Fundamental Truth – a Summary by Sosthenes on John Nelson Darby’s Article ‘The Resurrection, the Fundamental Truth of the Gospel’.
The Church’s hope in Christ, founded on the certainty of the word, brings out the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection. Its proof forms the basis of the Christian religion.
The resurrection throws its bright light even into the dark tomb of Christ, the only righteous One, exposing the emptiness of the apparent victory of the prince of this world.
1 Cor. 15 shows us the importance of the resurrection of believers as well as Christ Himself — two truths indissolubly united. “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (v.17)
The misery of the slumbering Church was mitigated by the recovery of the truth of the completeness of Christ’s work. Unfortunately though, many Christians stop there, missing the full light of the resurrection, or rather the hope of having a part in it.
True Christians hunger and thirst after God, rejoicing in Christ, His resurrection, and all the glory which is His.
The Person of Christ and His Resurrection
The fundamental truth of Christianity concerns the Person of Christ. He is declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). So the Christian finds, in the resurrection, not only the foundations of his faith (Rom. 1:4), and the proof of the satisfaction for sin (1 Cor. 15:17), but much more besides. The resurrection was, to Paul as to Peter, the object and source of a living hope, the power of the life within. Despite sufferings, Paul sought to know the power of the resurrection. So the glory of the risen Christ is the object of our hope too: ” He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29)
Justification by Faith
In Galatians 5:5 it says, “We, through the Spirit, wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.” We do not wait for righteousness, we have it already in Christ, being justified by faith. We see in Christ, the glory and the recompense consequent upon it. We are filled with the Spirit through which we behold Christ — the Spirit whose presence is the seal of that righteousness.
Faith in the power of “God who quickeneth the dead,” justified Abraham. “It was imputed to him for righteousness; and not to him only, but to us also, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead.” (Rom 4:17,24)
The Work of Christ
Amazing love led our Saviour to become the Church’s substitute in meeting the pains of death for the sins that she had committed. It was not
the triumph of the prince of darkness, but the display of his defeat. Satan had had to meet, not men captive in his power in the first Adam, but the Captain of our salvation. “Through death he destroyed him who had the power of death,” Heb. 2:14.
The resurrection shone upon the world, like the rising of the sun. Faith alone beheld it, the faith of those whose eyes were opened to see the great and sure result of that combat, the consequences of God’s judgment. The victory was gained by Christ alone; but the Church, as the object of it, participates in all its results. She is blessed with Christ; she is the companion of His glory, the co-heritor of all the promises.
Buried and Risen with Him
Now the saints are also looked at as risen with Christ, living before the Father in the life of Christ. They are chastised by the Father (who loves them perfectly as He loves the Son Himself) when they turn aside from the ways which please Him. But if we have been raised with Christ, it is because we were dead in our sins. The doctrine of our entire misery, our complete fall, flows from, and (so to speak) springs out of, this truth.
We are buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. The Spirit continues, “Were dead in sins , hath he quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” Eph. 2:5, 6. The saints, then, are regarded by God as risen with Christ, and perfectly justified from all their sins.
As a consequence, we share in the righteousness of God, being quickened with the life in which Christ was raised from the dead, coming up out of the grave, all our trespasses forgiven. So we partake of that life, in the power of Christ risen.
We acknowledge the grace that redeemed us, and are convinced that our life is not of us but of God. It is in the power of life that we seek the things which are above, things that are both in and belong to Christ. Our affections are towards God, and we are truly sanctified, the old man being judged as dead, because Christ has died on account of it.
We cannot rightly estimate sin but by the resurrection, and for this reason, it is the doctrine of the resurrection, and of our being raised with Christ, which teaches us that we were dead in sin. Otherwise it might be be a message of healing, or an amelioration of man such as he is.
Another consequence is the feeling of the favour of God attached to the idea of being a son: “the grace in which we stand” (Rom. 5:2). Having entered by the cross, we stand in the favour of God in the holy place. having received not the spirit of bondage, but the Spirit of adoption, we cry, “Abba, Father!” (Rom. 8:15). Our participation in the resurrection is our being born of God. As delivered, we stand before God as His children, accepted and holy. Love is manifested towards us in that we are in Him. As sons we have been purified from sin and joyously clothed with the righteousness. We have become children of God, not servants.
The Church United to Christ
The resurrection of Christ is the firstfruits, that of the saints the harvest. There is an intimate connection between the resurrection of the saints and the resurrection of Christ, on account of the union of the Church with Him, because of the one Spirit, which is the Spirit of Christ, and which dwells in Him and in all the members of His body.
The actual resurrection belongs to the saints. It is a full result, of their union with Christ. It is not as a preliminary to our judgment; indeed Christ has already been judged for them and suffered the penalty of all our sins.
Jesus said, “I will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). This is the judgment of the Church at the return of Christ. We will be manifested before His judgment seat, but we have been glorified already.
Two Resurrections – the Living and the Dead
The resurrection of the Church as entirely distinct from the resurrection of the wicked. As well as being separated by 1000 years, these two resurrections are as different, in their objects and character, as in the persons who will take part in them. The first resurrection, the redemption of the body, applies to our bodies in the power of the life of Christ who saved us, in order to accomplish His word, toward us. The other demonstrates the vindication of His glory in judgment, and the exercise of the justice of the living God against all those who have sinned.
Martha did not understand this truth when she said, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11:24). She had faith, and had learned this much. She was not a Sadducee. This is the faith of the Church generally. However the same thing might also be said of the most wicked man, rising after the millennium. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (v.23-27). She made a good confession: all those who are saved believe it. But here, in fact, the faith of the greatest part of the Church stops. “I am the resurrection and the life” was too deep for her; her heart was not at ease in the company of Jesus speaking thus. Mary was different. She had sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word. She understood what had proceeded from the heart of Jesus and was more capable of maintaining communion with Him.
Darby’s Prayer for the Church
Poor Church — yes, poor every one of us! May the love of Jesus shine upon you!
If the Church is weak, strengthen her; if she has turned aside, O God, she loves Thee. Bring her, O bring her back to Thyself, even to Thyself — her blessedness and her joy, her eternal joy, her Saviour, and her strength. Bring her near to Thee. Where can she find that which shall renew her strength, if not in Thee, who art the resurrection and the life?
Darby’s Word to the Christian
Christian, do you know the power of the resurrection of Christ? Are your thoughts those of one who is risen with Him, set on things above where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God? (Col 3:2). Is your salvation a thing accomplished for your soul, so that in the perfect confidence of a new life before God, you can, under the conduct of the good Shepherd, as sheep known of the Lord, go in and out and find good pasture in the fields of His delight? Are you, as being raised up with Him, dead to sin, dead to the pleasures, to the greatness, to the fading glory of the world which crucified the Lord of glory? Do the things of the world exercise no longer an influence over your thoughts — over your life; those things which, as far as man was concerned, caused the death of Jesus? Do you not desire to be something in the world? Ah! you do not hold yourselves for dead. The darkness which surrounded the cross is still upon your hearts. You do not breathe the fresh air of the resurrection of Jesus, of the presence of your God. Oh! dull and senseless people of God — people ignorant of your real treasures, of your real liberty! Yes, to be alive with Christ is to be dead to all that the flesh desires.
But if the risen life of Christ, the joy of the light of His presence, the divine and tender love of which Jesus is the expression and the object, beam on you, mortify your members which are upon the earth. Friendship of the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). Christian, do you believe this?
Christian, Christian, death has written its sentence on all things here: by cherishing them you only fill his hand. The resurrection of Christ gives you a right to bury them, and to bury death itself with them in the grave, the grave of Christ; that “whether we live, we may live unto God,” (Rom 14:8) and become inheritors with Him in a new life of all the promises. Remember, that, if you are saved, you are risen with Christ. May He, from whom all grace and every perfect gift proceed, grant you this!