Sunday, May 9, 2010

On the Third Day...

This is the most exciting part about the Christian faith.  "On the third day he rose again from the dead."  I may omit the phrase before this, but I happily declare that He is risen!  In the death of Christ, the price has been paid for our salvation.  Calvin puts it this way: "We have in his death the complete fulfillment of salvation, for through it we are reconciled to God, his righteous judgment is satisfied, the curse is removed, and the penalty paid in full."  So the payment had been made through Christ's death on the cross.  But Christ did something even more than die on the cross, He rose from the dead.  In this act he showed His victory over death.  Calvin writes, "so the victory of our faith over death lies in his resurrection alone."  Also, according to Paul, Christ "was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification" (Romans 4:25).  His death removed our sins, but His resurrection restored our righteousness.

We must put to death our old selves, our old ways of living, in order to enjoy the promises that Christ has made to us.  Calvin says, "...the mortification of our flesh depends upon participation in his cross, so we must understand that we obtain a corresponding benefit from his resurrection."  Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV).  Even more to the point, Paul wrote to the Romans, "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4 NKJV).  Colossians 3:3,5 tells us specifically what this means to put to death our old selves, "For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God...Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry."

A third benefit from the resurrection is this: Christ rose from the dead and our faith in Him guarantees that we will also rise from the dead. Calvin simply points to 1 Corinthians 15:12-26 at this point.
12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
We move on to the phrase in the Apostles' Creed, "He ascended into heaven."  After He showed Himself to the apostles and many other followers, Christ ascended into heaven.  Ephesians 4:10 tells us the Christ ascended into heaven in order to fulfill all things.  Calvin points to something that may be seen by some as a contradiction.  Christ told His followers, "lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20 KJV).  Calvin uses the words of Augustine to clarify this.  "Christ was to go by death to the right hand of the Father, whence he should come to judge the living and the dead.  This he would do in bodily presence, according to pure doctrine and the rule of faith...we always have Christ according to the presence of majesty; but of his physical presence it was rightly said to his disciples, 'You will not always have me with you' [Matt. 26:11].  For the church had him in his bodily presence for a few days; now it holds him by faith, but does not see him with the eyes."

Calvin then writes about Christ sitting at the right hand of the Father.  This is a position of authority, especially in a king's court.  Quoting multiple Scripture passages, Calvin points out that Christ has authority over all things, named and unnamed, now and forever (Ephesians 1:20-21; Philippians 2:9).  All things are now subject to Christ (1 Corinthians 15:27).  He is over all things in His church (Ephesians 1:22).

Our faith benefits in three ways from Christ's ascension.  First, through Adam's sin, the way into heaven had been closed.  Christ's ascension opened the gates of heaven for us (John 14:3).  Second, Christ stands as an intercessor and advocate for us in the Father's court.  "Thus he turns the Father's eyes to his own righteousness to avert his gaze from our sins."  What a wonderful description of what Christ does for us.  Finally, our faith comprehends the power of Christ.  In this, we receive our strength against the powers of hell.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers who follow this blog.

Tomorrow's reading: 2.16.17-2.16.19

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