The Resurrection - the Fundamental Truth of the Gospel: Chapter 1

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Many have, perhaps, been able, in looking at the Church's hope in Christ, to see the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection; but the more we search the Scriptures, the more we perceive, in this doctrine, the fundamental truth of the Gospel―that truth which gives to redemption its character, and to all other truths their real power. For instance, who does not know that Christianity has its root and its foundation in that solemn and all-important event, the death of our blessed Savior? But if it had been possible that death could have held the Savior in his power; death, instead of being the foundation of joy and the certainty of salvation, would have been the source of a black despair which nothing could have dissipated.
It is the resurrection which throws its bright beams even into the dark tomb of Christ, the tomb of the only righteous One, and the trophy of the apparent victory of the prince of this world. It is the resurrection which explains the reason of that momentary submission to the power of the devil and subjection to the necessary judgment of God. We see also how this truth characterizes the preaching of the apostles. We read (Acts 4) that the priests were " grieved that they preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead." " This Jesus," said they, " hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses; " and when they were about to choose some one to fill the vacancy which the crime and death of Judas had made in the number of the apostles, Peter, standing up in the midst of them, declared that the resurrection ought to be the solemn subject of their testimony: Wherefore," said he, " of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be (genesthai) a witness with us of his resurrection." And not to multiply passages, Paul says, " If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins: " (1 Cor. 15) and the whole chapter shows us the importance of the resurrection of believers, as well as that of Christ Himself-two truths indissolubly united and developed in the New Testament. And it is a remarkable thing, amidst the subtleties and resources of Satan, that as he opposed the pretended righteousness of the Pharisees to the perfect and divine righteousness of Christ our Savior, so had he prepared the incredulity of the Sadducees to oppose this fundamental doctrine of the resurrection, preached by the apostles who were witnesses of it (Acts 5:1717Then the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him, (which is the sect of the Sadducees,) and were filled with indignation, (Acts 5:17)).
It is by this doctrine of the resurrection. and by the glory which shall follow the resurrection itself, that the foundation and the hopes of the christian faith are bound together; and by the same doctrine it is that justification and that which is the power of the christian life―sanctification,* are necessarily united.
It is commonly said that the resurrection of Christ is the proof of the truth of the christian religion, and the demonstration that the work of Christ in His death was accomplished.
(* The believer is sanctified through and in Christ, and it is his actual sanctification which is the source of all practical holiness: he is holy, and therefore is to be " holy in all manner of conversation." This principle, that God has sanctified us and that therefore we are to be holy in spirit and ways, has ever been the same. God has separated from existing evil to Himself, and then given a variety of directions to keep the so separated person in practical separation. See, as to Israel's sanctification, Lev. 20:24-2624But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the Lord your God, which have separated you from other people. 25Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. 26And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. (Leviticus 20:24‑26). Sanctification now is God's separation of individuals from the world unto Himself in Christ, so that those so separated are "not of the world, even as Christ was not of the world." They are in Him as risen and sanctified in the power of a new life, if this be real in them.)
That is indeed a truth for infidels. If we would prove the truth of Christianity to those who do not believe, the fact of the resurrection is the pivot, so to speak, on which the evidence of its truth turns. God gave it for this end. But for Christians, for those who already believe in the blessed Savior, for those whose hope is already founded on the certainty of the word, and who desire to find the power of that word in their souls, the resurrection, as set forth in the Scriptures, contains much more.
The misery of the Church, and one of the consequences of her long slumber, has been to be satisfied with having, by the grace of God, recovered, as far as it is indeed the case, the truth of the completeness of the work of Christ. There Christians are too often apt to stop, or rather in the hope of having a part in it. We little think of searching the word to discover the riches contained in it, to find the revelation of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, the portion and heritage of every one born of God.
Sometimes this indolence of the flesh excuses itself under the name of wisdom, which would avoid speculative knowledge; sometimes even under an outward activity which has little real power, because it is habit and duty (or at least it is the consequence of habit and duty) and not the expression of the life of a soul constrained by the love of Christ acting powerfully in it. It is not thus with lively Christians: they hunger and thirst after God. And where shall they find that which shall satisfy their desires, if not in Christ, and in all the glory which is His, in the goodness and power He has shown forth, and which alone can satisfy the souls of His believing people?
Paul had none of those thoughts, wise as they may seem according to the flesh, when he spoke of the doctrine in question. He regarded all things as loss in comparison of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord, for whom he had suffered the loss of all things, and counted them but dung, so that he might have Christ as his gain and be found in Him, not having his own righteousness, which was of the law, but that which was of faith in Christ, the righteousness of God by faith; that he might know Jesus Christ, and the power of His resurrection from among the dead. One thing he did, forgetting the things which were behind and reaching forth to those which were before, he pressed toward the mark for the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3).
He found, then, in the resurrection, not only the evidence of the foundation of his faith (Rom. 1:44And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (Romans 1:4)) and the proof of the accomplishment of the satisfaction for sin (1 Cor. 15:1717And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)), but much more still. The resurrection was, to this apostle of the faith as well as to Peter, the object and source of a living hope, the power of the life within. He sought to know the power of the resurrection; he suffered the loss of all things, if by any means he might attain unto it. If the Church has lost her life, her spiritual power, it is not by concealing from herself that which acted with such energy on the soul of the apostle Paul, which presented itself as the dawn of blessing to the mind of Peter, that she can hope to recover it. Beloved brethren, let us then seek the truth on this point and examine the blessed word of our God, that we may be instructed on these powerful objects of faith; and may the Spirit of God guide us into all truth, according to His gracious promise―a promise He never fails to fulfill; let us then expect its accomplishment!
I said that the foundation and the hopes of the christian faith are bound up together in this truth. 1 Cor. 15, clearly shows the resurrection to be the object of christian hope. As it regards ourselves, the same chapter teaches us that it is also its foundation. " If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins."
With regard to the person of Christ (the fundamental truth of the whole of Christianity), we find that He was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:44And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: (Romans 1:4)). In the same Epistle we read, " who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification" (4:25). In chap. 8. of the same Epistle we find that the glory of the risen Christ is the object of our hope: " He has predestinated us to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren " (ver. 29). What can be more beautiful, more striking? The manner in which these are brought together is very clear. The Church sees Christ glorified at the right hand of God. There she sees the evidence that all has been accomplished for her, and that a righteousness belongs to her in the person of Christ, which will not defile even the throne of God. But in this glory she also sees the result of that righteousness (see Phil. 2:6-116Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6‑11)). She sees in the person of Christ the glory consequent upon it; that is to say, the glory which belongs also to the Church herself, as participating in this righteousness, by union with Christ: " The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them " (John 17:2222And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: (John 17:22)). Here we have the true sense of Gal. 5:55For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. (Galatians 5:5): " We, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." We do not wait for righteousness, we have it already in Christ by faith. Such is specially the position of the Church. Justified by faith, but seeing in Christ not only this righteousness accomplished, but also the glory, and, so to speak, the recompense consequent upon it, we, as justified, as filled with the Spirit through which we thus behold Christ-the Spirit whose presence is the seal of that righteousness, we wait for the glory as that which belongs to us, as that which is due to the righteousness in which we participate.
The use which Paul makes of this truth as regards the justification of the sinner, is very remarkable; and we shall see that, by laying the resurrection as the foundation of justification by faith, justification is inseparably united to sanctification. In the end of Rom. 3, the apostle had spoken of the blood of Christ, as the thing which God had proposed as the object of justifying faith. In chap. 4., he continues the subject; and speaking of the justification of Abraham, he proves that he was justified by faith: but the subject of his faith was, that his seed should equal the stars in number. How could such a truth as this become the subject of a justifying faith? We have the apostle's answer: " he considered not his own body now dead," " being fully persuaded, that what God had promised, He was able also to perform; and therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness; and not to him only, but to us also, if we believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead." Faith, then, in the power of " God, who quickeneth the dead," was the faith that justified Abraham. Peter gives the same character to justifying faith: "You," says he, " who by him do believe in God that raised Him up from the dead " (1 Peter 1:2121Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (1 Peter 1:21)).
The Church sees Christ dead for the sins that she had committed: this is the end of all that she had done, as descended from the first Adam; of all that the members do, as having in them by extraction from him, the nature of the first Adam. The amazing love of the Savior led Him to put Himself in the place of the Church, and to become her substitute in meeting the pains of death, the just judgment of the most holy God, and the sufferings consequent upon His wrath-a judgment which He felt in all its power (because He was Himself holy) even according to the power of God-wrath of which He felt all the weight, all the horror, because He loved according to the love of God. He, I say, having given Himself unto death for that object, giving up the ghost, bowed beneath the weight of our sins. Satan, the prince of this world, who had the power of death, though finding nothing in Christ to give him power over Him, rejoiced in his victory over the only just One, the only hope of the world, saying, by the mouth of his servants, " Aha! aha! " and death boasted of having swallowed its only noble Victim. But its joy was short; the triumph of the prince of darkness was but the display of his defeat. He had had to meet, not men captive in his power in the first Adam, but the Captain of our salvation. He had had to enter into combat with. Him-he had had to put forth all his power, all his strength, against Him who had taken our cause in hand. But Christ had submitted Himself to the justice of God, not to those who persecuted Him whom God had stricken. The devil outwardly carried out the sentence, because he had the power of death over us by the judgment of God, but the sentence itself was God's justice against us; and God's justice was satisfied, and Satan's power destroyed: " Through death, he destroyed him who had the power of death" (Heb. 2:1414Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; (Hebrews 2:14)).
The resurrection shone upon the world, like the rising of the sun. Faith alone beheld it, the faith of those whose eyes were opened to see the great and sure result of the combat, the consequences of this judgment of God-the faith of those whom God had chosen to, give testimony to the complete victory of Him, who alone had undertaken, who alone could undertake the combat; to give testimony, I say, to a world whose blinding by Satan was clearly demonstrated. The victory was gained by Christ alone; but the Church, as the object of it, participates in all its results. It is very much to lower the position of the Church, merely to say she is blessed by Christ, blessed of God. She is blessed with Christ; she is the companion of His glory, the co-heritor of all the promises.
She has fellowship with Him who blesses; she enters into the joy of her Lord. Partaker of the divine nature, she feels derivatively, and in communion with Him who is its source, the joy, the delight which the God of love finds in blessing, because He is love itself. How is it, then, that the Church participates here below in the victory of Christ, and in the fruits of that victory? It is by union with Him, who has been to every one of her members a quickening Spirit, and has quickened them and united them to Himself as members of His body.
Christ is their life, and they are rendered partakers, in virtue of their union with Him, of all the consequences of what He has done, of all that is in Him, as risen, of all the favor in which He stands before God―a' life and union which make them the objects of the satisfaction which God takes in Him, and which will make them, when the time is come, participators in all the glory to which He is heir, and in which He will be manifested. The Church is looked at by God, and consequently by faith also, as dead with Christ: her sins being put upon Him, the remembrance of them before God is buried in the grave of Christ. As the just God, He remembers them no more: to do so would be not to estimate aright the blood of Christ, not to be just towards Him. " He is faithful and just to forgive us."
The blood of Christ, and not our sins, is before the eyes of God. He esteems us as bought with the price of His blood.
But the saints are also looked at as risen with Christ, living before the Father in the life of Christ, chastised by the Father (who loves them perfectly as He loves the Son Himself) when they turn aside from the ways which please Him-ways suitable to such a life, to such a union. " I am the vine," said Jesus, " my Father is the husbandman." God righteously regards us in Christ, our sins being gone in the cross. In love He chastens us as being in Christ, when we do not walk in His ways according to the power of the risen Christ, as co-heritors of the glory which He inherited in resurrection.
The Scriptures speak thus on the subject: " Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son " (Col. 1:12,1312Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: (Colossians 1:12‑13)).
" Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the hand-writing of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in kit " (Col. 2:12-1512Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. 13And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; 14Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; 15And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (Colossians 2:12‑15)). The victory of Satan over the first Adam rendered him master of his possessions and of his inheritance: " The creature is subject to vanity." The victory of the Second Adam over Satan spoiled him of all that which he had taken from the first Adam.
God, in the loving-kindness and wisdom of His counsels, has not yet manifested the results; but the victory is fully gained. The Church knows it-at least she ought to know it. The consequences to us are these: " If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:1-41If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1‑4)). The prayer of the apostle for the Ephesians on the same subject, runs thus: " The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling," the calling of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory (He is called the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, because Christ is regarded as head of the Church and as man), " and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all." And when we " were dead in sins," continues the Spirit by the mouth of the apostle, " he hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:5;65Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:5)). The saints, then, are regarded by God as risen with Christ, and consequently as perfectly justified from all their sins. They are clean, according to the cleanness with which Christ appears before God, being presented to God in Him and with Him. But how does the saint actually now participate in blessings so great? It is by partaking of that life, in the power of which Christ is risen. Thus it is, then, that by the doctrine of the resurrection, as it is set forth in the Scriptures, justification and sanctification become necessarily united; thus it is that I share in the righteousness of God, by being quickened with the life in which Christ was raised from the dead, coming up out of the grave, all our trespasses being forgiven. But this life is the life of holiness here below. It is the source of holiness in us: it is holiness itself, the life of God in us. It is in this that we have the will to belong to God, acknowledging the grace which has redeemed us, and convinced that our life is not of us but of God. It is in the power of this life that we seek the things which are above, which are in Christ and which are His, that our affections are carried out towards God; and in this consists true sanctification, the old man being judged as dead, because Christ has died on account of it. " The body is dead on account of sin "―that is its only fruit―" the spirit is life Because of righteousness." Christ then, in giving us the life, which is a new and holy nature in us, makes us partakers of all that He has done for us as risen from the dead, and of all His acceptance before the Father of glory.
Moreover, we cannot rightly estimate sin but by the resurrection, and for this reason, it is the doctrine of the resurrection, and of our being raised with Christ, which teaches us that we were dead in sin. Otherwise it would perhaps be a healing, an amelioration of man such as he is, a preservation from death by the help of Christ, a troubling of the waters, that we might plunge into them ourselves and be healed. In this way it is, that the natural man looks at the extent of sin, as the Jews, and Martha and Mary expressed it, when they said, " Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? " " If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died."
But if we have been raised with Christ, it is because we were dead in our sins. The doctrine of our entire misery, our complete fall, flows from, and (so to speak) springs out of, this truth: and the blessing is proportionate; for death is passed, and everything that belongs to the old man is dead, through faith, with Him. We have another life quite new, in which we live, saying, " We are debtors, not to the flesh to live after the flesh " (Rom. 8:1212Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. (Romans 8:12)).
(To be continued.)