new-lifeChrist’s resurrection from the dead changes the trajectory of human life.  In 1 Corinthians 15:32, the apostle Paul hypothesises that if the dead are not raised then “we should eat and drink for tomorrow we die”.  This is not difficult to understand. If this life is all there is, if our existence is limited to this temporal experience, then it makes sense to do whatever we can to adorn whatever time we have left with whatever morsels of leisure and pleasure might come our way.  Nor is this an unfamiliar philosophy in our world. Slogans like “you only live once” abound, bending our minds into thinking we need this experience, or that possession, to be truly human. Putting this differently, if the resurrection is not real, then there is no real impetus to change the way we live: we might as well continue living what seems to be the sensible and familiar way.

But of course, as 1 Corinthians 15 so richly communicates to us, the Christian faith rests upon the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead, a resurrection that we are told is the first of many (1 Cor 15:20-23).  Christ’s resurrection secures a resurrection future for those who are cleaved to him in faith (Rom 6; Eph 2).  And so the ethical principle “eat and drink for tomorrow we die” — the principle so prominent in our world — is itself put to death in the resurrection of Jesus.

As far as the apostle Paul is concerned, the resurrection plays a vital role in the way a Christian chooses to act here and now.  The resurrection changes the way we live life, because it changes the way we view life.   Two features of the surrounding context — namely Paul’s example and Paul’s exhortation — provide insight into the primary ways the resurrection informs our life choices.

empty_tombFirst, is the example that Paul’s own ministry presents of the resurrected life. Paul faced mortal danger continually. This danger was so frequent that he can describe it as an hourly experience in 15:30.  The phrase ending v.31 “I die every day” suggests that Paul woke every morning expecting to be killed that day for his faith.  This daily threat to his life came on the back of his unrelenting proclamation of the gospel, the product of which was the conversion of the Corinthians, who were his pride in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 15:31).  In addition, he goes on to describe his ministry in Ephesus (where he spent a number of years proclaiming the word of God (cf. Acts 19) as a fight with wild animals—evidence once more of his perilous ministry.  This life of perpetual struggle and persecution, contrasting so strongly with a life of epicurean pleasure, is not lived on the back of some temporal human hope (15:32b).  Rather it is lived on the back of Paul’s knowledge of the resurrection.  The resurrection of Christ, and the promise of the resurrected life that comes for his followers, allowed Paul — indeed, drove Paul — to do his gospel work in the face of daily threat of death.

Second, is Paul’s exhortation that follows in v.33 and v.34.  “Do not be deceived …come to your senses …stop sinning”.  The three imperatives here work together. The deception that says there is no bodily resurrection leads to a way of life that is contrary to God’s desire.  And yet it is a very real, and a very tempting, deception, as noted in the opening paragraph above.  It is a deception that gives vitality to the modern advertising industry. But Paul’s exhortation aims to break apart this deception.  “Do not be deceived …come to your senses”.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead jolts us into re-evaluating. It rattles the cage of our minds, awakening our senses to this end: that we stop sinning.  For the believer, the resurrection of Jesus, and so both the resurrected status that they have with him now and the resurrection future that they are assured of, provides the motivation (under the power of the God’s Spirit) to stop sinning.  It provides the impetus to stop living for selfish pleasures and desires, and instead motivates a lifestyle that greets every new day with the attitude “today I am going to die to myself, live for Christ and share him with others for their sake”.

There is more to be said about the influence that the resurrection has on our ethical framework.  But just a brief look at 1 Cor 15 shows something of the resurrection priority for Paul.  The primary impulse of Jesus’ resurrection is to promote self-sacrifice for gospel ministry on the one hand, and to promote the cessation of self-centered sinful living on the other.  Collapsing this into the one statement: the resurrection encourages us to die to self and live for Christ.

Giotto_TheLastJudgementIn this third instalment the point of discussion will be centred upon the relationship between the resurrection and judgement. It may seem odd to associate resurrection with judgement, especially in a world that considers ‘judgement’ as some kind of swear word, but Jesus’ resurrection actually has much to say about judgement.

The first thing to realise is that Jesus’ resurrection marks him out as the judge. God has assigned a day when he will judge the world by the man he has appointed, and he has revealed who that man is by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31). Jesus himself declares this truth when he says in John 5 that, ‘The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son’. What the resurrection does then is affirm that Jesus is the one who judges all the earth. He is the one who will gather all the nations before him and separate the sheep from the goats (Matt. 25:32). It is because of the resurrection that we can be assured of the coming of judgment day.

The second thing to notice is how this revealing of Jesus as judge in Acts 17 is tied to God’s command for all people to repent. Having overlooked the times of ignorance, God has now revealed his judge and commands all people everywhere to repent. In light of Christ’s resurrection, now more than ever, there is no excuse for continued defiance. Judgement is coming and the sins of the world will be held to account.

It must be asked however, has this kind of godly command slipped from gospel proclamation today? In trying to be sensitive to our world, have the implications of the death and resurrection of Jesus been diluted, or worse still, forgotten? Are people made aware of their need to turn from sin and the eternal importance of responding correctly to Jesus? Does ‘repent and believe’ still resound as part of gospel proclamation today, and if not, can we still call that ‘the gospel’?

The simple truth is, how people respond to Jesus now is of eternal significance. As Jesus declares in John 3:36, ‘The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him’. The way in which people respond to God’s appointed judge now, depends on whether God’s wrath remains on them or not. It is a question of true life and true death. And so it is of absolute importance that the call of repentance and the reality of the coming judgment remain a part of our gospel proclamation today. God has appointed Jesus as judge, and this judge will judge the world, and he will separate those who love him from those who have rejected him.

One final implication is that, with the resurrection judgment has already begun. Those who know Jesus and confess faith in him have already passed over from death to life. As Jesus declares in John 11:25-26, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever’. Those who are in Jesus now already know the verdict of the judge! They have already been declared righteous before God. This is a great truth that all Christians can find abundant comfort and assurance in.

This great truth of course is only of comfort for the believer. The verdict for the non-believer is not so positive. In fact, the verdict for the non-believer is ‘guilty’ – which means an eternity spent in hell. This is a reality that should grip our hearts and bring us to tears. It is also a reality that should lead us to gospel proclamation! That is why Paul exhorts us to abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58). In calling Corinth to the specific work of proclamation and edification, Paul asked them to join him, under God’s sovereignty, in bringing people from death to life. The same is true for us today. The resurrection gives us a task to do. It declares that Jesus is risen, and that he is Lord and judge, and that by this judge God will judge the world. It is through this gospel that Jesus draws people near to him so that they too can know the comfort and assurance of salvation in him. The resurrection teaches us that the judgement day is coming and that only those who hear and trust in the risen Jesus through the gospel will be saved.

 

carav10The last instalment looked at how Jesus’ resurrection shapes our thinking on sin and death. This instalment discusses the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Now the first thing to affirm is that Jesus’ resurrection really was bodily. Thomas was able to observe and touch Jesus’ hands and side (Jn. 20:27). Jesus himself declared that he was ‘flesh and bones’ and not some ghost (Luke 24:39). Jesus was even able to eat (Luke 24:43). And lets not forget that the tomb itself was empty.

In a world that has always been sceptical about the resurrection this great truth must continue to be proclaimed. The temptation to alter what the Scriptures say must be resisted just as strongly. And so even though most find it absurd to think that Jesus rose from his tomb (let alone that every dead corpse will one day rise!), attempts to make the message more palatable should be rejected — Jesus rose bodily!

Having said this, the focus in what follows will not be on the reality of the bodily resurrection (this is taken as given), but rather on its significance. Again, as in the previous instalment, amongst the many aspects that could be explored, two will receive consideration: Jesus’ bodily resurrection in relation to our own bodily resurrection, and Jesus’ bodily resurrection in relation to creation.

Jesus’ bodily resurrection and ours

Who wouldn’t love a new body! It seems that most of the world today is in search of a new, better, stronger, younger looking body. From the latest cross fit seminar, to yoga paddle boarding (yes, yoga paddle boarding!), to mums and bubs work out groups, it seems that most of us are trying to stop the natural ageing process of our bodies. The problem is, we’ll never be able to stop our perishable bodies from doing exactly that – perishing.

But what if someone was to guarantee us a body that was not only perfect, but also immortal? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Almost like every second infomercial on those morning shows! But this is exactly what Paul claims in 1 Corinthians 15.

In verses 42-44 Paul declares that our perishable bodies will be raised imperishable, and from dishonour to glory, and weakness to power, and our natural bodies will be raised as spiritual bodies. Furthermore, in verse 52-53 Paul tells us that when the dead are raised this mortal body must put on immortality.

Sounds unbelievable doesn’t it? But Paul insists that our bodies on the day of our resurrection will be perfected and made immortal. Like the relationship between a seed and a plant, so will our current bodies change (vv. 36-37). And it is important to notice that it is our current bodies that will be transformed. It won’t be some new creation. It is our current physical bodies that will change. This means that our eternal state will be a physical, bodily, affair. We will not be some fluffy spiritual existence, but rather a perfected bodily existence. As Michael Horton puts it, Paul’s point here is ‘not disembodiment versus embodiment, but this body in its mortality versus this body in its immortality’.1 Our decrepit, decaying, wrinkly bodies (depending on how old you are!) will be perfected and made immortal!

Now, what gives Paul such confidence to make such a bold claim? Well, it’s because of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. It is because Jesus is risen that we can be confident of our resurrection to come. Jesus, in his resurrection, is the firstfruits of our resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20). That is, like the firstfruits of the harvest guarantee the rest of the harvest, in the same way Jesus’ resurrection guarantees our resurrection to come.

That is to say, Jesus’ resurrection begins our resurrection. It is not that there are two resurrections. There is only one. Jesus’ bodily resurrection marks the beginning of the great end-time general resurrection.

We get hints of this general resurrection in Old Testament texts like Job 19:25-27 and Daniel 12:2. Job tells us that at the last the Redeemer will stand upon the earth, ‘And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God’ (19:26). Daniel also declares that ‘Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt’ (12:2). Furthermore, in the New Testament John 11:24 indicates that there was an expectation concerning an end-time general resurrection.

What we have in Jesus then is the arrival of this end time expectation. His resurrection marks the coming of the last days and thus the resurrection has now begun with Jesus. As B.B. Warfield puts it, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead ‘drags ours in its train’.2

But Jesus’ bodily resurrection holds still more lessons.

Bodily Resurrection and Creation

Canestra_di_frutta_(Caravaggio)It may come as a surprise but Jesus’ bodily resurrection actually says something about creation. This was especially important in Jesus’ day. At a time when some taught that matter was inherently evil, Jesus’ bodily resurrection spoke a different message. Instead of teaching that all things material were to be rejected in pursuit of the spiritual, the bodily resurrection affirmed the material.

What we have in Jesus’ physical resurrection is an affirmation and approval of God’s creation. In opposition to the teaching that humanity needs to be redeemed from creation, Christianity teaches the redemption of creation. The bodily resurrection shows that God has not abandoned his good creation but rather has redeemed it in the person and work of Jesus. God is not in the business of writing off creation or humanity. This becomes even clearer when we consider God’s commitment throughout the scriptures to such a rebellious humanity.

So, the bodily resurrection of Jesus reveals God’s commitment to what he has created. God will not do away with human physicality or creation. Rather, He will transform and renew it.

One of the best places to see this truth is in Romans 8:19-23. Here Paul describes creation as being subject to frustration. Creation is pictured as being in ‘bondage to decay’ and ‘groaning’— which is not too hard for us to imagine. But Paul also says that creation is waiting ‘in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed’. That is, tied up with the revealing of the people of God, and the redemption of our bodies, is the renewal of the whole creation. In this way, just as at the resurrection of our bodies, we will be changed and clothed with the imperishable (1 Cor. 15:51-54), so too creation along with us will be liberated and made new. Thus, because Jesus’ bodily resurrection is the first fruits of our coming resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20), in turn, Jesus’ bodily resurrection is then also a guarantee of the renewal of creation to come.

At this point, however, care must be taken about the ethic drawn from the affirmation of creation through Jesus’ bodily resurrection. It is important to remember that creation still groans and has not yet been redeemed. The redemption of creation will not come until God’s sons are revealed. Jesus’ bodily resurrection simply affirms that it is to come and that it is guaranteed to come. On this point there are two potential errors.

One is to say that, because creation will be renewed and is passing away (2 Pet. 3:10) and will be ‘new’ (Rev. 21:1), then we can use and abuse creation all we want. But this is to misunderstand the responsibility we have to rule and subdue creation (Gen. 1:28-31). It also misunderstands what it means to love our neighbour. If we abuse creation and ruin it for others, then this is not loving towards our neighbours now, or those in future generations.

On the flip side, however, the eternal value of creation must not be so over-emphasised that the value of works done now for eternity is misplaced. Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 15 is to highlight the eternal value of the work of proclamation and edification in light of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:58), not of the eternal value of all work. Creation will be made new. This puts the things done now, and the time spent upon them, into eternal perspective. We must not get so caught up in the problems associated with creation in the present that we forget that God will set the creation free from bondage at the resurrection of our bodies. God is bigger and far more powerful that the problems we have created in creation. If God is able to give us renewed glorious bodies (1 Cor. 15:35-44), then surely He will also be able to gloriously renew creation. Again, as stated above, this is not to say that we can abuse and misuse creation. But care needs to be taken about the ethic drawn from Jesus’ bodily resurrection. What can be affirmed with all confidence is that God is committed to His creation and will not abandon it.

These two truths, the guarantee of our bodily resurrection to come and the guarantee of the redemption of creation, bring with them great excitement for the believer. We will have gloriously transformed bodies and creation will be perfected and redeemed. These are truths worth celebrating! But we must also remember that the resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of judgement day. The third instalment will consider how the resurrection of Jesus and judgement fit together, and the implications that this has for our world today.

 


resurrection imageWhen it comes to the resurrection of Jesus, most contemporary Christian writing has been centred on its historicity. Preaching often tends to focus on the historical details and the fact that it really happened, rather than its meaning. As a result, the average pew sitter might have a robust apologetic in response to the historical claim of the resurrection, but be somewhat cloudy when it comes to its theological significance.

Partly this is right and necessary in our modern age of scepticism. Furthermore, Christianity is rooted in historical events, and therefore cannot be separated from those events. As B.B. Warfield states “If Christianity is entirely indifferent to the reality of this fact, then ‘Christianity’ is something wholly different from what it was conceived to be by its founders”.1 In this sense, it must continue to be affirmed that Jesus really did rise bodily from the dead. The historical is of great importance.

Yet, in emphasising the historical, can the theological be neglected or underplayed? In the lead-up to Easter, several posts will seek to stimulate thought about the theological significance of Jesus’ resurrection. This will by no means cover all of the important truths the resurrection affirms, but hopefully it will encourage people to be thinking and talking about the importance of this event.

So let us begin by considering the place of sin, death and the devil in resurrection thinking.

Jesus’ Resurrection and Sin

Now, if we are to consider this afresh, the New Testament makes some pretty bold claims about what Jesus’ death achieves. It claims that his death for sin was once for all (Rom. 6:10; 1 Pet. 3:18) and that in his death he satisfied God’s right anger at sin (Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 Jn. 2:2, 4:10). It also claims that by the death of Jesus we are reconciled to God (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:6; Col. 1:22). These are some pretty big claims!

But how do we know if Jesus’ death was actually effective? How can we be assured that, in his death, the price for sin has been paid and that we are reconciled to God? If there is no resurrection of Jesus, then all we can be confident about is that Jesus was willing to die and that he did die. Without the resurrection we have no way of knowing if his death actually worked!

The confirmation of the work of Jesus on the cross is given by the resurrection. By rising from the dead, his death on the cross is declared effective. As Romans 4:25 declares, ‘he was delivered up for our transgressions and raised for our justification’.

The same idea is found in passages like Philippians 2:5f and Ephesians 1:20f., in which Jesus’ exaltation and Lordship are in view. It is because Jesus’ death was effective that he was ‘exalted to the highest place’ and ‘raised from the dead’ and given ‘every title that can be given’. The resurrection shows that Jesus’ atoning work actually worked. As Paul declares, if there is no resurrection ‘you are still in your sin’ (1 Cor. 15:17).

This means that the believer can have complete assurance. Our sins have been paid for. God’s right anger has been satisfied. Our guilt from sin no longer needs to reign in us. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we have forgiveness of sins and can be confident of that forgiveness. As Bruce Milne helpfully points out ‘real atonement has been attained and hence righteousness, reconciliation and freedom are truly brought to sinners’.2

The Death of Death

cross-of-christ-0105Jesus’ resurrection also declares the death of death. Now death is one of those things in our modern western world that people like to ignore, until they are confused when some friend or family member dies. For the majority of the human race who live in the rest of the world, however, death can be front and centre. Losing family and friends to disease or famine can be common. In this way it seems that those outside the west take death more seriously. Perhaps this is why they possibly take Jesus more seriously as well!

The Bible itself presents death as a necessary consequence of sin. Paul tells us that death came through the sin of the one man Adam (Rom. 5:12f; 1 Cor. 15:21f) and that ‘death spread to all men, because all sinned’ (Rom. 5:12). Romans 6:23 declares that ‘the wages of sin is death’.

Death then is a result of human sin and a reality for all humankind. And even though many today wouldn’t like to admit it, death scares us. For many death is the end and brings with it great mystery and uncertainty. The Bible’s analysis here lines up with our experience— human beings are held in slavery by their fear of death (Heb. 2:15) (Though perhaps we express this fear by spending all the money we have on the ‘now’ and trying to stay alive for as long as we can!).

But again, this is where a proper understanding of Jesus’s resurrection helps. The resurrection of Jesus declares the death of death! Here we are best to quote Hebrews 2:14 in full:

14 Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil.

The reason why we can so triumphantly announce that death has been defeated is because Jesus has risen. Jesus didn’t simply go to death but through death. By rising from the dead Jesus showed that death could not hold him down (Acts 2:24) and that he has abolished it (2 Tim. 1:10). At the very moment where it looked as though the powers of evil had won in crucifying him, three days latter he was raised!

Not only that, but as Hebrews proclaims, the devil himself has been defeated. As Jesus explains in his parable, he has invaded the strong man’s fortress, and disarmed and bound him, and finally robbed him of his spoil (Lk. 11:21f). The devil and his entourage have been disarmed (Col. 2:12) and his work destroyed (1 Jn. 3:8).

This means that death is no longer the end for those who are in Christ. Death and the devil are no longer to be feared. We do not need to ‘eat and drink for tomorrow we die’ because the dead are raised (1 Cor. 15:32)! As Herman Bavinck puts it, ‘his resurrection was a birth from death and hence a victory over death and over him who had the power of death, the devil’.3

The resurrection of Jesus thus brings us great confidence as believers. We can be confident that our sin has been dealt with and that Jesus’ death for sin is effective. Furthermore, we no longer need to fear death or the devil – both have been decisively defeated and declared as defeated in Jesus’ resurrection.

In knowing these things then, as believers we now look forward to the time when we too will be raised, just as our Lord has been raised as our firstfruits. But more on that in the next instalment.

The latest issue of The Australian Church Record, number 1913, April 2014, has been released.

acr-apr-2014

From ‘Noah Starts a Deluge for Holy-Wood

“Although the brevity of the biblical account requires some creative adaptations to deliver a film-length portrayal, the important details of the Genesis version come through: humanity is wicked—every human being, including Noah; our rebellion against the Creator has ruined the world; God’s judgment is utterly deserved and ought to lead to the total annihilation of the human race; but we survive because of mercy.”

From ‘The Danger of Mission Drift

“The danger of mission drift recently came to the fore on the international stage, with the public flip-flop of the American World Vision organisation concerning same-sex marriage. Only days after announcing the change of policy to hire Christians in homosexual marriages, World Vision reversed their position because they ‘could not defer on things that are central to the faith.’ Of course, the Australian context is very different from that of the United States. But despite the significant hullabulloo, one of the key lessons of the sorry saga has been the danger of public Christianity drifting with the cultural tides of the day.”

Download the entire issue here as a 0.52 MB PDF File.

Charlotte Dawson (AAP)

Charlotte Dawson (AAP)

The very recent and very tragic death of Charlotte Dawson has brought the terrors of cyber-trolling to the forefront of Australian hearts and minds yet again.

It all started back in 2012, when after defending herself from voluminous vile and inexcusable remarks on Twitter back, the Australia’s Next Top Model judge tweeted ‘you win x’ alongside a picture of her hand, holding tablets.  She further tweeted, ‘Hope this ends the misery’ before attempting to end her life.  Sadly, and only two years after recovering from her suicide attempt, the end of this sorry saga of social media bullying came, as Dawson was found dead in her home last Saturday morning.

In response to this news, a rising chorus of campaigners are speaking out against the ills of cyber-bullying.  Em Mastronardi, a friend of Dawson’s, has begun a petition for tougher bullying legislation entitled Charlotte’s Law – which after only a few days has received 37,868 supporters.  John Caldwell, Victorian of the Year in 2014 and friend of Dawson, has joined the support, stating that her fight isn’t over: ‘I will not let the name Charlotte Dawson be forgotten and it will be synonymous with making a change to the bullying epidemic, that’s the goal.’  The social media vehicle of Dawson’s trolling, Twitter, has come under serious fire also, with Beyond Blue chief executive Kate Carnell critcising the organising for not doing enough to stop the keyboard cowards.

The Australian Church Record wishes to express our sympathies to the family of Charlotte Dawson.  Rallying alongside the voices pleading for calm online behaviour, the ACR will continue to push for more virtuous social media interaction, as we have done previously here, here and here.  We will continue to call Christians to let their online behaviour shine as lights among the oft-times crooked and perverted online world which we inhabit.  And we will pray that the Lord Jesus would be commended in our blameless and pure words and deeds (Phil 2:15).