[This article was written for a series for my local paper.]
This series of Soli Deo Gloria articles is focused on the Heidelberg Catechism. This catechism is a series of questions and answers written in 1563 to teach people the Christian faith. The writers divided the catechism into 52 Lord’s Days so a person could learn it in one year. Today’s article discusses Lord’s Day 17, Question 45.
Q 45 How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?
A. First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, so that he might make us share in the righteousness he obtained for us by his death. (Rom. 4:25; 1 Cor. 15:16-20; 1 Pet. 1:3-5) Second, by his power we too are already raised to a new life. (Rom. 6:5-11; Eph. 2:4-6; Col. 3:1-4) Third, Christ’s resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection. (Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:12-23; Phil. 3:20-21)
John Warrick Montgomery, a prominent Lutheran defender of the Christian faith, presents a strong evidential case for the truth of Christianity based on the resurrection of Christ. In his book History, Law and Christianity, he lays out the argument that the resurrection is a stamp of approval on Jesus Christ’s claims to be God, and that Christ’s identity as God in the flesh (His deity) makes Him a perfect witness to the truth of the Bible.
Montgomery writes, “Jesus’ deity in itself establishes the truth of the Christian message over and against competing religions and secular world-views.” The well-documented fact that Christ rose from the dead provides strong evidence for the truth of Christianity, but it provides so much more.
First, in Christianity, death is an enemy to be destroyed, not an event to be accepted. Christ has “overcome death,” our enemy.
With the resurrection, sin, death and the devil are conquered. This is why Christians can share in the righteousness Christ earned for them in His perfect life and sacrificial death. As Kevin DeYoung writes in his book The Good News We Almost Forgot, “The resurrection means Christ proved Himself righteous to the Father, so that through faith we now share in His righteousness.”
Second, because Christ died and rose again, we have a new life. New life is not just a goal for the Christian; it is a reality. We have the power to live godly lives from our hearts. That is not all, however.
Third, Christ’s resurrection guarantees the resurrection of those who place their faith in Him. I will never forget about how this hope ‘played out’ in my life.
A few short years ago, my mother died. I struggled to explain what had happened to my three-year-old daughter. My mother had been very sick for some time, and I had taken the chance to read several books and pamphlets on how to talk to children about death.
Many of those booklets told me to emphasize the finality of death so that my daughter would not be confused. In this theory, Granny Jones was not “asleep” or “living in heaven,” but permanently gone. That is what death is to the world: final.
My approach changed when I stood over Mom’s casket with my daughter in my arms. Theology ‘kicked in;’ psychological theory went ‘out the window.’ I said, “Granny is dead, but one day she will live again. When Christ comes back, Granny will come back to life because she placed her faith in Him before she died. She will have a new body that is perfect and joy in her heart.”
I helped my daughter to understand that Christ’s “resurrection is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection.” Christians will come back to life after they die. In this, we have hope.