ARTICLES ABOUT RESURRECTION
BY: JAMES A. FOWLER
TITLE and SUBTITLES
A CALL FOR RESURRECTION THEOLOGY
Historical Emphases of Christian Religion
Emphases of Resurrection in Christian Religion
Present Dynamic of Life Emphasis in Resurrection Theology
CHRISTIANITY IS RESURRECTION
2. Fall Of Man
6 Life Of Jesus
9. Second Chance
10. End of Time
A Christian Understanding of Creation Must Take Into
Account The Resurrection.
The Resurrection Gives Us An Eternal Perspective of
Who The People of Israel Really Are.
The Prophets of The Old Testament Cannot Be
Properly Understood Except From a Resurrection
8. Holy Spirit
THE EXTENSION OF THE RESURRECTION
A Christian Understanding of the Extension of the Resurrection
IT IS THE RESURRECTION THAT IS BEING BY-PASSED
RESURRECTION: THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING
Image of God
Life of God
Will of God
Law of God
Israel of God
Kingdom of God
People of God
Love of God
Word of God
Gospel of God
Salvation of God
Blessings of God
Truth of God
Power of God
Grace of God
Church of God
A CALL FOR RESURRECTION THEOLOGY
Christian theology has tended to focus on the birth and the death of Jesus,
and in so doing has defaulted in explaining the significance of the resurrection.
The church throughout the centuries has often failed to recognize the significance of the resurrection of Jesus. Despite the fact that the Easter celebration has been regarded as the culmination of the Christian year of worship, the full meaning of the resurrection has often been undeveloped or diluted in Christian teaching and preaching. Christian theology has emphasized numerous legitimate Biblical themes, but has seldom made the resurrection the focal point or fulcrum on which all other Christian subjects depend. Roman Catholic theologian, Claude Geffré, laments, “As strange as it may seem, the resurrection of Christ, which sums up all of Christianity, has still not been the object of any exhaustive reflection within dogmatic theology. The remark has often been made that the theology manuals devote little space to the resurrection compared to the long elaborations dealing with the divinity of Christ or with his redeeming mission. And even today, rare are the theologians who choose the resurrection of Christ as the organizing principle of Christology.” 1
Because of this neglect and the common misemphases of Christian theology, I am compelled to write this article and to make “a call for resurrection theology.”
HISTORICAL EMPHASES OF CHRISTIAN RELIGION
As we evaluate Christian thought through the centuries, we note that different segments of the church have tended to emphasize different historical events in the life of Jesus. The two primary events thus emphasized are the birth of Jesus and the death of Jesus.
Roman Catholic theology has tended to emphasize the birth of Jesus in the theology of the incarnation. Emphasis is placed on Mary, the birth mother of Jesus, and upon the virgin birth of Jesus. This is not to say that Roman Catholic theology has neglected the death of Jesus in crucifixion, as is obviated by the crucifix symbol that is found in all Catholic churches and in many Catholic homes, but the primary emphasis to explain Jesus as the God-man has seemingly been on the incarnational birth of Jesus.
Protestant theology, on the other hand, has for almost five hundred years tended to emphasize the death of Jesus in crucifixion, focusing on the cross and the sacrificial blood of Jesus. The Reformation emphasis was on the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ as an expiatory action that propitiated God’s judgment on man and reconciles sinners to God so that they may be declared justified.
Australian author, Robert D. Brinsmead, comments that, “It is well known that Catholicism made the Incarnation central to its theology, while Protestantism made the atonement of the cross the central thing.”2 The Scottish preacher and New Testament scholar, James S. Stewart, wrote similarly, “Protestant theology, concentrating on the atoning sacrifice of the cross, has not always done justice to the apostolic emphasis on the risen life.”3 Stewart followed up by noting that, “Protestant theology, in some of its phases, has unconsciously altered the apostolic accent by almost isolating the cross, and failing to see Calvary with the Resurrection light breaking behind it.”4
It is important to understand that the objective, historical events of incarnation and crucifixion, the birth and the death of the historical, physical Christ, were remedial measures enacted by God to remedy the problem of man’s sin; to provide the solution to the fall of humanity into sin in Adam.
If the incarnation and crucifixion were the only historical acts of God on man’s behalf, then the gospel would cease to be “good news”. If the gospel narrative was only that “Jesus was born. Jesus died. God said to man: ‘There is the remedy! I came. I fixed the problem. Now you are fixed. The slate is wiped clean. Now, go and do a better job next time.'” That is not good news! That is damnable doctrine. That is tragic teaching!
The incarnation and crucifixion alone serve only to condemn man all the more. The story would go like this: “A man came who was God-man. He did not share the spiritual depravity of the rest of mankind. He did not develop the “flesh” patterning of selfish desires like other men. He lived life as God intended, allowing God in him to manifest His desire and character at every moment in time for thirty-three years. He was the perfect man! He did not deserve to die, but He was put to death unjustly. In dying undeservedly, He died in our place, as our substitute, and paid the price of death to satisfy God’s justice, and forgive mankind of their sins.” Is that the whole of the story? If so, He lived and died perfectly which we cannot do. If the incarnation and crucifixion were the whole of the story, then we would have been better off without Him! Why? Because He could live and die as He did; we cannot. And the fact that He did only condemns us all the more by His matchless example, for we do not have what it takes to live like that.
Only in the resurrection do we have the message that God has given us the provision of His life in order that we might be man as God intended man to be; in order that the resurrection life of the risen Lord Jesus might become the essence of spiritual life in the Christian; in order that we might live by His life and the expression of His character. The resurrection is the positive provision of life in Christ Jesus, around which all other theological topics must be oriented.
As Walter Kunneth concludes, “The raising of the Christ is the act of God, whose significance is not to be compared with with any event before or after. It is the primal datum of theology, from which there can be no abstracting, and the normative presupposition for every valid dogmatic judgment and for the meaningful construction of a Christian theology. Thus the resurrection of Jesus becomes the Archimedean point for theology. All theological statements are oriented in one way or another toward this focal point. There is no Christian knowledge of God which does not acquire its ultimate fullness and depth from a revelation of God in the Risen One.” 5
Christian theology, in both its Catholic and Protestant forms, has failed to recognize the resurrection as the central feature of its theology, and has often thereby abdicated and defaulted in explaining the significance of the resurrection of Jesus.
EMPHASES OF RESURRECTION IN CHRISTIAN RELIGION
When Christian religion has attempted to address the resurrection in its theological considerations, it has done so in a way that continues to short-change the significance of the resurrection. The resurrection in Christian theology has been relegated to apologetic arguments of historicity, defense of Jesus’ deity, and futuristic expectations of bodily resurrection.
Christian religion has emphasized the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, employing a variety of sources to document, authenticate, and validate the historical resurrection of Jesus. Apologists like Frank Morison (Who Moved the Stone?6) and Josh McDowell (The Resurrection Factor 7) have sought to provide Christians with historical “proofs” for the resurrection of Jesus.
Having “proven” the historical veracity of the resurrection by their chronological and logical evidences, Christian religion has then emphasized that the resurrection of Jesus was a supernatural miracle that verifies the divinity or deity of Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus has been used as a tool for apologetic defense, as a leverage to authorize and “prove” Christ’s divinity and the church’s teaching.
As Robert D. Brinsmead explains, “The so-called ‘historical proofs’ of the resurrection have been marshalled, not to explore the meaning of the mystery itself, but to validate the church’s claims about the divinity of Jesus, the authority of the church, and its possession of an exclusive and absolute truth.”8 Claude Geffré likewise comments that, “since the end of the nineteenth century the resurrection of Christ has become the favorite object of Christian apologetics. It was a matter of establishing the historicity of the resurrection in order to furnish a proof for the divinity of Christ and thereby accredit his message and its legitimacy. And when apologetics had defended the historical character of the miracle of the resurrection, it seemed dogmatic theology had no more to say about the mystery of the resurrection.” 9
On the basis of the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection and the theological establishment of His deity, Christian religion has proceeded to emphasize that the primary theological import of the historical resurrection of Jesus is to validate the assurance of the eventual resurrection of Christians’ bodies in the future. The historical, physical resurrection of Jesus is used as the foundational basis for authenticating the expected bodily resurrection of the Christian after death.
Is this not the argument that Paul uses in I Corinthians 15 in the “Resurrection chapter”? Yes it is, but this is not the entirety of what Paul had to say about the subject of resurrection. Though it is the most extended passage that he seems to have written on the subject, it is not the predominant or primary emphasis that Paul makes concerning the resurrection. The historical sitz im leben context of I Corinthians was that the Corinthians were so enamored with their present “spirituality” that they were eschewing or denying anything beyond the present. To counter this triumphalistic diminishment of hope, and to correct Hellenic concepts that deprecated embodiment, Paul ties the bodily resurrection of Jesus with the expected bodily resurrection of Christians.
In so doing, Paul does not necessarily imply that the resurrected physical body of Jesus is prototypical of the resurrected body of the Christian after death. The physicality of the resurrected body is not the issue Paul was addressing.
Secondly, it must be noted that the predominance of Paul’s references to the resurrection of Jesus do not relate to the future bodily resurrection of Christians. Paul’s primary inference from the resurrection of Jesus is that anyone who is receptive in faith to the living Lord Jesus can be spiritually raised to newness of life (cf. Rom. 6:4,5) by the resurrection life of the living Jesus. Paul emphasized the present availability of life in Christ, and avoided lapsing back into the Jewish framework of theology that he had espoused in the past.
Jewish theology was always a theology of future expectation. As can be noted throughout the Old Testament (the old covenant literature), the Jewish people were always looking for fulfillment in the future; the prophetic promise of that which was yet to come. Regrettably, Christian theology has often fallen prey to just such future expectations in a reversion to a Jewish paradigm of theological expectations.
New covenant Christian theology, as expressed in the New Testament, emphasizes that God’s promises and man’s expectations are realized in Jesus Christ. Christian theology looks back to the “finished work” of Jesus Christ (cf. John 17:4; 19:30). Christians are “complete in Christ” (Col. 3:10). Christian theology is a realized theology (cf. I Cor 3:21-23; II Pet. 1:3). The emphasis is not on “it is coming,” but on “it is done!” for the whole of God’s intent is in the risen and living Lord Jesus.
The emphases of Christian religion on resurrection have traditionally been on proving the historical accuracy of Jesus’ resurrection in order to authenticate His divinity, which in turn has been used to convince and assure Christians of an eventual bodily resurrection after physical death.
If Christian theology does not get beyond the cradle and the cross, the birth and the death of Jesus, then all we have to offer is a static history lesson with no contemporary consequence. If Christian theology does not get beyond apologetic defense for what “was”, and longing expectation for what “will be,” then it becomes an irrelevancy of temporalized “bookends” that fails to address what “is” and “should be” presently.
H.A. Williams explains that, “Resurrection, at least in Western Christendom, has invariably been described as belonging to another time and place. The typical emphasis has been upon the past and future a past and future with which our connection can only be theoretical… So, for example, a book about the resurrection is naturally assumed to be a discussion either about what can be held to have happened in the environs of Jerusalem and Galilee on the third day after Jesus was crucified or about what can be held to be in store for us after our own death. When resurrection is considered in terms of past and future, it is robbed of its impact on the present. That is why for most of the time resurrection means little to us. It is remote and isolated.”
It is a neat trick…this banishing of resurrection to past and future. It saves us from a lot of reality and delivers us from a great deal of fear. It has, in short, the advantage of safeguarding us from life.”10
What a tragedy that the Christian religion has itself blockaded people from life in Christ by projecting the implications of the resurrection to an historical event of the past or to an anticipated expectation of the future. These are not the predominant emphases of resurrection in the new covenant literature of the New Testament as we shall proceed to note.
PRESENT DYNAMIC OF LIFE EMPHASIS IN RESURRECTION THEOLOGY
This is a call for a Resurrection Theology that emphasizes the present dynamic of life in the risen and living Lord Jesus. Such Resurrection theology will be a restoration of Biblical theology as previewed in the literature of the Old Testament and explained by the New Testament writers.
Everything in the old covenant (Old Testament) was but a pictorial prefiguring of what God was going to do in the resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
The resurrection was a replay of the Genesis account of “coming into being”, for the resurrection of the “last Adam” (I Cor. 15:45) allows for God’s breathing “the spirit of life” (cf. Gen. 2:7) into man again that he might once again become a spiritually alive soul. Mankind is re-genesised in spiritual regeneration, becoming a “new creature” (II Cor. 5:17) as part of a “new creation.“ (Gal. 6:15)
Resurrection is likewise the basis for the spiritual reportrayal of the Exodus story, bringing mankind out of the land of slavery into the promised land. Christ’s coming out of the grave can be seen to correspond to Moses and his people coming out of Egypt, wherein the resurrection becomes the liberating exodus of salvation history.
It is by the resurrection that we have the spiritual restructuring of the Torah as detailed in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The external codification of Law becomes an internal dynamic of “the law written in our hearts.” (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10; 10:16) Christ becomes “the end of the Law” (Rom. 10:4) as its completion and fulfillment, for the living Lord Jesus expresses the character of God in man as the Law required. The behavioral performance commitments of “we will do it” (Exod. 19:8; 24:3, 7), are transformed by the dynamic provision of Christ’s resurrection life whereby “He will bring it to pass.“ (I Thess. 5:24)
The history of Israel becomes His-story as the resurrected Jesus establishes the Davidic Kingdom (Acts 13:34) of divine intent. Those in Christ become the “chosen race”, the “people of God” (I Peter 2:9, 10), the spiritual Israel of God. (Gal. 6:16; Rom. 9:6)
The resurrection is a transformation of the psalms and songs of God, as those participating in the resurrection sing a “new song”, singing “spiritual songs in their hearts to God.“ (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)
All of the prophetic promises of God for His people are affirmed by the “Yes” and “Amen” (II Cor. 1:20) of God’s completed action in the resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The entire Old Testament, (old covenant) was but a preliminary blueprint that pictorially pointed to the resurrection of Jesus. The resurrection of Christ wraps up the physical prefiguring of the old covenant, and is the culminating and continuing action of God that makes all things new in the eternal new covenant.
The new covenant (New Testament) literature is obviously more directly focused on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for the resurrection is the dynamic reality that is the essence of the new covenant.
All four gospel narratives (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) culminate and climax with the account of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. But even prior to the historical enactment of His physical resurrection, Jesus had revealed that His resurrection would have an extended and eternal impact. He declared to Martha, “I AM the resurrection and the life.“ (John 11:25) To the Jews in the temple, Jesus foretold that the temple of His body would be destroyed, but raised in three days” (John 6:19-22), indicating that by His resurrection the new center of worship would be in Him. Later He told the Jews that He would “raise men up in the last day” (John 6:39-44), the finalization of the new covenant.
Luke’s account of the progressive advance of the early church in The Acts of the Apostles reveals that the kerygma, the preached message, of the apostles was centered in the resurrection of Jesus. Peter declares in the first sermon of the church that “God raised Him up …because it was impossible for Him to be held in death’s power” (Acts 2:24), and “this Jesus God raised up, to which we are all witnesses.” (Acts 2:32) In Peter’s second sermon he proclaimed that “God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning everyone from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26, cf.15). The resurrection was the message, the theology, of the early church (cf. Acts 4:10,33; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,34), as they were “preaching Jesus and the resurrection.” (Acts 17:18)
The Apostle Paul, having met the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-8; 22:6-11; 26:12-19), had no concept of a gospel apart from the dynamic implications of the resurrected Jesus who had become his life (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:21; Col. 3:4). In his brief recitation of the foundational historical events of the gospel, Paul explains that “Christ died for our sins, …was buried, …and was raised on the third day” (I Cor. 15:1-4), but whereas the verbs “died” and “buried” were Greek aorist tenses of the past, his verb choice for Jesus “having been raised” was the Greek perfect tense that conveys a past event with present consequences. The resurrection of Jesus was never mere history in the thinking of Paul; it was always the present dynamic life and power of the risen Lord within him.
To the Romans Paul noted that Jesus was “declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead,” being now “the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord.“ (Rom. 1:4) Jesus became, by His resurrection, the “life-giving Spirit” (I Cor. 15:45), the “Spirit of life” (Rom. 8:2), the “Spirit of Christ” (Rom. 8:9) who invests His resurrection life in those individuals receptive to such by faith, and without which “they are none of His” (Rom. 8:9). “The Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,” Paul asserts, and “He who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you” (Rom. 8:11). Paul wanted Christians to understand that they had been subjectively and spiritually “united with Christ in His resurrection” (Rom. 6:5) and “raised to walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4) in the mastery of death (Rom. 6:9). Based on our being “raised up with Christ” (Eph. 2:6; Col. 2:12; 3:1), Paul was desirous that Christians know “the surpassing greatness of the power” (Eph. 1:19) that is functioning with us as Christians, the very “working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead.” (Eph. 1:20) This is the “power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10) that Paul continually longed to know and experience in a deeper way.
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews refers to “the better resurrection” (Heb. 11:35) that is in Christ alone, whereby “the God of peace who raised up…Jesus our Lord, equips us in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.“ (Heb. 13:20, 21)
Consistent with the other New Testament writers, Peter posits the resurrection as the prerequisite and personal reality of Christ’s life received in spiritual regeneration, when we are “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.“ (I Peter 1:3) This is the basis on which we are “saved…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.“ (I Peter 3:21)
When the Apostle John refers to “passing out of death into life” (John 5:24; I John 3:14), it is the resurrection reality that is foundational to his thought, implemented “because He has given us of His Spirit.” (I John 4:13)
Everything in the New Testament, the entirety of Christian preaching and theology, is predicated on the Resurrection of Jesus and the continuing dynamic of His life in those who receive Him by faith. That great Scottish preacher, James S. Stewart, expressed it so eloquently when he wrote, “The resurrection was indeed the very core of the apostolic kerygma… It was the theme of every Christian sermon; it was the master-motive of every act of Christian evangelism; and not one line of the New Testament was written not one sentence, whether of Gospels, Epistles, Acts or Apocalypse, was penned apart from the conviction that He of whom these things were being written had conquered death and was alive forever.
“Never did the apostles make the mistake, all too common today, of regarding the Resurrection as a mere epilogue to the Gospel, an addendum to the scheme of salvation, a providential afterthought of God, a codicil to the divine last will and testament. This is to falsify disastrously the whole emphasis of the Bible. Not as an appendix to the faith was the Resurrection ever preached in the apostolic Church. The one and only God the apostles worshipped was the God of the Resurrection. The one and only Gospel they were commissioned to preach was the overpowering, magnificent good news of the Resurrection.” 11
Can the emphasis be made any more evident than it is made throughout the New Testament that the Resurrection of Jesus is not just an historical event of yesteryear or just an anticipation of embodiment in the future, but is the essence of the vital restoration of humanity in the present? The misemphases in modern Christian religion necessitates a call for Resurrection Theology that returns to the Biblical emphasis.
We cannot do better than to allow the Scottish preacher to continue to drive home his point: “It is immensely significant that those first Christians never preached the resurrection simply as Jesus’ escape from the grave, the reanimation of One who had died, the return of the Master to His friends. The always proclaimed it as the living God in omnipotent action. 12
“This is the conviction that makes the New Testament…the most exciting and the most relevant book in the world. The power that was strong enough to get Jesus out of the grave, and thus to set going the whole Christian movement across the centuries, mighty enough to shatter and confound the hideous demonic alliance of evil, creative enough to smite death with resurrection this power is in action still. 13
“…preaching the Resurrection means telling men that the identical divine energy which at the first took Christ out of the grave is available still available not only at journey’s end to save them in the hour of death, but available here and now to cause them to live.
It is an awful catastrophe for the Church when the proclamation of such a Gospel grows pity us dull and listless and mechanical. …the same power which on that day shattered death is now given us for life to vitalize the most depressed and disillusioned and defeated son of man into a resurrected personality and a conquering soul.” 14
“How was it that a little group of men in an upper room ordinary, fallible, blundering men became the nucleus of a movement that was to turn the world upside down? This was the Church’s hidden secret. It was not that they were commanding personalities; most of them were not. It was not that they had official backing, impressive credentials, or illustrious patronage: of all that they had less than nothing. It was this that the unearthly power which at the first had brought creation into being, which now at the last had inaugurated a new creation in the Resurrection of Christ, had laid hold upon them and refashioned their lives as with a second birth.” 15
“it is no mere interest in immortality which explains the apostolic concentration on the Resurrection. It was not as a dramatic verification of personal survival that they preached Christ risen from the dead. They were not really concerned with proofs and theories of survival as such.
“It was the shattering of history by a creative act of God Almighty. God was doing something comparable only with what He had done at the first creation. This was the beginning of a new era for the universe, the decisive turning-point for the human race. …In the resurrection the new age had arrived, and this stupendous miracle signified the storming of history and the transforming of the world.”16
“The Resurrection was evidence that there had now appeared, in the midst of time, life of a new dimension and the baptism of eternity. The heralds of the Resurrection were not merely preaching it as a fact: they were living in it as in a new country. They had received a Kingdom which could not be shaken.”17
Preach on Dr. Stewart! The impact of the resurrection cannot be overstated or overrated. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is THE most stupendous act of God’s grace. It is the focal point of all human history. It is the transforming reality in light of which everything else must be interpreted. All meaningful human existence must be interpreted by the earth-shattering, death-defeating, history-defining reality of Jesus’ Resurrection.
Christianity is not a message of merely what “has been” (past) and “will be” (future); it is the message of what “is”, the vital dynamic of the resurrected “I AM” of God who restores the whole of creation. The Resurrection facilitates and is the personal dynamic of the restoration of humanity whereby God functions once again in man by the presence of His own divine life in the Christian.
Christian theology is not simply an ideological and epistemological construct concerning events and doctrines. The personal resurrection-presence of the living Lord Jesus is intrinsic to His teaching. They cannot be detached. Apart from His resurrection there is no validity to His teaching. This is why Thomas F. Torrance writes, “What Jesus Christ is in His resurrection, He is in Himself. The very life of Jesus is the content of the resurrection.” 18
Resurrection theology is necessarily Resurrection-living, the living manifestation of the life and character of the risen Lord Jesus in Christian behavior. As such, this is also a call for Resurrection-community, whereby the church functions as the Body of Christ by the interpersonal interaction of people living by the Resurrection-life of Jesus, loving one another and seeking the other’s highest good.
The Resurrection is the basis of everything that can legitimately be called “Christian.” It is only by the indwelling activity of the risen Lord Jesus that the dynamic life of Christ continues to effect Christianity.
Apart from the Resurrection there is no Christianity. Apart from the Resurrection there is no gospel. Apart from the Resurrection there is no spiritual life. Apart from the Resurrection there is no salvation. Apart from the Resurrection there is no righteousness, holiness or godliness. Apart from the Resurrection there is no Christian living. Apart from the Resurrection there is no hope. It is imperative that we articulate and proclaim Resurrection Theology.
1 Geffré, Claude, A New Age in Theology. New York: Paulist Press. 1974. pg. 1.
2 Brinsmead, Robert D., Verdict Essay 1E, “The Resurrection”, April, 1999. pg. 20.
3 Stewart, James S., A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul‘s Religion. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. pg. 135.
4 Ibid., pg. 136.
5 Kunneth, Walter, The Theology of the Resurrection. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. 1965. pg. 294.
6 Morison, Frank, Who Moved the Stone? London: Faber and Faber Limited. 1930.
7 McDowell, Josh, The Resurrection Factor. San Bernardino: Here’s Life Publishers. 1981.
8 Brinsmead, Robert D., op. cit., pg. 2.
9 Geffré, Claude, op. cit., pg. 1
10 Williams, H. A., True Resurrection. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 1972. pgs 4,5.
11 Stewart, James S., A Faith to Proclaim. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1953. pgs. 104,105.
12 Stewart, James S. King For Ever. London: Hodder and Stoughton. pg. 142.
13 Ibid., pg. 143.
14 Stewart, James S., A Faith to Proclaim. pg. 126.
15 Ibid., pg. 127.
16 Ibid., pg. 106,107
17 Ibid., pg. 109.
18 Torrance, Thomas F., Space, Time and Resurrection. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1976.
CHRISTIANITY IS RESURRECTION
Declaring Himself to be “the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25), Jesus indicated that
the continuing reality of His presence was by His risen and resurrected life.
The gospel is the message of the resurrection. The Gospel IS resurrection. Christianity is the expression of the resurrection. Christianity IS resurrection. Someone might say: “But Christianity is Christ!” That is true, but Jesus Christ said, “I AM the Resurrection and the life.“ (John 11:25) Jesus Christ is the content, the essence of resurrection-life. Jesus never said, “I AM the Cross”, but He did say, “I AM the resurrection”. The resurrection is the expression of the dynamic of all that Jesus IS. In fact, the resurrection is the reality of all that Christianity IS. The vital understanding of everything that is Christian is in the resurrection. Resurrection-life is the focal point of all Christian teaching the starting point from which everything must be appraised, evaluated and interpreted EVERYTHING! Everything prior in time, time itself, and everything that follows chronologically, logically and theologically can only correctly be understood in light of the resurrection; all human history, all human thought.
Many have expressed this centrality of Christian teaching in the resurrection:
“One’s whole theology is determined by one’s view of the resurrection.”
“All Christian doctrines do nothing more or less than manifest some facet of the basic affirmation of the resurrection.2
“Justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification, as applied to believers, are derived from the significance of the resurrection.3
“The resurrection is the first and last and dominating element in the Christian consciousness of the New Testament.”4
“All New Testament facts have to be broached from the key position of the resurrection. Paul’s thinking in all his utterances rotates around one unifying center, and that center is the raising of Christ from the dead.”5
“The raising of Christ is THE act of God, whose significance is not to be compared with any event before or after. It is the primal datum of theology, from which there can be no abstracting, and the normative presupposition for every valid dogmatic judgment and for the meaningful construction of a Christian theology. Thus the resurrection of Jesus becomes the Archimedean point for theology. All theological statements are oriented in one way or another toward this focal point. There is no Christian knowledge of God which does not acquire its ultimate fullness and depth from a revelation of God in the Risen One.”6
All of history, and especially Biblical history, must be interpreted by the resurrection. Those who preceeded the resurrection were who they were, and did what they did, because of what was, Who was, to happen in the resurrection.
But the resurrection is so totally different from any other historical fact that it cannot be considered by the same guidelines or criteria of circumstantial evidence. It is beyond historical categories. All else must be considered in the light of, in the context of, the resurrection. If the resurrection of Jesus were just another historical miracle, then Christianity is but a dead religion! In the resurrection God breaks into history; eternity breaks into time; God re-creates humanity; God establishes the social order He intended.
Christianity IS resurrection. At Easter time we do not just celebrate another event in history even if it be regarded as the greatest event in history. Resurrection is not just an historical event; it is an on-going dynamic of the life of God in Jesus Christ. We do not just assent to the historicity or theological accuracy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ; we encounter resurrection. We encounter and have personal relationship with the One who is “the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25). One cannot count themselves a “Christian” unless they have encountered, received, and are participating in the resurrection life of Jesus Christ.
In order to demonstrate that resurrection is that which constitutes all of that which is called “Christian”, I want to consider several categories, both chronological and theological, that can only be properly understood by the reality of the resurrection:
(1) CREATION. To attempt to understand creation God’s bringing into being of the world apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, may cause one to arrive at Shakespeare’s conclusion: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…; “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Creation has no direction apart from the resurrection. To view creation apart from resurrection is to arrive at either evolutionary hodge-podge or at the rigid formulas of “creationism,” and both are just as meaningless. Man as mere potentiality is not an exalted view of his createdness.
Creation is invested with meaning only when we look back at it from the perspective of resurrection. Jesus Christ was active in creation as Creator (John 1:3: Col. 1:16); as the indwelling presence of the Divine character that was to be visibly expressed, i.e. imaged, in man. (Gen. 1:26,27) The initial Genesis creation “set the stage” for the “new creation” brought into being in Jesus Christ. (Gal. 6:16) By the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have the fulfillment of creation, the re-creation of a new functional humanity (Eph. 2:15), wherein the “image” is restored so that the Divine character might be expressed in righteousness and holiness. (Eph. 4:24)
A CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING OF CREATION MUST TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THE RESURRECTION.
(2) FALL OF MAN. If the Fall of man is taken as the starting point of one’s theological understanding, then righting the wrong of sin becomes the end-objective. If our theology begins in Genesis chapter 3, then it will conclude at the cross, and be nothing more than a “Mr. Fix-It Theology.”
Only when we consider the Fall of man from the perspective of the resurrection, do we understand the active energizing of death by the devil (Heb. 2:14), the extent to which the unregenerate are “slaves of sin” (John 8:34), and the radical spiritual exchange of conversion when men turn from the dominion of Satan to God (Acts 26:18).
The Fall of man can only be understood from a Christian point of view by looking backwards from the resurrection and the restoration of life therein.
(3) ISRAEL. Apart from the resurrection we might conclude with Ogden Nash, “How odd of God, to choose the Jews.” The Jewish people, the nation of Israel; they were not faithful and obedient. They were selfish, idolatrous, nationalistic and racist. If they are to be regarded, unconditionally, as “God’s chosen people”, then God might well be represented as a racist God, a God who is a “respecter of persons.” (Acts 10:34)
Looking back at Israel in the Old Testament from a resurrection perspective, we understand that they were a “picture-people” intended to illustrate what God was to do in the resurrection in raising up a people for His own possession, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. (I Peter 2:9) The physical Israel of the Old Testament represented a people “set apart” to function as intended, but they failed to thus function because of unbelief and disobedience. (Heb. 3:16-4:6) By the resurrection of Jesus all Christians become the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16; Rom. 9:6); people “set apart” to function as intended; people who can collectively be called “Israel” because we have fought with God, surrendered to God and been conquered by God, spiritually.
THE RESURRECTION GIVES US AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE OF WHO THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL REALLY ARE.
(4) PROPHETS. If the prophets of the Old Testament are considered apart from the resurrection of Jesus, they might indeed appear to be “blowing in the wind,” as Bob Dylan sang. Apart from the spiritual implications of the resurrection they would be rambling rabble-rousers, mere doomsday sayers; and much of what they said would not have come true – they would be false-prophets!
Much of what the prophets said requires the resurrection to make any sense. The prophets of the Old Testament saw glimpses, both of the resurrection itself (Acts 2:31) and the many implications thereof: that He would be king on the throne of David (Ezekiel 37:24,25; Luke 1:32,33), that He would be a light to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47,48), etc.
THE PROPHETS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT CANNOT BE PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD EXCEPT FROM A RESURRECTION PERSPECTIVE.
(5) INCARNATION. To attempt to contemplate the incarnation of Jesus Christ apart from the resurrection will simply boggle the human mind. Discussion of hypostatic union and kenotic theories are but “dead ends” if the incarnation does not lead to something more than an unexplainable historical phenomena of One who is inexplicably both God and man in one person. The apologist’s alternatives of regarding the historical Jesus as either a “liar” or a “lunatic” would be the only logical choices.
The resurrection invests the incarnation with a fullness of meaning that points to the incarnation of God in all mankind. “God was in Christ” (II Cor. 5:19), and by the resurrected-life of Jesus can dwell in every man. “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14) in Jesus, and God wants to be manifested in the flesh of all Christians. (II Cor. 4:11) Jesus was “Emmanuel” (Matt. 1:23), and God intended to be with and in everyone who would receive the resurrection dynamic of Christ by faith.
The incarnation becomes a prototype of deity functioning within humanity when viewed through its universal fulfillment in the resurrection.
(6) LIFE OF JESUS. From an historical perspective that fails to account for the resurrection, the life of Jesus here on earth was but an incomparable ideal and an impossible example. If Jesus lived the life that He lived simply because He was God, deity, something that no mortal man can be, then His matchless moral example simply condemns us all the more.
By the resurrection we come to appreciate the dynamic that made the life of Jesus what it was. He lived by the Life of Another – He let God be God in Him for every moment in time for thirty-three years. “I do nothing of My own initiative,” He said, “The Father abiding in Me does His works” (John 14:10). Even His miracles were but what God did through Him (Acts 2:22). Thus He modeled the life of a man, normal humanity, a man who let God be God in a man, man as God intended. By resurrection He makes that same dynamic of life available to Christians.
The behavioral expression of the life of Jesus here on earth is only encouraging to us today because of the resurrection. The life lived once in Christ can be lived in us.
(7) CRUCIFIXION. The emphasis on the Cross has often been allowed to usurp the centrality of the resurrection in Christian teaching. To divorce the cross from the resurrection is to develop a “gospel of gore”, a bloody religion that is ghastly and grotesque. The death emphasis of the cross leads to masochistic forms of flagellation, be they physical or psychological (“death to self”). To consider the Cross apart from the resurrection is the springboard for innumerable theories of the atonement, but it creates a most negative and sin-conscious religion. In fact the detachment of the crucifixion from the resurrection diminishes the vicarious and sacrificial elements of the Lamb slain for the sins of the world.
The crucifixion of Christ on the cross of Calvary is not an end in itself. It was but a remedial action, to remedy the problem of the death consequences of man’s sin. The problems of sin and death and satan’s dominion were remedied at the cross. God then made His Life available to mankind by the resurrection. On the cross, Jesus exclaimed, “It is Finished!” (John 19:30); He saw ahead to the completed work of God in the resurrection. Whenever Paul refers to “the word of the cross” (I Cor. 1:18; Gal. 6:14), and preaching “Christ crucified” (I Cor. 2:2), He always does so from the perspective of the “finished work” of the resurrection.
The crucifixion postulates but a popular martyr-hero unless it is invested with meaning by the resurrection, wherein the crucifixion becomes God’s “No” to death and sin, and the resurrection becomes God’s “Yes” to Life for all mankind.
(8) PENTECOST. Apart from the full import of the resurrection, the Pentecost experience recorded in Acts chapter two becomes but an initiation demonstration at the commencement of the church. Many mistakenly look back to Pentecost as the necessary expression of ecstatic utterances and glossalalia that is to be indicative of all genuine Christian experience. Pentecost becomes the event when God distributed His gifts, trophies and “power-toys.”
Only by an understanding of the resurrection can Pentecost be properly understood as the out-pouring of the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus. The Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9) was made available to indwell all mankind who would receive Him by faith. The risen Lord Jesus in spiritual form came to empower Christian people (Rom. 1:4; Eph. 1:19,20) at Pentecost. This is what accounts for the impact of the early church on the world around it: they lived like they did, and did what they did, by the resurrection-power of the Spirit of Christ within them.
Pentecost must be viewed as a demonstration of the availability of resurrection.
(9) SECOND COMING. The Second Coming of Jesus to earth is so often interpreted apart from the resurrection implications. By the resurrection, Jesus was raised to reign on the spiritual throne of David over the spiritual kingdom of God. Many deny these resurrection realities and believe that Jesus will come again to establish a physical kingdom, having failed to become a priest-king the first time He came. They have sacrificed the resurrection to crass materialistic, nationalistic and racial expectations.
When viewed in the light of the resurrection, the second coming of Jesus becomes the glorious consummation of God’s spiritual kingdom. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus.
(10) END OF TIME. The end of time when considered apart from the resurrection, will indeed be meaningless and purposeless. That is why “nihilism” has become such a prominent idea – the philosophy of “nothingness” – that nothing makes sense, it all amounts to nothing. Others look to the end of time as but the opportunity to break the cycle of meaningless life, to get “off the wheel” and to be obliterated into the nothingness of Nirvana. Such viewpoints are devoid of the hope that is in the resurrection alone.
From the perspective of Christ’s resurrection, the end of time is the consummation of time when Christians glory in the eternality of the new heaven and the new earth, and the unhindered enjoyment of the eternal life that is ours already in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now let us consider the resurrection implications in various theological categories:
(1) REDEMPTION. To consider the redemption of God in Jesus Christ apart from the resurrection is to sell it short of the price paid. Redemption means to “buy back” with the payment of a price. It was the terminology of the slave market in Biblical times. But to be bought out of slavery with a ransom payment, is not enough if we are not emancipated, set free, liberated. Redemption without resurrection is to be “bought with a price” (I Cor. 6:20) – the ransom price of Christ’s death on the cross – but to disregard the emancipation.
It is by the resurrection that we are “set free, so as not to be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal. 5:1) The resurrection establishes the glorious objective of redemption. We are bought with a price in order to be all that God intended man to be; redeemed for God’s use and expression of His glorious character in functional humanity.
The resurrection invests redemption with the full content of its purchase price.
(2) REGENERATION. There is so much talk about being “born again” in religious circles today, but much of it is bankrupt because it does not incorporate the resurrection. For some, being “born again” is a renaissance of one’s thinking, a re-orientation of one’s life, or a subjective experience of heart-felt rejuvenation. Apart from the resurrection, regeneration is as absurd a concept as it was to Nicodemus in John chapter three, where Jesus’ mention of “born again” conjured up mental images of an obstetric return to the womb of his mother.
The resurrection is the reality that invests regeneration with meaning. Jesus was raised from the dead, life out of death, in order that we might be “raised to newness of life” (Rom. 6:4) in Christ Jesus. Jesus IS the resurrection and the life (John 11:25) with which (Whom) we are re-lifed spiritually in regeneration. (John 14:6; Col. 3:4) Regeneration is not facilitated by the cross, but rather by the resurrection. I Peter 1:3 – “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.”
Regeneration is a re-genesis, bringing man into being again spiritually, rebreathing into man the “breath of life” (Genesis 2:7). Thus we become a new creature in Christ (II Cor 5:17), a “new man” (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10) with the image of God restored in man. Regeneration is the resurrection-life of Jesus brought into being in the Christian.
(3) JUSTIFICATION. “Justification” is a Biblical word that has been much confused and misunderstood by Christians because it has been defined apart from the resurrection. The popular explanation is that God, the heavenly Judge sits in His heavenly courtroom, and when a person believes in His Son, Jesus Christ, the Judge bangs down His gavel, saying, “Declared righteous!” Thus justification becomes a legal acquittal, a word of pardon, the non-imputation of sin, “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned. But the declaration is regarded as a legal fiction, which is on the heavenly accounting books, having no practical effect in terms of behavioral righteousness in one’s life today.
The resurrection invests justification with practical implications for Christian behavior today. The Risen One is the Righteous One – Jesus Christ. Paul indicates in Romans 4:25 that Jesus “was raised for our justification.” The resurrection-life of Jesus that comes to dwell in us when the Spirit of Christ is in our spirit (Rom. 8:16), is righteous-life. We are “made righteous” (Rom. 5:19); we become the “righteousness of God in Christ” (II Cor 5:21); Christ Jesus becomes to us righteousness. (I Cor. 1:30) The righteous character of the Righteous God is actualized in us by the resurrection-life of Jesus.
Justification requires the living content of resurrection in order to be properly understood.
(4) SALVATION. Salvation has been trivialized by its separation from the resurrection in contemporary evangelical theology. Salvation separated from the resurrection is conceived of as but a rescue from the results of sin or a “fire insurance policy” from the effects of hell. Likewise, salvation apart from the resurrection dynamic is regarded as but a commodity of “eternal life” which one can “possess” by reason of one’s attestation of the historicity and doctrine of Jesus Christ; a spiritual benefit dispensed by a benefactor. Salvation apart from resurrection is merely preventative or beneficient.
Only when salvation is understood in the on-going continuity of the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ, only then does salvation remain connected with the work of the eternal Savior. Salvation does “make safe” from the dysfunctional humanity enslaved to sin, but Christians are saved unto the functional humanity of the Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ living through us. We are “saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10), as the resurrection-life of Jesus, the “saving life of Christ” is operative in our behavior.
The resurrection gives salvation a positive vitality, which is far more than escapism.
(5) GRACE. Because resurrection has been absent from evangelical conceptions of grace, the grace of God has been relegated to merely “redemptive grace” (God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense) or the threshold factor of “saving grace.” When grace is thus interpreted as static event or experience, it is then dispensed with for any practical purpose, and gives way to law, legalism and the performance of self-effort. The Christian life is regarded by many Christians as a life of performance, commitment and involvement.
The Grace-life of Christianity can only be understood in the context of the resurrection. The free-flow of God’s activity is made operative in Christian lives by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Christian life is the resurrection-grace-life. Paul says, “I am who I am by the grace of God” (I Cor. 15:10). The Christian life is all of grace or it is not Christian life.
(6) FAITH. Faith, apart from resurrection becomes but mental assent to a belief system, or dogmatic assertions of the veracity of propositional truth from the Book. Worse yet, faith may be regarded as superstitious expectations, which are no more than “faith in faith.”
Biblical faith can only be understood and exercised in the context of resurrection-grace. Faith is the response of reliance on the resurrection dynamic of God in Christ. Faith is our receptivity to His resurrection activity.
(7) SANCTIFICATION. Sanctification, apart from resurrection, will inevitably be conceived in terms of externals. It may be the externals of attire and possessions, avoiding what appears “worldly” and utilizing the out-dated, which appears more “spiritual.” Sanctification is sometimes regarded as the impossible ideal of a perfect life to be lived by imitating the life of Jesus Christ. Sanctification is most often conceived of as behavior governed by morality and ethics, the codification of behavior into rules and regulations, techniques and formulas, how-tos; the legalistic conformity to which is regarded as holiness.
Sanctification can only be understood and experienced by the resurrection-life of Jesus. It is the process of allowing the holy character of God to be lived out in our behavior as the Risen Lord Jesus lives out His life through us. It is the “life of Jesus manifested in our mortal bodies.“ (II Cor 4:10) Sanctification is resurrection-living!
(8) HOLY SPIRIT. Considerations of the Holy Spirit apart from the resurrection either “box” Him into a theological box as “the third person of the Godhead,” or set Him up as a spiritual “stimulant”, a power-force, that is available as a super-spiritual experience, subsequent to receiving Jesus Christ in regeneration.
The Holy Spirit cannot be properly understood in the life of the Christian apart from the resurrection. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of the Risen Lord Jesus. Paul writes in II Cor. 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The Holy Spirit is present in the spirit of every genuine Christian (Rom. 8:16), to express the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ in character and activity.
(9) CHURCH. Apart from the resurrection-dynamic of Jesus Christ, the Church becomes a mere historical or theological society for further discussion of the same. Sometimes it becomes a fellowship of like-minded believers, gathering for subjective “worship” experiences. When the church becomes a social organization or religious institution it binds people up in the absolutism, authoritarianism and activism of religion.
Only on the basis of the resurrection does the Church become the collective Body of the life of the Risen Lord Jesus. The church is intended to be the collective expression and interactions of those “called-out” to function in resurrection-life; Jesus Christ living in resurrection community, the inaugurated kingdom of God, the fulfillment of the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:16; Rom. 9:6)
(10) ESCHATOLOGY. When the resurrection-dynamic of Jesus Christ is misunderstood, then the consideration of “last things” often degenerates into mere speculative “futurism,” with their voluminous linear time-lines and charts. On the other hand it may become a campaign of social reform to create a “new world order.”
When Christians understand the resurrection, then the consideration of “last things”, i.e. eschatology, is not “utopianism.” By the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has established the “last things”, the “last days.” Jesus Christ is the “first and the last”, the “alpha and the omega”, the Creator and the End. All that God has designed for man is inaugurated and realized in Jesus Christ, and that by the resurrection.
Christianity IS resurrection, the resurrection dynamic and Life of Jesus Christ operative in everything. The resurrection is not just an historical or theological fact to be believed; He is a living Person to be received by faith, moment by moment in every situation of our existence. Jesus said, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25), and the implications of that are beyond the abilities of human contemplation.
Christianity IS Resurrection, because Jesus IS Resurrection and Life. Oh, that those who call themselves “Christians” today might understand what it meant for Jesus to be raised from the dead on that first Easter morning. It was Eternity intersecting into time with “eternal life.” It was God re-creating humanity and society. It was God interpreting all of history. It was God in Christ bringing Life to a world dead in sin.
Christianity IS Resurrection. Have you received resurrection? Are you enjoying resurrection?
1 Runia, Klaas, Christianity Today, March 17, 1967., article entitled “The Third Day He Rose Again…,”, pg. 3.
2 Chirico, P. F., (source unknown)
3 Gaffin, Richard P., Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology. Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1987.
4 Denney, James, Jesus and the Gospel.
5 Kunneth, Walter, The Theology of the Resurrection. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. 1965.
6 Torrance, T.F., Space, Time and Resurrection. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976. pg, 74.
THE EXTENSION OF THE RESURRECTION
The historical resurrection of Jesus is extended for the benefit of all men as the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ by the Spirit causes men to have life out of death spiritually.
A CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDING OF THE EXTENSION OF THE RESURRECTION
Christians celebrate Easter as the culmination of the Christian year. Why is the remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ the climactic highlight of Christian celebration? Why is the remembrance of Jesus’ crucifixion not the ultimate high-point? Why is the subsequent remembrance of the events of Pentecost not regarded as the culmination of Christian remembrance and worship?
The celebration of Christ’s resurrection at Easter by the Christian community focuses Christian worship on the fact that God’s ultimate objective for mankind has been achieved in Jesus Christ. What is God’s ultimate objective for mankind? Since we were “created for His glory” (Isa. 43:7), and the only way that God can be glorified is when His all-glorious character is manifested within His creation unto His own glory, then the ultimate objective of God for mankind is that His life might be present and operative in mankind, unto His own glory. God’s ultimate objective for man is not that man should experience a metaphysical deliverance and be rerouted to a future residence by “going to heaven” someday. Rather, God’s objective is that His life might dwell within man and be manifest through the behavior of mankind, making men fit for earth on the way to heaven.
How, then, is God’s ultimate objective for mankind achieved and accomplished in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? The death consequences of man’s sin were dealt with in the crucifixion when Jesus vicariously and substitutionally took mankind’s sin upon Himself on our behalf. In the redemptive act of His death Jesus accomplished the remedial work necessary to remedy the consequences of man’s sin before God. In that it was “impossible for Him to be held in death’s power” (Acts 2:24) for He was personally “without sin” (Heb. 4:15), He was raised from the dead in resurrection. In the resurrection expression of life out of death Jesus accomplished the restorative work of God, allowing the life of God to be restored to man. He took our death in crucifixion that we might have His life by resurrection.
Paul explained in the prologue of his letter to the Romans that God’s Son “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Rom. 1:4) Jesus was the eternal Son of God and had displayed the power of God throughout His ministry, but “by the resurrection from the dead.” He was declared to have the power to effect the presence and function of God’s life in man in order to accomplish God’s objective for mankind.
How does the risen Lord Jesus effect this reinvestiture of God’s life in man? How is the objective historical resurrection of Jesus Christ made subjectively efficacious in individuals in every century?
Jesus repetitively promised His disciples in the upper room that He would send “another Helper, the Holy Spirit, who would be in them.“ (cf. Jn. 14:16,17,26,28; 15:26; 16:7,13-17) The word He used for “another” was not heteros, meaning “another of a different kind”, but He used the word allos, meaning “another of the same kind”, because He was promising a Helper who would be just like Him since the Helper would be Him in Spirit-form. Crucified, buried and raised from the dead, Jesus then ascended to the Father (Acts 1:8-11) saying, “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; …” Soon thereafter, on Pentecost (Acts 2:14), the Holy Spirit was poured out upon mankind allowing the Spirit of Christ to invest mankind with His life (cf. Acts 2:31-33). “The last Adam (Jesus Christ) became a life-giving Spirit.“ (I Cor. 15:45) “The Lord (Jesus) who is the Spirit” (II Cor. 3:17) “gives life” (II Cor. 3:6) by His own presence as life in man. God’s life, spiritual life, eternal life is in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25) and told His disciples, “I am the way, the truth and the life.“ (Jn. 14:6) The divine life of God is available to man in Jesus Christ. “He that has the Son has life; he that does not have the Son of God does not have life” (I Jn. 5:11,12). When an individual receives the Spirit of Christ into his or her spirit, and “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him” (Rom. 8:9), then that person receives Christ as their life (cf. Col. 3:4) and “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.“ (Rom. 8:16) The receptivity of His activity of life within us is called “faith.” “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12, 13)
The reinvestiture of God’s life in man is accomplished by regeneration. The prerequisite of regeneration is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter explained that we are “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.“ (I Peter 1:3) In like manner as Jesus experienced life out of death in resurrection, and such rising from the dead was referred to as a “begetting” (Acts 13:33) whereby Jesus was the “first-born from the dead” (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5) “among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29), so Christians receive spiritual life out of spiritual death by the receipt of Christ’s life in new birth (cf. John 3:1-8). Passing “out of death into life” (John 5:24; I John 3:14), Christians participate in the extension of Christ’s resurrection. This is what Paul means by our being “raised up with Him” (Eph. 2:5) and “being made alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4). Christians “have been united with Christ in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6:5) so as to participate in “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4) as a “new creature” (II Cor. 5:17) and a “new man” (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10) in Christ Jesus.
If then, as Christians, we “have been raised up with Christ, we are to keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.“ (Col. 3:1) But not only is He transcendently “seated at the right hand of God,” He is also at the same time immanently present within the spirit of the Christian, “Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) The resurrection-life of Jesus Christ within the spirit of the Christian becomes the empowering of the Christian life. Having promised that “we should receive power when the Holy Spirit had come” (Acts 1:8), Jesus Christ in Spirit-form became that Power of God (I Cor. 1:24) in every Christian. We can “know…the surpassing greatness of His power toward us…which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead.“ (Eph. 1:18-20) In accord with Paul’s desire, we can “know the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10) as that “power works within us…exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we could ask or think.“ (Eph. 3:20)
We must see beyond the historicity of the empty tomb on that first Easter day, and understand the extension of the resurrection-life and resurrection-power of Jesus Christ in every Christian. Christianity is not just the remembrance of an historical resurrection, but is comprised of the vital dynamic of the risen Lord Jesus functioning in the activity of the Holy Spirit of God by enlivening Christians with the “saving life of Christ” (Rom. 5:10). Christianity is Christ the resurrected Lord Jesus living out His life in Christians every day, to the glory of God.
THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE GOSPEL
Just as the Rosetta Stone was the key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphic writing,
so the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the key to understanding the gospel.
The ancient Egyptians had a form of picture writing, which later researchers called hieroglyphics. The word itself is Greek and means “sacred” or “priestly carving.”
For decades, centuries, for over a millennium (c. 500 A.D. to 1822 A.D.) no one could decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphic writings. They thought it was a secret code of the priests and that the “key” for understanding was lost forever.
Then in 1799 some of Napoleon’s soldiers found what was called “The Rosetta Stone” near the mouth of the Nile River. This stone had the same inscription written in three different languages: Egyptian hieroglyphics, Egyptian demotic, and Greek. It still took 23 years, until 1822 when the Frenchman, Francois Champollion, discovered the “key” to unlock the mysterious symbols and translate the hieroglyphic script.
The gospel is like hieroglyphics to many people today; somewhat like a “sacred carving” that no one can understand. For years and years people have known about the gospel, paid homage to the gospel, celebrated the gospel, but they have often not understood what it meant. It is as if the gospel is a secret code of the priests, and the “key” to understanding has been lost.
It is time that we find the Resurrection stone, and discover the “key” to unlock these religious mysteries, to interpret the gospel as it was intended. The resurrection is a far more important discovery for mankind than the Rosetta Stone was to Egyptologists. The resurrection is the “key” to understanding the gospel and its import for all peoples.
There are many Biblical concepts and words that are just hieroglyphic symbols, just obscure religious carvings in “Christian religion” today. Their meaning, for the most part, has been lost for centuries, for over a millennium. The “key” to understanding these important Biblical truths is a proper perspective of the resurrection.
The concept of resurrection must first be decoded. The resurrection is not just an historical event, not just a theological truth. The resurrection is a living, personal reality in the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25)
Jesus was indeed raised from the dead historically on that “first day of the week.” The theological significance of “life out of death” and eventual bodily resurrection is truly important. The present significance of the resurrection is recognized when Christians understand that the risen Lord Jesus ascended to heaven and the very resurrection-life of Jesus was poured out on Pentecost to dwell in the spirits of Christian people. That spiritual reality, the indwelling of the living Lord Jesus, the dynamic function of His resurrection-life in and through our lives, is the essence of the gospel. Jesus, the “resurrection and the life,” is living out His resurrection-life in us, the Christ-life expressed in the Christian.
Many of the “things of God” remain hieroglyphics to many Christian people because the reality of the resurrection-life of Jesus is not applied to Biblical truth. What we will do in this study is to take a list of some of the “things of God” from Scripture (not exhaustive), and note how they remain hieroglyphic symbols until we understand them in the light of the dynamic resurrection-life of Jesus.
IMAGE OF GOD
The interpretation of the “image of God” remains in hieroglyphic symbol for many Christian expositors. A study of the commentators and systematic theologians can produce a list of over 25 different explanations (physical stature, trichotomy, spirituality, intelligence, emotion, volition, personality, moral ability, masculinity, eternality, creativity, etc.)
From a perspective of the dynamic of Christ’s resurrection-life, we have the “key” to understand that “Christ is the image of God.” (Col. 1:15; II Cor. 4:4). Jesus Christ by His resurrection-life in the Christian allows the invisible character of God to be made visible in the behavior of man unto the glory of God. When we become a Christian we are restored with the possibility of bearing the image of God (Gen. 1:27; Col. 3:10), because Jesus Christ, the “image of God” is the One who makes God visible. The character of God is imaged, visaged, in our behavior as the risen Lord Jesus lives out His life through us.
LIFE OF GOD
So often the life of God remains a hieroglyphic carving for it is viewed with a separated concept whereby God is “Wholly Other,” or the life of God is something we come into contact with after we die physically; or the life of God is an ideal that we strive for here on earth.
Jesus said, “I AM the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25); “I AM the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). “Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son to have life in Himself.” (John 5:26). “In Him was life and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). The risen Lord Jesus is the life of God having come to live in us and to empower His character to be lived out through us. “The life of Jesus manifested in our mortal flesh.“ (II Cor. 4:10, 11) “Christ is our life.“ (Col. 3:4) The resurrection is the “key” to understanding how the life of Jesus functions in us day by day and moment by moment as Christians.
LAW OF GOD
The Law of God is considered by many to be but behavioral regulations carved in stone, as indeed they were on the tablets given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Codes of conduct full of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots,” obedient adherence to which all men are expected to conform – this is the moralizing and ethical expectation that religion projects concerning the Law.
Understanding the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ allows us to decipher the meaning of the Law symbol. The Law has been written in our hearts and upon our minds” (Heb. 8:10; 10:16), because the living Lord Jesus is the One who is the expression of the character of God, and He is the dynamic to express such in our behavior by the grace of God. Thus he fulfills both the essential and the functional purposes of the law. Jesus Christ is the living Torah in every Christian. He is the Law-giver and the Law-keeper. The regulatory concepts of the law are annulled. Jesus Christ is the end of the Law (Rom. 10:4), the fulfillment of the Law. (Matt. 5:17) Christians are “no longer under the Law, but under grace.“ (Rom. 6:14, 15)
WILL OF GOD
The meaning of the “will of God” is often imbedded in precise expectations that God has pre-determined exacting plans for each individual; that there is a plotted course prescribed for every action of our lives. Many people spend much of their time mulling over every detail in their lives trying to figure out the meaning of “God’s will” for their lives – much like the Egyptologists who tried to figure out the meaning of the hieroglyphics year after year for centuries.
The “will of God” is not a prescription; it is a Person. The will of God is Jesus Christ, restored to dwell in the spirits of created mankind and allowed to live out His live and character in our behavior, by the grace activity of His resurrection-life. The will of God is to be filled with the Spirit of Christ. (Eph. 5:17,18) The resurrection-life of Jesus is the “will of God” for every Christian.
ISRAEL OF GOD
Just as hieroglyphics were pictures with a meaning, in like manner God used pictorial representation to explain what He intended. One of God’s pictorial preliminaries was the nation of Israel. As a physical people and nation they represented the spiritual peoples who would receive the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ; people who had striven with God and surrendered to God and in whom God now rules. (Gen. 32:28; 35:10) Thus it is that Christians are now the “Israel of God“ (Gal. 6:16), though not descended from physical Israel (Rom. 9:6). Christ rules as risen Lord in the lives of the holy nation (I Peter 2:9) of Christian Israel, that is all Christians who have received His resurrection-life by faith and are living by faith.
KINGDOM OF GOD
The “kingdom of God” is another figure that God used to pre-figure His intent. The Jews conceived of the kingdom of God as a nationalistic kingdom with a Jewish king in the realm of Palestine. There are still Zionist expectations in Judeo-Christian religion today, focusing on a futuristic physical millennial kingdom in Palestine.
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36); the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:21) The resurrection is the “key” to ascertain the spiritual intent of the kingdom of God. To Nicodemus, Jesus explained that “unless you are born again you cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3,5), for Christians are “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.“ (I Peter 1:23) By the indwelling of the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ “we reign in life through Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17) as Jesus, the “King of Kings” reigns in the kingdom of our hearts in “righteousness, peace and joy.“ (Rom. 14:17)
PEOPLE OF GOD
God’s desires for a “people of God” is often misrepresented by factors of racism, nationalism and religion. The “people of God” are not a privileged few chosen by arbitrary selection with exclusivistic rights concerning which they can boast with pompous pride. The Hebrew people of the old covenant were called the “people of God” merely as a pictorial pre-figuring to point to the spiritual reality of the “people of God” in Jesus Christ, i.e. to Christians. Hosea explained this so graphically by naming his son Lo-ammi meaning “not My people” (Hosea 1:9; 2:23), to which Paul refers in identifying Christians as the “people of God.” (Rom. 9:25,26). Ezekiel (Ezek. 37:23,27) and Jeremiah (Jere. 31:1,33) both prophesied of the time of fulfillment when by the resurrection of Jesus the life of God would be restored to men and they would be the “people of God” in Jesus Christ. Paul (II Cor. 6:16); Titus 2:14), Peter (I Peter 2:9,10) and the writer to the Hebrews (Heb. 8:10) all refer to this intended understanding of the “people of God,” the people who live by the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ.
LOVE OF GOD
The “love of God” is often depicted in such metaphorical figuration as to be covered in syrupy sentimentalism. Yes, “God is love” (I John 4:8, 16), but this does not override His justice or even His wrath. God’s love is not just an introductory compassion that moved Him to “so love the world and give His only begotten Son” (John 3:16) in order to redeem man and get man “off the hook.”
By the resurrection we understand that the love of God is received, experienced and expressed only by the indwelling presence of the risen Lord Jesus. “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.“ (Rom. 5:5) The “love of God surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19) and “nothing is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.“ (Rom. 8:39) “If we love one another, God abides in us” (I John 4:12) and the love of God expressed through us is the “fruit of the Spirit.“ (Gal. 5:22) The active love of God in the Christian is but the functioning of the resurrection-life of Jesus in us.
WORD OF GOD
The “Word of God” is another concept often remaining in obscure textualization within Christian religion today. Some interpret “Word of God” to be God’s decrees and pronouncements. Others explain that it is a law or principle that God employed for expressed creativity. The predominant theory is that the “Word of God” is the written text of the Bible.
Once again, the “key” to understanding the “Word of God” is only through the recognition of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “Word of God!” “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.“ (John 1:14) By His resurrection Jesus became the ever-living Word, to express the divine resurrection-life in Christians. Christians are people who have “received the Word of God” (Acts 11:1; I Thess. 2:13), i.e. Jesus; who have been “born again through the living and active Word of God” (I Peter 1:23), and in whom the “word of God abides” (I John 2:14) and is “living and active.“ (Heb. 4:12) Jesus Christ, the risen and living “Word of God,” expresses the life of God in us by His resurrection-life.
GOSPEL OF GOD
Even the concept of “gospel” is encrypted in the creeds and codes of religion. The historical narrative of Jesus’ incarnated life are referred to as “gospels,” and for some that is the entire meaning of “gospel.” For other the “gospel” is but a “salvation recipe” or the compilation of definitive doctrines dogmatically determined with theological precision to comprise an orthodox belief-system. Thus some have referred to “the gospel according to Jesus” or the apostles or others (cf. John MacArthur).
The gospel is Jesus! Jesus is the “good news”! The gospel is the good news of the dynamic life of the risen Lord Jesus restored to indwell man and function in man unto the glory of God. Christians are “called through the gospel” (II Thess. 2:14), “begotten through the gospel” (I Cor. 4:15); they “participate in the gospel” (Phil. 1:5); they share in “the hope of the gospel.“ (Col. 1:23) The gospel is the “gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:19; II Cor. 10:14; Phil. 1:23; II Thess. 1:8). The resurrection is the “key” to understanding the gospel as the dynamic of the life of the risen Lord Jesus. That is the only “good news” there is for man.
SALVATION OF GOD
When the significance of something so crucial as salvation is suppressed in the symbolism of religion, it is a sad indictment upon those who are supposed to be interpreters and expositors. Salvation is often cast as a commodity, an eternal life package, a ticket to heaven; some “thing” that can be found, dispensed, acquired, that one can “get” or “possess.” Salvation is portrayed as a fire-insurance policy making one safe from hell, a political liberation making one safe from oppressors, a new-thought pattern making one safe from erroneous thinking.
Jesus is the Savior! Jesus is salvation! Jesus is “the source of eternal salvation.” (Heb. 5:9) There is “salvation in no other name.“ (Acts 4:12) The “salvation of God” is made available to all men in Christ (Luke 3:6; Acts 28:28). “For by grace are we saved through faith.” (Eph. 2:5, 8) The salvation which is in Christ (II Tim. 2:10) is revealed only by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation is the process whereby the Savior makes us safe from spiritual abuse, misuse and dysfunction in order to function as intended by the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ. Salvation must never be disconnected from the on-going work of the Savior, from the “saving life of Christ.” (Rom. 5:10)
BLESSING OF GOD
The “blessing of God” has been obscured by those who think only of “counting their many blessings” of material things and pleasant situations, by those who interpret God’s “blessing” as numerically calculable results, productivity and miracles, and by those who feel that God’s “blessing” is a subjective sensation, a tickle of emotional excitement.
In the old covenant there was much reference to blessings and curses (cf. Deut. 28), but they were but typological indicators that Jesus Christ would take upon Himself the curses and become to us all the blessings of God. Peter explains that “God raised up His Son and sent Him to bless” us (Acts 3:26), and that because Jesus is the seed of Abraham, “by whom all the families of the earth are blessed.“ (Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:14) “God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:3). We have “the fullness of the blessing of Christ.” (Rom. 15:29) The resurrection-life of Jesus Christ is God’s “good word” (eu-logia), blessing and God’s activity in us.
TRUTH OF GOD
“What is truth?” asked Pilate (John 18:38), and many have been trying to find the clue to sorting-out truth ever since. The “truth of God” is often left encoded in propositional truth statements. Truth is regarded as logical accuracy of sentential statements in accord with the evidence available. Thus men regard their premises, their precepts, their principles as truth.
The “truth of God” is personified in Jesus Christ, who said, “I AM the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). “Truth is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21); He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). It is by the availability of the resurrection-life of Jesus that what Jesus promised is made real in our lives: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32), later explaining that “the Son shall set you free” (John 8:36). Jesus, as the living Word is truth (John 17:17). The Spirit of Christ is the truth of God (I John 5:7). The resurrection reality of the risen and living Lord Jesus is the “truth of God” that He wants all men to know and experience.
POWER OF GOD
The “power of God” is often concealed in the machinations of Christian religion. The hierarchical powers of ecclesiasticism exercise their authority and control in strong-arm tactics of coercion. Other religionists develop a “power-theology” that stereotypes God in demonstrations of miraculous power-manifestations. The word of God to Zerubbabel was, “‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.“ (Zech. 4:6) Jesus told the Sadducean religionists, “you do not understand the scriptures or the power of God.“ (Matt. 22:29)
Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). “Christ is the power of God.“ (I Cor. 1:24) When the risen Lord Jesus dwells in us, we have “the surpassing greatness of the power of God” (II Cor. 4:7), “working in us” (Eph.. 3:20). The “power of Christ dwells in us.“ (II Cor. 12:9) The “gift of grace is given to us according to the working of His power” (Eph. 3:7), and we are “strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.“ (Eph. 3:18) That is why Paul desired to know “the power of His resurrection.” (Phil. 3:10) The resurrection reveals the power of God.
GRACE OF GOD
Oh the tragedy of allowing the “grace of God” to remain statically chiseled in the hieroglyphic forms of religion. Grace is often depicted as merely the “undeserved favor of God,” nothing more than the graciousness, mercy or pity of God. Yes, that is the extent of the understanding of grace in the old covenant, because the Hebrew language did not even have a word that corresponded with the New Testament concept of “grace.” Yet Christian religion has allowed grace to remain solidified and static as merely the “threshold factor” of redemptive grace, as typified in the acrostic: God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense.
It is in the light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we see that grace is the dynamic activity of God in the life of the risen Lord Jesus. “Grace is realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17); the “grace of God was given to us in Christ Jesus” (I Cor. 1:4); “grace was freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.“ (Eph. 1:6). “The grace of God has appeared (in Jesus Christ), bringing salvation to all men.“ (Titus 2:11) We have an identity as “Christians”, participating in the resurrection-life of Jesus, only by the grace of God. (I Cor. 15:10) The Christian life, the life of the risen Lord Jesus lived out in us, is only lived by the dynamic of God’s grace. As Christians we do not want to nullify such (Gal. 2:21), but to continue in the grace of God (Acts 13:43) which is ever sufficient (II Cor. 12:9), and that to the very end. (Rev. 22:21) The grace of the resurrection-life of Jesus is the essence of the Christian gospel.
CHURCH OF GOD
The understanding of the “church of God” is often hidden in false impressions. Some view it as a building, others as a “worship experience” or a meeting, others as a social grouping of like-minded ideologues, and still others as a political institution.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ defines the “church of God” as those who are “called out” to be all God intends them to be by His activity of resurrection-life in and through them. Jesus Christ is the “head of the Body, the church.“ (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18,24) The church is the “Body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), the collective expression of the life of the risen Lord Jesus, the resurrection community, the “church of the living God.“ (I Tim. 3:15) The world is supposed to see the out-working of the life of Jesus Christ on earth today as the resurrection-life of Jesus functions in the interpersonal relationships of Christian peoples.
These are but a few of the “things of God,” the significance of which are only explained and interpreted by the dynamic of the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ. We could go on to decode the concepts of the righteousness of God, the wisdom of God, the peace of God, the glory of God, the city of God, the way of God, the covenant of God, the house of God, the temple of God, the holiness of God, the sovereignty of God and many more. The “deep things of God” (I Cor. 2:10–KJV) which remain so mysterious, hidden, concealed and unintelligible in Christian religion, must be decoded and deciphered by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The realization of the resurrection is the “key” that unlocks the revelation of God from the hieroglyphics of religious terminology. The resurrection reveals that the message of God made available by God’s grace and written down so many centuries ago is that Jesus Christ is “the summing up of all spiritual things.“ (Eph. 1:10) Everything that God has to give is made available in the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ.
The gospel is not a series of encoded pictograms of doctrinal truth obfuscating what God intended to express. The gospel is Jesus Christ, “the resurrection and the life.“ (John 11:25) Christianity is Christ!
IT IS THE RESURRECTION THAT IS BEING BY-PASSED
A statement written by Thomas F. Torrance is the springboard to note
how many aberrations and misemphases by-pass the significance of the Resurrection.
It has been several years since I first read a statement in Thomas F. Torrance’s book, Space, Time and Resurrection a statement that has reverberated and resonated in my mind ever since that first reading. In the context of writing about “the Resurrection and Justification”, Torrance asserts, “When, therefore, the Protestant doctrine of justification is formulated only in terms of forensic imputation of righteousness or the non-imputation of sins in such a way as to avoid saying that to justify is to make righteous, it is the resurrection that is being bypassed.” (page 63) (italics added)
The last phrase of that sentence kept ringing in my mind: “it is the resurrection that is being by-passed.” After much pondering of that phrase, I have determined to elaborate and amplify the implications of that statement beyond just the context of justification that Torrance referred to.
Since the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the keystone that gives living dynamic to everything Christian, it is impossible to be exhaustive in noting everything that by-passes resurrection life. Every aberration, every misemphasis of Christianity will necessarily fail to take into account Jesus as “the resurrection and the life.“ (John 11:25) So, all we can do is to begin to note how the resurrection is by-passed, and allow this to become an ever-expanding list.
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the incarnation of Jesus is celebrated only as a “birthday party for Jesus,” and Christians are battling for the right to construct nativity scenes in public places, rather than seeing, in the light of the resurrection, that the living Lord Jesus is to be incarnated, i.e. enfleshed in us, as His life and character manifested in our mortal bodies. (II Cor. 4:10,11)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when humanistic anthropological concepts are allowed to creep into Christian thinking in varying forms of “evangelical humanism” that accept the self-potentiality of man to self-generate his own character, rather than recognizing that Christian character is derived only from the Risen Christ, and that “apart from Him, we can do nothing.“ (John 15:5)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the Christian gospel is conceptualized as an ideological and epistemological belief-system of historical and theological data whereby the fundamental facts are properly, logically and authoritatively interpreted, rather than receiving the “good news” as the ontological Being of the risen life of Jesus, the Personified Truth. (John 14:6)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when Christianity is viewed as a Book-religion that determines all matters by the authority of the Bible as the Word of God and elevates the Scriptures as the sole agency of the Spirit, rather than accepting the Resurrected Lord as having “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matt. 28:18), and the One in whom life is found. (John 5:39, 40)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when God’s Law is perceived as eternally viable rules and regulations, precepts and principles to regulate human behavior and reconstruct national society, rather than the living dynamic of the Risen Christ written in our hearts (Heb. 8:10; 10:16) to express divine character through our behavior by the “law of Christ.” (I Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the redemptive efficacy of the cross becomes the focal point of Christian teaching, emphasizing death instead of life, even personifying the “cross” and the “blood” as having continued redemptive or sanctifying efficacy, rather than proclaiming the “finished work” (John 19:30) of Jesus Christ, whereby we have been “crucified with Christ.” (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when sin, guilt, and the “lusts of the flesh” occupy one’s thinking and teaching in an emphasis on sin-consciousness and confessionalism, rather than praising God for the resurrection-victory that is ours in Christ Jesus (I Cor. 15;57), and relying on the Risen One who has set us free from the law of sin and death. (Rom. 8:2)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when salvation is portrayed as a fire-insurance policy, or as a conversion commodity dispensed by a separated Savior culminating in a false assurance of “once saved, always saved,” rather than our being “saved by the life” (Rom. 5:10) of the Risen Lord allowing us to be “made safe” to function as God intended by the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ.
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when justification (as Torrance noted) is cast only as a legal and forensic declaration of right-ness with God in the heavenly courtroom, based on the imputed benefits of Christ’s action, rather than the righteousness for which Christ was raised (Rom. 4:25) in order that Christians might be “made righteous” (Rom. 5:19;I Cor. 1:30; II Cor. 5:21) by His indwelling presence and living expression of the “fruit of righteousness.” (Eph. 5:9; Phil. 1:11)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when reconciliation with God is objectified as but a bringing together of alienated parties so that they can coexist in conciliation, rather than a relational reconciliation wherein the “I AM” of the resurrected Jesus (John 11:25) enters into spiritual union with the Christian (I Cor. 6:17), and reconciles all things to Himself. (Col. 1:20)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when regeneration is understood only as an initial experience of conversion-birthing in order to renew one’s attempts to please God, rather than the resurrection objective (I Peter 1:3) whereby we pass from death to life (John 5:24; I John 3:14) and are raised to newness of life (Rom. 6:4,5) in Christ. (Eph. 2:6; Col. 2:12; 3:1)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when faith is identified only as mental assent to an historical Jesus, or correct belief in factual data that is Scripturally accurate, rather than the receptivity of Christ’s resurrection-activity whereby we walk (Col. 2:6) and conduct our lives deriving from His life, allowing for the out-working of His life. (James 2:19,26)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when God’s grace is explained merely as the “undeserved favor” of God that initiated the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus, or as the “threshold factor” of the Christian life, rather than the divine dynamic of God’s activity by the Risen Son in Christians, being “the grace in which we stand.” (Rom. 5:2)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when Christian living is encouraged via legalistic actions of performance and “works”, as moralistic virtues, or as the imitation of Jesus’ example, rather than Jesus Christ, the Risen One, living out His life in the Christian. (II Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when sanctification and holiness are alleged to be facilitated by separation from designated sinful activities, or by a subsequent “second blessing” of God’s grace, rather than the resurrected Christ functioning as the Spirit of holiness (Rom. 1:4) and manifesting the holy character of God in Christian behavior that we might share His holiness. (Heb. 12:10)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the Lordship of Christ is depicted as a secondary and subsequent commitment to discipleship, an optional submission of the Christian, rather than the right of the Risen Lord in the believer to function as the Lord that He is (Acts 2:36) by the Spirit (II Cor. 3:17) in authoritative control of our lives.
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the Holy Spirit is emphasized as the empowerer of supernatural manifestations detached from the living Christ, rather than as the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), the life-giving Spirit (I Cor. 15:45) of the Risen Lord who is the Spirit (II Cor. 3:16,17) and gives us His life by His own indwelling person. (Rom. 8:11)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the Kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven, or kingdom of Christ is regarded only, or primarily, as a future realm that is the object of Christian hope, rather than the resurrection-reign of the risen Lord Jesus within us (Luke 17:21) into which all Christians have been transferred (Col. 1:13) and now participate in by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17) while still expecting the continuum of that kingdom in the future.
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the Church of Jesus Christ is viewed as an organization institution to be run like a business with the latest marketing techniques, and its success evaluated by the statistical analysis of the numerical “bottom-line,” rather than the resurrection-community comprised of all believers in whom the Risen One lives, functioning as a living organism, the Body of Christ (Col. 1:18, 24), ministering to one another in love (Rom. 5:5).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when ecclesiastical purity is evaluated by doctrinal and behavioral correctness leading to denominationalism, sectarianism, and separation from those with differing opinions or behavioral liberties, rather than the purity of the character of the Risen Lord expressed in Christian behavior, whereby we recognize our oneness in Christ (John 17:21), the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3-6).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when eschatology (last things) is regarded as the future fulfillment of God’s yet-unfulfilled promises, rather than the living dynamic of the “Last Adam” (I Cor. 15:45) in the “last days” (Acts 2:17; Heb. 1:2) wherein the resurrection-life of Jesus fulfills all God’s promises (II Cor. 1:20).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when millennial expectations desire to see Jesus return for a physical and earthly reign of 1000 years worshiping in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, rather than recognizing the completion and fullness of Christ’s work whereby He reigns as the Risen Lord in His people today.
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when heaven is conceived as a place out there, a perfect utopia reserved for the future where Christians will collect their deserved rewards, rather than the presence of a perfect God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) that we might participate in the “kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 4:17) by the indwelling of the Perfect Risen Jesus Christ.
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed whenever we fail to recognize the full import of how God has restored humanity by the raising of His Son, Jesus Christ, whereby His “finished work” continues to bring to pass all that God intends to accomplish by His grace.
©1999 by James A. Fowler. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the author.
ARTICLES ABOUT RESURRECTION, Articles 1-5 [James A. Fowler] 1