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He died and rose again (2)

P McCauley, Belfast

2 Corinthians 5.15

"They which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again."

In this passage the apostle Paul details the motivating influences in his life and service. He had sacrificed a lot and suffered so much, and one might ask what was it that kept him going? He answers that in v.14 when he says, "For the love of Christ constraineth us". This is not referring to Paul’s love for Christ but rather Christ’s love for him. The love of the most devoted saint to the Lord will not sustain them in Christian service; sadly our love ebbs and flows, but the love of Christ to us is a love that never fluctuates. It is a love that has been expressed in the most vivid way possible – by the Cross. As Paul considered the love of Christ to him he was constrained to respond and he could do nothing other than give his all for Him.

It is important to notice, however, that the apostle was not merely acting on the basis of emotion. Note what he says: "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again". His consecration was as a result of a judgment made in his mind as well as a response springing from his heart. He had made a sober, reasonable assessment that if Christ died for him then he owed Him everything, and if Christ rose again then it is worthwhile giving Him everything. Withholding from Christ, in the light of Calvary, robs Him because He died to make us His own. But withholding from Christ in the light of the empty tomb robs us because the resurrection shows us that there is a world to come that we ought to live for and in which we ought to invest.

Paul encourages us to consider One who died for us; One who did not stop short or turn back; One who went all the way and withheld nothing; One who gave up everything and gave Himself. As we consider Him, can we stop short? Can we live for self? Is there anything He could ask us to do that would be too much trouble? Are we reluctant to sacrifice and slow to give? Look to the Cross and see one there who "died for us".

But Paul also encourages us to consider One who rose from the dead. The resurrection of Christ shows us that everything we sacrifice for Him, everything we suffer for Him and everything we spend for Him has eternal value. If Christ never rose from the dead then we would be fools to sacrifice one moment of our time or one penny of our money for Him. This world would be all there is and our motto would be, "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die" (1 Cor 15.32). But, "The Lord is risen indeed", and rather than it being foolish for us to sacrifice for Him, we would be fools if we did not! There is this present world and there is the world to come; the present world is passing, the world to come is eternal – which world are you living for? The Lord Jesus taught that the person who lives for self and for this world will be the loser, for all he has amassed and enjoyed will soon be gone, but the one who lives for Christ and for eternity will be the one who gains eternal treasure. Paul knew what it was to deny self and to sacrifice for Christ. He could have had a comfortable life down here, but he chose Christ over self and eternity over time. Now he is in heaven looking upon the glorious Son of God who still bears in His body the marks of Calvary. Do you think that he regrets the sacrifices he made? Do you suppose he is wishing he had taken it easy during his life? It may be mere sentiment, but I wonder could it be true that, as the Paul looks upon the exalted Christ, the thought might even enter his mind, "I wish I had given Him more"? One thing is sure – he does not wish he had given Him less. We cannot have the best of both worlds and we each need to make our choice, but ensure that we make it in the light of His death and resurrection.

1 Thessalonians 4.14

"For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him."

In this passage we find the apostle comforting and encouraging the Thessalonian believers in their sorrow. Loved ones had died and they were evidently confused or "ignorant" concerning what exactly would happen to them. Would they miss out on the manifestation of the King that Paul had preached about when he was with them (Acts 17.7; 2 Thess 2.5)? Notice that Paul settles their fears by instructing their minds – it is so often the case that if we had a better grasp of Biblical doctrine we would worry and fret a lot less!

The apostle desired that they sorrow not even as others which have no hope. It is important to see that he did not say they ought not to sorrow, but rather that they ought not to sorrow even as others. At the passing of a loved one it would be unnatural not to sorrow, but as we gather round the grave of a believer we are encouraged and upheld by something that the world does not have – hope! We do not view the grave as the end. Why not? Because "Jesus died and rose again"! He entered into death and broke its power. He endured the sting of death and the suffering of death, and for the child of God there is only the sleep of death and the shadow of death. In touching language Paul says that every believer who has died has been put to sleep by Jesus; it has been the hand of a loving Saviour that has taken them to be with Him.

But will these departed saints miss out when the Lord comes to earth? Not at all! Paul says to them that since they believe that Jesus died and rose again then they should not view death as a problem. God shall bring those loved ones with Christ when He comes in glory. But how? Paul details how this will take place by explaining the truth of the rapture (vv.15-17).

He says that we who are "alive (the living) and remain" unto the coming of the Lord will have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep. It is evident that Paul expected to be alive at the coming of the Lord and lived in the light of it. I wonder if we do? Is the imminent "any moment" return of the Lord a reality to us day by day? What a sanctifying effect it would have upon us if we bore in mind that He is coming for us (1 Jn 3.3). Not only did Paul expect to be alive at the coming of the Lord but he also desired to be. From the moment he met the Saviour his heart had been won from earth and he longed to be with Christ and like Christ. Is it the same with us? Do our hearts cry out, "…come, Lord Jesus" (Rev 22.20), or do we view the rapture as an unwelcome interruption to our plans?

He says that we who are living and remaining unto the coming of the Lord shall not have any advantage over those who have fallen asleep, for the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven. At the end of the Tribulation the Lord shall send His angels to gather together His elect, but we are so glad that He is not sending angels for us – it will be the Lord Himself. His bride is too precious to Him for Him to send anyone else and so He will come personally. He will come with a summoning shout of quickening power and the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we shall all be caught up together – together with the loved ones we have buried, to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Grasp what Paul is saying: "with them…with the Lord" – so shall we ever be!

It may be that the sorrow of bereavement is keenly felt in your heart and in your home, but how good it is to know that the separation is only temporary and there is a glorious day of rapture and reuniting ahead, all because "Jesus died and rose again".

Concluded.

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