A Real Historical Event
To Jesus, His resurrection from the dead would be just as certain as the events which had happened to Jonah (Matthew 12:40 "for just as.."). Far from inventing the idea that Jesus was raised from the dead, the apostles were actually slow in grasping the concept (Mark 9:9-10). The gospels are filled with statements in which Jesus clearly anticipates and predicts His resurrection from the dead (Matthew 16:21 "and be raised on the third day"; 20:19; John 2:21). So public was this teaching, even His enemies understood this claim, and the exact day on which the resurrection was to transpire (Matthew 27:63). In the mind of God the resurrection had been just as real as Jesus’ crucifixion (Acts 4:10; 5:30). Through the apostle Paul, God gave evidence from the Old Testament Scriptures that the Messiah would not only die but also be resurrected (Acts 17:3 "explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead"). Psalm 16:8-10 could have been one of those Old Testament passages that Paul could have cited. See also Luke 24:25-26 and 24:46. To sum it all up, God said through Luke, "To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days" (Acts 1:3). Years ago Wilbur M. Smith wrote, "let it simply be said that we know more about the details of the hours immediately before and the actual death of Jesus, in and near Jerusalem, than we know about the death of any other one man in all the ancient world. In fact, we know more about what happened and what was said during the last week of His life on earth than we know about any other entire year of His life…We know what He said to His disciples throughout Thursday of that week---the institution of the Lord’s Supper that night, the agony of suffering in Gethsemane, the nature of the crowd that came out to arrest Him in Gethsamene, and how He was betrayed with a kiss. We know of the five trials which Jesus underwent within the last eight hours: two before the Jewish authorities, two before Pilate, and one before Herod. We know what men said to Christ, what they said against Him, and what He said to them. We know how the soldiers despitefully used Him; how the Sanhedrin bribed witnesses to condemn Him. We know even the name of an obscure person who carried His cross to Golgotha. We know of the two men who were crucified on either side of Him, the words that came from His holy lips, while He hung upon the cross, and the insults that were thrown up to Him during those hours. We know what the soldiers did at the foot of the cross, what the women felt, looking upon Him as He hung there; what the repentant thief said to Him; how darkness enveloped Him; how the veil of the temple was rent, and an earthquake shook the city. Nothing here is what we might call mythical, or even ‘theological’: it is all solid, definite, historical fact"(Therefore Stand, pp. 360-361). So certain is this event, that God says to all mankind, "Jesus is Lord, Jesus is the only way to Him(John 14:6), Jesus is the Only Savior of mankind, and Jesus is coming back to judge---and the guarantee, the certainty of all such truths, is the fact that this same Jesus was raised from the dead" (Acts 17:31 "having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead"; Romans 1:4).
No Middle Ground
Some feel that if they could disprove the resurrection of Christ, such would also disprove the existence of God or the validity of the moral standards contained in Scripture. But notice what God says through Paul, "and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins" (1 Corinthians 15:17). Trying to undermine the resurrection of Jesus, the fact that He is the Son of God, only accomplishes one thing---it removes your own hope of salvation! You see, if Jesus wasn’t the Son of God, you are still a sinner, there is still of God, His standards and laws are still all valid, and your violations of those laws are simply unforgiven. Jesus was willing to stake all His claims on His ability to come back from the tomb. His resurrection is something we must believe (Romans 10:9-10) if we are going to call ourselves Christians, for without it, there is no salvation for anyone, anywhere (1 Peter 1:3).
Identifying With His Resurrection
God’s way of having us completely identify and embrace the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is for us to submit to baptism, a burial in water for the remission of our sins (Romans 6:3-18). Points To Note: 1. As Jesus died for our sins, we are to die with Him, that is, die to the habitual practice, lifestyle and mindset that leads to sin. He was crucified, and we are to undergo a crucifixion of sorts, the putting to death of the old self (6:6), breaking the selfish mind set that always leads to further sinful actions and thoughts, refusing to allow our bodies or minds to be the willing instruments of sin (6:6,11,13). Paul said, ‘Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:24). Being crucified with Christ is the same concept as repentance and the decision to live no longer for self, but for God (Luke 9:23; Galatians 2:20). 2. If the Christian life doesn’t seem to come easy, if you find that a good amount of pain and effort is involved in breaking sinful thought patterns and habits---don’t feel discouraged, rather, welcome to the club. By the very fact that repentance and wholesome and godly self-denial is labeled as a crucifixion, should tell you something. Not living for self takes continual effort, being unselfish is hard work, keeping your mind centered upon what is right is difficult, resisting your favorite temptation will never be completely effortless. If you are looking for a easy and smooth Christianity, it’s not found in the Bible. 3. Carefully note we must crucify the flesh and put to death the old self (Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:9). John Stott writes, "A Christians rejection of old nature is to be pitiless. Crucifixion in the Graeco-Roman world was not a pleasant form of execution, nor was it administered to nice or refined people; it was reserved for the worst criminals…If therefore, we are to ‘crucify’ our flesh, it is plain that the flesh (old self) is not something respectable to be treated with courtesy and deference, but something so evil that it deserves no better fate than to be crucified…the rejection of our old nature is to be decisive…Criminals who were nailed to the cross did not survive…We ‘crucified’ everything we knew to be wrong…So, Paul says, if we crucified the flesh, we must leave it there to die. We must renew every day this attitude towards sin of ruthless and uncompromising rejection…. if, having nailed our old nature to the cross, we keep wistfully returning to the scene of its execution. We begin to fondle it, to caress it, to long for its release, even to try to take it down again from the cross. We need to learn to leave it there. When some jealous, or proud, or malicious, or impure thought invades our mind we must kick it out at once. It is fatal to begin to examine it and consider whether we are going to give in to it or not. We have declared war on it; we are not going to resume negotiations….Our task is to take time each day to remember these truths about ourselves and to live accordingly. It we have crucified the flesh, then we must leave it securely nailed to the cross, where it deserves to be" (The Message Of Galatians, pp. 150-154). The first great secret of holiness is to maintain our repentance. 4. To crucify the flesh means that we are convicted that the old self deserves to die a ruthless death, it means that we are truly ashamed of the sinful things we have done and the sinful thoughts we have harbored (Romans 6:21).
Obedient To That Form Of Teaching
"But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed" (Romans 6:17). The form or pattern of teaching which Christians have obeyed is the pattern found in this very chapter. To die with Christ (6:2,5-6), be buried with Him in baptism (6:3-4), and rise from the waters of baptism, forgiven of all our past sins, having a new life (6:5). When we submit to this pattern, from a heart full of faith, we will find ourselves freed from sin at the point we complete the pattern, "Being then made free from sin" (KJV) (6:18). Other passages also link baptism with the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21).
Newness of Life
Paul said, "that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection" (Philippians 3:10). Which infers that the resurrection of Jesus Christ contains a tremendous amount of positive motivation and incentive for the Christian. What does the resurrection really say to us, how does it spur us to action and faithfulness? Paul desired to know the resurrection in it’s fullness and completeness and to gain every possible encouragement from this great event. Here’s some thoughts that I had concerning what it means to know, understand, realize and experience the power of His resurrection:
- I can actually live a completely new life, I don’t have to be enslaved to wrong attitudes, I don’t have dwell with bitterness, envy, jealousy, strife and hate. I can change (Romans 6:6-7,11,13). I can become the person that I have always wanted to become, I can be noble, unselfish, generous, sincere, honest, sacrificial, faithful, etc….I don’t have to settle for living through some human role model or hero, I can become a role model in my own right.
- Growing older, facing my own mortality shouldn’t bother me. In light of Jesus’ resurrection, I know that my own body will be gloriously raised in the future (Philippians 3:21). I have been liberated from fretting about my physical appearance. It doesn’t bother me if I’m not the ideal height, weight, and so on. This physical body that I have is only the "rough draft" (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
- There is no reason for the Christian to have a fear of dying. Death will separate me from my body—but only for a while. Jesus said, "but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection of the dead…neither can they die anymore, for they are like angels, and are sons of God" (Luke 20:35-36). Does this sound like something to be dreaded, avoided at all cost, feared, or eagerly anticipated? Jesus removed the fear and terror out of anticipating death for the godly (Hebrews 2:15). He threw a huge spotlight on what awaits the faithful (2 Timothy 1:10). For the Christian death means: A. Being escorted by the angels to a place of comfort and peace (Luke 16:22,25). B. Being in close proximity with Christ, in a place that is far better than even the best that this world can provide (Philippians 1:21,23). C. A place in which you wouldn’t even want to come back to this life, even if you had left many loved ones. D. A place in which all the aches and pains associated with being in the body are gone, and all the mental, spiritual and emotional aches and pains which come from living in a sin cursed world are also gone (Revelation 21:4). E. And maybe most importantly, the final liberation from our battle against our own selfishness (Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:4; Revelation 22:3).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church Of Christ/644-9017