Romans 14:9 “For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.”

The apostle Paul is healing the Christian congregation at Rome of division caused by a group in the church who taught that it was impossible for a true Christian to be anything other than vegetarian. To these views there was a reaction by church members who strongly opposed such teaching as cranky and cultish. One way Paul heals this tear in the body of Christ is by reminding them that every one of them is acknowledging Jesus Christ as their Lord. Turn your eyes upon the Lord Jesus, he is saying. He’s the one who binds together all who are his; he helps us receive exhortation and counsel from one another and also to give advice to one another. Whatever we do in life we do it to the Lord. Every single Christian in a congregation has that aim. We sing together,

Give me a faithful heart,

Likeness to Thee,

That each departing day

Henceforth may see

Some work of love begun,

Some deed of kindness done,

Some wanderer sought and won,

Something for Thee.

All that I am and have,

Thy gifts so free,

In joy, in grief, through life,

O Lord, for Thee!

And then you add a refrain about your hopes in death;

And when Thy face I see,

My ransomed soul shall be,

Through all eternity,

Something for Thee (Sylvanus O. Phelps, 1816-1895).

That is the theme of Paul in our text. Christ is Lord of the dead and the living. When we die and bid farewell to our bodies we know that immediately we are present with the Lord. There is no escape from his Lordship in life or death. Weak or strong we all belong to him. The definition of a Christian is someone who says, “Jesus Christ is my Lord.” The Roman Christian had to confess it, and he was aware that Caesar insisted that he acknowledge, “Caesar is Lord” and that he might be put to death for calling anyone else Lord. Then there was the Jewish Christian who had to acknowledge Christ’s Lordship in the teeth of Jewish horror at the confession. His family would hold his funeral service should he confess that “Jesus of Nazareth is Jehovah.” Today this is the question we ask when someone claims that he’s become a Christian and wants to be baptized and join the church, “Who is Jesus Christ?” “Jesus Christ is Lord.” “Then you are my brother.” In our text Paul is showing why Jesus Christ is Lord, and how he became our Lord.


We take it for granted as the most natural thing in the world to support Jesus Christ as our Lord. We might support Chelsea Football Club; we might support Plaid Cymru political party; we might support the National Health Service; we might support the war in Iraq, and we shall support Jesus Christ as Lord. It is a decision we think we solely make; it seems to many people a very simple person decision which God himself is waiting for us to make – “O.K. I’ll become a Christian.” Just like that. But to the Bible receiving the Son of God as your Lord is a staggering problem. It is something past human devising. How could we sinners belong to so glorious and perfect a being as Jehovah Jesus? Why should he take responsibility for people like us?

If you want to join the service of a certain company then a testimonial or a reference to your character has to be written about you. What would be written to Jesus Christ about your heart, your thoughts, your words and actions? Would such an honest reference submitted about your character speak of your wonderful perfections and utter purity? Would it, if it were honest? Would the holy Son of God take you on as his servant to love you for ever when he knows everything about you? Probably not; almost definitely not, because of your sins.

Let me use this illustration; you start to notice a beautiful Christian man, warm, generous, thoughtful, wise, hard-working, godly, nice looking, with a good sense of humour. He is much admired with a wide circle of friends, and you have to restrain yourself from falling hopelessly in love with him. You say to yourself, “I’m sure he doesn’t know I exist. Why would anyone as beautiful as that look twice at me?”

Now multiply by infinity; here is the altogether lovely One; the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is God’s only begotten Son, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his great glory. He has to humble himself to consider the things going on in the heaven of heavens. He created all things; he sustains all things. He has no need of you or me; he is utterly self-sufficient and content enjoying the constant blessed eternal love of the Father and the Spirit. And you? You couldn’t be more different from him, born in sin and shapen in iniquity. Every imagination of the thoughts of your heart contaminated by sin. You have never done anything that is free from sin. From the crown of your head to the sole of your feet in his eyes you are covered in wounds and sores. There is no health in you; you are leprous. How on earth could he accept you as his servant and friend, and take responsibility for caring for you for all eternity?

The staggering answer in the Bible is that this spotless one, who is the joy of heaven, came down to earth to seek and save people just like you. Jesus Christ took our frail flesh by being born of a woman. He lived a humble life in the home of a carpenter in an insignificant village. He began to speak to people about himself and his kingdom, and you are hardly going to believe the most incredible claims the Jesus Christ made about himself. If you listen carefully you are going to say, Who is this? What do we have here? Never man spake like this man. Is he God eternal or is he a mad man?

Christ claimed that he had come down from heaven. John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Listen!

He said that he was the Messiah for whom the Jews had waited for over 700 years. In John 4:25-26 we read that, “The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’” Listen!

Our Lord claimed that he existed from all eternity. John 17:5 ‘And now Father, glorify Me with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was.’ John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.’ Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him.” Listen!

He taught that He was the only person in the world with a true knowledge of God. Luke 10:22 “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Listen!

Jesus claimed that he had the power to give men eternal life. John 10:27-28 ‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish.’ He said to the dying thief, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.’ Listen!

This same Jesus directed men to himself as the answer for all their soul’s needs. John 6:35 “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” John 8:12 “I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies.” Listen!

This humble Christ yet claimed from you and all men absolute devotion to himself. Matthew 10:37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Listen!

He came out of Nazareth, straight from the carpenter’s shop and he taught that he was the only way to God. John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.” Listen! He taught that he had the power to forgive sins. Luke 5:20-21 Jesus said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you.’ And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, ‘Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?’ Listen! He even taught that he was sinless and absolutely perfect. John 8:29 “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” Listen! He claimed he was the express image of God; John 14:9 “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” Listen!

Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, accepted worship from other men. Matthew 14:33 “And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’ John 20:28 “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” Listen! He taught that one day he was going to raise every dead person in the world from their graves, just by speaking a word to them. John 5:28-29 “An hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear My voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.” Listen!

He said that he would return at the end of the world to determine the eternal destinies of all men who have ever lived. Matthew 25:31-32 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.’

Did you listen? What a series of claims. I say to you that they are either true or they are the words of a mad-man, totally self-deluded. But would a fraudster preach the Sermon on the Mount, and live so blameless a life? Would a conjurer give sight to the blind, and heal every single sick person who was brought to him? Would a mad person raise the dead? But still more wonderful than the claims of his teaching and the power of his signs is how he ended his days. His life did not end surrounded by splendour, an army of servants waiting on his merest whim, living off the million gifts which those he cured heaped upon him. He never took a single penny for healing anyone. He lived in poverty, and finally he laid down his life; he humbled himself to the death of the cross. Though he had power over men he made no attempt to stop them whipping him, and spitting in his face, and hitting his head, and nailing him to a cross, and mocking him for hours as he died. Why did he die like that? It was only in this way that we could be redeemed. Without his becoming the Lamb of God there would be no forgiveness for our sins. They need atonement. They nailed him there;

“Twas you my sins, my cruel sins

His chief tormentors were,

Each of my crimes became a nail

And unbelief the spear.”

He became our substitute; in our place condemned he stood, and he took our judgment in his own body on the cross.

He died that we might be forgiven;

He died to make us good.

That we might go at last to heaven,

Saved by his precious blood.

That is how we could become his servants and he become our Lord. That is how he could take us on board, and love us with his passionate rich everlasting love, rejoicing over us like a husband rejoices in his wife, crying, “This is my beloved and this is my friend!” Only by his death could we become his bride. With his own blood he bought us, and for our life he died. That is why he had to be crucified and hang in the darkness for those hours and taste death for us. It was to become our Lord and Saviour. By mediatorial accomplishment he became our King. As a reward for his humiliation God has given him all authority in heaven and on earth. He is Lord of the dead and of the living. He has been made Lord of an innumerable company of people as many as the sands on the sea shore. Henceforth we shall live to him. The Lamb of God has bought us. Thine we are O spotless Lamb! He died to become our King of love in this world and the next! Having been bought by him at such a price henceforth we live for him.

Let me tell you of a famous military officer who had been awarded many decorations and had been given a high honour from the monarch. He had a brother who was the black sheep of the family, and finally was tried for murder. He was found guilty, convicted and was sentenced to death. His noble brother did all he could to obtain his pardon. He even pleaded with the House of Lords for his life, and in an unheard of decision, because of what he’d done for the nation, the death penalty for his brother was remitted. So he went to his brother in his prison cell never mentioning the pardon. He asked him this one question, “Brother, if you were to be set free, what would you do?” And the brother with glint in his eye said, “I’d kill that judge who sentenced me to death, and I’d kill the man who witnessed against me.” His brother soon got up and left the cell, and then and there he tore up the pardon.

We’ve not been pardoned by the blood of God the Son to carry on as we’ve always lived, fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and the mind. We’ve been shown mercy at an enormous cost. We’ve been forgiven so that we might no longer live to ourselves, but to live henceforth to the Lord who died for us. We are not our own; as a Christian you no longer live for yourself. We have been bought with a price, and we praise God for that price, glorying in what Jesus Christ has done for us. We are amazed that he redeemed us by his own precious blood. He has forgiven us for all our sin – the sin we are most ashamed of is a forgiven sin! He has adopted us into his family and given us the indwelling Holy Spirit. He has prepared a place for us in glory, and all this has become ours through the darkness of Golgotha alone. He hasn’t saved us that we might gain revenge on those we imagine have hurt us – that we might kill a judge if we were set free. He died for us that we might live ever, only, all for him. He died that he might be our Lord in life and death.


He who died, returned to life. And why should anyone believe that? What is the evidence for that?

i] First there is the evidence that is called direct evidence. Direct evidence is this: “I saw you cross the street and I saw you get into that car.” I am an eyewitness. That is what is called direct evidence, as opposed to “My mother told me that she saw you cross that street and get into the car.” That is not admissible evidence; that is hearsay. All of the disciples, as they present the resurrection of Jesus Christ present it as direct evidence, as ‘I saw it.’ Go through and read the gospel accounts and chapter 15 in the first letter to the Corinthians. They all say this, ‘We saw Him.’ You know what happens when a woman accuses a man of raping her and the evidence is overwhelming, the defence lawyers seek to discredit her character. They pry into her past and relationships. “By the way, where were you on so and so? Who is so and so and what sort of relationship did you have with him, and then there was someone else, and someone else? How far did you go?” and so on. They seek to discredit the woman. How about the apostles? What was their character like? Were they reliable good men? Were they dreamers in Never-Never-Land? Were they subversive men, plotters and conspirators? Steady on! These were businessmen, fishermen, men who had never been to rabbinic schools; plain ordinary unadorned men and women. That in fact was the charge against them, but their lives and their characters could not be smirched and their whole argument was this, ‘I saw him alive, at the lake, on the road, on the hill, in the upper room, in the garden, by myself with the twelve, with 500 hundred others.’ And every one of them was prepared to give his life rather than deny it, and many of them did, not for an ideology but for a fact.

ii] There is a second kind of evidence and that is circumstantial evidence, and that goes like this. There is an act; that act is repeated; and it is repeated until a certain pattern is formed and that pattern leads you to one conclusion. It is a system of circumstances; in the case of Jesus of Nazareth on trial the circumstances go like this. How was Jesus of Nazareth born? Of a virgin, as prophesied. How did he live? Nobody could prove one sin in his life. In fact, his trial was biased and he was judged guilty on one basis that he claimed to be God, and they said “Blasphemy!” What did he do in this life? He taught and preached with such authority as no one had ever heard a man speak. He also did many mighty works, miracles, showing extraordinary power over creation, over the devil, over sickness and over death. At his own death he prayed for those who were crucifying him that God would forgive them because of their ignorance. That is the picture of Jesus that those who know him build up and then they ask are you shocked at his resurrection? Is it a surprising thing that God should raise the dead? He had told them many times that he would be betrayed and crucified and that on the third day he would rise and explain everything. He based his whole life on the resurrection. Circumstantial evidence of such a pattern and dimensions and thoroughness wins cases. Extraordinary patterns are established. Look at the rest of the lives of these men and women who saw him alive for 40 days. Did they fall away and grow disillusioned? Did the whole thing fizzle out? You consider all this and you say, “Who is this man?” Christians say, “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”

iii] Thirdly there is real evidence. There’s one last means that is used to defend a case and prove a case. That’s the kind of evidence that is called real evidence. There’s a gun and somebody is shot. There are ballistics for the bullet. There are fingerprints. There is a DNA match. There is a security camera picture. That’s what is called real evidence. And the real evidence for the resurrection are such facts as these: Jesus Christ says to Thomas, “Go ahead; this is not a ghost; stick your finger into the palms of my hands,’ and Thomas falls down on his knees, and he says, “My Lord and My God.” When Jesus called her name to Mary, “Mary!” she knew that this was her teacher. When Paul tells us that most of the five hundred people who spent an hour or two with him on a mountainside were still alive and were all prepared to appear in the witness box and be cross-examined about that afternoon with the risen Christ, then that is real evidence.

For the rest of their lives those people who had been affected by the risen Christ served him and his kingdom. They went on telling people of this extraordinary person, this living Saviour, this caring, holy and wise friend. There’s the common phrase you hear today when a person says, “I’m not in a relationship just now,” or they say, “I am in a relationship.” I am saying that every single Christian, the most backsliding Christian is in a relationship with the mighty Lord of heaven. That is the essence of true religion. Let me point out the fact that the resurrection distinguishes Jesus Christ from all other world religion founders. Buddha never prophesied he would rise from the dead and he did not, nor did Mohammed, nor did Confucius. None of the world’s great religions have at their core a resurrected Saviour. If your Lord isn’t alive then why are you serving dust? The resurrection also distinguishes Jesus from every other great man who has been in this world. On the third day he rose from the dead. No other person has risen from the dead never again to die.

In this letter to the Romans Paul brings up this subject of the resurrection of Christ frequently. Let me draw your attention to four things that Paul says about its significance in this epistle because then you will understand the significance of our text.

i] Firstly, in the opening chapter, in fact the opening verses, in Romans 1:4, Paul says that “Christ Jesus was declared the Son of God, with power, by the resurrection from the dead.” So, the resurrection is what declared he is lord; he is highly exalted and given a name above every name. People grumble, “You preachers are all the same, making these big theological statements about Jesus Christ, claiming that he is God and Lord. How do you know it? How does anyone know?” By his resurrection from the dead. That assures us that all those claims he made about himself are true – every last one of them – by this fact that God raised him on the third day. He is indeed God the Son. His resurrection is the manifestation to all the world of the veracity of his claims. He was declared the Son of God by his resurrection. In I Timothy 3:16, Paul tells us that Jesus was vindicated in or by the Spirit. There is a line in the most famous of Vernon Higham’s hymns which says, “The Spirit vindicated Christ the Lord.” When was he vindicated in the Spirit? He was vindicated when he was raised by the Spirit from the dead. God is saying that Jesus was not a blasphemer and a criminal. “He is my son.” He is vindicating him by not allowing his body to rot. He is giving an incontrovertible testimony of his Lordship, of having all authority in heaven and on earth by raising him from the dead. That’s the first and most important thing that the resurrection witnesses to. It attests to his Lordship as Son of God with power.

ii] Secondly, in Romans 4:25, Paul emphasizes that the resurrection is a testimony to the certainty that our sins are forgiven and we are pardoned sinners. Our redemption rests upon the truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Look at what Paul says in Romans 4:25 about Christ: “He . . . was delivered up for our transgressions . . .” Jesus was delivered over, betrayed into the hands of his enemies in order that he would suffer in our place, for our transgressions; that’s the first part of the clause. Then Paul goes on to say, “and was raised for our justification”. He was raised in order that we might be declared righteous. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is that which makes us righteous in Christ. Just as if I’d never sinned! That is what the resurrection of Christ preaches to me, and so our assurance of complete forgiveness for all my past sins, and all my present sins, and all my future sins rests upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The return to life of Christ is not just a happy ending. It is absolutely essential to our salvation.

iii] Thirdly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only something that points us forward to the resurrection at the last day, the resurrection is something that helps us day by day, because Paul teaches that Jesus Christ alive from the dead is the source of the new life that we live now as the servants of Christ under his Lordship. So let’s consider Romans 6:4, where Paul says, “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism, into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of the Father, so we might walk in newness of life.” Now, you know what you are expecting him to say? You are expecting him to say that, “So that as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of the Father, we, one day, will be raised from the dead, by the glory of the Father.” And that is a great truth, but it is not the truth Paul is teaching here. As Christ was raised by the glory of the Father, then we, too who are joined to him like a branch in a vine, will live in newness of life.

What is Paul saying? He is saying that our union with Christ, by faith in the resurrected and living one, provides for us and works in us a throbbing source, an energy, the power, the grace to live the Christian life right now. You find it hard to live in the same congregation as these proselytising vegetarians. You always absent yourself from Fellowship Lunch because of the way they refuse to eat ‘good food’. It sticks in your throat; “Let them leave and start their own church.” Paul says, “Come on! That is how the world blusters. You are a partaker of the divine nature. You have resources to handle pressures like these. The power that raised Jesus from the dead has made you alive. His life is in you.” In other words we are not to imagine Christ far away from us, up in heaven, sending life into us, but rather that Christ himself our life himself joins us to himself. He comes to us and he lives in us. He becomes the sustaining power of our new life.

It is one of the great distinctive aspects of New Testament teaching about the Christian life that we don’t walk with the Lord by our own earnest devotion. We are living our whole new lives in the power of the grace of the living Saviour. From where do you derive this Christ-like life? Do you know how God requires you to live this week? Listen to these demands from Romans 12:9-21; this is the fruit of our risen Head in his body, the church, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

How are we to live like that? From our union with the once dead but now risen and living and present Christ. The same power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in you now. That’s a staggering truth and it’s almost unbelievable. I fear some of you don’t believe it. But you must let this truth be the one great truth that keeps you as a Christ. “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, and yet not I but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gals. 2:20).

iv] Then fourthly, Paul tells us that the resurrection is the guarantee of our resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foretaste of our resurrection. He is the firstfruits of all who believe. Because he lives we shall live also. The grave did not gain a victory over him; he was more powerful than death. So it will be for us! That is why he is our Lord in life and in death also. So in Romans 8:13 the apostle emphasizes, beginning in verse 11, this fact; “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies, through his Spirit who indwells you.” If the Spirit of Jesus dwells in you, and he indwells every single Christian, then he is the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. So he is going to raise your mortal bodies from the dead also. In all these ways Paul points to the importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ for us as believers.

You know how the world responds to all these great truths about Jesus Christ overcoming death, and the fact that we shall rise too, that it dismisses it as wishful thinking, that we want it to happen and so we say it to one another. Far from it! So much of what Paul says about the resurrection is about this life, and handling tensions in a congregation between one group and another. An important part of our lives, to be sure, is to come. But much of what Paul says about the resurrection of Jesus Christ is about living ‘right now.’ Paul was one who didn’t believe in Jesus Christ at first. He did believe he was crucified but that was as a liar and blasphemer, but he certainly couldn’t believe a far-fetched story about him rising from the dead. He changed his mind. That is the mark of a great man isn’t it? That he will look at the evidence and is prepared to go against a position he once, maybe publicly, maintained.

Paul was constrained on the road to Damascus to believe in this truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, not because he was already temperamentally, emotionally, inclined to believe it – he hadn’t been conditioned by his parents to believe it, but because the reality was forced upon him when the Lord Jesus met him personally on the road. A road! You want to choose the place you get converted, and the man under whom you become a Christian – some famous man? You want it to be just right, moving, and dramatic? You would prefer Paul’s encounter with Christ to have been in a cunningly lit temple with the smell of incense in the air? An ‘upper room’ has a ring about it. Or maybe on a mountaintop in a shadowy cave? Maybe half way up the Himalayas on your famous costly search for the truth? It was nothing like that. It was on a pot-holed dusty busy road running north to Syria and its capital Damascus. There the living Christ chose to meet with him. With C.S.Lewis it was upstairs on a double-decker bus that he was surprised by joy.

So Paul met the risen Jesus. It wasn’t a vision of Christ you understand. Not a vision at all; not a ghost. The living Christ himself stopped him in his tracks and drove his life in a new direction, and spoke to him words – sounds which Paul heard with his ears, and answered his questions, and this Person changed him from that moment on. It was not a vision nor a ghost. It was a resurrected body. The cells’ dissolution had reversed; the molecules had reknit; the amino acids had rekindled; the hinges of thumbs and toes moved back and fore; the heart began to beat again, the valves doing their work stopping the flow and encouraging the flow. It was not a metaphor Paul saw on the Damascus Road; not a parable; not a crude whitewash sign by a Christian on a rock saying “Jesus lives!” He saw and heard the man Christ Jesus.

You never had to convince Paul to ground the truth of the resurrection in reality and make it practical – “Make it relevant preacher!” Paul was an eye-witness of the risen Lord! And though it was against every instinct of his background and beliefs and personality that day he lay in the dust, life’s glory dead, on the road to Damascus before the living Jesus of Nazareth whom he then knew was Jehovah the Son of God. He did not do this because it was good, but because it was true. In fact this is the greatest reality of the whole universe, that the Lord who made all things is named Jesus and is alive now and can save us from our sin, such sins as not being patient and loving with people who disagree with us about eating and drinking and keeping feast days. Jesus Christ is our Lord.

8 October 2006 GEOFF THOMAS