Resurrection Sunday ~ 20110424 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
04/24 Resurrection Sunday
Today is Resurrection Sunday. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Anticipating his death, Jesus said:
Fruit of the Resurrection
Jesus' death bears much fruit. Jesus died alone, forsaken by his Father, with the weight of the sins of the world on his shoulders. But Jesus did not stay dead. He sprang back to life, and like his illustration of the seed, his life that bursts up out of the grave is not alone. He bears much fruit. Jesus death and resurrection has massive implications for us.
Today I want to look at some of the fruit of Jesus' death and resurrection for us today. We will spend most of our time in the New Testament letter to the Colossians. In it, Paul says:
And he draws practical implications of Christ's death and resurrection and ours. I want to spend some time this resurrection morning examining the implications of the resurrection for us today
Jesus the Firstborn from the dead
In this passage in Colossians, Paul gives Jesus the title 'The Firstborn from the Dead.” He receives this title also in Revelation 1:5. What does this mean? Jesus was not the first person ever resurrected; Elijah raised the son of the widow of Zarepha (1Ki.17:22); Elisha raised a Shunammite woman's son (2Ki.4:35); Jesus interrupted several funerals; he raised the widow of Nain's only son (Lk7:14); Jairus' daughter (Mk.5:41; Lk.8:54); and his dear friend Lazarus (Jn.11:43). At Jesus' crucifixion, Matthew tells us:
Jesus was not the first in time to rise from the dead. So what does it mean to say that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead? It will help to understand what is meant by the word 'firstborn'. The position of the firstborn was that of priority and privilege. Several times in the Old Testament, we see the rights and privileges of the firstborn going to a son who was not physically born first, or even to an adopted son who was not physically born into those rights. 'Firstborn' implies priority and sovereignty (Wuest, p.183). Jesus has first place among those who rise from the dead. Jesus has authority over all who rise from the dead.
The Preeminence of Jesus
This whole passage is pointing to Jesus as the one who holds first place in everything. Back in verse 15, this same word 'firstborn' is used, where it describes Jesus, who is the very image of the invisible God, who possesses sovereign authority and priority over all creation. Verse 16 gives the ground of his sovereign rights in that he is the creator – everything was created by him and for him – everything that exists in heaven and on earth; everything visible and everything invisible, including every authority that exists – they exist because he caused them to exist, and they exist to serve him. Jesus is the firstborn in sovereignty. Verse 17 continues by showing that he is the firstborn in priority – he is before all things. Jesus is eternal. He holds everything together. Hebrews describes Jesus as the one who 'is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power' (1:3). Verse 18 points to Jesus as the head or authority over the church. Jesus is the beginning, the active cause, the architect, he has first place. He has sovereign priority over all who come out of death. He holds first place in everything. His rule and authority is comprehensive. He reigns supreme over everything created and over everything re-created. He is the creator and the regenerator. He is the cause of creation, and he is the cause of the new creation. He gave life to all things, and he gives new life to the dead. In everything Jesus is preeminent. Everything really is all about Jesus!
Verse 19 continues the thought in describing how he gave new life to his body the church. In Jesus, God's fullness was pleased to dwell, and the blood of his cross made peace and reconciled all things to his Father. Jesus, fully God and fully man, offered an infinite and perfect sacrifice, fully satisfying justice and making peace between God and sinful man.
Diagnosing our Condition
Verse 21 goes on to describe us, for whom the blood of Christ was necessary to purchase peace. It says we were alienated or estranged, we had severed our fellowship with God. It says we were hostile, hateful, or opposed to God in our mind. We were not on God's side, and we didn't want to be. Our wills were bent against God. Broken fellowship and determined opposition to God find expression in works that are evil. Down in chapter 2 verse 13, he expands on our condition that made the death of Christ necessary. He says we were dead. We were dead in trespasses – deviations from the right path. Our flesh was uncircumcised, which means that the things that displease God had not yet been cut away and destroyed. Verse 14 tells us that there was a record of debt that stood against us, and attached to that debt were legal demands. We had violated God's honor and were under the hopeless legal obligation to repay the debt.
Now isn't this a bit over the top, the way he describes our condition? Isn't he exaggerating, or maybe describing a worst case scenario? Surely it would not be a fair description of most of us to say that we were hostile to God in our minds and bent on doing evil. But in raising the question we demonstrate the truth of it. I am saying that my estimation of my condition is more accurate than God's. I am saying that my failure to honor God and give him thanks as he deserves is really not that big a deal. In saying that, I undermine the worth of God and exalt my own opinion. My failure to love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength is an understandable failure to meet an unrealistic demand that is too high and too hard and surely I shouldn't be held to it. After all, nobody does that perfectly, and I probably do it better than a lot of people. So I compare myself with others and am self-righteous in my own eyes and disagree with God's assessment of my condition. God says I am dead.
Only the dead get resurrected
Friends, we need to embrace God's diagnosis of our condition. We need to see that as part of the good news. Here's why God saying I am dead in my sins is good news. Only the dead get resurrected! You don't start CPR on someone who has a pulse and is still breathing. They don't bring out the paddles to shock your heart until you've flatlined. This is a passage about resurrection and the cure for our condition. If we disagree with the Great Physician over his diagnosis, we won't want to undergo his prescribed cure. Listen to the passage:
Yes, we stand condemned under God's righteous law with the record of debt that stands against us. And that record of our debt Jesus carried to the cross and he paid our debt in full. Our debt was nailed to his cross! God forgave all our trespasses. Yes, we were dead, and God made us alive together with Christ! Yes, we were hostile toward God and he made peace by the blood of his cross. Yes, our actions were evil because our wills were bent against God, and he has now reconciled us to God in his body of flesh by his death. The good news is only good to those who own God's diagnosis of their problem. Only the dead get resurrected.
Two Kinds of Dead
Here we need to note that there are two different kinds of dead that this passage talks about. Verse 13 talks about being spiritually dead, dead in sins, being under condemnation, being guilty, and being forgiven and made alive as a result of the finished work of Christ on the cross, where God's legal demands were satisfied, our debt was canceled, and we were given spiritual life. This is fits the biblical teaching of justification – being exonerated of guilt, and regeneration or new birth.
If we move back to verses 11-12, we see a different kind of dead and a different kind of resurrection.
In these verses, the death is a putting off, a circumcision of the body of the flesh, a burial with him in baptism, and a resurrection in the powerful working of God. Here, death is a process. This is mortification, putting to death the flesh, or sanctification, the process of being made holy. Paul goes into more detail on this subject in Romans. This is how Paul argues in Romans 6 against those who have been justified by faith continuing to embrace sin as a legitimate lifestyle.
Jesus died as a substitute, bearing our penalty and purchasing our forgiveness. We were spiritually dead and have been given life. That is justification and regeneration. We are now addressing what that new life should look like, and that is based on the other kind of death – not only did Jesus die for us, but we died with him. Our old self, our old way of life was crucified with Christ. That is the basis for our practical day to day battle with and victory over sin. He continues:
Hear the continuing action words: you must consider yourselves dead to sin; let not sin reign in your mortal bodies; do not present your members to sin. Those are fighting words. The basis for this fight is my death and resurrection with Christ. The power to live the Christian life is resurrection power. 'Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Rom.6:4)
When Paul prays for the saints in Ephesus, he asks:
Part of our blood bought inheritance is the 'immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.' The power to 'walk in newness of life' comes because:
The resurrected life is the crucified life. In Colossians chapter 3, we are given details of what the resurrected life should look like, and practical instruction on how to live it.
The assumption is that those who claim to be believers have not only been justified and regenerated or born again, that the death and resurrection of Jesus have been applied to us, but also that we have been crucified with Christ and have been raised to a new kind of life.
That new life is described by what it should and shouldn't look like. It shouldn't look like sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. It shouldn't look like anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk, lying.
It should look like compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other as we have been forgiven. It should look like love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. It should look like the peace of Christ ruling in your hearts. It should be characterized by thankfulness, by joyful gratitude, all for the glory of our Lord Jesus.
What are the practical instructions on how to live the resurrection life? Seek the things that are above; set your mind on things that are above. Put to death what is earthly in you. Put them all away. Put off the old self with its practices. Put on the new self which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Put on the fruits of the Spirit. Put on love. With a conscious choice, by an act of the will, based on the crucifixion and empowered with resurrection power, put off and put on. Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus with overwhelming thankfulness to him who loved you and died for you.