Friday, 11 May 2007

Getting our enemies sorted out

Recently I found myself preaching on Easter Sunday and had to think about how to talk about the meaning of the resurrection. The easiest way to talk about the resurrection is to talk about it as a victory over death. This is true, of course; but I was struck by the fact that the significance St Paul sees in the resurrection has, I think, more to do with what it does to sin. "If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still... dead? No: in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17).

I think there is a tendency to speak of Death as the real enemy of God and life as its solution. We speak of death as the "great enemy." However, as Byron pointed out in a wonderful post some time ago, death is not the great enemy but the last enemy. The great enemy is sin, and we should not forget it.

In this, I found this quote from Oliver O'Donovan deeply helpful:
"The resurrection restores the life of all mankind, reversing the effects of sin; it reorders the disorder of which death is the emblem, and vindicates God's original act of creation." (Desire of the Nations, 142).
At the end of the day, a gospel where death is the ultimate enemy will be close, but finally inadequate.


Philip Britton said...

I think death, properly understood, is the consummation of all that sin works in and against us;
isolation, separation, desolation, silence...
Thus, resurrection is truly reversal. For Resurrection is new creation effecting reconciliation, righteousness, sanctification...

There is connection between sin and death as our enemies.

byron smith said...

If death is the main enemy, then martyrdom ceases to be intelligible.

Philip Britton said...

You've lost me Byron.

The martyr embraces death because of the greater value of God. This is following the model of Christ. It was for the joy set before him the Jesus endured the cross (Heb 12:12).
Christ's death is unintelligible in a Christian sense without Resurrection. It would seem to me that martyrdom is also unintelligible without ressurection hope.

I'm just heading off to read you post about sin being the main enemy. I hope I find the argument there.

Martin Kemp said...

My question has always been:

How does the resurrection deal with sin?

My hunch is that it has something to do with the link between sin and unresurrected flesh.

AndrewE said...

Hey guys. Phil, I think you and Byron are saying similar things. But Phil, I think I would use O'Donovan's phrase of death being the emblem of sin, rather than its "consummation". This, I suspect, is what Byron is trying to get at: martyrdom is unitelligble without resurrection hope; but if death it is intelligible as an opposition to sin, not death itself.

Marty: I think the link between resurrection and sin has to do with Jesus' death. The death and resurrection cannot be split apart at this point. Jesus took our sin and died our death so that we could share his life, free from sin. Take the resurrection out and what happens: we're still in our sins!

Matthew Moffitt said...

Off the cuff, death came through sin, and not the other way round, if you catch my drift.