The Importance of the Resurrection | Various Texts

The Importance of the Resurrection | Various Texts
Shaun Marksbury | Morning Service | 16 April, 2017

Only the resurrection gives us gospel hope, so much so that denying the resurrection means apostasy from the Christian faith.  With that in mind, we’re going to look at the implications the resurrection has for our lives in an attempt to see why it is so important.  I’m not presenting an exhaustive list, but hopefully it proves helpful.

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Notes 

SERMON NOTES

The Importance of the Resurrection | Various Texts
Shaun Marksbury | Morning Service | 16 April, 2017

I.               Introduction

Let’s open to and read 1 Cor 15:14–19,
“And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

I thought seriously about continuing with the Book of Mark this morning, planning to tie the next message to the miracle of the resurrection.  However, some factors this week caused me to rethink that and focus exclusively on the resurrection this Easter Sunday.  It seems most appropriate to discuss the paramount nature of the resurrection, how vital it is to our faith.

Consider that we live in a postmodern age, a culture that’s moving past truth.  It doesn’t matter what a person believes in, as long as they sincerely believe it and get something out of it.  It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, as long as someone feels more enlightened or spiritual or uplifted. 

On top of that, consider just how commercial Easter has become.  NBC News reported[1] that “Americans will spend $18.4 billion on Easter this year — 6 percent more than they did last year.”  That’s more than projected Valentine’s Day sales ($18.2 billion).  Of course, that story, while talking about piles of chocolate, toys, and activities, had nothing to say about Christianity or faith in general, unless you count a passing reference to the Easter Bunny.

The supposed civil religious conscious of America is waning.  More people than ever identify as “nones,” those who are entirely unaffiliated with any faith.  We had someone join our extended family several years ago who hadn’t even heard that Easter was a Christian holiday, and I suspect we will all encounter more people in the coming decades with no connection to a Christian heritage.  (I’m not saying that is completely bad, as we’ll have returned to a blank slate of sorts that may help evangelism, but that’s a topic for another time.)

We used to only question truth.  Every spring, people would explore whether important religious holidays were based on true events.  For instance, consider the Passover.  If any of you haven’t seen the documentary “Patterns of Evidence,”[2] I highly recommend it.  A rabbi argues that it doesn’t matter whether the Exodus happened or not—only the tradition commemorating the event matters.  The documentary goes on to prove the historical accuracy of the biblical account, but we see it questioned every year around this time.[3]

There’s also growing doubt concerning the historicity of the resurrection.  Again, that’s not new, but the belief that truth doesn’t matter in regards to religious belief is more pervasive.  A viral news story was published by the BBC—“A quarter of people who describe themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus.”[4]  Nearly as stunning were other results in the poll—“ Three in ten Christians surveyed (31%) said they did not believe in life after death.”  Perhaps this helps explain it—“Almost two in five Christians surveyed say that they never attend religious services (37%),” and “Just one fifth say they attend every week (20%).”

Part of this is a question of definition.  Just because someone identifies as a Christian does not necessarily make them one, and a rejection of the resurrection, the afterlife, and rare church attendance are strong indicators of false conversion, to say the least.  As one person tweeted this week, this story makes as much sense as saying that a quarter of atheists believe in God!

In a PJ Media post, Pastor Dan Phillips asks, “Why pretend to be what you aren’t?”  He continues:
There are literally no real benefits to a false claim to Christian faith. A false claim not only does not erase sins, it adds to them. It provides no reason to hope for Heaven, or God’s acceptance or love. In fact, it inoculates one to the real saving message of the Gospel, since one imagines he’s already checked that box – which he hasn’t. All such a person has to look forward to is hearing the words Jesus warns us He’ll say to “many” in the last day: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). They are all certain they’re “in” – saved, OK with God – and they’re all wrong.[5]

That’s why R. A. Torrey is quoted as saying that the resurrection of Christ is “the Gibraltar of Christian evidences, the Waterloo of infidelity.”[6]  Only the resurrection gives us gospel hope, so much so that denying the resurrection means apostasy from the Christian faith.  With that in mind, we’re going to look at the implications the resurrection has for our lives in an attempt to see why it is so important.  I’m not presenting an exhaustive list, but hopefully it proves helpful.

II.            First, the resurrection proves the existence of God.

Many an atheist rightly claims that miracles don’t normally happen.  There’s a natural order to this world which includes death.  That’s the point of a miracle—it is something that necessarily involves a suspension of the created order.  If a dead man gets up according to Old Testament predictions, then that speaks of the validity of the entire account. 

I was listening to James White this week, and he mentioned that even a theological liberal like John Dominic Crossan or a skeptic like Bart Ehrman won’t deny the historicity of Jesus’s crucifixion.  Even so, something happened in the days between Passover and Pentecost that changed everything.  As we read the four gospels, they agree that the tomb was empty.  The disciples, who were fearful, now boldly go forth with Christ’s message.  Acts 1:3 says, “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” 

The consistent testimony throughout the rest of the Book of Acts is that God the Father raised Jesus (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 33, 34, 37).  Peter says in Acts 2:24, “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death.”  V. 32 continues, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”  This isn’t something one person witnessed, but a fact to which all Scripture testifies. 

In Acts 10:40–41, we read, “God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”  So, this wasn’t a fleeting sighting of Jesus by grieving disciples, where they thought they might have saw Him in the face of a stranger on the other end of a crowded marketplace.  He came to them, taught them, they communed with Him, and it confirmed everything they knew about God and Scripture.

We could spend the rest of our time on this point, but my desire is to show what else the resurrection does.  There are many apologetic resources that go into the evidences of Christ’s resurrection.  For instance, Lee Stroble’s book The Case for Christ is a fascinating read that has is now a theatrical movie (if you don’t like to read books).  For the sake of time, though, let’s continue on to the next point.  

III.         The resurrection proves and seals Who Jesus is.

A.              It proves that He’s the Son of Abraham and the Son of David

That’s how the New Testament begins (Mt 1:1).  Peter says to the Jews in Acts 3:25–26, “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”  That’s the Abrahamic Covenant.

We can see in the resurrection not only the start of the Abrahamic Covenant’s blessing to the nations, but also the coronation of the Davidic Covenant.  One day, Christ will return to this earth and set up His kingdom.  Isaiah 9:7 says, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.”  None of this is possible if Christ remained in the grave; His resurrection foreshadows the glory that is to come (more on that in a few minutes).

B.              It proves and seals His deity

Jesus was sent by the Father to not only die for sin, but to rise again.  Jesus explains in John 10:17–18, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”  This means that Jesus is obeying the Father by rising from the dead.

More importantly, perhaps, is what the resurrection reveals about Jesus’s nature.  According to these verses, He wields supernatural authority, including choosing to lay down His life and to pick it up again to obey!  Elsewhere, Jesus says that He will give the sign of Jonah—only three days and three nights in the earth (Mt 12:40).  At the resurrection, we see that the words of Christ are not mere poetry, spiritual platitudes, or bluster; they’re the gospel truth and demonstrated with power.

Not only does the resurrection declare that Jesus is divine, but that He is sealed by the Holy Spirit.  Romans 1:4 says, “and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”  That means the Holy Spirit was also involved in the resurrection of Christ (cf. Rm 8:11).  As an aside, these two points mean that the entire Trinity was involved in the resurrection process! It also means that Jesus is and forever will be Who He claimed to be.

IV.         The resurrection is an inseparable component of the gospel.

Christ opened the Scriptures to the disciples and explained “that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24:45–47).  When Paul preached in an area, he preached the gospel message, which said that Jesus “was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.”

How is the resurrection a component of the gospel?  Well, besides the fact that Paul says so in 1 Cor 15, here are some other considerations.

A.              It assures us of our justification.

Romans 4:24–25 says, “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”  James Montgomery Boice says, “It might better be translated, ‘Jesus was put to death because we had transgressed, and he was raised because we were justified.’ The resurrection is God’s declaration that he has accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for human sin.”[7]  This means that Jesus Christ seals our justification in the resurrection.  This also means that we don’t need to strive for justification—He already sealed it.

Sub-Christian teaching and belief has justification as a reward of a life of good works or acts of love.  For instance, the both the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church remove the point of justification from belief to after a life that is lived.  This is why the doctrine of sola fide, faith alone, is also so vital to the gospel—it calls us to trust in the resurrection as a means of accomplishing our justification, not our own works. 

B.              It assures us of sanctification.

Being saved means that God justifies us and cleanses us from unrighteousness.  The latter half of that is sanctification, where we are now set apart for His service or made holy.  We are no longer enslaved to the things of earth, the wiles of the enemy or the sin that indwells us.

We have new life in Christ.  We read that “the immeasurable greatness of his power” moves “toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:19–20).  So, the power that raised Christ is at work in our souls to help us live righteously in this world.  Romans 6:4 says, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Having new life means that we are morally responsible to live it out.  In 1 Cor 15:58, we read, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”  Because of all this truth, we should live according to it. 

How do we live steadfast, immovable, and abounding lives?  Well, to put it one way, if you trust in Christ, you don’t have to live like a sinner—you’re free.  To put it another way, the resurrection of Christ makes it possible for you to walk according to His sanctifying Spirit.  This comes out more in the next truth:

C.              It assures us of our regeneration.

I struggle with what order to put this in, as justification, sanctification, and regeneration are all induced in the believer by God’s grace alone through faith alone.  You can’t be unregenerate but also justified.  You can’t be heading to heaven but not also sanctified for God on earth.  All of these go hand-in-hand, and regeneration specifically refers to the new life we have in the Spirit because of the resurrection.

Peter says in 1 Peter 1:3 that God “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  That means that we would have no regeneration without the resurrection of Jesus.  So, in John 3, when Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be “born again,” He spoke of something that would specifically be possible after His death, burial, and resurrection. 

While God did regenerate Old Testament saints, they did not receive the specific regeneration that Christ offers as part of the New Covenant.  Ezekiel 36:26–27 predicts, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”  The resurrection of Christ ensures a unique and essential regeneration of the soul available in Him—it ensures that we can be born again.

D.             It assures us of future glorification.

Christ is victorious over the things of earth, including death, foreshadowing the glory that is to come in His kingdom.  So, the resurrection also reflects the glorious truth of our eternal security in Christ.  Jesus’s departing words in the Upper Room included Jn 14:19—“Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”

Christ’s was the “first fruits” of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:20, 23)—the first and best in a line of those receiving future glorification.  Jesus’s body “put on immortality” (v. 53), and our resurrection bodies will be raised imperishable, in glory, in power, and spiritual (vv. 42–44).  Romans 6:5 says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”  In 1 Th 4:14, we read, “ For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.”  In short, if Jesus is raised, then we who are in Him will be, too!

We are secure in this knowledge, as well.  Rm 8:1–11 lays out the case that we have now no condemnation in Christ, and that His resurrection promises that God will give to our mortal bodies new life. 

This truth grants immeasurable comfort, even now in the intermediate state between the Christ’s resurrection and our future resurrection.  Boice records the following concerning the death of DL Moody:
Moody had been declining for some time, and the family had taken turns being with him. On the morning of his death, his son, who was standing by the bedside, heard him exclaim, “Earth is receding; heaven is opening; God is calling.”

“You are dreaming, Father,” the son said.

Moody answered, “No, Will, this is no dream. I have been within the gates. I have seen the children’s faces.” For a while it seemed as if Moody were reviving, but he began to slip away again. He said, “Is this death? This is not bad; there is no valley. This is bliss. This is glorious.” By this time his daughter was present, and she began to pray for his recovery. He said, “No, no, Emma, don’t pray for that. God is calling. This is my coronation day. I have been looking forward to it.” Shortly after that Moody was received into heaven. At the funeral the family and friends joined in a joyful service. They spoke. They sang hymns. They heard the words proclaimed: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55–57 KJV). Moody’s death was a part of that victory.[8]

V.            The resurrection warns of the coming judgment.

I wanted to end with this point.  While we remember a number of wonderful truths related to Christ’s resurrection, one looms for those who have never trusted in Christ.  The resurrection is not all good news, for when Paul addressed the Greeks on Mars Hill, he finished with these words: God “has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). 

If Jesus is raised, then He is the coming Judge of sin.  He became intimately acquainted with it on the cross.  While those who trust in Him have nothing to fear from this future judgment, God assures us through the resurrection that those outside of Christ will pay their own penalty. 
As you conscience grows heavy with sin and sorrow, know that the only refuge is in Christ.  In Him you will find the good news you so desperately need to hear.  In Him will you find justification, sanctification, and regeneration.  And if you trust in Him, you know that He will keep you secure.





[1] Nichole Spector, “Americans Will Spend How Much on Easter Candy This Year?!” NBC News, April 13, 2017.  Available at http://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/americans-will-spend-how-much-easter-candy-year-n745956.
[3] As a recent example, consider this Op-Ed in the LA Times, “Does it matter if the Passover story is literally true?” by Eric Schwitzgebel, available at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-schwitzgebel-passover-falsity-20170409-story.html.
[4] “Resurrection did not happen, say quarter of Christians,” BBC, April 9, 2017.  Available at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-39153121.
[5] Daniel J. Phillips, “Words Mean Things — Including the Word ‘Christian,’ ” April 11, 2017
[6] James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive & Readable Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 341.
[7] James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive & Readable Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 344.
[8] James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive & Readable Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 346–347.

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