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He died and rose again (1)

P McCauley, Belfast

When Paul reminded the Corinthians of the gospel he had preached, he highlighted two fundamental truths – "Christ died for our sins…and that he rose again" (1 Cor 15.3-4). The death and resurrection of Christ are the two great pillars of our salvation. As we go through Paul’s writings we discover that they are not just truths to get us to heaven, but truths to help us here on earth. They are not only relevant to eternity but are very relevant to everyday living.

Romans 8.34

"Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."

Here Paul is dealing with the security and assurance of the believer, painting a courtroom scene. We have previously been in the courtroom in Romans, and the outcome was "guilty!" (3.19), but then the grace of God and the blood of Christ intervened and, by believing, we have been justified, and are brought into the courtroom once again. There is no verdict of guilt now.

The apostle raises a number of questions to assure his readers of their eternal security. The first is: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (8.31). He has been outlining God’s purpose in regard to His people and shows that we are foreknown, predestinated, called, justified and, in the mind and purpose of God, already glorified. He then says in effect, "If God has purposed this for us, who can successfully be against us?" Is there anyone who can overturn the purpose of God? Is there anyone who can thwart His plan? The answer must be, "No". But, how do we know that God is for us? How can we be sure that He will finish what He has started and glorify us? Proof is given in v.32: "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?". The phrase, "his own Son", occurs twice in Romans 8, but with different connotations on each occurrence. It emphasises the greatness of the Person (v.3) and the preciousness of the Person (v.32). If God was prepared to deliver up His own Son for us then that surely is the guarantee that He will fulfil His purpose for us.

The second question is found in v.33: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect?". Imagine someone coming into the courtroom and beginning to rehearse in detail a list of charges against you, and every charge is true! You hang your head and wait for the Judge to reverse His earlier act of justification and pronounce you guilty again, but it does not happen. Why? Because it is God that justifies! There is nothing that the satanic accuser can present to God that He did not know. When He justified you He knew all about what you had done and yet would do. There is no way His verdict can ever be overturned. We rest secure in the fact that God has said it – we are justified!

The third question is particularly relevant to our subject (v.34): "Who is he that condemneth?". The accuser realises he cannot bring any charge against you so he then objects that God is not being righteous. He points to you and asserts that you have broken God’s Law and are escaping judgment. It is not fair; you should be condemned! What is the answer? The fact that "It is Christ that died". All that God’s justice demanded has been fully met in the death of Christ! He died so that we who believe could go free. But how can we be sure His death is enough? "It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." At Calvary the Lord Jesus became answerable to God for our sin; the sentence was passed upon Him, but look where He is now. He has been raised by God from the dead and is at God’s right hand. Had the penalty not been fully paid the Lord would still be in the tomb. His resurrection and ascension is proof that God is satisfied. His death settled my debt and His resurrection settles my doubt! He is our representative before God and our salvation is as secure as His position at God’s right hand. Can the Lord ever be dislodged from that position? "No!" Our eternal security rests upon Him, We can never be lost.

The apostle now leaves the courtroom and goes out into the environment of a hostile world. He asks another question in v.35: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" He looks at the opposition, the persecution, and the difficulties, but then he looks back to the love that was expressed at Calvary, love that has secured his eternal bliss. Looking at that love he is persuaded that nothing can ever separate him from it. So when our sins trouble us and we are assailed with doubts, let us be assured that our security is not based on our feelings or the size of our faith, but on two unshakeable facts: Christ died and rose again.

Romans 14.9

"For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord of both the dead and living."

In this section the apostle is seeking to regulate the attitudes of believers towards each other. There were those whose conscience would not allow them to eat meat and they condemned those that did. There were those who felt free to eat meat and despised those who did not. The relatively minor issue of meat was threatening to divide the Christians. How would Paul deal with it? He does so by emphasising the Lordship of Christ. The conclusion of Paul’s argument is that we are each individually responsible to the Lord. He is the One to whom we will all give account and we should not, therefore, be judging our brethren. How prone we are to do this! We know that Scripture teaches that in certain situations the assembly has to exercise judgment, but in matters of personal conscience, where it is not a matter of right and wrong, we have no right to judge. We so often feel that we are qualified to make an assessment of the motives and conscience of others, something that is in the remit of the Lord alone. Where others feel free to engage in activities in which we would not participate, or allow things that we would not permit, let us remember that they will answer only to the Lord. Let us also remember that if a young believer who is weak in the faith has a conscience about a matter we are not to set them at naught. The Lord alone has the right to assess them, and our responsibility is to not stumble them, even if it means abstaining from that which is legitimate. We cannot dismiss that weak brother and treat him as worthless, for he is also one "for whom Christ died" (14.15). However, we have to keep in mind that in Romans 14 Paul is dealing with considering the weak brother, not bowing to the legalistic brother, for when he is dealing with legalism Paul says, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink…" (Col 2.16). So, although Paul never bowed to legalism, he went to great pains not to stumble the weak.

How does Paul go about establishing Christ’s claim as Lord over us? He has stated in v.8 that, "Whether we live…or die, we are the Lord’s", and then goes on to say in v.9 that Christ’s rights as Lord over us are due to His death and resurrection. In His death He purchased us. Having risen from the dead He lives to reign over us. Because of His resurrection, death does not release us from the Lordship of Christ. He has defeated death and whether we live or die, He is Lord and we belong to Him. It must not be forgotten that Christ died to be our Saviour and our Lord. The apostle Paul delighted to refer to himself as a bondservant of Jesus Christ; he had been bought with a price and was no longer his own. Today, around us are the voices of people shouting for "human rights"; Paul knew he had no rights of his own. He was the property of another and lived his life in the realisation that Jesus Christ is Lord. We must abandon the idea that preachers alone are "the Lord servants". Every one of us has been brought under His Lordship and we will all have to account for every moment and every aspect of our lives. Let us ensure we live in the light of that coming day of review and acknowledge the claims of the Lord upon us because of His death and resurrection.

To be continued.

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