Gas prices. It’s criminal to pay $437 per gallon. You’d come into a small fortune if you struck oil on your property. Imagine there is oil beneath the surface of your backyard, you just have to dig deep enough to get it, but you don’t know it’s there. One day, you think to yourself, “I don’t want to take out loans anymore to fill my car with gas. I’m going to do something about this craziness. I wonder if there is oil in my backyard.” So, you go out and start digging. You dig down one foot. No oil. Your hands are starting to hurt. You dig down another foot and stop in disgust. “This isn’t working. There’s no oil here! What was I thinking?” Instead of digging, you grab an iced tea.
What was the problem? Well, ignoring the fact that you need equipment to drill for oil and an oil refinery to create gasoline, you didn’t really believe there was oil beneath your backyard, and you gave up before you got to it. You weren’t willing to do the work to get deep enough. In the end, you gave up because digging felt useless.
And this is how many people approach theology. Little depth is acceptable. They don’t really believe digging deep leads to spiritual riches. They don’t devote much to digging because they aren’t confident it’s worth it, they don’t feel like it, and sometimes, they’re quite critical and accusatory of those who are digging claiming “deeds, not creeds” or that theology is all head and no heart. How wrong they are.
Like oil, you have to keep digging deep into theology because the deeper you go the more spiritual riches you gain, not simply for the mind but for the affections as well. Theology is for the head and heart and must be both or it’s not being done right. But you have to believe there are riches to be gained to want to dig deep.
Make no mistake, the purpose of theology is to truly know and love God, to grow in the knowledge of and affection for God, and to be deeply blessed by God. We must know doctrines like predestination, effectual calling, regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, etc., and how we benefit from them. If we don’t understand how we benefit from theology, we have yet to understand theology. As we learn the profound doctrines of Scripture, we must always be asking, “How does this relate to the goodness of God, and how does this benefit me?”
You likely just celebrated Easter. As an aside, don’t forget that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ every single Lord’s Day of the year. In fact, we meet on the first day of the week precisely because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. So, even though many Christians elevate and prioritize one Sunday of the year, there are really 52 Easters throughout the year. Anyway, some of you listeners have heard about the resurrection since you were kids. The stone was rolled away. The tomb was empty. Jesus is alive. These are massive theological truths. But do you know how these truths benefit you? What do they mean for you? Why are they good for you? If you know and believe the truths of the resurrection without knowing the benefits of the resurrection, you do not know the resurrection as you ought and you are missing out on peace, comfort, assurance, and joy. So, you can’t stop digging. There are riches beneath the surface, and in order to benefit from them, you must keep digging.
Heidelberg 45 asks a very important question, a question we should ask of every Biblical doctrine: “How does Christ’s resurrection benefit us?” In other words, how does this theological truth work for our advantage? That’s a very important question. And Heidelberg 45 gives three marvelous benefits. It answers:
First, by His resurrection, He has overcome death, so that He could make us share in the righteousness which He had obtained for us by His death. Second, by His power, we too are raised up to a new life. Third, Christ’s resurrection is to us a sure pledge of our glorious resurrection.
There is much to unpack in that answer, but I’d like to focus on the first benefit. In 2 Timothy 1:10, Paul said that “our Savior Christ Jesus . . . abolished death.” Our crucified and risen Lord has vanquished death. He put death to death for us.
In Romans 4:25, Paul said that Jesus our Lord “was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” The purpose of the resurrection was our justification. The Greek word for justification is dikaiōsis which means to be acquitted, to be declared righteous by God. How can sinners be declared righteous by God? They have no inherent righteousness, they are sinners, so they must receive righteousness from outside of themselves. When God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, he vindicated him thus verifying his righteousness. Philippians 2:8 says that Jesus Christ was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” He perfectly obeyed God throughout his life and onto the cross. The resurrection confirms his righteousness.
By vanquishing death, Jesus Christ shares with us his righteousness which is imputed to us by grace alone through faith alone. Jesus shares his righteousness, which is grace alone, and he shares it with us through faith alone which the Holy Spirit works in our hearts by the gospel. So, dear Christian, by his glorious resurrection, Jesus Christ the crucified and risen Lord shares with you his righteousness so that you are accepted and loved by God. You are reckoned or counted righteous because of the righteousness credited to you through faith alone. That’s a massive benefit for which we ought to be extremely thankful.
It would be right and good for God to destroy you and me in our sin. You and I deserve death and condemnation. But because God is infinite in mercy, compassion, and grace, He has raised His beloved Son from the dead in order to credit to you and me His beloved Son’s righteousness in order to accept you and me, draw us close to Himself, and love and care for us. Without the resurrection, we are still in our sins and condemned; because of the resurrection, we possess the righteousness of Christ and are alive in him to live to God (Rom. 6:10-11; Gal. 2:19).
The gospel is an infinite petroleum reservoir of hope, comfort, and joy that must be reached through digging. We cannot drain the reservoir of the profundity of the resurrection dry, but we can dig a little deeper to draw more hope, comfort, and joy from it. Commit yourself to lifelong digging into theology in order to strike the riches beneath the surface. Dig until you strike oil. Dig until the oil bursts up from the ground of Scripture to bless you with incredible benefits. Christ has been raised from the dead for your justification. What rich grace. Let us together continue to drill deeper into the gospel in order to find more and more comfort in it for life and for death.
Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism and creeds are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism: True Comfort for Life & Death (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021), 395.
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.