“The Pattern of Resurrection”

Categories: M. W. Bassford, Sermons

In all the pages of Scripture, there is no more important event than the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It establishes that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, it confirms that His death on the cross was effective in purchasing our forgiveness, and it gives us the hope of eternal life.  Without the resurrection, we have no reason to believe, and the church has no reason to exist.

Most of us are aware of these things, but there’s something else that the resurrection does that is just as important.  It provides a pattern.  In the churches of Christ, patterns are very significant to us.  We want to do all things according to the pattern that has been shown us. 

We think of the pattern as being important in comparatively small things:  the way we worship God, for instance, or the way we spend the Lord’s money.  However, we are governed by a pattern in the essentials of our faith, too, and it is a pattern that goes back to that Sunday morning 2000 years ago when the disciples came to the tomb and found it empty.  This morning, then, let’s turn to Romans 6 to see what we can learn about the pattern of resurrection.

First, the resurrection of Jesus establishes a pattern for OUR SALVATION.  Here, look at what Paul has to say in Romans 6:1-7.  For many of us, this is an extremely familiar text.  I’ve heard teaching all my life on baptism from this passage, particularly focusing on the image of baptism as a burial with Christ. 

I can recall preachers pointing out that this shows us that the proper mode of baptism is immersion.  After all, nobody buries a corpse by sprinkling a handful of dirt on it!  Likewise, it shows that salvation does not precede baptism.  If somebody is saved before baptism, baptism is burying them alive.

I think those arguments are valid, but we also must recognize that Paul did not write this passage to prove those things.  Baptism is the beginning of Paul’s argument, not the end.  He takes something that the Romans already believe is important—baptism—and goes on to explain why baptism is important.

What he reveals is that the baptismal process—going down into the water, being submerged, and coming up out of the water—unites us with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.  When we are baptized, we have done what Jesus did.  We have followed His example, so we will receive His grace.

This, I think, is the single strongest critique of the other things that people claim save us from our sins.  They don’t look like the resurrection.  Where is Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in the sinner’s prayer?  That’s not following the pattern.  Neither is being sprinkled as an infant.  Speaking in tongues doesn’t look like the pattern of resurrection either.  There is only one way that we can rise with Jesus to walk in newness of life with Jesus.  That happens to us if and only if we have been baptized for the forgiveness of our sins.

Second, Christ’s resurrection establishes the pattern for OUR RESURRECTION.  Consider Romans 6:8-10.  Notice first of all that this passage is about those who already have died with Christ.  This is about Christians.  It says, though, that we believe that we will live with Him.  Having been united with His death, having been united figuratively with His resurrection, we will be united literally with His resurrection.   As Jesus will live forever, never to die again, we will live forever too.

Because the resurrection of Jesus is the pattern for our resurrection, His experience tells us something vital about the way we will be raised.  His resurrection was a resurrection of the body, and our resurrection will be too.  I think a lot of brethren haven’t thought this through.  They think of resurrection as what happens when our bodies die and our spirits float off to paradise or torment. 

Biblically speaking, that is not resurrection.  Instead, resurrection is what happens when our spirits return to our bodies, as Jesus’ spirit returned to His body, when what is dead comes to life once again.  Our bodies will take on a form that is very different from anything we have ever seen, but it is our bodies that will be raised.

This has especial relevance when it comes to our evaluation of the doctrine of hyper-preterism, otherwise known as the 70 AD doctrine.  This doctrine, which many brethren believe, holds that every prophecy of judgment in the New Testament was fulfilled when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70.  As a result, they do not believe that there will be a general resurrection or a final judgment.  Instead, when we die, our spirits go off to heaven or hell individually.

I respect the brethren who believe this, but I’ve got serious problems with it, and the most serious is that it breaks the pattern.  Just like the sinner’s prayer doesn’t conform to the resurrection of Jesus, the 70 AD doctrine doesn’t conform to the resurrection of Jesus.  His bodily resurrection prefigures our resurrection, and if we conclude that we actually will not rise like He did, our study has missed something vital.

Finally, the resurrection of Jesus establishes the pattern for OUR LIVES.  Let’s read Paul’s conclusion in Romans 6:11-14.  Here, we see what he’s been driving at this whole time.  Our old selves were crucified with Christ.  Our old selves died so that we could be freed from sin.  Because we are freed from sin, sin and death no longer have any power over us.  Put together, all of that means that we can live the God-centered life that He always wanted us to live.  We have been resurrected to be righteous.

This gives us the answer to the rhetorical question that Paul asked at the beginning of the chapter.  If the grace of Christ glorifies God, shouldn’t we sin all the time, generating more grace and more glory?  Paul’s answer is an emphatic no.  Grace is the means, not the end.  The end is for God to have a righteous people belonging to Him, a people that obeys Him in everything. 

Just as it is possible to depart from the resurrection pattern when it comes to salvation and beliefs about our resurrection, it’s possible to depart from that pattern here.  A Christian who practices sin betrays everything for which Christ died.  We have been freed from the law, yes.  Sin no longer rules over us, yes.  However, grace does not put us under our own authority.  It puts us under the authority of King Jesus.

Throughout this coming week, then, let’s resolve to live like resurrected people.  That means that we don’t offer any part of ourselves to sin.  Instead, it means that we give ourselves entirely to God, weapons in His hands, serving His purposes alone.  If we don’t do that, it shows that we fundamentally do not understand what Jesus’ resurrection should mean to us.