1 Corinthians 15:17, 20
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is empty; you are still in your sins. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
If your mother hadn’t born you, you would not have family, you could not stand, you would not have life. But your mother did bear you, you are born and here you live; this truth stands forever. Now, there are many today who do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead, that He didn’t awake and rise from His final sleep.
But that’s not what we’re talking about today. There are also those who don’t believe that at the end of time, all who have died will rise again in their bodies. Instead, many believe that the soul resting in Heaven and the body left in the grave is the end, functionally that there is no New Creation, no final victory over sin, death and the devil. But then what is Easter? Those who reject the final fulfillment of Christ’s Resurrection, the resurrection of the dead at the end of time, question whether Jesus’ death has truly dealt with your sins, whether He stands in victory over sin, death and the devil or not. And when you sin, or worry over our own death, or fall to temptation; you live as though there was no Resurrection, as though you are still dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), as though you are not baptised into Christ.
But He has baptised you (Ephesians 5:25-27), your mother has born you, and Jesus did rise and stand victorious from the grave. This is truth stands forever. You are baptised, united with Christ in this, His death and rising from death, you now live and stand in His Resurrection (Romans 6). This is something that can never be taken away from you, you are baptised, it’s a historic fact. Just as Christ’s rising from the dead is a historic fact. And we can’t change the past, we all know that.
Yet you can, now, choose how to live, how faithful you will be, but you can not change what has happened; your birth, your baptism, and Christ’s Resurrection still stand. They last forever. And this is one of the things we mean by that first Lutheran slogan, “The Word of the Lord stands forever!” (1 Peter 1:25; Isaiah 40:8). His Word to you in your baptism stands forever, His Word to you in the Absolution stands forever, His Word to you in the Gospels, in Holy Communion, in the Aaronic Blessing stands forever. That Word of forgiveness, life everlasting and holiness for you stands forever. This is our sure and certain hope, I am baptised.
But what does baptism mean? What does it mean to be united to Christ in baptism, to be raised with Him and be united with Him in His Resurrection? And what do those words mean, raised and resurrection? Well, raised or rise in Greek and Hebrew mean just that, ‘to rise’ also rouse from sleep or to awake. But resurrection is the funny one, to most it’s always refers to rising from the dead; and yet it sounds a lot like insurrection. Resurrection, insurrection; resurgence, insurgence; now Insurrection refers to a standing against, Resurrection is a standing up. And the word, resurrection/standing up, is used both for Jesus at Easter, and more so for the dead at the end of this age.
So then what does it mean that Jesus stands up; and that at the end of this age, when death is destroyed, that all the dead will stand up? What does it mean but that He and all will stand while those things that seek our fall, sin death and the devil will not; that Jesus stands forever, He lasts forever, but sin, death and the devil stand no more. His standing, His Resurrection, is His victory over sin, death and the devil. And our union with Christ’s life in Baptism; our union, our participation with His Resurrection; is how we are no longer slaves to sin; how death has no power over us; and how, though they protest and assault, the demons will not defeat us who are in Christ.
This is why we ‘work out our faith in fear and trembling’ (Philippians 2:12), why we like all Christians from Pentecost to today, devote ourselves to the apostles teaching, fellowship, Holy Communion and prayer (Acts 2:42). That when the evil comes we stand in the full armour of God, looking to Him and relying on the gifts He gives (Ephesians 6). And this is why when you fail, when you fall, you come back to receive again from God His service, His Divine Service, to stand you up again, to participate again in His Resurrection longing for the end when those united with Christ receive His blessings in full. So what is baptism? What does it mean? It means union with Christ and the promise of His Resurrection, His victory over your sin, your death, and your devils here today and everyday in Christ.
You cannot change the past, and yet we know what will last. For Jesus stands forever, sin, death and the devil do not. And Jesus stands forever for your sake, that you might stand with Him in victory today, and at the end stand together with all His kingdom as the kingdoms of sin death and the devil fall to lay in the dust forever. God has baptised you, it cannot be undone, The Holy Spirit draws and unites you to Christ in His Resurrection, His victory is yours today. This is the Good News, the Gospel for us to speak, by God’s Word of promise, you are forgiven, purified, and provided life everlasting in Christ.
And so, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and until we all stand forever with Him. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.