In the Considering the Resurrection – Part 1 – Defining the Resurrection (Section 1), we considered some scripture that defines the resurrection with a focus on what it means to believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. The promise of the resurrection hinges on our faith in Jesus. What the faith means is important. We discussed that if we believe in Jesus, then we will want to know who he is, what he taught, how he wants us to order our life, and the promises he provides. This faith leads to something, the ultimate end being our resurrection from the dead and entrance into life eternal.
In this article, I want to challenge the way some think of the resurrection—at least in part—and thereby encourage a better understanding of the gospel.
We know that those who believe in Jesus are raised from the dead. The common belief is that the moment a Christian dies, they join Jesus in heaven. This idea of resurrection will be considered in detail in up-coming “Parts.” The meaning of the resurrection I want to consider presently is the process of dying to self and being raised into the image of Christ—a present-day death and resurrection that accompanies sincere belief as discussed in the previous article.
To Live, We Must First Die
Regardless of the manner of resurrection we might consider, there must first be death. We cannot be raised from the dead unless we die. For the purpose of this article and thought process, I mean death in a kind of metaphorical sense, though this death is just as real whether we perceive it or not. This is death in the spirit—just as real as death in the flesh—and each “living” person now experiences spiritual death in one form or another. All of us are dead or dying, either at the hands of sin or as one who has taken up their cross as a follower of Jesus. Let me see if I can explain.
There are a few of ways to look at our present state of death, first being the dead state of an unbeliever who is not in Christ, secondly an unbeliever or nominal believer who is not fully converted, and lastly the believer who is taking up their cross and following the Lord.
Each are in a state of death. The unbeliever is dead in their sins, and without the grace of God they will not escape death—presently or eternally. The Christian who is nominally converted might be dead in sin, just as all unbelievers, even if they profess Christ in word because they deny him inwardly and their deeds follow. Sin is destructive and brings death to those who practice it, regardless of whether Jesus is on their lips.
The believer taking up their cross is experiencing a different kind of death. While the others are living a life of sin and destruction, killing themselves and others through ungodly lifestyle, the Christian who has taken up their cross is dying to self, dying to this world, and dying to sin. Though this person will make mistakes and sin, there is repentance and patient enduring in the faith that leads to freedom from sinful actions. Their old self is being crucified so that they can be raised into conformity with Jesus. This is a present death, one that leads to a present resurrection.
Death Represented in Water Baptism
I don’t want to discuss baptism in detail, but I don’t want to neglect it either. When we talk about Christian death and resurrection, we might think about the symbology of the water baptism. Being submerged symbolizes our death to this world and being raised out of the water symbolizes our being raised in newness of life as converted believers in Jesus. There is some debate about whether a Christian must be baptized in order to be saved, and that is not something I want to discuss here in depth.
My belief is that a Christian should seek to do as Jesus did, and if we can be baptized then we should. I do not believe it is strictly required for salvation, but it is a sign of a good conscience towards God (1 Peter 3:21), so why refuse that? If we have a mind and heart that is looking for ways around doing as Jesus did, then that is not good. In-fact, such a thing can be an indicator of a serious problem within our faith.
Life in the Holy Ghost
There are many scriptures about being baptized in the name of Jesus and receiving the Holy Ghost. Receiving the Holy Spirit is a critical component to the faith because the Holy Spirit is he who works in us, raising us from our dead state. The Holy Spirit convicts our hearts of sin, leads us to all truth, comforts us when we mourn, and provides us with the power to overcome sin.
As with the water baptism, there are differing beliefs about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some believe that the moment a person “accepts Jesus” and invites him into their heart, they have the Holy Spirit. Others believe that you must receive some kind of evidence, like speaking in tongues, otherwise you did not really receive the Holy Spirit.
This is another topic I do not want to get too far into right now, though it is something I have considered. I know it is possible to receive the Holy Spirit in a powerful way that mimics what you will read about in Acts. However, I also know seemingly sincere Christians who never experienced such a thing, but they seem to be growing in the things of God.
As with all things, having a very strict rule is not wise, in by belief. I encourage all Christians to seek more from the Holy Spirit, no matter what you believe about the Holy Spirit baptism, speaking in tongues, and the like. As with the water baptism, there are many scriptures that indicate the importance, and if we want to follow Jesus why refuse anything that will lead us closer to him?
As far as I know, the indicator of whether a person really has the Holy Spirit within are the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, and temperance. These are the fruits of life—the fruits of present-day resurrection. However, we grow at different rates, so we cannot look at one who seems unfruitful and assume the Holy Spirit is not with them. He could be in their heart, actively fighting against the things that keep fruit from coming forth and remaining. We cannot judge these things. We can only look at ourselves and seek to our own salvation.
Walk in Newness of Life
Though it is good for us to perform the water baptism as a symbol of death and resurrection, the water baptism itself does not perform any real function. However, we must be “born again” through the Holy Ghost in order to bring forth the fruits of Life given by the Holy Spirit.
If we believe in Jesus, we are being raised “in newness of life.” That means as we take up our cross, follow Jesus, and continue to die in this world, we are also being raised from the dead.
The process of dying and being raised from the dead is an on-going event that persists throughout the life of every sincere Christian as the Spirit works within us.
For example, we die to lying and we are raised in truthfulness. We die to selfish hate and we are raised in love. We die to fear and we are raised in peace. We die to excessive living and we are raised in temperance. We die to loving this world and we are raised in faithfulness to Jesus alone.
The Resurrection Shown in Grace, Faith, Salvation, and The Gospel
I’ve written it before and I will probably write this many more times. We need to understand what grace and faith mean. We need to understand what salvation means. We need to understand what the “good news” really is. All of this is centered around undeserved favor of God that brings us life—that brings us the resurrection.
If you already hold the beliefs I write about here, then please do not be offended by my serious tone. It is only because I care deeply about this, and I care about those who are trapped by the confused teachings that dominate Westernized pop Christian culture.
What is Grace?
Grace is often treated as a free pass, when in reality grace is receiving something you do not deserve. Confusing this leads to a complacent attitude towards sin and an entitled attitude towards salvation. It should be the other way around! Grace is not a free gift. Grace is undeserved favor of God, which is a gift. Yet, this notion can easily be confused by self-serving man. We should be very cautious of how we perceive grace, or we might not receive grace at all.
We should be serious about sin and understand that we do not deserve to be saved. We are not entitled to forgiveness, we are not entitled to learning the truth and being freed from deceptive and destructive ideas, we do not deserve to be freed from sinful life, we do not deserve to be freed from death. The ONLY thing we deserve is to die.
It is not the favor of God if we continue in the things that destroy us. It is not the favor of God to continue in deception and confusion. It is not the favor of God to continue in a life of sin. What twisted and confused notions many have about grace!
Seeing grace for what it is should be liberating, encouraging, and provide us with much hope. Having the favor of God should cause us to be thankful, humble, joyful, and allegiant to the Lord. If we love Jesus, we should not love our sin also. We should not confuse grace as a free pass to continue doing the things our Lord despises, thereby trapping ourselves in the very things Jesus came to graciously free us from.
Does the grace you believe teach you that Jesus will raise you from the dead, even though you do not deserve it—or does it make excuses for continuing in dead living because “you’re worth it?”
What is Christian Faith?
Faith is to believe in something. What should a Christian believe in? Should we believe that if we claim Jesus is the Son of God who was raised from the dead then we can continue a sinful life and still live eternally—because of grace? No way! The faith of a Christian is to know we are sinful. To know that sin brings death. To know that we deserve death. To know that Jesus brings forgiveness—and—to know that Jesus brings LIFE! He is the Resurrection!
The twisted teaching of “Faith Plus Nothing” is a dangerous and ridiculous notion! Faith works MUCH in us. If not, then what faith we have is not sincere—or it is sincerely misplaced—and we might not attain the resurrection of the dead at the coming of Jesus Christ. There are always exceptions, like the thief on the cross. However, as with all Christian pursuits, as time and ability is given to us, we are to be faithful to what we have. If we are not, then we will likely lose what we “seemed to have.” We must bear the fruits of the Spirit (fruits of life) in any case. Those who are not fruitful are “cast into the fire and burned.”
Does the faith you believe in raise you from the dead, or does it stop at forgiveness and neglect the power that can heal you and transform your LIFE?
What is Salvation?
What are we being saved from? Are we being saved from eternal conscious torment in hell? No. We are being saved from death, plain and simple. If we continue in sin, we are dying—and death will be our end. We are doing things that kill ourselves and others, and we receive the just reward. We have all sinned, therefore we all deserve to die. That is where grace comes in. We are getting more than we deserve. We are not getting a free pass to sin.
By grace, we are granted faith in Jesus. What faith? Again, it is the faith that Jesus died to forgive our sins. AND it is the faith that Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to heal us from sin. It is the good news of the kingdom of heaven. Sure, most Christians believe in the resurrection in some form, but without belief in the transformative nature of the gospel, the faith we have could be in vain.
Does the salvation you believe in raise you from the dead, or does it provide a “get out of hell free” card that does not really lead you to the kingdom of heaven?
What is the Gospel?
The gospel is that Jesus provides grace (unmerited favor) to all men—not just the Jews—but gentiles. People of all nations and backgrounds without regard to social status, race, gender, or past sin are chosen of God to partake of the divine nature—the nature of the resurrection.
This is the gospel of the kingdom. As the Holy Spirit works in us, the laws of the kingdom are “written on the tables of the heart.” This is the very process of dying to this world and being raised in newness of life. This is the very process of bringing forth fruits of the Spirit. This is the very process of the present-day resurrection.
Does the gospel you believe in twist grace, faith, salvation, and make lite of the teachings and promises of Christ? Does the gospel you believe in promise worldly prosperity instead of prosperity in righteousness? Does the gospel you believe in raise you from the dead?
Belief in eternal salvation without seeking present-day salvation first is not the gospel!
What is the Resurrection?
There will come a time when Jesus returns to avenge his people from the rule of the antichrist, and the faithful subjects of his Kingdom are raised from the dead or transfigured. However, we must first be faithful. We must first be living as one who is already heading towards the kingdom. We must first taste fruits of the resurrection and bring forth the fruits of Life given by the Holy Spirit. We must be “wise virgins,” “faithful servants,” and one who has on their “wedding garment.”
We can believe the wrong form of grace and receive no favor of God. We can have sincere faith that is misplaced. We can believe we are saved and deceive ourselves. We can believe in a false or incomplete gospel. We can sincerely believe in a twisted version of Jesus. We can be sincerely misled. We can sincerely say that we live, yet we are dead!
Even so, God is merciful and gracious to all who love Jesus sincerely, no matter what they have been taught or believe about salvation and the gospel in general. Many hold misconceptions due to common teaching today, but because the Lord is gracious to them and they love Jesus, they are fruitful in the things of God. I meet such people very often. So, I want to be clear that things I write go after ideas, not people.
God can and will work in the hearts of his elect despite what they believe, yet, bad teachings overthrow the faith of many, so such ideas must be spoken against.
Scripture About Resurrection as One Living for the Lord
There are many scriptures that speak of a present-day dying to sin and being raised in newness of live in Jesus Christ. I try to avoid inserting scriptures in the things I write unless I know I am considering the context and using the scripture appropriately, so I’d rather leave a few here for you to consider for yourself. Once this series is complete, I will add a new “Scriptures” page with a list of all the scripture I gathered about the resurrection for reference.
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4).
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus (Philippians 3: 10-12).
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).
Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6: 8-11).
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you (Romans 8: 7-11).
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: (Ephesians 1:17-21)
For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
In “Considering the Resurrection – Part 2 – The First and Second Resurrection” we will discuss the resurrection in a non-metaphorical (for lack of a better term) way as we explore scriptures about the first and second resurrection. Discussing this will provide some understanding about the judgment of God.
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