Annotations to the Heidelberg Catechism - Lord's Day 17
Lord's Day 17
How does Christ's resurrection benefit us?
by His resurrection
He has overcome death,
so that He could make us share
in the righteousness
which He had obtained for us
by His death.
by His power
we too are raised up
to a new life.
is to us a sure pledge
of our glorious resurrection.
Q. & A. 45 The Lord Is Risen Indeed
- The Catechism immediately asks about the benefit of the resurrection and does not speak first about its fact. Indeed, it cannot say anything about the fact, for the Lord did not permit anyone to witness it.
In the days when the Catechism was composed, the fact of the resurrection was not denied among Christians. It is different today. Liberal theologians have taught that Jesus did not truly rise from the dead, but that he merely rose in the disciples' imagination. However, this assertion is in direct conflict with the reports of the evangelists. Those who believe the assertion must reject the reports of the evangelists as fantasy or lies.
It is impossible to maintain that the fact of the resurrection is not so important, but that the idea of the resurrection is what matters. How could a dead Jesus possibly benefit us? His teachings and example are not sufficient for us. We need Christ himself. Paul writes to the church at Corinth (1 Cor 15:17): If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.
It is not our calling to prove the resurrection. God requires us to proclaim it and we must urge the hearers to accept it in faith. It is our task to expose the unsoundness and untenability of the arguments against the resurrection.
- Acts 1:3 says that Christ presented himself to his apostles alive after his passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days. The Scriptures mention the following appearances:
a. Mary Magdalene (Jn 20:11-18);
b. The other women (Mt 28:8-10);
c. Simon Peter (Lk 24:34; 1 Cor 15:5);
d. The disciples from Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-34);
e. The disciples without Thomas (Jn 20:19-23);
f. The disciples with Thomas (Jn 20-29);
g. At the sea of Tiberias (Jn 21:1-24);
h. More than 500 brothers (1 Cor 15:6);
i. James (1 Cor 15:7a);
j. At the ascension (Acts 1:4-12).
Further, also: Stephen, Saul, John on Patmos.
- The Lord arose with the same body with which he had been laid in the grave. But it was changed in quality. It was initially glorified.
- Scripture speaks not only of Christ rising from the dead, but also of his being raised. The resurrection of Christ was the work of the Triune God. The Father raised him and thereby announced that the Surety had fully satisfied the debt (Rom 4:24). The Son rose himself and thereby powerfully demonstrated that he is the Son of God (Rom 1:4). And the Holy Spirit was also active in the resurrection (Rom 8:11).
- Christ conquered death through his resurrection. He did not thereby merely escape death for a shorter or longer period (Lazarus), but, having been subject to the power of death, he acquired power over death. His resurrection was, therefore, not a return to this life, but an entry into life eternal.
- Through his death (i.e., all his suffering) Christ earned our justification. He is able to obtain our justification through his intercession, in which He pleads for our acquittal on the basis of his completed work. He makes us accept our acquittal in faith (Justification).
- Through his power we are raised to a new life. Our old nature was a life of enmity toward God, a life in which we were dead and deaf to God's Word. But the risen Christ raises us to a new life in which we seek the Lord and respond to his Word (Sanctification).
- Finally, Christ's resurrection is a sure pledge for us of our glorious resurrection (Glorification).
The resurrection is, therefore, the evidence of our justification, the power of our sanctification and the pledge of our glorification.
B. Cross References
- BC, art. 19, states that Christ conquered death by his power.
- BC, art. 20, confesses that God raised Christ “for our justification.”
- Why does the Catechism not speak about the fact of the resurrection? Is the fact of the resurrection accepted by all who call themselves Christians?
- What do liberal theologians assert about the resurrection? How do you counter that assertion?
- Is it important that Christ has in fact risen from the dead?
- How can we be sure about the fact of the resurrection? Which appearances do you know of?
- With what kind and what quality of body did Christ rise?
- How else do the Scriptures speak about the resurrection? Whose work was the resurrection?
- What did the Father make manifest by raising Christ?
- Did Christ return to this life as a result of the resurrection?
- What benefit do we receive from Christ's resurrection? (Name three benefits).