THE PURPOSE AND POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION
Study Texts: 1 Corinthians 15:17-19, Philippians 3, 4-11
There is a purpose for which Christ rose from the dead, and there is a power made available to us through His resurrection. We need to know both the purpose and the power for us to enjoy maximally our relationship with God with the accompanying benefits in this world and in the world to come.
- "I want to know Christ. I want to know the power of his resurrection." This is Paul's primary desire, this is what Paul wants more than anything else in this life:
- To know the living, the resurrected Christ, and to know the power associated with that resurrection.
- Furthermore, if he is not raised from the dead, then he has no power today. He is dead. His words might have some influence -- but he himself has no power.
- This is why the resurrection is so central to Christians: Christianity is not a religion based on abstract principles. Christianity is a relationship with a living Savior, a Savior we can know, a Savior who infuses our life and empowers us, who transforms us into his likeness.
- But what does Paul mean when he says he wants to know Christ? And what is this power of his resurrection?
- First of all, what does "knowing Christ" mean?
- Let us first consider whether or not this desire belongs to Paul alone. Is Paul stating a personal preference, or a truth that is central for all Christians? Jeremiah 9:23,24
- Knowing God is more important than wisdom, or strength, or riches. Think about the people who are most admired in this world. They are admired for these three qualities, aren't they?
- We tend to admire those who are bright, intelligent, and knowledgeable; or those who are physically gifted in strength, talent, or beauty; or those who have amassed great wealth.
- But the Lord says through Jeremiah that none of those are of great importance. What matters more than anything else is understanding and knowing the Lord, the covenant God who delights in kindness, justice, and righteousness.
- And this prominence of knowing God carries over into the gospels. Jesus himself, on the night prior to his death, prays for his followers, saying:
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
- Eternal life is what? Knowing God, knowing Jesus! Without knowing him, there is no true life.
- Peter also emphasizes this point:
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3)
- Our knowledge of him leads to his empowering us with everything we need for life and godliness.
- John makes a similar point near the close of his first letter:
We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true-- even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
- John says that Jesus came so that we might know him. The purpose of the incarnation was our knowing him. This is central to the gospel.
- So Old Testament, New Testament, gospels, letters, Paul, Peter, John -- all agree that knowing God, knowing Jesus, is central. But what does knowing God mean? We get to know a person in part by being in his physical presence. But how do we get to know Jesus?
- Surely knowing God also is much more than knowing facts about God. How can we come into this deep, personal relationship with God?
How Do We Know God?
- First, surely we must know about him. So we do indeed need to learn about God. How do we do this?
- In part, by listening to faithful preachers of God's word. In part by regular reading and studying of the Bible. In part by witnessing the impact of God on the lives of others.
- But, second, we must go beyond learning facts. We must cultivate our own relationship with him. Let us consider three steps to cultivating a relationship with Him:
1. The first step is putting your faith in him: believing that He is the Son of God, believing that the event we celebrate today, the resurrection, really did take place, and wanting Him to make you into a new creation.
2. A second step is spending time in prayer. Pray alone, and with others. In prayer, you can share all your joys, frustrations, and sorrows with the God of the universe, the God who cares. Talking to God builds your relationship with him.
3. The third step is following. Listen as you pray and read the Bible. Be willing to follow, even when his commands don't seem to make sense. Depend on God when his requirements seem unreasonable. When you do this -- when you step out in faith -- He will be there to support you, and you will see Jesus as a living, risen Savior.
KNOWING THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION
- The second part of Paul's desire is "to know . . . the power of his resurrection." Note that Paul does not ask God for more power. Instead, he asks God that he might know the resurrection power he already has.
- Paul's first prayer for the Ephesians parallels this idea. In chapter 1 of that letter, he prays that the Ephesians might know three things. The third is:
his incomparably great power for us who believe . . . which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead (Ephesians 1:18,20)
- All Christians have this power; all Christians have access to this incomparably great power, this resurrection power. Our task is to tap into it.
Let us consider five aspects of this power.
(1) The Power to Have Sins Forgiven
- Sin has a hold on all of us. Without God, we are slaves to sin. But Christ, through his death and resurrection, frees us from the power of sin.
He was delivered over to death because of our sins, and raised to life because of our justification (Rom 4:25)
- Christ died as the necessary sacrifice for our sins. But his being raised to life, his resurrection is absolutely vital! As Paul says, he was "raised to life because of our justification."
- When Jesus died, God laid on him the iniquity of us all, the punishment that all of us deserve for all our sins.
- Had there been anything lacking in Jesus' sacrifice, if his blood had lacked the power to cancel the penalty for anyone's sin, God could not have raised him. In that case, God's justice would not have allowed him to raise Jesus from the dead.
- But the very fact of the resurrection shows once and for all that Jesus' sacrifice is all that is necessary to pay the penalty for my sin, for yours.
- Whenever Satan accuses us -- saying, "God could never forgive you for what you have done -- Think how terrible you are!" -- we can say, "Jesus rose from the dead! Jesus rose from the dead because I am justified; having believed in Jesus, I am righteous in God's eyes." That is the power of the resurrection.
(2) The Power to Conquer Sin
- But resurrection power doesn't end with our forgiveness. Christ's resurrection also empowers us to conquer sin in our lives.
put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)
- In Christ we are a new creation; his Spirit lives within us. We have been renewed, we have a new self -- and the purpose of that new self is to be conformed to the image of Christ, to become like him: truly righteous, truly holy -- to become what God intends humans to be!
- So if this is the case, why do Christians keep on sinning? Paul gives us the answer in today's verse in Philippians: we don't know the power!
- We have all this power, but we continue to act as if we are weak, as if we are still slaves to sin. Satan tries to deceive us, making us think we are still his -- and he uses habits ingrained in us over years to make us believe him.
- God gives us the power to break those habits -- but we must first know we have the power! That is why Paul has such a strong desire for this knowledge.
(3) The Power to Be God's Agent
- But Christianity is not just about forgiveness and overcoming sin. Christianity is not simply a solution to our problems. God has a positive purpose in our salvation. He has determined that we are to be his agents of change in the world.
- God empowers us not only to defeat sin but also to share and display his loving message to the world. Jesus says, "You are the light of the world." Paul says,
He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (2 Cor 5:19,20)
my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor 12:9)
- That is the idea. God shows his power by working through us, by working mightily through us, even though we are weak and unworthy.
(4) The Power to Be Conformed to His Likeness
- Finally, resurrection power's greatest accomplishment is conforming us to the likeness of Christ. We are forgiven for our sins, enabled not to sin, appointed as ambassadors -- and perfected in His love. Paul says we:
are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:18)
- Into his likeness! Can you imagine what that means? Think of everything about yourself that you don't like, all the habits, all the negative characteristics -- the things you have wanted to change, have tried to change.
- God will deal with every one of those. You are being made into a perfect creation -- you are becoming like Jesus! That is your destiny, Christian -- becoming the perfect bride of Christ, spotless, blameless, loving, kind, strong -- transformed into his likeness. The power of the resurrection!
(5) The Power to Overcome the Devil and his Kingdom
- It was through His death and resurrection that Jesus was given a name above every other name, and this means a power above every power. Phil 2:5-11.
- Jesus gave us this power to tread upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the devil.
- Knowing this power will make us to exercise our rightful authority over the powers of darkness and we will not be afraid of them.
So the fact of the resurrection is central to true Christianity. The resurrection must be true if we are to know, to have a relationship with our Savior; the resurrection must be true if we are to have access to the power which raised Jesus from the dead -- power to:
• Be forgiven from sin;
• Overcome sin;
• Be God's ambassadors;
• To be conformed to Christ's likeness
• To overcome Satan and his kingdom