Jesus Lives for Us
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, March 23, 2008
Copyright © 2008, P. G. Mathew
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Romans 8:11
This is the day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. God sent his Son so that he, as God-man, may live under God's law fully and die for our sins, making perfect atonement for us on the cross. Jesus accomplished redemption for us and the Holy Spirit applies that redemption into the heart of every elect sinner. Jesus Christ is risen indeed from the dead! He lived for us, he died for us, he now lives for us, and because he lives, we will live also. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25-26).
Jesus himself prophesied about his violent death. He also spoke about his miraculous resurrection, that took place on the third day according to the Scriptures. Many people make predictions that do not come true. Such people are false prophets. But all of Jesus' predictions came true. The Jews handed him over to the Romans and Pilate handed him over to be crucified. Yet these events occurred, as Peter tells us, by God's set purpose and foreknowledge so that Jesus could make atonement for our sins (Acts 2:23).
The Romans crucified Jesus, he died, and his friends buried him in a new tomb. The soldiers made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting a guard. But it was to no avail: the Father raised Jesus on the third day through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit. The angel said to the women: "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him'" (Matt. 28:6-7). Then the risen Jesus himself met them and said, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me" (Matt. 28:10).
Jesus "was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Rom. 4:25). The resurrection of Jesus proves that the Son of God was sinless in his being and actions, and that his sacrificial atonement for our sins has been accepted by the Father, so that everyone who believes in him will be saved forever.
Saul of Tarsus was an enemy of Jesus and his disciples, persecuting and even murdering some of them. But the risen Jesus appeared to him, forgave all his sins, and commissioned him to be his apostle. This Saul, later known as Paul, believed in the incredible truth that Stephen and others declared, that Jesus Christ lived, died, was buried, rose from the dead, and reigns supreme.
Paul himself stated: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born" (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
Of all the religions of the world, only Christianity has a founder who was crucified, killed, and raised from the dead. Only Christianity can save sinners from their sins by grace through the atoning death of another, who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). A Gentile jailer asked in panic at midnight, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Paul answered, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-you and your household." The jailer believed, and he and his household were saved that very night (Acts 16:29-34). A Jesus who remained dead would need salvation himself, but the risen Christ became a life-giving spirit and so saves all who trust in him (1 Cor. 15:45).
Christ's Death in Our Behalf
Romans 8:9-11 speaks about the resurrection of Christ and the hope we have because of it. The epistle of Romans is a presentation of the gospel that declares Christ's defeat of death and his resurrection in our behalf. Paul declares, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). The reason Paul could write that is because the triune God accomplished what we could not by our own self-righteous keeping of his law.
The Father has saved us through his one and only Son by the Holy Spirit. He did so by condemning our sin in person of his incarnate Son (Rom. 8:1-4). Paul writes that God sent his own Son into this world "in the likeness of sinful man" (Rom. 8:3), meaning that the Son became human, yet was sinless in his person and life. Jesus himself asked, "Who can convict me of sin?" The answer is, "No one." He said, "I always do what pleases my Father." Paul continues in verse 3 to tell us that Christ was sent by the Father in the likeness of sinful man "for sin" or "to be a sin offering" (peri hamartias). Christ was sent to deal with sin and death by making atonement by his own death, as we read in Isaiah 53. The Holy Spirit applies to every elect sinner this salvation that God planned and the Son accomplished. So Paul says, "Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." Paul had ended Romans 7 by asking this profound question: "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:24). The answer is, the Spirit of life, meaning the Spirit who is life and who gives life. The law of the Spirit of life sets us free from the law of sin and eternal death.
Two Kinds of People
Then Paul writes that "[God] condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us" (Rom. 8:3-4). This means that by Christ's atoning sacrifice, we are justified forever, and are therefore also being sanctified. Paul further qualifies who we are: "who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit" (v. 4). All people fall into two categories: what Paul calls kata sarka (those who walk "according to the flesh") and kata pneuma (those who walk "according to the Spirit"). "Flesh" people are those who are living under the power of sin without any influence of the Holy Spirit. Their lives end in eternal death. They are always thinking how to sin. Their evil thoughts demonstrate their enmity toward God. Paul says these atheists do not obey God's law nor can they do so. Sinners have a moral inability to obey God's law. They cannot please God; rather, they please the devil by pleasing themselves in choosing a hedonistic life.
But those who are saved by the triune God will walk according to the Holy Spirit. They are no longer controlled by sin but by the Spirit of God. They study the Bible diligently so that they can think what the Holy Spirit wants them to think. Their lives are characterized, not by death but by eternal life, and they enjoy peace with God and man. They are not enemies of God; they are his children and friends who gladly obey his laws. They are given moral ability by the Spirit to obey God and please him. Their chief desire is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Of them Paul writes, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you" (Rom. 8:9). If we have trusted in Jesus Christ, we are no longer controlled by our sinful nature but by the Holy Spirit. We do not live to please ourselves but God. We are different; we are en pneumati-in the Spirit. God translated us from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of his dear Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin. We have been taken out of the realm of the flesh and placed in an entirely different realm-the kingdom of God, which is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Not only are we in God the Holy Spirit, but we are also in Christ. As Paul wrote, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1). By faith we are united with Christ. Additionally, we are in God the Father. So we are baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The triune God is responsible for our eternal salvation. We are not outside; we are in-in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we have great security. Neither death nor life, Satan nor sin, nor anything in all creation, can separate us from God's love.
Indwelt by the Holy Spirit
Not only are we in the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit also dwells in us permanently. The distinction between a saint and a sinner is that the Holy Spirit dwells in the saint. But how can the infinite dwell in the finite? It is a mystery; yet it is true, and we must believe it. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit dwells in each one of us. As God dwelt in the tabernacle and the temple, so the Holy Spirit dwells in the church and in every true believer. In fact, it is the Holy Spirit who gives us new birth, without which no one can see or enter into the kingdom of God.
The Holy Spirit applies Christ's redemption to us in two stages. First, he regenerates us so that we who were spiritually dead, sinful enemies of God are now alive toward God so that we can repent and believe in Christ. Then he indwells us, ruling us from within by teaching us the truth of Christ and guiding us in the way we should go: "As many as are being led by the Spirit, they and they alone are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14, author's translation). Not only does he give us Holy Spirit power to will and to do the will of God, but he also distributes spiritual gifts to us for the edification of the church. He produces the fruit of the Spirit within us: love, joy, peace, self-control, and so on. As God's people, we live under his beneficent rule as Obed-Edom and his family lived when the ark was placed in his house. Although the presence of God in the ark had just killed Uzzah for his impiety, yet God blessed Obed-Edom and his family. Such spiritual, physical, and temporal blessings will also come to us when God dwells in our homes, our hearts, and in our churches. Jesus promises, "For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them" (Matt. 18:20). He is in our midst to bless, heal, save, comfort, and guide us. This is joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Waging War against Sin
Yet sin also dwells in us (Rom. 7:17, 20). But the Spirit of God is infinite; sin is not. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and wages a war against sin, and the Spirit wins always. Praise God, we do not have to fight against sin in our own strength! We do fight, but we fight with the Holy Spirit. It is not just me fighting against sin; I fight with God, and God always wins.
So Paul writes, "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live" (Rom. 8:13). We are soldiers, called to wage war by killing our sin in the power of the Holy Spirit. Elsewhere Paul describes this conflict between the flesh and the Spirit, assuring us that if we walk according to the Spirit, we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:14-18). Thank God for the Holy Spirit living in us and enabling us to fight and defeat sin! Paul also says that the church is the habitation of God where the Holy Spirit dwells (Eph. 2:22). So we are in the Spirit, and the Spirit dwells in us. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, none of this would have happened. When Jesus rose from the dead, he defeated death, sin, Satan, and the world. God's justice was fully satisfied in the death of his Son. Having accomplished salvation, God permanently dwells in us and we in him.
Not only does the Spirit dwell in us, but the Father and the Son also dwell in us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself guaranteed that the Son and the Father would come and dwell in us and show themselves to us (John 14:21-23). Paul also speaks about Christ dwelling in us in Ephesians 3:16-19. If the triune God dwells in us, then we will live a victorious Christian life. (PGM) Paul writes, "But in all these things," meaning in all kinds of troubles, "we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Rom. 8:37).
Let us get up and fight! Understand that Christ is risen, and his power of resurrection is unleashed to us by the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world-faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose again. "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony" (Rev. 12:11). Resist the devil and he shall flee from you (1 Pet. 5:8). God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the benefit of the church, including us. Moreover, we are also seated with Christ to rule and reign with him. So let us resist sin, the devil, and the world with all its atheism and immorality. Let us daily confess, "Christ lived for me, Christ died for me, Christ rose for me, Christ reigns for me, and we live and reign with him."
Ruling and Reigning with Christ
Christ's resurrection power is for us! Paul prays "that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. The power is like the working of his mighty strength which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead" (Eph. 1:18-20). Then he says: "I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power" (Eph. 3:7). The Spirit of God dwells in us, making us alive and giving us power. Paul adds, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Eph. 3:20-21). Finally, he exhorts us to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power, that we may wrestle against all wickedness in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 6:10-18).
Fellow saints, we do not just exist; in Christ we rule. Paul says that death and sin reign in unbelievers, but grace reigns in us, and we ourselves reign even now: "For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. . . . Just as sin reigned in death, so also grace [reigns] through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:17, 21). Through Christ we can resist and overcome the devil and be super-victorious in every situation.
The Fullness of Salvation
The Holy Spirit applies full salvation to us-the salvation of our spirits as well as of our dying bodies. Paul writes, "But if Christ is in you, your body is dead but your spirit is alive because of righteousness" (Rom. 8:10). We do not need much proof to be convinced that our bodies are dying. They have the seed of death in them; in fact, the first breath we take is also one of our last, for it is appointed for man once to die. We die because of Adam's one sin. We are dying now and we shall die. Paul cries out in Romans 7:24, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" We may experience arthritis, kidney failure, cancer, blindness, deafness, or heart attack, and finally we will die and be buried. But Paul is saying that death is not our ultimate destiny. It is the destiny only of those who are not in Christ by faith. Our ultimate destiny is eternal life and fullness of life of spirit and body. The indwelling Spirit who gave spiritual life to us is the first installment of our salvation. What God begins, he also completes. He began his life-giving work in regeneration and he shall complete his work of applying redemption to us by raising us from the dead.
The Greeks despised the body and gloried in the immorality of the soul. But we glory in God's full redemption, which includes the resurrection of our bodies. We agree that, on the one hand, our bodies are dead because of sin. But our spirits are alive because the righteousness of Christ has been imputed to us and therefore we will live spiritually and physically forever.
Finally, Paul says: "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to [or make alive] your mortal bodies through his indwelling Spirit" (Rom. 8:11, author's translation). Here we find the guarantee of the second installment of salvation for everyone in whom the Holy Spirit dwells. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all guarantee our resurrection from the dead.
Paul spoke often of this. To the Corinthians he writes, "Because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. . . . Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Cor. 4:14, 16). This is speaking about our glorious resurrection and glorious body. He also says, "By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also" (1 Cor. 6:14). Not only does the Father raise us, but the Son also raises us. In fact, all three Persons of the Godhead shall deliver us from our body of death. So Paul explains, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man, Jesus Christ. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him" (1 Cor. 15:20-23). In John 6 Jesus promises four times that he will raise us up on the last day. And in Ephesians 1:13-14 Paul says the Holy Spirit is given to us as a deposit guaranteeing our full salvation that will eventuate in the resurrection of our bodies.
The resurrection of Christ guarantees our bodily resurrection because Christ and his people are inextricably linked. He rose so that we will also can be raised. Paul states: "Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. . . . Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. . . . And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified" (Rom. 8:17, 23, 30). Our final salvation is so certain that Paul puts it in the past tense. He has done it! That is why Jesus tells us, "Be not afraid."
But salvation cannot come to us unless we are united with him who is life-God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It cannot come to us unless we are in Christ. Let me ask you: Do you belong to Christ? Or, to put it another way, does his Spirit dwell in you? The ultimate test of a Christian is whether the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you, ruling your life, guiding you, teaching you, empowering you, and granting you victory. If this is true of you, then fear not, especially the death that is soon to come to you. We do not fear death because the Bible says death is far better than life for a Christian: it is blessing and gain, it is going to paradise. There are three degrees of enjoyment of our salvation: first, here and now; second, when we die; and third, at the resurrection, when we shall enjoy eternal life to the fullest.
Paul declares that Adam became a living soul, but Jesus Christ became a life-giving spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). He told his disciples, "I have come that [you] may have life and have it to the full" (John 10:10). Abundant life speaks about the resurrection. Christ gives life to our spirits and to our bodies. And God promises that when we see him, we shall be like him-like Jesus Christ with a physical body, a Spirit-engineered body called a spiritual body, a glorious, immortal, powerful body. By his life and death Jesus Christ brought life and immortality to light (2 Tim. 1:10).
Therefore, let us not worry about the pains and miseries of this temporal life. We will pray, and God may heal us or he may not. But we must not worry: Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and our lives are tied up with his life by faith. Rejoice, saints of God! You are in the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit dwells permanently in you, applying Christ's life in its fullness to you in two stages. The first stage is already done; the second stage is coming, and his presence in us guarantees our final resurrection. The Holy Spirit will make us fit to live in a new heaven and a new earth in God's presence where there shall be no more sin, no more death, no more tears, no more pain, and no more sorrow, but life forevermore.
If you are not in Christ, you are dead and looking forward only to eternal death. God is going to raise up everyone-believers and unbelievers unlike-but they have different destinies. Jesus said, "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out-those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned" (John 5:28-29). If you are not in Christ, I plead with you to cry out and say, "What must I do to be saved?" The simple answer is, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."
Copyright © 2008, P. G. Mathew
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