How do we know God will raise us from the dead?

God’s speciality is raising dead people, like Lazarus, Dorcas, and those who came out of their graves after Christ died. We’ve also got Colossians 3:1 that says we’ve ALL been raised with Christ, and Ephesians 2:5-6 that we’ve all been made alive in Christ and we live in the heavenly realms already.

So God loves raising dead people, which is good to know because “We were dead in transgressions,” Ephesians 2:5, we lived in “bodies of death,” Romans 7:24, we were “dead because of sin,” Romans 8:10, and we were totally under the power of “the law of sin and death,” Romans 8:2.

But to those who accept this is the awful state they’re in, there’s hope. How? In Jesus Christ, because “If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection,” Romans 6:5. To accept that Jesus took us all with him to his death to free us from the law of sin and death (verses 6-7) is to realize he took us all with him in his resurrection too. And what happens then? Verse 11 – “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead raises us from the completely dead state we are in too.

So it’s great being dead, because raising people from the dead is God’s speciality. He loves it when we’ve finally reached the stage “we despaired even of life” and “felt the sentence of death,” 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, because we’re at the point (at last) we can experience something truly extraordinary – mentioned in the last part of verse 9 – “that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” When we’re at the end of our rope and we cry out to God for help, that’s when we experience God himself lifting us out of our despair and hopelessness. And after we experience that a few times, it dawns on us that this is how God works. This is his speciality. This is what he’s brilliant at. And this is what he loves doing any chance he gets.

Paul gained so much confidence from God rescuing him from his pits of death that he knew in the future “he will deliver us” too, verse 10. But that’s what this life is for, it’s to experience the proof again and again that God raises the dead, so that there’s no doubt in our minds that when we die our final death, he’ll raise us from that death too.

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Is Jesus alive right now?

Jesus had better be alive right now because “he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies,” Romans 8:11. God raising Christ is the proof he’ll raise us. It’s also vital that Jesus is alive because HE’s the one who resurrects us, John 5:21, “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.” Jesus being alive is both the proof and the source of our being raised from the dead.

And if he ISN’T alive? Well, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins,” and in verses 14, 15 and 19, “our preaching is useless,” we’re “false witnesses about God” for saying he “raised Christ from the dead,” and “we are to be pitied more than all men,” because we put all our hope and trust in Christ for nothing.

It’s critical to both our credibility and belief, therefore, that Christ is alive, but how do we prove he’s alive? Well, Paul continues, it’s easy to prove that God “did NOT raise Jesus,” verse 15 – the proof being? “IF IN FACT THE DEAD ARE NOT RAISED,” verse 15. We’ve got no evidence at all that Jesus was raised from the dead if people aren’t being raised from the dead, “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either,” verse 16.

So where’s the evidence that dead people are being raised?

Look no further than our own experience, Paul says, because “you were dead,” Ephesians 2:1. Remember what our lives were like before we became Christians? Our lives were utterly useless – we simply “followed the ways of this world” and the “spirit” that ruled the culture, verse 2, merely “gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts,” verse 3. We were dead fish floating downstream with all the other dead fish, living for ourselves in a useless, dead existence, and at death we disappeared, as though we’d never existed at all.

“But,” verse 4, “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” God raised us up out of that dead existence to a life of “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” There’s our proof that God is raising people from the dead: He’s raising human beings from a dead existence to a completely new life. And it also proves Jesus is alive too, because it’s only being “alive in Christ” that made it possible.

“Pray in the Spirit”? – What does that mean?

In Ephesians 6:18, Paul wrote, “Pray at all times in the Spirit,” which, by his own definition in Romans 8:5 means “in accordance with the Spirit,” which in turn means having “our minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

To pray in the Spirit, according to Paul then, means, “praying with our minds tuned to the Spirit’s desires.” And we can do that because the Spirit is constantly communicating with our minds the things that God wants us to know, think and live by, verse 16. To have the Spirit of God living in us means a steady trickle of God’s mind and heart seeping into our minds and hearts, so that what God finds when “he searches our hearts” is “the mind of the Spirit,” verse 27. And if at times we’re not in tune with the mind and desires of the Spirit “the Spirit helps us in our weakness,” verse 26, by reaching down into our inner being and tuning our thoughts to his.

That’s why Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:16 that God would “strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” because the Spirit can get right down to what makes us tick, to the engine that drives us, to the “real us” – much of which we probably have no idea exists. No wonder we have trouble praying and need the Spirit’s help, because it’s only by the Spirit that all those hidden thoughts and yearnings tucked away in the depths of our inner being can be brought to the surface.

A large part of praying in the Spirit, then, is simply realizing what the Spirit is up to in our inner being. The Spirit is gradually transforming us into the likeness of Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:18, which, Paul tells us, involves the Spirit doing a lot of digging away inside us “putting to death the misdeeds of our bodies,” Romans 8:13, much like getting at the guts of a seized engine and clearing out all the gunk to get it running smoothly again.

Jude picks up on that thought too, in Jude 20. He contrasts those with the Spirit to those who “follow their own ungodly desires and natural instincts, and do not have the Spirit,” verses 18-19 . Those without the Spirit are still clogged up like a seized motor by the accumulated gunk of acting purely on instinct and wrong desires.

But those “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,” Romans 8:23, are having the core of their inner being steadily cleaned up by the Spirit, so that our prayers to God and our relationships with each other are running ever more smoothly “in accordance with the Spirit,” and in tune with “what the Spirit desires.”

How can good people do terrible things?

After a ghastly shooting the shooter’s mother or friends will often say, “But he was such a good person.” They sound genuinely surprised that he was capable of such horror, because in other ways he wasn’t a bad person at all. He cared for animals, got on well with older people, and he was generous to his friends. 

So here’s a good person doing horrible things. How is that possible? Paul explains in Romans 7:21, and from his own experience too, that “I find this law at work. When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” And the more he tried to do good, the worse it got too. He eventually concluded that “nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (18).

So, what was his problem? It was what he called his “sinful nature.” It was so powerful it wouldn’t let him do the good he so desperately wanted to do, “For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work…waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin.” (23). Even when he wanted to do something as good as keeping God’s law, he still couldn’t do it.

And what is our experience as humanity in general? Well, for those who want to be good people and want this Earth to be a happy, peaceful place, it must be terribly disappointing, because for all our desire and effort to do good, multiple millions of people are still suffering from acute poverty, endless wars and terrible diseases. The facts speak for themselves, that our experience today is exactly the same as Paul’s. In our inner beings we’d love to make this world a better place for everyone, but we still can’t do it. At our heart and core we want to do good and be good people, but we’re stuck with a nature that makes us do horrible things too. 

The answer Paul gives, then, to “How can good people do terrible things?” is that our desire to do good is constantly being “weakened by the sinful nature,” Romans 8:3. And there’s only one way, according to Paul, for dealing with that, and that’s having the Spirit of God living in us (9). That, and that alone, is the source of “life and peace,” verse 6. We need a another nature in us warring constantly against the evil we’re so easily capable of too, so that, verse 9, we “are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit.” 

Do we all have a spirit, non-Christians included?

All humans beings have a spirit, but while we were “dead in our transgressions and sins,” Ephesians 2:1, that spirit lay dormant. And while it remained dormant, our sinful minds continued on their merry way being “hostile to God” (Romans 8:7) and not the least bit interested in God or in anything he had to say. Our minds were tuned to “the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient,” verse 2. As such we were totally taken up with “gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts,” verse 3.

That all changed dramatically, however, when “God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions,” verses 4-5. When Christ died and rose back to life again, all us humans who were stuck in our dormant state were brought to life with Christ. Our spirits that were totally under the control of the spirit ruler of our world were released to have a chance at experiencing life as it’s supposed to be. That condition now exists for all human beings, non-Christans included, which is exactly the good news that Christians want everyone to hear.

God isn’t exclusive, he wants all of us to be saved from the dead empty life of simply gratifying our selfish desires, and he sent the Spirit to enable that to happen (Galatians 5:16, 24). And how the Spirit does it is remarkable, Romans 8:16 – “The Spirit himself testifies with OUR SPIRIT that we are God’s children.” Suddenly, we come alive to the fact that God isn’t some distant ogre, he’s actually our Father who loves us dearly (Galatians 4:6), and it’s the Spirit in connection with our spirit that does that. We always had that spirit in us, but it’s not until “the Spirit of God lives in you,” verse 9, that our spirit clues in that we have a Father and son relationship with God, just like Jesus has with the Father (John 17:26).

When “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you,” verse 11, that’s when our spirit comes alive, verse 10, and it comes alive in a most noticeable way. Where before we couldn’t care less about God or see any value in what he had to say, we now welcome him as our Father and look to him to take care of our every need. We literally “live to God,” Romans 6:10, rather than living to gratify self.

And in every human being this spirit exists, just waiting to be brought alive by the Spirit of Christ.

Hold steady and trust

Christianity in our Western culture puts a lot of emphasis on OUR acceptance and belief, our choices and decisions, our growth and responsibility, our free will and how we use it, and on us being good enough on Judgment Day to go to heaven, not hell. So much is up to us.

It creates a problem, then, when not much is happening. Perhaps our church isn’t growing, or it doesn’t feel like we’re growing much personally either. And what if people aren’t impressed enough with our Christianity to ask us about what we believe? It may even feel like we’re going backwards rather than forwards as our congregation gets smaller and we’re not having any impact in the community. What if we don’t bring anybody to Christ? Oh dear, we’re not doing our part very well, are we?

But what of the Scripture that says the Holy Spirit works everything out for good for those who love God? Isn’t that saying the Spirit has everything under control very nicely, thank you very much, despite appearances to the contrary? Well, it sounds good, but isn’t there an “if” in there somewhere, that the Spirit works things out for good IF we love God? So, do we love God enough to warrant the Spirit’s help? Oh dear, another thing to worry about.

But Scripture says it’s the Spirit that gives us the love. It’s the Spirit in our hearts that calls out, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6), and Paul said it was “Christ’s love” that compelled him (2 Corinthians 5:14). So it wasn’t his own love, or love that Paul had to come up with by himself. The love that drove Paul came from Christ, and there wasn’t anything Paul had to do to get the love flowing either. He simply found himself with it, and he couldn’t stop it coming either.

It didn’t mean that Paul was on an endless high of love and devotion, or that his focus was totally on God and off himself. It wasn’t. Life was extremely worrying at times, especially when people heard the gospel and wanted him dead, or a health problem threatened his effectiveness. He learned through those experiences, though, that even when it seemed like nothing was happening, or it looked like things were going backwards, Christ and the Spirit were still on the job.

He learned that God was up to something in everything, in negative times as well, so that rather than worrying, “Oh dear, not much is happening,” Paul said, “I press on.” He held steady and trusted, believing to the end that God was faithful and HE would make happen what needed to happen.

What do Christians have that non-Christians don’t have?

Some non-Christians seem a lot more Christian than Christians. They’re nicer, kinder, happier, more giving, more sociable, more involved in the community, more even-tempered, more disciplined, and better adjusted. It’s a bit discouraging when you’re a Christian bumping into people like that, because if non-Christians can be such good people, why bother being Christian? Or, put another way, what difference does Christianity make if you can be very ‘Christian’ without it? 

Paul answers that in Romans 8:9. “You (Christians), however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” The difference between Christians and non-Christians is who is in control of their lives. What a person does, therefore, isn’t as important as who’s doing it.

So, who is doing it? Is it one’s sinful nature or the Spirit, because it can only be one or the other. All people fall into two categories: those who are controlled by the sinful nature (the law of sin and death), and those who are controlled by the Spirit (the law of the Spirit of life). And it makes a huge difference as to which of those two is in control, because “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires,” verse 5.

So, what does “the sinful nature” desire? Well, it certainly doesn’t desire God, “because the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God,” verses 7-8. That’s stating it bluntly, but clearly – that the sinful nature has no interest in God.

In contrast to that, what does “the Spirit” desire instead? Well, the Spirit isn’t hostile to God, for “you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry ‘Abba, Father,'” verse 15. The Spirit also desires that “the righteous requirements of the law be fully met in us,” verse 4, so that we can submit to God’s law. And as far as pleasing God, the Spirit “puts to death the misdeeds of the body,” verse 13, which pleases God immensely because it frees us personally “from the law of sin and death,” verse 2. In three clear ways, then, the Spirit’s desires are the absolute opposite to the desires of the sinful nature.   

So that’s what Christians have that non-Christians don’t have: They have the Holy Spirit constantly tuning their minds and hearts to God’s nature, rather than being blown all over the place by the whims and desires of the sinful nature.