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Christ’s resurrection and its ecclesiastical implications.
The church is made “more than conquerors” because the conquest was won by the Vanquisher of death itself.
The majority of the doctrinal discourses in the Acts of the Apostles have as their predominant thesis the risen Christ. Indeed, much of the early church’s teachings revolved around vindicating the person and work of Jesus himself. The array of discourses, which make up the bulk of Acts, contain demonstrative apostolic defenses of the Christian faith, specifically in relation to the fact of the resurrection (Acts 1:22). With Jesus’s passion and exaltation in view, the apostles risked their lives preaching in Jesus’s name (Acts 4:1–3). Notwithstanding the abundant theories that sought to demolish the notion of the resurrection and disrupt those who belonged to “the Way” (Acts 9:2), the apostles’ collective attestation to the resurrected Christ is the fundamental premise of Luke’s reporting in the Acts of the Apostles. “The exalted Christ is a continuous theme in Acts,” remarks Walter Liefeld (82).
The apostles propagated a message that was resoundingly and christologically divine. They asserted that the Galilean carpenter who was wrongfully accused and traitorously crucified was none other than the God-Man himself, “both Lord and Messiah” (Acts 2:36; cf. 3:15; 4:10; 5:30). The persistent testimony of the apostles was built upon a resolute insistence on Jesus’s resurrection and a stubborn preponderance for Jesus’s ascension. “With great power,” writes Luke, “the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them” (Acts 4:33). At every turn, one is made to see the prevalence of Jesus’s passion and exaltation in the words of the apostles (Acts 2:24–32; 10:40; 13:30–37; 17:18, 32; 23:6; 26:23). Regardless of venue, regardless of audience, regardless the peril which issued from such an attestation, the Acts of the Apostles is a christological narrative which is born out of the gospel of God’s resurrection.
Accordingly, the resurrection apologetic of the apostles serves as the adamantine substructure for the church itself. The power and promise of Christ’s resurrection is extended to each and every one who puts their faith in the gospel. This is the bastion of the church and its disciples, that by faith, one is made to snatch victory from the jowls of death. “Believing in his resurrection,” writes John Angell James, “we believe our own; for he rose not as a private individual, but as our representative” (194). “For since death came through a man,” writes the apostle Paul, “the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21–22).
The church stands in the victory her Bridegroom secured. The church is made “more than conquerors” because the conquest was won by the Vanquisher of death itself. “God raised him up, ending the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by death” (Acts 2:24). Just as Christ could not be “held by death,” but walked out of the cold grave with death’s carcass in his wake, so will the church. This is the anthem of triumph for all who belong to Christ’s church.
John Angell James, Christian Hope (London: Hamilton, Adams, & Co., 1858).
Walter L. Liefeld, Interpreting the Book of Acts (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995).