear.

3.We have a living hope that confidently looks forward to the promise of a future heavenly inheritance.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3–5).

As I mentioned in my first blog on this subject, Christian hope is not the wishful thinking of worldly hope. Biblical hope is an “eager, confident expectation,” a living (certain, real) hope based on the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:21). In this verse Peter tells us that not only is our salvation assured, but that we are protected by the power of God for this salvation. In Ephesians, we are told that we have been sealed with the Holy Spirit who is given as a pledge of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13–14; 2 Corinthians 1:21–22, 5:5, Ephesians 4:30) How much more assurance could we ask for? We can live our lives joyfully, no matter the circumstances, with this eternal truth.

4. This living hope should give us the courage and strength to persevere in service, despite persecution.

For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:8–9). 

This is Philippians 1:21 lived out. Paul could endure beyond his human strength because his trust was beyond himself. Paul’s trust was in the “God who raises the dead,” and this knowledge was directly tied to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have the same source of strength as Paul, if we would only take our eyes off ourselves and keep them focused on the God who raises from the dead.

5. The resurrection gives us motivation for sanctified living. 

“If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me?  If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32). This verse comes from the chapter I began this blog series with. Remember, Paul stated that if the resurrection did not happen, then there is no hope for us and we should be pitied above all others. It would be preferable to just live like hedonists!

But the resurrection is true, and this is my motivation for sanctified living in this life. Having been sealed with the Holy Spirit and given assurance by God himself of my eternal life with him, I should look to live a life that glorifies him in everything I do. I can even drink a glass of water to God’s glory if I recognize that it was God who provided it for me and drink with thanksgiving (1 Corinthians 10:31). My life should produce more and more fruit as I grow in Christlikeness. Admittedly, none of us do this perfectly; I mess up every single day—multiple times!—but the Spirit gives us the power to glorify God with our lives. Unbelievers can do “good,” charitable things, but they can do nothing for the glory of God, because they are not in Christ, and their motives are not to glorify him.

6. We have a hope that tempers our grief over the death of fellow believers.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:13–17).

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t grieve the passing of fellow believers; Jesus wept over Lazarus knowing that he was about to raise him from the dead. But we should not grieve with the hopeless grief of unbelievers, because our hope is based on the power of the God who raises the dead.

7. We can be assured of ultimate justice because Christ will judge the world.

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:30–31). 

Christ will judge the world (John 5:22). Those who have been persecuted or oppressed will be vindicated by God. The resurrection is our assurance of this fact. We can be assured that in the end, justice will prevail. Those of us who are in Christ will have our names written in the Book of Life, being covered in the righteousness of Christ. Those who do not know Christ will be judged based on their deeds, and no one measures up to that required righteousness (Romans 3:23; 6:23).

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the confirmation that our life in Christ will continue beyond the grave. Death has no sting; our Lord is victorious. It’s only the resurrection that gives us hope for eternal life and seeing loved ones again.

Once our work in this world is complete, we will enter into eternal life with our creator. Do we live as Paul lived, emboldened by the knowledge that we share in Christ’s victory over death?
We should be boldly sharing the gospel, casting out for those who would come to Christ. Let’s bring as many with us to glory as possible. We can do so with boldness and joy because of Christ’s finished sacrifice on the cross—and sis resurrection.

What is one step of boldness that you can take today?

“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Footnotes:
[1] This third blog was born from conversations with my good friend and brother, Ken Davidson. You can find us most Saturday mornings discussing theology at a local diner. I hope you all have someone who sharpens your understanding of God’s word and spurs you on to a deeper walk of faith. Proverbs 27:17.

[2] Martin Luther called this the great exchange: our sin for Christ’s righteousness. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).