19 March 2022
As we approach the observation of ‘Good Friday’ and ‘Easter’, it would be helpful and edifying for believers to ponder over the implications of the Cross and Resurrection.
Familiarity with certain biblical concepts has a tendency to make them seem insignificant to us – we just do not pay much attention to them any longer. This actually can be very detrimental to our faith; the gospel message becomes nothing more than words to be remembered at times like Easter or Christmas.
One wonderful truth in the gospel message is that God in Christ has forgiven us. If we forget that we are forgiven by God because of His Son’s sacrifice, we will see ourselves as slaves trying to earn God’s goodwill and make up for past sins and disobedience. We may be afraid to try to obey because we know we are bound to fail; we will be afraid to persevere because we will know that we are doomed from the start.
The gospel tells us that God’s disposition toward us is entirely different because we are beloved. He is not simply tolerating us, regretting that He opened the door to the likes of us – no, we are beloved. This is the same word the Father employed to describe His disposition to His Son – He referred to Him as HIs beloved (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Eph. 1:6) and because of Christ’s work on our behalf, so are we. Jesus Himself said that His Father loves His people as He loves His Son (John 17:23).
Not only are we beloved, but we are also beloved children of God. As such, we can rest securely knowing that He would not ever abandon us.
We may think that once we have believed the gospel message, we do not need to hear it again. We could not be more wrong – it is the glorious message of God’s love for us in Christ that engenders the faith and perseverance that will enable us to grow in godliness. It is in the gospel message that we see the glory of God; it shows us the face of Jesus Christ and transforms us. The power to transform hearts belongs to God, not to men, but God has promised to transform us through the message of the gospel which focuses on the Cross and the Resurrection.
Our regeneration and sanctification are anchored in our union with Christ. In Christ Jesus, we are a new creation when we believe; the old is gone and the new has come. We died with Christ at the cross, implying the death of the ‘old man’, signifying our death to sin. Our union with Christ’s resurrection demonstrates our new life and guarantees our ultimate renewal – through Christ’s resurrection, the power of sin has been broken in our lives. Because our union with Christ the Son in His death and resurrection is now being applied to us by His indwelling Spirit, we can be certain that we will continue to die to sin and live to righteousness in our new lives (Rom.6:4; Titus 3:5).
The gospel tells us that Jesus’ life has been given for us and to us. His holy desires have been implanted in our hearts. We are one with Him through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Our union with Christ should refresh our hearts with joy and strengthen our faith to enable us to fight for holiness. Realising that He has loved us so much that He has made us one with Himself should engender fervent love in our hearts, resulting in fervent obedience. Our love for God and for others is responsive in nature. We love God in response to His love for us. We love others in response to God’s love for us and for them (1 John 4:19-20). Obedience to God is then an expression of our love for Him.
The gospel is as necessary to our sanctification as it was to our initial justification. Without the gospel, with drenching our souls in our union with Christ, the quest for moral improvement becomes just that; another quest for self-improvement doomed to futile failure, or worse, arrogant success. But in the light of the gospel, because of all that Jesus has already done, sanctification becomes another sweet evidence of HIs grace working in us, making us more and more delighted by His abiding presence and less and less enamoured with the world’s enticements. Only the extravagant love shown us in the gospel has the power to draw us away from other loves. When we face the uphill battle to grow in our sanctification, we must remember that we are sinful and flawed, but we are loved and welcomed by God. There is a great joy in realising that even though our sin is much deeper than we will ever grasp, God sees every bit of it and yet loves us. He knows our weaknesses and failures and yet He is in union with me. Who could imagine such love? It causes us to overflow with joy! Do not be grieved in our failures and struggles – the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). We are in union with Christ; all that He has is ours. We do not need to take on HIs work of making ourselves righteous but, rather, we can rejoice in what He has already done (at the Cross and in the Resurrection).
We focus now on the resurrection of the body. According to the Greek philosophers, man’s body is evil and is a hindrance to his full existence. Hence at death the body disintegrates while the soul lives on – there is no hope for a bodily resurrection. The Bible teaches that God created man body and soul, and that man is not complete apart from his body. Both the incarnation and the bodily resurrection of Christ prove that the body is not evil but good. Because Christ arose from the dead, all who are Christ’s shall also arise with glorified bodies. The bodily resurrection of Christ is unique; He arose never to die again – Lazarus was raised from the dead but he still died during his lifetime after being raised.
It is interesting that the Bible records for us the certainty of the death of Jesus Christ at the cross. His legs were not broken but He was pierced at His side to ensure that He was already dead. His body was laid to rest in Joseph Arimathea’s grave (cave) in a garden and when the body was resurrected, there was no possibility of the body being accidentally laid in nearby graves, for this grave belonged to a wealthy man, Joseph himself. When the body was missing after the resurrection, it was obviously clear that the body of Jesus Christ was no longer in the grave. Also, the Romans ‘secured’ the grave and arranged for some soldiers to guard the grave at the request of the Jewish leaders who claimed that Jesus did claim that He would rise again, and the latter were concerned that the body might be stolen by His followers and a bigger ‘hoax’ would ensue. After Jesus was bodily resurrected, He was seen by many, including some 500 individuals at one time. There was no way the Jewish leaders could dispute this ‘happening’; the disciples themselves testified to this truth and they themselves were changed dramatically after this for the ‘better’, with much boldness and effectiveness, they shared this ‘good news’ (John 19:27; 1 John 1:1-5l; 2 Peter 1:16-18).
The Bible represents the resurrection of believers and unbelievers as occurring together (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28-29 (the words of Jesus Himself)). However, Jesus in John 5 made it clear that those who have done good are resurrected to the resurrection of life, but those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgement.
In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul deals with the resurrection – he wrote of the fact of the resurrection (vv 12-34), the manner of the resurrection (vv 35-49) and finally of the necessity for the resurrection and for the transformation of living believers (vv 50-57).
As to the manner of the resurrection, Paul made three points: 1) Just as the new plant will not appear unless the seed dies as a seed, so the resurrection body will not appear unless the body in its present form dies. 2) Second, just as one cannot tell from the appearance of the seed what the future plant will look like, so one cannot tell by observing the present body exactly what the resurrection body will be like. 3) Third, just as there is continuity between the seed and the plant, so there will be continuity between the present body and the resurrection body.
Paul referred to four contrasts:
1) The present bodies are corrupted but the resurrection bodies are incorruptible. All liability of diseases will be gone and there will be no death.
2)The contrast between dishonour and glory. Our present bodies will be buried in dishonour but the resurrected bodies would be raised in glory – like the glorified body of Christ – radiant, shining, even dazzling.
3) The contrast between weakness and power. The present body will become weak, diseased but the resurrection body will be raised in power. The weakness that besets us today in our bodies, in our service, will then no longer be present.
4) The contrast between the natural body and the spiritual body. The spiritual body does not mean that the resurrection body will be a nonphyscial one. The resurrected body will be like the resurrection body of Christ. When Christ appeared in His resurrected body to the disciples, He could be touched (John 20:17,27) and He could eat food (Luke 24:38-432).
The natural body is one which is part of this present, sin-cursed experience; but the spiritual body of the resurrection is one which will be totally dominated and directed by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 15:44).
Meditate upon all these: We can be confident that all the present troubles, weaknesses, illnesses of our present bodies, disabilities,death, sorrow and pain would all be gone when we are bodily resurrected at the second coming of Christ! Hence, like Apostle Paul, we can say, “We need not lose hearts!”. Hallelujah – come Lord Jesus!