You are here

30. Faith and the Power of Christ’s Resurrection

Chapter 30

Faith and the Power of Christ’s Resurrection

That I may gain Christ, and may be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own…but that which is through faith in Christ…that I may know him, and the power of his resurrect­ion, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3.8-11)

The Story of Faust

Operatic dramas are performed all over the world, and one of the most famous is a story which has intrigued people for many genera­tions. The name “Faust” is familiar to anyone who enjoys literature. There are several versions of this story, the best known of which is the one by the famous German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, first published two hundred years ago. It is a story about a certain Dr. Faust, a philosopher, whom Satan has ensnared by offering him youth, know­ledge and the pleasures of this world.

What do people want in the world? They want wealth, status, good health, and a love life. These things are easier to acquire when one has youth, because when you get too old, love may be hard to find, and you may be running out of time to enjoy your riches.

Faust, like most people, longed for the things that his learning in philosophy could not get him. The old story of Faust sums up the deep yearn­ings in man’s heart. It also tells of Satan’s cunning in dangling a bait in front of him; Satan takes advantage of man’s long­ings, using them to gain control over him. In the great temptation, Satan showed Jesus the glorious kingdoms of the world, and said to him: “All these things I will give you, if you fall down and worship me” (Mt.4.8-9).

Satan has an attractive deal for us too. If we are willing to give him some honor and surrender our lives to him, he would be very happy to give us many things in return. Yes, even wealth and position, or whatever it takes to turn our hearts away from God and from eter­nal things. As Satan would explain it to you, spiritual things are airy-fairy whereas the things in the world are real and concrete. He does not tell you, of course, that the world is quickly passing away.

The university diploma feels very real in your hands. You can touch the vellum, and see written in exquisite calligraphy the words: Bachelor of Arts, or Master of Science, or, as in the case of Faust, Doctor of Philosophy. You can run your fingers over the beautiful words. The question is, at the end of the road will that piece of paper still have much significance? Of what help will it be to us when we stand at the gates of God’s eternal kingdom?

But that does not deter Satan from making us an attractive offer, and he has a way of making things look very appealing. Make no mistake about it, if we choose the world rather than God, Satan has the resources to give us all these things.

And Satan offers these goodies to Faust: “I have a fabulous deal for you, similar to the one I offered Jesus many years ago. He is admittedly very intelligent, but he is not as clever as you, Dr. Faust, because he turned down my offer. But you, being more sensible and intelligent, can see the excellence of my offer.”

Faust’s ego is inflated by the lavish praise that Satan heaps upon him. So Faust says, “I am ready to negotiate. But, Satan, I know that you are a tricky guy. Long ago I read somewhere in the Bible that you are smart and cunning like a serpent. But don’t you forget that I am a Doctor of Philosophy! Just now you rightly acknow­ledged my intelligence. Before I sign on the dotted line, I want some assurance that I can enjoy these things, otherwise at the very in­stant I swallow the bait, the hook pulls me out of the water. I want some time to relish the bait. And when it’s over, I am ready for the frying pan.”

So he signs a deal with Satan who, in the story, appears as a man called Mephistopheles. Mephistopheles says to Faust, “Here’s the deal. I give you all these things, plus some time to enjoy them, but when you die your soul belongs to me.” Faust replies, “Why should I care about the soul or the spiritual side of me? So long as I enjoy life in this world here and now, why should I care about what happens after I die?”

Does that sound familiar to you? That is ex­actly how the worldly man thinks. “Who cares what happens after I die? I don’t know, and I don’t care, whether the resurrection is real or not. I am a practical man who lives for today. If Satan wants to take my soul after I die, he can have it—so long as I enjoy life right now! I can identify with those who say, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’ [Isa.22.13; 1Cor.15.32]”.

Have similar thoughts crossed your mind? Can you see Dr. Faust as a reflection of yourself? For all his learning in philosophy, Faust was short­sighted in his thinking. “My life is going to end anyway, so who cares about what happens after that? If I roast in Satan’s frying pan, that’s fine with me. He’s a roaring lion in search of someone to devour. Well, he can have my corpse when I am done with this life. But right now I want to enjoy riches, honor, and love!”

In the story of Faust, there is a nice girl whom he wants to marry. In some versions of Faust, she gets rescued in the end, and does not share Faust’s fate. Whereas Faust is taken away by Satan, Marguerite goes to be with the Lord.

But whether or not Faust gets to marry her is not what matters in this story. The main point is that Faust wants to enjoy the good things of the world, the very things that the people of the world universally desire. Things like happiness, prosperity, enjoyment, health and longevity. Faust wants all these goodies in the world, and who can offer them to him—in exchange for his life—but Satan? Are you willing to accept that offer and make the exchange? Satan doesn’t give something for nothing. The deal is: Enjoy now, pay later.

1. Satan’s Chess Game With Mankind

Satan is playing a chess game with you and with me, and he is rather good at it. If you want to beat him at chess, you would have to work very hard because he has had thousands of years of practice. In fact, no chess player in this world could possibly beat Satan at this game.

If you go to Paris, be sure to visit the famous museum called the Louvre. In the museum is an intriguing painting of Faust playing chess with Mephistopheles, who is Satan portrayed in human form. The painting shows Mephistopheles on the verge of making the final move—Checkmate!—on Faust. Faust is not just losing a chess game, he is about to lose his life, his soul. As the Lord says, “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Faust exchanged his soul, his whole spiritual being, for transient goods and is about to be checkmated.

One day a great chess player visited the Louvre, and went straight­away to this painting of Faust playing chess with Satan. As he was studying the painting and analyzing the chess positions, he suddenly cried out, “Satan, not so fast! There is yet one more move that could save Faust!” It was a move that could turn the game around and rescue Faust. Apparently the chess master saw a move that Faust—and the painter—had not seen.

Now consider the fact that mankind as a whole, alienated from God and greedy for material gain, is in the position of being checkmated by Satan. In this game of pursuing what the world has to offer and of enjoying the pleasures of sin, Satan soon maneuvers us into a checkmate situation with no way out. The pieces are being taken off the chessboard of life one by one. Satan is playing simultaneous chess with all of mankind, and he is taking them one after another.

If you think you can beat Satan, then you obviously don’t know your situation, or Satan’s cunning, or the high stakes involved in this “game” of life.

2. The Resurrection of Christ

Then the Son of God comes. He surveys the chessboard, and sees a near-checkmate situation. Man’s situation appears to be hopeless. But the Lord sees one move that will turn the situation around and save us. And what is that move? It is the death and resurrection of Christ, the Son of God.

Christ’s death and resurrection are two parts of one integrated work of God for the salvation of mankind. There would obviously be no resurrection without his death; on the other hand, a death that is not followed by resurrection would leave us with a dead savior who wouldn’t be able to save anyone from sin and death. This integrated event of Christ’s death and resurrection is God’s “move” on the chessboard of human life, His “masterstroke” to secure our redemp­tion.

Let us try to understand the resurrection more fully. In dealing with this question, I won’t be discuss­ing the historical details of the resurrection or the apologetical arguments for it. Those inter­ested in these matters can consult books such as “Who Moved the Stone?” (Frank Morison) which are helpful in demon­strating the historicity of the resurrection.

Jesus rose from the dead and is very much alive. But the founders of the great religions still have their burial places and occu­pied tombs. Mohammed is buried in Mecca. Various parts of Buddha’s body are kept in several places. One tooth, for example, is kept in a great pagoda at Rangoon, Burma. They are revered in the acknowledgment that Buddha was a great man. But Buddha is dead and buried, and his body remains in the world.

Great religious leaders come and go, and their tombs are still with us. But nowhere in the world can you find a tomb of Jesus except an empty one.

3. Believing in the Resurrection

How do we know that Jesus is risen? How can we experience the power of his resurrection? If we don’t experience it, we can’t possibly believe in the resurrection except as intellectual assent.

Believing in the resurrection of Christ is crucial to our salvation. The apostle Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” (Ro.10.9)

Do you truly believe that Jesus was raised from the dead? It is not enough to say to yourself, “I’ve just read an interesting book on the resur­rection. Judging from the evidence, I conclude that Jesus did rise from the dead. Anyway, I live in a Christian country, and the story of the resurrection has been drummed into my head ever since I was knee-high to a grass­hopper. That story is part of our Christian tradition.” But since when is salvation based on a cultural tradition?

In Christendom today, many have heard the story of the resurrection repeated so often, perhaps already from childhood days, that they do not disbelieve it. But not disbelieving is not the same as believing. There are many today who remain pitifully stranded in the spiritual destitution of the “no man’s land” between not disbe­lieving on the one hand and not truly believing on the other.

Salvation, according to Romans 10.9, de­pends on two things: Firstly, “confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord”. Secondly, “believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead”. These two things are inseparable because a dead Jesus cannot be the living Lord of our lives.

Notice that Romans 10.9 does not ask us to believe in the resurrection of Jesus merely as a fact that we accept with our intell­ect, but to “believe in your heart,” in the very depth of your being. What goes to the heart affects us at the deepest level of our being and changes us. Believing in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead will result in our beginning to experience the resurrection power of God at work in our lives through the Holy Spirit.

But if we believe only in our minds that Jesus’ resurrection is a historical fact, then we are no better off than Satan who also be­lieves in the resurrection, being a first-hand witness of the event; and he trembles every time he thinks of the resurrection. James puts it like this, “You believe that God is one; you do well; the demons also believe—and shudder” (Jas.2.19).

4. Three vital aspects of faith in connection to the resurrection of Christ

We will be saved if we believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. The connection that we see here, between faith and the resur­rection, has three aspects.

First Aspect of Saving Faith: The Resurrection as God’s Promise

The first aspect of faith, as it pertains to the resurrection, is this: By faith we must take hold of God’s promise of resurrection. If we don’t do this, the resurrection will be nothing more to us than a great historical event. That kind of intellectual faith does not save anyone.

To be saved, you must recognize that the resurrection of Christ is God’s promise to you, and you therefore make it your own by faith. The resurrection of Christ avails for you and for me only if we receive it into our hearts by faith.

But what kind of faith? The word “faith” is used rather loosely today. We have faith in the bus driver, or faith that the airplane will fly us safely to London, Frankfurt, or Hong Kong.

Saving faith, on the other hand, rests securely upon the word of God or the act of God—in this case Christ’s resurrection—as a promise. (God speaks through both word and action.) The resurrect­ion would be meaningless to us unless it is God’s promise to us. We must recognize that Jesus died and was raised for your sake and mine.

It was when Abraham believed God’s promise to him to be true that it was “counted to him for righteousness” (Ro.4.22); and he believed because he was “fully convinced that God was able” to do it (v.21).

Do we have the kind of faith that believes that God can and did raise Jesus from the dead, and that He did it for us? If not, then we obviously do not really believe that He is able to save us from sin and death.

If we believe that the resurrection is God’s promise to us, it becomes our hope. Faust had no hope. He studied the chess pieces and saw a checkmate situation. In his desperate attempt to save himself, he analyzed his predica­ment with all the skills at his dis­posal, but to no avail.

Promise leads to hope. When a couple is about to get married, you can see the sparkle in their eyes. They will be getting married in a few weeks’ time, and now they live in the hope of marriage. It makes every day oh-so-bright whether it rains or shines, because there is sunshine in their hearts! Does that not portray what hope is all about? We too, as the church, have been betrothed to Christ (2Cor.11.2), and we look forward with anticipation to the “marriage of the Lamb” (Rev.19.7-9).

But before we can talk about hope, there must be faith. At least you must believe that the other person will show up on wed­ding day! Imagine being left in the aisle by yourself, with your hopes dashed to pieces. Unfortunately, this sort of thing does happen in real life when one party gets cold feet. The promise col­lapses, and hope disappears.

Abraham: Hoped Against Hope

When Paul speaks of believing in the resur­rection, he undoubtedly has in mind the faith of Abraham, whom he calls “the father of all who believe” (Ro.4.11); Abraham is the example of faith par excellence.

In the space of five chapters, Romans 4 to 8, Paul uses the word “hope” nine times.[90] Let us look at one of the occurrences: “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” (Romans 4.18, NIV)

Abraham had no son to bear his name, yet Yahweh promised him that he will be the father of many nations; his descendants will be as the stars of the heavens and the sand of the sea. How would it be possible to fulfill such a promise? Yet by faith Abraham was “fully convinced” that God’s word can be relied upon, and that His promise will never fail.

Abraham “hoped against hope,” for there were no human grounds for hope. He was already one hundred years old, but the greater difficulty lay in the fact that Sarah was ninety years old (Gen.17.17; 21.5), and had never given birth. Yet Abraham believed in a God “who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist” (Ro.4.17)—he believed in the resurrection!

Abraham and Sarah were as good as dead in terms of their reproductive capacity (Ro.4.19; Heb.11.12); yet Abraham hoped against hope, trusting unwaveringly in God’s promise. He placed his hope in God when there was not a shred of hope to be found on the human level.

Do we trust God’s promise of resur­rection? Does the promise of Easter speak to us? Do we believe in our hearts, on the basis of God’s word, that Jesus rose from the dead for us? In the same five chap­ters, Romans 4 to 8, Paul refers to the resurrection of Jesus ten times, using words such as “resurrection” or “raise”. If you believe that Jesus rose from the dead for you, then through him you will beat Satan in the chess match of life.

Second: The Promise Affects Our Lives Profoundly

The second point about faith, as it pertains to the resurrection, is this: If you take hold of God’s promise, it will bring profound and blessed changes to your life.

Remember that Abraham was almost a hundred years old, and Sarah was ninety, when God said, “I make you a promise. At about this time next year, you are going to have a son.” The promised child was to be born in twelve months’ time! It takes nine months to go from conception to birth. Soon after God had said these words, all kinds of remarkable changes would have to take place in their lives and in their bodies, especially in Sarah’s case. God’s life-giving power was about to take effect in them. To say that their “youth is renewed as the eagle’s” (Ps.103.5) would, in this case, be something of an understatement! Though, certainly, what God did in the lives of Abraham and Sarah will serve as a commentary and an illustration of these words of the Psalmist.

God performed a life-giving miracle for Abraham and Sarah. Sarah was barren since her youth, unable to conceive. To fulfill His pro­mise, God had to do the impossible: bring about a transformation in their bodies of a kind that is equivalent to resurrection—bringing forth life from the dead. Likewise, when we take hold of God’s promise that Jesus rose from the dead for us, He will bring about pro­found changes in our lives through His life-giving power.

Have you ever slept on your arm in an awkward position and the arm feels dead? You pinch it but there is no sensation. This has happened to me once or twice. I woke up only to discover that I could not lift my arm. The blood circulation was constricted, so there was no sensation when I touched my arm. It was completely numb. But when life flows back into your arm, you start to feel “pins and needles”. Slowly the arm comes back to life! I wonder what Abraham and Sarah had felt when God’s life-giving promise began to take effect in their bodies!

This is the dynamic Christian life that the Bible talks about. When we receive God’s promise of the resurrection into our hearts, we begin to experience His power effecting deep things in our lives. Christ’s resurrection life and power is applied to us by the Holy Spirit and results in “newness of life” (Ro.6.4) in our spirits.

This life continues to be active in us until the final bodily resurrection from the dead, when “this mortal will have put on immortality” (1Cor.15.53,54). That is when “the Lord Jesus Christ will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of his glory [his resurrection body]” (Phil.3.20,21).

This is God’s resurrection promise to us, this is our hope, and it calls for faith in Him “who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist” (Ro.4.17).

But in the “newness of life,” we now begin to experience God’s resurrection power at work in us, just as Abraham and Sarah noticed changes in their bodies in preparation for the pro­mised child’s birth. Like the arm that is coming back to life, the spiritual “corpse” will start feeling the tingling, stinging sensation of a return to life.

We begin to feel a stinging sensation in our con­science, with a new sensitivity to good and evil. Previously you thought nothing about sinning, but now, because God’s power has come into your life, your conscience is pricked by a spiritual equi­valent of “pins and needles”. A powerful convict­ion of sin drives you to repentance. This is the evidence that God’s resurrection power is bringing you back to life. The inner conviction compels you to kneel before God, and to say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!” Even if you were not religious before, now you are overpowered by a conviction from the Spirit that com­pels you to say, “Lord, forgive me my sins and my self-righteousness.”

When people give their testimonies, what moves them to confess their sins in public? Is it not the pins and needles of a convicted con­science that is beginning to become aware of the living God? The Holy Spirit is working in them; life is coming back into their “inner man”.

(1) Promise Leads to Joy

Those who experience God’s life-giving power have joy in their spirit. There is a sparkle in the eye, a confidence in the step, a sense of purpose in their lives. We see this in people who are about to get married, for whom every day is charged with hope and joy. Long-married people tend to forget these happy memories, which become covered with the dust of time.

When you experience God’s power, there will be a spring in your step and a sparkle in your eye—even more so than when you get married! God can give you greater joy than that of marriage, so you don’t need to worry if you are still single!

Hope leads to joy (Romans 12.12). I smile when I think of Abraham and Sarah. Can you imagine Sarah getting pregnant at the age of ninety? If you think you are old, you are still young as far as Sarah is concerned. Yes, at the age of ninety she is getting bigger with a child! Exactly as God had promised Abraham, life is flourishing in a “dead” body and will soon come forth to be a blessing to the nations. Abraham looks at Sarah, and day by day she is moving closer to the fulfillment. What joy God brought to their lives!

We can imagine Abraham saying, “God is so real! In my one hundred years, I have had no child to bear my name. But one day Yahweh said to me, ‘Abraham, next year you are going to have a son.’ I laughed because God is humorous. Imagine having a child at the age of one hundred!” It is the laughter of joy. Abraham laughs (Genesis 17.17) not because he doubts God but because he thinks that God is humorous; He chooses the age of one hundred to give Abraham the child He promised!

Of course God didn’t do the impossible just for the sake of being humorous. But doing the impossible is the hallmark of His work. By doing that which is impossible, He certifies that it is His work, because only He can do it. This is the more necessary because of man’s unbelieving character. What do I mean? Well, let us take the case of Abraham. If God brought the fulfillment of the promise too early in Abraham’s life, would Abraham be certain that it was something which God did, and not just a natural occurrence?

Let’s say that Sarah had the child at the age of sixty. Maybe this would be considered almost impossible; seventy would be considered quite impossible; and eighty would be absolutely impossible. As for ninety, few women live to that age, so the absolute is so absolute as to be beyond any shadow of doubt. It is not until this late stage that God is ready to act.

(2) The Raising of Lazarus from the Dead

It is like the case of Lazarus. When Jesus was informed that Lazarus was seriously ill, Jesus did not go to heal him. He waited several days. Only after Lazarus had died and was buried did Jesus proceed to Lazarus’ home in Bethany. By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days (Jo.11.17). What was the purpose of the delay? It was “for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified” (Jo.11.4). In what way would God be glorified? By doing the impossible—raising Lazarus from the dead.

Healing Lazarus would certainly also have been a miracle. But the life-giving miracles of creation (He “calls into existence the things which do not exist”, Ro.4.17) and resurrection (giving “life to the dead”, Ro.4.17, i.e. giving life where life no longer exists) are those which can be described as bearing the characteristic and unique hallmark of God’s work. They are, as it were, His signature. That is why when Jesus declares, “I am the resurrection and the life,” (Jo.11.25) he declares who he really is—Son of God—for those who have ears to hear.

Jesus’ delay in going to help Lazarus was intended to strengthen the faith of the disciples. As he told them explicitly, it was “so that you may believe” (Jo.11.15). Through it they would come to see more clearly who he really is.

We need to remember this whenever we find ourselves in a difficult situation. The situation keeps getting worse, and yet no help from God is in sight. But when the situation finally becomes impossible, He will act. Then there will be no doubt about who did it; and His work brings great joy and thanksgiving.

God is doing a great work in us who belong to Him. He will raise us up bodily on the day of resurrection. But even at this present time, we already experience His resurrection power working in us on the spiritual level of our lives.

(3) Are Our Lives a Message of the Resurrection?

Have we allowed God to transform us to the extent that we have the Abrahamic quality in our lives? Look at the average Christian today. Do you see a sparkle in his eye, or a spring in his step? If not, how can he inspire anyone to want to know Christ? Then think of Abraham and Sarah, and the impact they made on their com­munity, and even on the world. Everyone would be talking about them: “Have you heard about the woman who became pregnant at the age of ninety? She and her husband are as lively as teenagers!”

My grandmother lived to her ninetieth year. Was there a gleam in her eyes, or a spring in her step? Well, she was generally alert and reasonably healthy for her age even up to the end, but her eyesight had faded by then and she was quite frail. Now try to imagine a woman who is about to give birth at that age. This is unpre­cedented in the history of the world. The whole nation, indeed the whole world, will take note of it. Can we see its significance? It means that Abraham and Sarah have become a sign to the worlda sign of the resurrection—which proclaims that God is the God who brings forth life from death.

Every Christian is to be a sign of the resurrec­tion to the world. That wouldn’t be possible unless we experience God’s resurrection power in our own lives. Then people around us will ask, “What is this hope and joy that is in you?” “Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3.15, NIV).

People must have bombarded Abraham and Sarah with quest­ions about her pregnancy. Abraham and Sarah, in giving their testimony, were preaching the gospel to their generation. Is there anything about our lives that catches people’s attention?

Has God’s power ever touched your life and made you different? Has anybody ever said to you, “There is something remarkably different about you”? If your colleagues or classmates don’t ask you such questions, you are in trouble, for the question could then rightly be asked, “Has God done anything in your life?” If we have experienced nothing of the power of the resurrection here and now, what gives us the confidence that God will raise us up from the dead on that Day?

When Paul speaks of our being raised with Christ, he often uses the past tense to emphasize that it is already a reality in us (e.g. Eph.2.6; Col.2.12; 3.1). And who gets the praise and glory? All the credit goes to God. No one gives credit to Abraham or Sarah for the miracle in their lives, because only God’s power could have accom­plished it.

Third: We Channel God’s Resurrection Power to Others

The third point about faith, as it pertains to the resurrection, is this: The resurrection is not only a reality we experience, but something we channel to others. If we are not a channel of God’s resurrection life, which is the new life we have in Christ, then our faith is defective. God’s promise is not given to us to satisfy our selfishness. We are not an end in ourselves, but a channel of salva­tion to others. God gave Abraham a promise not just for Abraham’s own sake, but that all the nations may be blessed through him (Genesis 22.18).

We do not live for ourselves, nor do we die for ourselves. “He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2Cor.5.15). If we are living for ourselves, then as far as the Bible is concerned, we are merely Christians in name, and have not yet experienced freedom from sin and the self. If we are unconcerned about being a channel of blessings to others, then we know nothing about being a Christian in the Biblical sense.

This point (channeling our new resurrection life) is related to the previous point (resurrection changes your life). God’s resurrection power changes the whole focus of our lives; the egocentric preoccu­pation with “me, myself, and I,” is transformed into a concern for others.

On that day, when we stand in God’s presence, will anyone say to us, “May God be praised for the day I met you, for you were the channel of His blessings to me”? Or will we depart from the world without having been a blessing to anyone? If we live for ourselves, our existence will make no difference to anyone, and ultimately not even to ourselves. Jesus says,

“Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” (Jo.4.14). And “He who believes in me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water’” (Jo.7.38).

God will make us a channel of blessing to others. The Greek word koilia (κοιλία, stomach, belly), here translated “innermost being,” has strong corres­pondence to Genesis 15.4 where God says to Abraham, “He that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir”. This is the King James Version which renders the Hebrew word literally as “bowels”. Other translations regard the reference to “bowels” as inelegant, and generalize it to “body”. The Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) generalizes it even further to “you”—“out of you…

In fact, the Hebrew word mē‘eh (מֵעֶה, ‘inward parts, bowels’) in Genesis 15.4 corresponds exactly to the Greek koilia. As every linguist knows, words from different languages seldom correspond to each other exactly. An English word and a Chinese word may overlap in meaning, but seldom are they identical in all their nuances and shades of meaning. Remarkably, the Greek koilia in John 7.38 corresponds exactly to the Hebrew word in Genesis 15.4. The Hebrew mē‘eh can mean the belly, the womb or the heart. These meanings cover all three meanings of koilia.

It is precisely this promise—that the world will be blessed through the “seed” which came forth from Abraham’s “inward parts” (viz. his mē‘eh or koilia)—which is given in Genesis 22.18, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice”. Ultimately, the fulfillment of this promise, as the apostle Paul points out, is in the person of Christ; he is the pro­mised “seed” of Abraham and the one who brings blessing to all nations (Galat­ians 3.16; cf.v.8).

“So those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, the man of faith” (v.9). In what way are those who have faith blessed with Abraham? One important way is that like Abraham, according to Jesus’ word in John 7.38, from our innermost being too will flow forth rivers of living water to bring God’s life to a parched world.

It is clear, therefore, that when the Lord describes believers as a source of rivers of living water, a spiritual equivalent of Genesis 15.4 is intended. This means that John 7.38 is a prophetic promise to the believer in the same way as Genesis 15.4 was a prophetic promise to Abraham.

A sequence of how all the nations of the earth will be blessed because of Abraham’s obedience now emerges: God’s blessing to the nations comes through Abraham (Gen.22.18); then through Christ (Gal.3.16); then through those who believe in Christ Jesus (Jo.7.38)—and thus it flows out to all the nations of the earth.

Remarkable as it may seem, God can do such a mighty work in our lives that the nations of the earth can be blessed through us if, like Abraham, we trust God to fulfill His promises through us. The message of the resurrection is, therefore, not only a promise to us but also a commission to us to channel His life to the world.

[90] Greek elpis (ελπίς, hope) occurs twice in Romans 4.18, three times in 8.24, and once each in 5.2,4,5; 8.20.


(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church