It is no coincidence that where the theologically liberal view of Easter has taken root in the churches of the West there has also been a downgrading of personal morality and the weeds of permissiveness have been allowed to spread.
The liberal view of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is that it does not matter very much whether it happened historically. Because we moderns have progressed beyond a simplistic belief in miracles, unlike the primitive early Christians, it probably did not happen.
What really matters is whether a spiritual resurrection has happened in our personal experience. The question is thus not, did the resurrection of Jesus happen? But, has it happened to you yet?
Thank God, the New Testament does not give houseroom to such ‘progressive’, anti-supernaturalist arrogance towards the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ as a fact of history. It insists that the Lord Jesus really did rise bodily from the dead and was seen alive by credible eye-witnesses. And it insists that his bodily resurrection is hugely significant for our personal morals.
The Apostle Paul makes that link between the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus and the Christian’s daily moral living in his or her body crystal clear in Romans 6. In reply to antinomians who were claiming that Christian salvation by faith in Jesus renders morality redundant, Paul argued with characteristic force:
“By no means! How can we who have died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6v2-4 – RSV).
Christian believers, Paul taught, are spiritually united with the Lord Jesus Christ, who died to deliver them from the condemnation their sins deserve. Their spiritual union with Christ involves their having been immersed – baptised – into his death for their sins. It is this baptism into Christ’s death that has radically altered their formerly harmonious relationship with sin – that easy relationship is dead and buried.
The saved person’s previous relationship with sin is truly a thing of the past because the Christ who died also rose again to bring them into a new realm of spiritual and moral living. Paul made clear that as Christ “was raised from the dead by the glory of (God) the Father”, the Christian is now spiritually empowered to “walk in newness of life”.
The union of believers with the Christ who died and rose again bodily thus means that, wherever our bodies are, we are to avoid sinning with them but rather to use them to honour and obey God – at home, at work, in society, in our private moments. That is truly transformative of daily life and the spiritual basis for that practical moral transformation is the fact of the Christian’s union with the glorious Lord and Saviour who died, was buried and rose again bodily.
The Church of England’s Easter Day Collect beautifully encapsulates why a robust view of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is essential for our daily battle with sin:
“O God, who for our redemption didst give thine only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection hast delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us to die daily unto sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.”