I’m a forgetful person. I forget where I place my keys, my wallet, my glasses. I forget much of what I read. And much, much more. Sometimes it can be a blessing to forget, but more often than not it gets me in trouble.
I don’t think I’m alone in having problems with forgetfulness. And most people’s forgetfulness, including mine, is not just limited to things like keys and glasses. Jon Bloom has said that we are all “leaky buckets.” We all tend to forget gospel truths that we hold dear and so we need to be filled daily lest we run dry. We need to remember what God has done for us in Christ. We need to remember who we are in Him. We need to remember what God promises to be for us in Christ. We need to remember over and over again because we forget.
Resurrection is at the core of the Christian faith. Therefore, it is worth revisiting often given our tendency to forget. There are five aspects of the resurrection that are essential for the Christian life. Let’s remember these again and again.
- Jesus’s Resurrection
The Christian faith is at its core a historical religion. So we need to remember what happened in history in order to see rightly. If Jesus didn’t walk in the flesh two thousand years ago, then Christianity is a sham and is not worth the dust on your shoe. However, if Jesus not only lived two thousand years ago, but also died and rose again, then Jesus’s claims about his who he is and what he has done have been vindicated, and he demands everyone’s worship and obedience.
- Our Present Resurrection
More than remembering the historical fact of Jesus’s death and resurrection, we need to remember what it means for us. Jesus’s resurrection is the foundation for the Christian life. Look at these two verses from 1 Corinthians 15:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20).
Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).
First, notice in verse 20 Paul says that Christ’s resurrection is the firstfruits of what’s to come for all of those in Him. In other words, Christ has inaugurated the age of resurrection. Second, in verse 45 Paul says that Christ has become, by virtue of his resurrection, a “life-giving spirit,” the very foundation for the Christian life. In the resurrection Christ and the Holy Spirit have become unified in their work (cf. Romans 8:9–10). Thus the resurrection is not something that is only for the future, but Christians participate in it now because of their union with Christ.
Richard Gaffin explains,
The place of the Christian, their share, in the harvest that is now—not only in the future, but presently. The Christian life is a manifestation, an outworking, of the resurrection life and power of the resurrected Christ, become the ‘life-giving Spirit’ (1 Cor. 15:45). It is in this light that statements like Galatians 2:20 (‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’)—autobiographical, but surely applicable to every Christian—ought to be read. (By Faith, Not By Sight, 77).
- The Power of Christian Living
We all have a present, daily battle with our sin, the world, and the devil so it is imperative that we remember how the resurrection shapes the Christian life.
It is not an overstatement to say that Jesus, by virtue of his death and resurrection, is our sanctification. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30 that Jesus has “became for us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption”. There are two ways Christ becomes our sanctification.
- Jesus’s death and life breaks our slavery to sin. Paul writes in Romans 6:7–8: “For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we also live with him.”
John Murray explains,
[I]t is by virtue of our having died with Christ, and our being raised with him in his resurrection from the dead, that the decisive breach with sin in its power, control and defilement has been wrought, and that the reason for this is that Christ in his death and resurrection broke the power of sin, triumphed over the god of this world, the prince of darkness, executed judgment upon the world and its ruler, and by that victory delivered all those who were united to him from the power of darkness, and translated them into his own kingdom. So intimate is the union between Christ and his people, that they were partakers with him in all these triumphal achievements, and therefore died to sin, rose with Christ in the power of his resurrection, and have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life (Collected Writings; Volume 2, 289).
- Jesus’s death and life enables progressive growth in Christ-likeness. Christians are those who have the Spirit of the resurrected Christ, the life-giving Spirit (Romans 8:8–9, 1 Corinthians 15:45). And they are those in whom God is “working both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God’s work through Christ by the Holy Spirit is the foundation and fuel for the Christian’s work.
Because of Christ the Christian life should not be a life characterized by giving into temptation. The Christian life is, as Gaffin says, the “resurrection life” (By Faith, Not By Sight, 77). Yes, sin indwells the believer, but Christ has crushed its power, and he has given us his Spirit so we can better reflect His image (Romans 8:29).
What Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13 should frame the way we think about our present life of being united to Christ and our ongoing sin and temptation:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
In this verse God promises (1) Satan and his minions cannot tempt us beyond our Spirit-given ability to resist, and (2) he will provide a way of escape when we are tempted. So, Christian, when temptation comes, and it will come with a fury at times, remember: you don’t have to sin. Sin’s power has been broken. God has given you the Spirit of the resurrected Christ to help you escape! And when you face temptation God promises to provide an escape hatch.
While the goal of the Christian life is to live a perfectly holy life before God, it is unrealistic to expect to ever attain it in this life (1 John 1:8). As Martin Luther said: “[T]he whole of Christian life should be repentance.” The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is not that one sins and the other doesn’t sin. The difference is that the Christian repents from his sin and looks to Christ for his life whereas the non-Christian does not (Proverbs 24:16).
- The Content of Christian Living
If the risen Christ and his Spirit are the power of our present resurrection life, then what code of ethics are followers of the resurrected Christ supposed to obey? It is instructive to begin by what Christian ethics are not. Oliver O’Donovan is helpful:
Paul did not tell the Galatians that now, in the power of the Spirit, they could keep the circumcision and food laws of the Old Testament without being overwhelmed by the burden of them. Nor did Saint Peter conclude that the Gentile Christians were perfectly able, in the power of the Spirit, to bear the yoke ‘which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear’ (Acts 15:10). If they had, their gospel would have been a gospel of the Spirit alone (Resurrection and Moral Order, 23).
Jesus, in his death and resurrection, has established the New Covenant thereby rendering the Old Covenant obsolete (Luke 22:20, Hebrews 8:6). Along with this change in covenant comes a shift in law-code—Christians do not follow the Law of Moses, but the Law of the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21), which is shaped by “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).
- Our Future Resurrection
We will not always have the battle that we have today with sin and temptation. Jesus’s resurrection assures us that we too will have a resurrected body like him—Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection crop that all believers participate in (1 Corinthians 15:20).
Yes, we will all taste the bite of death, but its venomous fangs have been removed.
Death is gain for believers because we will be ushered into the presence of Christ. And not only that, but Christians will one day be bodily resurrected and reign with Christ forever (Revelation 21:1–4). In that day we will have no more pain (whether it be physical, emotional, or psychological), no more mourning, no more crying. More than that, we will be transformed to image Christ perfectly; we will love him purely, and see Him face to face.
Remembering the resurrection helps us remember the truth. We remember what God has done in the person of Jesus; we remember what God has done with us in uniting us to him and raising us from the grave; we remember that God has broken the power of sin in our lives and given us his Spirit; we remember that we are under obligation to the law of Christ that is fulfilled through love; and we remember the hope that is ours in the future.