Does the Resurrection Really Matter?
April 6, 2012 Speaker: Pastor Cameron Arensen
Book of Romans, selected scriptures
Does the resurrection of Jesus really matter? We are gathering today and Sunday, as are countless churches around the world, to commemorate, remember and contemplate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But why? Does it really matter? In this message, I want to particularly focus on Jesus’ resurrection. Does it really matter whether or not Jesus rose from the dead? What relevance does Jesus’ resurrection have for us who are living today, almost 2000 years later?
As I began to think about that question, I took my Bible and it fell open, rather strangely, to the Book of Romans. Actually I am joking. In light of our ongoing messages on Romans, my mind is full of this book, so I deliberately opened to the Book of Romans and began to page through it, looking for references to Jesus’ resurrection. There are many. I counted over 10 specific references to Jesus rising from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus obviously mattered to the Apostle Paul. While he does not devote one particular section or paragraph to the theme, he refers to it again and again as a vital part of his presentation of the Gospel message.
In fact, Paul refers to the resurrection in his opening sentence in Romans 1:1-4.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.
In this opening preamble to his letter, Paul states that the resurrection of Jesus is the final apologetic and proof of the deity and divine Sonship of Jesus Christ. He was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. That is how we know that he is Jesus Christ our Lord.
On several occasions while Jesus was on earth, we are told that God spoke in an audible voice from heaven, and announced: “This is my Son.” That is powerful. But then God demonstrated it once for all. By his mighty power, he raised Jesus from the dead and thereby declared again: “This is my Son!”
This was the primary point that Peter made in the very first Easter sermon ever preached. He actually preached it on the Day of Pentecost, but make no mistake; it was an Easter sermon. This is what he had to say in Acts 2:22-24:
Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
He then goes on to this ringing conclusion in verse 36: Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.
Yes, the resurrection matters. It is the final proof, the final apologetic for the divine identity of Jesus Christ and the truth of our Gospel.
But that is only the beginning, only the first reason that the resurrection matters to us as Christ’s followers. Christ’s resurrection has profound implications in every phase of our salvation. We can phrase it and describe it in a couple different ways. We can look at the resurrection of Jesus as it affects our past, our present and our future.
We can also examine the implications of Jesus’ resurrection as it relates to three broad doctrines of our theology. In our studies in Romans, we have explored the Gospel using three big words: justification, sanctification and glorification. As we trace Paul’s argument through the epistle, we find that Christ’s resurrection has powerful implications in all three areas and on all three doctrines.
Why is the resurrection of Jesus important to our justification? (or our past if we are already believers)?
To answer that question, let’s look at Romans 4:25. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
That is a strong statement, isn’t it? He was raised to life for our justification. Remember our definitions. Justification means to be declared righteous before God’s court. What does this mean, “he was raised to life for our justification”?
Let’s follow the legal reasoning carefully. Paul tells us in verse 24 that God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. Why is belief in Jesus and particularly in his resurrection so important? Paul is circling back to the truth of Jesus as “the atoning sacrifice” which he raised in chapter 3. He was delivered over to death for our sins. He died for our sins. But he did not remain in the grave. By the power of God, Jesus was raised to life. And the resurrection is essential to the Gospel, because, as Paul states here, he was raised for our justification. We might also translate that he was raised because of our justification or he was raised on account of our justification. Just as it was the reality of our sin that caused his death, so it was the reality of our justification that made possible his resurrection.
Think of it this way. When Jesus was on the cross, the sins of the world were laid on him. He bore our guilt. He cried out on the cross: My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me? Our sin caused that awful separation between God the Father and God the Son, because a holy God cannot associate with sin. Jesus was separated from the Father and then he died. He dismissed his spirit and his soul was separated from his body. The Righteous One died on behalf of the unrighteous. But then on the third day he was raised from the dead on account of our justification. His resurrection was the proof that his suffering and death had satisfied the wrath of God against our sins. The ransom payment had been accepted. Speaking simplistically, we might say that the resurrection of Jesus is our “paid in full” receipt from God’s court. It is the proof that Jesus “paid it all” and heaven’s court is satisfied.
This is why the resurrection matters. This is also why believing in the resurrection matters. Without believing that Jesus died for our sins and then rose from the dead, it is impossible to be justified before God’s court. Paul is very clear on this. In another summary of the Gospel message in Romans 10, he says this in verse 9: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
From the beginning of Romans, we learned that the Gospel or “good news” is that we can be justified by faith. But it is not just faith in faith, but faith with a very specific content. The resurrection of Jesus is part of what we must believe in order to be saved. Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is essential to being justified before God. This is why the resurrection matters.
But there is more. The resurrection of Jesus also has powerful implications for our present life experience. It has powerful implications for our sanctification. Why is the resurrection of Jesus important to our sanctification? Why is it important to our present life? Once again, let’s remind ourselves of our definitions. Sanctification is the process by which we are made righteous in thought, word and action. We are transformed into the image of Christ by the work of the Holy Spirit who indwells us. So, what is the relevance of Christ’s resurrection for our sanctification?
To answer this question, let’s turn back to Romans 6. In Romans 6:4, we read: We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Paul is here building on the fact that when we are justified by faith, we are united with Christ. Everything that is true of Christ is now true of us. We were “buried with him through baptism into death.” But that is not the end of the story. Because Christ was raised from the dead, we are now also called out of the grave of our old life to “live a new life.”
Paul expands on this reality in verses 8-11:
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
One of the powerful implications of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is that as his followers, we have also been raised to new life. We are called to live with Christ; dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. This is what Paul is talking about in Philippians 3:10, when he states his life goal: “That I may know Christ and the power of his resurrection…” The power of the risen Christ to live a new life. Paul says it this way in Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ lives in me and the life that I now live I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.
Christ lives in me! This is the reality of the resurrection for our sanctification. New life. Resurrection life. Christ’s power working in me to transform me. That is why the resurrection of Christ matters. It didn’t just matter historically, as the proof of Christ’s identity. It didn’t just matter in my justification when I believed in the resurrection of Jesus and was saved. It matters right now, today, in the way I live here and now. I live and Christ lives in me. I am dead to sin, but alive to God in Jesus Christ. Resurrection power for daily life. That is the reality of the Easter message.
There is still one more piece to complete the puzzle; another note to complete the chord. The future. What are the implications of Christ’s resurrection for our future? The third doctrine we have found in Romans is the great theme of our glorification. Why does the resurrection of Christ matter to our glorification? This is the truth that we have been finding recently in Romans 8. It is what Paul talks about in Romans 8:18: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Do you see the word “glory” there? It’s also found in verse 21: that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. The English Standard Version translates that: that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. I like that phrase: the freedom of the glory of the children of God. That refers to our glorification. And it has particular reference to our bodies. As Paul goes on to expound in verse 23: Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
Glorification describes that great future “adoption ceremony” when the children of God are revealed to the watching and waiting universe in our “party clothes”, our new bodies which shall be like Christ’s own resurrected and glorified body. And how do we know it’s going to happen? Look at Romans 8:11: he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Christ’s resurrection from the dead contains the promise that those who are “in Christ” will also be resurrected. This is the assurance of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s great treatise on the resurrection. In verses 19-22 he writes:
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the “firstfruits” of resurrection. The first of many. The beginning of a mighty harvest of resurrection. His resurrection is the promise and guarantee that we shall also be raised to share in his glory and to enjoy new bodies. As Paul describes it in Philippians 3:20-21:
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 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.
The original language again literally reads “like the body of his glory” – his resurrected body.
Does the resurrection of Jesus really matter? Oh yes! It is absolutely front and center. It is at the very heart of all we believe and proclaim and hope as Christians.
The resurrection of Christ is the historical declaration and proof that Jesus is the Son of God.
The resurrection of Christ is our “get out of jail” card, our release from prison, our “paid in full” receipt for all our sins. The seal of our justification.
The resurrection of Christ is the motivation and power source for our sanctification. Christ’s resurrection power, the same power that raised him from the dead, is now ours; the power of new life. We are new creatures, alive to God.
The resurrection of Christ is the source of our hope. Even as we groan in this mortal body, his resurrection holds the promise that this groaning is not forever. There is coming a day when we shall exchange this mortal body for a body that is just like Christ’s own resurrection body; free of pain and illness and aging. A body that will last forever.
Oh yes! The resurrection of Christ does matter!
What must we do? What response is called for today as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus?
First, we must believe it. That’s where we must begin. The Gospel is a message that we can be justified by faith, by belief. And at the very heart of what we must believe in order to be justified by faith is this; we must believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
It is a simple question with a yes or no answer. Do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus rose from the dead? Without this belief, there is no salvation. There is no justification. Believe it and you will be saved.
Second, we must reckon it to be true and relevant to our own life and experience. We have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection. Now, as Paul tells us, we must “count ourselves dead to sin, but alive to God.” We must, by faith, live by the power of the resurrected Christ.
Finally, we must wait patiently and with hope. Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee that our own resurrection day is coming when we shall receive our glorious new bodies and be with the Lord forever.
I leave you with this simple set of three commands to remember the significance of Easter and the resurrection in every phase of our salvation.
Wait for it!
QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
Do you think the resurrection mattered to the apostles and the believers in the early church? Give reasons for your answer.
Pastor Cam makes the comment that almost every sermon in the Book of Acts was an “Easter Sermon”. Here are references for some of the apostles’ sermons . Read them and discuss the significance of the resurrection as highlighted by the apostles in their preaching:
- Acts 2:22-39
- Acts 3:12-26
- Acts 4:8-12
- Acts 10:34-43
- Acts 13:26-41
- Acts 17:22-32
What is the significance of the resurrection to the believer’s justification? (Romans 4:25, Romans 10:9)
What is the significance of the resurrection to the believer’s sanctification? (Romans 6:4, 8-11, Galatians 2:20)
What is the significance of the resurrection to the believer’s glorification? (Romans 8:11)
Pastor Cam concluded the sermon with three commands: Believe it! Reckon it! Wait for it! Which one do you particularly need to meditate on and why?