Easter

From the Archives: I Will Raise It Up

(Originally posted 3/22/2011)

Many children raised in Christian homes do not understand the meaning of Resurrection Sunday. They might choose the correct answer on a multiple-choice test but would flunk an open-ended question (“Why do we celebrate Easter?”). Open-ended questions provide the best measurement of understanding.

Fortunately, some of these kids will later appreciate the meaning of the holiday. They will learn that Easter is not about bunnies, baskets and ham, but the resurrected Savior. There were no bunnies at the tomb as far as we know. The women may have carried baskets, but we know that Jesus never tasted ham.

Similarly, Jesus’ disciples understood many of His teachings only in retrospect. After the resurrection, the disciples finally understood that He had to die an atoning death and then be raised.

3659 reads

Christ's Resurrection and Our Newness of Life

lilliesBy C. H. Spurgeon
Sermon 2197 delivered on Lord’s-day morning, March 29th, 1891 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4)

I HAVE AFORETIME preached upon the whole verse, so that this morning I shall take the liberty to dwell chiefly upon the latter part of it—“Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

The idea that the grace of God should lead us to licentiousness is utterly loathsome to every Christian man. We cannot endure it. The notion that the doctrines of grace give license to sin, comes from the devil, and we scout it with a detestation more deep than words can express. “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”

On our first entrance upon a Christian profession, we are met by the ordinance of baptism, which teaches the necessity of purification. Baptism is, in its very form, a washing, and its teaching requires cleansing of the most thorough kind. It is a burial, in which the man is viewed as dead with Christ to sin, and is regarded as rising again as a new man. Baptism sets forth, as in a picture, the union of the believer with the Lord Jesus in his baptism of suffering, and in his death, burial, and resurrection. By submitting to that sacred ordinance, we declare that we believe ourselves to be dead with him, because of his endurance of the death penalty, and dead to the world and to the dominion of sin by his Spirit; at the same time, we also profess our faith in our Lord’s resurrection, and that we ourselves are raised up in union with him, and have come forth through faith into newness of life. It is a very impressive and vivid symbol, but it is without meaning unless we rise to purity of life.

572 reads

Real Resurrection

cross

April 8 is Easter, when Christians worldwide celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. We gather the first day of every week throughout the year for this same purpose, but Easter Sunday marks the anniversary of the event.

Or does it? “No, no,” some insist, “not the anniversary of the event, the commemoration of the experience.”

It has become something of a rite of spring for some leading voice among this or that mainline Christian denomination to assure the world that the resurrection of Jesus was not a historic event. In March 2008, for instance, the Dean of Perth at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral, the Very Reverend John Shepherd, insisted that “the resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality.” He urged his hearers to understand that it is “important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the resurrection was an extraordinary physical event which restored to life Jesus’ original earthly body.” The physical resurrection of Jesus is not only unessential to Reverend Shepherd’s faith, it is apparently something of an encumbrance.

The fourth article in the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion—not long ago the Anglican Church’s official creed—claims that “Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature.” But not to worry, the Very Reverend John Shepherd assures us, religion is always evolving. Old, dusty documents like the Articles should not be permitted to exercise undue influence upon our enlightenment.

632 reads

Shall We Observe Holidays?

NickImage

Today (the day upon which I write this essay) is Maundy Thursday. Tomorrow will be Good Friday and this Sunday is Easter.

In the liturgical calendar, each of these days has a special significance. Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, Good Friday the crucifixion, and Easter Sunday the resurrection. Christians have observed these dates for centuries, along with others such as Palm Sunday (commemorating the Triumphal Entry), Annunciation (commemorating Gabriel’s visit to Mary), and Christmas.

Some Bible-preaching churches observe all of these days, while others observe only the most important. A minority of Christians have refused to observe any of them. For example, many Puritans believed that observing Christmas was an instance of will-worship, and they rejected it entirely.

The notion of will-worship grows out of the so-called Regulative Principle. Perhaps the most fundamental rule of worship in the Reformed tradition, the Regulative Principle was adopted wholesale by both the Anabaptists of the continent and the Baptists of England. In brief, the Regulative Principle states that churches are permitted to employ only those elements of worship that are authorized in Scripture.

The Regulative Principle is what led many of the Reformed (including the Puritans) to reject the observance of days like Christmas. The New Testament nowhere instructs churches to observe the day, and it nowhere depicts its observance. The same would be true of other holidays like Maundy Thursday and Annunciation. Since the observance of these days is not authorized in Scripture, they were thought to be merely the product of human invention and self-assertion. After all, worship that is not required by God can only be offered to please the worshippers, which means that the worshippers are really worshipping themselves. This act of self-assertion is what the Reformed (following Col. 2:23) refer to as “will-worship.”

2286 reads

Pages