“But now is Christ risen from the dead.”
Those are words of perfect comfort, triumph, and victory for every child of God.
Do your sins trouble you? Are they a burden pressing down upon your heart? Do you wonder how God could possibly call you His child?
Christ is risen from the dead!
By rising on the third day, He declares that the sins of God’s elect people are now gone. His resurrection supplies the undisputed proof that our sins, which He bore, are nailed to the tree of the cross and we bear them no more.
Do you struggle against your sins? Have you ever grown weary, even disgusted? You see yourself sin so repeatedly, openly, and deliberately? Christ is risen from the dead. The power of His resurrection life is placed in every elect believer-a power which is victorious. The life of Christ cannot perish. That life renews us each day unto repentance and sorrow, unto faith and trust. He said, “Because I live, ye live also.”
Are you afraid of death? Do sorrows and loneliness and waves of darkness come upon you today? Christ is risen from the dead! Death has no more sting for those who belong to Him. The grave has no victory. Death has met something more powerful than itself. Belonging to the risen Lord, we may look into our own grave, face our own mortality, and with confidence say, “Thou wilt not leave me in the grave, but Thou wilt show me the path of life.”
For every child of God there is hope, victory, and assurance in the resurrection gospel: Now is Christ risen from the dead.
It is not very hard to see that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. In I Corinthians 15 Paul argues from that point of view. There he writes: “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (v. 17). We would have hope only for this life. If there is no resurrection, then those who have died in Jesus are not raised either. But, the apostle asserts, Christ is risen from the dead!
We will not spend our time today disputing with unbelief which denies His resurrection. We will not waste our time with those who are willfully ignorant. When we say that Christ is risen, we do not mean that He lives on in our memory. We do not mean that His influential life and teaching have left their mark today. But we take God’s Word plainly to teach that Jesus arose, body and soul, and now, in His glorified body, is in heaven. We know that. We know that He is risen because He lives within our hearts. Christ, in you, says the apostle ( Col. 1), the hope of glory. We are risen with Christ. We are given the most absolute proof of His resurrection. He lives within us by His Holy Spirit.
The resurrection brings to us great blessings. You ask, What are those blessings?
First of all, the blessing is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof of pardon. The resurrection of our Lord looks back, first of all, to the cross. It declares that all that Jesus sought to do upon the cross is, in fact, accomplished. The empty tomb proclaims a successful cross. The risen Lord is the certification, the testimony, of God that the purposes of God in the cross have indeed been attained.
Exactly what was the purpose of God in giving up His Son to the cross? That purpose was nothing less than pardon-to blot out our sins, to provide a payment for the sins of His children. That purpose of God had to do with righteousness. Righteousness means that one is able to stand before God; that God would find no fault in him; that God would say, “You are in harmony with My own law.” And we know that we, of ourselves, are unrighteous. All of us are out of line with God. We have broken His law. We are perverse and therefore guilty and damnable before God in ourselves. But God’s purpose was to give His Son for pardon, to take away transgressions, to stand in the place of the offended law of God, and to suffer that which our sins deserve-all the sins of God’s elect. We may make it very personal. God’s intention, God’s purpose in placing His Son upon the tree of Calvary, was to pardon my sins by punishing my sins on Jesus Christ who was given to be in my place.
So Jesus died upon the cross. And He yielded up His Spirit unto God. Immediately at His death there were mighty signs of which we read: the graves of many saints were opened, rocks were broken in half, the veil of the temple was torn in twain. But then, all was silent. A small funeral procession came to take His body from the cross to the grave. Night fell. He is placed within the sepulcher and the sepulcher is sealed. All is quiet.
And then is the gospel: He arose! As the declaration that all that He was sent to accomplish upon the cross was in fact accomplished, pardoned. The sins of God’s elect cannot be found. Righteousness has been earned for them. The punishment due to their sins is forever gone. They now stand before God clean and innocent.
How do I know that? God raised Him from the dead. The resurrection, you see, is God’s testimony, first of all. It is His testimony that His Son, who represents all of His children, is not worthy of death. He is not fit for the grave. There is no fault in His Son. He must be raised to life. And that is the Scriptures.
We read in Romans 4:25 that Christ was delivered on account of our offenses and was raised on account of our justification. “On account of” means “the reason.” He was delivered to the cross because of our offenses. The cross was then not a mistake. It was not a tragic misunderstanding. No! He was delivered to die that death of the cross because of our offenses. And He was raised because of our justification-because, by taking away our sins, He had now declared us just, righteous before God. Because we were indeed righteous, our sins gone, Jesus arose from the grave.
We read again in Romans 8, that beautiful chapter on Christian assurance, that chapter which begins with the wonderful words, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those which are in Christ Jesus.” There the apostle Paul, in verse 34, issues a challenge: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again.” The apostle is confident that no one can lay a charge of condemnation against God’s chosen and elect. Why? Was it because the apostle was ignorant of sin? Was he simply standing there in rash boldness? Oh, no. He knew sin. But he knew this: he knew that Christ had been delivered for his sins. Even more. He knew that Christ was risen. Look to the empty tomb, child of God. Go there by faith and do not stand befuddled before that tomb. Do not stand uncertain and bewildered as to what it means to you. It means that we are pardoned, we are forgiven, we are innocent before heaven. Although our sins plague us and trouble our conscience, yet, in Jesus Christ, God’s children, brought to faith in repentance, have forgiveness.
How do I know? Christ is risen from the dead.
We receive that through faith. We receive this blessing of the pardon of sins through faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
Oh, what a wonderful blessing. Of all the truths of the Bible there is none more important than pardon of sin. To be forgiven! How wonderful it is when the Bible speaks to us of God’s eternal election; that He chose, before He created the world, those who would be saved. How wonderful it is when the Bible speaks to us of the truth of adoption; that God has made His children to be the heirs of eternal glory. Wonderful truths, but the most wonderful of all is that we are pardoned; that our sins have been removed from the sight of God, removed in the only way they could be removed-by having God’s Son suffer the wrath of God which was owing to our sins. And then to receive the absolute and indisputable proof that His work on the cross was indeed victorious. For God raised Him from the dead. Christ is risen. Our sins are pardoned.
But there are resurrection blessings. Not only does the resurrection of Christ today tell us that our sins are pardoned. But He arose also as the power to a new life. The life of the risen Jesus Christ is placed, by the grace of God, into every believer. His life becomes ours so that we are given the principle or the seed of that life born in us. Of ourselves, the Bible tells us, we were born earthly, sensual, and devilish. We were born corrupt, carnal, and sold unto sin. But by the power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ and by the work of His Holy Spirit there is implanted in the heart of the believer the life of Jesus Christ-a life that now seeks God, a life that cannot die, a life that is not subject to death, a heavenly life, a life which cannot live off anything in the world, a life which can only be at ease in heaven. We read in II Corinthians 5:17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” That is the blessing of the resurrection. By His resurrection, He also makes me alive, alive unto God, with a heavenly, never-dying life.
We read of that in Romans 6:4-6. There the apostle Paul is answering the charge against the truth of justification, that is, that God has made His people forgiven and innocent in Christ. There are those who brought the charge that this teaching would be an excuse for sin; that the teaching that God has pardoned sin in Jesus Christ would encourage people to sin because, after all, God has pardoned the sin so it does not matter how much we sin. The apostle says that is foolish talking. The apostle says that it is talking which is done by one who is ignorant of the gospel of the risen Savior. For not only did Christ arise as the proof that my sins are pardoned, but Christ also arose as the power unto a new life, so that all those who are risen with Christ also now walk in newness of life. We read, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” We died in Christ. We arose with Christ that we might walk in newness of life and no longer be under the dominion of sin.
The apostle speaks the same truth to us in Colossians 3:1-4. There we read: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above….” When the apostle says “If ye then be risen with Christ,” he does not mean to express a doubt about that. We are risen with Christ. But, he is saying, if that is true, then this must also be true. If you are risen with Christ, then you will seek the things which are above. And he goes on to say that “your life is hid with Christ in God.” The source of your life now is Jesus Christ. And out of that life you will seek the things which are above. You will seek the things of God. You will now be upon the path of holiness.
That is the blessing of the resurrection: holiness of life. To be risen with Christ means that you are brought to a battle, to a struggle, to an unrelenting and uncompromising war against your sins. You are now different from the world. It is not simply a human conscience which tells you when you have done wrong. But it is the principle of the love of God. It is the principle of the life of Christ within you that now convicts you of your sin. And the direction of your life has changed. The direction of my life is no longer self, no longer me, but it is Christ in me. That life of Christ stirs up the old man of sin in me. When Christ is placed in me, that sin roars as a lion because it is being challenged in its dominion. Yet the outcome of this struggle is not in doubt. We are risen now in Christ. He has conquered. He is victorious. Sin may strive within me, sin may roar, sin may pierce; but it does not reign. For Christ is risen from the dead.
What a blessing of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is my comfort. That is my salvation. Christ is risen from the dead. He said, Because I live, ye shall live also. His resurrection life brings all the spiritual blessings into my heart.
Now the child of God says, I want to be like Jesus.
Do you want to be like Jesus? Risen in Jesus Christ you will. Then no longer is it your goal simply to be the most popular, to be the prettiest. Then, as a child, your goal is not simply toys and games. But our desire is to be like Jesus, to be faithful, humble, wise, and kind. As He sacrificed Himself for me, so I want to sacrifice myself for His people. As He was merciful and forgave His people, so I wish to be merciful and forgiving. And now there is a holy dissatisfaction with my sin and a heartfelt desire to be like Christ, and to live unto Him.
Are you risen with Christ? Then there is within you the power unto a new life. Resurrection blessings: the pardon of sin, the power to a new life.
But there is one more. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is also the pledge of eternal glory, the pledge that our bodies shall be raised and changed and made like unto His most glorious body. The Bible teaches us that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pledge of the resurrection of the bodies of all of His saints. I Corinthians 15 tells us that Christ is risen as the firstfruits of them that slept. The firstfruits represent the first ripened corn or barley which the people of Israel in the Old Testament were to place on the altar of God. Giving that first fruit unto God they received from God that they would have a complete and full harvest. Christ is the firstfruit from the dead. He is the pledge of God that there shall be a complete and full harvest, that all the bodies of His children shall be raised.
So we may read in Philippians 3:20, 21 that Christ shall change our vile body and make it like unto His glorious body. “Behold,” the Word of God says in I Corinthians 15, “the trumpet shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall rise. And we shall be changed.” Our bodies will be raised from the dead. And if we are alive when the Lord returns, our earthly bodies shall be changed and glorified. Our very body, this my body, shall be changed and made fit for the presence of God. All the curse of sin shall be removed. It shall be a body full of the glory of Jesus Christ. We shall be perfect. There shall no longer be invalids, no longer mentally disturbed, no longer cripples, no longer pain. But we shall be made perfect, to walk and to run, to jump and to dance, in the love of God.
We lay down our bodies, now, into the grave. Sometimes that human body is worn down by old age, wrinkled and a mere skeleton. Sometimes it is ravaged by cancer. Sometimes that body is horribly disfigured by a crash, by burning, by broken bones. Sometimes it is a body of a little child, still and motionless. And we fade and decay and go back to the dust from whence we were taken.
But now is Christ risen from the dead. We shall be like Him.
Explain that, you say. I believe that. How is a caterpillar transformed into a beautiful butterfly? By the power of God. So, by the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the bodies of God’s people shall be raised.
These are the resurrection blessings: pardon from sin, alive unto God, raised unto eternal life so that we may now stand before the grave and say, “I am more than conqueror through Him who loved me. Thanks be unto God who gives to us the victory.”
Do you have this hope? Do you confess this as yours? Then you will be pure. Then your friends will be those who are going to heaven. Then your goal in life will be to glorify your Savior. Then your joy will be that you are like Him in thoughts, words, and deeds. And you will live and you will die in this blessed assurance: your sin is pardoned, your life is Christ’s, your hope is in His return, and your days on earth will be too few in which you have the time to thank Him who has done all for you.
Let us pray.
Father, praise and glory and honor be unto Thee, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.