Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 17 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism and I will be talking to you today about questions 45.
This week, we are talking about something that is absolutely essential to the Christian faith, to the degree that if it is not true then Christianity is pointless.
1 Cor 15:17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins…19 If we have put our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone.
What we are talking about is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We call it Easter, which is an old English term identifying the Christian festival of the resurrection. I prefer to call it Resurrection Day because that cuts through all the cultural and religious confusion to get to the heart of what this day is all about.
We are talking about the historical reality that a first century Jewish rabbi named Jesus, who also happens to be the one and only Son of God, was crucified in Jerusalem during Passover week and then three days later he was raised from the dead.
We are talking about the theological reality that by His death, burial and resurrection we who believe have been saved from our sins and have been granted eternal life.
We are talking about the present reality that because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead we of all people have reason to live our lives with indestructible hope no matter how good nor how horrible the circumstances of our life happen to be.
We are talking about the supernatural reality that the founder of our faith went through death and came out the other side.
Today, we are talking about the resurrection of Christ and how it impacts our life and faith.
Lord’s Day Focus...
Question 45: What benefit do we receive from the resurrection of Christ?
Answer: First, by His resurrection He has overcome death, that He might make us partakers of the righteousness which by His death He has obtained for us. Secondly, we also are now by His power raised up to a new life. Thirdly, the resurrection of Christ is to us a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.
The Heidelberg breaks down the benefits of Christ’s resurrection into 3 different parts. The first has to do with the benefit of the resurrection with regard to our relationship to God. The second has to do with the benefit of the resurrection with regard to our spiritual life at this present time. The third has to do with the benefit of the resurrection with regard to our future hope of being resurrected into eternal life.
But before we break all of these down, let’s try and understand what resurrection means and what it doesn’t mean. The word resurrection is not a common term in the OT, in fact, it’s not a very common term in the NT. When ancient religious people thought about life after death they didn’t think in terms of resurrection. Pagans believed in a spiritual existence after death but not a bodily resurrection. Many of the Jews, the Sadducees in particular, rejected the resurrection because they claimed Moses hadn’t said anything about a bodily existence after death. They were wrong, of course, and Jesus pointed that out to them in Mark 12:26-27.
Resurrection refers to something that happens to the body. Most religions identify that the soul will live on after death, but Christianity teaches that our bodies will be raised from the grave. The followers of Jesus might have lived long and happy lives if they had simply stated that Jesus lived on in the spirit after his crucifixion, but they didn’t. They taught that Jesus’ body was raised and brought back to life by the power of God.
They taught this because they saw it with their own eyes. They walked into the empty tomb just three days after they saw Christ die on the cross. They saw Jesus in the upper room, saw the scars in his hands and on His side. They touched those scars. They saw Jesus again on the shore in Galilee and they ate breakfast with him. They watched outside of Jerusalem as His body was taken up into Heaven right before their eyes.
When Jesus’ disciples preached the resurrection, they weren’t referring to Jesus’ soul being raised, or his spirit living on; they were claiming that His dead body had been raised to life. To the Romans this was nonsense and to the Jews this was a scandal, but the resurrection is at the heart of the gospel. In fact, this is the point of the first part of Heidelberg’s answer.
Our salvation depends on the reality that Jesus not only died on the cross for our sins but also that He was raised from the dead three days later. Here again is what the Catechism says, “by His resurrection He has overcome death, that He might make us partakers of the righteousness which by His death He has obtained for us.” He has overcome death and made us partakers of the righteousness that He obtained for us.
One of the Apostle Paul’s favorite topics of discussion is the difference between the righteousness that we seek to earn by our obedience to the law of God and the righteousness that Jesus has earned for us by His obedience to God. In Philippians 3, Paul writes,
(I want to) be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—
Now why is it better for us to have the righteousness that comes through faith than to seek to obtain righteousness on my own?
Let’s do a thought experiment and imagine that you do 1 act of pure righteousness everyday of your life. 1 act per day done in obedience to the law of God that is not fueled by some selfish motive, or sinful ambition. 1 per day and I believe that is being crazy generous. I remember a stretch of years between high school and college that wouldn’t have produced anything to my credit. But let’s be generous and give ourselves credit for 1 good deed each day of our lives.
If we live to 80, that is just over 29,000 good deeds in a lifetime. But the math really doesn’t matter all that much, because for each good deed there is a counteractive bad deed.
We have to consider the other side of the scale. Can we assume 1 act of unrighteousness everyday of your life? Can we assume 1 lie, or 1 act of deception, or 1 angry thought, or 1 lustful thought, or 1 hateful thought, or 1 act of greed, or 1 act of pride, or 1 act of impatience, or 1 act of gossip, or 1 thought of vanity. 1 unrighteous act per day, which again is being generous. If it’s 1:1 then it is a wash and we have nothing to show for the entirety of our life.
But this is just a thought experiment. The reality is that the numbers aren’t even close to being in our favor.
Gal 3:10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law and do them.”
Rom 3:20 For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight
The law cannot save us. Our imagined righteousness will never make us right with God. Imagine standing before God and having tallied up the balance of our good deeds and our sin, and then presenting that to Him as justification for why He should accept us. We have no chance of pleasing God in this way.
But now, I want you to imagine the righteousness of Jesus. I want you to imagine all of the righteous deeds that Jesus ever did on any given day. There is no need to subtract the unrighteous deeds of Jesus because there are none. He was tempted in every way as we are, but He was without sin (Heb 4:15). Now, which righteousness would you put your hope in?
Whose obedience are you trusting in? The resurrection of Jesus is evidence that when Jesus came before the Father, His obedience and His sacrifice was fully accepted. God raised Him from the dead because nothing remained. His righteousness paid the bill for all the sins of all who would believe. Our relationship to God rests not on our righteousness but on His and His resurrection gives us confidence that God accepted His offering in full.
Secondly, the resurrection benefits us today in that we experience new life in Christ. I want to read a passage from Romans 6 to help us understand the spiritual logic of the resurrection on our life as believers.
5 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. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
Freedom from the power of sin is not the only benefit of our new life according to the resurrection, but it is a key benefit. Jesus’ resurrection has fundamentally altered the hold that sin has on believers. It has fundamentally changed the way we view life and the way we live life.
Ray Ortlund writes,
Deep inside every one of us is a dimmer switch, like the one in your dining room at home. We’re born with that switch turned all the way down. There is darkness with us, and the switch is too deep inside us for us to reach inside ourselves and turn it on. But God is able to reach into us at that deep level. God is able to get inside our interiority and turn the lights back on, so that we come alive to God. In his great love and mercy, God can touch us deeply. And the new aliveness he gives is nothing less than the resurrection life of Jesus. It is total miracle. It isn’t part you and part God. It is all of God. It is the mercy and love of God raising the dead. You don’t have to deserve it. It is all of grace. You don’t have to cause it. It is all of his power. This newness of life is the gift of God. You just receive it, with the empty hands of faith.
Thirdly, the resurrection of Jesus will benefit us in the future.
Phil 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
This means that the resurrection of Jesus was only the beginning. Or like Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:23, Jesus’ resurrection was just the first part of the harvest, our resurrection will be realized when the rest of the harvest comes to maturity. As Jesus was raised so too will we be raised, all who trust in Christ.
Do we fully understand what it will be like to have resurrection bodies? No, but it will be far better than life now. We will be made like Him and that is enough for me.
Thanks for joining me today as I discuss the Heidelberg Catechism. I hope you’ll join me again next week as we look at Lord’s Day 18 together and discuss question 46-49.
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Thanks for listening.