Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What Jesus' Resurrection Guarantees

1 Timothy 3:14-15 "but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth."

The other day I went into our medicine cabinet to grab some medicine, only to find out that it had expired. Instantly, what I thought was a guarantee in that cabinet turned out to not only be medicine had not only expired, but that it no longer had any potency. In today's post we are going to look at the central truth of Christianity that neither expires nor ever loses its potency - namely the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To state the point another way: we are going to consider what Jesus' resurrection guarantees. Mainly from 1 Timothy 3:15-4:10 we are going to discover three fundamental realities guaranteed by Jesus' resurrection:

1. Proclamation of the Gospel. 1 Timothy 3:14-16

2. Purpose in life. 1 Timothy 4:1-9 and various Scriptures

3. Permanent hope. 1 Timothy 4:8-10.

Proclamation of the Gospel
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:14-15 "but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." The church in both its local and worldwide expressions is given a rather lofty title: "the pillar and support of truth". Undoubtedly Paul's readers would had identified with what Paul was writing, since the city of Ephesus was filled with buildings and pagan temples containing pillars, which symbolized power and authority in the pagan culture. In contrast to those seemingly imposing buildings, which today are nothing more than ruins, Paul calls the church of gathered saints the one place where God's truth is found.

So then how can the church of Jesus Christ carry such an immense weight and reputation? The church of Jesus Christ is home to the scriptures - the written revelation of God's absolute truth and is owned by Jesus Christ - the Living Truth. Notice the identity of the Owner and Lord over the church in 1 Timothy 3:15 - "the church of the Living God." This title "Living God" is developed in the Bible to show the core being and relationship of God to His people and even more specifically, to identify Jesus Christ risen and ascended as "the Living God". (Revelation 1:17-18). The whole point of Paul's statement is to show the people and pastor Timothy that because Jesus Christ is the Living God, and because He is Lord over His church, the Gospel of truth contained therein is a guaranteed message! The proclamation of the Gospel is conceived of here in chiefly two ways. 

The proclamation of the Gospel by word is guaranteed by Christ's resurrection
First and foremost, the Gospel of God is communicated by way of preaching. What would have happened if Jesus had not risen from the dead? Proclamation of the Gospel through the ministry of the Word would be a vain exercise in futility. Consider Paul's argument elsewhere in 1 Corinthians 15:12-14 "Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain." When the Gospel (the Good News) is proclaimed by way of word, the voice of the Living, Ascended and Enthroned Savior joins in with that proclamation. Hebrews 1:1-3 reminds us - "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." His words are the words of scripture! Now if Jesus Christ never raised, then He did not ascend. If if Jesus is not up in heaven right now, there is no voice. The Gospel which we proclaim by this book is a dead message from a book that is 2,000-3,500 years old. The fact that a risen and exalted Savior is on the throne, over His church, means that by His Spirit His voice is transmitted through His Words in the Bible. 

The proclamation of the gospel by song is guaranteed by Christ's resurrection
1 Timothy 3:16 is a rather remarkable portion of scripture in that it represents one of the earliest hymns sung in the early church. We know that verse 16 is an ancient hymn because of its layout in six lines, with a perfect balance of three lines representing part one and part two of a story line meant to be put to song. In the Greek of this text, nine words occupy the first three lines and nine words occupy the second three lines. Tethered to the truth of Christ's resurrection in verse 15, we see the story told of Jesus Christ's incarnation, sinless and miraculous life in the first three lines, followed by His earthly ministry, relationship with His disciples and ascension in the second set of three lines. When we combine the truth of verse 15 with that of verse 16, we discover the proclamation of the Gospel in both word and song!

Now it is significant that Jesus Christ be risen from the dead in order for there to be proclamation in the songs of worship. Quite literally, when the church gathers to sing songs, a mystical union of the heavenly and earthly occurs with the Son singing with His people. Notice for example Hebrews 2:11-12 "For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying, “I will proclaim Your name to My brethren, In the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.” Preaching and singing belong to gether because of Christ's resurrection. Jesus is speaking and singing with His church long after His resurrection! 

A dead Jesus could not do that, but a Living, resurrected and exalted One can. Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead guarantees the work of the preacher and the songleader, the work of the spoken word and sung word and the reception of the listened word and sung word by the congregation. So in addition to Jesus' resurrection guaranteeing the proclamation of the Gospel, what else does it guarantee?

Purpose in Life. 1 Timothy 4:1-9
In 1 Timothy 4:1 Paul warns Timothy - "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons." Then in 1 Timothy 4:7 he warns Timothy yet again of avoiding "worldly fables....". Now we won't labor too long on the contents of these false teachings, only to say that there were teachers in Paul's day and there are those in our own who would promote religion without Christ, spiritual experience without the cross and attempting to find life's purpose without His resurrection. In Paul's day, Greek philosophy, Roman mythology and emporer worship, Asian mysticism and paganism dominated the thought-lives of the Ephesian culture. Much the same can be said of our own culture. 

What Paul wants to emphasize is that Timothy's announced the purpose of the church, and really of life is only found in the crucified, risen and exalted Christ. Everything Paul is writing to Timothy is urged in 1 Timothy 4:6 - "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following." We can see that Jesus' resurrection is responsible for guranteeing of ultimate purpose and meaning by demonstrating it biblically, logically and practically.

Biblically demonstrating the resurrection guarantees ultimate purpose in life
At the heart of the faith and sound doctrine which Timothy is to preach is none other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So central is Christ's resurrection from the dead that it is afforded central status in the New Testament. The clearest example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 15:12-14 "Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." What is so shocking about Paul's statement here is that unless Jesus Christ be risen from the dead, there is no purpose and no meaning to life! Notice what he writes in 1 Corinthians 15:30-34 to reinforce this point - "Why are we also in danger every hour? 31 I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”34 Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."

Logically demonstrating that Christ's resurrection guarantees purpose in life
One person has noted that until Jesus Christ had come in human flesh, died on the cross and raised from the dead, life was perceived in terms of being nothing more than an endless cycle of living and dying, living and dying. (see Ecclesiastes). However when Jesus Christ raised from the dead, history was demonstrated to be what God had designed it to be, a straight line with a discernable direction and purpose that can only be found in Jesus Christ! The following set of logical arguments show the reasonableness behind the idea that Jesus' resurrection from the dead gives purpose to life. Consider the following two-stage argument:

Argument #1 (Stage One)
Major Premise #1
If God does not exist, dead men don't rise, since only God could ever do such a feat

Major Premise #2
If God does not exist, then Jesus Christ is not God in human flesh revealing God by raising from the dead, since only God could ever do such a feat

Minor Premise:
Jesus Christ did raise from the dead

#1 God does exist
#2 Jesus Christ is God in human flesh, hence revealing the God who exists.

Argument #2 (Stage Two)
Major Premise #1
If God, who raised Jesus from the dead, does not exist, absolute morals don't exist

Major Premise #2
If God, who raised Jesus from the dead, does not exist, there is no meaning/purpose

Minor Premise #1
Absolute morals do exist

Minor Premise #2 
Meaning/Purpose exists (to say there is no meaning purpose is to ascribe such!)

God, who raised Jesus from the dead, exists

Hence from these two arguments we can conclude that Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead supplies purpose & meaning to life. So we have seen that Jesus' resurrection from the dead guarantees the proclamation of the Gospel and purpose in life. Now let us consider one more major area it guarantees....

Permanant Hope. 1 Timothy 4:8-10
Paul writes in 1 Timothy 4:8-10 "for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9 It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. 10 For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers." After asserting the significant of what he is going to say in verses 8-9, Paul brings back to full circle what he had said back in 1 Timothy 3:15, namely referring to focusing on the "Living God". In this instance in 1 Timothy 4:10, Paul makes the identification of the "Living God" as being "The Savior of all men, especially of believers.". 

By the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, Paul zeros in not only on Christ's mission (like He did in 1 Timothy 3:16) but the targets of His mission in 4:10. 1 Timothy 4:10 is one of richest statements on the intent and extent of Christ's redeeming work. Once again the reader is reminded that without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there would had been no way of knowing whether what He achieved on the cross actually worked. 

By being the Savior of all men, Jesus Christ is historically and objectively achieved a salvation that is sufficent for every man on planet earth. Then the text specifies that He is the Savior especially of Believers. This speaks to the intent of the work of Christ, namely the application of the saving work to all whom the Spirit works forth to believe unto salvation. All who reject this work benefit no more from Jesus' saving work than those who have a bottle of vitamins or pain pills but do not take them in as prescribed. Truly because Jesus ever lives, He is the Savior of all men, and specifically in an eternal sense, all who believe. Hebrews 7:24-25 "but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continuesforever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." 

All those whom the Spirit draws and calls and who respond to such a call will be saved. Such a wonderful salvation, grounded in the cross and guaranteed by the resurrection, is described in scripture by the language of hope. Romans 5:1 and 5:5 state - (5:1) "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." (5:5) "and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Ephesians 2:12-13 "remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought nearby the blood of Christ." 1 Peter 1:3 is even more explicit on the link between Christ's resurrection and permanent hope - "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." 

When I think of how much hope is granted as a result of Christ's resurrection, the hope of salvation is certainly chief among those hopes. Another hope that we can add is hope in this life. We saw earlier Paul make the statement that if Christ be not risen from the dead, we are among men most miserable. However the clouds of gloom in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 are parted by this exclamation in 1 Corinthians 15:20 - "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, thefirst fruits of those who are asleep." Because Christ is risen, there is hope for this life as well as the life to come. Because He lives, I know I will see my dad once again. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Hebrews 12:22-24) Moreover, when Jesus comes back, the dead in Christ will rise first and those believers who yet remain will be transformed with glorified resurrected bodies. Such a sequence of events is what the Bible calls "The Blessed Hope". (Titus 2:13) A dead Savior in a grave full of his bones offers no hope. A risen, exalted Savior who returns in physical bodily form provides permanent hope. 1 John 3:2 states that the one who has this hope in Him is made pure, even as He is pure. 

Closing Thoughts:
We have considered from 1 Timothy 3:15-4:10 three fundamental realities guaranteed by Jesus' resurrection:

1. Proclamation of the Gospel. 1 Timothy 3:14-16

2. Purpose in life. 1 Timothy 4:1-9 and various Scriptures

3. Permanent hope. 1 Timothy 4:8-10.

If Jesus had not been raised from the dead, there would be no good news of the Gospel, no purpose in life and no availability of permanent hope. May we praise Him for the fact that He has risen, and that He has risen indeed!

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