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The Resurrection of Jesus is a matter of immense importance for the faith of the first disciples, and it becomes at once a central theme in their preach ing. To Paul it was a fact of history, and a force of the spiritual life; it is in the latter sense that it is set forth here. The apostle is not now con cerned with proving that Jesus actually rose from the dead; he is not moving in the realm of con troversial apologetics, but declaring and defining the influence that a living sympathetic union with the Christ exerts over his own life. By faith, he has risen with Christ, and hence he possesses a confident hope of attaining to the resurrection of the dead. Even when he deals with the doctrine of the resurrection, in his most argumentative manner, his great aim is not so much to prove that Jesus rose as that His disciples will rise from the dead. He does indeed state that faith in the resurrection is of vital importance, and that if sin and death have conquered, in the case of Christ, there is no hope for us. Jesus had been seen alive by credible witnesses, and had revealed Himself to Paul, hence there is no need to doubt this glorious truth, that He has completed His sacri fice, conquered death, and opened the Kingdom of 185
1 86 THE PHILIPPIA GOSPEL heaven to all believers. The questions which
exercise and torment the minds of many reverent thinkers, as to how these things can be, he does not consider with any elaborate manner; in the one case he does not touch them at all, and in the other, he has given one suggestion, drawn from the analogy of the seed that through death enters into a fuller life. He moves altogether in the sphere of history and religion; the problems which come to us from what we now call the world of science did not exist, in the same way, for him. The great thought that runs through the teach ing of Paul is the vital union of the believer with Christ, a union now of spirit and life which will grow into a union of character and destiny. Though he dwells on the two sides of historical reality and spiritual power, it is the actual present grasp that Christ has upon his personal experience that, more and more, becomes prominent and sig nificant in his thought. If we now consider well this living thread that runs through all his preach ing, we shall see that for such a man history and doctrine are valuable, in so far as they can reproduce themselves in the life of the believing man. History is the revelation of God, the life and death of Jesus Christ is the fullest manifesta tion of His perfect justice and unconquerable love. But God still reveals Himself to men of open mind and willing spirit. The life and death of Jesus is not finished in the sense that it is a mere external substitution. We may make fine dis tinctions, in our schemes of thought, but Christian experience means living over again the life of
RISE LORD A D RISE LIFE 187 Christ. The faith that sees the meaning of His life and appropriates the saving virtue of His sacri
fice is, in itself, a beginning of the new God-given life. Paul declares that he died with Christ ; He shares the self-sacrificing sufferings, and hopes to attain unto the same glorious resurrection. This is no exaggeration; it is no mere figure of speech; it is only poetic in the sense that every such pre sentation of living truth is poetic. It is not some thing peculiar to Paul, though he saw it with special clearness and lived it with remarkable consistency. If the life which he claims to possess were not possible to all of us, it might be inter esting as a piece of history, but would not be a suitable subject for a religious meditation. The lives of prophets and apostles, of saints, and heroes depend for their quickening power upon this fact, that in them we see at work the principles which underlie our own deepest life. What the resur rection meant to Paul, as a power of life, it may mean to us; "now is Christ risen from the dead and become the .first fruits of them that slept," has a great significance. It is a sweet gracious word .for the present, as well as a rich promise for the future. (i) The Teacher who fulfilled in Himself the hopes and prophecies of the past is the Saviour of men. In Him religion becomes spiritual, and drops the ceremonial wrappings and local limi tations, so that it can go forth to meet men s needs, and adapt itself to different modes of thought. Though this was in His teaching from the first, men could not see it clearly until they
i88 THE PHILIPPIA GOSPEL learned to think of Him as exalted to a loftier place and wielding a wider influence. He has not simply risen from the dead. He has gone up to
His rightful throne, from which He exercises kingly power, which was not possible to Him as a Jew among His own people. The risen Christ is to Paul the ideal man in whom all superficial dis tinctions are abolished, and from whom there issues a quickening power which every child-like spirit can receive. The ritualists who stirred his fierce indignation were from this point of view traitors to the King. (2), This exaltation of the Christ implies the completion of His supreme service as reconciling in Himself the life of God and man. The mani festation of God in Christ condemns our wicked lawlessness, and through the sacrifice of obedience, brings near the forgiving love, which takes away the sting of sin and the bitterness of death. As He moved among men He broke down the bar riers set up by religious pride and intolerance; in His presence the outcasts of society felt the power of a divine sympathy. This pity of God is now seen to dwell in the heavenly sphere and to be available for all who are bowed down under the burden of sin and sorrow. Indeed this love was always in the heart of God, but now that it has been made flesh and has dwelt among men, it has become the common property of all who can see the meaning of that great life. (3), Goodness is vindicated and enthroned. A new answer is given to the old problem of suffer ing. He who surrendered Himself to God most
RISE LORD A D RISE LIFE 189 completely was rejected and defeated. The Man whose life was to be for all peoples the highest type of goodness was doomed to the shameful
cross. But the message of the Risen Lord is that it is well for a man to lose his life for the sake of God and goodness. We know that with Paul this was not a theory or sentiment but a living creed and consistent practice. (4), The life which the Risen Saviour begets in those who trust and love Him is such that death cannot destroy it; it claims kinship with the divine and eternal, it springs up into eternal life. Paul knows that he possesses this life; he traces to it his noblest thoughts and most faithful ser vice; he desires to keep it pure and make full proof of it in his ministry ; and thus he will attain unto the resurrection of the dead. To work into one clear, grand scheme of thought all the history and theology that lies behind these beliefs and aspirations would require much time and skill. Paul does not attempt that here. The burden of his argument tends to show the vanity of trusting in anything save Christ and His revelation of truth and love, and to conduct this argument effectively to its goal he must show the many links which bind Him to that Christ who satisfies every need of mind and heart.
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