As we are in Eastertide, it seemed appropriate to explore the deeper meaning of the Resurrection and ask how we view it in our lives as Christians.
Yesterday’s post featured excerpts from a thought-provoking sermon on the subject from the Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries. Fowler, a pastor of the Neighborhood Church in Fallbrook, California, has also had a teaching ministry in several countries around the world and is now online.
In today’s entry, ‘It is the Resurrection that is being by-passed’, Fowler takes as his inspiration the late Dr Thomas Forsyth Torrance, a Church of Scotland theologian. Excerpts follow (emphases in the original), but please visit Fowler’s site to read his article in full.
It has been several years since I first read a statement in Thomas F. Torrance’s book, Space, Time and Resurrection a statement that has reverberated and resonated in my mind ever since that first reading. In the context of writing about about “the Resurrection and Justification”, Torrance asserts,
“When, therefore, the Protestant doctrine of justification is formulated only in terms of forensic imputation of righteousness or the non-imputation of sins in such a way as to avoid saying that to justify is to make righteous, it is the resurrection that is being bypassed.” (page 63) (italics added)
The last phrase of that sentence kept ringing in my mind: “it is the resurrection that is being by-passed.” After much pondering of that phrase, I have determined to elaborate and amplify the implications of that statement beyond just the context of justification that Torrance referred to.
Since the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the keystone that gives living dynamic to everything Christian, it is impossible to be exhaustive in noting everything that by-passes resurrection life. Every aberration, every misemphasis of Christianity will necessarily fail to take into account Jesus as “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). So, all we can do is to begin to note how the resurrection is by-passed, and allow this to become an ever-expanding list.
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when humanistic anthropological concepts are allowed to creep into Christian thinking in varying forms of “evangelical humanism” that accept the self-potentiality of man to self-generate his own character, rather than recognizing that Christian character is derived only from the Risen Christ, and that “apart from Him, we can do nothing” (John 15:5).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the Christian gospel is conceptualized as an ideological and epistemological belief-system of historical and theological data whereby the fundamental facts are properly, logically and authoritatively interpreted, rather than receiving the “good news” as the ontological Being of the risen life of Jesus, the Personified Truth (John 14:6).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when Christianity is viewed as a Book-religion that determines all matters by the authority of the Bible as the Word of God and elevates the Scriptures as the sole agency of the Spirit, rather than accepting the Resurrected Lord as having “all authority in heaven and earth” (Matt. 28:18), and the One in whom life is found (John 5:39,40).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when God’s Law is perceived as eternally viable rules and regulations, precepts and principles to regulate human behavior and reconstruct national society, rather than the living dynamic of the Risen Christ written in our hearts (Heb. 8:10; 10:16) to express divine character through our behavior by the “law of Christ” (I Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the redemptive efficacy of the cross becomes the focal point of Christian teaching, emphasizing death instead of life, even personifying the “cross” and the “blood” as having continued redemptive or sanctifying efficacy, rather than proclaiming the “finished work” (John 19:30) of Jesus Christ, whereby we have been “crucified with Christ” (Rom. 6:6; Gal. 2:20) …
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when salvation is portrayed as a fire-insurance policy, or as a conversion commodity dispensed by a separated Savior culminating in a false assurance of “once saved, always saved,” rather than our being “saved by the life” (Rom. 5:10) of the Risen Lord allowing us to be “made safe” to function as God intended by the resurrection-life of Jesus Christ.
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when justification (as Torrance noted) is cast only as a legal and forensic declaration of right-ness with God in the heavenly courtroom, based on the imputed benefits of Christ’s action, rather than the righteousness for which Christ was raised (Rom. 4:25) in order that Christians might be “made righteous” (Rom. 5:19;I Cor. 1:30; II Cor. 5:21) by His indwelling presence and living expression of the “fruit of righteousness” (Eph. 5:9; Phil. 1:11).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when reconciliation with God is objectified as but a bringing together of alienated parties so that they can coexist in conciliation, rather than a relational reconciliation wherein the “I AM” of the resurrected Jesus (John 11:25) enters into spiritual union with the Christian (I Cor. 6:17), and reconciles all things to Himself (Col. 1:20).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when regeneration is understood only as an initial experience of conversion-birthing in order to renew one’s attempts to please God, rather than the resurrection objective (I Peter 1:3) whereby we pass from death to life (John 5:24; I John 3:14) and are raised to newness of life (Rom. 6:4,5) in Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 2:12; 3:1).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when faith is identified only as mental assent to an historical Jesus, or correct belief in factual data that is Scripturally accurate, rather than the receptivity of Christ’s resurrection-activity whereby we walk (Col. 2:6) and conduct our lives deriving from His life, allowing for the out-working of His life (James 2:19,26).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when God’s grace is explained merely as the “undeserved favor” of God that initiated the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus, or as the “threshold factor” of the Christian life, rather than the divine dynamic of God’s activity by the Risen Son in Christians, being “the grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2)
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when Christian living is encouraged via legalistic actions of performance and “works”, as moralistic virtues, or as the imitation of Jesus’ example, rather than Jesus Christ, the Risen One, living out His life in the Christian (II Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when sanctification and holiness are alleged to be facilitated by separation from designated sinful activities, or by a subsequent “second blessing” of God’s grace, rather than the resurrected Christ functioning as the Spirit of holiness (Rom. 1:4) and manifesting the holy character of God in Christian behavior that we might share His holiness (Heb. 12:10) …
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the Holy Spirit is emphasized as the empowerer of supernatural manifestations detached from the living Christ, rather than as the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), the life-giving Spirit (I Cor. 15:45) of the Risen Lord who is the Spirit (II Cor. 3:16,17) and gives us His life by His own indwelling person (Rom. 8:11).
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the Kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven, or kingdom of Christ is regarded only, or primarily, as a future realm that is the object of Christian hope, rather than the resurrection-reign of the risen Lord Jesus within us (Luke 17:21) into which all Christians have been transferred (Col. 1:13) and now participate in by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17) while still expecting the continuum of that kingdom in the future.
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when the Church of Jesus Christ is viewed as an organization institution to be run like a business with the latest marketing techniques, and its success evaluated by the statistical analysis of the numerical “bottom-line,” rather than the resurrection-community comprised of all believers in whom the Risen One lives, functioning as a living organism, the Body of Christ (Col. 1:18,24), ministering to one another in love (Rom. 5:5) …
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed when heaven is conceived as a place out there, a perfect utopia reserved for the future where Christians will collect their deserved rewards, rather than the presence of a perfect God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) that we might participate in the “kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 4:17 by the indwelling of the Perfect Risen Jesus Christ.
It is the resurrection that is being by-passed whenever we fail to recognize the full import of how God has restored humanity by the raising of His Son, Jesus Christ, whereby His “finished work” continues to bring to pass all that God intends to accomplish by His grace.
Tomorrow: A call for Resurrection theology