Thursday, November 12, 2009

Richard Gaffin Study Day: The Resurrection in the Theology of Paul

Session 3: The Resurrection in the Theology of Paul: An Overview

Paul's "theology" is God's word: 1 Thess 2:13, and is to be received as such. The centre of Paul's gospel is Christ's death and resurrection: e.g., 1 Cor 15:3-4. The death and resurrection of Christ are mutually dependent in the salvation of sinners. The cross only saves because Jesus is risen. He was raised from the dead because he died on the cross for our sins, Romans 4:25.
The resurrection of Jesus has been the subject of relative neglect in Reformation theology. In general the church in the west has tended to think of salvation in terms of being saved from the guilt of sin. Hence the overwhelming emphasis on the cross at the expense of the resurrection. Often the bodily resurrection of Jesus is only mentioned in the context of an evidentialist defence of the facts. But Paul's focus is on the soteriological significance of the resurrection. It was good to hear Gaffin make this point as I've long felt this to be the case.
1. The unity between the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of believers

1 Cor 15:20: Christ the "firstfruits". The firstfruits were offered to God as a part of the whole harvest. The resurrection is one great event in two episodes. Christ the "firstfruits" guarantees the ingathering of the whole resurrection harvest.
1 Cor 15:12-19 stresses the inseparable bond between Christ and the resurrection of his people.

Col 1 : 18: Christ the "firstborn". He is supreme over death and able to save his people from the power of the grave.

2. The believer's resurrection as a present reality

In Eph 2:1-3 those who are dead in sin "walk according to the course of this world". In Eph 2:10, believers walk in good works. What makes the difference? They have been raised with Christ, Eph 2:5-6: the new "walk" (Col 2:12-13; 3:1; Rom 6:1ff.; Gal 2:20)

3. Summary
There are three factors in Paul's theology of the resurrection. 1) The resurrection of Christ. 2) The present resurrection of the believer's "inner self". 3) The future resurrection of believers.
The distinction between "inner self" and "outer self " is made on the basis of 2 Cor 4: 16. Better than talking about a present "spiritual" resurrection and a future "bodily" resurrection. As for Paul, "spiritual" means of the Holy Spirit, not immaterial, 1 Cor 15:44. The believer will never be more resurrected that he already is in the core of his being.

4. Conclusions and expansions

a) The resurrection and Christ

It is significant primarily for his humanity, not his deity, "by man" (1 Cor 15:21); "the last Adam," "the second man" (1 Cor 15:45, 47)

In Paul's teaching Christ was "raised," not "rose". He is the passive object of God's resurrection power. A different emphasis is found in John 2:19-22 & 10:17-18. In Paul the resurrection is not so much a proof of Christ's deity as the vindication of the incarnate Son who suffered and died for sinners.

The Holy Spirit: At his resurrection Jesus became "the life-giving Spirit" 1 Cor 15:45. This is Paul's commentary on Pentecost cf. 2 Cor 3: 17 & Rom 1 :3-4.
b) The resurrection, the Holy Spirit and the Christian

- (the future) 1 Cor 15:44: the "spiritual" body
- (the present) the Christian life: Rom 8:9-11; Phil 1 :6
c) The resurrection and the creation: Rom 8:19-23
In discussion we reflected on the way in which the resurrection of Christ tends to be neglected in Reformed systematic theology. In the traditional schema, discussion of the atonement is followed immediately by treatment of the application of redemption as if we could be saved by a dead Christ (see here). Also the believer's present "inner" resurrection is not often emphasised because of the focus on the ordo salutis. It would be better if the organising principle of Reformed soteriology was union with Christ. Only in that context should the ordo be discussed - as per Calvin in the Institutes. It is worthwhile noting that the final chapter of Book III of the Institutes is devoted to the resurrection of the body - Christ's and ours (see here).
In these notes I've only put a little meat on the bones of what Gaffin had to say at the Pastors' Forum. For more see his excellent Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul's Soteriology, (P&R). It was a real privilege to listen to Gaffin's lectures. His careful attention to Scripture and exegetical rigor in the mold of John Murray make him an exemplary theologian and teacher. He doesn't simply regurgitate great dollops of Reformed theology, he is a truly biblical systematic theologian.

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