Where is Your Theology of the Resurrection? John Hendryx

John Hendryx (via) Monergism

Recently I have been pondering the question: why in traditional theological circles is there such a lack of emphasis on the theology of the resurrection yet so much stress on Christ’s death? Not to de-emphasize his atoning death but this oversight is especialy curious in light of the fact that in the New Testament there appears to be a great importance placed on the resurrection, at least, it seems, equal in emphasis to Christ’s death, but we don’t talk about or theologize about it much … why? I have to ask because the implications of Christ’s resurrection is a critical part of Christ’s redemptive work in and for us.

In light of the resurrection of Christ, 1 Corinthians 15 speaks of our present victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the work of Christ in his resurrection Paul is able to say in verse 58, „Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” As we participate in his resurrection now and are seated with him at God’s right hand, where He reigns over all his enemies, including the world, the flesh, the devil and death, then, in light of this, this should somehow translate to our living in the world now.

We rightly place a great deal of stress on Christ’s death and atoning sacrifice but often seem to leave off the saving dimension of Christ’s resurrection. The finished work of Christ includes both his death and resurrection in NT biblical theology, because we would still be in our sins if Christ has not been raised from the dead according to the same 1 Corinthians passage. In seminaries and theology books very little space seems to be devoted to this, to a degree we should find alarming. Any victory we have now is from the life which Christ gives our mortal bodies in His resurrection (Rom 8:11). In Rom. 6 Paul also states that we are baptized into Christ’s resurrection, which is the power that saves us through regeneration. It is not only what gives us a new heart that we might be raised up from being spiritually dead and so believe the gospel, but grants us the power to live a new life, have spiritual affections for Christ and the grace to live a godly life because of the ethical change that has taken place within us. The disposition in us toward death has been crushed by Jesus’ resurrection.

Since the „last days” were inaugurated with Christ’s resurrection, we are living in the already/not yet time where Christ’s victory over death is being worked out in and through us. There is no such thing, therefore, as Christian who lives in sin as a lifestyle. The resurrected Lord who lives in us is greater than he who is in the world. We may be deceived for a time, but the Spirit working in us compells us to cry ABBA Father and look to Christ in faith for the victory and mortification of any besetting sin. But we cannot do this as individuals since Christ has established his church as the agency for advancing his kingdom rule on earth (Eph 1:22). God calls us to do this through the weakness of preaching the gospel through which he will confound worldly powers and destroy all vain speculations.

It is important to note Paul use of the word „firstfruits” in 1 Cor 15. Without historical background this may not make sense, but what it points to is the Jewish feasts of Passover and Pentecost, each of which had the first fruits of the harvest given to the Lord. These firstfruits were a sign of the full harvest that would come soon after. Of course, more to the point, these festivals were in the Jewish calendar to remember Israel being freed from Egyptian slavery (Passover) and the giving of the Law at Sinai (Pentecost). Here in 1 Cor. 15 Paul is saying that the Christ is our Passover, the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead … with many more to follow. This is an act of God’s grace alone, not something we work toward, yet that grace, that resurrection which we are untied to in Christ compels us to work, not in order to be saved, but because we are saved. There is nothing natural about this. Christ has saved us completely with no contribution owing to ourselves. His kingdom now reigns in His people and He is extending it by redeeming people and the creation through us. Even now, according to the Scriptures, all powers are being subjected to Christ with death being the last enemy.

As we can see that this is no small matter which has profound theological and pastoral implications. There I would challenge and encourage the Reformed community to develop a more robust biblical theology of the resurrection.

J.W.H.

Posted by John on April 24, 2008

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