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God’s Word for You

Acts 26:4-8 I believe in the resurrection

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, February 12, 2021

4 “The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning among my own nation and also in Jerusalem. 5 They have known me for a long time and if they are willing they could testify that I lived in step with the strictest sect of our religion, as a Pharisee. 6 And now I am on trial today because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers 7 which our twelve tribes hope to attain as they earnestly serve God night and day. O king, it is because of this hope that I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why is it thought to be incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?

Paul’s defense is a sermon on his life. The first part (vs. 4-8) is about his youth and education as a Pharisee. Part 2 (vs. 9-11) is the story of his days persecuting the Christians. Part 3 (vs. 12-18) is about his conversion by Christ, who sent him to preach to the Gentiles. Part 4 (vs. 19-21) is the recent event of his being taken prisoner in the temple in Jerusalem. The conclusion is that what Moses and the Prophets foresaw had now been fulfilled in Jesus (vs. 22-23).

In this first part of Paul’s defense (or sermon), he gives the details of the first part of his life. Born outside of Judea, he was raised and educated in Jerusalem among the Pharisees, “the strictest sect of our religion.” Paul calls them “a sect” or hairesis (αἵρεσις), from which the word heresy is taken (2 Peter 2:1). It means to pick or choose, as when the Lord told David to choose one of three options “for me to carry out against you” (1 Chronicles 21:10). In the case of a heretic, the choice is to pick up on one or a few particular commands in the Scriptures and then to ignore or downplay the rest of God’s Word. The Pharisees chose to uphold the law but dismissed the gospel as the means of salvation. Yet they still held out the hope of the resurrection of the dead. Paul ignores the Sadducees as a group outside the faith of the rest of Israel, which was true. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, but all other Jewish sects, Pharisees, Essenes, and middle-of-the-road or ordinary Jews, put their faith in the promise of the resurrection. Paul says that this is what “our twelve tribes hope to attain.” Isaiah had proclaimed, “The redeemed, the ransomed of the Lord will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads” (Isaiah 35:9-10). What is everlasting joy without everlasting life? Daniel prophesied: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

The preaching of Jesus agrees with the simple sense of these verses: “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life” (John 6:47). “Whoever believes in [me] shall not perish but has eternal life” (John 3:16). “I give my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:28). And he spoke about the dead rising many times (Mark 12:24-27, John 5:29, 11:23, etc.).

Jesus used the very name of God to prove the resurrection: “In the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive” (Luke 20:37-38). In Moses’ time, Abraham had been dead for more than five hundred years, but God didn’t say “I was the God of Abraham,” but “I am the God of Abraham.” Abraham will rise, and Isaac, and Jacob as well. So shall we all.

In the resurrection, God will raise the same body we have now, which is why we also call this the “bodily” or “physical resurrection” rather than a “spiritual resurrection” that some churches preach. Remember that Christ (who rose with the same physical body) is called the firstfruits. He is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). So the rest who have fallen asleep will also rise. Also, Romans 8:11 says that God will make our mortal bodies alive.

Then there is 1 Corinthians 15:53. This passage says: “The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” This change, this transformation, can’t happen if the mortal bodies do not rise. A man can’t put his old car through the crusher at the junkyard and then say to himself, “I’m going to get new tires for that car.” What car would the tires be for? A ship’s captain can’t sit in the lifeboat as his burning vessel breaks apart and disappears under the waves and say, “Someday I’m going to give that ship a new coat of paint.” What would he paint without the ship? Without the original, the original cannot be transformed. So it is with our bodies. These bodies cannot “clothe themselves” with the imperishable if they do not exist or rise from the dead.

True, Paul calls the resurrected body “a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44), but that doesn’t mean that our physical bodies won’t exist, or will only be spirits. A man has flesh, and a man has spirit. It is not the spirit that is buried in the grave, and until Judgment Day it is not the physical body that waits in heaven (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Lutheran pastor Johann Quenstedt (1617-1688) said about this: “The same body in number and substance that is borne in this life will rise on the Last Day, and therefore our revived bodies will be spiritual bodies in respect to their qualities, not in respect to their substance.” That is to say, we will have this same flesh. “In my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another” (Job 19:26-27). But our flesh will be transformed to be sinless and holy.

In this way, I understand there to be at least four reunions in the resurrection. For all mankind: (1) the reunion of the human body with its soul, whether in heaven or in hell (Matthew 10:28). And for all believers: (2) the reunion of the human with the image of God (Genesis 1:27, (3) the reunion of all of us in heaven with God in person (Revelation 7:17), (4) the reunion of all of us in heaven with one another, those who have gone before and after us. We shall know one another and recognize each other, just as the apostles recognized Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration (Mark 9:4-5; Luke 9:30-33).

Cherish your faith and wait for the coming of the day of the Lord. In the resurrection you will have unimaginable joy, a bliss that will endure for all eternity.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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