We do not merely preach a crucified Christ; we preach a risen crucified Christ whom God has exalted to the highest place. Because as Michael Bird reminds us in his new book Evangelical Theology, the cross and resurrection form an indissoluble unity.
"The cross without the resurrection is just martyrdom…Conversely the resurrection without the cross is a miraculous intrusion into history, a redemptive-historical enigma, and a paranormal freak show with indeterminable significance." (436)
But what does the resurrection actually mean?
The resurrection “is not simply an amazing fact that God brings dead people to life. It has a host of consequences.” (447) Today Michael Bird reminds us what those consequences are, particularly for our resurrection-inspired Kingdom ministries—whether in a church or a classroom.
-Jeremy Bouma, Th.M. (@bouma)
Finally, resurrection is an inspiration for kingdom ministry.
The resurrection is not simply an amazing fact that God brings dead people to life. It has a host of consequences. Jesus is risen; therefore God’s new world has begun. Jesus is risen; therefore the tyrants and despots of the world should tremble and quiver — because God has exalted Jesus and every knee will bow before him. Jesus is risen; therefore Israel has been restored and the plan for the nation is fulfilled in him. Jesus is risen; therefore death has been defeated. Jesus is risen; therefore creation groans in anticipation of its renewal. Jesus is risen; therefore we will be raised also to live in God’s new world. Jesus is risen; therefore go and make disciples in his name. The resurrection means that God’s new world has broken into our own world, and we are heirs and ambassadors of the king that is coming.
But the resurrection implies something else. It means we have the task of proclaiming and embodying before the world exactly what this new creation is and what it looks like. We are a resurrection people, and we demonstrate how resurrection— as both a present experience and a future hope — impacts people when it is worked out in daily life, family life, and community life. If we are “children of the resurrection” (Luke 20:36), we show the suitability of this name when we are committed to talking, taking, and turning our lives into a means of life-giving grace to those around us.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes his most extensive discourse on the resurrection— that it is intrinsic to the gospel, what the resurrection body looks like, and how it is part of God’s victory. Yet we must take to heart the application that the apostle makes at the end: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (15:58, italics added). Here Paul is telling the Corinthians that despite the world around them, pagan and promiscuous as it is, they must hold their ground, not let up, and not shut up, because they are the vessels of the same divine power exercised in the resurrection of Christ. The future horizon of resurrection gives purpose and drive to Christian living in the present.
If you’re contemplating missionary service, adding your name to rosters at church, learning to preach, becoming a Sunday school teacher, wondering what you can do to stop sex-trafficking, then do it. Here’s why: the resurrection moves us to take risks for God because the resurrection proves that God is behind us, before us, and with us. Our labor in the Lord in this life plants seeds that will sprout forth in the resurrection life; thus, what work we do in this age will flower in the coming age of new creation.
Furthermore, if the resurrection drives us to do anything, it must surely be worship. Look what happened when the women at the empty tomb met the risen Lord: “Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him” (Matt 28:9, italics added). Their first thought was not to hold a colloquium on the nature of the resurrection body or reconcile scientific notions of personal identity with molecular biology. I imagine that their knees bent with awe, their mouths opened with joy, and their arms were raised in adoration. Resurrection bids us to cling to Christ in joyous and exulting worship.
If our theology is gospel-driven, the resurrection will permeate every facet of Christian thought. We can contemplate Christ only as the risen Lord. We may speak of God’s kingdom only as it enters our world through resurrection power. We imagine the Spirit not as an impersonal force, but as the personal instrument of inward regeneration and physical resurrection. The church exists only upon the premise and in the power of resurrection. Indeed, we can only view the world around us through the lens of resurrection faith. John Chrysostom’s famous paschal homily speaks of the all-encompassing transformation of reality wrought by Christ’s resurrection:
Christ is risen! And you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is risen! And the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is risen! And the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen! And life is liberated!
Christ is risen! And the tomb is emptied of its dead;
For Christ having risen from the dead,
Is become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be glory and power, now and forever, and from all ages to all ages.
Amen. (pgs. 447-448)
By Michael Bird
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