"Oh! how should we rejoice, we who hang our salvation wholly upon Christ, that beyond a doubt it is established that, 'now is Christ risen from the dead.'"
For Charles Spurgeon the historical reality of the resurrection was unassailable and essential. Examining the annals of history he noted that the “fact” was “exceedingly well attested.” But this was suiting. Since the resurrection constituted the “very basis of our holy faith” it was necessary for it to be “beyond dispute.”
Spurgeon then recounted examples of how secular critics like Gilbert West attacked the resurrection in vain, only to be convinced of the historical fact and later converted. Reflecting on history, Spurgeon thought it striking that “very many events of the greatest importance recorded in history” had been witnessed by as little as “one-tenth” as many as the resurrection of Christ. Indeed, many of the turning points of history, although with few witnesses, “are never questioned as facts.”
After clarifying the historical record, Spurgeon took note of the importance of the resurrection, saying “Upon it…the whole system of Christianity rests.” Here he asserted that “the divinity of Christ” found its surest proof in the resurrection.
Furthermore, as for Christ’s sovereignty this too “also depends upon his resurrection.” Indeed, this was also true with the spiritual blessings of justification, regeneration, and especially the ultimate resurrection. Indeed, according to Scripture, if Christ was raised, then we too will rise. In examining this doctrine Spurgeon said, “the silver thread of resurrection runs through all the blessings…and binds them together.”
In the first section of his sermon, Spurgeon took note of his text, saying, “The text gives us a view of death very common in Scripture, but not sufficiently accepted among us.” First, he noted that “Death” is often “compared to sleep.”
However, this was not a “soul sleep,” indeed, “the soul undergoes no purgatorial purification or preparative slumber.” For those who die in Christ as believers, “They sleep in Jesus, but their souls sleep not.” Rather, upon death the souls of Christians go to be with Christ.
But, according to Spurgeon, this sleep could also be seen as resting. In death, “The eyes of the sleeper ache no more with the glare of light or with the rush of tears.” Such was also the case with the body “while it sleeps in the tomb.” Here “The weary are at rest,” and “the servant it as much at ease as his lord.”
But, sleep in this life also “has its intent and purpose.” Here Spurgeon noted that “We do not close our eyes without aim,” nor do they “open again without benefit.” Indeed, he even compared the refreshment of sleep to “beginning a new life.”
But this “new life” carried greater weight than refreshment for a new day. While “the righteous are put into their graves all weary and worn” that is not how they would rise. Rather, “they shall wake up in beauty and glory. Thus, for Christians, the sleep of death was not a “hopeless sleep.”
Second, Spurgeon noted that “Death is compared to a sowing.” Referring to 1 Corinthians 15:20, he said, “our bodies here are like those dry grains of wheat.” Where others saw Death as a reaper, Spurgeon saw a sower. Where others saw saints buried, Spurgeon saw saints sown. For the believer, it was not “death unto death,” but “death unto life.” Indeed, since resurrection was assured, believers could put away “all faithless, hopeless, graceless sorrow.”
In the second section of his sermon, Spurgeon drew attention to “The connection between the resurrection of Christ and that of believers.” Here Spurgeon noted that Christ was the “firstfruits,” specifically that he was “the first that rose from the dead in order of time.” Now, while others had been restored to life, Christ was the first of the final resurrections. Lazarus’s experience was temporary, “he lived but to die,” but Christ’s resurrection is eternal.
But Christ was also the “first in point of cause.” Just as he “came back from the grave,” so will he “bring all his followers behind him.” Indeed, the “victory of the cross” was succeeded by a “victory in the tomb.”
In the third and final section of his sermon, Spurgeon explained the implications of “The influence of the whole doctrine of the resurrection and Christ’s connection with it upon our spirits.” For Spurgeon, this truth required “holiness.” He cautioned his congregation to only seek the “pure and lovely,” lest like Belshazzar “we profane the vessels of the Lord’s temple.”
Why you should take up and read:
Charles Spurgeon understood correctly that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the “very basis for our holy faith.” Yet, despite being “exceedingly well attested” the historical account of the resurrection was under assault in Spurgeon’s time. For the reader wanting to relish the resurrection and its implications, please take up and read.
Here is the link to the Sermon of the Week:https://www.spurgeon.org/resource-library/sermons/resurrection-christ-the-firstfruits#flipbook/
Phillip Ort serves at the Director of The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City where he is also pursuing a Master of Divinity degree.