Designation by Resurrection, Life-Study of Romans, Message Fifty-Four, pp. 565-569
DESIGNATION BY RESURRECTION
We have seen that in 1:1 Paul said that he was "separated to the gospel of God," and then he goes on to say that the gospel of God concerns God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1:3). This indicates that the gospel of God is a gospel of sonship. The goal of this gospel is to transform sinners into sons of God for the formation of the Body of Christ.
THE PROCESS OF RESURRECTION
As we consider this matter of sonship, certain important words command our attention: designation, resurrection, sanctification, transformation, conformation, glorification, and manifestation. We are being designated sons of God through the process of resurrection. In this process a number of steps are involved. These steps include sanctification, transformation, conformation, and glorification. This glorification will also be the manifestation. Today people may not realize that we are Christians. But on the day of our glorification, no one will need to ask us whether or not we are Christians, for we shall be manifested as sons of God. That manifestation will be the consummation of the process of designation by resurrection.
Sanctification, transformation, conformation, and glorification are not four altogether separate steps. Rather, as sanctification is going on, we are also being transformed. Moreover, as we are being transformed, the process of conformation begins to take place. Eventually, as the spontaneous continuation and consummation of these processes, we shall reach the stage of glorification or manifestation. When sanctification, transformation, and conformation reach their peak, that will be the time of our glorification. This glorification will be our manifestation as sons of God. We are presently undergoing the process of designation by resurrection, a process which will ultimately bring us to the point of manifestation. The key to this process is resurrection. Therefore, we speak of designation by resurrection.
THE EXPERIENCE OF RESURRECTION
In this message we need to consider the matter of resurrection in some detail. We shall not look at it objectively, from the standpoint of doctrine, but subjectively, from the standpoint of the experience of life. Romans 6:5 speaks of the experience of resurrection. This verse says that we share in the likeness of Christ's resurrection. Some students of the Word have said that the resurrection mentioned here is the first resurrection spoken of in Revelation 20:4 and 5. But I do not believe that this is Paul's understanding of resurrection here. Paul is not saying that we must wait until the millennium to participate in the resurrection of Christ. In 6:5 Paul says that we have grown together with Christ in the likeness of His death and that we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection. This does not refer to a future, objective resurrection, but it refers to our present experience of Christ's resurrection life. We should not regard the resurrection merely as a future event, as Martha did in John 11. The Lord Jesus told her that He was the resurrection and the life (v. 25). His word indicates that there is no need for us to wait until a future day to have Him as resurrection. Resurrection is not a matter of time or place; it is a matter of Christ. If we have Him, we have resurrection. But if we do not have Him, we do not have resurrection life, neither now nor in the future. Hallelujah, resurrection is Jesus, the Son of God! As long as we have Jesus Christ, we have resurrection, no matter where we may be.
What a difference there is between the doctrinal teaching regarding resurrection and the subjective revelation of Christ as resurrection! What we need today is not the objective teaching about resurrection, but the subjective, living, up-to-date experience of Christ as resurrection.
CHRIST AS LIFE-POWER
To say that Christ is resurrection means that Christ is the life-power. Resurrection is life-power. With life there are the life-essence, the life-shape, and the life-power. Firstly we have the life-essence and then we have the life power. Following this, we have the life-shape, the life-form. Resurrection is Christ being the life-power to us. This is a very significant matter.
In 1936 I paid a visit to one of the leading universities in China. One of the students spoke to me about his difficulty in believing in resurrection. He told me that due to his modern scientific knowledge he could not believe. To him, resurrection was against scientific truth. Outside of the room where we were meeting there was a wheat field. Drawing his attention to the wheat growing in the field, I pointed out that the wheat was produced by some grains of seed that were buried in the earth. I told him that, in a sense, those seeds died, but that now they had come forth in resurrection as wheat. Through that illustration of death and resurrection, this young man was saved. Now he is one of the leading co-workers in Taiwan. This illustration shows that resurrection is a matter of life power.
THE FUNCTIONS OF RESURRECTION
Conquering Negative Things
This life-power has a number of functions. The first function is that of conquering. Resurrection is able to conquer every negative thing, including death. Apart from God Himself, the most powerful thing in the universe is death. Whenever death visits anyone, that one cannot resist it; he must yield to its power. Although death is so powerful, resurrection is even more powerful. Death cannot hold resurrection (Acts 2:24). On the contrary, resurrection conquers death and overcomes it.
In 1 Corinthians 15:26 Paul says, "The last enemy that is being abolished is death." This indicates that death is the strongest enemy. Such a strong enemy can be defeated only by resurrection. Therefore, the first function of resurrection, of the life-power, is that of conquering the negative things, especially death. The more resurrection is placed in a situation of death, the more opportunity it has to function to conquer death.
Swallowing Up Death
The second function of the life-power is to swallow up death. Resurrection not only conquers death and overcomes it, but it also devours it. In Numbers 14:9 Caleb said that the enemies of the children of Israel would be their food. Death, the last and greatest enemy, is food for resurrection. Sometimes an enemy is conquered, but he is still present. Through the function of the life-power, death is not only conquered, but is swallowed up to the point that it disappears. When the life-power swallows death, death vanishes.
Producing Growth, Transformation, and Shaping
The functions of conquering and swallowing are negative functions. Resurrection, however, also has many positive functions. The first of these is to produce growth and transformation. The more something grows, the more it is changed, transformed. Once again the growth of a carnation flower illustrates this. The carnation begins as a small seed. But after the seed is sown into the soil, it begins to grow, firstly into a tender sprout and eventually into a full-grown, blossoming carnation plant. When the carnation is still a sprout, it is difficult to distinguish it from other types of plants. But the more it grows, the more it changes and is transformed. It is transformed by growth.
In principle, the same kind of change takes place in children. As a child grows, his body assumes a certain shape. As the life-power transforms, it also shapes. The more we grow, the more we are shaped. Hence, resurrection causes growth, change, and shaping.
Releasing the Positive Things
Resurrection also releases the positive things. Fruit bearing is one kind of release brought about by the function of resurrection. In the bearing of fruit there is the release of the life-essence from within a certain tree. This indicates that through fruit-bearing the riches of the life within that tree are released. By the releasing function of the life power all that is in a seed—the root, the stem, the branches, the leaves, the flower, and the fruit—is released. As the seed is resurrected, everything positive in it is released.
We often speak about the riches of Christ. Christ with all His riches has been sown into us as a seed. We see this in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. According to this parable, Christ has sown Himself into us as a seed of life. This seed includes all kinds of positive things: love, holiness, righteousness, humility, patience, endurance. In this seed are both the divine attributes and the human virtues. The only thing that is needed is the release. Resurrection releases the essence of all the riches of Christ from within the seed.
The Power to Rise Up
With resurrection there is also the power to rise up. Resurrection, like the calamus used in making the anointing oil in Exodus 30, rises above the "muddy" situations. This calamus is a picture of the power in Christ to rise up.