Resurrection Power

In the opening thanksgiving of his Letter to the Philippians, Paul prepares his readers for one of its key themes: Going on to perfection in Jesus. The bodily resurrection of the believer is necessary for the consummation of this process, and its goal. It is an integral part of the salvation that believers will receive when Jesus appears, and a glorious hope as the past resurrection of Jesus demonstrates.

What God began in the Philippians at their conversion He will continue to perform until the “Day of Christ” when Jesus returns, raises the dead, and gathers his elect.

Wild Flowers Sun - Photo by Preston Browning on Unsplash
[Photo by Preston Browning on Unsplash]

The Apostle begins the Letter by thanking God for what He has accomplished already in the Assembly, and for its contribution to the Gospel, “
from the first day until the present.” Furthermore, Paul remains convinced that God will complete what He first started among the Philippians “until the Day of Jesus Christ,” not simply because of Who He is, but also based on the past resurrection of His Son from the dead - (Philippians 1:3-10).

The term “Day of Jesus Christ” refers to his future coming when he will appear in glory to gather his saints to himself. It will be a time of both judgment and salvation – condemnation for the wicked, but vindication for his elect - (Romans 2:16, 1 Corinthians 1:8, 2 Corinthians 6:2, Ephesians 4:30).

In his two letters to the Thessalonians, Paul equates this day with the expectation of the “Day of the Lord” from the Hebrew Bible, an event that would result in final judgment for some, but salvation for others - (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9).

As for going on to “perfection,” Paul provides us with an example based on his own life. After his conversion, he put his Jewish heritage aside to pursue completion in Jesus:

  • What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ…I have suffered the loss of all things and do count them dung that I may win Christ.”

This he did after obtaining the knowledge of Christ, which he found to be of infinitely greater value than his past accomplishments and heritage in Judaism, including the death and resurrection of Jesus on which the Gospel and salvation were based, what the Apostle now describes as the “power of his resurrection.”

  • “…That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming conformed to his death, if by any means I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained or am already made perfect, but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus” - (Philippians 3:10-12).

Rather than excel in the traditions of his ancestors as he previously did, he now pursues conformity to the sufferings and death of the Nazarene so that he might attain the “resurrection out from among the dead,” and in this way go on to “perfection.”

Wildflowers - Photo by Tim Peterson on Unsplash
[Wildflowers - Photo by Tim Peterson on Unsplash]

THE FUTURE RESURRECTION


Since the death and resurrection of the Messiah, the true “circumcision” consists of men who are “rendering divine service in the Spirit of God and boasting in Christ Jesus, and not having confidence in the flesh.” Perfection cannot be achieved by removing foreskins or rigorously observing lunar calendars. Such fleshly rituals have been rendered obsolete by the Cross of Christ - (Philippians 3:1-3).

Conformity to his death must be pursued by means of God’s Spirit, and the future bodily resurrection is necessary for the “completion” of this process. Resurrection is not optional. It is central to the Apostolic hope.

Moreover, whatever disciples do receive from God between now and then, the process of salvation will remain incomplete until they are raised from the dead, an event that will occur on the “Day of Christ.”

For the disciple, the future resurrection will mean the receipt of a new body, one that is of the same nature as the glorious body now possessed by Jesus. Thus, his past resurrection is the demonstration and guarantee of the disciple’s own glorious future.

Thus, “completion” does not mean the abandonment of the present body for a disembodied state, but the exchange of our mortal condition for an immortal and glorified body that is in conformity to the resurrection body of Jesus Christ.



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