Christ alone saves His people, and we have focused much attention on how His obedience during His life and atoning death on the cross are essential for our salvation. One aspect of His work, however, that is easy to overlook when we are considering how Jesus saves us is His resurrection. Without our Lord’s resurrection, there would be no salvation.
First, Romans 4:25 tells us that Jesus was “raised for our justification.” To understand what this means, we have to remember that death was not a part of God’s original creation but was introduced as part of the punishment for sin (Gen. 2–3). Jesus could die on the cross only because the sins of others were imputed to Him, placed on Him so that He could bear the punishment we deserve (Isa. 53). If Jesus had actually been a sinner Himself, there could be no salvation, for one sinner cannot atone for another sinner; an atoning sacrifice must be without blemish (Heb. 7:23–28). Christ’s resurrection proves that He Himself was not a sinner—in fact, God’s raising Christ from the dead is His declaration that His Son is perfectly righteous. Death could not hold Jesus forever because Jesus was not a sinner Himself, and God’s wrath on our sin was exhausted on the cross. The Father had to raise His Son from the dead because perfect justice demands that death cannot hold on to a person when there is no sin present. Christ had no sin of His own, and there was no sin left to be punished once Christ’s work on the cross was over. So, Jesus’ resurrection was a necessity.We know that God accepted Christ’s payment for sin and that Christ is perfectly righteous because Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, we know that trusting in Jesus alone will save us.
We know that He has a perfect righteousness with which to clothe us, as is promised in the gospel (2 Cor. 5:21). And because we have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us through our union with Him by faith alone, we will likewise be resurrected unto everlasting life (Rom. 6:1–11). So, the second truth about Christ’s resurrection is that it guarantees our resurrection. That is what Paul tells us in today’s passage when he refers to Jesus as “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20–22). Firstfruits are the initial harvest of a crop that proves the entire crop will come to maturity and be harvested. Christ is the firstfruits of the dead—His resurrection with a glorified body proves that all those who are in Him by faith will be resurrected unto glory as well.