Sunday, April 16, 2017

OUR RESURRECTION


Our Resurrection (in Jesus’ Resurrection)

Introduction

Have you ever wondered what is so special about the resurrection of Jesus Christ? I mean, it’s an amazing thing for someone to be raised from the dead. There’s no getting away from that. Yes, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a miracle – but Jesus is not the only human being who has ever been raised from the dead, is He? The Lord’s Prophet Elijah raised the widow’s son from the dead. And that was way back in the days of the Old Testament somewhere. And the Apostle Paul brought that fellow back to life – the one who fell asleep listening to one of his sermons. His name was Eutychus. And not only did he fall asleep, but he nodded off a third story window to his death. Paul raised him! And the Apostle Peter raised Dorcas – or Tabitha as she’s called – from the dead. And Jesus raised Lazarus from the tomb, and he had been dead four days! He also stopped a funeral procession and raised the widow from Nain’s son. Then there was the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus whom Jesus raised from the dead. I’m sure if we looked we could find others in the Bible who have been raised from the dead.

What then, makes the resurrection of Jesus Christ so special? For He’s certainly not the only person ever to have been raised from the dead! Well, that’s what we’re going to be looking at in the following. We’re given a clear statement of what makes the resurrection of Jesus Christ so special in Romans 4:25. “[Jesus] was delivered up for our offenses, and was raised for our justification.”

Of this verse Geoffrey Wilson says, “In this brief sentence of profound import and eloquent simplicity, there is distilled the very sum of saving knowledge.”

Now, above we already have had a look at the first half of this verse. Among other things we saw that our offenses, i.e., sins against God were imputed to Christ on the cross. And we saw that His righteousness is imputed or accredited to us. The cross was the place where the Great Exchange took place. That’s briefly what is meant by “[He] was delivered up for our offenses”. Let’s now focus on the second half of Romans 4:25, “[He] was raised for our justification.”



His Resurrection

Jesus was raised because of our justification. The New International Version puts it like this, “[Jesus] was raised to life for our justification.” So, there was a reason Jesus was raised from the dead. He was resurrected to justify us. That makes Christ’s resurrection unique, doesn’t it? No one else was raised to justify us, only Jesus! Therefore, not one of all those other people whom God raised from the dead, whom you read about in the Bible, was raised for our justification – only Jesus! But let’s not miss a very important point: God IS able to raise the dead, even you and me!

Now then, what else is so special about the resurrection of Jesus? Well, it’s a really remarkable thing to raise someone else from the dead, isn’t it? But how much more remarkable would it be to raise yourself from the dead? Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” John 2:19. He was of course talking about raising His own body from the dead, wasn’t He?  Although it was definitely God the Father who raised Him, He still raised Himself. As He says in John 10, “No one takes [My life] from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.”

So again we see the uniqueness of His resurrection. His was a self-raising resurrection. Think about it, we can’t even pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. But Jesus could raise Himself from the dead, remarkable! But let’s not lose sight of the fact that Jesus’ resurrection is usually ascribed to God the Father in the Scriptures. To be sure, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all three Persons involved in the resurrection of Jesus. However, in Acts 2:24 it says that God raised Him. Acts 2:32 says: “This Jesus God has raised up.” It’s the same in Acts 3:15; 3:26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30,33,34,37; 17:31. We could go on and on rattling off verse after verse where it says that God raised Him up. E.g., 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:15; 2 Cor. 4:14; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; Col. 2:12.

Hang on to the fact that God the Father raised Him, for it is important. But the point that also needs to be made is that God the Father must have been satisfied with the work of Jesus otherwise He wouldn’t have raised Him! So we see then that Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that God the Father has accepted the perfect life and death of Jesus Christ as payment for our sins.

When I first arrived in Australia we used to hear people in shops talking about “dockets”. A “docket” as I discovered, was another word for a “bill of sale” or a “proof of purchase receipt”. Anyway, I was happy to stop talking about “receipts” and start talking about “dockets” like everyone else in Australia. But the point I make is that we believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, don’t we? That, “[Jesus] was delivered up for our offenses, and was raised for our justification.” Therefore Jesus Christ has already purchased our redemption.

Well then, our faith that God has raised Him from the dead is our “proof of purchase”. Therefore, our belief in Christ’s resurrection is our “docket”. If someone asks us how we know we have everlasting life we can say “I have a docket. Jesus Christ purchased my salvation upon Calvary’s cross. And His resurrection proves that I have been saved. And my faith, i.e., my belief that God has actually done this is my personal proof of that purchase!” So, the Christian carries this docket in his pocket with him wherever he or she goes, which is to say that the day has dawned and Christ the morning star has risen in our hearts. Therefore, make sure you have the docket in your pocket – don’t leave home without it!

How do you check to see if you really have faith? Well, as the Scripture says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” Romans 10:9. Your belief in God’s raising Jesus physically from the dead, then, is your docket. This belief, this faith that God is able to raise the dead, and has raised Jesus Christ from the dead, indicates that you are among the saved. For, as Charles Hodge positively puts it, “The resurrection of Christ … authenticates the whole Gospel. As surely as Christ has risen, so surely shall believers be saved.”

So, it goes without saying that if the resurrection of Christ is not real, then neither is your docket! If Christ was not raised, then your docket is useless. And it would mean that Christianity is a hollow religion – empty as a cheap Easter egg! If we don’t believe in a literal raising of the crucified, dead, and buried Jesus, then we have no docket! Therefore, your faith in Christ and His resurrection is your docket. It’s your proof that Jesus purchased everlasting life for you. It’s your proof that all your offenses, all your sins have been paid for. So, no docket, no refund on the Last Day! That’s God’s policy! Therefore the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead is directly related to our justification.

If Jesus is still in a tomb somewhere then we have not been justified and our faith is futile and we are to be pitied more than any! And if we have not been justified we are dead along with Jesus – if He has not been raised. But God’s Word spells out in the clearest of terms that God has raised Jesus Christ from the dead. And, since Jesus has been raised, we have been justified. Therefore, His resurrection IS our justification. So let’s look at a bit more closely at our justification.



Our Justification

As we’ve seen, our faith is our proof that we have been justified. The Apostle Paul in the passage of Romans we read earlier demonstrates this. There he shows us the direct link between our faith and Christ’s death and resurrection.

As you know, faith must have an object outside of us. We don’t believe in ourselves, for that’s self-centeredness, not faith! The object of our faith,  just as it was for Abraham, is God – the God who is able to raise the dead. In Romans 4:19 the Apostle says of Abraham, “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” Could you imagine meeting a centenarian and saying to him, “Och! You’re a dead man! You may as well count yourself dead, a hundred years old! You’re already dead!” Well, that’s what Paul under inspiration is doing here with regard to Abraham!

But how did Abraham feel about the fact that being a hundred he was as good as dead? Well, the LORD had made a promise to Abraham that he’d be the father of many nations. And, included in this promise was Christ and His work of redemption. For as Jesus Himself says in John 8:56, “Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” So, as good as dead or no, Abraham believed in the LORD! He trusted in Him. He put His faith in Him. As Paul says in Romans 4:21&22, “And [Abraham] being fully convinced that what He had promised He was able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness.’”

The faith Abraham had in God is even more remarkable when Sarah is taken into consideration. She’d be about ninety if Abraham was about a hundred. And just as the hundred-year-old Abraham was reckoned as dead, so was Sarah’s womb! Yet the LORD had told them that she would be the one to bear Abraham his offspring! That’s why the Apostle in Romans 4:17 speaks of God as Him “who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”

So we see then, that Abraham believed in the promise of the LORD and it was “accounted to him for righteousness”. And then in Romans 5:23ff, we see that these words were not written for Abraham alone, but also for us, which is to say that, “Righteousness shall be imputed [or credited, accounted] to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of justification” Romans 4:24&25.

Have you got it? God had given Abraham (who was as good as dead) a docket. And on that docket was written God’s promise to him of everlasting life.

Now, you’ve all been on a train or a bus or whatever when the inspector has come along and asked to see your ticket? The inspector takes your ticket and he validates it, doesn’t he? Well, in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son to validate the faith of His people. Abraham’s docket, his faith was validated, ratified, confirmed, i.e., declared to be legally valid when God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

Jesus Christ personally signed every faith docket in His blood. That’s why Christians talk about having faith in Christ’s blood. It’s His shed blood that seals our faith and His resurrection declares it valid. So, in a word, Abraham was justified by faith. The object of His faith was the God who gives life to dead things – even the as-good-as-dead hundred year-old Abraham, including his ninety-year-old wife Sarah with her dead or barren womb!

One can only imagine how difficult, humanly speaking, it must have been for Abraham to believe. We have the easier task of looking back to something that has already happened. But Abraham had to strain to look forward to something that was only promised by God. The Apostle says in Romans 5:20 that Abraham was “strengthened in faith, giving glory to God.” Therefore, even though it all must have looked so impossible to Abraham, it was God who was working faith in Abraham.

Abraham believed that God was able to raise the dead. The Scriptures testify to this. For the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 11:17&18, “By faith Abraham ... offered up Isaac … accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.” This faith then was “accounted to Abraham for righteousness” by the LORD. So this means that God accepted Abraham as righteous on account of his faith, which is not to say that that Abraham’s faith was the ground of his justification. But rather that his faith was the condition of his justification. Therefore if we would be justified we too need to exercise faith – a living faith. And our faith needs to be directed to the God who raises the dead, even Jesus Christ. God raised Jesus for our justification. Therefore we need to believe that Jesus was brought back to life by God in order for us to be justified.

All that’s left now is to have a look at the meaning of that word “justification”. And as we do so, we need to keep in mind the fact that we are the same as Abraham. Yes, Abraham was a hundred years old, “already dead” as the Apostle puts it. However, before our justification we too in a sense are “already dead!” For not to be justified by God is to be accounted dead in your sins, isn’t it?

To not have your offenses against God forgiven is to be already dead, which is to say that you are reckoned as dead by God. Therefore, Christ’s resurrection is also our resurrection. For if God never raised Jesus, we would still be dead – dead in our sins, wouldn’t we? Therefore, as Abraham was already dead, so to speak, so are we until we by God’s grace believe that God can raise the dead!

Can a man actually pull himself up by his bootstraps? Can a dead man pick up the phone and ring the doctor? Well, neither could Abraham (who was already dead) believe God could raise the dead, unless God took the initiative and did something.

Do you see what happened with Abraham? He knew he was already dead. When you get to be a hundred you know you’re on borrowed time, right? Your next breath could very well be your last. Yet God had made a promise to Abraham, and Abraham kept on believing in the LORD. Even though Abraham got to be a hundred, even though his wife was ninety and had never given birth, Abraham kept on believing in the LORD. He kept on believing that the LORD would provide him a son, a Saviour! For make no mistake, Abraham’s family line would have died unless he produced a son. For the LORD did not recognize Ishmael as Abraham’s son. So, Abraham kept on believing in the LORD that he would produce a son. And this belief, this faith that the LORD could give life to the dead was accounted to Abraham for righteousness. Therefore the righteousness Abraham had, came to him through faith. It did not come by trying to be good. So, we see then where we today fit in, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” Romans 10:9.

Do you believe that God is able to give life to the dead? And do you believe that God has given life to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified, dead, and buried? Well then, as He did for Abraham, so God credits your faith in Him for righteousness. Therefore, when we look at the words of Romans 5:25b, “[He] was raised for our justification” we know what is meant. We know that God is able to raise people from the dead. We know that God raised His Son, Jesus Christ from the dead. We know that if we truly believe this, God declares us righteous. Therefore, Christ’s resurrection is God’s proof that He has purchased life for me. And, as a docket, as proof of purchase, God has given me faith in Him.

Put another way, the question is this: How do I know I’m a Christian? Well, like Thomas, I confess that Jesus is my Lord and my God. And I believe in my heart that God has raised Him from the dead! Therefore, His resurrection is my justification.

Conclusion

We have seen that God has raised Jesus Christ for our justification. So let me just remind you what it means to be justified. To be justified is to be acquitted by God. It is to receive an acquittal for the guilt of your sins. God therefore pronounced the acquittal of all believers to the whole world when He raised Jesus from the dead. For the Gospel is to go out to all the ends of the earth. And as it spreads, so does the good news of your acquittal, doesn’t it? The whole world knows that Easter is the day Christ rose from the dead. Therefore, the whole world is getting to hear about your acquittal! For God raised Jesus because of OUR justification – i.e., the justification of those who, like Abraham, believe that God is able to raise the dead and actually did raise Jesus!

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus”. Our faith is valid because God raised Jesus from the dead! No resurrection, no justification, and our faith is invalid. But He is risen!

And if you meet anyone who asks you for proof of Christ’s resurrection you just show them your docket! You tell them in your own words that Jesus is your Lord and your God – confess Him. Tell them that His Father really did raise Him from the dead. Believe in His resurrection. Tell them that on account of His resurrection, the Triune God has acquitted you of all your sins. And don’t forget to tell them that they too will receive God’s acquittal if only they would confess Jesus as Lord, and keep on believing that God has raised Him from the dead.

Excerpted from my eBook Paving Paradise - https://www.amazon.com/PAVING-PARADISE-Neil-Cullan-McKinlay-ebook/dp/B007SU154U/ref=la_B006NTVAWY_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1492289601&sr=1-11

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