OR “Why the Resurrection is Essential to Your Salvation” (in honor of Holy Week)
Much of my writing is presented to refute false teaching in the fundamentalist and evangelical Christian world. But I always want to point my readers to what is true, right, and good.
This Holy Week—the week that Christians especially honor the Lord Jesus Christ for all He has done for us, the week that culminates with a celebration of His Resurrection for us—I want to zero in on The Gospel.
Through the years that I’ve been in this evangelical world, I’ve pondered how much the term “gospel” is presented as vital, while at the same time how seldom those who use the term “gospel” have actually defined and described what they mean by it.
But understanding what “the gospel” is can mean the difference between death and life.
The popular definition of “the gospel”
“The gospel” is currently taught in evangelical circles like this:
When you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, then through His death (“the cross”), you are forgiven of your sins.
This teaching of the cross, with its substitutionary atonement and forgiveness, is vital to the believer.
But it’s incomplete.
In my own journey, back in the early-to-mid-2000s I had encountered a book called The Rest of the Gospel: When the Partial Gospel Has Worn You Out that had helped me understand what was missing in the gospel teaching as I had understood it.
What is “the gospel” really?
In fact, everything that Jesus accomplished for us is part of “the gospel” (the good news).
The question is, what all did Jesus accomplish for us, exactly?
Some have asked me what I mean when I say I’m a “New Covenant Christian.” What understandings about our salvation accompany the Biblical beliefs that the New Covenant is the final covenant and it is better than the Old (2 Corinthians 3:7-13; Hebrews 8:10-12; 10:16-17)?
Here are six important truths:
1. Jesus lived a perfect life for us
I had always known He needed to be sinless because He was God, and He needed to get to be a man before He was crucified, and He needed to show His power through His miracles, and He needed to preach the Kingdom. But I was in my 30s before I understood that He needed to keep all the law for us, so that in Him, we have also kept all the law.
I heard it, I learned it, and then I spent several years trying to wrap my head around it.
No, understanding this truth does not lead to licentiousness. It is one of the truths that will lead to transformation.
2. Jesus died for our sins
This is the main truth that’s preached when people preach what they call “the gospel.” He died to take the punishment for our sins, and yes, we are immensely grateful.
But there’s so much more.
3. Jesus rose again for our victory over sin
This is where I get to talk about how we can live by the power of the Resurrection.
For the longest, I thought that the main reason Jesus rose again was to win His own victory over physical death.
Well, it’s true, yes. In “Defeat that Roaring Lion,” I said,
Throughout the life of Jesus, and especially as He went to the cross, the lion roared. Roared to split the earth in two.
But Jesus did it, He resisted that devil, even in His death. And He did it with 100% success, firm in the faith.
In the death of Christ, that old lion roared. The lion roared, as if he had gotten the victory. But through the very thing that old lion thought had gained him the victory—the bloody death of Christ—he was trounced. And then the triumphant resurrection of Christ delivered the guarantee of that lion’s complete and utter defeat.
So I obviously very much believe that the defeat of the “roaring lion” of that one enemy is vital.
But if that’s where we stop, we are missing so much. Here’s why:
His Resurrection was powerful. In Jesus Christ we died, in Jesus Christ we were raised. The Resurrection power is available to us today.
In several articles on this website, I talk about that.
In “Free from Sin,” I said,
There’s another step [after confessing my sin and repenting of it]. And this is the step that eventually leads to more and more victory. After confessing and repenting, look to Jesus. First of all, the Jesus who died on the cross to pay for this sin and millions of others, but then the Jesus who rose from the grave. Not just victorious over death, but victorious over sin.
This is important for you personally because Colossians 3 says that if you’re a real Christian, you’ve risen with Him.
Do all Christians live continuously in this realm of constant defeat? No. Some, like Paul, have by the power of the Resurrection found their way out of Romans 7 into Romans 8.
Some, as he states in Galatians 5:18, are not under the Law, because they are led by the Spirit.
Some have seen Jesus Christ as the Complete Fulfilment of their Complete Righteousness, and have found freedom and joy in this complete salvation. For them, the works of the flesh will not be made evident, as Galatians 5:19 says they were for those people.
Challenge Romans 7 thinking. In your own life and in the lives of those around you. Challenge the Romans 7 trump card. Live in the resurrection power of the life of Jesus Christ. It will trump the Romans 7 life every time.
There is a better way, friends.
Picture the younger brother being filled with love for his father, wanting always to honor him in everything simply because he loves him. Picture the older brother turning from his selfishness to rejoice in his younger sibling’s return, and living in perpetual relationship with his father.
Picture the Father having the power to infuse his two sons, as they make request of Him, with the power to turn their hearts toward truth and right, toward goodness and love and mercy.
This is the power that is available to us.
I’m not talking about living a life that is completely sinless and flawless. There will still be distractions and sins to be overcome. I’m certainly not saying there won’t be past trauma that needs to be worked through.
I’m talking about how we don’t have to live in the half-life of Romans 7, with self-centered idolatry at our very core. Instead, at the core of our being we can look to Him in faith to be changed, as Roman 8 and other Scriptures describe, to love Him and walk in His Spirit through the resurrection power of our Savior Jesus.
4. Jesus ascended for our victory for His Kingdom
Though some branches of Christianity celebrate Ascension Sunday, in the evangelical churches His victorious ascension seems to get far less press than it deserves. Jesus wasn’t just going back where He came from in order to get home. He was ascending the flight of stairs, as it were, like a Crown Prince, in order to receive His crown and His rightful place as King.
And when He ascended on high, as Ephesians 4:8 tells us, He led captivity captive—the sin and death that He conquered in more than just theory—and gave gifts unto those that look to Him in faith, the greatest of which was the Holy Spirit, Christ in us.
His glorious ascension provided gifts for me, primarily the Holy Spirit to empower me to be able to pour out a sweet fragrance before God.
Ah yes, the Holy Spirit of Christ—Jesus said that He was given directly as a result of His Ascension.
And He is the one who gives us power to resist sin.
We are no longer slaves to sin. We have the power, through the Holy Spirit, to joyfully say “no” to sin and joyfully say “yes” to what God calls us to do.
5. Jesus’ seating in the heavenlies provided the way for the Father to look on us with love
He ever lives to make intercession for us. And we are ALSO seated there in the heavenlies, in Him. Not in the future. Right now.
Jesus Christ does not have to stand between us and God. Instead through the power of His death (taking our sins upon Himself) and His Resurrection (rising in victory over sin), we are fully received as His beloved sons and daughters. Because of Jesus, we are clothed in righteousness.
If you trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, then the loving face with which Jesus sees you is the very same as the loving face with which the Father sees you. There is no need to live in perpetual dread of the Father or to see the Son as continuing to restrain His wrath—in fact, that would be dishonoring to who He truly is.
Here’s the joy for those who have become the children of God through identification with the perfect life, death, resurrection, ascension, and seating of Jesus Christ: God the Father is for you. He loves you. He delights in you.
Be no more timid, but believing. Be strong in faith, rejoicing in your standing in Christ.
6. Jesus offers us abundant life, not perpetual death
This is the bottom line of all of this. And the real reason we celebrate the Resurrection.
The reason we rejoice that our Lord Jesus Christ has come, lived for us, died for us, rose again for us, ascended and was seated for us.
And in Him, we have accomplished all these things too!
As a result, we can say that He offers us abundant life, not perpetual death.
In “Resurrection Now” I said,
For the Christian, there was a spiritual dying (“to self,” if you please), but it happened once, and is finished, to be repeated no more The vital truth taught in the New Testament is that in the death of Christ, we who believe in Him died too. In the resurrection of Christ, we who believed in Him rose too. We can no more accomplish further “dying” than we could accomplish further “resurrecting.”
,Whether or not you (one who has trusted in Jesus Christ for your salvation) believe or understand the truth about your dying and rising as an accomplished fact doesn’t change the fact that it is accomplished. It only changes how you’ll live. Sort of like if a poor person has a treasure buried in his yard but doesn’t know it. Or if he’s been told it’s there but doesn’t believe it. He won’t bother actually digging it up and making use of it, but still goes on living his struggling life digging through the garbage heaps.
But the fact is that in Christ all the dying has already been accomplished for us and to us and in us, and all the resurrecting has been accomplished for us as well.
The “abundant life” Jesus referred to is life in the spiritual realm, because the life in the spirit that Jesus offers is far more satisfying than you can ask or imagine.
Neither the Lord Jesus nor any of His followers who wrote the rest of the New Testament told Christians that they are to keep on perpetually dying. Instead, they clearly show that in the crucifixion of Christ the dying has already been done, and now we are called to life.
Though there will be dying in this physical realm, in the spiritual realm the Christian life is about LIVING, not dying. No dying at all, because all the dying that needs to be done has already been accomplished.
Though in the physical realm there will be suffering, in the spiritual realm by the resurrection of Christ in which we participated we can fully live.
A true understanding of “the gospel”
Instead of limiting the gospel message to focusing on sins and then being thankful for forgiveness, Christians can understand the transformation that is offered through the resurrected life of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit that is theirs through Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and seating.
This is a life of joy and not despair. This is a life that, with a constant reliance on the power of Christ, will strip one of self-sufficiency. This is a life that will strengthen one to call out the wolves in sheep’s clothing, without fear.
When God’s people together stand in the resurrection power of the risen Christ, in their identity in Christ, in the might of the Holy Spirit, an environment will be created in which the people of God will be strengthened to love each other wisely and to stand together against evil.
This is what God has promised us in Christ. This is a life of joy. This is Christianity.
Oh my brothers and sisters. His Life and Death and Resurrection and Ascension and Seating have accomplished so much more than we often hear about.
It is truly the best news.
It’s the gospel.
Happy Resurrection Day.