Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change
Three excerpts at a time from the new book by Brian G. Hedges

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Excerpt 3 of 22

....To summarize, Christ died for our sins and in our place. In his substitutionary work on the cross, Jesus saved us from the consequences of our sins.
·       Through propitiation, he became our curse and bore the wrath we deserved.
·       In redeeming us, he paid the ransom that set us free from slavery.
·       He also rescued us from the darkness of this present evil age.
·       Through reconciliation, he removed the hostility separating us from God.
·       And he triumphed over our enemies: sin, Satan, and death.
These glorious achievements of the cross show why it lies at the heart of the gospel.

The Power of Christ’s Resurrection

Jesus, of course, did not remain on the cross or stay in the grave. The Christian message would not be good news if there were nothing to report beyond Good Friday. But there is a report. “He was raised on the third day, in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:4). The news is good because Jesus is alive!

What did Paul mean when he claimed that Christ was raised? Did he simply mean the spirit of Jesus had gone to heaven after he died? That Jesus had passed into life-after-death? Did he mean that he and others had seen visions of Jesus or had been visited by the spirit of Christ or had a sense of his abiding presence with them? If asked, as one hymn does, “You ask me how I know he lives?” would Paul have answered, “He lives within my heart”? What does resurrection mean?

The Resurrection is Physical 

First, Paul meant that the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth—the same body that was killed through crucifixion, wrapped in linens, and laid in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb—was raised out of death into glorious, physical life. In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, Paul named some of the many eyewitnesses of the risen Christ (including himself) as proof. When he wrote these words, many of those witnesses were still alive.

In one appearance, Jesus ate fish with his disciples, proving the tangibility and physicality of his resurrection body (Luke 24:33-43). As Luke says, Jesus “presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to [the apostles] during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The resurrection means that the body of Jesus emerged from death in glorious triumph!

The Resurrection is Eschatological 

The resurrection of Christ is not only physical; it is eschatological. This means it belongs to, and effectively inaugurates, the age to come. This is why Paul draws the connection between the resurrection of Christ in the past and the resurrection of believers in the future.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits 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 firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Cor. 15:20-26)

Notice that Paul calls the resurrection of Christ “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (v. 20). This agricultural term derives its significance from the Old Testament, where worshipers brought their “firstfruits” sacrifices each year at the beginning of the spring harvest (Exod. 23:19; Lev. 23:10-11). The firstfruits offering was not only the first and best offering, it represented the entire harvest.[i]

His resurrection is not an isolated event in the past. Rather, in its undeniably full-bodied, past historicity, it belongs, in a manner of speaking, to the future. It can be said to be from the future and to have entered the past and to be controlling the present from that future. In Christ’s resurrection . . . the age-to-come has begun, the new creation has actually dawned, eschatology has been inaugurated.[ii]

As C. S. Lewis observes,

The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the “first fruits,” the “pioneer of life.” He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has been opened.[iii]

[i] Richard B. Gaffin Jr., By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation (Waynesboro, GA: Paternoster Press, 2006), 59.
[ii] Ibid., 60-61.
[iii] C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1947) 236-237.