Well, today is Good Friday in the annual church calendar. We celebrate the death of our Savior Jesus Christ on the cross, absorbing the wrath our sins deserved. It’s a huge day, huge week. Easter is just a few days away this weekend, so we turn our attention today on the podcast to the resurrection of Christ. Today’s email is from a listener named Allison. “Pastor John, hello and thank you for this podcast. Thanks to the death and resurrection of Christ, we have the hope of physical resurrection to come — an amazing reality, but one off in the future. It seems that the apostle Paul also talks about some ways in which we now participate in the resurrection of Christ. Can you explain them to me? Particularly, I’m thinking of when Paul says that we can know ‘the power of his [Christ’s] resurrection’ in our lives today (Philippians 3:10). And then he also says that God ‘raised us up with him [Christ] and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:6). Can you explain both of these implications of Easter for our lives today?”
Well, the effect of Christ’s resurrection on our present life as Christians is, Tony, Allison, immeasurably great. I mean, none of us has exhausted the possibilities of what God may be willing to do in us and through us because of the power of the resurrection of Christ in us. And I say that because Paul said in Ephesians 3:20, “[God] is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” And he identified that power in chapter 1 this way: “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe . . . that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:19–20).
There’s the connection between Ephesians 3:20 and 1:19: the power that makes it possible for us to do far more abundantly than we even dream we could is the very power of God that he worked when he raised Christ from the dead. So, Allison’s question is like plugging an electric cord into a socket with 10,000 volts.
How does the Bible spell this out? It starts by teaching us that what happened to us in our conversion to Christ, in our new birth, is that by faith we were spiritually united to Jesus Christ. God established a bond, a union — a living, unbreakable attachment — to Jesus Christ, and the point of this union, this bond, was that Christ’s death and Christ’s resurrection would count as our death and our resurrection.
“By faith, the cord of our lives is plugged into the 10,000-volt death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
And the key text is Romans 6:5: “If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” I can imagine there would be listeners who say, “Whoa, okay, you say we’re united; I don’t know where to look in my experience for that.” If you ask, “How do I personally experience a union with Christ in his death, in his resurrection?” the biblical answer is: by faith in Christ. When the Holy Spirit brings about your embrace of Christ — your believing in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and Treasure of your life — that is his way of establishing the union between you and the risen Christ.
We see this, for example, in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ.” So, there’s the union. I have been united with Christ in his dying. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ [the risen Christ] who lives in me.” And now, here comes the conscious experience of that as Paul describes it: “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” So, by faith, the cord of our lives is plugged into the 10,000-volt death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That secures our future resurrection. “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” (Romans 8:11). So, if Christ is in you now, if the risen Christ is dwelling in you now, you will be raised from the dead.
Five Effects of Union with the Risen Christ
Here are five present implications or experiences that we can know, here and now, because of our thousand-volt union with the risen Christ and the certainty of our own resurrection. What a difference it makes in our hearts that we can be certain that our own future resurrection is going to happen.
1. We share in Christ’s indestructible life.
There is a new security, a new confidence of hope in our lives. Christians are, in a profound sense, immortal. We will never see the full destructive power of death, because Jesus said in John 11:25–26, “I am the resurrection and the life. . . . Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” That’s amazing. Oh, what a promise!
The effect of this certainty in the future is to make our present experience in this world joyful — a joyful freedom from fear and a full security and confidence and hope. Peter said in 1 Peter 1:3, “[God] caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” All of us know there’s a world of difference between living right now in despair and uncertainty and insecurity and fear and, on the other hand, living right now in security, in confidence and hope and joy and freedom from fear because we share an indestructible life — namely, the resurrection life of Jesus.
That’s the first effect of Christ’s resurrection on our present experience.
2. We receive a new identity.
We have a new, unshakable, glorious identity. The world looks at you and me after our conversion to Christ, and what do they see? Nothing very spectacular. You’re not a hundred feet tall. Your true life is hidden. You are a son of God. I mean, a son of God — that’s like a galaxy. Your true life is hidden. Listen to Colossians 3:3–4: “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ [the risen Christ] in God.” That’s where you are; that’s who you are. “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also [the real you] will appear.” That is, you will be finally manifest to the world. You will be a hundred feet tall with him in glory.
So, in union with the risen Christ, you are not a mere mortal. Your true identity as a child of God is hidden with Christ in God, and it will be manifest in spectacular glory at his coming.
3. We experience unceasing help.
In union with the risen Christ, we have a new, living, present friend helping us all the time. Jesus said to his disciples before he died, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). And at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, in the very last verse, Jesus says, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). So, we experience the presence of the risen Christ by his Spirit, the Holy Spirit.
“Your true identity is hidden with Christ in God, and it will be manifest in spectacular glory at his coming.”
In John 7:39, before Jesus died and rose, John describes how the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus was not yet glorified, not yet raised and glorified. Now, I think what he meant was not that the Holy Spirit was not at work in the world before the resurrection of Jesus, but that the Spirit had not been revealed or experienced or known as the Spirit of the risen Christ himself. That’s what’s new. That’s our Christian privilege: the risen Christ is in us, with us as our friend, our helper, all the time, all the way home.
4. We acquire power to live righteously.
In union with the risen Christ, there is new power for defeating sin and walking in righteousness. And the key text is Romans 6; indeed, just about the whole chapter and the first part of chapter 7 are all about this.
- Romans 6:4: “Just as Christ was raised from the dead . . . we too . . . walk in newness of life” — right now, not just later.
- Romans 6:13: “Do not present your members [that is, your tongue, your arms, your legs, your sexual organs, your eyes, your ears] to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.”
- Romans 7:4: You belong “to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”
So, in union with the risen Christ, we have a new power for holiness and love.
5. We can suffer well with our Savior.
Here’s the last point, and there could be lots more. This is rich — we’re plugged into mega voltage here.
In union with the risen Christ, there is a new power to suffer with Jesus. Allison asked about this one in particular. Philippians 3:10: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.” Why? Here comes the answer: that I “may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
We have power to suffer well with Jesus; a new security and confidence of hope; a new, unshakable, glorious identity; a new present friend helping us all the time, all the way home; a new power for holiness and love; a new power to suffer with Jesus. And so we say this Easter season, “The Lord is risen.”
He is risen indeed.
And so in him are we.