26 “Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation. 27 For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him. 28 And though they found in him no guilt worthy of death, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 And when they had carried out all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm,
“‘You are my Son,
today I have begotten you.’
34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he has spoken in this way,
“‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’
35 Therefore he says also in another psalm,
“‘You will not let your Holy One see corruption.’
36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, 37 but he whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything 39 from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 40 Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:
41 “‘Look, you scoffers,
be astounded and perish;
for I am doing a work in your days,
a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’”
A great deal could be said about this passage, but I won’t be saying it. If I was preaching through Acts I would want to expound on each paragraph here. But on this Easter Sunday I am preaching a topical sermon rather than so much an expositional sermon—the topic, obviously, being the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.
But while we won’t look at every detail of this passage this morning, please notice the prevailing theme in this declaration that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Notice that Paul does not talk about any general promise of the resurrection, but singles out promises made to and through King David.
Briefly put, resurrection here and elsewhere is a act by which one is declared or made a king. It is a coronation, an installation to office. And it is not for himself alone that Jesus was raised, but for all those connected to him. Remember Paul’s prayer for the Church in Ephesians that they would come to know
what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
When we who believe confess that Jesus is Lord we are saying something about not just Jesus, but about ourselves as well. The confession that “Jesus is Lord” is something like saying, “My daddy owns this place,” or “My father just got elected President.” But to say it right we need a more traditional picture. To say Jesus is Lord is to say, “my older brother is the king so I am royalty.”
“Jesus is Lord,” is appealed to as the basic statement of faith in a couple of Paul’s letter. But those aren’t just words. Believers are supposed to believe something when they say them. Paul gives us not only words but the meaning in Romans 10.9: if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
When you confess that Jesus is Lord, you are referring to a royal office to which he attained by the resurrection of the dead.
1. VINDICATION & AUTHORITY.
And that means both vindication and authority. Justification and the power of judgment are both included in the new status God gives us through our union with Christ by faith alone. Daniel saw a vision of one like the Son of Man given a throne and an angel interpreted that the saints, after being persecuted, would be given a verdict in their favor. Now that is translated in our Bibles as given a favorable verdict. Being delivered from oppressors and given dominion was God’s declaration over his people—“Not Guilty.” This promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ who suffered the ultimate persecution and curse and was publicly shown to be in the right by his resurrection.
But Daniel’s vision also shows that the verdict is embodied in a new kingdom. And this is even included in the words describing the justification of the saints. The Aramaic states that the saints will be “given judgment.” It could be taken to mean not only that they would be declared righteous, but that they themselves would be given the power of judgment. In fact, in Revelation 20 that vision is referred to again when the saints are said to be given rule over the earth. That is what we have in Christ’s resurrection—righteousness and royal reign. We here today, farmers and mothers and teachers and students and children and others all rule in Christ.
Think about what a complete vindication this is for us. Adam and Eve were put over creation. They were, if you will, placed at the top of the world (There were four world-rivers that came from the Garden of Eden and water runs downhill). They were not yet as powerful as they could be. They were to take dominion over creation. Yet they never fulfilled their royal charter. Instead of trusting God to deliver to them all good things at their proper time, they believed that God was holding them down and sided with the Serpent’s slanders against God.
As a result of their disobedience, these heirs to the throne of the world became slaves rather than king and queen. They became slaves to creation and had to work by sweat in order to get their food. They became slaves to sin and from that point it became natural for them to sin. Finally, they became slaves to death and ultimate judgment, destined for eternal punishment rather than for royalty.
And now all that is reversed. The sentence of condemnation has been overturned because there is now no condemnation in Jesus Christ, the second Adam. Thus Paul contrasts Adam and Christ in this way—Romans 5.17: If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. You would expect Paul to say that once death reigned so now life reigns. But that is not what he says. Rather, he states that once death reigned and now we reign.
Our vindication is not simply some prisoner being released from his cell to pursue a life of no concern to the court. Our justification, due to God’s gracious sending of his Son and his faithful work, is more like a law student who was put in prison but then released and given a place on the Supreme Court.
Now what does it mean that we, normal human beings to all appearances, have been given a royal office in Christ. Well first of all it means we are no longer slaves to sin. And it establishes us in a mandate that, just as Adam and Eve were to subdue creation, so we are to subdue sin in the parts of our selves where it resides.
That is why the Gospel not only promises life in Christ but it also makes demands on us. In fact, our status as Christians means that the Bible can severely reprove us and challenge us to live holy lives. When an emperor sets up a king over a territory, that king has much freedom and authority, but he is supposed to obey the one who gave him that authority. In fact, because he acts as the emperor’s representative, it is a terrible thing for him to act in a wicked way.
Thus our authority in the resurrected Christ gives us power for and demands of us holy living. Paul after saying in Romans five that now we reign in life rather than death reigning in sin, tells us in Romans 6 that we must use this authority to live lives pleasing to God. He writes, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” And he goes on: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
So Christ’s resurrection mean that we, who are united to Christ by faith, can live new lives to God. And that’s exactly what Paul goes on to command Christians to do.
Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Easter is our declaration of independence from sin. We have, in Christ, been brought into a new creation. And just as Adam and Eve were told to take dominion in the first creation, so we are told to use the new authority we have in Christ by his resurrection.
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
3. CORPORATE WORSHIP & PRAYER.
But our resurrection authority which we have in Christ means more than simply the power of a holy life on the part of each one of us. It means that together we have access to God’s very throne. Indeed we are God’s councilors who have access to his throne room. We have this because Jesus offered himself up to the Father and the Father received him publicly by raising him from the dead.
Thus, those of us who have been raised with Christ have access to his very throne in public worship. And in prayer we have the king’s ear.
The resurrection was an act of worship. Think of the sacrificial system. The sacrificial animal is slain and its blood is displayed to God on the altar. That was Jesus on Good Friday. He was killed and his blood poured out on the ground for our sins. But then the animal is transformed and goes up to God, if you will, as smoke. That is the resurrection and ascension of Jesus in a cloud. That’s why, in Revelation 4 and 5, we see a vision from the perspective of heaven in which Jesus suddenly appears before the throne as a Lamb that had been slain.
So just as the saints under the Old Covenant had worshiped God through that process of slaying an animal and offering it up to God, so Jesus climactically fulfills such worship with his own ultimate act of worship, offering his very self to God. The resurrection is God’s acceptance of Christ and we see as a result, in Revelation 5, that the saints are renewed in worship together. They sing a new song. Because we are united to Christ we are accepted in him. And these saints, incidentally, are described as wearing crowns. They have throne room access because they are royalty.
Thus we can worship God with boldness because we have an advocate raised for us to God’s presence. We can be Royal council members because we have been raised in Christ.
4. PRIVILEGE THAT MUST NOT BE REJECTED.
All of this must be received by faith. We did not see Jesus raised. We have to believe God’s Word. We have not yet been raised from the dead. We must trust in God’s gospel promises. We walk by faith and not by sight.
And that means that we must be careful to respond to the what we have heard. If we believe our eyes rather than our ears we might think God’s vindication is not worth having, that holy living is not really possible, and that corporate worship is only as important as the good feelings that result from it.
But none of that is true. Rather, the Easter story is true. God really did raise Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection proves and makes possible the fact that all things will work together to good for those who love God. We are kings
I recently heard of a missionary pastor in a pagan land whose church shared the Gospel with a young woman. Now she is in a bind. She may lose her husband and children because he has embraced the good news that God sent His Son to die for our sins and be raised for our justification. Loyalty to Christ will cost her more than any of us have ever had to suffer.
How can she be faithful to Christ in those circumstances? Because she really believes that God has provided blessing for her that are more than she could ever ask or think. Because she really believes that God raised Jesus her Lord from the dead.
God has given His Son up for us and has exalted us in him. In Christ we have resurrection. In Christ we are raised as kings. In Christ we have justification. In Christ we have sanctification. In Christ we have access to His presence. Everyday we need to learn a little bit more how much we should value what God has given to us. Everyday we need to live in a manner that is appropriate for those who have been raised in Christ.