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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Title:The gospel promises victory in the resurrection of Christ
Text:LD 17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Salvation

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 150

Psalm 43

Hymn 37

Hymn 1

Hymn 31

Scripture readings: Romans 4, Colossians 3:1-17

Catechism lesson: Lord's Day 17

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,

The young man and his friends were excited.  There was a new teacher at the school.  The new professor wasn’t much older than them, only thirty-two years old.  Finally there was some fresh, young blood at the school, some fresh thinking.  His name was Professor Rauwenhoff, a professor of church history. 

One of his first lectures dealt with the resurrection of Christ.  The young man listened intently.  Professor Rauwenhoff pointed out that the Bible spoke very clearly about the resurrection.  However, he said, we have to be careful because the Bible often uses symbolic language that isn’t meant to be taken literally.  After all, the Bible isn’t a textbook for science or history.  Moreover, no rational modern man could actually believe that Christ’s body was raised from the dead at certain place at a certain point in real history.  That would be against all the laws of nature and everybody knows that those laws simply can’t be broken.  Jesus rose from the dead, yes, but not in history.  He rose in the hearts of his disciples.  His body remained in the tomb. 

As the professor reached his conclusion, the young man and his friends leapt from their seats and started clapping.  They were applauding a professor who finally understood.  Finally they had a teacher who was with the times.  The young man, twenty-three years old, was thrilled with a prof who had the courage to say what everybody else was thinking. 

That’s a true story and it took place in 1860 in the Netherlands at the University of Leiden.  The students were all men studying to become Reformed ministers.  The young man was Abraham Kuyper.  Now eventually, God would grab hold of Kuyper and convert him and he’d become a mighty tool in God’s hands to bring Reformation to the Netherlands.  He had his weaknesses and shortcomings – no man is perfect – but many of our families trace their roots back to the Reformation led by Kuyper.  Later in life, Kuyper confessed how he was still haunted by what happened in that classroom in 1860.  He’d applauded the denial of Christ’s resurrection.  With his denial, he had grieved his Lord and Saviour and this bothered Kuyper immensely.

For the first eighteen centuries of church history, the resurrection of Christ was nearly universally accepted as a fact of history.  It was recognized as one of the most well-attested events of the ancient world.  Our Heidelberg Catechism emerges from that context and so it doesn’t even have to spend any time on the historical nature of the resurrection.  The Apostles’ Creed says that Christ rose from the dead on the third day and this is what the Christian church has always believed and so we believe it too.  That’s certainly the way the Bible is meant to be read.  In fact, the Apostle Paul makes an air-tight case in 1 Corinthians 15 that if the resurrection isn’t a historical fact, then our faith is useless and we’re still in our sins.  For a believer, that has to settle the issue.  Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the third day and this was a real, historical happening.

From there we can move on to consider the meaning of the resurrection.  Our Catechism does that by asking the question of how this historical event benefits us.  The answer has everything to do with victory – Christ’s victory over sin and death is at the heart of the meaning of the resurrection and its benefits for believers.  Again, this is something Christians must believe.  This is something promised us in the gospel.  So, this afternoon, we’ll consider how the gospel promises victory in the resurrection of Christ

We’ll learn about these promises and how they connect to our:

  1. Justification
  2. Sanctification
  3. Glorification

Apart from Jesus Christ, every human being is in deep trouble.  Without Jesus Christ, we all stand guilty before the righteous Judge of heaven and earth.  We face accusations that threaten to put us away for eternity, to put us away for an eternal death sentence.  We’d be defeated without Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Mediator.  He speaks up for us before the Judge and offers his perfect righteousness to cover all our unrighteousness.  The Judge accepts this and declares us to be right with him.  We call this justification – God declares us righteous in his sight on account of what Christ has done.  In justification, the gospel promises us victory over the charges threatening to condemn us. 

According to Scripture, there’s an important connection between Christ’s resurrection and our justification.  For instance, Romans 4:25 says our Lord Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”  We read there first that he was “delivered up for our trespasses.”  He hung on the cross and died in our place – “for our trespasses,” for our sins. He has paid the price we could never even begin to pay.  After his death, he was placed in the tomb and remained under the power of death for three days.  On the third day, he “was raised our justification.” 

That means Christ’s resurrection verifies and authenticates that our justification has been secured.  God has accepted the sacrifice which Christ made that’s an essential part of the basis for our justification.  God showed his approval and acceptance by raising Christ from the dead.  Think also of Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”  You can’t have your sins forgiven if what’s left of the bones of Jesus Christ are still in the tomb near Jerusalem.  If the body of Jesus Christ is still dead, then the powers of sin and death have not been conquered.  Christ’s resurrection not only secures the victory over Satan, sin, and death, it also tells us that it’s the real thing, it authenticates and guarantees it.  It tells us God really has accepted what Christ has done in our place.  Through his resurrection Jesus has the victory and so we can share in his righteousness.

You see, death did not have a legitimate claim on him.  Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death.”  But our Lord Jesus himself had never sinned.  If he had remained dead, you would conclude otherwise.  He experienced death for us, but he didn’t deserve this.  So, also his resurrection testifies to his own personal righteousness, that righteousness that belongs to us, that is credited or accounted to us by God.

Loved ones, today we have a Saviour who is alive.  He is at God’s right hand and he makes us share in his righteousness.  We’re sinners and we fail continually to obey God’s law.  It would be easy to let that fact put you in the dumps.  Robert Murray M’Cheyne was well-known for saying that for every one look we take at ourselves, we should take ten looks to Christ.  That’s good advice.  Constantly we need to direct our attention to the risen Saviour whose righteousness is ours.  We share in his victory over sin, death and Satan.  In him, mercy triumphs over judgment.

So, the resurrection connects to the gospel promise of justification, victory over condemnation.  But it also speaks to our daily struggle with sin.  Remember:  we have peace with God, but it is a peace which has started a war.  That war is known as sanctification, the process by which the Holy Spirit more and more makes us over into the image of Christ.  We are promised victory in this war – Christ also conquers the power of sin in our lives.  The resurrection connects to this as well.  Jesus Christ rose from the dead with great power and it’s that same power that raises us up from the dead as well.   His power is active in our lives through the working of the Holy Spirit.  Through his presence and work we have real hope for change in our lives, real hope for victory over sin. 

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the risen and living Jesus.  Our Saviour sends his Spirit to live in us and he makes us eager to live holy lives pleasing to God.  That’s why it says in Colossians 3:1, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”  Through the Spirit, we’ve been made alive, just as Christ was made alive on the third day.  We share in his rising from the dead.  We’re no longer like zombies, like the spiritual walking dead.  Rather, we’re alive in him.

Since this is true in principle, it also has to increasingly become true in practice.  We’re called to live like those who are alive.  How do we do that?  The answer in Colossians 3:2 is:  by setting our hearts on “things that are above.”  And above all, that means again directing our hearts to Jesus Christ, who is seated at God’s right hand.  Also when it comes to our sanctification, we need Christ and the gospel.  We can’t think that here all of a sudden we can work out of our own resources and abilities.  We need to look to Christ also when it comes to sanctification. 

However, in sanctification, believers are also called to action.  Apart from faith which is receptive (resting and trusting), justification is something where we are essentially passive.  Sanctification is different.  In sanctification, Christ is the one who does this work, but he uses means.  He uses the Holy Spirit who lives in us and who activates our wills and directs our hearts and guides our actions.  But we aren’t passive receptors in sanctification. 

This is also clear in Colossians 3.  Let’s re-read Colossians 3:5-9.  In doing these things, we live as those who’ve been brought to life.  We show to God and those around us that we’re not dead in our sins.  We show how Christ’s resurrection has real power to transform our lives.   Most importantly of all, we show God how we love him – we love him who first loved us.  We show that we’re thankful to him that we’ve been adopted as his children and heirs through Christ.  We have a new life already – right here and right now.  As someone once said, the gospel is not just pie in the sky by and by, it’s also steak on your plate while you wait.  The gospel and its message of victory over sin connects right now with your life in this age.

This becomes even more clear if you were to look at the original German version of our Heidelberg Catechism.  What it says there is, “by his power we too are already now resurrected to a new life.”  “Already now”!  I don’t know why those words disappeared from our English edition, but they express the biblical reality of the doctrine of the resurrection for right now

Loved ones, the hope and victory of Christ’s resurrection gives you a template for thinking properly about both your struggles and your blessings.  You’re in a war and you’ll fight against sin in your life.  There may be moments where the fight doesn’t go so well.  When that happens, you fall to your knees and repent, looking again to the risen Christ as your perfect righteousness.  You can have comfort knowing that the you not only have the forgiveness of sins in him, but also perfect, positive righteousness before God --  already now.  He was victorious and his victory is yours.  And when the Lord blesses you with good things, also when he gives you spiritual growth, you can give all the praise and glory to him, knowing that his resurrection is part of what makes this happen.

The resurrection also speaks to our glorification and we’re going to conclude by briefly considering that. 

Our Lord Jesus rose from the dead – but you should remember that we also are going to rise from the dead.  There’s his resurrection and there’s also our resurrection.  Unless Jesus returns first, we will die – our souls and bodies will be separated.  However, the Bible promises us this isn’t a permanent separation.  Someday your body and soul will be reunited.  That’s what Scripture says 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.”  Believing in Christ, we have God’s promise that death can’t continue its hold on us – we will be victorious over it through Christ.  Our souls and bodies will be reunited and for us, this reunification will be a resurrection unto eternal life. 

That happens on the day Jesus returns.  When he comes back at the time known only by the Father, all bodies ever been put in the grave will be reunited with the souls.  Every one who has had true faith in Christ will receive their body back, but now glorified, transformed into something special, something untouched by sin and its effects.  When Christ rose from the dead, his body was also glorified, and this is the body he has today.  It’s a true human body (just as he has a true human soul), but now it’s perfect, which means, for instance, that it is impossible for that body to become sick or to die. 

Similarly, some day we will have glorified bodies.  Believers who had disabilities on this earth won’t be disabled any longer.  People who had glasses won’t need glasses anymore.  People who had diabetes won’t need insulin.  All our bodily weaknesses and failings will be gone.  Our bodies will be made perfect and we’ll share Christ’s victory over all those consequences of sin.  Because the Lord Jesus rose from the dead, we can be confident that we too will rise in perfection.  Loved ones, the Bible promises us that.

The Bible also says that those who don’t believe will be raised.  They won’t have glorified bodies.  They won’t live under God’s blessing for eternity.  Rather, they’ll have their bodies raised so they can be under God’s curse and wrath forever.  You see, there is a resurrection of glory, but also a resurrection of shame.  Those who have loved Jesus and believed in him, they’re guaranteed the resurrection of glory and vindication.  But those who don’t will receive a resurrection of shame and condemnation.  The same goes for hypocrites, for those who wear a mask and pretend to be Christians, just going through the motions, but not really embracing Christ in faith.

So, the question comes to us again this afternoon:  what is it going to be for you, brother; for you, sister?  Do you eagerly desire and look forward to the resurrection of glory?  Do you want to be living under God’s blessing in peace and joy in the new heaven and earth?  Well, let’s continue to look in faith to our risen Lord Jesus.  Through him we have the victory no one else can give.  We have justification, sanctification, glorification and indeed, every spiritual blessing.  AMEN.   


Heavenly Father,

We thank you that we have every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ our risen Saviour.  We praise you for his victory over sin, death and Satan.  We’re glad that because he is alive, we may be right with you.  We’re also encouraged to know that his resurrection power is at work within us through the Spirit.  Father, we’re also looking forward to our resurrection, guaranteed by his.  This world is so broken in so many ways and we look forward to seeing it all made right again.  Help us again to embrace all the promises that we’ve heard this afternoon.  Please continue working in our lives with your Spirit and Word.  Please give us more grace to grow in love for you and to want to follow you and your will in everything.  We ask that for the glory of your great and holy Name.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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