No Death More Shameful, Now No Exaltation Higher

Today is Easter Sunday.  Below was the sermon I preached to my congregation today.  I post it here for your Easter reflection.  He is Risen indeed!

The Fruit of Resurrection

The year was 33 A.D. The week was, scholars believe, March 29-April 5. This week is without a doubt the most important week in all of history. Into the outskirts of Jerusalem riding on a donkey came One who would change everything. The people praised triumphantly over the excitement of this King and His coming Kingdom. This initial crowd was largely filled with Galileans and disciples of Jesus. They said, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9-10) 5 days later by the time the morning of Friday April 3 came, the coming Kingdom looked completely crushed because the King was hanging on a cross. Shouts again filled the air, but this time it was not triumphant. It was horrific. A different crowd filled with Pharisee’s, other Jewish leaders, Roman soldiers, and common town-folk did not scream out “Hosanna!” but screamed out “Crucify!” (Mark 15:13) Jesus died that day. The Disciples went into hiding not knowing what to do. The rest of that Friday, all of Saturday, and Sunday morning they were lonely and frightened. Until, in triumph over death Jesus rose from death, remaking the very fabric of life. Seen first by a few women, then by His disciples, then by many, many, more. From that moment on, now, and until Jesus returns we will celebrate this monumental event called the Resurrection. What is known to some as Easter is known to others as Resurrection Sunday. What you call it doesn’t matter. What does matter is though it’s been 1,981 years since the resurrection of Jesus Christ the Son of God, this event is still as applicable and powerful today as it was the day it took place. To make much of this event and its continuing application today we will be looking into Romans 6:5-11 and the fruit of resurrection.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus

As a young middle school student learning how to write papers, I had a teacher once tell me the importance of the “thesis statement.” “This statement” she would say, “is so important because it tells your reader what you’re going to tell them in the following essay. It reveals the grand purpose behind the content, and prepares the reader for what’s to come.” In our passage today we have such a statement, and in it, Paul is preparing us, as his readers, for what’s to come. His grand purpose statement is revealed, all his cards laid out on the table in one verse. It’s 6:5 which says, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” Paul intends for us to somehow see the link between Jesus’ death and Jesus’ resurrection. How do we see it? I think the key word in 6:5 is “united.” If we’re united with Him in His death then we shall be united with Him in resurrection. So, the weight on understanding what Paul is telling us in this purpose statement all lies in understanding the word “united.” So what does it mean? To “unite” is to merge together, to bring into close connection. It is to join, to link, to couple, to incorporate, to merge what was once two separate things into one new thing.

We know this from common experience. We live in the “United” States, some of us work alongside others in a “union”, marriage is two people coming into a “unity.” But why does Paul mention this word here referring to Jesus’ death and resurrection? He does so because there exists a reality in the Christian experience called our “union with Christ.” Where as soon as we repent of our sin, trust in Christ for salvation, and are saved – we are made one with Christ. He is the great Head of the Church, and we are brought into His body. It then leads next to note that as goes the Head, so goes the body. This is so pervasive throughout the New Testament people have often spoken of it as if this is the Apostle Paul’s one major focus in all his letters, explaining how through faith we enter into this union, explaining how we live in light of this union, and explaining what will one day happen to us based on this union. Every time Paul or another writer in the New Testament talks of being “in Him” or “in Christ” our union with Jesus is in view. Here are a few examples of Paul teaching on this.

Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

1 Corinthians 1:4-5, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in Him…”

2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Ephesians 1:4-ff, “We were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world…In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins according to the riches of His grace…In Him we have obtained an inheritance…In Him, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit….In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Colossians 1:19, “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”

Colossians 2:6-ff, “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him…rooted and built up in Him…For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

So we see our union with Christ in these passages, and this is just a sample of the vast amount of Scripture referencing our being brought into union with Christ through faith. Back to our verse. Remember the weight of understanding Romans 6:5 lies on the word “united.” What then does Paul mean by saying if we are united in Jesus’ death with Him we will also be united in His resurrection? Paul continues to explain this in 6:6-7, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin.” The Christians union with Christ goes deep, so deep that if you’re united to the Son of God by faith, it has consequences for your past. You’re old man, you’re sinful nature was killed along with Christ on the cross. Why was it killed along with Christ? So that it would be brought to nothing, and that we would therefore no longer be enslaved to sin. Which means if you’re no longer enslaved to sin, you are free indeed! Jesus also says this in John 8:32 when He says, “…you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

It’s interesting to me that people say they don’t want to come to church, or believe in Jesus because it’s just a set of rules forced on you and we were made to be free with no one lording rules and judgments over our heads. I use to say this myself, until I became a Christian, and found out that the freedom I had always longed for was only found in Christ. What I wanted was freedom from sin and I didn’t know it, and what was provided for me was freedom from sin, and Jesus freely gave it. Now I am free indeed! The greatest freedom found in all the world is when one gives up their “freedom” to believe in Jesus and follow Him. Didn’t Jesus something like this once? “If you lose your life for my sake and the gospels you’ll find it.” (Matthew 10:39) C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body, in the end submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in…You will not find real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints. But there must be a real giving up of the self…Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.”

Paul goes on in 6:8-10, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.”

Here Paul moves onto the subject, which he introduced us to in the thesis statement of this argument. We believe if we died with Jesus, we will also rise with Him!” Why? He’s the Head of the body. If the Head goes this way or that, so goes the body. If the Head dies, so does the body. And praise God that if the Head is raised from death, the body will be raised from death as well. Paul goes further, moving into deep waters of the implications of the resurrection. Because Jesus died and rose, He will never die again. In His death He died to sin, never needed to repeat it again, once and for all He conquered the grave. Now the victorious life He lives He lives to God. See the comparison there? He died to sin in His death, but now the life He lives He lives to God. Only God could do such a thing, and only those united to this God will do the same by their union in Him. 6:8 says it, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” If Jesus, from his death, will never die again – then it follows that if we have placed our faith in Jesus and thus become united with Him, if He will never die again, we can be assured that after our death we shall be raised as He was and never die again! Jesus also said this in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though He die, he shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” I call this sermon “The Fruit of Resurrection” because this is what we see in this text. Jesus rose from the grave, and because of this His resurrection bears fruit in all those in union with Him. He rose, never to die again, and one day we too shall stand where He is.

Jesus by His resurrection shows Himself to be the most unique Person in the history of the world. Gandhi, Sidaurta Gautama (Buddha), Confucius, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Elrond Hubbard, and countless other people lived their lives, taught people, and created massive followings, but then they died. Never to be heard from again. Jesus lived, taught, gained a massive following, and died too. But the grave could not hold Him down. He Himself says in John 10:18, “No one takes My life from me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” What does all this mean? It means you cannot dismiss Jesus as prophet, good teacher, or mere moral example – because He rose, He is God! Romans 1:4 says the same, that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.” What proved His deity? What proved that He was more than a mere man? He didn’t stay dead when He died, death couldn’t hold him in its grip. He was too strong. He is still too strong!

The implications streaming out of this moment are stunning:

-We now have a Savior who can never die again, and who can be with us until the end of the age. Matthew 28:20 “Behold I am with you always.”

-We now can be born again.  1 Peter 1:3 “By his great mercy we have been born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

-We now have the forgiveness of sin. 1 Corinthians 15:17 “If Christ has not been raised, your hope is futile and you are still in your sins…but Christ has been raised!”

-We now have no condemnation if we’re united to Jesus. Romans 8:34 “Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God.”

-We now can trust that all wrongs will one day be righted at the coming judgment. Acts 17:31 “God has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.”

-We now can be assured of our own resurrection from the dead. 2 Corinthians 4:14 “We know that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”

Church, we have such an unassailable life-giving Savior don’t we? By His resurrection Jesus stands forth as the Victor, conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might. He has burst the bands of death, trampled the darkness decisively. By the resurrection we know that His sacrifice on the cross was accepted, the wrath of God satisfied, the devil’s scepter split in two and his wrongful claim to the throne leveled. In Christ we died, and in Him we rise. In His life we live, and in His victory we triumph, and in His glorification we shall one day be glorified. He was crowned with thorns, and He is now wreathed with glory. No shame was deeper than the cross, no agony more bitter, and no death more cruel. Now, no exaltation is higher, no life more glorious, and no advocate more effective! In Christ the New Man has arrived on the stage of history, and now by His grace He is creating new men out of every people.

Romans 6:11, the last verse in our text, gives one final implication of the resurrection:

“So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Because of Jesus’ work in our behalf, if we’re in union with Him by faith, we must consider ourselves as Jesus considers Himself before God. We are now dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus. As sin can no longer have power against the Son of God, sin can now have no power against the sons and daughters of God. As Jesus is now completely alive never to die again, so too we have been given an incorruptible life never to fade away or vanish.

Friends, don’t miss the thing that’s been staring us in the face this whole time. These promises are only for those “in Christ.” Only they will rise again as He did, only they will receive the fruit of Jesus’ resurrection. Are you in Him? Are you united to Him by faith? If not, He’s alive and willing to save to the uttermost! Come, come to Him!

Who can command the highest praise? Who has the name above all names? Jesus, only Jesus, He stands alone, we stand amazed!

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2 thoughts on “No Death More Shameful, Now No Exaltation Higher

  1. Great sermon! Its interesting how Christ died to sin, not just died for sin. He was so united with our sin that he had to be judged right along with it. But to be purged of that monumental weight of sin he had to pass through the waters of death. What a mystery! What billows of wrath beat upon his soul until Eternity was satisfied. The Trinity itself was in crises, all creation moaned and quaked with the travail of our salvation. Christ was condemned so that we might be declared righteous. What a glorious day for mankind!

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