The Resurrection (Defining Evangelism)

You can listen to the audio lesson here.

You can also find the “Working Definition of Evangelism” here.

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DEFINING EVANGELISM

PART IV – Redemption Accomplished

Lesson Ten: The Resurrection

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:4-7; ESV).

Perhaps the element of the gospel we are most prone to forget to mention in our evangelistic discussions is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Often, by the time we have discussed with the unbeliever the holiness of God, man’s sin and its wages, and Christ’s obedience in life and death, we are ready to move on to the gospel commands of repentance and faith. For several reasons, though, it is important for us to remember the significance of the resurrection and how it is essential to the proclamation of the gospel.

Union with Christ. As we approach the task of evangelism, one way to remember the primacy of the resurrection in the gospel is to remember the purpose of evangelism. Our goal is to make disciples. We seek, by the work of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel, to see men forsake their identity in Adam for a new identity in Christ. We want to see them become disciples of Christ united with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection.

We must never think of our union with Christ as a secondary doctrine within Christianity. Union with Christ is the essence of what we mean when we refer to ourselves as disciples of Christ. When we speak of our election, we speak of it only in terms of our union with Christ (Eph. 1:3-6; John 6:39). When we speak of our effectual calling and regeneration, we speak of it in terms of our union with Christ (2Thess. 2:14; 2Tim. 1:9; 1Pt. 1:3). When we speak of our justification, we speak of it only in terms of our union with Christ (1Cor. 6:11; 2Cor. 5:21). The same bears true for our adoption, sanctification, and glorification (Eph. 5:1; Gal. 4:4-5; Heb. 2:11; 1Cor. 1:2, 30; Heb. 10:10; Rom. 8:17, 30). Only by means of our union with Christ, the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Christ are all made effectual unto our salvation.

“By this union believers are changed into the image of Christ according to his human nature. What Christ effects in His people is in a sense a replica or reproduction of what took place with Him. Nor only objective, but also in a subjective sense they suffer, bear the cross, are crucified, die, and are raised in newness of life, with Christ.,” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pg. 451).

Victory over sin. In this vein, there are two senses in which we are “raised in newness of life, with Christ.” We are raised with Him in His victory over sin in this life, and we are raised with Him in His victory over death in the life to come. We are raised with Him through the subjective, sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives and the objective reality that we will one day partake of final victory over death with Him.

We must recall that the final consequence of sin is death and judgment in the life to come. Therefore, Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection would not be complete merely to address the wages of sin. The atonement must also address the cause of death: sin itself. In order for the fruit of death to be finally and utterly destroyed for the believer, there must be an addressing of the root. Indeed, in our union with Christ in His resurrection, we do see an addressing of sin.

1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7for he who has died is freed from sin,” (Rom. 6:1-7; NASB).

New disciples must be brought to an understanding that the Christian life is not one of grace abuse. We are not saved to sin all the more. Rather, as we saw in our last lesson, disciples of Christ are those who have died to sin through the death of Christ and our union with Him. In being united with Christ, we have not merely been immersed into His death, though. We have also been raised with Him to walk in newness of life!

Our relationship with sin has been severed. We will still battle against it as long as we live in these bodies and in this fallen world. Like insurgents in a conquered land who wage guerilla warfare against the occupying nation, sin will ever wage guerilla warfare against the Christian who has already achieved victory over it through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. However, the Christian will wage war. The Christian will seek to search out and destroy every last stronghold of sin in his or her life.

After the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves in America, those who had been victims of that system did not automatically take to their freedom as those who had never known slavery. For many, the mindset of the slave could not be shed for the rest of their lives. When in the presence of a white man, their tendency was to revert back to old customs and courtesies and to grant a certain authority that was not truly held by the white man in question. Due to Jim Crow laws in the South, the analogy obviously falls apart at some point.

Surely, though, you get the point. After a life of slavery, it can be near impossible to shake the slave mentality. This is as true in the soul of a man in relation to his sin as it is in the mind of a slave in relation to other men. What Paul means to tell the Christian, here, is that he has been freed from slavery to sin, so he now needs to wage war against his tendency to submit to sin as a slave. He must rid himself of the slave mentality.

By virtue of our union with Christ in His resurrection, we now have victory over sin. If we have died with Him, we have also been raised with Him in the likeness of His resurrection to walk in newness of life. We are no longer slaves to sin, but we are slaves to righteousness.

We have already decried the testimony-only approach to evangelism, an approach that suggests that Christ’s primary purpose in the life of the believer is like that of a genie making all things better. However, here is the one place in the evangelistic encounter where it might be beneficial to offer a personal testimony to the work of Christ wrought in our own life. As we share our faith with unbelievers, it can be beneficial for them to see how, through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, you have personally seen victory over the sin that once enslaved you.

Victory over death. Through the resurrection of Christ and our union with Him, we do not only experience victory over sin in this life. We are also promised ultimate victory over death. Paul writes, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep,” (1Cor. 15:20). Christ’s victory over death was not merely a victory for Himself, just as nothing He accomplished on this earth was merely accomplished for His own benefit.

The resurrection of Christ accomplished victory both for Christ and for those who are united with Him. Just as Christ was raised and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, so too we shall all be raised from the dead with glorified bodies to reign with God for all of eternity. Our victory over sin is merely a down payment of sorts for the great privilege we have yet to receive in Christ.

50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. 55O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1Cor. 15:50-57; NASB).

In the churches in which I was raised, we did not avoid talking about end times. We were taught at length about the rapture, the tribulation, the millennium, and many other of the less clear events prophesied for the end of the world. Rarely if ever did we hear teaching on the resurrection. Of all of these events, Paul teaches that the resurrection is “of first importance” (1Cor. 15:3; NASB).

The Bible teaches that it is through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ that He secures for us our own resurrection. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the dead will be raised and those who are still living will receive imperishable bodies fit for eternity. Those who are raised in Christ will be raised with bodies fit for everlasting life. All who are outside of Christ, though, will be raised with bodies fit for everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2).

It is not necessarily important for the new disciple to understand all that is wrapped up in the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ. It is helpful, however, for new disciples to learn fairly early the fact that Christ’s redemption has both temporal and eternal implications. In Christ’s resurrection, we are presently raised to walk in newness of life, and we are promised final victory over death unto everlasting life!

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