Jesus Christ, Our Living Savior
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, April 8, 2012
Copyright © 2012, P. G. Mathew
On this Easter Sunday morning, we want to speak to you about Jesus Christ, our living Lord. Jesus Christ is risen! The enemies of Jesus asked him to show them a miraculous sign so that they may believe in him. He gave them the greatest sign: his resurrection from the dead. He said, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). Yet they refused to believe in him. Paul said, "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 22–24).
The truth of the Christian message is inextricably linked to the historical reality of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It was the mission of Jesus that he defeat all God’s enemies—the devil, the demons, and all humans who follow the devil in complete obedience. And finally, it was his mission to defeat death itself.
By his incarnational life and death, Jesus fully accomplished his Father’s mission by his once-for-all death on the cross: "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15). And he is coming again for his final mop-up operation.
The Sadducees did not believe in the bodily resurrection. The Greeks did not either. For them, matter was considered to be evil, so salvation consisted in the liberation of the soul from the prison house of the human body. So for the Greeks, bodily resurrection was not the fullness of salvation, but the re-imprisonment of the soul.
The Greeks believed only in a vague notion of the immortality of the soul. The Pharisees believed in the resurrection of the body on the last day. Jesus himself declared, "I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25); "I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Four times Jesus proclaimed that he would raise on the last day all who believe in him.
The unbeliever with his fallen reason cannot understand that God raises the dead. He cannot understand spiritual things because he does not have the Holy Spirit and therefore no renewed mind. He negates the greatest reality by saying in his heart that there is no God. He is a fool, pretending to be an intellectual. Being a fool, he does not believe in God’s creation, providence, redemption, or the final judgment.
The resurrection of Christ demonstrated God’s power over death and all his enemies. The Jewish Sanhedrin knew the reality of the resurrection of Christ. They knew Jesus himself had raised up Lazarus from the dead, though Lazarus was dead and decaying for four days. They knew all the other miracles Jesus performed. They knew that he predicted his own death and resurrection on the third day. Therefore, the authorities sealed the tomb of Jesus and posted guards to keep Jesus from rising from the dead. But Jesus rose, and it was reported to the Sanhedrin. They gave the guards a large sum of money and told them to keep this matter to themselves.
The Sanhedrin listened to the apostolic witness to the resurrection, but they failed to stop the apostles’ preaching and the growth of the church because they could not produce the dead body of Jesus. They could not do so because Jesus Christ indeed was raised from the dead, just as he said.
Christ Is Our Life
First Corinthians 15 is the longest chapter in the Bible that deals specifically with the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of all true believers in him. The Greek word egeirô (to raise from the dead) appears in this chapter nineteen times. It appears seven times in the perfect passive, egêgertai, indicating Jesus now lives, he lives forever, and he shall never die again.
Paul says, "For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him” (Rom. 6:9). Jesus himself said, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev. 1:18).
Christ, by his life and death, secured benefits for us. He himself had no need for them, being very God and very man, but he secured for us everlasting life and the forgiveness of all our sins. He secured justification, reconciliation, adoption, and glorification. He took all our liabilities, and we receive all his assets by faith in Christ our bridegroom.
Because Christ has been raised forever, we live forever in him. The wages of sin is eternal death. Jesus died our death on the cross, and the gift of God is eternal life for us. The sacrificial death of Christ was totally satisfactory to the Father, so the Father raised his Son from the dead. Death could not hold him down in the grave because Jesus was without sin. And by his death, Christ destroyed our death and freed us into the sphere of everlasting life. All praise be to God!
Christ’s Resurrection Is a Historical Fact
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a historical fact, proved beyond a shadow of doubt by God the Father himself. The Old Testament required two witnesses to establish a fact in the court: "One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (Deut. 19:15). The New Testament recognized this requirement. Jesus himself said, "But if [a person] will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses’” (Matt. 18:16).
Throughout the New Testament, we find references to the resurrection of Christ. Luke, as a historian, collected eyewitness reports to write his two-volume work, Luke/Acts, as he states in the introductions to his gospel and the book of Acts:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1–4)
After his suffering, [Jesus] showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” (Acts 1:3–4)
Peter says in Acts 10,
We are witnesses of everything [Jesus] did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:39–43)
Paul says, "For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). God the Father has given proof of the coming judgment to all men of the whole world, believers and unbelievers, "by raising him,” Jesus Christ, the man God appointed, "from the dead.”
Witnesses saw the empty tomb. They saw the strips of linen and the burial cloth that had been around his head lying there in order, undisturbed. They heard the angels say, "You are seeking Jesus of Nazareth. He is not here; he is risen, as he said. Come and see the empty tomb.” The women saw him and clasped his feet. Mary Magdalene saw him and heard him call her by name and touched him. He told his disciples in the upper room to touch him. He said, "I am not a ghost. I have a physical body of flesh and bones. Touch me and see!” He ate before them broiled fish to give them convincing proof that he is risen from the dead.
The risen Christ ate and drank with his disciples forty days after his resurrection. Yet Thomas refused to believe the eyewitness testimony of the apostles. He demanded that he would believe only if he saw Jesus personally and put his fingers in the nail prints in his hands and feet, and put his hand into his side to touch the spear wound mark. So Jesus appeared to him and asked Thomas to touch him. Thomas touched Jesus and believed. Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:28). This was a rebuke. We are to believe on the basis of the eyewitness reports in the Scriptures. Peter tells us, "Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Pet. 1:8).
Jesus is not going to make a special appearance today to unbelievers so that they may believe. We are to believe the eyewitness reports of those who were chosen by God to witness the risen Christ. So today we see the risen Christ in the apostolic witness encapsulated in the Bible. And in 1 Corinthians 15:1–11, Paul cites six appearances: first to Peter; then to the twelve apostles; then to more than five hundred brothers at one time; then to James, the Lord’s brother; then to all the apostles; and last of all, to Paul, the chief of sinners.
Jesus does not make such appearances anymore to satisfy unbelievers’ curiosity and demands. He gave many convincing, infallible proofs that he was alive, and he did this for forty days. Peter said that they killed Christ by crucifixion, but on the third day, God raised him from the dead and caused him to be seen by chosen witnesses "who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:39–41).
To the Athenians, Paul the eyewitness declared, "[God] now commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30–31). If we don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are declaring that God is a liar. He has given many convincing proofs, according to God’s definition of convincing proofs. These proofs come from the eyewitness reports in the holy Bible.
To establish a matter as fact required two witnesses by the court, but Paul says that the risen Christ was seen by more than five hundred brothers at one time. Instead of the legal requirement of two witnesses, God has given us more than five hundred witnesses. So what Paul is saying is this: the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the first to rise from the dead, never to die again, is a historical fact proven beyond a shadow of doubt by not two but over five hundred witnesses, and that without this resurrection, there is no good news for sinners.
The gospel has four elements in 1 Corinthians 15:3–8. First, Christ died. He died a sacrificial, substitutionary death; he died an atoning death; and he died for (huper) our sins. Huper is one of the greatest and most glorious words in the Bible. Christ died in behalf of us and in our place. "He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21, author’s version). Christ died for our benefit, not for his. He had no sin. Christ died our death. The wages of sin is death. And he died kata tas graphas – according to the Scriptures (see the prophecies of Isaiah 53 and Psalm 16).
Second, Christ was buried (etaphê). Christ’s burial shows that his death was certain as well as that his resurrection was certain (Matt. 28:6; Mark 16:6). The angel called the people and said, "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Matt. 28:6). The tomb has reference to his death as well as to his resurrection. The witnesses saw the empty tomb. It was an infallible proof.
Third, he was raised (egêgertai). It is the perfect passive indicative third person singular of egeirô. It appears in 1 Corinthians 15 a total of seven times (vv. 4, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 20). It means God raised him, and he lives forever and ever for us. He lives forever. He shall never die again. His one death was effectual for our salvation. And his resurrection itself was kata tas graphas – according to the Scriptures. He was raised. Who raised him? The Bible clearly says that the Father raised him. So Paul writes, "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” (Rom. 8:11). On the day of Pentecost, Peter declared, "But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep [him down]” (Acts 2:24).
The fourth element is, he was seen (ôphthê). That is the evidence of his resurrection. (PGM) God the Father made certain that a certain number of people chosen by him saw Christ as risen from the dead.
God gave us many infallible proofs of Christ’s resurrection. Indeed, he gave us an abundance of proofs, convincing proofs, and not only to us, but to the whole world. God is not asking us to believe in nothing. He is not asking us to take a leap in the dark. He is asking us to believe the gospel of truth, facts, and historical reality. The apostles declared with boldness the gospel and died for the gospel because they were eyewitnesses of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
This gospel is not man-created, like the belief system of other religions. Paul says, "What I received I passed on to you” (1 Cor. 15:3). The gospel is of God’s creation. We receive it. We don’t add to it or subtract from it. We receive, we believe, we are saved, and we proclaim. That is our job.
What is the gospel? Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins and was raised for our justification. Paul tells us it is of first importance (en prôtois). Young man, old man, do you understand the gospel is of first importance? It is not of last importance. It is the one thing needful to sinners who are under law, under sin, under the wrath of God, under eternal death. The gospel is that which we need most of all—not money, not power, not fame. The gospel alone will put you under grace and in Christ to enjoy eternal life. Seek therefore first the gospel of the kingdom of God.
Heretics had infiltrated the Corinthian church. They denied the bodily resurrection of the dead. These heretics were intellectuals. They said, "We do not see the dead rise; therefore, the dead cannot rise, and therefore, Jesus Christ was not raised. This is what Plato said and this is what we believe. Our gospel is that death is all there is. Therefore, stop believing in the miracle of resurrection. You are a fool if you believe in this doctrine of the bodily resurrection. You are a Bible-thumper, a fundamentalist.”
Similarly, today’s intellectuals laugh at orthodox Christianity. What is their problem? They deny the infinite, personal God, because the fool has said in his heart, "There is no God.” So they pontificate that God did not create the world ex nihilo. They say there is no God of providence, no absolute morality, no sin, no guilt, no judgment, and no post-mortal existence. They say, "Eat, drink, and sin all you want, for today or tomorrow we will die, and that is the end. So don’t read the Bible, don’t believe in Jesus Christ, don’t believe in his resurrection. Just buy a lot of insurance.”
Paul tells us that such intellectuals have a huge problem: They are ignorant of God—God almighty, God all-wise, God all-holy, God all-knowing, God eternal, the personal God, God the Creator and God the Redeemer. He warns, "Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame” (1 Cor. 15:33-34). This was the problem of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus said to them, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matt. 22:29).
Only God can raise the dead. So Paul told King Agrippa and his unbelieving friends, "Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). So those who are ignorant of God and ignorant of Scripture remain ignorant of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. They therefore reject the gospel.
Death Is Defeated Forever
God Almighty says through the prophet Isaiah, "On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, ‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation’” (Isa. 25:7–9).
God has defeated death by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ his Son. The resurrection of Jesus Christ declares the defeat of death and of all God’s enemies. So if there were no resurrection of Jesus Christ, God would have been defeated, and the devil would have won. But the mission of Jesus was to defeat death and all God’s enemies, and he has done it! Jesus Christ is risen! Hallelujah! We have been raised with him already spiritually, and we shall be raised with him with an immortal glorious body on the last day. Paul says, "It has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). Christ has destroyed death and brought immortal life. Paul also writes, "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. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:20–22).
Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of all who believe in him. He is the aparchê, the firstfruits of all who have fallen asleep in him. The Jews brought the first sheaf of grain into the temple to be consecrated to God. The firstfruits point to the harvest. When the firstfruits are consecrated, the harvest is also consecrated to God. The firstfruits show that the coming harvest is like it in nature and quality; they represent the harvest. In the same way, in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our resurrection is represented. So the resurrection of Christ points to and guarantees the resurrection and transformation of every believer in Jesus. And our resurrection body will also be like his glorious body.
So Paul declares, "Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20–21). Jesus said, "Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). In Adam we died, but in Christ we live. In Jesus Christ, every believer lives eternal life spiritually and physically. Life is in the Son, not in Allah or anyone else. Life is in the Son, and he who has the Son has life. How can we have the Son? By faith in Christ. Paul writes, "If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
No one is going to be saved without believing in the resurrection of Christ. A dead Jesus cannot save anyone. He himself would need a Savior. The Christ of theological liberalism, therefore, saves no one. So liberals are without hope and without God in this world. Jesus Christ was the first one to rise from the dead to live forevermore. This Jesus Christ is given all authority in heaven and on earth, and he is now seated on the right hand of God in heaven. He is coming again as King of kings and Lord of lords to judge the living and the dead. He is coming to raise all who died in Christ, all who sleep in Jesus, and to transform all believers who are still living at his coming. The resurrection of Christ is the pledge and proof of the resurrection of all his people. Now death has no claim on true believers in Jesus Christ.
We Live Forever
The sting of death is sin. It is like a scorpion’s sting, but it is an everlasting sting. The strength of sin is the law of God. That is, sin is the transgression of God’s law. The sinner is guilty. The wages of sin is stinging death.
Jesus died for our sins. In our place and for our benefit, he drank fully the cup of divine wrath that was ours. Christ took it from us and drank it to the dregs. The psalmist speaks of this cup: "In the hand of the LORD is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs” (Ps. 75:8). Jeremiah says, "But if they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink, tell them, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty says: You must drink it!’” (Jer. 25:28). But, thank God, the cup of God’s wrath has been taken from my hand by Jesus Christ himself, and he drank it. He experienced the sting of death that was mine.
Jesus has taken away our sting of death. So we will die in Christ without experiencing the sting of death because Christ, who was "born of a [virgin], born under the law [to obey it fully], to redeem those under law” – that is, the true believers in Jesus Christ, "that we might receive the full rights as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5). "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). So we read, "‘In those days, at that time,’ declares the LORD, ‘search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare’” (Jer. 50:20).
Jesus Christ has become our "righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Isaiah says God has put all our sins behind his back (Isa. 38:17). In Isaiah 43:25 the Lord himself says he has blotted out our transgressions and remembers them no more. Oh, what blessed, divine amnesia! In Isaiah 44:22 he tells us that he has swept away our offenses like a cloud, our sins like the morning mist. And Micah asks, "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? … [who will] tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea?” (Micah 7:18–19).
So when we die, we will die in Christ, not in our sins. When we die, we shall die a stingless death. We will die in the hope that will not make us ashamed. To those who trust in Christ, to die is gain; to die is to live; to die is better by far. To be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord (see 2 Cor. 5:8). It is called being blessed, a state of being happy. It is called precious: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:5). At death, our perfected spirit goes to paradise, to the third heaven, to Abraham’s bosom, to be with God, to enjoy an even greater degree of our salvation. And from there, we shall come down with Christ to this earth to be clothed with our incorruptible, powerful, immortal, glorious, Holy-Spirit-engineered bodies of flesh and bones with which to enjoy the fullness of salvation in the new heaven and in the new earth, with God Triune, with the holy angels, and with all God’s holy people.
Paul cried out in Romans 7, "What a wretched man I am! Who shall rescue me from this body of death?” And the answer came: "Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24–25). We do not serve a dead and buried Christ, but a crucified, buried, and risen Christ, the conqueror of death. We serve a living Savior!
In the death and resurrection of Christ, God the Father swallowed up our death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away our tears and remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth (Isa. 25:8). The Lord has spoken. The last enemy to be destroyed totally when Christ comes will be death itself.
Paul says, "We will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead [in Christ] will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and this mortal with immortality” (1 Cor. 15:51–53). The word for "must” is dei, signifying it is a divine decree, a divine necessity.
Notice, there is continuity in our resurrection body. Paul continues, "Then the scripture shall be fulfilled: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’” Then Paul taunts and mocks death by asking these questions: "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” Death is defeated. Death has no sting for the saints of God. Then he says, "But thanks be to God! He gives the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54–57).
The Corinthians said there is no resurrection. Paul says there is no death. "Neither death nor life nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Christ has given us eternal life. We shall ever live with our living Lord. In Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ we are victorious every day. We are overcomers. The devil flees in fear of us. We super-conquer our enemies by faith in Christ, who died for our sins, was buried, was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and was seen by a multitude of chosen witnesses to give many infallible proofs to all people of the earth. Jesus Christ is risen; he is risen indeed. Hallelujah!
So what do we do? Stand firm in the gospel, be unmovable and unshaken by fools who deny the resurrection of Christ. Labor for the Lord Jesus Christ, the risen One, who is coming to reward the labor of his saints.
If you have not trusted in Jesus Christ, I urge you to consider these scriptures. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is for the resurrection of his people. Paul writes, "By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also” (1 Cor. 6:14). He also says, "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” (2 Cor. 4:14). Elsewhere he says, "We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him” (1 Thess. 4:14).
Our salvation is in and by and through Jesus Christ. There is no salvation outside of Christ. Only Christ by his death and resurrection defeated death forever. So we live eternally. All blessings and happiness and life and peace and joy are to be found in him alone, and from him, they flow to us through faith in Christ.
This gospel is of first importance. The purpose of all human existence is to trust in the holy person and saving work of Jesus Christ. Have you done that? Have you trusted in Christ alone? Don’t trust in yourself. Deny yourself and rely in Christ alone now and forever. Then you too can join with me and cry out with Paul, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Is Jesus Christ your Lord, your life, your joy, your hope, your peace? Jesus told Martha, "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 will never die.” And now comes the question from Christ: "Do you believe this?” Martha replied, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” (John 11:25–27). And at the end of his gospel, John discloses his purpose in writing it: "These [things] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
Friends, trust in Jesus and rejoice with us! Christians are the true intellectuals because they alone believe in God’s truth of the gospel. They alone truly live. Trust in Christ and be saved today—even today.
Thank you for reading. If you found this content useful or encouraging, let us know by sending an email to email@example.com.
Copyright © 2012, P. G. Mathew
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The "NIV" and "New International Version" are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™