Resurrection was central in Paul’s vision of new life. Nowhere is this more obvious than in two of Paul’s most famous passages: Romans 6-8 and 1 Corinthians 15. These passages contain some of the most foundational and often quoted verses in the Christian faith.
Romans 6:1-23. Chapter 6 begins with some thoughts on baptism. Two major ideas emerge. First, at baptism, the believer identifies with the death of Jesus Christ in order to “rise” and walk in newness of life here & now (6:4). This newness of life becomes a present and defining reality. Second, this newness of life is defined by anticipation – not of being dead in heaven – but of a coming resurrection just like Jesus (6:5). This present reality – newness of life in anticipation of resurrection – constitutes Paul’s vision of life in Romans 6-8.
Now let’s take a moment to point out the obvious: Our bodies (in their current states) are in desperate need of a divine overhaul. But nevertheless, we – BODIES AND ALL – are destined for resurrection life in the New Creation. Although there will be transition and transformation…
the new life we have begun in Jesus Christ will never come to an end. And when we step fully into eternity, it will be a natural extension of the lives we’re now living.
So when Paul says we enter “newness of life” at baptism, he wasn’t kidding. And what has begun will never end!
Now is our time to live accordingly. Now is the time to set our bodies (including our daily habits and rhythms of living) apart unto God in worship (6:12-19). Now is the time to establish a trajectory in our lives before Jesus that we want to carry us into eternity.
As Paul continues in 6:15-23, you can almost hear him exhorting his friends, “Don’t be naive. You’re doing SOMETHING with your body. You’re serving SOMETHING. You’re obedient to SOMEONE’s desires.” The only question is what? Whose?
As Christians, this is why we have “new” life. Things are not the same as they used to be. We are learning to live wisely in light of what lies ahead. We are serving God here & now with everything we’ve got. We’re living as a people whose lives before their King will never come to an end.
Romans 8:11-30. After working through some realities of resurrection life through chapter 7, Paul reiterates and expounds on resurrection as the centerpiece of his vision for new life in chapter 8:
- You’re not going to stay dead. Your BODY is not going to stay dead. You will experience the same resurrection as Jesus (Romans 8:11).
- Christians do not rightfully yearn for death and heaven. We only endure death as we (along with all of creation) await and anticipate “the redemption of our bodies” – resurrection and renewal (Romans 8:23).
- Resurrection is the hope in which we are saved in and through Jesus Christ (Romans 8:24).
1 Corinthians 15
After looking at Romans 6-8, perhaps you’re thinking…
Wow. If this resurrection stuff is for real, that’s some pretty good news. People should probably know about this.
Well, you’d be in good company. This is precisely what Paul thought. So let’s turn to and read the most explicit “gospel” passage in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 15:1-57. Here is Paul’s brief summary of the Good News:
- Christ died for our sins in accordance with God’s story (1 Corinthians 15:3).
- Jesus was buried (body and all)(v.4).
- Jesus was resurrected (body and all) in accordance with God’s story (v.4).
- Jesus spent time with more than 500 people after his resurrection before ascending into heaven (v.5-8).
- Jesus was the first fruit of resurrection life that will one day be shared with all his people (v.20-23).
Paul understood the entirety of God’s story. He recognized what had taken place in and through Jesus. He knew Jesus wasn’t an aberration. He wasn’t a means for people to escape from this fallen world. He was God’s ultimate victory. Jesus brought redemption. He guaranteed restoration and renewal for all creation. He defeated death in his resurrection. And some day soon, his victory will be shared by all of God’s people! This is the news Paul was announcing. This is Paul’s vision of new life.
Let’s continue on through chapter 15 for a few more takeaways:
- We’re not going to slowly evolve into resurrection life. This will be no human accomplishment. Our hope does not lie in science or medicine, despite their best attempts to prolong the inevitable breakdown of our present, mortal bodies. After all, mortal “flesh and blood” cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (v.50). Our hope lies elsewhere…
- There will come a change. Our perishable bodies will put on the imperishable. Our mortal bodies will take on immortality! (v.51-53)
- Death (not just sin) will be overcome by Jesus’ victory. (v.54-57)
- Resurrection life is a present, life-shaping reality for Jesus’ people. Because resurrection lies ahead, we press ahead in service of our King Jesus in the confidence that our labor is never in vain (v.58).
So what now?
Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
(Excerpt from Reimagining Discipleship)