newnessFrank J. Matera

Christ's Resurrection is the decisive event that inaugurates the resurrection of the dead and makes possible what Paul calls 'newness of life' in Christ and the Spirit. Frank J. Matera is Professor Emeritus of the Catholic University of America and Pastor of St Mary's in Simsbury, Connecticut, USA.

The Resurrection is the heart of Paul's theology. It is Paul's faith in the risen Christ that defines who he is and how he lives. It is his faith in the risen Christ that unlocks for him the goal and purpose of the Christian life. What is true for Paul is also true for those engaged in pastoral ministry. Without faith in Christ's Resurrection and hope for our own resurrection, pastoral ministry has no abiding purpose. Given the importance of the Resurrection for faith and ministry, this article summarizes Paul's understanding of the Resurrection, which enabled him and all who believe in Christ to live in what he calls 'newness of life' (Rom. 6.4). The remainder of this essay unfolds in three parts:

(1) the Resurrection as the decisive event in God's redemptive plan;
(2) the relationship between Christ's Resurrection and the resurrection of those who believe in him; and (3) the newness of life believers enjoy in Christ.

The decisive event

The New Testament proclaims that the decisive event in God's redemptive plan is the Resurrection of Christ. In affirming this, the death of Christ is not excluded since the Resurrection implies his death. Thus the event we call the Paschal Mystery consists of Christ's death and Resurrection. This essay, however,  will focus on the Resurrection; for, if Christ had not been raised from the dead, his death would not have been redemptive. Paul draws out the relationship between Christ's death and Resurrection when he writes that Christ 'was handed over for our transgressions and raised for our justification' (Rom. 4.25). That is, he died because of and for our sins, and God raised him into resurrection life so that we might enjoy a new relationship with God. The centrality of Christ's death and Resurrection is on display in two texts in which Paul presents Christ as the end of the law (Rom. 10.4) and the new Adam (Rom. 5.12-21).

(1) Christ the end of the law: In Romans 9.11 Paul takes up the difficult question of Israel's unbelief. Why has Israel refused to believe that Jesus is the Christ? Paul answers this way.

       I testify with regard to them that they have zeal for God, but it is not discerning. For, in their unawareness of the righteousness that comes from God and their attempt to establish their own righteousness, they did not submit to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for the justification of everyone who has faith. (Rom. 10.2-4)

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