Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. David Fagrey, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD
45. What benefit do we receive from the resurrection of Christ?
First, by His resurrection He has overcome death, so that He might make us partakers of the righteousness which He has obtained for us by His death. Second, by His power we are also now raised up to a new life. Third, the resurrection of Christ is to us a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.
Question 45 explains the biblical basis of article 5 of the Apostles’ Creed: “The third day He arose from the dead.” The core of the gospel is that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The soul of Christ, which (for three days) had been in the hands of His Father in heaven, truly did return to His body in the tomb and come forth from the grave. His resurrected body was adorned with immortality, no longer subject to the frailties of a human body, but it was still flesh and bones (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:24-29). Christ’s resurrection “is proven by the testimony of angels, women, evangelists, apostles, and other saints, who saw Him, felt Him, and talked with Him after His resurrection [Matt. 28:1-9; 1 Cor.5-8; Acts 1:2-3]” (Ursinus, 233). Even Christ’s enemies could not deny but tried to cover up the fact of the empty tomb (Matt. 28:11-15).
Christ’s resurrection was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Psalm 16:8-11; Luke 24:46-47). Christ Himself foretold His own resurrection (Matt. 12:40; 16:21; 26:32). His resurrection proved He truly was the Messiah, the Son of God, who came to give eternal life to all who believe in Him (John 20:30-31; Rom. 1:1-4).
Christ rose from the dead to give us believers the benefits which He obtained for us by His death. The first benefit is justification (which will be explained more fully in Question 60). Christ “was raised for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Justification is God’s verdict that we are forgiven the eternal penalty of sin and accepted as righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Christ imputed to us (Rom. 4:1-8; 22-24). We are justified the moment God works true faith in our hearts (Rom. 3:28).
The second benefit of Christ’s resurrection is that by the power of His Holy Spirit we are regenerated (born again), that is, raised spiritually from the dead, which is exactly why we believe in Jesus (Eph. 2:8), and confess our sins to God (1 John 1:9), and desire to please God out of thankfulness for our salvation (Rom. 6:4). “And you God made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1; cf. John 3:3).
The third benefit of Christ’s resurrection is that it guarantees our physical bodies will also be raised from the dead (Rom. 6:5; 1 Cor. 15:20-23). Our salvation includes both soul and body. Both soul and body belong to our faithful Savior Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 6:19-20). “He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies” (Rom. 8:11). Since we still have to suffer death in our body, we “who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for… the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23). Our resurrected body will be like Christ’s resurrected body (this will be explained more fully in Question 57). “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21).