The Cross and the Resurrection | Part III

Question 3: It’s through union with Christ’s resurrection that we have been raised to walk in new spiritual life. If we talk about the cross so much, won’t we end up focusing only on sin and ignoring this important aspect of the Christian life? Doesn’t a focus on the resurrection lead us to a more holy, victorious Christian life? (Issue: Helping believers pursue sanctification)

Texts that speak of our union with Christ are precious and should be proclaimed and cherished. The Holy Spirit transforms the believer, providing power for godly living. Absolutely. But as in so many areas of biblical teaching, we must always beware of disjunctive thinking—of separating things that should be kept together. For example, it is not only the resurrection that provides tremendous hope and motivation for a transformed life; the cross is meant to function this way as well.

It seems that for Paul, one of the primary motivations for living a holy life is that Christ died for his sins: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14‐15).

We see a similar connection in Galatians 2:20, which falls amid Paul’s argument concerning justification by faith. The indwelling of Christ in the believer’s life is real and true—and Paul will stress this elsewhere, such as Galatians 5:16 and following. But his primary point in Galatians 2:20 seems to be that his new life is lived by faith, based solidly on the truth of justification as a result of Christ’s death for him. For the believer, then, both the cross and the resurrection fuel our motivation for godly living—and it’s best that they do so together.

We should also recognize that the danger of isolating one set of truths from another cuts both ways. To be sure, the new birth, our union with Christ, and the gift of the Spirit decisively transform our lives. But our present existence is not simply one of unbridled glory and triumph. We still battle the flesh, and we do so in a fallen world that awaits Christ’s return before all is set right again.

And so, while we can know “the power of his resurrection,” at the same time we are to “share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). We rejoice that we’ve been “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3), even as we trust God in the jaws of suffering, knowing that “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). The Savior himself told his disciples that following him involved a life of cruciform self‐denial (Mark 8:34 35; 9:35; 10:42‐45).

To isolate either the cross or the resurrection in the Christian life is to distort and impoverish it. The cross and resurrection together shape the contours of our lives as disciples of Jesus.

For part one of this series, click here.

For part two of this series, click here.