RPM, Volume 19, Number 21, May 21 to May 27, 2017

The Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism

By Dr. Zacharias Ursinus


Question 45. What doth the resurrection of Christ profit us?

Answer. First: by his resurrection he hath overcome death, that he might make as partakers of that righteousness which he had purchased for us by his death. Secondly, we are also by his power raised up to a new life. And lastly, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge of our blessed resurrection.


We have thus far spoken of the humiliation of Christ which reached its last point in the article of his descent into hell. We must now speak of his glorification, which began with his resurrection from the dead on the third day. The humiliation of the mediator was not to continue forever. It was sufficient that he should once suffer, and die. But the efficacy and power of Christ, in preserving the blessings which flow from his humiliation, will endure forever.

There are two things which particularly claim our attention in treating upon the article of the resurrection of Christ -- its history and benefits. In considering the history of the resurrection of Christ it becomes us to enquire, 1. Who was it that rose from the dead? It was Christ, the God-man who rose in the same body in which he died. This the Word never laid aside. 2. In what manner did he rise? He, who was truly dead, revived, recalling his soul to his body, and came forth gloriously from the sepulcher in which his body was laid on the third day, according to the Scriptures; and that by his Father's, as well as by his own peculiar strength and power, we mean, the power not of his humanity, but of his Divinity. For he was raised by the Father through himself; inasmuch as the Father works through the Son. 3. What are the evidences of his resurrection? The evidences of the resurrection of Christ are such as these: that he showed himself openly to many women and disciples; that the angel testified to it, &c. The benefits of the resurrection of Christ are enumerated in the Question of the Catechism now under consideration, which we must explain more fully; and in doing this, the following questions claim our particular attention:

I. Did Christ rise from the dead?
II. How did he rise?
III. For what purpose did he rise?
IV. What are the benefits, or fruits of his resurrection?


Infidels believe that Christ died, but do not believe that he rose from the dead. That Christ, however, did rise from the dead is proven by the testimony of angels, women, evangelists, apostles, and other saints, who saw him, felt him, and conversed with him after his resurrection. And even if the Apostles had not seen Christ after his resurrection, we ought still to believe them on account of their divine authority.


The following circumstances explain the manner of the resurrection of Christ:

1. Christ did truly rise, that is, his soul did truly return to his body, from which it was separated by death, and he did truly come forth from the sepulcher in which his body was laid, notwithstanding the vigilance of the guards; yea, he even struck them with amazement and wonder.

2. He rose the same person, the same Jesus Christ, very God and very man, which had died; he rose according to the nature in which he had suffered, which was his human nature, his true human nature, the very same which it was in essence and properties, not deified, but glorified, having laid aside all the infirmities to which it was subject. "Behold my hands and my feet, it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have." (Luke 24:39.) And truly nothing different from that which had died, could rise again. The very same body, therefore, which had fallen a victim to death rose again; and it is this which affords us such great comfort. For it was necessary that he should be one, and the same mediator, who would merit for us those blessings which we had lost by sin, and who would restore them unto us, by applying them to each one singly. Yea, had not the flesh of Christ risen, ours could not rise.

3. He rose by his own power, that is, he vanquished death, throwing it from himself, quickened his dead body, reunited it with his soul, and restored to himself a blessed, heavenly, and glorious life, and that by his own divine virtue and power. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." "I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again." "As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." (John 2:19; 10:18; 5:21.)

Obj. But Christ was raised by the Father; for it is said, "If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you," &c. (Rom. 8:11.) Therefore Christ did not raise himself. Ans. The Father raised the Son through the Son himself, not as through an instrument, but as through another person of the same essence with himself, and of infinite power, through whom the Father ordinarily works. The Son was raised by the Father through himself; he himself raised himself by his Spirit. "For what things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise."

4. He rose on the third day in the manner just described: 1. Because the Scriptures which contain all the predictions and types relating to the Messiah, declare that he would rise on the third day; as the type of Jonah, &c. 2. Because it was proper that his body should rise free from corruption; and yet not so soon after his death as to leave any doubt that he was truly dead. It is for this reason that he rose on the third day, and not on the first. The circumstance of his rising on the third day is, therefore, added in the Creed that the truth might correspond with the type, and that we might know that Jesus is the Messiah promised to the fathers, because he rose from the dead on the third day.


Christ rose: 1. For his own glory and for that of his Father. "Declared to be the Son of God, by the resurrection from the dead." "Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee." (Rom. 1:4. John I7:1.) The glory of the Son is the glory of the Father.

2. On account of the prophecies which had been uttered in relation to the death, and resurrection of Christ. "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, nor suffer thy holy One to see corruption." "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed; he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." "No sign shall be given to it, but the sign of the prophet, Jonas; for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." "For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead." (Ps. 16:10. Acts 2:27. Isa. 53:10, 11. Matt. 12:39. John 20:9.) In view now of these and other prophecies, it was necessary that Christ should die, and rise again, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled: "How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be;" (Matt. 26:54,) viz, on account of the unchangeable decree of God which he has revealed in the Scriptures, of which it is said in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 4:27, 28, "Of a truth, against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were gathered together; for to do whatsoever thy hand, and thy counsel determined before to be done." The predictions which Christ uttered in relation to his death and resurrection, may also be here appropriately cited. "And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again." "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." (Matt. 17:23. John 2:19.)

3. On account of the dignity, and power of the person that rose. It was in view of this, that the Apostle Peter declares that it was not possible that Christ should be held under the power of death: 1. Because he was the beloved, and only begotten Son of God. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hands." "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son." (John 3:35, 16.) 2. Because Christ is true God, the author and fountain of life. "I am the Resurrection, and the Life." "The Father hath given to the Son to have life in himself." "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will." "I give unto them eternal life." (John 11:25; 5:21, 26; 10:28.) If Christ now was to give life to men it is absurd to suppose that he should remain under the power of death and not rise. 3. Christ was in himself a righteous man, and has by his death satisfied for our sins which were imputed unto him. But where there is no sin, there death does not any longer reign. "For by one offering, he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." "For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." (Heb. 10:14. Rom. 6:10.)

4. Christ arose that he might carry on the office of mediator, which he could not have done had he remained under death. 1. It became the mediator, who was true God and man, to reign eternally. "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter." "I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be my Son." "Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established forever, as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven." "They shall be my people, and I will be their God; and David, my servant, shall be king over them forever." "And the kingdom, and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him." "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end." "And of his kingdom there shall be no end." (Ps. 45:6. 2 Sam. 7:13, 14. Ps. 89:36, 37, 38. Ez. 37:23. Dan. 7:27. Isa. 9:7. Luke 1:33.) It was necessary, therefore, that the human nature which was made of the seed of David should rise from the dead and reign. 2. It was necessary that the mediator, who is our brother and very man, should continually make intercessions for us, and appear before God in our behalf as an everlasting priest. "Thou art a Priest forever after the order of Melchisedek." "It is Christ that died, yea, rather that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us." (Ps. 110:4. Rom. 8:34.) 3. It behooved the mediator, who is true man, to be mediator both by merit and efficacy. It was not sufficient for him merely to die. It became him also, by his power, to confer upon the church, and upon all of us, the benefits which he had purchased for us by his death. These benefits are righteousness, the Holy Spirit and eternal life and glory. For it belonged to the office of the mediator both to merit and to confer these blessings. But if he had remained under the power of death, and had not risen from the dead, he could not have conferred these gifts upon us, because then he would have had no existence, and hence could have effected nothing in our behalf. It is for this reason also, that these blessings are deposited in Christ by the God head, that he should make us partakers of them: "And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." (John 1:16.) Nor can it seem strange that Christ should bestow upon us the same blessings which he has, by his death, obtained from the Godhead for us: for a man may obtain a certain thing from someone, and may also confer it upon another. A certain one, for instance, may intercede in behalf of another, with a Prince, for a gift of a thousand crowns. The Prince may grant the request for the sake of him who intercedes, and may also confer the gift upon him that he may bestow it upon him for whom intercession has been made. In this case he obtains the gift from the Prince and confers it at the same time. So it is in relation to Christ -- although he could have conferred his benefits upon us by the power of his Godhead, through which he regenerates and justifies us; yet as God has decreed to raise the dead by man, (for by man came also the resurrection of the dead) and to judge the world by man, so he also determined to bestow these same gifts by the man Jesus, that he might be and continue mediator, very God and very man. It was on this account also necessary that Christ should forever remain our brother, and our Head; and that we, on the other hand, being engrafted into him by a true faith, might always continue his members. "Abide in me and I in you." (John 5:4.) Our salvation has its foundation in the seed of David, as it is said, "My servant David shall feed them forever." (Ez. 34:23.) But if his human nature had remained under the power of death, he would neither have been our brother, nor would we have been his members. Obj. But Christ, under the Old Testament, before his in carnation, conferred without his human nature upon the lathers the very same blessings which he now under the New Testament bestows upon us; and was mediator no less before he assumed our nature, than he is now since he has taken it upon himself. Therefore it was not necessary that Christ should, for this cause, become man and die. Ans. But it would not have been possible for Christ to have done the things which he did under the Old Testament unless he had subsequently become man, and unless he would also remain such forever. Nor could he now do these things if he had not risen from the dead, or if he would not forever retain our nature which he has assumed. "The Father hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man." (John 5:27.)

5. Christ rose for our salvation, and that in three respects: 1. For our justification. "Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification." (Rom. 4:25.) The resurrection of the mediator was necessary for our justification, first, because his satisfaction would not have been perfect without it, nor would the punishment which he endured in that case have been finite. And without such a satisfaction and punishment it was not possible that we could have been freed from everlasting death, from which it became the mediator to deliver us in such a manner as to overcome it entirely in us. But in order that he might vanquish death in us it was necessary that he should first overcome it in himself, and so fulfill that which had been predicted: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "death where is thy sting? grave where is thy victory." (Hos. 16:14. 1 Cor. 15:55.) By so doing he confounded his enemies who had reviled him when hanging upon the cross, saying, "He saved others, himself he cannot save." (Matt. 27:42.) And still further: if he had not conquered death, he could not have bestowed upon us the benefits which he had merited for us by his death. It belonged to the office of mediator as we have already shown, both to merit and bestow benefits. Yea, had he not risen from the dead, we could not have known that he had satisfied for us; for this would have been a certain argument that he had not made this satisfaction, but was overcome by death and the burden of sin; because where death is there is sin; or, if he had made satisfaction for us, and yet remained under the power of death, it would have been inconsistent with the justice of God. Hence it was necessary that Christ should rise again, as well that he might make satisfaction for us, as that we might also know that he has fully accomplished this, and merited benefits for us; and finally, that he himself might be able to apply these benefits unto us, or what is the same thing, that we might be perfectly justified and saved by his merits and efficacy. 2. Christ rose for our regeneration. Justification or the remission of sin is not sufficient without regeneration, and a new life. 3. Christ rose for the preservation of the benefits which he had purchased for us by his death, and that he might secure our resurrection and glorification. It is in this way that God has purposed eternally to quicken and glorify us, that being inserted into the body or humanity of his Son we may be perpetually borne by it, and draw our life from it. "By man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." (1 Cor. 15:21.) It was for these reasons necessary that Christ should rise again, that is, that his soul, which was separated from his body by death, should again be united therewith; for the resurrection is nothing else than a re-union of the same body with the same soul.


The questions, for what purpose did Christ rise, and what are the fruits of his resurrection, are different. For not all the causes of his resurrection are fruits thereof. The causes of his resurrection too, are considered in one way and the fruits thereof in another. And besides, the benefits which Christ has secured for us by his resurrection are the causes of it in as far as it was necessary, in order that he might confer these gifts by the power of his resurrection.

The fruits of the resurrection of Christ are, moreover, two-fold, having respect both to Christ and to us. As it respects Christ, he was, by his resurrection from the dead, declared to be the Son of God, the only begotten and natural Son of God, who is also himself God. (Rom. 1:4.) For he revived by his own power, which is peculiar to God alone. "In him was life." "As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." (John 1:4; 5:26.) And still further, the human nature of Christ, by his resurrection, was adorned with heavenly gifts, with immortality, and with that glory which becomes the nature of the Son of God. "That ye may know what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be Head over all things to the church." (Eph. 1:18-23.)

The fruits of the resurrection of Christ, which have respect to us, are various. Speaking in a general way, it may be said that all the benefits of Christ's death are also fruits of his resurrection; for his resurrection secures the effect which his death was designed to have. Christ by his resurrection applies to us the benefits which he has merited for us. In this way the benefits of his death and resurrection are the same, unless it be that they have been merited for us by his death differently from what they are conferred upon us by his resurrection. It was not necessary that the act of meriting should continue through the entire period of both the old and new church. But it was different with the act of bestowing and applying these benefits. This was to continue forever. And hence it was necessary also that the mediator should exist in every period of the church, that he might always confer the blessings which he was once to merit, and which it was not possible to confer without a mediator. As it respects the church which existed before the incarnation of Christ, the mediator be stowed the benefits of his death which had not yet taken place, by the power and efficacy of his resurrection yet to come; but now he confers these benefits upon us by the power of his resurrection as having already taken place.

It now remains for us to specify particularly the principal fruits which the resurrection of Christ secures unto us.

1. The resurrection of Christ bears testimony to his merit that he has perfectly satisfied for our sins. One single sin unatoned for, would have kept him under the power of death; for he was cast into such a prison as to make it entirely impossible for him ever to have escaped thence, except by paying the very last farthing. But he did come out of this prison. Therefore he must have paid the uttermost farthing. In view now of this his merit we have remission of sins, and are justified before God. The resurrection of Christ also assures us as to the application of his benefits, which he could not have conferred had he not risen from the dead; for, as we have already shown, it became the same mediator, being man, both to merit and bestow gifts, and for this reason to rise from the dead. In as much, therefore, as he has risen, we are assured that he has not only merited, but is also able to bestow upon us the benefits of his death; for, says the Apostle Paul, "Christ was raised again for our justification," that is, to confer and apply unto us his righteousness. (Rom. 4:25.)

2. Another benefit resulting to us from the resurrection of Christ, is the gift of the Holy Spirit, through whom Christ regenerates us and raises us up unto eternal life. It behooved him first to throw off death from himself, and then from us; and it is necessary for us to be united to him as our Head, that the Holy Ghost may thus pass over from him into us. Hence he now obtains and grants unto us, since his resurrection from the dead, the Holy Ghost, and through him unites us to himself, regenerates and quickens us. It is true indeed that the godly also in the church of old were endowed with, and regenerated by the Holy Ghost; yet the influences of the Spirit were not then enjoyed to the extent to which they now are under the New Testament, and that by the power of his resurrection which was then still to come. The Holy Ghost, by whose virtue alone we are regenerated, could not be given without the resurrection and ascension of Christ into heaven. Hence it is said, "The Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7:39.)

3. The resurrection of our bodies is another fruit of the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ is a pledge of ours, 1. Because he is our Head, and we are his members. Much of his glory as our Head depends upon, and results from the glory and dignity of his members. It is true indeed that Christ would exist and would be glorious in and by himself, even though his members were to remain under the power of death, yet he would not be a head, or king, &c., in as much as no one can be a head without members, nor a king without a kingdom. Christ therefore is head only in respect to his members. 2. If Christ be risen, he has abolished sin; not, however, his own sin, for he was free from all manner of sin; but he has abolished sin as it respects us. And if he has abolished our sin, he has also abolished death; for in removing the cause he has, at the same time, removed the effect. "The wages of sin is death." (Rom. 6:23.) And further, if he has abolished death, and that by a sufficient satisfaction for our sins, as his resurrection fully testifies, then his resurrection is most assuredly a certain evidence and pledge of our resurrection, in as much as it is impossible that we should continue in death since Christ has rendered a full and sufficient satisfaction in our behalf. 3. As the first Adam received benefits for himself and all his posterity, and lost these same benefits for all his posterity; so Christ, the second Adam, received life and glory for himself and us; and will, therefore, also communicate this life and all his other gifts to us. 4. That the resurrection of Christ is a pledge of our resurrection, may also be inferred from the fact that the same Spirit dwells in us which dwelt in Christ, and will also work the same in us which he wrought in Christ our head. The Spirit is always the same in whomsoever he dwells. He does not work effectually in the head, and sleep in the members. Seeing, therefore, that Christ raised himself from the dead by his Spirit, he will also without doubt raise us. "If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." (Rom. 8:11.) 5. Christ is our brother and will not, therefore, on account of his tender love and affection, leave us under the power of death, especially if we take into consideration his power and glory. For if he raised himself when dead, much more will he be able to raise us, in as much as he is now alive. And if he had power to raise himself from the dead when existing in a state of humiliation, much more can he now raise us, seeing that he reigns gloriously at the right hand of the Father. There are, however, besides these three, other fruits which the resurrection of Christ secures unto us, such as the following:

4. The resurrection of Christ confirms his claims to the Messiahship inasmuch as there is in his resurrection a most complete, and exact fulfillment of various prophecies.

5. We are assured by the resurrection of Christ, that he now performs the different parts of the office of mediator, that he applies unto us the benefit of redemption, that he constantly preserves us in the righteousness which he has made over unto us, that he commences a new life in us, and thus confirms us as to the consummation of eternal life, which he could not do, had he not risen from the dead.

6. Seeing that Christ now lives, and reigns forever, we may be certain that he will preserve, and defend his Church.

7. The last, though not the least, benefit resulting from the resurrection of Christ, is the consummation of all his benefits, and the glorification of the Church. It was for this reason that Christ died, rose again, and has delivered us perfectly from sin, that he might make us heirs with him in his kingdom and glory. "He is the First-born from the dead." "Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." (Col. 1:18. Rom. 8:17.) He shall conform us to himself, because both he and we live by the same Spirit. And this Spirit is not unlike himself. For "if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in you, he that raised," &c. "I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am there ye may be also." (Rom. 8:11. John 14:3.)

The sum of what we have now said as touching the fruits of the resurrection of Christ is this, that seeing he has risen from the dead, it is evident that he is declared to be the Son of God, and that his humanity is endowed with that glory which becomes the nature of the Son of God; and also that he bestows upon us his righteousness, regenerates us by the influence of his Spirit, and will perfect the new life which he has begun in us, and make us partakers with himself in his glory, felicity and everlasting life.

Obj. 1. The resurrection of Christ, according to what has been said, can neither be an argument in favor of the resurrection of the wicked, nor the cause of it, inasmuch as they are not members of Christ. Therefore the wicked will not rise. Ans. The wicked will not rise on account of the resurrection of Christ, but for other causes, viz: on account of the just judgment of God, for which they will be raised from the dead, that they may be eternally punished. For there may be in regard to the same thing many effects, and different causes.

Obj. 2. But the things which have been specified, are the benefits of his death, and cannot, therefore, be regarded as the fruits of his resurrection. Ans. They are benefits of his death in as far as he has merited them by his death; and they are the fruits of his resurrection by the manifestation which he thus made of them; for he declared by his resurrection that he had purchased these gifts for us. By his coming forth from the punishment under which he was laid, he declared that he had fully satisfied for our sins. And they are still further the fruits of his resurrection by the application which he makes of them, having risen. He being rich was made poor, and being poor was made rich again, that we might become rich. (2 Cor. 8:9.)

Obj. 3. The cause is before the effect. But the cause of these benefits which is here said to be the resurrection of Christ, was not before the justification of the fathers, and the resurrection of the saints under the Old Testament. Therefore the effect, which comprehends these benefits, cannot be sooner than the cause itself. Ans. We deny the minor proposition; for whilst the cause did not exist as to its completion, yet it did exist in the counsel of God, and as it respects its efficacy and virtue, even under the Old Testament dispensation: because even then the fathers were received into divine favor, and enjoyed, to a certain extent, the influence of the Holy Spirit and other gifts, for and through the mediator, who was to come into the world, humble himself, and be glorified.

What then is the meaning of this article of the Creed: I believe in Christ, who rose from the dead on the third day? It means that I believe: 1. That Christ did truly recall his soul to his body which was dead, and quickened it. 2. That he retained a true soul and body; and that both are now glorified, and free from all infirmity. 3. That he rose by his own divine virtue and power. 4. That he rose for the purpose of making us partakers of the righteousness, holiness, and glorification, which he had purchased for us.

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