The things hoped for: on faith and the resurrection

As we Christians celebrate the bodily resurrection of our Lord, we loudly proclaim that he is risen. Now through much of my Christian life, I tended to translate that into merely a spiritual enterprise. Meaning, the resurrection signifies the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to the Father, baptism into the kingdom of God and union with Christ. It is that transaction that raises us to new life in Christ (see Romans 6:5-11).

Over time, I’ve come to recognize how this frame of thinking circumvents the significance of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. For his resurrection not only points back to God’s intention in creation but also brings the future of that intention into the present. In other words, it’s not enough for us to reduce the resurrection to merely a spiritual enterprise, that we are now part of God’s adopted family but there is a broader framework in which this reconciliation happens related to God’s restoration of what he intended. It’s why Paul emphasizes our bodily resurrection in 1 Cor 15, to which Christ’s resurrection is a first fruit. Death is an enemy because it is antithetical to creation. The entrance of sin and death unleashed such cosmic wreckage that the whole of the Bible’s story explains God’s plan and action to redeem his creation from that cursed grip.

In that regard, here’s a connection to the resurrection and faith I found quite interesting and insightful. I’ve been reading through this incredible book by Michael D. Williams, professor at Covenant Seminary. Far as the Curse is Found: the Covenant Story of Redemption  is essentially a biblical theology of God’s historical-redemptive narrative from Genesis to Revelation, or in other words, “the biblical story of God’s unfolding covenant relationship with his people.” I absolutely love that he starts the book off with The Resurrection: the Single Best Page of the Story to show that the whole story of redemption is anchored in and centered on the work and person of Christ according to what God intended from the beginning.

The writer of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). How does this relate to the resurrection?

The restoration of all things signified and promised in the resurrection is at one and the same time the hope of the believer and the horizon in which he must understand all reality, for it is the direction in which the believer is traveling. Faith means having something to which we confidently look forward. It means having a goal. The basis for informed Christian action is its vision of the future, and that future can be stated in one word: resurrection.

The usual or popular notion of faith is that it is a trust in something transcendent, anti-creational, otherworldly, anti-scientific, and heavenly. Faith is believing in spite of the facts; and it has nothing to do with anything historical. Faith is believing in what we cannot see. Faith is geared toward spiritual rather physical things, right?

Well, no. ‘Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see’ (Heb. 11:1) The text is not talking about the heavenly, the otherworldly, or something that contradicts this-worldly reality. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews is talking about a faith that places its trust in that which comes to us in history. What the church hopes for is the bodily return of the Lord to consummate the kingdom. That is an event in history, albeit a future event. What we do not see is that which we as yet have not experienced. As the chronicle of redeemed sinners (Heb. 11:4-40) makes plain, faith is being sure of God’s promise of the future. The promise is anchored in God’s absolute faithfulness to the covenant history of his people.

Believing in something spiritual is easy. Very few people actually refuse to believe in a deity of some sort. But believing that God acted in Jesus Christ, raising him from the dead, and that his resurrection is God’s absolute promise that he will be victorious over sin and death and will reclaim his fallen creation in the glory of Christ’s return, now that’s faith. (15)

Hear what he is saying. Because the ultimate hope for the believer is, or should be, the restoration of all things finding its redemption in the work and person of the Son, faith must have as its object that future point because that is where the Christian is headed. It’s not enough to just believe that what is hoped for is some kind of ethereal idea related to the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Father, but rather encompassed in a broader reality rooted in a physical perfection of all things that are reconciled in Christ (Col. 1:16-17). It’s also why I have this increasing conviction that a gospel presentation that leaves out the end goal of ultimate redemption short circuits it.

It makes me mindful that when we pray, ‘you kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ that we in essence praying for a taste of the things hoped for and a bit of evidence of things not yet seen. It means our presence matters. Our bodies matter. What we do with our mouth, hands and feet matter. Because God’s creation matters.

One thought on “The things hoped for: on faith and the resurrection

  1. Minister Donald Johnson April 16, 2017 / 4:43 pm

    Great post, Lisa! God’s Speed!

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