Life on the Highest Plane
Vol. 1: The Person and Work of Christ
Four Spans in the Bridge of Salvation — Resurrection
Having granted that incarnation and crucifixion are necessary spans in the bridge of salvation, one is driven to the acceptance of resurrection as the third span or all that has been gained through the other two will be lost.
The intimate relationship between these three fundamental truths, their unbreakable connection in fact, is brought out very wonderfully in Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts 2:22-36. The resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is shown to be the essential vindication of His incarnation and crucifixion. Without the resurrection the other two spans in the bridge of salvation would be futile; through the resurrection every claim God had made regarding the person and work of His Son both had been vindicated and realized.
Let us get the setting of these words. A tremendous event had taken place. It was a postresurrection event. The risen, ascended, exalted Christ had poured forth the Holy Spirit who had filled every believer and had caused each one to speak in another tongue the wonderful works of God so that people from every nation under Heaven gathered in Jerusalem at that time had heard them speak in their own language. The multitude were confounded and amazed and asked for an explanation.
This the Apostle Peter gave in a sermon the theme of which was the resurrection of Christ. He deals with it both in retrospect and in its relationships. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit which they had seen and heard had been promised, but it was conditioned upon the realization of God's eternal purpose which He had purposed in Christ, His Son (Ephesians 3:11) and upon the fulfilrnent of His divine plan. According to that purpose and plan it was the risen, exalted Christ who was to shed forth the Holy Spirit.
Acts 2:32-33, "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses, Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear."
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was an accomplished fact attested to not only by the little company of believers but by devout Jews from every nation. The shedding forth of the Holy Spirit was proof that Christ had risen from the dead. Now that we have the setting of the words under consideration let us study their significance.
THE RESURRECTION — AN ESSENTIAL VINDICATION
Acts 2:22, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did through him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know."
In these words the Apostle Peter records God's satisfaction in the person and work of the incarnate Son. He had sent His Son into the world to live such a life as none other had ever lived and to do such a work as none other had ever done. He had lived the life and done the work and had received the Father's unqualified approval.
Let us get clearly before us in review what the task was to which the Father had set His Son. In the equality of Deity, Father and Son had worked together to create a universe and the race which was to inhabit it. Into this perfect creation sin had entered first through a celestial being and then through a human being. Death, darkness and disorder followed in the trail of sin and threw everything in God's world out of harmony with Him. God Himself was even dethroned both in His world and in the hearts of men.
As Father and Son had worked together in the creation of the race so would they work together for its regeneration. God in Christ would reconcile the world unto Himself. As sin had entered the world through God's first man, salvation would enter through God's second Man.
To this end the eternal Son would become the incarnate Son. The second Man would start exactly where the first man started, with a perfect life, a human nature, a direct fellowship with God through the Holy Spirit, the right to will and the power to will Godward, but He would start in a world where ever-thing would work to drag Him down into defeat and destruction. In such a world He must live a life such as none other had ever lived a life of unspotted holiness, unceasing victory and unwavering obedience. It must be a life literally "without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing," unsullied by either the slightest desire to sin born from within or by the yielding to any temptation to sin brought from without. It must be a life from center to circumference lived wholly within the will of God.
Through such a holy Man God would establish a new union with the human race and through such a sinless Mediator God would open a way of reconciliation and redemption to rebellious sinners.
The Apostle Peter in the sermon at Pentecost witnessed to the fact that the incarnate Son had lived such a life on earth. Three times God had even opened heaven and spoken to all who would hear the words of divine satisfaction in the perfection of His Son. But the world did not reckon to it such worth or give to it such honour. Many had rejected Him; some had even dared call Him an imposter and a blasphemer. A further public witness and open vindication of the Father's satisfaction in the perfection of the Son was essential. This God gave in the resurrection.
THE RESURRECTION — A CONSUMMATED VICTORY
Acts 2:23, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel end foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain."
In undertaking the reconciliation and redemption of the world God obligated Himself to deal fully and finally with sin and all its consequences. Every man was a sinner and the sinner's greatest need is a Saviour.
In the incarnation God provided a potential Saviour in the Holy One who was always everywhere Victor. But to make this potential Saviourhood effectual for man's salvation it must be actualized. Christ's personal victory must become a racial victory if it avails for the sinner. But the only way in which the benefit of Christ's victory over sin could be bestowed upon the sinner was by having the guilt, penalty and judgement of sin borne by the Saviour. If the sinner were to take Christ's place of holiness, victory and obedience Christ must take the sinner's place of sin, death and judgment. If any sinner were ever saved Christ must take upon Himself the sin of all sinners and bear its full responsibility. To pay the wages of sin the Author of life died. In the deep and unfathomable mystery of the Cross His Spirit was separated from God and went into Hades, and from His body which went into the grave (Acts 2:27).
The eternal Son becoming the incarnate Son had given the world a perfect Man; the incarnate Son be-coming the crucified Son had given to the human race a perfect Saviour. He had been victorious in the wilderness temptation, in the Gethsemane struggle and finally in the Calvary conflict. But now what? He lies buried in a tomb and a stone seals His grave. Has He been conquered at last? Was His victory but a seeming victory? Has the world had bequeathed to it nothing but the example of a sinless, perfect life it is impossible to follow and the memory of a well meaning but futile sacrifice for sin? Will the Author, Preserver and Upholder of all life Himself succumb to death, and will the palm of victory after all belong to him "who has the power of death, that is the devil"? Such will surely be the case if the God-man remains in the grave.
But this is unthinkable. Christ had said that He would not only lay down His life but that He would take it again (John 10:17-18). And He did rise from the dead. Death could never hold Him who had said, "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).
"Death could not keep his prey —
Jesus, my Saviour,
He tore the bars away —
Jesus, my Lord!
Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes;
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah, Christ arose!"
The victory over death was complete.
1 Corinthians 15:55-57, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
The victory of the resurrection gathered up into its embrace all the other victories in His life and death and gave to them meaning and power. The victories of incarnation and crucifixion were merged into THE VICTORY; perfect, powerful, permanent victory over the triumvirate of hell: sin, death and Satan.
THE RESURRECTION — THE DIVINE SEAL
Acts 2:24, "Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death; because it was not possible that he should be holden of it."
Upon the life of the perfect Man and the work of the perfect Redeemer, God, the Father set His divine seal of approval and appraisal by raising the God-man from the dead. Christ Jesus had cried from the Cross, "It is finished," and it was the cry not of a victim of Satan, but of a Victor over Satan; not of one vanquished by death, but the cry of the Vanquisher of death. In that cry of victory Christ showed that He anticipated His resurrection; He expected the Father to raise Him from the dead. Had He a right to expect His Father so to act? Most assuredly.
To His perfection of life as God's second Man the Father had set His seal of approval both at His baptism and at His transfiguration by opening the heavens and saying, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Would the Father remain silent now? Would there be no witness to the Father's satisfaction in the all-sufficiency of the Son's sacrifice of Himself upon Calvary's Cross to save men? To Christ's death on the Cross as the perfect Saviour God would set His seal by opening the tomb and raising His Son from the dead, thus expressing in language more eloquent than words His satisfaction with the Saviour's redemptive work and its sufficiency for the sinner's salvation. "Upon all the virtue of His life and the value of His death and the victory of His conflict, God set the seal in the sight of heaven and earth and hell, when raising Him from the dead" (G. Campbell Morgan, The Crises of the Christ, p. 364). "The resurrection is the Father's 'Amen' to the Son's exclamation 'It is finished.'"
THE RESURRECTION — A SURE PLEDGE
The body that had been specially prepared for Him in incarnation (Hebrews 10:5), that had been laid down in death upon the Cross (Hebrews 10:10) was now raised and came forth from the tomb.
Matthew 28:5-6, "And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay."
John 20:27, "Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust in into my sides: and be not faithless, but believing."
In resurrection as in incarnation He was still the God- man. He arose from the grave on that first Easter morning with the body which He had taken in incarnation, which had been nailed to the Cross in death, which had been placed in Joseph's tomb, which had been preserved from corruption and which after three days had been raised from the dead. In that body He appeared to the disciples proving to them His identity by the nail prints in His hands and feet and the spear print in His side. In that body He ascended to Heaven and sits today at the right hand of the Father receiving the worship of countless multitudes out of every kindred, and tongue, and people and nation who are redeemed to God by the blood of the Lamb slain on Calvary. In that glorified yet scarred body He will live through the ages of the ages, the visible reminder to redeemed sinners "of the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus."
While the body of the risen God-man was the same body yet it was a changed body. From the truth revealed in Philippians 3:20-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:42-50 it is clear that the body Christ Jesus had in resurrection was a glorified, incorruptible, mighty, spiritual, heavenly body. The limitations of His earthly life were those of His human nature; the limitations incident to the humiliation to which He had voluntarily submitted. But in the resurrection He threw off all these fetters of the flesh. "His birth marked the voluntary self-limitation of His Godhood in His descent into our race in His incarnation. His resurrection marked His ascent out of these limitations and His return to His former glory. It was the passageway through which He went to the resumption of the unlimited powers of His Godhood" (A. E. Wood, The Person and Work of Jesus Christ, p. 56).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the sure pledge of the resurrection of the believer. When comforting Martha about her brother Lazarus who had been dead four days Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." Just as truly as Christ's prophecy concerning His own resurrection was literally fulfilled will this promise to Martha concerning the resurrection of every believer also be fulfilled. The resurrection of Him who is the Head of the body makes the resurrection of every member of the body not only certain but essential.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shell all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming."
And as He rose with a glorifed, incorruptible, mighty, spiritual, heavenly body, so shall we. "As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Corinthians 15:49).
Philippians 3:20-21, R.V., "For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby he is able even to subject all things unto himself."
THE RESURRECTION — A NEW BEGINNING
Colossians 1:18, "And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence."
Through the last Adam God has provided another way of union with the human race and in Him He has made a new beginning. Through the perfection of His incarnate manhood, God's second Man has qualified to become the Head of a new creation, through the victory of His crucifixion He has put an end to the old creation, and now through the power of His resurrection a new order of beings is formed of which He is appointed the executive Head. As firstborn from the dead He becomes the Progenitor of a new race of redeemed men, the Head of a new company of people whose life on earth is to be transformed daily into His image from glory to glory and who are ultimately to share the perfection of His glorification.
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as twin events, certain definite issues in the conflict between God and Satan were met and eternally settled. The victory over Satan was fully and finally won which robbed him of the last vestige of claim to sovereignty over the earth or the race. He is hence-forth a usurper and a thief. Jesus Christ gained back all that had been lost and now the earth and all that is therein is His not only by right of creation but by right of conquest.
To the believer in Jesus Christ it means that the sovereignty of Satan over his life is ended and the sovereignty of God begins; that he leaves the sphere of sin, death, darkness and disorder, and enters the sphere of righteousness, life, light and liberty; that he ceases to be a subject in the kingdom of Satan and becomes a subject in the Kingdom of God; that he severs his alliance with Satan's system, the world, and avows his allegiance as a member of Christ's body the Church, to Christ Himself who is its Head. It means, in other words, that the old creation with all that pertains to it ends at the Cross and is buried in the tomb and that a new creation comes forth in the resurrection. It means that the old relationship with sin, self and Satan is altogether annulled and a new union with God in Christ Jesus is made, and that in this new relationship Christ becomes not only the believer's Saviour but his Lord and his Life.
Through His death on the Cross Christ Jesus willed to every man who will take it perfect salvation from the pollution, penalty and power of sin; perfect victory over death both spiritual and physical; perfect release from the bondage of Satan. Through the resurrection from the dead He is appointed by the Father to be Executor of this will; to be the Mediator of the New Covenant; to be the Dispenser of all the blessings and benefactions which were given through grace to all those who have become sons and heirs of God through faith in Him. The resurrection of Christ Jesus is the third span in the bridge of salvation.