Implications Of The Resurrection
Great truths that are stumbling-blocks to the natural man are nevertheless the very foundations upon which the confidence of the spiritual man is built, for “faith gives the assurance of that for which we hope, and convinces us of the reality of the unseen.” Of course, this is only true when our hopes are based upon the testimony of the Word of God.
That Word is forever settled in heaven, and, like God who gave it, the Word is unshakable. Men may cavil or quibble regarding its teachings, but “what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” It is written in the prophets, “He…will not call back his words” (Isaiah 31:2). The reverent Christian will therefore accept without question what has been revealed in Scripture, even though it may be beyond his powers of comprehension.
When Festus, the roman governor of Caesarea, was explaining his perplexity concerning Paul’s case to King Agrippa, he expressed his wonder that the accusers of the apostle had nothing definite to bring against him, “but had certain questions against him of their own superstition and of one Jesus, which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive” (Acts 25:19). This to Festus was such a manifest absurdity that he thought it hardly worth considering. He evidently knew that Jesus had died. It was a matter commonly reported, and he accepted that as truth, but that any sane man could believe that Jesus was alive again seemed to the cynical Roman utterly absurd and ridiculous. And yet the entire superstructure of Christianity rests on this great fact.
Christ’s Resurrection—And Ours
I purpose noting several implications drawn from the truth of Christ’s resurrection, as set forth, not in the four Gospel accounts, but elsewhere in the Word of God. In the well-known resurrection chapter (1 Corinthians 15) we are told:
“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:12–19).
In these verses the Holy Spirit develops for us and vigorously defends this great fundamental truth of Christian testimony. Some in Corinth were denying the physical resurrection of mankind generally. To them it seemed impossible that the dead should be brought again to life, but Paul shows that to deny the resurrection of mankind necessarily involves the denial of Christ’s resurrection. If He has indeed been raised, and apart from this fact there would be no Gospel to preach, why then should any question the power of God to bring back from the dead the millions who have died through all the millenniums of earthly history?
Surely He who could create a universe out of nought and who brought our physical bodies into existence so marvelously in the first place could resuscitate them even after they had dissolved away into their chemical elements! The miracle of each returning spring bears witness to this. As one looks out upon the apparently lifeless trees of winter, he might well question the possibility that verdant groves would again dot the landscape, but in some strange, mysterious way the trees are enabled to draw from the earth the life-giving sap with all its chemical elements which causes leaves, flowers, and fruit soon to appear.
Certainly if one had never seen this miracle performed, he would come to the conclusion the first time that winter spread its blanket over the Earth, that all things green and lovely had disappeared forever. But in a very short time he would find that his reasoning was based upon false premises.
Our faith today is based on facts as real as the observed processes of nature. There are those who teach today that our Lord Jesus never came out of the grave in His material body. They admit His continued existence in spirit, but they deny His physical resurrection. But there can be no question as to the testimony of Holy Scripture. There we learn that our blessed Lord arose from the dead in the very body in which He had suffered and died for our sins, though changed in a most wonderful way. Nevertheless, it was a real, material, human body, and we know that it bore in the palms of the hands the print of the nails. There was still the mark where the Roman spear had pierced His side, and one can scarcely question but that these evidences of Christ’s love for His church will be seen upon His glorified body throughout all eternity.
We gather from Scripture that no others of the righteous dead will bear similar evidences upon their resurrection bodies of pain and suffering here on Earth, for our blessed Lord is going to present the church to Himself as “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.” But as the everlasting testimony to the reality of redemption, He will bear the marks of His passion throughout all the ages to come. When John the Beloved gazed upon the Throne in glory, he saw in the midst of it “a Lamb as it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6), or, as Weymouth so tenderly expresses it, “a lamb that looked as though it had once been offered in sacrifice.”
“Thy wounds, Thy wounds, Lord Jesus,
Those deep dark wounds, they tell
The sacrifice that frees us
From sin and death and hell.
These bind Thee once forever
To all who own Thy grace.
No power those bonds can sever,
No time those scars efface.”
The redeemed of the Lord will see in those scars the testimony to a love that was stronger than death and which the many waters of judgment could not quench. To Thomas and the other disciples, these were the sure evidences that he who appeared in their midst was actually the same Jesus whom they had known and loved before He went to the cross. He said to them, “Handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”
The implication of Christ’s bodily resurrection is that if the power of God was put forth in raising Christ from the dead, it is folly to question His ability to raise up the dead bodies of His saints as well as of all men generally. In fact, so definite is the apostle as to this that he insists, “If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised” (v. 16).
The Proof Of Our Redemption
What then, would be the next implication? Why, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (v. 17). In other words, if our Saviour did not come forth in triumph from Joseph’s new tomb, then we have no Gospel to preach to lost men. A dreaming poet like Arnold may speak of the body of Jesus still sleeping in a Syrian tomb, but that is only the language of unbelief. If it were true, then there would be no redemption for lost sinners, no salvation for guilty men.
All our hopes rest upon the fact that He who was delivered up to death for our offenses was really raised again for our justification. During the time that the body of our Lord lay in Joseph’s new tomb, there was no one on Earth who could be sure that redemption was an accomplished fact. If He had not risen, it would have been sure evidence that He was either deceived or a deceiver, for He had definitely predicted His resurrection as well as His sacrificial death.
The fact that He rose from the dead is in itself the proof that His great oblation upon the cross has satisfied the claims of divine righteousness and has met every requirement of infinite holiness. God has raised Him from the dead in token of the satisfaction He has found in His work, and He now sets Him forth a Prince and a Saviour.
A simple illustration may help to make clear what I am trying to say. Let us imagine the case of a man convicted of a crime and sentenced to spend a certain period of time in prison. In this particular instance, by some arrangement which of course I recognize would not be an ordinary thing, a substitute takes his place, agrees to serve out his sentence. In accordance with this understanding, the substitute is locked up in prison. Now as long as this man remains behind prison bars, the one in whose stead he is suffering can never be absolutely sure that the law may not yet lay hold of him and demand that he serve out at least part of the sentence.
But one day as he goes down the street, he comes face to face with the one who so generously agreed to become his representative before the law and to bear the punishment that his crime deserved. He learns that, having served the sentence, his friend is now free. At once the offender’s mind is at rest. He knows the law can have nothing further to say to him. Its claims have all been met, and he, the guilty one against whom the original judgment was rendered, is now once more a free man.
Because Christ’s payment of the judgment of sin can be evidenced only by His bodily resurrection, then if Christ be not raised from the dead, there is no possible way of knowing that His redemptive work is an accomplished fact. He said He was to be delivered into the hands of sinful men, that they would crucify Him, and that on the third day He would rise again. The first two declarations were fulfilled. If the last has not been fulfilled, He stands convicted of false testimony. He was either Himself deluded in thinking that He was the Saviour and could triumph over death, or else He was a deliberate deceiver. It is His resurrection, the fulfillment of His own prediction, which proves that His death was the all-sufficient sacrifice for sin which He proclaimed it to be.
And thus the believing sinner can say, “My sins nailed Him to the cross. He, the sinless One, took my place and there died under the judgment of God, enduring that divine wrath which should righteously have been poured out on me.” But having settled the sin question, God has declared His acceptance of the work of His Son by raising Him from the dead and receiving Him into heaven at His own right hand as the risen, glorified Man.
The Essential For Victorious Living
“If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” All the millions of saintly souls who have testified to their faith in Christ throughout what we call the Christian centuries were utterly mistaken, if Christ did not rise from the dead. But then the amazing thing to be accounted for is this: What was it that wrought such changes in their lives, that turned them from sin to righteousness, that delivered them from worldliness and selfishness and conformed them to the image of Christ? According to the Word of God, it is as believers are occupied with the risen One that they become like Him. Let those then who deny His resurrection try to explain the transforming power of this faith in Him, who, according to the unbelievers, has no longer any existence.
The apostle’s conclusion is that if Christ is no more than a master teacher, if He is only a guide, if His instruction is only meant to serve as a light for our pathway through this world, if the Christ who died has not been raised, we who profess faith in His name, who gladly give up the things of the world for love of Him, are of all men most to be pitied. In that case we are but following a will-o’-the-wisp, a delusion, for the sake of which we are surrendering much that men of the world value. But the experiences of untold millions of Christians prove that the risen Christ is the joy and satisfaction of the hearts of all who thus yield themselves to Him.
Consider the case of Saul of Tarsus. We see him hastening along the Damascus road, bitter hatred filling his heart of Jesus of Nazareth and for all who confess His name. But suddenly the heavens are opened, and a light brighter than the sun shines upon the wayward persecutor. A voice from heaven cries, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” And in answer to the hitherto rabid Pharisee’s amazed inquiry, “Who are thou, Lord?” the reply comes, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”
At once the tremendous change that Jesus called being “born again” takes place. Saul of Tarsus becomes a new creation and soon goes forth as Paul the Apostle to preach the faith that once he destroyed. It was his contact with the risen Christ that wrought the miracle, as it has wrought similar miracles in the hearts and lives of untold thousands since.
This message was what the early preachers of the cross proclaimed everywhere they went. They preached “Jesus and the resurrection.” Notice, it was not enough to preach Jesus. It was not enough to enlarge upon His excellencies. It was not enough to dwell upon the perfection of His life. It was not enough to occupy people with His sacrificial death. There was something more than this. “This Jesus hath God raised up…God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:32, 36). This was the message of Pentecost. This was the message which has been blessed and used of God throughout the centuries in the salvation of millions of souls, and this is the message for the preacher today, the only message that will ensure the eternal salvation of all who believe it.