Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
"CHRISTíS RESURRECTION BENEFITS US GREATLY TODAY."
45. Q. How does Christ's resurrection benefit us?
A. First, by His resurrection He has overcome death, so that He could make us share in the righteousness which He had obtained for us by His death. Second, by His power we too are raised up to a new life. Third, Christ's resurrection is to us a sure pledge of our glorious resurrection.
 Rom. 4:25; I Cor. 15:16-20; I Pet. 1:3-5.  Rom. 6:5-11; Eph. 2:4-6; Col. 3:1-4.  Rom. 8:11; I Cor. 15:12-23; Phil. 3:20, 21.
1 Corinthians 15:1-19
Singing: (Psalms and Hymns are from the "Book of Praise"
Anglo Genevan Psalter)
Psalm17:5 & Hymn 51:4,7,8
Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Jesus came to earth to deliver Godís people from their sins. He accomplished that through His sufferings and death on the cross. Lordís Day 15: through His suffering He bore the wrath of God for us, and so obtained for us the grace of God, righteousness and eternal life. Lordís Day 16: He died because the justice and truth of God demanded that satisfaction for our sins could be made in no other way than through Jesusí death. With His suffering and death, then, Jesus accomplished His task.
That being so, beloved, why did Jesus arise from the dead? To put the question differently: would it make any difference to our salvation if Jesus were still in His grave outside Jerusalem?
The answer is distinctly Yes. Says Paul to the Corinthians: if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins. This resurrection is essential for our salvation.
But why is it essential, brothers and sisters? That is the material of our Lordís Day. In Lordís Day 17 the Christian confesses that we benefit from Christís resurrection. How? The Catechism outlines three ways. In the tears and brokenness of this life-after-Paradise, I proclaim these three ways in which we benefit. I summarize the sermon with this theme:
CHRISTíS RESURRECTION BENEFITS US GREATLY TODAY.
1. His resurrection proves He paid for sin.
Resurrection. What, congregation, is that? We understand: the term Ďresurrectioní catches the notion of dead people coming alive again. Fundamental to Ďresurrectioní is the concept of death Ė and then specifically escaping death.
Death. It is an enemy that had not come into the world yet when God declared on the sixth day that all was "very good". This enemy entered the world by Godís ordinance in response to our fall into sin. Thatís what God had said to Adam: in the day you eat [of that tree], you shall surely die (Gen 2:17). Adam ate, and Eve did too, and so God pronounced His curse: "dust you are and to dust you shall return" (Gen 3:19). Death, then, came in response to sin, came with a specific task. Deathís task was to extract payment for sin. There is an inseparable link between sin and death, death and sin. As long as sin remains, death invariably remains also for Ďthe soul that sins shall dieí.
Well now, on the cross of Calvary the sins of all Godís people were piled onto Jesus Christ. As a result, He became the sinner. If ever there was a task for Death to extract payment for sin, surely, it was from Jesus Christ! The Grim Reaper should certainly come to claim Him!
But what happened? Jesus experienced the curse of God during the three hours of darkness ĖHe descended into hell- and survived Godís rejection, Godís anger, Godís curse. After those three hours of darkness He cried out His triumph: "It is finished!" Heíd paid for sin, satisfied the curse of God. What, congregation, happened next? What did Jesus do? John tells us: "And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit" (19:30). Significance? Death is the Grim Reaper who comes to take whom he wills, and you have no say in the matter; when itís your time, you go, you peter out, you expire Ė youíre passive, death happens to you. But not so with Jesus! Very deliberately, very sovereignly, He bowed His head; very deliberately, very sovereignly "He gave up His spirit." Death did not come to take Him; He instead sovereignly gave Himself to death. Death was not His master and He deathís victim; He was instead deathís Master. See there the result of His sacrifice for sin! Heís paid for sin, satisfied Godís justice, and so Death had no claim over Him, no hold.
And that, congregation, is why on the third day Jesus could arise from the dead! Death never was Jesusí master; He was Deathís Master Ė because Heíd paid for sin! So, at the time of His choosing, Jesus could give Himself to death, and equally at the time of His choosing Jesus could escape deathís clutches again.
What, then, is the significance of Jesusí resurrection? It is this: resurrection is the proof that He paid for sin. Sin leads to death, said God in Gen 2. Jesus paid for sin, washed sin away, and therefore deprived death of its task. That is why death had no claim on Him, why death could not take. He paid for sin, and therefore could give Himself to death Ė and in due time arise from the dead. His resurrection is the evidence that He paid for sin Ė including your sins and mine. In the words of the Catechism: "by His resurrection He has overcome death so that He could make us share in the righteousness which He had obtained for us by His death." We are righteous before God, not guilty of our trespasses, because Jesus paid for sin, and the proof of His payment lies in the fact that death could not hold Him; He arose!
We read together a portion from Paulís letter to the Corinthians. From the apostleís word in vs 12 it is clear that some of the Christians of Corinth believed there was no resurrection of the dead. That Christ suffered on the cross for sin, satisfied Godís justice and then died, was, they said, sufficient. But Paul is emphatic: Christ has definitely risen. In fact, look at his summary of the gospel in vss 3 & 4. The gospel is "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." Notice: Paul includes Jesusí resurrection as part of the fundamentals of the gospel. In fact, Paul then goes out of his way to impress on the Corinthians the reality of the resurrection. Vs 5: the risen Jesus "was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over 500 brethren at onceÖ. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also," on the road to Damascus. Paulís point? Paul sets out a long row of witnesses, persons who have seen the risen Christ, and he does so in order to convince the Corinthian saints that Christ has really, truly arisen; they can even go and interview some of those witnesses! There may be no doubt in their minds: Christ really arose from the dead!
And why is it so important that Christ arose? Vs 14: "if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty." He explains further in vs 17: "if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!"
There you have it, congregation. If Christ is not risen, you are still in your sins. If Christ is not risen, then Death still has claim over Him, and given the link God placed between sin and death, death can have a claim only over sinners! As death demonstrates the presence of sin, so resurrection demonstrates the destruction of sin. Christ arose, and thereís the proof that He paid for sin. Christ arise, and thereís the proof that we are in our sins no longer!
There, congregation, is also the glorious gospel of the various resurrections recorded in the Bible. Whether we speak of Elisha raising the son of the Shunammite widow or of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus or of Paul raising the boy that fell out the window in Troas, the message is all the same: the power of death is broken because there is atonement for sin. A resurrection spells out not only that God is almighty, has the power to raise the dead; a resurrection spells out specifically that God in Christ has overcome sin. That is why the raising of the Shunammite widowís son not only benefited herł but was good news for all Israel in her day Ė our God has power over sin, our God conquers sin. Equally, that is why Lazarusí resurrection not only benefited his sisters, but was exciting news for all Israel in Jesusí day Ė our God has conquered sin. Death came into the world because of sin, but behold a resurrection: the power of death is broken, and that can only be because God has organized redemption from sin!
Thatís what was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and thatís why His resurrection is such glorious news for all Godís own. Sin is atoned for! Thereís redemption from sin, escape from the just judgment of God! How rich the gospel Ė for Israel and for us!
Question: is there any benefit in this gospel for us today? How, concretely, does this gospel touch our lives now? Itís our second point:
2. His resurrection raises us to new life today.
I mentioned before that death entered the world as a result of the fall into sin; death came to extract payment for our sins. Thatís why God told Adam and Eve after the fall that they were dust, and would return to dust.
As it is, the penalty resulting from our fall into sin did not touch only the conclusion of our lives, that moment at the end when death takes us. The life of fallen man is a constant death. When God exiled Adam and Eve from the Garden, He told the woman that He would "greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children" (Gen 3:16). Thatís a reference not only to the pain of childbearing itself; itís a reference also the pain of raising children. The point here is that parents are sinful and children are sinful also, and two sinners together is a recipe for dynamite. The same is true in marriage. Said God to Eve: "your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you" (Gen 3:16). The harmony and intimacy of their relation before the fall would now be replaced by the battle of the sexes, including Eveís desire to rule Adam, and Adamís insistence on ruling over his wife. The point is the same: two sinners together is a recipe for disaster. Just how broken life had become as a result of the fall into sin is amply illustrated on the pages of Scripture; one need but think of Cain and Abel together, of the selfishness of the generation before the flood that took to wife whomever they pleased, of the tension between Sarai and Hagar, of the strife between Abraham and Lot, etc. The fallout of the fall into sin extended so much farther than to death. Or, better said, as a result of the fall we immediately died spiritually, and therefore our ability to interact together in a Godly manner died.
Exactly for that reason, brothers and sisters, does Christís triumph over sin also extend much farther than to physical death! It is the point of the second part of A 45. "By His power," says the Catechism, "we too are raised up to a new life." The reference here is not to what happens on the day of Christís return, when the dead are raised; thatís the point of the third benefit mentioned in our Lordís Day. The point of the second benefit concerns very much the here and now. Today already, says the Catechism, we are raised up to a new life.
How we are to understand that? When the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, we died with Him Ė in a way I canít understand. When He was buried, we entered the grave with Him. And equally, when He arose on Easter Sunday, we arose with Him. That is the apostleís point in Romans 6. The earlier chapters of Romans had laid out the gospel of justification by Godís grace, through faith. That is: sinners are righteous before God without cost to themselves, are righteous because of Godís work in Jesus Christ. A gospel-of-such-free-grace raises a question: shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? (6:1). To that question Paul gives the emphatic answer, "Certainly not!", and explains that answer in terms of Christians having died with Christ on Calvary, being buried with Him, and being raised with Him. Vs 4: "we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." In the verses that follow Paul works out further the implications of dying with Christ and being raised with Him. We are new creatures, he says, alive in Christ, and that in turn cannot but affect the way you live. Vs 11: "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The consequence? Vs 12: if you are dead with respect to sin, then sin cannot tell you what to do anymore Ė for dead people donít listen to instructions. So: "do not let sin reign in your mortal body." And vs 13: "do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin." Instead: you have been raised to new life, raised with Christ when He arose. So, vs 13b: "present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead," and that means that you give yourself to obedience to Godís commands.
What this sort of life looks like? Back to Gen 3: two sinners together is dynamite. A marriage of two persons controlled by sin is by nature (unless God restrain it) characterized by selfishness. So you get things like: I want your body because I want it, never mind how you feel. I expect you to make the dinner because thatís your job; I donít care that youíre tired. Iím not going to clean up your mess, because it doesnít suit me. Etc. Such a marriage cannot be happy, simply because sin is permitted to reign in the hearts of both parties.
But what if the parties of that marriage are raised with Christ to a new life? What if the Holy Spirit has applied to them the gifts Christ obtained for them on the cross? We realize: then attitudes change, and selfishness gives way to self-denial. Not the works of the flesh characterize that relationship, but the fruits of the Spirit Ė love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self control. Such a relation can be filled again with happiness, and with growth in the Lord. Then yes, the two are sinners still, but the bite of the curse is gone, and something of the harmony of Paradise is restored.
How such a happy development is possible? Itís possible, beloved, only because Christ paid for the sin that caused our exile from Paradise to begin with. He paid, and the evidence that He paid lies in His resurrection from the dead. He paid, and so in principle the consequences of our fall into sin are taken away in this life already. So it pleases the Lord today already to raise His children from their spiritual deadness, raise them to new life. So His children in this life already receive something back of Paradise we lost; now already the friction resulting from two sinners living together is in principle taken away. You see: today already we benefit from Christís resurrection, simply because His resurrection spells out His triumph over sin.
What incentive that is, beloved, to live as God wants us to live! He arose to demonstrate for us that He paid for sin. He raised us up with Him, to take away in principle the bitterness, the sharpness of the pain of our fall. What shall we do then: let the lusts of the flesh dominate us? Shall we readily listen to the instructions of that old king called Sin? Shall we in our marriages and in our families live purely for ourselves, without regard to other? No, beloved, no! Exactly because we believe that we are raised up by Christís power to a new life shall we make it our business today to live as renewed people, today to live as people belonging to Paradise restored instead of to Paradise lost. Christís resurrection drives us to a new lifestyle, to a life of obedience to Him.
By the grace of God we do live as His children. But, we notice, so very much sin remains. Try as we might to live as people of Paradise restored, we find ourselves repeatedly acting more like people of Paradise lost. So much pain remains, so much brokennessÖ. And that gets so discouragingÖ. That brings us to our last point:
3. His resurrection pledges our glorious resurrection in time to come.
Our thoughts need to go back again to Gen 3. God had declared before the fall that sin would lead to death. God confirmed that directly after the fall, for He reminded Adam that he was dust, and to dust he would return Ė because heíd sinned.
But, brothers and sisters, if Christ has overcome sin, and therefore broken the power of death, yes, arose from the dead, why shall those who believe in Christ remain dead? Already the believers are raised with Christ to a new life spiritually; that was our second point, Paulís instruction in Romans 6. Must not the physical resurrection follow, the undoing of that part of the curse of Gen 3? Indeed, the saints of the Old Testament understood that, and thatís why Job could declare his conviction that after his skin is destroyed (he dies), yet "in my flesh I shall see God" (19:25). David could say something similar in Ps 16: "You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption" (vs 10). The apostle Paul works out this promise in his letter to the Corinthians when he says that Christ is the "firstfruits" of those who arise (15:23). That is: Christís resurrection is the promise that many will arise after Him; Heís the first of a whole harvest of resurrected people. Specifically, when Christ returns on the clouds of heaven, the cemeteries will bustle with activity, for the graves will be opened. Those who have returned to dust, those who are returning to dust, will come alive again! Then Godís word of Gen 3 will end; no longer will man return to dust, but dust will give up its dead! It must be so, for all the horrible consequences of our fall into sin will be taken away Ė including death itself. And the promise of God is that we shall live with God in the New Jerusalem eternally Ė Paradise restored! In the New Jerusalem there is no death (Rev 21:4), for Christ arose.
Similarly, with what sort of a body shall we enter the New Jerusalem? On the new earth, beloved, do the saints of God keep the bodies we have now? Or shall God make a brand new body for us? The word of God is this: we shall keep the bodies we have now. You may like your body or not like your body, but this is the body that we shall take with us into eternity. Still, this body shall first be completely repaired. Paul says to the Corinthians that this body shall be glorified, shall put on immortality. That is: every scar resulting from the fall into sin shall be taken away. Do you suffer in this life from headaches, allergies, muscle spasms? In the life to come these handicaps and so many more will all be taken away. Do you struggle today with weakness of character, short temper, impulsive speech, selfishness? In the New Jerusalem all such results of the fall into sin will be taken away. This body weíll keep, beloved, it shall rise from the grave. But it will be completely fixed up, restored to the perfection of Paradise. Whatís corruptible now will put on incorruption, what is mortal now will put on immortality. What today suffers the penalty of Paradise lost, and so is wracked by pain and burdened with sickness will be perfected completely. In the New Jerusalem "God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Rev 21:4). How rich the promise for those who feel so painfully the fact that we live on this side of the fall into sin! All those consequences shall go!
Christ has risen, and therein given us proof that He paid for sin. Today we may see in our lives the beginnings of Paradise restored; no longer are we dead in sin, but raised to new life. And the brokenness that remains serves only to increase our longing for the day of Christís return, the day of the Great Resurrection. Then, then every trace of death will be swept off the earth Ė for there shall be no sin!
Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.