ArticleBible & Theology

The Triumph of the Cross

To grasp the importance of Easter, one must understand what Jesus accomplished on the cross.

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:17

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

As we approach the Easter weekend, we are reminded Jesus Christ died and rose again and our life is hidden in him (Colossians 3:3). In and of itself, the death of Christ is insufficient if Christ had not risen from the dead. If Jesus in his humanity remained dead, there would be no conquering of sin and death. But the triumph of the cross of Christ is demonstrated because death was unable to hold our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who bore our sins has exhausted the curse of sin.

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin famously says that the death and resurrection of Christ are synecdochic. By this, he means that when one is referenced there is a view to the whole. In effect, you cannot have one without the other. The cross is an empty, meaningless death if Jesus Christ just died. As Paul explicitly states, if Christ is still dead and not raised from the dead, we are still in our sins. A dead man has conquered nothing and set us free from nothing. If all we have is the resurrection, there is no bearing of sin and paying the curse for sin that God’s Law declared. We need a Savior who both died for us and now lives for us in his resurrected humanity.

Christ’s resurrection guarantees that you and I will share in the resurrection unto life. Christ is the representative of his people both in his death and in his life. His death is the perfect bearing of sin and exhausting the wrath of God for sin. We share in this death through our union with Christ and receive it through faith in Christ. In his resurrection life, we will come to share in the resurrection to an eternal glory of the New Heavens and New Earth. All who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will be made alive in Christ. First, new life is imparted to our hearts. Second, new life will be imparted to our body. The same power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in the gospel as those dead in sins are being raised to spiritual life in their hearts. It will continue to work in us when the Lord returns and we are raised bodily from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ proclaims to us his vindication and triumph over death. As Isaiah 53 tells us, God the Father sees the death of his Son and is satisfied (Isaiah 53:11). The Lord is the Righteous One. He perfectly paid for our sin. He is raised up in perfect righteousness. The verdict of the resurrection that the Father gives to the Son is ‘my Servant is righteous.’ The Son, in his humanity, is fully righteous. God declares in the resurrection that the one who bore our curse is the truly Righteous One. The good news of the gospel is that those who come to the Lord Jesus Christ receive the same verdict that God gave the Son. We are declared “righteous” receiving as a free gift the verdict of a good standing with God. The Bible says that Jesus “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). He is raised up for us so that we could be declared righteous before God.

As you approach Easter, consider how we see Jesus. We have come to know him. To know Jesus is to know that he suffered and died for us. To know Jesus is to know that he rose again from the dead for us and for our salvation. The resurrection does as much to accomplish our salvation as the death of Christ does. You cannot have one without the other. In his death and resurrection, we see our Savior. “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).

As you think about Jesus during the Easter weekend, we are reminded that the incarnation of Jesus continues beyond his death. In his incarnation, Jesus had a human body and a human soul. His body died and was in the grave. In resurrection, his soul and body were united again. He continues to live now as a truly human being who has conquered sin and death for us. God has crowned as King within his creation the one who is eternally the Son of God over all creation. The death and resurrection give us every reason to worship our God and praise his name for the salvation he accomplished on our behalf.

About the Author

Tim Bertolet serves with ABWE as HR Coordinator. He previously served for sixteen years in pastoral ministry and has experience as an MK. He holds a Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from the University of Pretoria, a M.A.R. in Biblical Studies from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor’s in Bible from Lancaster Bible College. He resides in York, Pa. with his four daughters. Tim enjoys reading, writing, theology, and is an avid fan of science fiction.

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