Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 17
Question 45. What doth the resurrection of Christ profit us?
Answer. First, by His resurrection He has overcome death, that He might make us partakers of that righteousness which He had purchased for us by His death; secondly, we are also by His power raised up to a new life; and lastly, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.
This Lord’s Day brings us to the first of the four steps of Christ’s exaltation. Following His humiliation on account of our sins, Christ arose from the grave, ascended into heaven, presently sits at God’s right hand, and will come again to judge this world. He is the exalted Lord over all, and God has put all things under His feet.
A Historical Bodily Resurrection
It is common today to view the resurrection of Jesus Christ as symbolic or mythical. Jesus’ living on in the memories of His followers is said to be His resurrection. People, following science rather than Scripture, will say it is impossible for a human body once dead, to rise again, so they will try to find some other explanation for the resurrection.
But every true believer takes Scripture at its word, believing that Christ physically and literally arose from the grave, and that His body, which was dead, came back to life. We believe that the resurrection really happened. The proof of the resurrection is found in the Word of God. His resurrection was prophesied in the Old Testament; Jesus Himself spoke of being raised again the third day; the Bible records many appearances of the risen Lord to His disciples; and there are eye-witness accounts of His resurrection recorded in Scripture. In the days, weeks, and months following Jesus’ resurrection, it was an undisputed fact, so much that the Jews had to fabricate a cover-up story.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is essential to the message of the gospel. This was the gospel message that the apostles preached (; ; ; ). By the resurrection, God sealed that Jesus was indeed His Son ( ) and that His saving work was sufficient and complete ( ).
If Christ is not risen, if this is only a myth or a memory, “we are of all men most miserable,” are “yet in our sins,” and have no hope for ourselves or for any who die in the Lord ().
And so, to be saved, we must believe in our hearts that God has raised Jesus from the dead (). Our full confession is that our Savior both died and rose again ( ; ).
He Gives Us What He Earned
The power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ extends far beyond His own bodily resurrection. It reaches into the twenty-first century, into the hearts and lives of believers today. This Lord’s Day focuses on the benefits that come to us from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are three of them mentioned here.
The first is that we become partakers of the righteousness that He purchased for us by His death. By His death He earned our righteousness, paying the price for our sins. In His resurrection, He both proves that the payment for sin was sufficient and applies that righteousness to us.
We must remember that all our righteousness is in Jesus Christ. We are not acceptable and righteous before God on account of any work or worth that comes from us. We must not dig into our own souls, or strive in our own lives, to make ourselves acceptable to God. We are accepted and acquitted only through trusting in what Christ has accomplished for us. The resurrection tells us that God receives us. The resurrection is a declaration from God concerning Jesus, and so also concerning us who believe in Him. He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” ().
We Are Raised Up to a New Life
The second benefit is that by the power of Christ’s resurrection, we are raised up to a new life. The important word here is “are.” It puts the emphasis on the present. Not we “shall be” raised up to a new life, but “we are!” One English translation of the Catechism says, “We are already now resurrected to a new life.” This is the idea.
The new life spoken of here is the life of the Holy Spirit that comes into us at regeneration. Through the work of the Spirit we are united with Jesus Christ our Savior, and His work and His life become ours. Romans 6 says we are buried with Him, and raised with Him to newness of life. This is the new life of sanctification—a life separated to serving the Lord in godliness and obedience.
It is the privilege and joy of every believer to possess this new life of Christ in his soul. Because of this life, we are victorious as Christians. Sin is not dead altogether. No, it will not be abolished until our physical death. Meanwhile, it wages war against our souls and the life of Christ in us. But, in Christ, we are more than conquerors. We have victory! We confess, that is, we declare, our victory over sin, and then we go to war. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body” ().
Apart from the life of Christ, we are dead, and can never take on the enemy of sin.
The Pledge of Our Blessed Resurrection
“I know that my Redeemer liveth and that . . . in my flesh shall I see God” (). Job said these words. He knew that he would die. And yet, believing that his Redeemer lives, he knew that his flesh would also live someday to see God. His confession is essentially the same as ours in this Lord’s Day.
Jesus is risen as a pledge, or guarantee, that our bodies will also be raised. Here there is a double promise, a promise that works both ways. A little of our humanity, represented in the human nature of Jesus Christ, is already raised and living with the Father in heaven.says that our “life is hid with Christ in God.” The risen Christ is called “the firstfruits of them that slept” ( ). A little of the earth is taken to heaven, to show that more will follow. At the same time, a deposit of the blessed and eternal resurrection life of Christ is left here with us. A little of heaven is put into our hearts and experienced in our lives. We have the “earnest of the Spirit” ( ).
How blessed the resurrection day will be! The living Christ will come on the clouds. He will issue a powerful, effective wake-up call to all who are in their graves. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, we shall be changed. The dead will be raised, incorruptible. And death will forever be swallowed up in victory.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the answer to man’s ultimate problem, the problem of death. It removes the curse of eternal death from me. It overcomes death in my nature. It assures that my dead body will be raised to be with the Lord.
Faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ assures this for me.
Questions for Discussion
1. How do some contemporary theologians use the word “resurrection”? What does the Bible mean by this word?
2. Why is the reality of Christ’s resurrection essential to true Christianity?
3. What does God say about Jesus in the resurrection?
4. How is Jesus’ resurrection related to our justification?
5. How are we “already” raised up to a new life? What does this mean for our present lives? (cf.).
6. How is the resurrection of Christ a pledge or guarantee of our future bodily resurrection?
7. What happens to our bodies after we die? How does this demonstrate the wonder and power of the resurrection?
8. Using a concordance or Bible dictionary, find out what is meant by “the first resurrection” and “the second resurrection” in Scripture.
9. Discuss the “hope” that is ours because of Jesus’ resurrection, by completing this sentence with your own thoughts. “Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would . . . .”
10. Comparisons have been made between the work of creation in the beginning and our resurrection. How are these two similar?