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Lesson 75: Why You Must Believe in the Risen Lord, Easter Sunday (Romans 1:4; 4:24-25; 5:10; 6:4-10; 7:4; 8:11, 33b-34; 10:9-10; 14:9)

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If I were to ask, “What is the most crucial question for which you would like a definitive answer?” we would probably get many different answers. Some might say, “Whom should I marry?” Others may say, “What career path should I pursue?” Or, “Where can I find a decent-paying job?” Some might want to know, “How can my spouse and I live in peace and harmony?” Or, “How can we rear our children in the Lord?”

These are all important questions, of course. But as I’ve often said, the most crucial question that we all must answer is Jesus’ question to His disciples (Matt. 16:15), “But who do you say that I am?” Your answer to that question not only determines how you will live the rest of your life, but also where you will spend eternity.

And the correct answer to that question largely rests on the historic fact that Jesus rose bodily from the grave. If that is really true, then He is who He claimed to be, the eternal Son of God in human flesh, the Lord of all creation, who is coming to judge the living and the dead. That means that you must trust in Him as your Savior and bring all of your thoughts, words, and deeds under His lordship. If you trust in Him as your risen Lord and Savior, He promised that you will spend eternity with Him.

But if it is not true that Jesus is risen bodily from the dead, then you are still in your sins and your faith in Christ is worthless. (1 Cor. 15:17). Paul said that the entire Christian faith stands or falls on this one fact: Jesus is risen!

I’ve spent other Easter messages setting forth the proofs for truth of Christ’s resurrection. You can read or listen to those on the church web site. In this message I want to look at all of the references to Christ’s resurrection in Romans to show why you must believe in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. We have come to the end of Romans 11, so this might also serve as a review of many of the wonderful truths that Paul has set forth in these important chapters. There is only one further explicit reference to the resurrection in Romans, which we will briefly look at (14:9). Of course, the truth of the resurrection implicitly permeates everything that Paul wrote. But his explicit references to it in Romans shows us why you must believe this crucial truth:

You must believe in the person and work of the risen Lord Jesus Christ to be saved and to walk daily with Him.

If you are not saved (to be saved means that Jesus has rescued you from the penalty of your sins), then you are lost. If you should die without being saved, God would justly condemn you to hell for all eternity. Trust me: there is no thought more horrific than that! So you must not rest until you know that Jesus has saved you.

1. You must believe in the person and work of the risen Lord Jesus Christ to be saved.

You must understand who Jesus is (His person) and what He did (His work) before you can properly put your trust in Him as your Savior and Lord.

A. You must understand who Jesus is before you can believe in Him.

The Christian faith is not a blind leap in the dark. The entire message of the Bible reveals who Jesus is and what He came to do for us. Paul begins Romans by focusing on who Jesus is (1:1-4):

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, …

“The gospel of God” is the theme of Romans. “Gospel” means “good news,” and it is the best news in the world. This good news comes to us from God and it is all about God. It tells us how we can be rightly related to Him through His eternal Son, whom He sent. God promised this good news beforehand through His prophets in the Old Testament. After Adam and Eve sinned, plunging the entire human race into sin, God promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent. God’s way of salvation was pictured when He slaughtered an animal, probably a sheep, and clothed Adam and Eve with its skin. It also was pictured when God strangely commanded Abraham to slaughter his beloved son, Isaac, but then at the last minute provided the ram as a substitute. But unlike that story, God actually slaughtered His own beloved Son for us. The Old Testament sacrificial system pointed ahead to and was fulfilled in Jesus, the supreme and final Lamb of God, who bore our sins in His own body on the cross.

In that opening sentence of Romans Paul shows that Jesus is “God’s Son, who was born a descendant of David according to the flesh.” He is God’s eternal Son. There was never a time when He was not the Son of God. It was through Jesus, God’s Son, that everything was created (John 1:1-3; Heb. 1:2). But at God’s appointed time, Jesus took on human flesh through the virgin birth, so that He could provide salvation for the fallen human race. Thus the Jesus in whom you must believe is unique in all history, in that He is eternal God in human flesh. To deny either Jesus’ full deity or His perfect humanity is to believe in a false Jesus.

Paul also says that Jesus “was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). As we saw when we studied these verses, “declared” should properly be translated “appointed” or “distinguished.” This does not mean that He became the Son of God through the resurrection, but rather that the resurrection distinguished Jesus to be who He is, the eternal Son of God. By virtue of His resurrection, Jesus was appointed to be seated at God’s right hand of power. Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11).

The “Spirit of holiness” refers to the fact that by virtue of Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation, He inaugurated the new age of the Spirit by sending the Spirit upon the church. Paul refers to Jesus as “our Lord,” which means both Master and God. The crucial question that you must answer is, “Is Jesus your Lord?”

B. You must understand what Jesus did through His death and resurrection in order to be saved.

Paul spends chapters 3-5 of Romans showing that God justifies sinners through faith in Christ as the one who appeased God’s wrath, not by their keeping the law. He says (3:22b-26),

… for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

In chapter 4, Paul uses the Jews’ greatest ancestor, Abraham the father of their faith, to show that he was justified by faith alone, not through his works. He concludes with the second reference in Romans to the resurrection of Jesus (Rom. 4:23-25): “Now not for his [Abraham’s] sake only was it written that it [faith] was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”

Paul’s reference to “Jesus our Lord” emphasizes again both His deity and His humanity. Jesus took on human flesh so that He could bear our sins, but He did not give up His deity. He is the Lord. When Paul says that Jesus “was delivered over because of our transgressions,” he means that Jesus died to pay the just penalty for our sins. When he says that Jesus “was raised because of our justification,” he means that when God raised Jesus, He put His seal of approval on Christ’s death as obtaining our justification. Because Jesus was raised, we can know that God accepted His substitutionary death on the cross, so that if we believe in Jesus our sins are upon Him. That leads to the next essential for salvation:

C. You must personally trust in who Jesus is and in what He did on the cross for you into order to be saved.

Here I’m jumping ahead to Paul’s description of the message of faith that he preaches (Rom. 10:9-10): “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Paul’s point in these verses is that to be saved (delivered from God’s wrath), you must truly believe in Jesus as the crucified and risen Lord and Savior.

As he has emphasized from the beginning of Romans, our faith is not just faith in general, or faith in God, however we conceive Him to be. Rather, our faith must be in the specific truths that underlie the gospel. Faith rests on the person and work of Jesus Christ: He is God in human flesh. He died for our sins; He was raised bodily and is exalted on high.

Also, saving faith is a matter of the heart, not of intellectual assent only. It includes committing your eternal destiny totally to Christ’s death on your behalf. You abandon trusting in any good works for your salvation. It also includes turning from your sin (repentance) and submitting to Jesus as Lord of your life. The evidence of such repentance, faith, and submission is that you openly confess Jesus as Lord, beginning with baptism and continuing in a life of obedience to Him.

Don’t make the fatal mistake of thinking that because you’re a good person, you don’t need salvation. We all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). Thus we all need to be saved from God’s judgment. To be saved, you must believe in the person and work of Jesus Christ, including His substitutionary death and His bodily resurrection from the dead.

But other references to Christ’s resurrection in Romans teach us that…

2. You must believe in the person and work of the risen Lord Jesus Christ to walk daily with Him.

In other words, Christ’s resurrection is not only essential for salvation, but also for sanctification, or growth in holiness. We can group these references under five headings:

A. Faith in the risen Lord frees us from condemnation and guilt and gives us assurance of salvation.

Romans 5:10: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Charles Hodge (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Eerdmans], p. 138) explains the main idea of this verse, “If Christ has died for his enemies, he will surely save his friends.” Although we were His enemies, Christ’s death reconciled us to God the instant we believed. But if Jesus died but was not raised from the dead, then He can’t save us from God’s coming wrath on the day of judgment. But He lives now to keep us until that day when He returns bodily to complete our salvation (Phil. 1:6; Col. 3:4).

Becoming a Christian does not mean that you become sinless. It should mean that you sin less and less as you walk with Christ. But when you sin, you feel guilty. The basis for being free from guilt and condemnation is not only that Jesus died for your sins in the past, but also that He now lives to keep you and bring you to the fullness of salvation.

The fact that the risen Christ will save you on the day of judgment also gives assurance of salvation. In Romans 8:33b-34, Paul says: “God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” Paul is saying that if God has declared us to be righteous on the basis of our faith in the death of Christ on our behalf and if the risen Christ is now at the right hand of God interceding on our behalf, then we can be assured that we will be saved at the judgment. To put it another way, our salvation from start to finish rests on what the crucified and risen Savior has done and is doing for us, not on any merit or good works on our part.

While we are not saved by our good works, we are saved for good works and the basis for good works must be a holy life. Thus,

B. Faith in the risen Lord empowers us to live victoriously over sin.

Romans 6:4-10:

Therefore 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. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing 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; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

Paul means that when we understand and act on the truth that we are identified with Jesus in His death and resurrection, it frees us from the dominion of sin in our daily lives. Living in light of our union with the living Lord is the key to overcoming sin. John Piper (“Justified to Break the Power of Sin,” on desiringgod.org) explains the practical benefit of Romans Sin can’t enslave a person who is utterly confident and sure and hope-filled in the infinite happiness of life with Christ in the future.”

C. Faith in the risen Lord enables us to bear fruit for God.

Romans 7:4: “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.” Paul is arguing that our identification with Christ in His death and resurrection frees us from being bound by the Law and enables us to bear fruit for God. If you have not trusted in Christ as your Savior, you’re under the condemnation of the Law. But if you are identified with Christ through faith in Him, then you have died to the Law’s condemnation (your old “husband”) and are alive in Christ (your new “husband”), freed up to bear fruit for Him.

Being free from the Law does not mean that we are free to live as we please or as we think best. The New Testament has many specific commands about how we should live. But now our motivation for keeping God’s commands is that Christ has loved us and bought us with His blood to be His bride. In other words, we obey out of love, not out of fear of condemnation.

Thus we’ve seen that faith in the risen Lord gives us freedom from condemnation and guilt and assurance of our salvation. It empowers us to live victoriously over sin. It enables us to bear fruit for God.

D. Faith in the risen Lord enables us to live under His lordship so that we do not judge one another.

Here we jump ahead to the only verse on the resurrection in Romans that we have not yet studied, Romans 14:9: “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” In this chapter Paul is dealing with a problem that existed in the Roman church and that has often cropped up in churches down through the ages. Some of the believers were sitting in judgment on other believers over secondary or peripheral matters that are not specifically commanded in Scripture.

Some believed that they could eat all types of foods, but others thought that they could only eat vegetables (14:2). Some observed certain days as holy, but others regarded every day as the same (14:5). Paul argues that we are not our brother’s judge on these matters. Each one lives as unto the Lord, before whom we all will stand for judgment. Therefore, since the risen Savior is the Lord of all, let Him be Lord over your brother on matters where the Bible does not give specific commands. Live your life before the risen Jesus as Lord and encourage your brother to do the same. Again, this does not refer to areas where the Bible gives specific commands, but rather to secondary issues where Scripture is silent.

E. Faith in the risen Lord gives us hope for time and eternity.

Romans 8:11: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Two verses earlier (8:9), Paul said, “But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” In verse 11 he is saying that if the Spirit does dwell in you through faith, then you have assurance that in the future, He will raise up your mortal body. Jesus is the prototype. Just as He is risen in a glorified body, not subject to death, so we too one day will be raised from the dead and receive new, immortal bodies. In other words, our hope for eternal life in new resurrection bodies rests on the fact that Jesus has been raised from the dead.

Conclusion

I love the story of John Paton (1824-1907), a Scottish man who felt called by God to take the gospel to the cannibals of what was then called The New Hebrides Islands (now Vanuatu). The first missionaries to land there in 1839 were clubbed to death and eaten minutes after stepping ashore. Paton and his new bride courageously followed them in 1858.

Before he left, many tried to dissuade Paton from going. They offered him a nice salary and a manse if he would stay in Glasgow. One old man in his church would often say to Paton, “The cannibals! You will be eaten by cannibals!” Finally, Paton replied (modernized slightly from John G. Paton Autobiography [Banner of Truth], ed. by his brother James Paton, p. 56),

“Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms. I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; and in the great day my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.”

It was Paton’s faith in the risen Savior and his hope in his own resurrection that moved him to risk his life to take the good news to these savage cannibals. Today Vanuatu is over 50 percent evangelical Christians. There are no cannibals.

Why is it imperative to believe in the resurrection? Because you must believe in the person and work of the risen Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. And you must believe in the risen Lord to walk daily in victory and hope.

Application Questions

  1. Why is it essential to have biblical content at the heart of our faith? See 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6-9.
  2. Discuss: Can a person who denies the substitutionary atonement of Christ or who says that we must add our works to what Christ did on the cross be truly saved?
  3. What are some of the strongest proofs for the resurrection as historical fact? How would you answer those who point out differences between the various biblical accounts?
  4. Why is the physical resurrection of Jesus essential to the Christian faith?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2012, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Easter, Faith, Soteriology (Salvation)