The Resurrection Empowered LIfe

The Resurrection Empowered LIfe April 15, 2007
I have been thinking a lot about the resurrection this past week — which might surprise you given my blog’s current focus on the atonement. The sermon I preached on Easter Sunday wasn’t, for me, a “normal” sermon. I felt more conscious than usual of a sense of being specifically commissioned by God to preach on a particular subject — the resurrection. This happened to me in a similar manner to that which Martyn Lloyd-Jones described as happening to him: “. . . one morning while dressing, quite suddenly and in an overwhelming manner, it seemed to me that the spirit of God was urging me to preach a series of sermons on ‘spiritual depression’.”

What happened to me was that I woke up earlier than planned one morning and found that the phrase “Adrian, preach on the resurrection” was already strongly in my mind. What was interesting about this was that the day before I had politely declined a request to preach on Easter Sunday. After a morning phone call, it was agreed that I would preach after all, and I began to study the resurrection.

As I did so, it became clear to me how little this subject is spoken about or written about in any detail. This led me to look again at the preaching of the Apostles as recorded in Acts. It was striking that every single recorded sermon in Acts focuses on both the death AND resurrection of Jesus — well, every one except the sermon which was interrupted by the preacher seeing the risen Jesus and telling his hearers about it! I was deeply struck by this — I discovered only yesterday that Spurgeon had also been struck by this near the beginning of his ministry.

“Reflecting the other day upon the sad state of the churches at the present moment, I was led to look back to apostolic times, and to consider wherein the preaching of the present day differed from the preaching of the apostles. I remarked the vast difference in their style from the set and formal oratory of the present age. I remarked that the apostles did not take a text when they preached, nor did they confine themselves to one subject, much less to any place of worship, but I find that they stood up in any place and declared from the fulness of their heart what they knew of Jesus Christ. But the main difference I observed was in the subjects of their preaching. Surprised I was when I discovered that the very staple of the preaching of the apostles was the resurrection of the dead. I found myself to have been preaching the doctrine of the grace of God, to have been upholding free election, to have been leading the people of God as well as I was enabled into the deep things of His word; but I was surprised to find that I had not been copying the apostolic fashion half as nearly as I might have done. The apostles when they preached always testified concerning the resurrection of Jesus, and the consequent resurrection of the dead . . .

The resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the righteous is a doctrine which we believe, but which we too seldom preach or care to read about. Though I have inquired of several booksellers for a book specially upon the subject of the resurrection, I have not yet been able to purchase one of any sort whatever; and when I turned to Dr. Owen’s works, which are a most invaluable storehouse of divine knowledge, containing much that is valuable on almost every subject, I could find, even there, scarcely more than the slightest mention of the resurrection. It has been set down as a well-known truth, and therefore has never been discussed. Heresies have not risen up respecting it; it would almost have been a mercy if there had been, for whenever a truth is contested by heretics, the orthodox fight strongly for it, and the pulpit resounds with it every day. I am persuaded, however, that there is much power in this doctrine; and if I preach it this morning you will see that God will own the apostolic preaching, and there will be conversions. I intend putting it to the test now, to see whether there be not something which we cannot perceive at present in the resurrection of the dead, which is capable of moving the hearts of men and bringing them into subjection to the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”

Spurgeon Sermon 66

As far as I can think, there is little change on that front today. Aside from some apologetic works, there are few, if any books, available today that look at the implications of the resurrection. Why should it be that we have so neglected this vital subject?

Gaffin (who was one of the sources I consulted during my preparation) believes that we have neglected to talk much about the resurrection since the reformation as an unintended result of our correct focus on the meaning of the cross. I have quoted from him and others at the end of my sermon notes which I posted earlier in the week.

Since I am currently in the midst of an extended series on the cross here on the blog, it has struck me that I, too, might be in danger of such a neglect of the resurrection. It seemed good to me, therefore, to initiate today a new plan on my blog. Every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday — we only began to meet as Christians on Sundays to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Thus, for at least a season I will be blogging about the resurrection on most Sundays. I know many of you don’t read blogs at the weekend, but the posts will still be here on Monday mornings!

It was great to see that my dear friend, Andrew Fountain, has also been blogging about the resurrection this past week. He also quotes extensively from Gaffin, and his whole post is well worth a read. One point that Gaffin makes rightly is that the resurrection has implications here and now for us as Christians. It is because of the resurrection that the life-giving Spirit is poured into our hearts.

In the quotes that Andrew has shared from Gaffin, he also points out our lamentable neglect of the resurrection. He links it, interestingly, to a lack of emphasis on the work of God in sanctification — i.e. the activity of the Spirit in working in us by the same power with which He rose Jesus from the dead.

He even seems to believe that a lack of an understanding of the resurrection can lead to legalism. He concludes that the resurrection is vital to our understanding the following vital truth that all too often we neglect:

“‘He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 1:6, NASB). Sanctification, no less than j
ustification, is God’s work. In the NT there is no more basic perspective on sanctification and renewal than that expressed in Romans 6: It is a continual ‘living to God’ (v. 11) of those who are ‘alive from the dead’ (v. 13).”


It is thinking about precisely this notion of the dynamic effects of the resurrection of Christ on our Christian lives that led me today to come up with the title for today’s post— “The Resurrection Empowered Life”. I intend to explain a lot more about what I mean by this on future Sundays, but I think I have expressed some of it in my sermon series on the way that God revives us, and I also touch on this to some extent in my article on learning to love God as a real person.

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