3 Ways to Deny the Resurrection (Without Being a Liberal)

Most readers of this site would cringe at any suggestion that they might have liberal theological beliefs. But what about a liberal theological application? We all know that our real theology is what is applied. How we live over time communicates what we genuinely believe. Therefore, since you likely would not deny the resurrection on a theological exam, let’s make sure you do not deny it in the lab, either.

In this brief article, I want to provide three ways that you might be unwittingly denying the resurrection by how you live. I’ll get at them by way of question. The goal is not to make you feel bad, but rather to provide a diagnostic to help you evaluate your life and make proper adjustments.

Do you have a disproportionate focus on this world?

The resurrection of Christ initiates not only his exaltation but also the new creation. We understand from Scripture that the last Adam is remaking what the first Adam broke (Rom. 5:12-14, 18-19; 1 Cor. 15:42-49). This view helps us to sharpen our focus. The material world is not to be rejected, but it is also not to be worshiped. The new creation has broken into this world through the gospel. In fact, we are remade to be part of this new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). This is why the New Testament writers lift our chins above the earthly horizon to understand, from the perspective of the new creation, to seek the things from this new order, rather than the old. We read in Colossians 3:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Col. 3:1–4)

This is straightforward. We are to set our hearts (what we love) and our minds (what we think about) on the things above—not on the things below. Grammatically this is an ongoing pursuit rather than a one-time deal. The ongoing course of our lives is to be calibrated by the new creation.

What does Paul tether this truth to? The resurrection. Notice, “If (or perhaps better, since) you have been raised with Christ . . .” This truth of seeking the things above pivots on the resurrection of Christ.

It follows, if your life is not characterized by seeking the things above, then you are not living out an essential implication of the resurrection.

What do you think about? What comes to mind when you mind shifts to neutral? What do you love? What do you do? How do you spend your time? The resurrection has implications for all of these types of questions.

Do you yield to sin?

You can’t be neutral with sin. There is no peace treaty with sin, only war.

Flowing out of this truth of verses 1-4, Paul reaches for the spiritual machete to go to work on the remaining weeds of sin. In verses 5ff. he tells us to “Put to death therefore all that is earthly . . .” This is a call to actively get to work slaying sin. As John Owen famously writes, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.” A resurrection reflex is the mortification of sin (Rm. 8:13).

We read of this also in Romans 6. Paul identifies one of the implications of our union with Christ as holiness. We will walk in a new manner of life (Rom. 6:4). We have been set free from sin (Rom. 6:7) because we have died to sin (Rom. 6:11). Because Christ triumphed over death in the resurrection, we do not have to yield to sin (Rom. 6:12-14). We who were formerly slaves of sin, have been liberated and are instead slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:18).

It follows, if your life is characterized by yielding to sin rather than killing sin, then you are not living out an essential implication of the resurrection.

Is your life marked by mortification or pacification of sin? By God’s grace are you growing in holiness or regressing? Would your family and friends tell you that you are becoming more like the last Adam and less like the first?

Are you a committed church member?

Do you think of church membership when you think about the resurrection? You should. While there is indeed a personal element to the resurrection there is also a corporate. In Ephesians, we read about Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and session (Eph. 1:20-21). We love this glorious theological truth. But don’t stop there! When we keep reading, we see that this exalted King who is the head over all things is also the head of the church! He is the Lord and life-giver of the body of Christ.

This should shape how we read Ephesians going forward. Jumping into Ephesians 4 we read that we are to live in such a way that adorns the gospel rather than muting it (Eph. 4:1-3). Our lives are to be characterized by a togetherness that does not look worldly but otherworldly. We are to be humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, and forgiving with one another. This body life communicates the reality of our resurrected Lord over us. How we live with one another declares the resurrection.

But that’s not all. When we go on through Ephesians 4, we learn that God has a plan for our spiritual growth. What is this connected to? That’s right, the resurrection and ascension of Christ (Eph. 4:8). He has given gifts to the church to equip and train church members to serve in ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). What happens out of this training? The church grows in Christlike maturity. As members speaking the Word of God to one another, we grow in love (Eph. 4:15-16). I submit to you that we cannot do this as individuals. It is impossible metaphorically (a hand cannot be separated from the head). And it is impossible practically—we cannot grow on our own.

While it might not be immediately obvious, a life of Christianity disconnected from other brothers and sisters in the membership of a local church speaks volumes about what we know and believe about the resurrection. Paul has these things directly connected.

Are you a member of a local church? Do you participate in the life of the congregation?

As valuable as it is to study systematic theology, it’s helpful to consider their implications in the life of the church. What does the Bible say about the resurrection and how it should affect my life? We need to do more than merely believe it on paper; we need to live out the implications in our lives. Thankfully, the risen Christ gives sufficient grace to enable this very thing.