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Thursday, April 2, 2015 @ 12:51 PM
The Great Exchange Ed Vitagliano AFA Executive Vice-President MORE

The Power of Easter in the Life of a Believer

Christians around the world celebrate Easter as the remembrance of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Son of God. It is without question the most important annual celebration for the Christian community, although Eastern and Western believers typically celebrate it on different days. 

According to the Christian faith, that Jesus Christ died on a cross and then on the third day was raised from the dead is the central moment of human history. What it all means to the believer is a subject that is overflowing with spiritual import. 

Many people understand that the cross demonstrates the cost in saving men and women from sin, death and eternal punishment. However, most people – even some Christians – fail to appreciate why such a cost was necessary. They have little appreciation for the tragedy that is fallen man – and the calamitous consequences of sin. 

The following originally appeared as a feature story in the April 2014 issue of the AFA Journal. It has now been divided into a three-part series in which the author discusses in depth the personal application of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ as it relates to the power of Easter in the life of the believer. 

This first installment explains what it means to be born of the flesh, bound by sin yet freed through the blood of Christ. 

Born of flesh

According to Jesus, there are only two realms of existence in this life for human beings: flesh and spirit. He said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). 

In this context the word “flesh” refers to the unregenerate life, or the life lived by a person who has not been born again. It is the life inherited by each human being from Adam (Romans 5:12). 

Jesus is saying that whatever is born of flesh remains flesh – for what can change it? Flesh can be educated, well fed and exercised, or it can be ignorant, malnourished and sickly; it can live in a mansion or under a bridge; it can be taught religion and morality or nothing at all; it can love, marry and have children, or it can spend its existence in lonely isolation; it experiences joy and sorrow, anger and peace, hope and fear; it dreams and follows ambitions to the pinnacle of achievement, or it fritters its years away in serial moments of emptiness; it can be oppressed or free. But it remains flesh. From first breath to last, it can never change that reality. 

In the New Testament, however, the word flesh also refers to the sinful inclinations of the unregenerate person. In Romans 7, for example, Paul talks about his life before Christ (“while we were in the flesh,” vs. 7) – struggling to serve God but being undermined by his own human weakness. Paul had to battle the flesh with the flesh. It was a losing battle. Throughout the chapter, the apostle notes that someone can even love the truth of God’s laws – recognizing that the Law is holy, righteous and good (vs. 12) – while at the same time being sabotaged by the power of sin within the unregenerate heart. 

Thus, under the Old Covenant, even the Jew, despite his numerous advantages over the pagan Gentiles who surrounded him (Romans 3:2; 9:4, 5), could not rise above his fleshly nature. 

Paul states flatly: “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh” (Romans 7:14). 

The Law had no power to change flesh into spirit. While the Law was of God, Paul says it was “weak … through the flesh” (Romans 8:3). 

Bound in chains

The Law also had no ability to destroy the power of sin within that fallen flesh, for the failure to do good was not the only weakness in it. The flesh loved and craved sin. It was, Paul said, “sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3). 

While the fleshly Jew lived under the Law, the pagan Gentiles – also of flesh – were left in spiritual darkness, groping for God during “the times of ignorance” (Acts 17:30). Their woeful condition is explained by Paul in Ephesians 2:1-2. 

Everything they did was according to the world and the power that controlled it – Satan. They were “sons of disobedience” (vs. 2). 

But in vs. 3, Paul makes a startling admission. While we might expect him to continue talking about those wicked pagans, he makes a universal statement instead: “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.” (Emphasis added.) 

Paul says that all of us – Gentile and Jew – were trapped by fleshly weakness and the power of sin because that was our nature. 

The slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt is a perfect picture of the misery of an oppressed people, bound in chains and struggling under the lash, simply awaiting the end of their brutish existence. Egypt is thus a type of sin’s bondage, while Pharaoh is a type of the satanic desire to keep men and women under oppression (2 Timothy 2:26). 

Throughout the Gospels, too, we see men and women in the grip of a power from which they cannot escape: blind, deaf, paralyzed, leprous, with withered limbs, children and grown men under the terrifying control of demonic spirits.

How perfect is the plaintive cry of Paul: “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). 

Opened veins

Then Christ came, and everything changed. The first Gospel says: “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned” (Matthew 4:16). 

After his sorrowful cry in Romans 7:24, Paul exclaims with joy in the very next breath: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25). 

The cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are the bookends, if you will, of the weekend that changed human history. God sent His Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). From those opened veins flowed the blood of redemption, the forgiveness of sins; the door was opened to the adoption as sons, that we might become the children of God; we received the promise of the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:5, 7; John 1:12; 14:17). 

“Let My people go!” is the demand that Moses, as the mouthpiece of the Lord, makes to Pharaoh, the oppressor of God’s people. How much more has God commanded that those who put their faith in Jesus Christ be delivered when the Son of God was raised from the dead? 

“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed,” Jesus said in John 8:36.

Yes, that which is born flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the Holy Spirit is spirit (John 3:6). A man or woman who is born again is changed. 

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

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