Heidelberg Catechism Lesson 17

Q. 45. What doth the resurrection of Christ profit us?

First, by His resurrection He has overcome death, that He might make us partakers of that righteousness which He had purchased for us by His death;[1] secondly, we are also by His power raised up to a new life;[2] and lastly, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.[3]

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:17;  [2] Romans 6:4; Colossians 3:1, &c.;  [3] 1 Corinthians 15; Romans 8:11.

Commentary

The doctrine of the resurrection of Christ is so important that the Apostle Paul regards it as a vital Gospel verity, which if not believed would render our faith meaningless. He says: “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor 15:17). Amazingly, however, there are many today who claim to be Christians who do not believe this important doctrine. These are the liberals, whom, as Machen rightly observes, have a totally different religion from Christianity. It does not take a lot of intelligence to know that Machen is right, for this is exactly what the Apostle Paul says in the text we just quoted.

But why is the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ so important? The catechical statement we are considering gives us three inter-related reasons, all of which may be proved from the Scripture.

First, we know that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead indicates the divine acceptance of the sacrifice, which He made on behalf of His people (cf. Acts 13:33). This is why the Apostle Paul teaches us that if Christ were not raised, we are yet in our sins; for if Christ were not raised, then His sacrifice on our behalf had not been accepted. Elsewhere, Paul says the same thing positively by teaching us that Christ “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Rom 4:25).

Secondly, we know from Scripture that there is a close connection between the physical resurrection of Christ and our spiritual resurrection or our regeneration (cf. Jn 5:24). This connection is founded upon our union with Christ, and is the basis of what the Lord said to Martha: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (Jn 11:25). For this reason, the Apostle Paul teaches us that we were “buried with him by baptism unto death” (Rom 6:4) and “risen with Christ” (Col 3:1), that we may “be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom 6:5). That is to say that just as our baptism identifies us with Christ and signifies our death to self and sin, on account of Christ’s death, so we are made alive on account of Christ’s resurrection. The Apostle Peter similarly teaches us that God “hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet 1:3). We are, in other words, quickened spiritually by the same power of God by which He raised the Lord from the dead.

Thirdly, the resurrection of Christ is a divine pledge and assurance that all who are united to Christ will also be raised in a blessed resurrection at the last day. Paul speaks about this blessed hope in a number of places. He tells the Corinthians that “Christ [is] risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Cor 15:20). And writing to the Romans, he says: “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom 8:11).