Article for the May edition of The Hillside Messenger
“The difference Easter has made”
What difference has the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ on the first Easter Day made to the lives of Christians?
Without Christ’s resurrection, as St. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15, there is no general resurrection of the dead, and the preaching of the Gospel is empty of meaning, and so is the faith of Christians (1 Corinthians 15:14). The consequence of this would be that Christians would still remain unforgiven, and bound by their sins (1 Cor. 15:17). Moreover, if for this life only we have placed our hope in Christ, we Christians are most to be pitied among all people (1 Cor. 15:19).
But this pitiable state of affairs is not the case, since the Lord Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead, the “firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20, NKJV). This means that the Lord Jesus Christ was the first one to rise from the dead, and is the firstfruits of the harvest of the resurrection, which is the first resurrection, the resurrection of the faithful (Rev. 20:5c-6).
One great difference the Lord’s resurrection has made, is that we who have believed in him have the hope of both resurrection to everlasting life with him and of beholding the glory of God (Romans 5:2). St. Peter expresses this clearly as follows:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
(1 Peter 1:3-5, KJV)
These verses affirm that it is by means of Jesus Christ’s resurrection that God has given us a new birth, so that, as God’s adopted children, we have an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance waiting for us, kept in heaven, just as we ourselves are preserved by God’s power through faith until God’s final and total salvation is revealed in the last days.
Another great difference Christ’s resurrection has made, is that all who believe will be made alive in him (1 Cor. 15:22). Christ’s resurrection shows the effectiveness of his sacrificial death on the cross in reconciling the world to God the Father. So Christ stands in contrast to Adam. Though both Adam and Christ are human beings, Christ is also the Son of God, and through his own death on the cross brought life to humanity, instead of death, as Adam did through his transgression of God’s commandment. The new life of the resurrection, however, is given to the faithful at the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then they will receive the spiritual body of the resurrection, as St. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:42-55.
Besides the hope of this new life, and the hope of the glory of God, and the hope of resurrection, what difference has the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ made to the lives of all believers? The first chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians lists many of the blessings Christians have received because of their faith in Christ, and because of his resurrection. Among these great blessings are redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7). Now, if Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead, we could not have received his redemption and the forgiveness of our sins. His resurrection proved the effectiveness of his sacrifice, and God’s acceptance of his sacrifice.
Because Christians now share in Christ’s being through their Baptism and the faith that they have placed in him, they receive the revelation of God’s will in Christ. This is very necessary for our daily lives, that we know God’s will. But a great part of God’s will is to unite everything in the universe under one authority in Christ (Eph. 1:10). The revelation of God’s will to us in Christ will not only guide us in this life, but enable us to realize our destiny in the life to come. Having found salvation in Christ, Christians receive from God also the meaningful truth that they have been created for the praise of God’s glory (Eph. 1:12). This reminds me of the purpose of man as expressed in the answer to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1646-1647): “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Since the ultimate purpose of man’s existence is to glorify God, even now in this life, we must live daily with this purpose in mind.
Therefore, another difference made by Jesus Christ’s resurrection is to the way in which we live our lives. St. Paul speaks of this in writing to the Colossians:
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
(Colossians 3:1-4, KJV)
St. Paul is here commanding us to have in mind the heavenly virtues, rather than the sins that are so typical of worldly living. We must behave always as if we are in the presence of Christ the King, seated at God’s right hand. John Calvin, in his commentary on this passage, pointed out that the word for “set your mind on” expresses “assiduity and intensity; as if he said, ‘Let your whole meditation be on this; to this apply your abilities and mind’” (p. 345, T.H.L. Parker [Translator]: The Epistles of Paul The Apostle to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. Calvin’s Commentaries. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965. Reprinted, 1979). The reason for setting our affections on the heavenly virtues of Christ, is that spiritually we have died to the lusts of the flesh and the world and to everything sinful, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.
I have extracted from the Scriptures some passages that may assist us in appreciating the vast difference made to our lives by the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. But now I encourage you all to meditate on how the Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection has changed your attitude to life and your sense of purpose and hope for the future.