“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” Philippians 3:10

We have seen how the resurrection was an object of hope for those who died in faith; it was the recurring theme of apos­tolic witness and the essential conclusion to the one perfect offering to take away sin. The unfortunate reality is, however, that we can know these matters academically and find the full force of them lost on minds that are too preoccupied by the cares of this life or too distracted by the allurements of a perishing world. The “theory” of the resurrection must move from first principle acceptance to the “power” of the resurrection, whereby our lives are forever changed by the conviction that “he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor 15:4). For Christ to be “alive for evermore” and to have “the keys of hades and of death”, must be more than just another first principle. It should charge life with a new sense of purpose, for that one great act of resurrection brought an ever living Son of God into our present and future life. The reality of the risen Christ should bring joy and peace to each day and become an object of longing for us to be forever “with the Lord”. That’s the transforming effect of Christ’s resurrection upon our assimilation of all the facts. That knowledge generates a “newness of life”, the dynamics of which mean our lives are forever changed. It can be called the moral power of his resurrection.

“Buried with Him by Baptism into His Death”

Our baptism into Christ is an act associating us with his death. The apostle Paul’s marvellous argument on the significance of baptism is one of our funda­mental beliefs made all the more powerful when we witness a confession of faith and baptism in our halls, in the ocean or at a riverside. The bodily immersion is the closest possible association for the candidate to enact the crucifixion and burial of their Lord. This identification with what the Lord experienced is conveyed in Paul’s use of the phrases, “buried with him”, “planted together” and “crucified with him”. Likewise the rising up out of the waters is the closest possible association we can have with the Lord’s own resurrection.

By baptism we rise up out of the waters as if we had died and been revived out of death. As Christ was “raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father”, so too our new life should bear the hallmark of the glory of God. Christ’s resurrection bore testimony to the hand of God performing a mighty work in the earth, “even so” our revitalised life has all the characteristics of God’s handiwork. We come forth to a new manner of life.

To be “In Christ”

In Grecian times a person being laid to rest was said to be “hidden in the earth”. By our figurative burial, our life, Paul says, is “hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). As literally as the earth envelops the deceased, our new life in Christ is as if he totally enveloped our life. We have no other existence than that derived from that all important burial, for Paul adds, “when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory”. Such a simple act, yet so consequential in its effects.

The “old man” is crucified and declared to be worthless. The “new man” has a new identity. We are graciously granted a new status as a brother or sister, not of Christ but “in Christ”. We need to consider the implications of this very unique rela­tionship of being “in Christ”. Our personal contact and interaction with one another would suffer far less disparaging comment and offence if we all saw each other as belonging to Christ. The Apostle Paul warns those who would harshly judge their brother, “who art thou that judgest another man’s servant”? (Rom 14:4). Let us think twice about who we are dealing with when we judge one of Christ’s “little ones”. As Saul of Tarsus learnt with deep remorse, to act violently against the ecclesia was to be injuri­ous to Christ, so close was their association to the Lord. In a positive sense however, this new status “in Christ” means that we are never alone, we are never forsaken nor without an advocate who “pleads his household’s cause in heaven” (Hymn 107). By being born again by baptism of water we are new creatures enjoying very special benefits and privi­leges. As “branches” of the Christ vine, we enjoy the health and spiritual vigour of a life in Christ which is fruitful and God-honouring. Likewise as members of the “Christ body”, we are responsive to the wise directives of our “head” and sympathetic to the signals of pain and suffering felt by other members of the body. Far from being an individual, as brethren and sisters in Christ, we submerge our self-interest into the greater welfare of the brethren. Every member contributes to that welfare; equally, because we are a close knit community a sower of discord and contention is so roundly condemned in the scriptures.

Having been delivered from the bondage of sin and death by our baptism into Christ, it ill behoves us to revisit any aspect of our former life of ignorance. Hence the need for vigilance to keep ourselves unspotted from the world and to flee from any influence that would beguile and compromise our life in Christ. This means constantly reminding ourselves of who we are and to whom we belong. We are “dead to sin”, with new motives, new standards and new goals. It means making our personal and family life focussed on Christ, our Lord and Master. It means counting the blessings of belonging to his ecclesia and being aware that he walks amongst the lampstands and is privy to the loyalty of all his servants. He is “alive for evermore” and though in heaven, he is keenly aware of all that we think, plan and do on earth. He will soon come, and his reward is with him to give to every man according as they have shown fidelity and commitment to their absent, yet ever present Lord.

The Consolation of the Empty Tomb

Being dead to sin and alive unto God means that we stand out from the dark background of the world.

We are treated as social misfits but we will not take our gaze off the goal set before us nor be distracted by the buffeting pressures of the world because we know that we have been redeemed from corruptible things, from the dark depths of despair and hopelessness by him who has conquered the grave. He is the captain of our salvation who is leading many sons and daughters unto glory.

Nothing shall separate us from the love of God who has bonded us together with our Lord. Like the apostle Paul who counted not his life dear unto himself, we do not look back, we look up for our redemption draws nigh and then how incomparable will be the joy set before us with anything that this world can offer. Our hopes are centred upon the incontrovertible fact of the empty tomb. Its silent testimony speaks volumes. There can be no greater consolation and reassurance when faith falters and fails than to know that our Lord lives and is “able to save completely those drawing near to God through him, always living to interpose on their behalf” (Heb 7:25 Diag).

The resurrection of Christ encourages us to press on to the end of our reward, to the end of our sojourning. With the vision before us and the well grounded assurance of those things verily believed amongst us, we urge on in our hearts the coming of our Lord. With the signs about us of distress of nations with “no way out” and a time of trouble coming upon this troubled planet, we long for our deliverance. Some of our brethren and sisters, even now, are experiencing the ravages of civil war and ethnic tension. For them particularly, the coming of the Lord will bring blessed relief and peace at last. Some are ravaged by sickness and disease, some the desperation of poverty and famine and others the wearisome burden of being ostracised by society, even by family for the sake of the gospel. Some have felt the crushing blow and horror of tragic accidents. Yet remarkably their faith in God is un­diminished, though in some cases they desperately pray that they may be clothed upon with a body free forever from pain and sorrow. Should not we, who mostly enjoy relative peace and security, pray fervently for the alleviation of those burdens carried so patiently by so many of our beloved brethren and sisters? How we long for a world without fear and for the cleansing of a world that is so defiled by greed, corruption, superstition and immorality? Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily besets us and focus our attention upon the one sure and certain event that is coming upon the earth, the return of him who was once dead but is alive for evermore. When all else fails, we have rock solid convictions of a future restoration of all things, because of Him who first moved the sepul­chre stone. That started a chain of events which we are privileged to see drawing to a joyous climax.

A Resurrected State of Mind

When it was said prophetically of the suffering Mes­siah that he set Yahweh always before him, “because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved”, his confidence was that his Father would show him the path of life, fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore (Psa 16:8,11). An elevated, resurrected state of mind led to a resurrected body. He was victorious in life and death. He defeated the power of sin in the very arena of conflict where it normally dominates. In that triumph lies the perfect example for us. By the Word of God, abiding in us and dictating our conscience, the evil thought is repelled and temptation overcome. Yet we all fall far short of the glory of God. Our faith is not in vain, however, for Christ is risen and with that resurrection lies forgiveness since he was “delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justifi­cation”. Truly in that knowledge and experience we have “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 4:24,25; 5:1).

Paul exhorts us to be “risen with Christ” (Col 3:1). We do this by seeking those things which are above, setting our affection on things above and mortifying those things which are expressions of the flesh. That, effectively, is the outworking of a resurrected state of mind. It is a developed affinity with the mind of the Spirit. It is an abhorrence of the carnal mind. It is a framework of values, a reference point to evaluate the true worth of the things of this life. In that frame of mind we ask, will it help or hinder our walk to the Kingdom? Is it harmonious or is it a stumbling block? Does it glorify God or does it pander to the flesh? Does it clear the path to the Kingdom or is it a weight that would drag us down in the race to life? Are our friendships, careers, possessions helps or hin­drances? It depends upon our elevated state of mind, a resurrected state of mind. From this perspective many things that we might consider as gain, those we can count as loss for Christ (Phil 3:7). Our forefathers had set their affection on those exceeding great and precious promises and though they might suffer the loss of many things being destitute, afflicted and tormented; apart from their faith, nothing else really mattered! Though poor, they were rich. They had found the pearl of great price. Though they might lose life, they will gain life in the great day of evaluating the eternal from the temporal.

“Quickened Us Together with Christ”

We can be encouraged to keep setting our affection on things above by pausing to consider the greatness of our calling. Paul’s prayer requests that we might receive “the spirit of wisdom,” “understanding,” “knowledge,” appreciation of “our inheritance” and “power” (Eph 1:17–19). In focussing our heart and mind on Christ, perceiving the value of our inheritance, we desire God’s strength to give us perseverance when flesh would all too easily fail and give up. Being thus encouraged, we undergo a quickening process. The apostle Paul continues to remind us of the greatness of God’s power “to usward who believe” by contrasting the privileges of the present with the sin-blighted position of the past. We were dead in “trespasses and sins” and were by nature “the children of wrath”. Yet as dramatically as God intervened to raise His obedient Son, in like manner God has reached out to us by His Word and quickened us “together with Christ” (v5).

The quickening process is through the Word. Christ himself speaks of a present “resurrection” when he says, “He that heareth my word, and belie­veth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:24,25). The expression, “the hour is coming, and now is” signifies people who are spir­itually “dead” awakening to a newness of life. That “moral” resurrection experienced today is followed by a latter-day literal resurrection when all those in memorial graves shall hear his voice and come forth. So the initial call of the Gospel has gone forth with quickening effect on our lives. That’s the power of resurrection experienced with all of its transforming effects. What a marvellous change has happened in our life! By the indwelling of the Word of God we have changed from “death” to “life”, and that at the hand of a God who is “rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us” (Eph 2:4).

God’s mighty power was released in the night of resurrection. That invincible power broke the cords of death, prevented the process of corruption, recre­ated life and exalted His Son to the right side of the throne on high. That’s God’s power demonstrated in the resurrection. The full realisation of that can “resurrect” our lives, stimulate our faith, quicken our step, brighten our vision and lift up our flagging spirits so that we experience a spiritual quickening and resurgence of faith. Let us never limit the Holy One of Israel. We will not gain the Kingdom in our own strength, but by prayer and supplication the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe raises us to efforts beyond our natural abil­ity. That’s knowing the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death. We show perseverance in the demands of gospel proclamation—at home or abroad, in spiritual leadership, in ministering to saints, in extending hospitality, in counselling the young, in overcoming sickness or infirmity. God’s strength is made perfect in weakness when we sup­plicate the Power of the universe and find strength and refreshment in the consolation of prayer.

Let us have the sense of resolve shown by the apostle Paul whose determination was to “attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Phil 3:10,11). This resurrection “out of dead ones” (Diag) is the complete glorification, a joyous prospect for which we can concentrate every endeavour. What an incen­tive to strive for the mastery! Paul’s “this one thing I do” expression encapsulates all of our strivings, all of our concentration so as to attain to that glorious prize. By straining forward to that which lies ahead, we vigorously pursue our goal and having this hope in us, we purify ourselves, even as “he is pure”. Future resurrection to life is therefore conditional upon a present, resurrected state of mind.