The Cross of Christ
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira

Chapter 4 – The Resurrection

Any study on the Cross of Christ is incomplete without touching on the resurrection. Not only was the resurrection of Christ everything to His disciples, but it plays a vital part in our redemption and, in this concluding chapter on the Cross of Christ, we will see four important reasons why the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is significant to Christians in terms of our salvation.

But first let us look at the resurrection through the eyes of the disciples. Remember, these disciples were Jews. They were victims of Judaism. They were raised up with the idea that the Messiah was not to be a suffering servant but a conquering king. He would destroy the Roman Empire, establish His kingdom. The disciples had this hope as they accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.

In spite of the fact that the disciples were told more than once by Jesus Christ Himself about His death and resurrection, they were so much engrossed in their preconceived ideas of the Messiah that they failed to see the significance of His death and His resurrection until after the event.

After Christ arose from the dead, you will notice that the first disciples to see Him besides Mary were the two men walking to the village of Emmaus recorded in Luke 24. Beginning with verse 13, we are told that these two men traveling to Emmaus, which was approximately seven miles from Jerusalem, were very discouraged men. They were so discouraged that when Jesus joined them, they did not realize who He was. When He asked them the question, “What is this communication all about? What is this discouraging talk I hear from you?” they responded by saying, “You mean to say you don’t know what has happened? This man, Jesus of Nazareth, we thought He was the one, the Messiah, the One that the prophets spoke about. But our rulers crucified Him and our hopes have been dashed to pieces. And indeed, what has happened has taken place about three days ago.”

Then Jesus, as they drew towards the village, began to expound to them. Listen to what He says to them in Luke 24, verse 25-27: “Then He [that is, Jesus] said to them, ‘O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And then, beginning with Moses, going through all the prophets, Jesus expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

In other words Jesus was telling these two disciples: “Look, it’s all there in Scripture. Why haven’t you seen it?” And the reason they had not seen it was because they were blinded by their preconceived ideas, a problem that we also face today in terms of learning about truth. Later on at the table, when they were having their supper, when Jesus raised His hands to bless the food, when they realized who was talking to them, they became extremely excited.

We are told in Luke 24:23-33 that they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They returned back seven more miles and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying: “The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon.” Then they told about the things that had happened on the road and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread. Imagine these discouraged, disappointed disciples, their hopes dashed by the Cross, and suddenly the resurrection changed the situation. They realized that this was the Messiah, that Jesus had come not to conquer the Romans but to conquer sin and to deliver them from the grip of death.

With this in mind, let us now turn to the four important reasons why the resurrection is extremely significant, important, vital, and crucial to Christians. The first one is that the resurrection of Christ vindicated Christ’s righteousness which He obtained for us so that we may be able to be qualified tor heaven. In Romans 1, in his very introduction, see what Paul has to say about the gospel and about Jesus Christ. Having introduced himself in Romans 1:1 as the apostle called by God, separated to preach the gospel to the Gentiles, in verse two he tells us this gospel was promised beforehand through their prophets, through the Old Testament, but now it is no longer a promise because it is the reality. And the reality concerns Jesus Christ, the Son of man according to the seed of David and the Son of God according to the life of holiness he lived. In other words, Jesus Christ was both man and God so that He might be the Savior of the world. By his humanity He joined Himself to us, the human race that needs redeeming, and through His divinity He joined us to the Father who is in heaven.

Then, having declared the righteousness of Christ in verse four, he gives the reason of the proof of that righteousness. Romans 1:4 says: “And declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead.” Now what did Paul mean by that? What has the resurrection of Christ to do with the spirit of holiness or righteousness which was revealed in the life of Christ? If Jesus in any form had sinned either in thought, word, or deed, the Father would have had no right to raise Him up from the dead. The ultimate power of sin is death. In Romans 6:23 Paul says: “The wages of sin is death.” The law says the soul that sins, it must die. Christ did bear the sins of the world but He Himself had no sin.

When He died, when our sins put Him into the grave and He paid the price for our sins at the Cross, sin could not keep Him in the grave because He Himself had lived a perfect, sinless life. He rose from the dead to prove that He had obtained perfect righteousness in His earthly mission. If Christ had sinned in any way, thought, word, or deed, God would have no right legally to raise Him up. But the fact that God raised Him up f rom the dead proved that the righteousness that Christ had obtained in His earthly mission, in His humanity during those 33 years that He was here before the cross, was perfect.

For example, Paul, speaking about Christ in Romans 4:25 says: “Who [that is, Christ] was delivered up because of our offenses.” On the cross He bore the guilt and punishment of our sins and was raised because of our justification. In other words, God delivered Christ to bear the wages of our sins so that we could be justified from our sins. Then He raised Christ up as evidence that that justification was perfect. He was raised because of our justification. The price for sin was totally paid on the cross and, therefore, God had the perfect right to raise Him up from the dead since He Himself had no sin.

Number 1. The resurrection of Christ vindicates Christ’s righteousness which He obtained for the sinful human race.
Number 2. The resurrection of Christ guarantees our resurrection. You know, it is important that we become very clear that every subjective experience that we Christians will experience in this world and in the world to come is based on a perfect and finished work in Jesus Christ. In other words, there is nothing that you and I will experience as Christians, whether we think in terms of the new birth, or our standing before God as justified, that brings us peace and joy and hope and assurance. Whether we think in terms of Christian living, holy living, all the blessed hope which is the resurrection from the dead and the ascending into heaven where Christ is, all of this is based on the fact that we have already received this in the holy history of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In other words, in Christ Jesus, God has redeemed the whole human race. We were in Him by the incarnation. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:30 that it was by His [God’s] will that He put us into Christ and made Christ to be our wisdom, our righteousness, our redemption, our sanctification, our everything. Therefore, since Christ is the source of our Christian experience, His resurrection guarantees our resurrection. In other words, we shall experience the resurrection because in Christ we have already been raised from the dead. In fact, Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:6 that we are already sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

But now turn to 1 Cor. 15:12 and notice Paul’s argument in this passage. In verse 12 Paul exposes a theological problem that was being experienced by the church members in Corinth. There were some in the Corinthian church who questioned the resurrection of the believers. This is how Paul puts it: “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?” Can you imagine believers without a hope of a resurrection? But listen to Paul’s argument. He does not defend the resurrection of the believer by using the proof text method. His proof that the Christian has the hope of the resurrection is the resurrection of Christ Himself.

Look at verse 13 onwards: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen then our preaching is vain and your faith also in vain.” In other words, if the source of our resurrection, which is Christ, did not rise from the dead, then there is no hope for us. But if Christ rose from the dead then we have a hope. To go one step further, Paul goes on to say: “If Christ did not rise f rom the dead, then our preaching is a lie, but if Christ rose from the dead then our preaching is true and the Christian has hope.”

In fact, in 1 Cor. 15:19 Paul says: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ we are of all men the most miserable.” Why? Because the Christian hope is not in this world, it is in the world to come. And the beginning of the world to come is the resurrection of the believers.

“But now,” says Paul in verse 20, “Christ is risen from the dead and has become the firstfruit [or the prototype] of those who have fallen asleep.” And then in verses 21,22 he makes those tremendous statements about in Adam and in Christ. “For since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead.” Please notice that the word man, used twice in this verse 21, is in the singular. Who are these two men, one bringing you death and the other bringing the resurrection? The answer is found in verse 22: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”

Now please remember the context. Here Paul is not discussing the whole human race in Christ. In other words, he is not dealing with the objective truth of the gospel. He is dealing with the subjective experience of the believer. Do Christians who have accepted the truth as it is in Christ have a hope of a resurrection? And the answer is Yes. Why? What is the guarantee of our resurrection? The resurrection of Christ. Look at verse 23: “But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterwards those who are Christ’s at His coming.”

The resurrection of Christ is the guarantee of the resurrection of every believer. To bring this out, listen to 1 Thess. 4:14 where Paul tells the believers in Thessalonica, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again....” Paul is not using the word “if” as if to doubt the resurrection of Christ. What Paul is really saying is: “In view of the fact that we believe Jesus Christ died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.” In verse 15 onward he goes on to explain that the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are living will be transformed by the twinkling of an eye from corruption to incorruption.

But the fact is that, because Jesus conquered the grave, we believers have a hope of the resurrection. Just one more text, 1 Peter 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” In other words, the resurrection of Christ is our hope. Our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in the world to come. Yes, we stand perfect in Christ today but because we have a mortal body all of us are subject to death—what the Bible calls the first death. But, to the Christian, that death is not the grim reaper, it is simply sleep and sleep means resting.

A Christian who dies is resting in Christ and when Christ comes from heaven and He makes the tremendous cry at the trump of God and says “Let the dead in Christ be raised,” all the believers who have died in Christ will conquer the grave because their victory is the result of the victory of Jesus Christ who conquered the grave.

And so, Peter is saying, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who, according to His abundant mercy, has given us a hope through the resurrection of Christ.”

Number 3. This brings us now to our third position, a third reason why the resurrection of Christ is important to us. The resurrection of Christ makes Christ’s intercessory ministry in the heavenly sanctuary possible. When you and I accept Christ we still are sinners saved by grace. The acceptance of Christ, the new birth experience, does not change our nature one iota. We are still potentially 100 percent sinners. Therefore, as long as we are living in this world, as long as we are in this world, condemned by sin, we need a mediator, we need an Advocate, Christ the righteous. As long as we are sinners, we have a Mediator, because Jesus conquered death, went to heaven, and is now sitting at the right hand of God interceding for us.

Notice what Paul says about this wonderful gospel in Romans 8. Paul spends several chapters in Romans discussing the gospel from every conceivable angle. He begins in chapter 3, verse 21, and he ends in chapter 8 verse 30. Then, having done that, he concludes this exposition of the gospel in chapter 8, verse 31, by asking a question: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Oh, what a tremendous statement. If God is on our side, it doesn’t matter who is against us.

Yes, the devil can accuse us day and night as Revelation 12:10 says, but we have an Advocate, the righteous. Look at Romans 8:34: “Who is he who condemns?” Yes, it is the devil who condemns, but listen to the good news: “It is Christ who died.” Remember, He died to remove our condemnation, “And, furthermore, is also risen who is even at the right hand of God who also maketh intercession for us.” Jesus was raised for our justification, says Paul in Romans 4:25. In Romans 8:34 he says: “Christ who conquered the grave is now sitting at the right hand making intercession for us.”

In 1 John 2:1 the apostle John says the gospel is good news but please don’t allow the good news of salvation, which is a free gift to sinners, lead you to cheap grace to condone sin because the gospel does not give us license to sin. But John realizes that we are still living in a sinful world; we still have sinful natures.

Because of our inability to have learned to walk fully in the Holy Spirit, we will fall, and so he says in 1 John 2:1: “My little children, I am writing this good news to you not that you may condone sin [he uses the word sin in the present continuous tense the first time] but if anyone sins [this is in the aorist tense, the past historical tense] then we have an advocate, Christ the righteous.” So the resurrection of Christ makes it possible for us to have an intercessor, Jesus Christ, at the right hand of God who is representing believers.

One more text regarding this is in Hebrews 7. Now Hebrews was written or was addressed primarily to Jewish Christians who were in danger of turning their back to Christ and returning to Judaism. The writer of Hebrews, whom I believe is Paul, is making it very clear in this wonderful epistle that Christ is the reality of everything that was foreshadowed in the Old Testament. And because He is the reality, He is better than all that was given to the Jews in the Old Testament, the old covenant.

Now look at Heb 7:24, 25 in this context: “But he, because he continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him since He ever lives to make intercession for them.” The Levitical priest in the Old Testament could not really intercede for the Jews in the true sense of the word. Why? Number one, because they themselves were sinners. You remember on the day of Atonement they could not enter the Most Holy Place without first offering a sacrifice for themselves and for their family. Jesus did not have to offer a sacrifice for Himself because He had overcome sin. He had not even sinned by a thought and, as we saw earlier, it is because of this God had the legal right to raise Him up from the dead. But Jesus Christ is a priest who has never sinned, who has conquered sin and conquered the grave.

The second difference is that the Levitical priests were limited in their intercession because they were human beings that were not only sinners but who were also mortal. That means their life span was no different from the life span of the average human being at that time. But Christ, when He rose from the dead, rose never to die. And because He is now an everlasting Savior, He is able to intercede for us from the time of His ascension right up to the time of His Second Coming. We have an Advocate; we have a Priest Who is able to save us to the uttermost not because we are good but because He is our Righteousness and He is at the right hand of God, vindicating, defending His believers.

Jesus Christ is our Advocate, our Savior, and He is able to save to the uttermost, anyone who comes to God through Him because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. In Christ, as Jesus Himself said in John 5:24, we have already passed from death to life.
Number 4. And now this brings us finally to the fourth important reason why the resurrection of Christ is crucial to the believer. The resurrection of Christ proved once and for all that God’s power manifested in Jesus Christ is greater than all the power of sin that Satan can muster through sinful flesh. We have a tremendous passage in the book of Romans that expounds our sin problem: Romans, chapter 7. In Romans 7:14, Paul tells us our predicament. He says the law is spiritual but we human beings, believers or unbelievers, are carnal, sold as slaves to sin and, because of this, it is impossible for human beings, irrespective of whether they are believers or unbelievers, in and of themselves, to live a holy and righteous life. Yes, they may desire to do that which is good. They may choose to do the will of God, they may delight in the law of God, but how to fulfill that desire, how to perform that which they have chosen—impossible.

Remember, in Romans 7:14-25 Paul is not discussing the Christian controlled by the Holy Spirit. It is clear he is talking about the believer but he is talking about the believer who is trying to live a holy life in and of himself. How do we know this? Because at the very end of Romans 7:25, the second part of this verse, Paul makes it very clear: “I myself.” The Greek is much stronger than the English translation. What he actually said is, “Left on my own, independent of God’s Spirit, I can serve the law of God only with my mind. I can choose to obey the law of God, I can choose to make resolutions, I can make promises to the law of God but my flesh will not allow me to do what I have chosen to do.” That is why every promise we make to God is like ropes of sand. Why? Because the law of sin is in my members and I am a slave to it.

Is there no hope of conquering the flesh? Paul says in the beginning part of verse 25, after crying out his wretchedness in verse 24: “I thank God through Jesus Christ.” Oh, what a wonderful Savior we have. Not only do we have a Savior Who saved us from our sins, but we have a Savior Who saved us from sin itself—sin as a power; sin as a force. Jesus Christ not only bore the sins of the world but, as Paul says in Romans 8:3, He condemned sin in the flesh.

What is the greatest proof that He condemned sin in the flesh? The resurrection. When Christ rose from the dead He proved that His power over sin is greater than the power of sin in us. Let me explain how this is true. Turn in your Bibles to 1 Cor. 15. We looked at it a few moments ago but now we will turn to verses 55 onwards. What does it say here? “O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What Paul is saying here is that the ultimate power of sin is to put you and me into the grave. If you or I can conquer the grave that is evidence that we can conquer sin. And no person apart from Christ has conquered the grave in and of himself. Yes, Moses was raised from the grave and many at the resurrection of Christ were raised from the dead, but none of them were raised because of their own righteousness. They were all raised because they were believers in Christ. They were raised by the power of Christ Who is the conqueror of the grave. Let me put it this way. Sin, our sins, your sins and my sins, were allowed by God to put Jesus into the grave. It was not His sin that put Him into the grave because He had none. It was our sins that put Him into the grave. But our sins could not keep Him down. And thus Jesus manifested His power against sin.

Let me read 1 Cor 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

Here is an illustration that may help you to understand what I am saying here. When we were in the mission field there were times when my family was isolated from society. I had to spend quite a bit of time with my children so that they would not feel left all alone. One of the games we played was this. I would lie on the floor and I would make my son hold my feet down and my daughter my hands down. And I would say to them, “Let us see who is stronger. If you are stronger you will keep me down here. If I am stronger I will conquer you and get up.” And of course they were determined to keep me pinned down on the floor. So I would say, “Are you ready?” and they would say, “Yes.” You could see them exerting themselves with every bit of strength they had to keep me down. But I would push my son to one side, push my daughter to the other side, and get up.

That was many years ago, but recently my son said to me, “Dad, why don’t we play that game?” Now, of course, he is taller than I and young and very muscular and my daughter is also quite strong and I said to them, “Remember, those were childish games; now you are grown up you should put childish games aside.” And, of course, they laughed, knowing that I could not conquer them now that they are grown up.

Well, our sins pinned Christ down into the grave but our sins could not keep Him down there. Through the Spirit of Christ He was raised from the dead. Thus, through the Spirit that dwelt in Him is revealed the power of God against the power of sin. In Romans 8:2, Paul tells us that the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the power of the law of sin and death. In other words, in Christ these two forces met, the Spirit of Life in Christ and the spirit of sin that was residing in our humanity that He assumed. These two forces met in Christ and God allowed our sins to take Christ to the grave but our sins could not keep Him there. The Spirit of life raised Him up from the dead.

In view of this, Paul makes a very wonderful, powerful statement in Romans 8:11 which we must apply to our Christian living: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead (or, in other words, the Spirit of Christ that conquered sin from the grave) dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” That is why Paul says in Romans 8:4 that when a Christian walks in the Spirit, the righteousness of the law will be fulfilled in us not because we are able to do it in ourselves but because the Spirit of life which proved its power against sin through the resurrection of Christ dwells in you. It is able to mortify your sinful body and, in exchange, produce the righteous character of Christ.

Therefore, a Christian has not only the hope of a resurrection and a ticket to heaven but the Christian, through the indwelling Spirit, has a hope of reproducing in his and her life the righteous character of our Lord Jesus Christ. But this, of course, is realized only as we learn to walk in the Spirit.

One of the last letters Paul wrote was Philippians and in chapter 3:10-14 of that book Paul makes a very interesting statement concerning himself and this should be the goal of every believer who is struggling with the flesh and with the sinful nature. First of all, Paul has told the Philippian Christians in verse 9 that he is resting in the righteousness of Christ for his salvation. That is what every believer should do. Then in verse 10 he goes on to say, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering being conformed to His death if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead that [what does he mean by that?] I may attain the victory of Christ in my life.” And then he goes on, “Not that I have already attained [He is not claiming to have totally overcome the flesh or is already perfected] but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. In Christ I am victorious. I have already conquered sin in Christ.” Now, in experience, Paul is saying: “That is my mark, that is my goal.” “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended but one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” One of those prizes, one of those upward calls is victory over the flesh.

But having said this, I need to say a couple of words of warning. Victory over sin or victory over the sinful nature is not the same as sinless perfection. You see, God gives us victory over sin while we still retain our sinful nature. It is only at the second coming of Christ that we will experience sinless perfection when this corruption puts on incorruption. In other words, we will always remain sinners on this earth until we die or until Christ comes. Therefore, we must never look at our subjective experience for peace and for assurance. Justification is by faith alone in the doing and dying of Christ.

Victory over the flesh—the purpose of it is witnessing to the world the power of the gospel in our lives. When the world sees in us the character of love that Jesus manifested on this earth, this unselfish self-emptying love, unconditional love; when the world sees that, then they will realize that the gospel is not just a theory but a power of God unto salvation. Jesus Himself said in John 13:35: “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples when we have love one for another”—the kind of love that He manifested towards mankind. This He brings out in verse 34.

Secondly, victory over sin or holiness of living does not contribute one iota towards my justification or towards my ticket to heaven. We stand complete, we stand perfect only in Jesus Christ. That is the basis of our assurance of salvation. We must never look at ourselves or our experience or our victory through the power of the Holy Spirit for our assurance of salvation. Because even though the Holy Spirit gives us victory, we will never know it fully.

This brings us to point number three. Victory over sin is God’s part because you and I still have sinful natures and in and of ourselves, as Paul brings out in Romans 7, we cannot overcome the flesh. When God gives us the victory we may not know it all the time. Our part from beginning to end is faith and this is our battle. Paul, at the end of his life, told Timothy, “I have fought the good fight of faith.” That is the battle that you and I have to fight.

In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus is describing a parable concerning those people who are weak in faith. He says, “Men ought not to faint but to remain persevering in their faith.” He then gives the parable of the unjust judge. In verse 8 He ends up with this question, “When the Son of man comes will He find faith on this earth?” Can God produce a people whose faith is unshakable, whose faith in the Word of God is immovable, whose faith in Jesus Christ cannot be shattered even though the heavens fall? Because when that takes place, when God produces a people who are walking by faith alone, then the door is opened for Him to produce a people whose lives will perfectly reflect the character of Christ.

So we rejoice in the resurrection of Christ because it vindicates Christ’s righteousness which justifies us; it guarantees our resurrection; it makes it possible for Christ to be our Intercessor so that even though we are sinners we can look men and ourselves in the face and know in Whom we believe; that He is able to save us to the uttermost.

Finally, the resurrection of Christ gives us the hope of conquering the flesh and living a life that is pleasing to God. And this is my prayer for each one of you. Amen.
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