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The Resurrection According to Paul

By: Pastor Ricky Kurth

This article is the text from a message delivered at Faith Bible Church in Steger, Illinois and was originally published in the Berean Searchlight (March 2008).

Did you ever notice how death and dying bring people together? When a loved one is passing, even feuding family members keep a bedside vigil. Later at the funeral, people who haven't seen one another in years gather together as one.

But the death of the Lord had the opposite effect! As His death drew near, His apostles forsook Him (Mark 14:50), and after His death, even the great Apostle Peter returned to his fishing business (John 21:3). It was the Resurrection that brought His people together, and it brings us together here today!

The resurrection of Christ played a major role in the Apostle Paul's first recorded sermon in Acts 13. Let's begin in Verse 26, where we read:

Acts 13:26

Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.

Notice that Paul�s first recorded sermon was given primarily to Jews. This is highly significant, for professing Christendom has been historically anti-Semitic. For instance, history tells us that the church of Rome persecuted the Jews during the Dark Ages.

But it is said that Martin Luther also hated the Jews! Early in his life he favored them, thinking they would turn to Christ after his break with the Roman church that had persecuted them. But when they persisted in rejecting the Christ of Protestantism, he is said to have turned viciously against them, perhaps buying into the old 'Christ-killers' mentality. Many anti-Semitic quotes attributed to him can be found on anti-Christian web sites, where atheists use them to discredit Christianity as hateful and intolerant.

Renowned auto maker Henry Ford was also reportedly anti-Semitic. Ford wrote a book expressing his feelings-- a book that we are told was later read by Adolph Hitler.

Perhaps you are thinking it doesn't matter if you are anti-Semitic, for you are not an influential person like Luther or Ford. However, while you may not be anyone in the world, you are the world to someone. Someone looks up to you, and values your opinion, and all anti-Semitism is a poor testimony for Christ. Paul's example here clearly demonstrates our responsibility to share 'the word of this salvation' to Jews as well as to Gentiles.

Notice in Verse 26 that Paul also addresses all who fear God. If you are not saved, you need to fear God. Please don't think that a loving God won't sentence you to eternity in the Lake of Fire. It is true that 'God is love' (1 John 4:8); that's why He sent His Son to die for your sins. But if you reject Christ, you should know that the Bible also says that 'our God is a consuming fire' (Hebrews 12:29). You need to trust Christ as your Savior, and Christ alone.

There is an old saying that is of particular interest on 'Easter' Sunday: 'Don't put all your eggs in one basket.' This is usually good advice, but not when it comes to salvation. You cannot put some of your faith in the blood that Christ shed for your sins, and some in your own good works. The Lord did all of the work necessary for your sins. All that He asks is that you believe that all of the work for your sins has been done.

Acts 13:27

For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

Most of our Lord's ministry was conducted outside Jerusalem among the common people, and 'the common people heard Him gladly' (Mark 12:37). Did you ever wonder why the Lord then sought the approval of 'they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers'?

Most people of influence are concerned with the common man. When Groucho Marx was breaking in a new vaudeville act, it was well-received among his elite group of friends, but he wondered if it would be popular among mainstream Americans, and so coined a phrase by asking, 'Will it play in Peoria?' At that time, this Illinois city was well known to be a cross-section of the American populace, a host to people of different race, creed, color, and income. Corporations would test market their products in Peoria, and to this day in an election year, reporters often visit to see how the claims of the candidates are being received by the common majority.

This is because in many countries candidates need only the vote of the common majority to get elected. However, in Israel of old, the Lord seemed intent on also gaining approval of those who sat in Moses' seat (Matthew 23:2), whom He hoped would be the 'builders' of the kingdom (Matthew 21:42). This is why the Lord returned to Jerusalem during the last week of His earthly life, asking 'Will it play in Jerusalem?'

As we know, it didn't. A week after He entered the city, Israel's builders 'disallowed' (1 Peter 2:7) and crucified the Lord because, as Paul says here, they 'knew Him not,' and He took the kingdom out of their hands (Matthew 21:43 cf. Luke 12:32).

But how could they not have known the Lord? Well, despite what we see in the paintings of the masters, the Lord wore no halo, and His heart did not glow through His chest, as it is often portrayed. We can prove this Scripturally. When His enemies tried to kill Him, He was able to pass through their midst unnoticed on more than one occasion (Luke 4:28-30; John 8:59, 10:39). Had He any distinguishing features, they would have simply cried, 'Grab the guy with the halo!'

But if there was nothing distinctive about the Lord's appearance, how were Israel's leaders supposed to have known Him? Ah, as Paul reminded his hearers, they should have given heed to 'the voices of the prophets.' As the Lord said of the Scriptures these prophets penned, �they are they which testify of Me� (John 5:39).

In Isaiah 35, the prophet Isaiah told Israel that someday 'your God will come' and 'then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing' (v. 4-6). Thus when the Lord healed the blind, the deaf, the lame, and the dumb, whom should they have known among them?

And there is more. Job 9:8 says that God 'alone' 'treadeth upon the waves of the sea.'  And so when the Lord walked on the sea (Matthew 14:25), they should have known that their God had come!

Perhaps Israel's leaders were unfamiliar with these passages? I don't see how! As Paul says here, the Scriptures were read 'every Sabbath day'! This means that each week they listened to the reading of the Scriptures, but did not hear them.

How about you, Christian friend? Do you go to church each week and hear the pastor preach that 'He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again' (2 Corinthians 5:15)? Do you hear these words, but continue to live for yourself?

Next, Paul says that 'because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets' 'they have fulfilled them in condemning Him.' Here we mustn't be confused. Just because the Scriptures predicted Israel would condemn the Lord doesn't mean they had to do so! They had a free will, and had they chosen to accept Christ, the Scriptures would have predicted that instead! Just because we serve a God so great that He can the worst thing that ever happened (the crucifixion of Christ) into the best thing that ever happened doesn't mean He caused the Jews to condemn the Lord!

Acts 13:28

And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

Our Lord was actually tried by at least three different men, including Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod, yet all 'found no cause of death in Him' (Luke 23:22). 'Yet desired they Pilate that He should be slain,' and Barabbas the murderer released (Mark 15:6-11). Don't miss the symbolism here! The innocent Christ died so that the guilty Barabbas might go free. There is no evidence that Barabbas ever believed on the One who died in his place. How about you, my unsaved friend?

Acts 13:29

And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

Perhaps you've noticed that sometimes the Bible says the Lord died on a cross, while in other places it says 'tree,' as here. My own thinking is that the cross on which He died was not the smooth, polished variety that is used to remember Him today, but was rather so roughly hewn so as to be little more than a tree. Also, the term 'cross' would be familiar to Gentile Romans, while 'tree' would be familiar to Jews (Deuteronomy 21:22), hence both words are used. I wonder if there isn't also some symbolism involved here as well. You'll never find fruit growing on a cross, but a tree is life-giving, as is the cross of Christ, for all who trust in Him.

Next we read that 'they laid Him in a sepulchre.' Throughout history, men have been buried in some pretty fancy tombs. One of Egypt's pharaohs was buried in the Great Pyramid of Giza. But the lord lived such a plain life, you would think He would be buried in a rather plain tomb. Why do you suppose God allowed Him to be buried in the tomb of 'a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph' (Matthew 27:57-60)?

I believe it was because in those days the poor were often forced to share a tomb with others. While the Lord was indeed poor, it was essential He be buried in a 'new tomb' (Matthew 27:60), one 'wherein never man before was laid' (Luke 23:53). You see, it was well known that a man was once buried in the tomb of Elisha, 'and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood up on his feet' (2 Kings 13:21). Because of this, God the Father was anxious that men know that the Lord didn't rise by coming into contact with the bones of some holy man, but that He rose from the dead by His own power and holiness (John 10:17-18; Romans 1:4).

But if out Lord arose by His own power, why does Paul say:

Acts 13:30

But God raised him from the dead:

And why does Romans 8:11 affirm that it was the Spirit who raised Him? Ah, surely this is another attestation to the oneness of the Trinity. And just as surely it means that after His death, the Lord passed three more examinations, after which He was righteously released from the prison of death. Due to overcrowding in our nation's prisons, our flawed justice system frequently releases men from prison before they have paid their full debt to society. But there is no way any member of the trinity would have released Christ from the prison of death had He not paid our sin debt on Calvary.

Of course, when the Lord rose from the dead, Joseph got his tomb back! How symbolic this is of how anyone who ever gives anything to the Lord receives it back. The Lord borrowed a penny to teach people to pay their taxes (Luke 20:24), but how many of you think the Lord absconded with the penny? He borrowed a boat from which to address a multitude of people on the shore (Mark 4:1), but does anyone think He didn't return it? The same could be said for the donkey He borrowed for His ride into Jerusalem, and the room He borrowed to eat the Passover with His disciples. And we know that the boy who loaned Him a few loaves and fishes (John 6:9) received his gift back in exponential fashion!

What's the point? Anything and everything that you as a believer give to Him is something you will get back in eternity. All of the time, money, the effort, and the passion that we give to Him will likewise be repaid in exponential fashion. I believe the Lord will be a rich rewarder of the smallest favors done in His name.

Acts 13:31

And he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.

1 Corinthians 15 mentions over five hundred witnesses to the resurrection of Christ, making it one of the best-attested events in history. There were not 500 witnesses to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and yet no one doubts Booth shot him.

But perhaps you are thinking that hundreds of people have also claimed to have seen Elvis Presley since his death! While this might be true, it is probably because there are hundreds of Elvis impersonators walking in the streets! However, there were no Jesus impersonators. Even His apostles forsook Him and fled, and were trying to disassociate themselves from Him, not impersonate Him (Mark 14:71). Besides, if they really wanted to prove Elvis was dead, they could dig him up and display his body. But while out Lord's enemies would have loved to silence all that resurrection talk by producing His body, they could not, for He had risen.

Acts 13:32-33

And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, [33] God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.

Notice Paul calls Christ's resurrection 'glad tidings,' that is, good news or gospel! This is different than how Peter preached Christ at Pentecost. Peter charged Israel with the death of Christ (Acts 2:23; 3:13-15; 4:10), adding that God had raised Him up despite their efforts to dispose of Him. This was not good news! If you kill someone, then hear that your victim has risen from the dead, this would be very bad news indeed! The man would no doubt come looking for you, and he would not be pleased! This was precisely how Peter preached Christ at Pentecost.

How different was Paul's message! Paul's preaching of the cross was not, 'You did it, and you'd better repent of it!' Paul's message was rather 'God did it! He did it for you! He's not angry with you and wants you to be reconciled to Him!'

Notice Paul says the Lord was 'begotten' of the Father. This Bible word often refers to births, but also to resurrection, for when a man is raised from the dead, he is given new life just as surely as when he was born.

This explains Paul's allusion to the Lord as 'the firstborn of every creature' (Colossians 1:15). The cults misuse this verse to teach that the Lord was the first thing created in God's creation, negating His deity, and His identity as the Creator. However, in context this verse is rather teaching that He was the first of God's new creation, for He was the first of many who will also rise from the dead and receive resurrection life (Acts 26:23).

Acts 13:34

And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.

These 'sure mercies' involve the promises God gave David concerning a son. David was promised that his son would be given a kingdom, and that this kingdom would last 'forever' (2 Samuel 7:12-16). These promises were fulfilled in Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:6-7) and in all of David's subsequent seed. But when the last of his seed was crucified, God's promise to David was looking anything but 'sure.' Nevertheless when God raised His from the dead, it was manifest to all that God's promises are indeed sure (Psalms 89:1-37), as David believed them to be (2 Samuel 23:3-5).

Acts 13:35

Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.

Al human bodies corrupt in the grave, and yet Psalm 16 speaks of One that would not see corruption. This psalm was written by David, but David could not have been writing about himself.

Acts 13:36

For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:

Paul could have proved that David's body saw corruption by exhuming it, for as Peter informs us, 'his sepulchre is with us unto this day' (Acts 2:29). And so David misspoke if he was speaking of himself. Of course, we know he was rather speaking prophetically of Christ, as Paul asserts:

Acts 13:37

But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.

An old Union theme song from the Civil War declared of a controversial abolitionist, 'John Brown's body lies a-molderin' in the grave,' and this can be said of the body of everyone who has ever died-- except Christ! Biblically speaking, the corruption of a dead body begins on the fourth day after death (John 11:39), and our Lord arose on the third!

Acts 13:38-39

Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: [39] And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Notice that it is 'all that believe' who are saved and not all who behave. Your behavior has nothing to do with your salvation. Wee often speak of 'the plan of salvation,' but the word 'plan' does not appear in Scripture. Paul rather speaks of 'the word of this salvation' (v.26), and if the gospel could be boiled down to one word, that word would be believe!

In closing, I should point out that the complete line from the Civil War song is 'John Brown's body lies a' molderin' in the grave, his soul is marching on.' Part of what was meant by this was that while the abolitionist might be dead, the spirit of abolitionism lived on. Similarly, many who deny the bodily resurrection of Christ will agree that 'He lives,' but only through the spirit of His teachings, while His body continues to molder in the ground.

If this be true, then we are of all men most miserable (1 Corinthians 15:19), and your loved ones who have died in Christ have perished, with only their memory living on (v.18). Thankfully, this erroneous view of the resurrection of Christ is refuted here in this passage, as well as in countless other passages.

When Joseph of Arimathaea finally died, imagine the confidence he must have felt, knowing they would lay him in the very tomb from which His Lord arose! Such confidence is not limited to Joseph, but is joyfully extended to every believer, for when Christ arose He became 'the first fruits of them that slept' (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

We began by saying that the Lord's resurrection brought His people together, just as it has brought us together here this day. But there is coming a day when His resurrection will bring us together again for the last time. Old feuds will be put aside forever, and God's people will gather together as one. What a day of rejoicing that will be!



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