The Person of Christ - 26 - His Resurrection in Epistles

 

Chapter 26 - The Resurrection of Christ

In The Pauline Letters

Sydney Maxwell

 

The theme of the resurrection of Christ permeates Paul?s Epistles. We need not be surprised at this, because the first encounter that Saul of Tarsus ever had with Christ was to see Him as a Man in Heaven, risen and glorified (Acts 9:3-4). As the proud Pharisee he was stricken before the blaze of that resurrection glory. Then as the preacher at Antioch in Pisidia, we hear the confident assertion of his message ?but God raised Him from the dead? (Acts 13:30). He faced the philosophers at Mars Hill and warned of a day of judgment for the world and the assurance of it was ?that God raised Him from the dead? (Acts 17:31). We hear him as the prisoner in Caesarea before Agrippa. as he confirms the language of Moses and the prophets, ?that Christ should suffer and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead? (Acts 26:23). We may conclude then that enshrined in his devoted heart, undimmed until the morning of his execution, was the reality that the Man who died upon a cross was alive and glorified (II Tim. 2:8). We shall see then this great truth stamped upon his writings, whether it be in his earlier writings, the prison epistles, or in the pastoral letters. We will trace this wondrous truth under four headings and in that way will be orderly in developing this theme through the epistles of Paul.

 

THE HISTORICAL CONFIRMATION

 

It must be evident to the readers of the Acts that the early preachers never sought to prove the resurrection of Christ, they simply preached it. It has been well said that the opponents of the resurrection do not deny its veracity as much as they seek to suppress its reality.

 

In turning to one of Paul?s greatest chapters, we see him viewing himself as the last witness of Christ?s resurrection (I Cor. 15:8). He was seen of Cephas and of the twelve (v. 5) but the women who saw Him are not mentioned. The matter of public testimony has been committed to the man; the sister has her place in the service of God, but it is not the public sphere (I Cor. 14:34; I Tim. 2:11-12). The five hundred brethren are noted (v.6) ?after that He was seen of James, then of all the apostles? (v. 7). Even though some twenty-four years had elapsed since Paul had first seen the Man in the Glory, he confidently affirms ?He was seen of me also? (v.8).The intimate fellowship he enjoyed even after thirty years begets within his soul the yearning ?that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection? (Phil. 3:10). The statements of I Corinthians 15:1-8 not only confirm Christ?s resurrection, but also authenticate Paul?s apostleship (I Cor. 9:1).

 

THE DOCTRINAL IMPLICATIONS

 

It is imperative that within the scope of this heading we should consider the doctrine of Christology. We must look at the resurrection as it effected the Person of Christ. This is a heart-warming occupation. In this regard the Epistle to the Romans, sixth in order chronologically, yet occupying the first place doctrinally in the New Testament, is not without significance. It is here that the great truth of the death of Christ is developed, and it is here that our standing and relationship with God is established. It is in this epistle that we have a large body of teaching relative to the resurrection. We will consider the references in their own contexts.

In Romans 1:4 the resurrection is viewed as the Designation of His Sonship. His resurrection did not make Him the Son, it manifested that He was the Son in power. It should be noted that the literal reading of the text is ?a resurrection of dead persons.? While this verse definitely establishes the resurrection of Christ, there is a suggestion in it of a look to the past, in the Gospel records, and then a look ahead to future resurrections. The raising of the widow?s son (Luke 7:11-18), then Jairus? daughter (Luke 8:54-56) and Lazarus (John 11-44) are evidences of His Sonship. Then looking ahead saints will be raised (I Thess. 4:13-18), I Cor. 15:50-57) and then sinners will finally be raised (Rev. 20:11-15).

 

In Ephesians 1:20-22 the resurrection indicates His Exaltation to Headship. This is also the thought in Colossians 1:18 where He is spoken of as the Firstborn from the dead. In Romans 14:9 we are required to see that as risen, the emphasis is on the Recognition of His Lordship.

The doctrine of the resurrection is also linked with soteriology, that is the great truths relative to salvation. In Romans 4:25 Paul says He was raised again for (on account of) our justification. We must be clear that the death of Christ was the basis of our justification (Rom. 5:9) but His resurrection is the assurance of the acceptance of it before God. It is on the grounds of all this that we have peace with God (Rom. 5:l).In Romans 10:9 it is the confession of the believing sinner that Jesus is Lord and the confidence in the heart that God has raised Him from the dead that alone brings salvation. This passage looks on to a coming day when the nation of Israel will turn to the Saviour and the veil on their hearts will be taken away (II Cor. 3:16).

 

We have a clear statement of Paul?s Gospel in I Corinthians 15:1-4, and it is clear that the resurrection of Christ is an essential part of that declaration. How important then for us to preach it also. How encouraging to know that in Romans 6:9-10 ?death hath no more dominion over Him, but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.? Because of this God will lay no charge against us, and the One Who is risen makes intercession for us (Rom. 8:33-35)

 

THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION

 

We may be well assured that there is no doctrine of Scripture without its practical instruction for us as the people of God. The subject we are considering is no exception to that rule. In Romans 6:4 Paul links the resurrection of Christ with the glory of the Father. He is raised up by (through-dia) the glory of the Father; this is the glory of His power (see Eph. 1:19-20). The newness of life is holiness in the life of the believer and is the result of our identification with the death and resurrection of Christ. This is developed for us in Romans 6:11-12, teaching us that now being alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, sin should not reign in our mortal bodies. The moral teaching of our baptism ought to have power with us day by day.

 

We will also see in Romans 7:4 that we have been put to death to the law in His death. We now belong to another, even to Him Who is raised from the dead. The result in the life of the believer is fruitfulness. It is not so much the thought of seeing souls saved, for that is fruit that God in His sovereignty gives to us (Rom. 1:13, Phil. 1:22) but rather, it is the sanctity of a transformed life (Rom. 6:22).

 

A final observation may complete this aspect of His resurrection. In Colossians 3:1 our association with Him in His resurrection is seen in the believer?s heavenly mindedness. In Ephesians we are seen as already seated in Christ in the heavenlies (Eph. 2:6) while in Colossians we are in the wilderness and our attitude is to be one of ?seeking? and ?minding? the things that are above, seeing we are risen with Him (Col. 3:1-2). It is interesting that the two words noted in this verse are imperatives, indicating always the thought of command and suggesting to us immediate obedience.

 

THE FUTURE REALIZATION

 

We are impressed that the resurrection of Christ is linked with eschatology; this is the term used for the doctrine of last things. I Thessalonians 1:10 tells us that He Who was raised from the dead is the Son from Heaven, teaching us His Deity: He is Jesus our deliverer, teaching us His Humanity, also encouraging us with the fact that at the cross, He delivered us from the penalty of our sins. He also delivers us from the prospect of the coming wrath (I Thess. 5:9). This is the wrath of the Day of the Lord (II Thess. 1:7-8).

 

The sorrowing saints are assured in I Thessalonians 4:14 that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is the guarantee that their loved ones who have fallen asleep through Jesus will be raised when He comes to the air (see also II Cor. 4:14). In I Thessalonians 1:10 we have Preservation; while in I Thesalonians 4:14 we have Consolation.

 

Finally, we turn to I Corinthians 15 and make some important observations. Paul has argued effectively that if there is no future resurrection of the dead then Christ is not raised (I Cor. 15:13). The outlook would be bleak indeed, for they which have fallen asleep in Christ have perished (v.18) and we are of all men most miserable (v.19). Furthermore, why be baptized? says Paul, for it is indeed pointless if the dead do not rise, because baptism envisages resurrection (I Cor. 15:29). However, he strikes the triumphant note ?but now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept? (v.20). In the word ?firstfruit? we can contemplate the harvest at His coming (v.23).

 

What joy it gives then to know that when He comes, we shall have a body like unto His own body of glory (Phil. 3:20-21, Rom. 8:11). The great change to take place is developed for us in I Corinthians 15:51-58. As we have traced the great doctrines that are linked with the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, may we enter into the sentiments of Isaac Watt?s great hymn and worship before our Risen Lord.

 

Blest morning, whose first dawning rays

Beheld the Son of God

Arise triumphant from the grave,

And leave His dark abode.

 

Hell and the grave combined their force

To hold our Lord in vain;

Sudden the Conqueror arose

And burst their feeble chain.