I received the following via Facebook message Monday morning: “I have a question regarding the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The question is: Who is responsible for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Did God the Father raise him from the dead? Or were all three Persons in the Godhead involved?”
Dear brother _________, thank you for your question. I always appreciate my brothers in Christ who have enough interest in the important teachings of the Bible to seek information and understanding. The subject of the resurrection of our Savior is an important Bible subject because it is connected to our understanding both of what God has done and our hope of what he will do for us in the future.
What would seem to be the straightforward answer to your question is found in Acts 2:24 – “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” Another reference that says essentially the same thing is Acts 5:30; “The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.”
Some references seem to say that Jesus would raise himself! John 10:17-18 “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” Hebrews 7:16 says that he possesses “the power of an indestructible life,” meaning that death could not hold him.
There are verses that seem to indicate that the Holy Spirit played a part in Jesus’ resurrection. Romans 1:4 says that he “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.” Scholars are disagreed about the meaning of “Spirit” here. Some think it should be a “little s” – spirit – meaning his own spirit and not the third personality of the Godhead. Others maintain that this has reference to the Holy Spirit. If it is the Holy Spirit, this would agree with what Jesus said the function the Holy Spirit would be when he came. He would “…glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:14). All through the New Testament we see the indications of this very thing. The prime example of this, of course, was what happened on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 with Peter’s Spirit-inspired sermon which resulted in 3,000 souls responding to his moving message.
This should not come as a surprise to us that all the persons of the Godhead should be said to have had something to do with the resurrection. The fact is that what one does, all participate in. This is seen from the very beginning in Genesis 1 where the word translated “God” is plural, indicating the idea that the fullness of deity can only be expressed in the plural.In Genesis 1:1, God (elohim, pl.) is said to have created and then in v. 2, the Spirit is said to have been moving on the face of the waters of that primeval creation, bringing order out of chaos. Another evidence is in Genesis 1:26; “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” All the above indicates that whatever one member of the Godhead does the others are intimately involved in also.
There is not much said about what happened in the tomb. The Bible simply does not give us very many details. While this may not serve to satisfy our curiosity, it gives us enough to provide for our faith in the fact that he was raised from the dead. The gospel writers testify that the tomb was empty. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 Paul lists the abundance witnesses as proof that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the tomb. In this same chapter the writer argues that if Jesus was not really resurrected then the faith and hope of the Christian is in vain.
It seems that the Biblical emphasis is not on who raised him or how it was done, but upon why. What does the resurrection mean? What effect is it intended to have on our thinking, our faith, our lives?
As already seen, we can trust that Jesus is the Son of God because he was raised from the dead (Romans 1:4). Then there is the deep significance indicated in our baptism that we are raised with him to newness of life (Romans 6:5). Resurrection is an essential part of the gospel which is the power of God for our salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1ff; Rom. 1:16). It is also a part of that for which we hope.
The apostle Paul once prayed for people to have a deeper insight into this very subject. He asked …
“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 1:17-20).
In these verses you will notice that Paul wanted the Ephesian Christians to know three things. He wanted them to know (1) “what is the hope to which he has called you,” (2) “what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” and (3) “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”
Now we must ask why Paul wanted these Christians to know the greatness of God’s power by which he raised Christ from the dead. To find the answer to this question we must keep reading into the second chapter of Ephesians. After showing that God raised Jesus to the position of King (“seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,” the same as Peter declared in Acts 2:36), we are told that we all (Jews and Gentiles) were “dead in the trespasses and sins” (2:1). Then in 2:5-7 he shows that those who are saved by grace through faith have been by God “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (2:6).
Resurrection isn’t just a historical fact that happened once long ago. It is not just a fact that we are supposed to believe. It is something we experience when we are saved. Our resurrection is to seat us with Christ “in the heavenly places.” Our resurrection is like his resurrection. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power that raises us up. The authority that set him at his right hand seats us with him.
In Romans 1:4 Paul connects the Spirit with the resurrection of Jesus who “…was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.” You will notice that this passage emphasizes the resurrection being evidence of Jesus identity as the Son of God. Thus our faith in him is undergirded by this fundamental fact. And by the fact that we have experienced a resurrection by the same power that raised him up we know that we also are children of God. Paul speaks of the believer’s burial with Christ in baptism that “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4).
What this amounts to is that every individual who has been thus raised up with him has been restored to the original position he was intended by God to occupy from creation. We have become co-rulers with Christ. We were created to share with the Creator in the rule over creation (Gen. 1:26,28). Our resurrection with Christ puts in that position.
The fullness of this will not be realized until the final resurrection when the creation itself undergoes its own transition to its originally intended development – when the curse on the ground is reversed and the ultimate manifestation of God’s perfect creation once again reflects his perfect glory. And we shall share in all that as a part of our resurrection inheritance (Romans 8:18-25).
Meanwhile, let us rejoice in the resurrection to life we have already undergone with our Savior. Let us live the resurrected life as free from sin and bondage. Let us use our present exalted status to serve and glorify our God while we eagerly await the day when we can praise him perfectly as human beings perfected by his grace, fully restored to relationship with him.