25 February 1957 at Chiayi, Taiwan.
The Resurrection of Jesus.
In those letters that I have just mentioned, we should find one
thing stated twenty five times; that is, God raised Him from the
dead. "This Jesus hath God raised up." If we were honest people
and really trying to get to understand Christianity, I think we
should come to one conclusion: Christianity seems to be built upon
this one matter, the resurrection of Jesus. All the preachers that
preached, and all the writers that wrote just talk about that.
And, being impressed with that, we should ask ourselves a
question: "Why is it that on this Christianity is built? Why is
Christianity not built upon some other thing?" Well, that is the
question that I am going to try to answer this evening.
But there is another thing that would impress us. We would find that this matter of the resurrection of Jesus does not stop with Him, but it is carried over into the life of Christians, and it is related to the Christian in three ways. It is in three tenses that happen to Christians; it not only happened to Jesus Christ, but that same thing has happened to these Christians; they have had an experience which is resurrection from the dead! That is something that lies in the past history of true Christians. This book talks about Christians as having been raised together with Christ, and then it talks about it in the present tense. This book is saying that this thing is going on all the time in Christians. It is not only something that happened to them, it is something that is continuing to happen. We should note that that is what the New Testament is saying, and then we should see that it refers to this matter as related to the future of Christians. This resurrection has a future relationship. This books says that the time is coming when all Christians shall be raised from the dead and given another body, and really, that is what all the New Testament is about: the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of those who believe on Him. I expect that if we were strangers to Christianity we should say, "What does all this mean?" And again, I say that I am going to try to answer that question in a few minutes.
You know that there are very many things that man can do for man. Indeed, there are many things that men can do in this world. When I went into a room where I was staying a night or two ago, I saw on the table a large bowl of wonderful flowers, and I looked at them, and I thought they were very beautiful. And they looked very real so I went up to smell them and I found that they were made of paper. Men can make things that look like what is real, and when you look at them from the outside, you perhaps cannot tell the difference. But there is one great difference between the flowers that men make and the flowers that God makes; and it is just there that men cannot do what God does. Men cannot put life into them. He can do wonderful things, and lots of things, but there is one thing that man with all his cleverness cannot do: he cannot give life.
Now, in the matter of religion, men can build up a system of religion and by their systems of religion they do a lot of things for people. There is a certain religion which most of us will know, it has built up a system of forgiveness of sin. It pretends to be able to forgive man their sin. If you will go to the priest and confess your sins, and perhaps give a donation and light a candle, he will forgive your sins - or at least he says he will forgive your sins - and you poor creatures believe that your sins were forgiven. He can take the place of your conscience and you can say, "Well, now that I have been to the priest, and I have given him my contribution, I have lit a candle and there is nothing more to do. I am alright, it doesn't matter what I am going to do tonight, I can do the same things." Here the priest has taken the place of conscience. Of course, that is all false, they are merely deceived by them.
Raising the Dead
Well, I was saying that man can do lots of things for people, even in a religious way, but one thing that no man but God can do, is raise the dead. It is just there that man ends, and God begins. When man can raise something that was really dead, then the greatest questions about God will arise. That will be the greatest challenge to God, but man has never been able to do it yet, and he never will be able to. When a thing is really dead, that is the end of man's power and the only hope for that which is dead to live again, is with God Himself.
Now we are getting near to the
meaning of Christianity. We are getting near to the answer to our
question, "Why is the resurrection of Jesus the very foundation of
Christianity?" The answer is that Christianity really is something
that only God can do! It rests upon a work that no man can do and
that is to give Life to the dead.
Now we go a long way back in history, and we ask this question, why did God allow man to die? We remember what God said to Adam when He told him that he must not eat of a certain tree, "in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shall surely die." Adam ate it, and he died. Death came in through him. Why did God allow man to die? Why did He not prevent death? It was in God's power to prevent death so why did He not do it? Death is a terrible thing. Death spoils everything. Death is a great enemy to happiness, it is called the "last enemy" in the Bible. Why did God allow death to come in? You see, that was Martha's question to Jesus. That was her problem. She said to her Lord, "If You had been here, my brother would not have died". She really wanted to say, "Lord, why didn't You come when You received the message that our brother was sick? Why didn't You come at once and stop him from dying? Why did You stay there so long and let him die?"
Why did God let man die? You see, the answer to that is found in Christianity, because if men are to live, it is only God that can make them live. Adam turned away from God, and because he turned away from God, God allowed him to die. And ever since then that one thing has governed this world's history. It is only if we come to God that we really live. We really come to resurrection when we come back to God. Now the whole Christian life, as I have said, rests upon that. It rests upon the fact that Jesus lives.
The beginning of the Christian life is the discovery of the fact that Jesus is alive. If we to come to personally realise ourselves that Jesus is alive, it is a wonderful thing. That is the beginning of the Christian life. The whole course of the Christian life is knowing more and more what it means that Jesus is alive. You see, this is what is meant by being a Christian. This is what a Christian exists for. Why are we Christians? Not just to say that Jesus was raised from the dead, not just to say that we believe Jesus was raised from the dead, but to be the proof ourselves that He is alive. Did you notice how it was put in the passage that we read, "God raised Him from the dead whereof we are witnesses."
Now, everybody knows what a witness is. You may have heard me put
it like this before, if you have a court of law and there is a
case being tried in that court of law, certain people are called
as witnesses. The judge sits there and the witness is called and
the judge says, "Now please tell us what you know about this
case," and then the witness begins to talk like this, "My next
door neighbour told me so and so, and then the man who keeps the
shop down the street told me this...". The judge will say, "Stop
man! Don't go any further. You just step down. You are no witness.
I did not ask you to tell what you heard from someone else, I
wanted you to tell me what you know about this thing yourself." A
witness is one who can say what he or she knows personally, and a
Christian is one who knows personally in their own life that Jesus
is alive. It is just this that makes us Christians. But then the
Lord keeps us on that foundation all through our life. He allows
us to come into difficult situations.
Christians are people who have peculiar trials and difficulties. I expect there are a great many here in this hall tonight who know that a great many of their troubles have come to them because they belong to the Lord. You would never have had any of the trouble that you have had, if you were not a Christian. We were listening to some of these problems this afternoon, and they are problems peculiar to the Christian life, and the history of Christianity is just the history of people who have known extraordinary suffering. I suppose we say, "Well, now that I am a Christian, I will no longer have any trouble!" Well, if you get that idea, you will be disappointed.
If you are a Christian you are going into trouble. I don't want to discourage you, but there is a real reason for it. Why does the Lord allow it? Why do we have this trouble and difficulty? The Lord allows it for one purpose; that is, in order that we shall be a testimony to the fact that Jesus lives, that His Life does really conquer death. This is what we are here for: to keep the testimony of Jesus in this world, the testimony that God raised Him from the dead. The testimony of Jesus is not something in a book in heaven, or in the Bible, it is not something that is in the Christian creed; the testimony of Jesus is something in the Christian heart. The testimony of Jesus is that God raised Him from the dead.
Dear friends, you and I in every day of our lives ought to be that testimony. People ought to say about us, "Those people are alive, these people have got Life. They have got something that no one else has." And when we come to explain it, it just comes back to this, "Yes, we have something that only God could do!" Therefore Christianity must be of God. The Christian life must be something of God.
The Work of Satan
Now, you know that the work of Satan is all death. Satan in the
Bible is called the one who has the power of death. He has got
hold of death and all his work is the work of death. He has many
ways, but his one object is death. I think I will trespass on your
time just enough to point out some of the ways in which Satan will
work. Sometimes he works directly to kill us. He did that with
Abel in the Bible. You remember that his brother Cain killed him,
and the New Testament asks this question: Why did Cain kill Abel?
Because he was of the devil. Because Abel was faithful to God,
Satan killed him. He tried to do the same with Moses. You remember
in Egypt that Pharaoh commanded that all the little boys up to
three years old had to be killed, and Moses had just been born at
that time. I think Satan knew who Moses was, even when he was just
a baby. He had some idea of what Moses was going to do, so he
made a direct attack to try to kill Moses. And how many more of
the men in the Old Testament suffered in the same way; but we come
to the Lord Jesus. He had just been born when Satan tried the same
thing with Him. Herod commanded that all the little baby boys be
massacred. Satan would kill all the boys in order to get hold of
one. So Satan makes direct attacks sometimes.
Another method of Satan to bring death is this: he is always trying to involve people in something which God cannot accept; that is, to bring them into defilement, because he knows that God will have nothing to do with that. So Satan is trying to bring us into some defilement so as to bring us unto death. And then, he is always trying to bring us into condemnation, he is always accusing us of our sins, and you know that a man or a woman who lives under accusation, lives under death. It is not life but death to be always under condemnation. This is the work of Satan; it is all unto death, but the work of Christ is all unto Life.
The Work of Christ
The very first thing that the Lord Jesus gives to everyone that
believes on Him is resurrection Life; that mighty Life by which
Jesus conquers death, He gives to believers. A true believer has
the resurrection Life of Christ in him or in her, therefore a true
believer has something in them that only God can give. There is
something about a true Christian that is wholly of God: that Life
whereby Jesus conquers death is a life that can never see death.
If we have that Life, we shall go on and on. Satan will make his
attacks, but we shall be going on all the time, that Life in us
will overcome! The power of His resurrection is in the true
believer and this is the secret of the believer's spiritual
growth. This Life must grow. You know that is something about life
that everybody recognises... life cannot stand still, it must
grow. If you strangle it and stop it, then you kill it. If you let
it have its way, then it grows and if you let this Life of Jesus
which is in you have its way, your own spiritual life will grow
Now, I have covered a lot of ground, but I only wanted to say one thing: a Christian is something that only God can produce. A Christian is God's answer to all the works of Satan. They said, "Kill the Christ" but God raised Him. You see, Satan moves and God answers. Satan moves to death, and God answers to Life. God's answer is always Life and we are, therefore, God's last word to death. Christians ought to be God's last word to Satan, God's last word to death; we ought to be God's answer. You see, God wants us in this world to be His answer; the answer that here is something that is absolutely, and finally, and only, of God. This is something that only God can do, and something that only God has done. Now, you will have to forgive me for taking too much of your time. But when you are talking about eternal Life, you have got to have eternity to talk about it!