The Grace of Christ, or,
Sinners Saved by Unmerited Kindness

William S. Plumer, 1853

"We believe it is through the grace of our
 Lord Jesus that we are saved." Acts 15:11


The doctrine of the resurrection has always been offensive to the carnal mind. Infidels and ungodly men seem to manifest peculiar virulence against it. The cause of error on this subject is the same as in our Savior's day. He said to the Sadducees, who denied it, "you are in error--not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God." The Scriptures teach the doctrine. The power of God is unlimited. "Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" The history of the faith of God's people on this subject is briefly this. Without repeating what was said of Enoch in a former chapter, it may be stated that eighteen hundred and seventy-two years before Christ Abraham offered up Isaac. In Hebrews 11:19, Paul says that "Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death." Abraham then believed this doctrine reasonable, and in offering up Isaac was sustained by it. Job is thought to have lived about sixteen hundred and fifty years before Christ. His belief of this doctrine has never been disproved, though his statement on the subject has been much carped at and criticized. Yet it remains and shall ever remain firm and clear: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes--I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! Job 19:25-27. All human ingenuity is inadequate to the destruction of the glorious hopes here expressed. Fair and sober criticism rather strengthens than impairs the force of our translation.

About a hundred and one years later, and in his last sermon to the Israelites, Moses brings in God as saying: "I kill, and I make alive." Deut. 32:39. For many centuries together Jewish writers held that this passage taught the doctrine of the resurrection. There is nothing forced in this construction. What is it to make alive, but to raise from the dead? About three hundred and ninety years later, David foretold the resurrection of Christ, saying, "You will not allow your holy One to see corruption." Psalm 16:10. We have an inspired exposition of this passage given by the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:27-32.

We do therefore know that more than eleven hundred years before the Christian era, the resurrection of Christ was predicted. Still later we find Ezekiel borrowing his splendid imagery from this doctrine, and crying out, "Can these bones live?" We also find Daniel plainly declaring it: "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Dan. 12:2. After the close of the canon of the Old Testament, we find the same doctrine held by the pious Jews, who suffered persecution under Antiochus. Hear some of the words of those seven brethren, whose fame as martyrs will probably last until time shall be no longer. One of them, just about to die, boldly says to the tyrant: "You, like a fury, take us out of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up, who have suffered for his laws, unto everlasting life." Another, stretching out his hands said: "These I had from heaven, and for His love I despise them, and from Him I hope to receive them again." Another in the awful hour of his sufferings said: "It is good, being put to death by men, to look for hope from God, to be raised up again by him." That all the Jews, except those loose infidels, the Sadducees, believed this doctrine, none can doubt.

When Christ said to the weeping Martha, "Your brother shall rise again," she replied, "I know that he shall rise again at the last day." So Paul said, "I have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust." Acts 24:15. In the 13th article of a creed of fundamental doctrines arranged by that learned Jew, Maimonides, more than a thousand vears after Paul's time, are these words: "I believe with a perfect faith, that the dead shall be restored to life, when it shall seem fit to God the Creator." This creed was in general use among Israelites for centuries. Indeed Pocock tells us that in his day the Jews generally used these words at the graves of their friends: "Blessed be the Lord our God, who formed you with judgment, preserved you alive, delivered you up to death, who knows the number of you all, who will raise you up again, who will restore you with judgment. Blessed are you, O Lord, who gives life to the dead: may the dead live, with my dead body may they rise again."

That the resurrection is a doctrine of the New Testament is very clear. Besides the texts already quoted take the following, uttered by Christ: "In the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven." Matt. 22:30. "When you make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind; and you shall be blessed; for they cannot recompense you: for you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." Luke 14:14. Again Christ speaks of "the children of the resurrection," who cannot "die any more." In many other places he says as much. After the ascension of our Lord, his apostles continually bring up the same subject. One ground of offence to many was that they preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead." Acts 4:2; 17:18, 32; 24:21. It will not be denied that Lazarus was raised from the dead. See John 11:43, 44; nor that several people arose from the dead about the time of the resurrection of our Savior. Matt. 27:52, 53. That the resurrection of Christ was true--all the apostles were witnesses. Acts 1:22. Indeed no man could be an apostle unless he had seen the Lord after his resurrection.

Paul has summed up the whole doctrine in 1 Corinthians 15. "But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.

But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven." 1 Corinthians 15:12-24, 35-49. From this passage it is clear:

1. That the doctrine of the resurrection is fundamental. Without it preaching is idle and faith is vain. vs. 14, 17.

2. That the resurrection of Christ and that of his people are so connected that he who denies one subverts the other. vs. 12, 13.

3. That this doctrine is very consolatory to the suffering people of God, and nothing can compensate for the lack of it. 5:14.

4. That the work of Christ as to his people would manifestly be imperfect if he did not raise them up. vs. 21, 22.

5. That hard questions concerning the resurrection are foolish and have not even the merit of originality. vs. 35, 36.

6. That nature affords us illustrations of many things quite as inexplicable as the resurrection of the dead, yet we do not deny the facts, as in the growth of grain. vs. 36, 37, 38.

7. That it does not at all impair the doctrine of the resurrection that the body we shall then have will be very different from the body we now have. vs. 39-41. 8. That some of the dead shall be raised in more glory than others. vs. 41. 42.

9. That the resurrection body shall be fashioned and formed by the Holy Spirit, and so shall be a spiritual body. 5:44.

10. The key to the right interpretation of the whole passage is found in the fact that Paul is writing to Christians, and is mainly treating of the resurrection of the just, and only incidentally of that of the unjust.

The doctrine of the resurrection is incorporated into every summary creed of the early orthodox Christians. The Apostles' Creed says: "I believe in the resurrection of the body." The Aquileian has it: "I believe in the resurrection of the flesh." That of Damascus says: "We believe we shall be raised with the same real members and flesh, in which we now live." The Christian fathers are no less explicit: Jerome says: "The Christian faith cannot be maintained, unless it be maintained that a body with flesh and bones, blood and members, be restored." In one place Tertullian calls the resurrection body—flesh made like that of angels. Elsewhere he says: "The body is the soul's sister and co-heir, and therefore shall share with it in its estate." In remarking on the 98th Psalm, Augustine clearly announces the same to be his belief. Even Origen, who held some crude opinions on the subject, says: "As we retain the same body from infancy to old age, though the characters appear to be much changed, so we ought to understand that the very same species will remain in the life to come, though changed very much for the better." Soon after he says: "The former species shall remain, though it be made more glorious." Again he says: "Is it not absurd, that the body, which bears the scars of wounds received for Christ's sake, and which as well as the soul endured cruel torments in persecutions, and suffered the penalties of bonds and imprisonments, should be deprived of the rewards due to it for so great sufferings? Does it not seem contrary to all reason, that the soul, which did not suffer alone, should be rewarded alone, and its vessel, the body, which served it with so great labor, should obtain no reward?"

We have seen how Jewish martyrs under Antiochus cleaved to this doctrine. Scarcely a Christian martyrdom is recorded at any length, which does not show that this doctrine was avowed by those faithful witnesses. About the year 177 the churches of Vienne and Lyons wrote a letter to the churches of Asia and Phrygia, describing their sufferings. This letter is still extant in Eusebius. In it they say, that their "persecutors would not suffer the bodies of the martyrs to be buried, but threw them to the dogs to be devoured, and burnt them to ashes, and then cast their ashes into the river; and this they did, as if they could overcome God, and hinder their resurrection, through belief of which they despised the greatest torments."

Yet this doctrine has always been opposed by wicked men. All the heathen philosophers rejected it. When Paul preached it at Athens, the seat of their most famous schools, "some mocked." Acts 17:32. In his Natural History, Pliny numbers it among impossibilities to recall the dead. Celsus calls the doctrine of the resurrection abominable, and insults the people of God as madmen, for believing it. Tertullian says every sect of the philosophers denied it. And Augustine says there was nothing in the Christian religion so vehemently opposed by them, as the doctrine of the resurrection. In every age men of the same mood and temper have hated it, and will do so to the end of time. Nevertheless, "it is a faithful saying, if we died with him, we shall also live with him." 2 Tim. 2:11. By persuading men that there is no resurrection, errorists do but "overthrow their faith." 2 Tim. 2:18. The real Christian is not to be spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit. He looks at this doctrine as a corner-stone, and knowing its truth he says with Paul, "O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory." 1 Cor. 15:55.

The Scriptures do not represent the resurrection of the wicked as a blessing, though they speak of it as certain. But the resurrection of the righteous is ever a theme of triumph. The resurrection of the wicked is "to shame and everlasting contempt." It is "the resurrection of the unjust." It is "the resurrection of damnation." John 5:29. On the other hand, through the grace of Christ the resurrection of the just is "a better resurrection." It is "the resurrection of life." John 5:29. It is the resurrection "to everlasting life." Dan. 12:2. It is one of the inestimable blessings of Christ's mediation. To him alone is due all the glory of making a resurrection desirable. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life: he who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." John 5:25. And as Jesus was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead," Romans 1:4; so "if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." Romans 6:5.

How this doctrine is connected with Christ and with all that is precious in the hopes of believers, Paul declares: "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11. Is it not enough that Jesus went before us, that he has risen from the dead, become the first-fruits of those who slept, and given us infallible assurance that "God will bring with Jesus, those who have fallen asleep in him." 1 Thess. 4:14. So it is all, all through Christ, through Christ alone! Matchless One!!