I was speaking in Woolwich the other day, and in trying to set forth the risen Christ, the following illustration came to my mind: — Suppose God had made known, that nothing could possibly save England from invasion, and conquest, but the resurrection from the dead of her greatest general, the Duke of Wellington. The enemy is on our shores; the moment of peril has arrived. The good news flashes along the wires; what is it? Wellington has risen! England is saved. Yes, the good news would not be merely the history of his past life, great as was his victories; but the fact of God having fulfilled his promise in raising him from the dead. "Wellington's risen," would be the joyful sound. What his resurrection would be to England, the resurrection of our blessed Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, is, to every one who believes the good news of God.
The apostle Paul had seen the risen Christ in heavenly vision, above the brightness of the sun. This heavenly vision had to do with every thought, and step, of his after life. In that risen Christ a new creation was opened up to him. Every thought in his heart was changed. He had been struggling hard to establish his own righteousness and blameless life. All this he now tramples under foot, as dang and dross. Old things passed away; all things became new. The risen Christ is everything to him. "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain," and "ye are yet in your sins." Some, in this day, can preach what they call Gospel, without the risen Christ at all. They will point to the life of Jesus on earth in the flesh; and tell men the way to heaven is to imitate the example of Christ, as He lived on earth. Such a Gospel was not worth a straw to the apostle. He says, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins." And again he says: — "Wherefore, henceforth know we no man after the flesh; yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth, know we him no more."
In all the preaching of the apostles, the promises of God are shown to be fulfilled in this one thing; — the raising of Jesus from the dead. They had been slow to understand the Scriptures, that Jesus must suffer and rise from the dead. The Jews expected the Messiah to improve their condition as a nation. They knew no need of death, and resurrection. They did not understand the solemnities of Calvary; when Jesus died the appointed, sin-bearing, sacrifice, the holy One, the righteous One, was laid among the dead. But they knew not the everlasting destinies that were sealed in that sepulchre.
Let us stand by the tomb of Jesus, in solemn meditation. What a mystery of love. What a place for the Son of God to take. The atoning Lamb, slain for us, dead and buried. All this foreordained of God. His purpose was not the improvement of the old creation, but the beginning of a new creation. Jesus must be the first to rise from the dead. The great stone was rolled away from the door of the sepulchre. Jesus arose from the dead. The linen cloths that bound his body are calmly laid aside. The napkin that was about his head was folded, and laid in a place by itself. God has triumphed gloriously; Jesus has passed through death, and now He is "The beginning, the first-born from the dead." (Col. 1:18.) "All this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes." The rejected stone becomes the beginning of a new creation. Oh, behold this living stone, the risen Christ. Adam was the beginning of the old world, and he began it in sin and death. But what a creation must that be, which has the risen Christ for its beginning and foundation. Oh, blessed first-born from the dead, all thy brethren are one with Thee in resurrection. We do not yet see this new creation, but we see Jesus, crowned with glory; and we know that what He is before God, that God sees us to be, "for as He is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4:17.) Surely what a translation it is, when a sinner is brought to God. From darkness to light. From death to life. From sin to holiness divine.
Through this risen Christ, "Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:38.)
These are the words of God, who cannot lie. So that he who believes God, is as certainly forgiven all sins, as that Jesus has died and is risen, My follow-believer, how plain this is. If Jesus is risen, then you aye forgiven. And not only forgiven, but justified through Him, from all things. This is what gladdens my heart; — dead with Christ, risen with Christ, justified with Christ. When He arose from the dead He was justified of God from all things; my every sin was laid to his charge, and from my every sin, He was justified when He arose from the dead. He is the first risen I man, behold Him! Is He not sinlessly perfect, absolutely righteous, glorious in holiness. Brightness of the Father's glory, there can be no spot on Thee! Fellow believer, this risen Christ is thy righteousness. Thou art certainly justified from all things, through and in Him. If thou thus lookest at this risen Christ, and believest this one blessed fact, that thou art risen with him, then mayest thou be well, assured that there can be no condemnation to thee in Christ. Who can condemn the holy, risen Jesus? then who can condemn those who are risen with Him? Think what it is to be one with Him, in resurrection, life, standing, and spotless, cloudless righteousness. Boundless grace to take our place, and be made sin for us in the old creation; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, the beginning of the new creation.
The justification of the believer is thus the risen state of Christ. Not the justification of himself — his old, sinful self. No, all that he was and is, has been, not justified, but condemned, and put to death, and buried in Christ. So that God is now perfectly righteous in giving the believer this justified state in the risen Jesus, who first bore our sins in his own body on the tree. How complete, then, the justification of the believer in the risen Christ. We shall be amazed when all this is manifested in glory, that we did not more fully believe it, and declare it to the whole world.
Now, if the risen Christ is thus the believer's justified state, mark, it never alters, — never varies. It must be what He is, unchanging, perfect, and everlasting. You must see plainly the risen Christ is ever spotlessly perfect before God; yea, more, He is incapable of failure; therefore the believer's justification in Him — yea, his perfection in Him, must be everlasting. It cannot, it need not be repeated. Yea, even further, so real is the oneness of the believer with the risen Christ, so really is he risen with Christ, that the new nature is incapable of failure. He that is born of God cannot sin. His standing before God is in resurrection, in that new creation of which the risen Christ is the beginning, and into which not a breath of pollution, can ever come. In one word, the standing and justification of the believer is identical with the standing and justification of the risen Christ, and, therefore, perfect and everlasting. The first words of the risen Jesus were, "Peace be unto you," and what a peace this gives the poor heart, — Oh, my reader, is it yours? The peace of the risen Christ. Perhaps you say, — But my walk and my works are not perfect as you describe. That is quite true; and if your standing and justification were according to your works, it would be as imperfect as them. No, the believer is not justified by works, but justified freely through divine grace, and called to walk according to his justification. And as many as walk according to the rule of the new creation, as risen with Christ, peace be on them. Whilst our standing before God is perfect in the risen Christ, the enjoyment of God's peace reigning in our hearts, depends much on our walking in the spirit, as dead and, risen with Christ.