The Resurrection

For the last several months, we have been considering different aspects of the Gospel Jesus Christ. First, we considered the Incarnation of the Son of God, then his perfect life (Active and Passive Obedience), and last month we looked at the Atonement. Naturally, the next aspect of the Gospel that we are focusing on is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Hopefully, we already understand that the Resurrection is a vital aspect of the Gospel, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” In other words, without the Resurrection of Jesus, the Christian faith is basically pointless. So, we’d all agree that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is important, but how exactly does the Resurrection save us? In other words, what makes the Resurrection good news? Let’s find out!

Resurrection and Our Salvation
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a supernatural historical event that is well attested in the Biblical data. Thus, it is not something that is mentioned in passing as a minor detail, but the Resurrection is central to the Biblical story of God redeeming his people. However, the Resurrection is more than just an important historical event, it actually does something for us!

In his Resurrection from the dead, the Lord Jesus accomplished our redemption, and that redemption is applied to us by the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit who raised him from the dead (Rom. 1:4). When we talk about our redemption is accomplished, what we are talking about is redemptive history. When we talk about our redemption applied, we are talking about our salvation. Redemption accomplished and redemption applied both have an order to them.
For example, the Gospel, or redemption accomplished, is chronological according to the work of Christ: Incarnation Perfect Life Atoning Death Resurrection Ascension Enthronement Return.
Likewise, our salvation, or redemption applied, has a logical order to it, according to how the Spirit applies salvation to us: Effectual Calling (Union) Regeneration Conversion (Faith & Repentance) Justification Adoption Sanctification Perseverance Glorification.

So, when it comes to redemption accomplished by Christ, the question that we should ask with each aspect of the Gospel is, “how does this particular work of Christ, save us? How is it connected to redemption applied?” That is what we will do this month with the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is important because it helps us to take the work of Christ and see how it actually saves us from our sin and gives us eternal life!

Therefore, “how does the Resurrection of Jesus Christ save us?” Let’s find out by looking at Scripture and the theology that flows from it!

Resurrection and Union with Christ
All of the benefits that we receive from Christ come from our union with Christ. Union with Christ is that spiritual, mystical, life-giving, unbreakable union that the elect have with Christ, wherein we receive the work of Christ for our salvation. As John Murray wrote,

“Union with Christ is…the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation…It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption; it underlies every aspect of it.”

Union with Christ is how the work of Christ on our behalf becomes our salvation. We are united to Christ in our Effectual Calling. Our Larger Catechism puts it this way,

The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling. (WLC 66)
Thus, when we are united to Christ, we are united to the whole Christ. As our confession puts it,

“All saints that are united to Jesus Christ their head, by his Spirit and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory…” (WCF 26.1)

In other words, we are united to the incarnate, perfectly obedient, crucified, risen, ascended, and enthroned Christ. As Paul says,

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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. 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.” (Rom. 6:3–5)

This is how we are able to receive the benefits of not only his resurrection but all aspects of the gospel, which is why Paul can say,

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” (Eph. 2:1, 4–5)

And also,

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Col. 3:1)

Having established our Union with the Risen Christ as the fount for receiving the benefits of Christ’s work, we now consider the benefits of the Resurrection of Christ that we receive through our Union with him.

Resurrection and Regeneration
Often, when evangelical Christians talk about their status in Christ, they say that they are “born-again Christians.” This is true, but also redundant. It is true because it is biblical, and it is redundant because all Christians are “born-again Christians.” Consider the words of our Lord Jesus in John 3:3,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

And the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 1:23, 25,

“You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…and this word is the good news that was preached to you.”

And the first Epistle of John 5:1,

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God…”

Thus, anyone who is a Christian is a Christian only because they have been born again, born from above, or born of God. This is a spiritual rebirth, also known in theology as “Regeneration.” Regeneration is when the Spirit of God gives us new life in Christ. This happens in our Union with Christ as we are given a new heart and are born anew. This is when the Christian life begins, which is why it is called “Regeneration,” which means “new birth.”

Regeneration is not arbitrary, as if the Spirit floats around and arbitrarily makes random people regenerate. The elect of God, who are chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world, are made new when the Holy Spirit applies the work of Christ to us through the preaching of the Gospel. Regeneration is intimately connected to the work of Christ, particularly his Resurrection.

How is it connected to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Peter tells us –

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3–5)

We are born again through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. That is good news indeed!

Resurrection and Conversion
Conversion is a work of the Spirit wherein he gives us faith and enables us to repent (turn from our sin and turn to God for our salvation). On the Day of Pentecost, when Peter preached the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead from Psalm 16, we hear of many souls being converted. We pick up in Acts 2:37,

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Having heard the good news of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, the Jews who put Jesus on the cross, believed (faith) and turned from their sin and turned to God (repentance). In other words, through the preaching of the Resurrection, they were converted. This makes sense since the Apostle Paul tells us this,

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

And the Apostle Peter,

“[Christ] was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you, who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”  

Therefore, our faith is inextricably linked to the Resurrection of Jesus, and our faith is tied to our conversion. Without believing in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we are not converted, and thus, we are not saved.  

Resurrection and Justification
Continuing on in the logical order of our salvation, we come to the doctrine of Justification, which our catechism defines thus,
“Justification is an act of God’s free grace wherein he pardons all our sins, and accepts us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” (WSC 33)

Justification answers the question, “How can we be righteous before God?” The answer: God gives us the righteousness of Christ.

It is clear in Scripture that this happens through the incarnation, perfect life, and atoning death of Jesus, but is our justification also connected to the Resurrection of Jesus? Indeed, it is. As Paul writes,

“[Righteousness] will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:24–25)

And as he argues the importance of the Resurrection, he says this,

“If the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Thus, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ has the power to justify sinners before God. How does this work? Charles Hodge explained,

“His resurrection was necessary, first, as proof that his death had been accepted as expiation for our sins. Had he not risen, it would have been evident that he was not what he claimed to be. We would be yet dead in our sins, and therefore still under condemnation. Our ransom, in that case, instead of being publicly accepted, had been rejected.”

And in a similar vein, William Hendriksen,

“He was raised in order to assure us that in the sight of God we are indeed without sin…all those who acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Savior have entered into a state of righteousness in the eyes of God. The Father, by raising Jesus from the dead, assures us that the atoning sacrifice has been accepted; hence, our sins are forgiven.”

Because the death of Christ and his Resurrection are connected, without the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would still be dead in our sins. But as it is, Christ lives, and thus, his death is effectual. Thus, we can rightly say with the Apostle Paul, that Jesus was raised for our justification. Praise God for this.

Resurrection and Sanctification 
All those who are Justified, will also be Sanctified. What is Sanctification?

“Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die to sin, and live unto righteousness.” (WSC 35)

Sanctification takes place through the Christian life as the Spirit of God makes us holy as he enables us to die to our sin and live unto righteousness. But what does this have to do with the Resurrection of Jesus? Paul tells us,

“Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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. 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.” (Romans 6:1–5)

If what was said earlier regarding being united to the whole Christ – and it is – that means we are united to the incarnate, perfectly obedient, and crucified Christ; therefore, we are also united to the Risen Christ. Thus, we died with him on the Cross and have been raised with him in his Resurrection. Because we are united to his Resurrection, Paul tells us that the life we now live is one of walking in newness of life, that is we are enabled to die to our sin (Cross) and live unto Christ (Resurrection). As John Murray put it,

“Sanctification, no less than justification, springs from the efficacy of Christ’s death and the virtue of his resurrection.”

And our confession states,

“They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (WCF 13.1)

Because of the virtue of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, we are sanctified by the power of the Spirit as he enables us to die to sin and live unto righteousness, or as Paul says, “walking in newness of life.”

Resurrection and Glorification

The final aspect of our salvation that is connected to the Resurrection of Christ, is our glorification. Glorification in this sense refers to the receiving of our own glorified bodies at the general resurrection of the dead, when all people, great and small will be brought before the throne of Christ on the Day of Judgment.

Believers, who in their lives were regenerated, converted, justified, and sanctified through the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, will be given glorified resurrection bodies, just like Christ had, and be brought into the Kingdom of God to enjoy eternal life in his presence.

Paul argues that we will have glorified bodies based on the fact that Jesus, when he rose from the dead, had a glorified body. Rather than being in the stages of decay, or simply being a spirit, Jesus showed his disciples that he had a similar body to the one that he had before, only better. Consider this Resurrection appearance,

“As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’ But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.” (Luke 24:36–42)

Jesus was not bleeding, he was not rotting, quite the opposite! He still had the marks on his hands and his feet, but he was able to walk, talk, and even eat! From this, Paul teaches that the glorified body of Christ is a first-fruits of our own glorified bodies that we will receive at the resurrection unto eternal life,

“Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–23)

Since Christ is the first-fruits of the resurrected body that we will receive, the Risen Christ serves as evidence that harvest will be good and our glorified bodies will be like his. Paul continues,

“So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable…I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:42, 50–53)

Thus, the Resurrection of Christ serves as substantive proof that believers who are united to him will receive similar glorified bodies and enjoy eternal life in his eternal Kingdom.

To summarize, because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, Christians who are united to Christ have been regenerated, converted, justified, are being sanctified, and will be glorified. It’s safe to say the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is Good News!

Hopefully, this study has proven to be helpful for you as we seek to understand how the Gospel – (redemption accomplished) is connected to our salvation (redemption applied). The Resurrection is an essential aspect of the Gospel, and as such, it is vital for our salvation. Praise God for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!