We shall attempt now to show the spiritual bearing and influence which the resurrection of the Lord has upon the believing soul.
The apostle's earnest desire and prayer were that he might "know the Lord Jesus Christ, and the power of his resurrection." Php 3:10. It was not, then, the bare fact of his resurrection, or the mere doctrine of it as revealed in the scripture, which would satisfy his panting soul, though both of them in themselves as foundation truths full of unspeakable blessedness; but what his believing heart intensely longed to enjoy was the inward experience of its power, fruits, and effects. What was that power? Let us see, if we can, with God's blessing, what it was to know and enjoy that which drew forth such intense desires from Paul's inmost soul.
The prayer which this man of God offered for the church of God at Ephesus (Eph 1:16-23) will, we think, form a blessed key to this experimental secret. Among the heavenly blessings which he there prays that "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory," would grant unto them, he begs that "he would give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ, that they might know what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us 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." Eph 1:19,20. If we read the whole of that blessed prayer we shall see that the Lord Jesus is there spoken of as the Head and Representative of his body, the church—a multitude which no man can number. When, then, he died on the cross, he sank, so to speak, under the load of millions of sins, for "he bore our sins in his own body on the tree." We know, indeed, that by the shedding of his precious blood the sins of the church were purged away, and that he himself said, "It is finished," before he gave up his life; but as under the law the death of the victim was the essential part of the sacrifice, so, until the Lamb of God died, the sacrifice was not complete.
In this sense, then, he died and sank into the grave under the tremendous weight of sin laid on his sacred head. By these, as dead under the law, he was bound fast in the tomb—faster than by the burial-clothes, the Roman guard, or the stone rolled to the door of the sepulcher; and by these he was held fast until the resurrection morn. These, then, were the "pains (or cords) of death" of which Peter speaks, which held him fast. (Acts 2:24). But God "loosed" these cords, because he being the Son of God and the Prince of life, "it was not possible that he should be held" by death; and therefore he raised him up as the justified Head of his body the church, leaving in the grave the sins under the guilt and weight of which he had died. Being thus raised up as the head of the church, and openly acquitted and justified, she rose in and with him.
This view of Christ's resurrection may prepare us to enter more clearly and fully into the experimental meaning of that blessed prayer for the Ephesian believers, to which we have already referred; and to show us why the apostle prayed that they might know "what is the exceeding greatness of his power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead." The resurrection of the Lord Jesus is here spoken of as a most miraculous display of the mighty power of God. Why was it such? Not surely in merely raising the dead body of the Lord Jesus to life, for that miracle had been before done in the case of Lazarus and the widow's son, and in many other instances. But it was because in raising up Christ from the dead God raised up millions of redeemed sinners with him, and that, too, out of all their sins and miseries, which had sunk his sacred head, as bearing them all, into death and the grave. The church is, therefore, said to be "quickened together with Christ," and "raised up together with him;" Eph 2:5,6. Col 2:12,13; and believers are spoken of as "risen with Christ." Col 3:1.
Now, what a living child of God longs to experience is the felt power of this resurrection—that as having been mystically and virtually quickened together with Christ at and in his resurrection from the dead, he may feelingly enjoy the spiritual power of that resurrection in his own soul, enabling him to rise up out of the cords of death which so often hold him firm and fast. This putting forth of the power of Christ to quicken, renew, and deliver the soul is so exceedingly great that it is compared by the apostle to the display of that mighty power which God put forth in raising Jesus from the dead. For though the believer was virtually and really quickened together with Christ when he rose from the dead, and has already risen out of the grave of death and sin by this power regenerating and making him alive unto God, yet he often sinks back into the gloomy grave of carnality and deadness. He therefore needs a mighty power to be put forth in his soul—the power of Christ's resurrection; for he feelingly needs the same almighty power which raised Jesus from the dead to raise him up once more to faith, and hope, and love. The resurrection of Jesus, and his interest therein as a quickened member of his body, is indeed the sure pledge that he shall again be blessed with this renewing, reviving grace; but O the power!—inwardly and experimentally to feel this power from time to time coming into his soul as the power of God came into the tomb of Christ and raised him from the dead; and by the experience of this power to rise with Christ to light, life, liberty, and love—this is indeed to have the kingdom of God which is not only "in power," but is "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit." 1Corinthians 4:20. Romans 14:17
As, then, by the resurrection of Christ the church was mystically "quickened together with him,", Eph 2:5. so regeneration is the first proof, the initial pledge, of the resurrection of each individual believer with him. This is the first act of the power of Christ's resurrection as a felt, experimental reality in each member of his mystical body. As, then, the regenerated soul experiences more and more of the putting forth of this risen power, and feels more and more deeply and sensibly the contrast between the workings and movements of this hidden life and its own miserable darkness, bondage. And death when this divine fruit of Christ's resurrection is not realized, it hungers and thirsts after its renewed enjoyment.
Regeneration in itself is an instantaneous act which cannot be repeated, but its effects are permanent. A child can be born but once; but having once breathed it breathes again; and without breath and food cannot live. So every sweet revival, gracious renewal, soft word, melting touch, comforting look, heavenly smile, applied promise, encouraging testimony, or blessed manifestation of or from the risen Lord of life and glory is not, indeed, regeneration, but the fruit and effect of it; and to experience it in the soul is to experience the power of his resurrection.
The more we view by faith the resurrection of our adorable Redeemer, the more grace and glory shall we see shining through it; and the more we feel of our own sinfulness and helplessness, the more shall we desire to realize the power of that resurrection in our own personal experience. The guilt of sin makes us cleave to a dying Christ; the power of sin makes us hang upon a risen Christ. The Holy Spirit, therefore, in the scripture sometimes exhibits Jesus to our view as a slaughtered Lamb, and sometimes as the church's glorious risen Head. Holy John blessedly unites them both in one verse, "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful Witness, and the first-begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." Rev. 1:5.
Though he had such a view of his glorious Person as a risen Jesus that he fell at his feet as dead, yet his faith departed not from the cross, or from the fountain opened therein for sin and for uncleanness. So blessed Paul, in the longing aspirations of his soul, breathes forth at one and the same moment his desires to know Christ risen and to sympathize with Christ suffering—"That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death." Php 3:10. Even in the courts of heaven, in the midst of the throne and the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, John had a view of a Lamb, standing "as it had been slain," and heard the song of the representatives of the redeemed as they fell down before him—"And they sang a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof—for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation!" Rev. 5:9
Whether, then, dying on the cross, or risen from the dead, or ascended up on high, he is still Jesus, "the same yesterday, today, and forever," wearing still the same sacred humanity which he assumed in the womb of the Virgin. We cannot separate Jesus' cross from Jesus' crown; the slaughtered Lamb from the risen Conqueror; the High Priest offering sacrifice from the High Priest carrying the blood within the veil; the church's suffering Surety from the Church's glorified Representative. We need him as much for what he was as for what he is. Without a dying Jesus there could be no redemption; without a living Jesus there could be no salvation. It is sweet to lie at the foot of the cross that the drops of his atoning blood may fall on the conscience; it is sweet to see his languid eyes sealed in death, and to know that he died the just for the unjust that he might bring us unto God; it is sweet to see the prisoner of death break through the barriers of the tomb and come forth into the light of heaven as the Church's justified Head; and it is sweet to see him ascended up on high to take possession of the kingdom given him by the Father before the foundation of the world. And well it is for poor sinners, and especially for those who are burdened with the guilt of sin, that it is so. For though we are said to be "come to Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, . . . and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant," all which blessings spring from Christ risen, yet we are said also to be come "to the blood of sprinkling," which, as issuing from Christ crucified, "speaks better things than the blood of Abel." Hebrews 12:22-24
We have dwelt a little largely upon this lest any apprehension might arise in our readers' minds that we are looking away from the cross by speaking so much of the resurrection. In thought they may be separated, but not in blessing; for as without the cross there could have been no atoning blood, so without the resurrection there could be no prevailing intercession.
1. One of the greatest blessings that spring out of an experimental knowledge of the power of his resurrection is the manifest justification thereby of every one who believes in the Son of God, according to those words, "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification." Romans 4:25. We have used the expression, "the manifest justification," for the elect are not really and actually justified by Christ's resurrection, but by the imputation of his active and passive obedience, as the apostle speaks, "Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous." Romans 5:18,19.
The resurrection of Christ from the dead is not, then, the procuring cause, but the manifest proof that his obedience to the law was accepted on their behalf, and that they were raised up together with him as justified persons; for "in the Lord," that is, by virtue of union with him, "shall all the seed of Israel be justified;"; Isa 45:25. and this they were manifestly when their covenant Head was raised up and openly acquitted of all law charges.
Now as the resurrection of Christ was the manifest justification of their persons, so a knowledge of its power is the manifest justification of their consciences. For until Christ is revealed to the soul as risen from the dead, it is shut up under the law, full of guilt and condemnation, a prisoner in the pit where there is no water; but when he is manifested, or rather, when he manifests himself—which he could not do unless he were alive from the dead—he seals a sense of justification on the conscience. "I bring near," he says, "my righteousness," Isa 46:13. which he does when he experimentally clothes the soul with the garments of salvation, and covers it with the robe of righteousness. Isa 61:10
Then the power of his resurrection experimentally felt raises the child of grace out of the grave of bondage and death, and by faith in him as a risen head, he is "justified from all things from which he could not be justified by the law of Moses." Acts 13:39. Christ is thus sensibly made of God unto every believing soul righteousness; and in the language of faith he can say, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength." Isa 45:24. This made the apostle say, "And if Christ be not raised your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins." 1Co 15:17. Why are you not, he might ask them, yet in your sins as regards their condemnation by the law? Because Christ is risen from the dead. Why are you not yet in your sins as regards their condemnation in your own conscience? Because by faith in him as risen from the dead you are justified experimentally from them.
It is thus the apostle connects, in another place, the two blessings of manifest and experimental justification—"Who was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 4:25. Romans 5:1. Why that "therefore" connecting the two chapters, but to show that as by Christ's resurrection we are manifestly justified, so by faith in him as risen from the dead we are experimentally justified, of which the proof is to have peace with God? This justifying faith gives manifest union with Christ, and, opening up a divine channel of communication with him, produces another blessed fruit of the power of his resurrection:
2. Communion with him as a risen Head. In his last consoling discourse Jesus said to his disciples, "I will not leave you comfortless—I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world sees me no more; but you see me—because I live, you shall live also." John 14:18,19. But being able only to view him with the natural eye, when his personal presence was withdrawn, the world could see him no more. "But you see me," said the blessed Lord to his disciples. And how should they see him? In the same way as is recorded of Moses—"By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing him who is invisible." Hebrews 11:27. Faith is the eye of the soul, for it is "the evidence of things not seen" by sense; and thus by faith they would see him at the right hand of the Father. But as they saw him there, would they not see him as a living Head, for he says, "Because I live, you shall live also?" And would not life, flowing into them from union with him, flow back unto him in sacred communion? But he also said, "I will not leave you comfortless," as mourning my death and your own disappointed hopes; "I will come to you." But how? By personal manifestation. "He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is that loves me; and he who loves me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." John 14:21.
Thus communion with Christ rests on three things—seeing him by faith, living upon his life, and experiencing his manifested presence. But all these three things depend on his resurrection and a knowledge of its power. As risen from the dead, the saints see him; as risen from the dead, they live a life of faith upon him; as risen from the dead, he manifests himself unto them; and as life and feeling spring up in their souls from sweet communion with him, the power of his resurrection becomes manifest in them.
The sacred humanity of our blessed Lord, as seen by faith, has a blessed effect in drawing the soul up unto himself. We cannot have communion with pure Deity. Our fallen condition and miserable state as guilty sinners has forever shut out that way. But eyeing by faith the pure humanity of our adorable Redeemer, in union with his eternal Deity, we may now draw near to God in all holy boldness. The blood of Jesus gives us access within the veil, as the apostle urges, "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:19-22.
And again, "Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16
Now, just in proportion to our faith in him as a risen Head shall we feel the holy boldness of which the apostle speaks; and as thus venturing near and enabled to plead with him, pour out our heart before him, show him all our troubles, confess our sins, bewail our backslidings, and seek some manifestations of his pardoning love—will communion with him be sensibly experienced, for he will more or less manifest himself, apply some comforting word, and melt and soften the heart into humility and love. This communion, therefore, with the Lord Jesus as a risen Head all the reconciled and justified saints of God are pressing forward after, according to the measure of their grace and the life and power of God in their soul. It is indeed often sadly interrupted and grievously broken through by the sin that dwells in us. But the principle is there, for that principle is life; and life is the privilege, the possession, and the distinction of the children of God. You need none to assure you that Jesus is risen from the dead if he manifests himself to your soul. You need no evidence that you are a sheep if you have heard and know his voice. So you may say, "Jesus is risen, for I have seen him; Jesus is risen, for I have heard him; Jesus is risen, for I live upon him."
Communion with Jesus is the life of religion, and indeed without it religion is but an empty name. If without him we can do nothing; if he is our life, our risen covenant Head, our Advocate with the Father, our Husband, our Friend, our Brother, how are we to draw sap out of his fullness, as the branch from the vine, or to know him personally and experimentally in any one of his endearing relationships—unless by continual communion with him on his throne of grace? In fact, this is the grand distinguishing point between the living and the dead, between the true child of God and the mere professor, that the one has real union and communion with a risen Jesus and the other is satisfied with a form of godliness. Every quickened soul is made to feel after the power of God, after communion from above, after pardon and peace, after visitations of mercy and grace; and when he has had a view of Christ by faith, and some revelation of his Person and work, grace and glory, nothing afterwards can ever really satisfy him but that inward communion of spirit with Jesus whereby the Lord and he become one; "for he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit." 1Co 6:17
3. Another fruit of Christ's resurrection, and closely and intimately connected with the foregoing, is, the rising with him of the spiritual affections of his believing people, as the apostle urges on the Colossian saints—"If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth." Col 3:1,2. By nature we cleave to earth and to earthly objects. Our affections are buried in the grave of death, nor are we able of ourselves to raise them up to high and heavenly things. We need, then, the power of Christ's resurrection to be inwardly felt and realized, that, as risen with him our covenant Head, we may no longer lie buried in the things of time and sense, the vain and fleeting objects here below, but may set our affections on things above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Our Head is risen from the dead. Why, then, should we, the members of his body, still grovel here below in the dust of the earth? He is gone up on high. Let our affections mount with him. He is in heaven. Let our hearts be with him.
Now, just in proportion as we realize the power of Christ's resurrection do we rise in our heart and affections up from this miserable earth, with all its cares and all its passing vanities. Nothing seems to be a greater evidence of the low, sunken state of the church in the present day than the manifest lack of this heavenly grace. How few there are whose affections are set on things above. How few can really say, "Our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Php 3:20. How few there are who, either by their conversation or their life, manifest that their heart is in heaven—we will not say continually, but ever there at all. How few seem to have any affectionate thoughts toward Jesus, any longing for his manifested presence—"O, when will you come unto me?"—any delight in him as the chief among ten thousand and the altogether lovely one, any breaking forth of heart after him as the deer pants after the water-brooks, any adoring contemplation of his glory, any inward retirement of spirit, whereby their wandering affections are gathered home and fixed upon heavenly things!
We know, indeed, how cold, stupid, and carnal the heart often is, and how the affections stray after the things of time and sense; but to be always so, never to have any sweet incoming of divine life and power drawing the affections heavenward—how do such people differ from those altogether dead in a profession? Where there is life, it will work; where there is faith, it will act; where there is love, it will flow. Such people, to say the least, are in a very perilous condition, for if not wholly dead, their affections being so set on things of earth, they lie open to the worst snares of the devil and the flesh. Even some of the Lord's more clearly-manifested people are verily guilty in this matter. Some of them are bowed down with a daily load of care. Worldly anxieties fill their mind and occupy their thoughts from morning to night. Can these be said to be spiritually risen with Christ? Would not the power of his resurrection experimentally felt, lift them up from their family cares, their business cares, their too often imaginary, their self-tormenting cares? Were their faith more firmly fixed on a risen Christ, their affections more set on a living Christ, what a load of carking cares would be removed from their shoulders!
Others of the Lord's family are bowed down with worldly grief and sorrow. Some beloved object has been removed out of their sight, and their affections linger round the tomb which holds his earthly remains. The sorrow of the world is working death in them, nor can they look beyond the sepulcher to the resurrection. But is not Christ risen from the dead? Has he not destroyed death and him that had the power of death, and as having felt the power of his resurrection, should not their affections rise with him, and there find their happiness and their home, instead of seeking the living among the dead?
Others, again, who once did run well, and whose heart and affections once seemed fixed on heavenly things, through that root of all evil, the love of money, are now eagerly pursuing the world, intent upon gain, thinking they never can have enough, elated with every flush of success, and correspondingly depressed with failures and reverses.
Knowing what we are by nature, and how surrounded by temptation on every side to do evil, we cannot wonder that even those who have some marks of the fear of God in their hearts may be, for a time, left to live so far from the power of Christ's resurrection. But it will not always be so with them. There are in reserve for them heavy crosses, hot fires, deep waters; and by these, as so many chastening rods, they will be brought once more to feel the power of Christ's resurrection raising them out of their carnality and death, and then once more they will set their affections on things above.
4. Closely connected with the setting of our affections on things above, as the fruit of the resurrection of Jesus and of our union with him as a risen Head, is the being made spiritually-minded; that heavenly grace which contains in its bosom these two blessed fruits, "life and peace." Romans 8:6. Just in proportion as our heart and affections are engaged on heavenly objects, shall we feel a sweet savor of heaven resting upon our spirit; and as we can only give back what we receive, every going forth of divine life from the soul below is but the fruit and effect of the incoming of that life from above. Christ is our life above; Col 3:4. and as he by his Spirit and grace maintains the life of faith in the soul, it manifests itself in gracious actings upon himself. This movement of the life within up to its divine Author and Object is the breathing of the spirit from under its house of clay, the ascension of the soul up unto God, the taking possession beforehand of its mansion above, and sitting down with Christ in heavenly places before the glorious celebration of the marriage supper of the Lamb. Rev. 19:7,9.
Without this spirituality of mind religion is but a mere name, an empty mask, a delusion, and a snare. There must be wrought in the soul of every heir of glory before he departs out of this time-state what the apostle calls a being "made fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light." Col 1:12. God does not take into heaven, into the fullness of his own eternal bliss, those whom he does not love, and who do not love him. It is a prepared people—for prepared mansions. And this preparedness for heaven, as an inward grace, much consists in that sweet spirituality of mind whereby heavenly things become our only happiness, and an inward delight is felt in them, which enlarges the heart, ennobles the mind, softens the spirit, and lifts the whole soul, as it were, up into a holy atmosphere in which it bathes as its choice element. This is "life," not the cold, dead profession of those poor, carnal creatures who have only a natural faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the truths of his gospel; but that blessed life which shall never die, but live in the eternal presence of God when earth and all it holds shall be wrapped in the devouring flames. And it is "peace"—the Redeemer's dying legacy—whereby, as he himself fulfills it, he calms the troubled waves of the soul, stills every rebellious movement, and enthrones himself in the heart as the Prince of peace.
5. The last fruit of the resurrection of the blessed Lord that we shall mention is that it is the first fruits and pledge of the resurrection of the saints at the last day. So speaks the apostle in that chapter which has comforted thousands of mourners when they have laid in the tomb the remains of their beloved husbands, wives, children, or friends who have departed in the Lord. "But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first fruits of those who slept; for since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead; for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." 1Co 15:20-22. Christ risen is the first fruits of that mighty crop of buried dead whose remains still sleep in the silent dust, and who will be joined by successive ranks of those who die in him, until all are together wakened up in the resurrection morn. The figure is that of the sheaf of the first fruits which was waved before the Lord before the harvest was allowed to be reaped. Lev. 23:10,11. This offering of the wave sheaf was the consecration and dedication of the whole crop in the field to the Lord, as well as the manifest pledge that the harvest was fully ripe for the reaper's sickle. The first fruits represented the whole of the crop, as Christ is the representative of his saints; the offering of them sanctified what was still unreaped in the field, as Christ sanctified or consecrated unto God the yet unreaped harvest of the buried dead; and the carrying them into the tabernacle was the first introduction therein of the crop, as Christ entering heaven as the first fruits secures thereby the entrance of the bodies of the saints into the mansions prepared for them before the foundation of the world. Thus Christ rising from the dead presented himself before the Lord as the first fruits of the grand harvest of the resurrection yet unreaped, and by so doing consecrated and dedicated the whole crop unto God. As, then, he rose from the dead, so shall all the sleeping saints rise from the dead at the last day, for his resurrection is the first fruits, the pledge of theirs.
His risen body also is the type to which the risen bodies of the saints are to be conformed, "for as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." 1Co 15:49. This is that glorious image to which the saints are to be all conformed. "For whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren." Romans 8:29. But though fully retaining all the essential characteristics of humanity, for otherwise it would cease to be manhood in conjunction with Godhead, yet so unspeakably glorious is this risen body of the blessed Lord, to the image of which the risen saints will be conformed, that in this time-state we can not only form no conception of its surpassing glory, but not even of that inferior degree of glory which will clothe the bodies of the saints at the resurrection. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be—but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." 1John 3:2.
But of this we may be sure, that there will always be an essential and unapproachable distinction between the glory of Christ's humanity and theirs. His humanity, being in eternal union with his Deity, derives thence a glory which is distinct from all others, and to which there can be no approach, and with which there can be no comparison. The glory of the moon never can be the glory of the sun, though she shines with his reflected light. "He will change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body;" but though like, it will not be the same. It will be the saints' eternal happiness to see him as he is, and to be made like unto him; but it will be their everlasting joy that he should ever have that pre-eminence of glory which is his birthright, and to adore which will ever be their supreme delight.
To have a body free from all sin, sickness, and sorrow, filled to its utmost capacity of holiness and happiness, able to see him as he is without dying under the sight, and to be re-united to its once suffering but now equally glorified companion—an immortal soul, expanded to its fullest powers of joy and bliss—if this be not sufficient, what more can God give?