April 2, 2015

Sunday’s Coming: The Resurrection and Believers, Part 2

by Mike Riccardi

Empty Tomb 2In preparation for Resurrection Sunday, we’ve been considering the significance of the resurrection. On Tuesday, we looked at some theological and practical implications of the resurrection as it relates to the person of Christ. Yesterday, we began considering the significance of the resurrection for believers. The resurrection is the ground of our regeneration, the ground of deliverance from death’s fearful slavery, and the very foundation of the Gospel.

But that’s not all. There are more benefits the resurrection brings for the believer in Christ.

The Holy Spirit

Fourth, the resurrection guarantees the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit.

In his Pentecost sermon, Peter is explaining the pouring forth of the Holy Spirit that has manifested in the disciples speaking in languages they had never learned. And he says in Acts 2:32–33: “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore”— that is, on the basis of this raising up of Jesus—“having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”

So Scripture links the coming of the New Covenant ministry of the Holy Spirit to the resurrection and ascension of Christ.

Jesus Himself teaches this in John 16. As He is with His disciples in the upper room on the eve of His betrayal, preparing them to live the Christian life without His physical presence, He says, “I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). The Spirit will come to permanently indwell the disciples because He is going to the Father. If Christ had simply died and remained in the grave, He would not have gone to the Father, and the Spirit would not have come.

And note how glorious Jesus views the privilege of the indwelling presence of the Spirit. He sees it as so valuable that He Himself says that it is to the disciples’ advantage that He—their Lord, their Master, their Savior, the Author and Perfecter of their faith, the one in whom all things hold together—go away from them! The permanent indwelling of the Spirit must be a phenomenal blessing! And it is ours as a direct result of the resurrection of Christ.

Christ’s Intercessory Ministry

Very related to that, the resurrection provides the ground for the intercessory ministry of Christ. He ascended to the Father not only to reign over all things and wait until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. He also ascended to be our Great High Priest—to intercede before the Father on behalf of His people.

Hebrews 7:23–25: “The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever”—or, “save to the uttermost”—“those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

So often we conceive of Christ’s priestly work to have ended on earth. Since His atonement was a perfect sacrifice to which nothing could be added, we tend to think that Christ traded His roles as prophet and priest for His role as king at His resurrection. But this passage teaches us that Jesus holds His priesthood permanently—that He always lives to make intercession for His people. He is continually applying to us the benefits of His once-for-all sacrifice.

  • He prays for and provides strength for His people in the midst of temptation (Heb 2:18).
  • He provides mercy and grace in times of need (Heb 4:16).
  • He prays for our continued communion with the Father (Heb 10:21–22).
  • He prays that the Father would accept our feeble and failing efforts at serving Him, as 1 Peter 2:5 says that we “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
  • He is our “Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1). If our sin and even Satan himself were to rise up and bring charges against our righteousness, Jesus is ever-present to, as the hymn says, “show His wounded hands and name us as His own.”

Romans 8:33–34: “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” Our salvation is eternally secure, because everything that we would need to bring our blood-bought redemption to its consummation is secured for us by the intercession of the risen Christ on our behalf.

Robert Murray McCheyne, famously wrote, “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me.” And He is praying for you, dear Christian, ever living to make intercession for you, because He rose from the grave on Resurrection Sunday.

Grounds and Drives our Sanctification

Union with ChristAnd with that kind of rock solid assurance, it is no wonder that Scripture also teaches that the resurrection fundamentally grounds and drives our sanctification.

Romans 6:3: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death?” In other words, “Don’t you know that, because of our union with Christ, we have died with Him?” Verse 4: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

Just as all true believers have been united with Christ in His death, so that the punishment which fell on Him counts for the punishment of our sin, in the same way we have also been united with Christ in His resurrection, so that we might walk in newness of life. That is, so that we might live a resurrection life—a life characterized by holiness, free from the bondage of sin. Paul continues:

“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:8–11)

The resurrection freed Christ from the influence of sin—“the death He died, He died to sin once for all.” And because we are united with Him in His resurrection, we too can walk in that newness of life. The resurrection has freed us from the power of sin! This is our new nature!

Wilhelmus à Brakel puts it like this:

“Since the Lord Jesus as my Surety has removed all my sin by His death, and as evidence of this has arisen from the dead, should I then yet live in sin? Should not I then arise with Him from the death of sin and live with Him in all holiness?” (The Christian’s Reasonable Service, 1:634).

Yes indeed. The resurrection fundamentally grounds and drives our sanctification.

Empowers us for Holiness and Ministry

Next, the divine power demonstrated in the resurrection mightily works within believers to empower us for holiness and ministry.

Ephesians 1:18–21: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”

The surpassing greatness of His power is in accordance with the strength of His might, which He demonstrated when He raised Christ from the dead. And that same power is at work in us who believe.

That resurrection power empowers us for holiness. Just before Paul launches into a paragraph about earnestly pursuing holiness, he prays that he would know the power of Christ’s resurrection all the more deeply (Phil 3:10).

And that resurrection power empowers us for ministry. As Paul describes the essential nature of his ministry, he writes, “For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me” (Col 1:29).

The Ground and Guarantee of our Glorification

And that resurrection power will continue at work in us until we are entirely free from sin. A final implication of the resurrection for the believer: The resurrection is the ground and guarantee of our glorification.

John 14;19Jesus said it plainly in the upper room in John 14:19: “After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also.” Because He lives in resurrection life, so also we will one day share in that resurrection life, perfectly free from sin. Paul says as much in Romans 8:11: “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” You see, your bodies are mortal. They are fraught with the effects of sin and will therefore one day succumb to death. But if the Spirit of the living God dwells in you (and He dwells in all true believers in Christ, Rom 8:9), then our God who raised Jesus from the dead will also give life to—will also raise—your mortal, dying, decaying body through the power and agency of the Holy Spirit.

And if you are in Christ you know what it is to groan (cf. 2 Cor 5:2–4), being burdened by the weakness of our flesh as a result of sin. Ever since our father Adam sinned in the Garden, our bodies have reaped the corruption of that seed of disobedience and rebellion. It is because of sin that our bodies decay, and are beset with sickness and infirmity, and will finally succumb to death. And of course, we groan not only under the physical weakness of our body, but we groan in a body that is still beset with sin itself.

But the Gospel promises that same Lord who rose from the grave is coming again from Heaven. And when He does, the Scriptures tell us that “He will transform the body of our humiliation into conformity with the body of His glory” (Phil 3:21). 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that our bodies are sown perishable, but raised imperishable. They are sown in dishonor, but raised in glory. They are sown in weakness, but raised in power; sown as natural, but raised entirely submitted to and in perfect harmony with the Holy Spirit. And so Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:54, “[And] when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up’ in victory!”

That day is certain! We know it is because Christ Himself is the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:23). God has given us proof of the certainty of our glorification by glorifying Jesus in His resurrection! And so that triumphant victory cry that we will shout on that day—that conquering cry that taunts death, our last enemy—that is ours to cry out now. Precisely because of Resurrection Sunday, we can joyfully celebrate and shout, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
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  • Johnny

    this was a good message, although I’ve been struggling recently if Christians should be following religious calendars. Just something I think about while walking down the ‘easter’ aisle at the local Walmart…

    • MR

      I’m with you, I grew up in Armstrong’s church and we never celebrated Christmas or Easter. I don’t know if it’s this that makes me detest multi colored eggs and chocolate rodents or sound doctrine. And now they have a chocolate cross! Maybe I’m just getting old and crotchety?

      • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

        MR, as a former JW we didn’t celebrate Christmas or Easter either. Like you, we were also taught to despise multi-colored eggs and bunnies. However, what I came to understand was that behind all that there was always the subtle goal of diminishing Christ and the power of His resurrection, which is our source of all joy and hope.

        So I guess the way I see it is that I am grateful for any recognition of Christ in the secular world, skewed as it is, and on whatever date. I tend to ignore all the Easter trappings of Walmart and keep my eyes on the cross, even if it’s made of chocolate.

    • I think the commercialism bothers everyone who has any sense of the true significance of the day. But the fact of those abuses doesn’t mean we should forfeit the blessing of celebrating the events and realities that have been hijacked by the commercialism. The answer isn’t to surrender the celebration to the commercialism, but to redeem the date and use it as a motivation to meditate upon certain aspects of Christ’s ministry (e.g., incarnation at Christmas, death and resurrection at Easter, etc.) and worship Him for them. Like these posts are designed to do. 🙂

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  • Archepoimen follower

    Christ is indeed our Advocate with the Father, however He is not like us, He does not need to pray for us but instead, He is seated at the Father’s Right Hand and is in complete Union with Him as True God. The Son has no need to request or petition the Father as we do, but instead, since He and the Father are One what the Son advocates for is already accomplished by the Father! This is indeed the reason that Jesus is our Sure Hope and Perfector of our faith!


    • Tim, I agree that Christ’s intercession looks different from our prayers insofar as He is ontologically one with the Father and we are not. But it would seem, based upon Scripture’s use of the term “intercedes,” and based upon the fact that is an activity that Scripture describes as present and ongoing, that Christ does pray for us in some significant fashion. How else would you explain the use of the vocabulary of intercession as a present and ongoing ministry of Christ for His people?

      Besides, Jesus plainly prays for believers in His high priestly prayer in John 17. That He prays (intercedes) for His people there is the reason for calling it His “high priestly” prayer. That is what the high priest does. And in John 17, while He was not at the Father’s right hand, He was nevertheless still entirely ontologically One with Him (cf. John 10:30), no less than He is today.

      • Archepoimen follower

        Yes, Jesus did indeed pray while He was on earth, that is not disputable. Jesus is ontologically One with the Father, again not open to dispute. However, the issue is how Jesus intercedes on our behalf, not whether He does! Your understanding seems to indicate that prayer and interceding are one and the same. Surely prayer is a means of intercession but it is not the only means to do so. The words rendered intercede have a much broader range than just prayer.

        Jesus intercession with the Father is present and ongoing! Jesus’ relationship with the Father is what allows Him to intercede for us in a unique way! In fact, the writer of Hebrews makes it clear that the reason we can boldly enter the heavenly throne room is because we know that Jesus, our High Priest has made the way for us. Jesus is also In a unique location in relation to the Father, at His right hand! His intercession is present not only In the sense of being ongoing but also present locationally.

        Ultimately, we can agree, that it was indeed Jesus’ resurrection that enables Him to intercede with the Father on our behalf! He is risen indeed! Happy Easter!


        • Thanks brother. I appreciate your magnanimity in calling us to remember the main point! He is risen indeed!

          I hope not to push this too much, but I had a couple of clarifications: one a statement, one a question.

          Your understanding seems to indicate that prayer and interceding are one and the same.

          I wouldn’t say that. I would say that intercession is broader than prayer. But your original comment seemed to indicate that prayer isn’t included at all in the concept of intercession. I think that’s problematic.

          Surely prayer is a means of intercession but it is not the only means to do so. The words rendered intercede have a much broader range than just prayer.

          I agree with this, but I would just say it’s not in exclusion to prayer. Still though, what would you say is the content of Christ’s present intercession (i.e., not just that He made a way for us, but what He does now for us)?

          Thanks again.

          • Archepoimen follower

            Thanks for the continued conversation. I acknowledged already that intercession does indeed include prayer, in fact, scripture indicates that the Holy Spirit, Himself intercedes on our behalf when we cannot express in words the pleadings and desires of our hearts! Yet, intercession language as it relates to the ascended Jesus seems to me to indicate a more intimate, direct conversation between the Son and the Father. Jesus’ present ministry, is indeed one of ongoing intercession on our behalf but one that is uniquely intimate!