The Top of the Faith Chart

When we co-opt the apostle John’s language and talk about faith as victory that overcomes the world, we do so without smirking or crossing our fingers behind our back because our faith is in victory that overcomes death. If your god can’t do something about death then he can only offer so much.

Abraham believed in the God who overcomes death.

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. (Hebrews 11:17–19)

Faith that believes in resurrection power is at the top of the faith chart. What is more impossible than being raised from the dead? In Abraham’s case, he was prepared to act based on it. In our case, we are prepared to eat and drink based on it.

There is no “figuratively speaking” with the resurrection of Jesus because He died. He wasn’t almost sacrificed. He carried the wood of His altar, was bound by nails to it, and though God could have sent 10,000 angels to take Him off the cross, a “close to death” would only made us close to salvation. He died and was three-days-buried dead.

But then He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures. The angels told visitors to His tomb: “He is not here, for He has risen, as He said.” He was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.” This is literally speaking.

When we eat the bread and drink the wine we proclaim His death but not because He’s dead. He lives! Our faith is in the resurrection and the life! May your faith be nourished by such a meal in such a powerful Savior who has overcome death for us.

Delighting in the Saints

Peter preached on the day of Pentecost about the resurrection of Jesus. He said, “God raised him [His Son] up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to held by it” (Acts 2:24). Then Peter proved his point by quoting Psalm 16:8-11 and made the following application.

Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (Acts 2:29–32)

David had the hope of eternal pleasures not just for one of his descendants, but in his descendent. This is also the hope that every believers has in Jesus.

As it says in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” These blessings were purchased for us by Christ.

Jesus is the first-fruits of those raised from the dead. When we pause around the Lord’s Table, we remember the path of life. To get on that path we believe in Him who descended from the Father, died, was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. When we believe, we are identified with Him in life and death, with His people, and with His path. We thank Him in joy and follow His way of loving sacrifice for others.

The communion meal provides a practice place for us to rejoice in our life, in our future resurrection, and to delight the communion of saints who are on the same path.

New Soil

As sons of Adam we have his sin. We don’t need to learn sin, in the words of our modern theologian Lady Gaga, we are born this way. Being born this way, where every intention of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually, is not an excuse for sin, like the Lady intended, but it is the reason we need a savior from sin.

When God saves us He doesn’t just pull up the weeds. He brings in new soil. Because He died and rose again He both forgives us and makes us different.

Our third year Latin class was translating and discussing 1 John 1:9. He forgives our sins, a plural noun, and cleanses us from all unrighteousness, or “wrongdoing,” which is singular. The plural refers to the acts of active and passive rebellion. There are many weeds to deal with.

But the singular unrighteousness refers to our nature. He is cleansing the soil, treating it so that less weeds and moss will grow. He really is making us different people, and this internal work must be done otherwise we can only ever deal with the surface.

When we eat and drink at the Lord’s Table we do it in remembrance of Him. We remember His obedience, His love, His death and resurrection. We also should remember His aim, to save and sanctify a people for His own possession. As Christians, we have been crucified with Christ, we no longer live. When we remember what He has done, we remember that we also died and rose again in Him by faith.

A Resurrection Relationship

If you could have whatever you wanted, what would you want? If you could define yourself by anything, what would you want said about you? There is more than one good way to answer those questions as Christians, and certainly a variety of vain answers for unbelievers. But, at least in one place, the apostle Paul wrote that he wanted nothing more than a resurrection relationship.

He listed his religious assets early in Philippians 3, reasons he had for being confident in his flesh. These were the very things he counted “loss for the sake of Christ.” Then he revealed his value system in two sentences.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8–11)

A Christian want list: knowing Christ, gaining Christ, found in Christ, showing Christ’s sufferings, imitating Christ’s death, and attaining Christ’s resurrection. Christ has made us His own. He fellowships with us now. He promises to raise us from the dead so that we will fellowship with Him without end.

The communion table gives us a taste and increases our wants for the power of His resurrection. No other bread endures to eternal life. No other cup satisfies. When we identify with Him here by faith, He will identify with us and raise us up on the last day. That will be gain.

Not Even the Days Are Figurative

The great resurrection chapter is 1 Corinthians 15. We are partaking of communion on Palm Sunday, a week before we celebrate Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. This is the most difficult and the most glorious time of the year on the church calendar. We should remember the history.

On Sunday Jesus entered Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey and many hailed Him as the Messiah. On Monday Jesus cursed the fig tree and cleansed His Father’s house for the second time. On Tuesday He taught on Mt. Olivet and Judas agreed on a price for betrayal. On Wednesday we don’t know exactly what Jesus did. On Thursday Jesus ate the Passover Meal with His men, prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, was betrayed by Judas, and tried. On Friday Jesus was tried again and again, beaten over and over, crucified, and buried. There is no record of events on the Sabbath, but by early the following Sunday the tomb was empty.

This is “of first importance.” “Christ died for our sins,” “he was buried,” and “he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This is the outline of the gospel story. Is any part of it figurative? The death? The burial? The resurrection? The 500 witnesses (in verse 6)? How about the three days?

Not even the days are figurative. Jesus did not leave the tomb three ages afterward when no one could verify who He was. His appearances were not three undefined seasons later. The details corroborate the week, the week is part of the gospel, and the gospel is our life.

Let us count our blessings these next seven days due to the work of Christ that important week.