The Power of the Resurrection
February 4th, 1990 @ 10:50 AM
THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-4-90 10:50 a.m.
Thank you for coming to be with us in heart and soul and spirit on radio and on television. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled, as Jody says, on The Power of the Resurrection. We are preaching in the third chapter of the Book of Philippians. In Philippians 3, beginning in verse 7:
What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.
That I may be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which of God by faith:
That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
And you heard me read out of verse 10, "that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection." As I read the passage, Paul says all that he desired to have, all that he desired to possess, was in Christ. Gladly he gave up every advantage in birth, in nationality, in privilege, that he might have Christ. Gladly he gave up his own righteousness, which is by the law, that upon him might be bestowed the imputed righteousness in Christ.
Paul says in that passage that all he desires to be is in Christ: dead to the world, dead to the old life, dead to the law, dead to every personal ambition, that he might have Christ. He says in that passage all he ever desired to know now is in Christ.
May I make an aside here? Knowledge, science, the things that come through discovery and technology, are fearful and awesome things outside of Christ. That’s why the nations of the world cringe before the possibility of atomic warfare and hydrogen bombs. Knowledge, discovery, technology, science; fearful and awesome things, ominous, apart from Christ.
And I can say the same thing about the world in which I live, in the pulpit. Doctrine and ecclesiology and all things that pertain to theology are in themselves empty tombs apart from Christ. And all that Paul ever desired to experience now is in Christ: that the life of the Lord might be incarnate in him, in human life. The greatest life ever written is not by Canon [F.W.] Farrar or by Dr. [J. Cunningham] Geikie, but it is written by the Holy Spirit in the lives of the saints, of the pilgrims of God.
This is Paul, and thus he writes, "That I might know Him, be found in Him, and experience the power of His resurrection" [Philippians 3:10], an authenticating power, "the power of His resurrection," a power that marks Him out, that declares Him and designates Him as the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. An authenticating power, declaring Him to be the Son of God: Romans 1:4, "Declared to be the Son of God, by the resurrection from the dead." And that word that Paul uses there is horizo. Our word "horizon" comes exactly from it. Horizon: the line, the demarcation that points out, that declares the meeting of the heaven and the earth, the horizon. That’s the word Paul uses here: He is declared, He is “pointed out,” horizo, as the Savior of the world, as the Son of God, by the resurrection from the dead. Jesus referred to it as "the sign of the prophet Jonah" [Matthew 12:39-40]. Three days, rising from the dead: He entered the tomb a captive; He came out a conqueror. He entered the tomb as though death mastered our Lord; He arose the master of death [Matthew 28:5-7].
May I say here from my own heart – without that confirmation, without that authentication, I don’t know what I would think. I don’t know where I would be. If Christ did not rise from the dead, if He is a dead Christ, then His message and His ministry and all that He means falls to the ground. It’s like an arch without a keystone, the masonry collapsed. If He is dead, as any other man dies and is dead, then I can’t understand how He could be my Savior; how He could be the Son of God. He lived a beautiful life, that’s right, and did beautiful deeds, that’s correct, but He is not the Son of God and He is not the Savior of the world and He is not the King of glory if He is dead, if He is in the tomb! I say the resurrection from the dead is an authenticating power, the power of His resurrection. It designates Him; it declares Him; it points Him out, horizo. This Man is the Son of God and the Savior of the world by the power of the resurrection.
Another thing: that authenticating power is the basis of our hope for the redemption of our souls and the forgiveness of our sins and our hope of heaven. In Romans 4:25, the apostle Paul wrote, "He was delivered for our offenses, and was raised for our justification." He was sent to the cross, He died on the cross for our sins, our transgressions, our offenses; that’s right. He died for us. But how would I know my sins were forgiven, that I was delivered and redeemed, were it not that He was raised for our justification? He was raised to declare us righteous. He was raised to announce to us that our sins are forgiven and that we are redeemed in His blood and in His cross and in His death. How do I know I’d get to heaven if Jesus is not risen to welcome me there, to see to it that I make the pilgrimage and the journey, that I arrive? How do I know that I would get to heaven, if Jesus is not alive to present me there someday, in triumph and in glory?
All of the hope that I have in the forgiveness of sins and in my hope of a place in glory is in the resurrection of Jesus my Lord from the dead. It is like the sun that announces the day. Jesus’ resurrection announces to us the forgiveness of our sins and our safe and wonderful welcome into glory. Again an authenticating power, the power of the resurrection; it gives authenticity and reality to the truth that we preach in this pulpit – the gospel of Christ. The resurrection of our Lord is a demonstration of the miraculous power and presence and revelation of God. It was a tremendous, unbelievable miracle when God created this world out of nothing [Genesis 1:1-25]. But it is no less a miraculous intervention of God as great as creation when He raised our Lord Jesus from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7]. That’s a work of God the Father, says the Book of Hebrews [Hebrews 13:20]. It’s a work of God the Holy Spirit, says the Book of Romans [Romans 1:4]. And in the Gospel of John, it is presented as the work of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, His resurrection from among the dead.
In the second chapter of John, the Lord says, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" [John 2:19], and John writes a footnote, "He was speaking of the temple of His body" [John 2:21]. In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, He says, "I have the power to lay down My life, and I have the power to take it up again" [John 10:18]. This is the reality of the gospel: Jesus, the Son of God when He was crucified; Jesus, the Son of God when He was buried; Jesus, the Son of God when He was raised from the dead; Jesus, the Son of God in heaven; Jesus, our Lord, our great Redeemer, our Savior. It’s a truth. It’s a reality.
In the passage you just read, in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul says, "If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then there is not any resurrection, and we are found false witnesses of God" [1 Corinthians 15:14-15]. I am standing here in this sacred place, in this pulpit, and am lying and preaching perversion and aberration, if Jesus is not raised from the dead. But thank God, thank God the Lord lives! He said, "I am no apparition. I am no specter. I am no spirit. I am no ghost. Handle Me and see that is I Myself, for a ghost – a specter, an apparition – has not flesh and bones such as you see Me have" [Luke 24:39].
And our living Lord is not the product of our fevered imaginations or our fanciful hope. He is not a dream by night or a hope by day, but our Lord is real; He is somebody; He is the Lord Jesus, and He is our friend in heaven. This is the truth: the power of the resurrection – the reality of the gospel we proclaim.
Again, the power of the resurrection: it is a quickening, life-giving power. This is the main meaning of the apostle Paul. He touches in His resurrection, in His life, our lives, and we are transfigured; we are transformed; we are immortalized. In that passage in the tenth chapter of John that I just referred to, our Lord says, "I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it up again" [John 10:18]. And do you remember the following verses? "And I give unto them – My people – I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish" [John 10:27-28].
Great God, what that means to us! If, in the days of His humanity, our Lord had power to raise Himself from the dead, from the grave, think of the ableness of our Lord in heaven now that He reigns as King over all of God’s creation. It’s like the sun that comes in the springtime. The trees hear His voice, feel His presence, and they leaf and they bud. It’s like the flowers when the sun rises in the springtime: they come forth and smile in a thousand beautiful forms. It’s like the dead seed planted in the dust of the earth, and they are quickened at the voice and presence of the Son of God, and they grow and bear fruit. That is we. When He was raised from the dead, that is the earnest and harbinger of our resurrection – when we shall hear the voice of the Son of God and the dead in the graves shall rise. This is a new life. It is a celestial life. It is a heavenly life. It belongs to the new creation. We are a part, then, of the new heaven and the new earth. As we have borne the image of the old Adam and died, we shall also bear the image of the new spiritual Adam and live [1 Corinthians 15:22,].
Actually, this old Adamic life is dead – getting older, getting wrinkled, getting senile, getting feeble, hurt – subject to disease and finally to death. But the new life; death has no dominion over us! We’re young, and vibrant, and alive, and responsive, eagerly awaiting the endless years of the eternity yet to come. That’s glory; that’s heaven; that’s what God has in store for us through the power of His resurrection.
That leads me to a last avowal: the power of the resurrection is not only an authenticating power, and not only a quickening, life-giving power, but it is also a consoling power: the power of His resurrection. This is an unusual way that Paul writes here, that "if by any means, I might attain," katantao, might arrive at, might experience, "might attain unto the resurrection of the dead," ten exanastasin [Philippians 3:10-11]. Anastasia is a girl’s name; it means resurrection from, ten, the ek nekron – uses two ek‘s there, emphasizing the universality of death and our being raised from among, out of, the endlessness of death.
Death is universal. It included our Lord. Our Lord Jesus died. All creation dies. The sun dies; the stars die; the planets die; this earth shall die. The sun that shines above us shall die. The fields die; the flowers die; the trees die; animals die; we die; death is universal. And Paul looks upon the death of our Lord, and he sees himself dead with Christ. But, if in Christ we die, it’s in Christ that we are raised from the dead [Galatians 2:20]. How could the head be raised and the body not be raised? Paul identifies himself as the body of Christ; we are the body of Christ, and He is our head [Ephesians 1:22-23], and if the head is raised, the body will be raised. And out of the crowding of these cemeteries, among the dead, these are raised with our Lord.
I listened to a man this last week, living in a crowded city in Europe, saying there is no place to bury the dead. They cremate them, they burn them, and I was asked about that: "What about the body that is cremated, burned?" It’s no different than the body that turns to the dust of the ground or the body that is wasted in the sea. It is the power of God that raises us up, and God knows where every atom of our physical frame is lodged, located in this world, whether it is burned or whether it turns to the dust. God sees it and knows it, and God shall raise it up, and put it together, and refashion it, and recreate it, and we’ll have a body like that of our living Lord, glorious, without the dominion of death.
O God, what a consolation! The end of our life is not to fall into the dust of the ground or into the fiery furnace! I’ve watched them burn the body – just look at it. And of course ten thousand times do I stand by an open grave; I have a funeral service in the morning at 10:00. Every week for these weeks past have I conducted these services, laying our beloved dead into the heart of the earth. Is that the end of life and the meaning of life? Great God, is that why we were born into this world: to suffer and to die?
"God having purposed some better thing for us" [Hebrews 11:40]: that we be raised, that we live in His sight, that we inherit heaven and all the re-creation of God. It’s a consoling faith; it’s an encouraging faith. When those first Christians were fed to the lions, and the amphitheater called the Christians to the lions, they faced death with the praises of God in their hearts and prayers of exaltation on their lips. And when they were covered with pitch and burned – and the crowd cried, saying, "They say they are the light of the world, then let them shine," and they burned them – – they died with victory in their souls and with praises on their lips. We’re that way. We face our wasting bodies, we face the inevitability and the inexorability of death, but we do so just trading this old body for a glorious one; trading this old world for a better world: "God having prepared," as he says, "some better thing for us."
I must hasten: this last; this glorious, consoling power of the resurrection. The mocking world, the unbelieving world, not only out there denying the resurrection and denying the saviorhood and redemptive work of Christ, and not only denying heaven and all the things the Lord’s prepared, but in the pulpit and in the seminary, these learned men, denying the resurrection of our Lord here in the pulpit, men without number, preaching, not believing in the physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
About two weeks ago, one of the leaders of our denomination said to me, "Pastor, in one of our great seminaries, I would say half of the professors do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. They believe in a spiritual resurrection, they believe in a moral resurrection, but they don’t believe in a physical resurrection."
O God! These learned men who crucify the Lord Jesus, these professors who bury Him in the grave, and these infidels who cover the grave with a stone, and these agnostics who seal it with a seal, and these mockers who set a guard at the tomb – what of them, Lord God? Are they right? Are they correct? Is there no resurrection and does life end in dust, and despair, and darkness?
Praise God! This is the consolation, the promise: He was the Lord God Christ when He was slain [Matthew 27:32-50], He was the Lord God Christ when they buried Him [Matthew 27:57-60], and He is the same Lord Christ risen and triumphant from the dead [Matthew 28:5-10]. That’s Jesus, our Lord, and our comfort. And our consolation is in that glorious promise of the coming of our blessed Jesus, our Savior from heaven:
Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God.
Yea, speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, her iniquities are pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
A voice in the wilderness crying, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill brought low: and the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.
The glorious resurrection, the glorious tomorrow God has prepared for those who love Him: sweet people, this is the dearest message and the most precious of all of the gospels that could ever be brought to the hearts of men, and we are a part of that chosen and elect throng who rise to meet our Savior when He comes in glory [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].
And to you who have shared this hour on television, on the screen you will find a number. "How do I accept Jesus as my Savior? How do I open my heart for the day of His coming?" There will be a godly somebody to tell you the way. Call us. Right where you are, open your heart to the truth of the gospel message of Jesus, and I will see you someday in heaven.
And to the great throng who are in the sanctuary of God this holy hour, what a privilege to stand and say, "I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I open my heart to His love and grace. He died for me on the cross. He was raised from the grave for my justification, to open for me a door into heaven, and to love and to serve Him is the highest, sweetest privilege in my life." Come and pilgrimage with us.
And to the great throng in the balcony round, down a stairway; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: "Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I am coming, accepting the Lord as my Savior." Or coming into the fellowship of our dear church, or "Answering the call of the Spirit in my heart, I am on the way," while we stand and while we sing.
OF THE RESURRECTION
Paul desired to have, possess, was in Christ(Philippians
Gave up every advantage in birth, nationality, privilege
up his own legal righteousness
All Paul desired to be was in Christ
to the world, to the law, to the old life and raised to a new life in Christ(Philippians 3:9, 11)
All Paul desired to know was in Christ (Philippians
technology, discovery, a fearful thing without Christ
Doctrine, ecclesiology, theology are empty tombs apart from Christ
All Paul desired to experience was in Christ(Philippians
II. An authenticating power
He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world(Romans 1:4, Matthew 12:39-40)
Without this authentication the mission of our Lord falls to the ground
our sins are fully paid for, atoned(Romans 4:25)
That the gospel we preach is the truth of God
The miraculous display of God’s power in the resurrection of Christ
A work of the Father, the Holy Spirit and of Jesus Himself (Hebrews 13:20, John 2:19, 21, 10:18)
is our preaching today – a message of reality, truth (1 Corinthians 15:14-15, Luke 24:39)
III. A quickening, life-giving power
main meaning of Paul – the power that touches, transforms life(John 10:18, 27)
The sun to the world in spring
new life is celestial, heavenly, eternal
Death has no more dominion
IV. A consoling power
pledge of our resurrection (Philippians 3:11)
is never separated from His people – He is the head of the body
Our encouragement in trial, suffering(Hebrews
Consolation for those who mourn(Isaiah 40:1-5)