As we think on Christ’s resurrection, this Easter, I wanted to bring attention to the fact that we are not mere bystanders, watching Christ’s resurrection. We are not just waiting to be resurrected only in the future. Christ’s resurrection does and should have a big impact in our lives now.
G.K. Beale in his massive New Testament biblical theology, argues that resurrection is perhaps the key theme in the New Testament. Resurrection involves a new-creation, and is simultaneous with Christ’s kingdom. His kingdom brings new creation, undoing the sin and brokenness of our lives and all of this world we live in. Believers have begun to experience new creation life and kingdom living, but one day we will experience it far more fully than now — physically as well as spiritually — in the ultimate New Kingdom of Christ Jesus.
Let me quote Beale on the importance the Resurrection should have for Christian living:
In Romans, Christ’s resurrection is sometimes viewed as the basis for believers’ resurrection existence that begins in this life (6:4-5, 8-9, which could be taken to indicate the saints’ future resurrection). That present resurrection existence is in mind is apparent, since in 6:11, 13 Paul understands the references in 6:4-10 to form the basis for concluding that believers presently should be “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11) and should “present [themselves] to God as those alive from the dead” (6:13).
Consequently, Paul’s affirmation of believers’ possession of “eternal life” (6:22-23) is likely an already-not yet reality. Hence, saints are not merely like resurrected beings; rather, they actually have begun to experience the end-time resurrection that Christ experienced because they are identified with him by faith…
That [Paul] intends to refer to literal resurrection is apparent from observing that he parallels it with being in “the likeness of his death” in 6:5a, which refers to real identification with his death, such that “our old man was crucified with Him” (6:6) and believers have really “died” (6:7-8). Paul does not refer to identification with Christ’s death in a metaphorical manner. So likewise believers are in the “likeness” of Christ’s resurrection because they actually have begun to be identified with it and participate in it…
If saints are only like Christ’s resurrection, then Paul’s exhortation to them to live as resurrected beings is emptied of its force: if Christians have begun to be end-time resurrected creatures, then they have resurrection power not to “let sin reign in [their mortal bodies]… but present [themselves] to God as those alive from the dead” (6:12-13).
The relation of the “indicative” to the “imperative” in Paul’s writings has been an issue of some debate. But if the above is a correct analysis of the saints’ resurrection life, then the basis of Paul issuing commands to people is that such people have the ability to obey the commands because they have been raised from the dead, are regenerated, and are new creatures who have the power to obey. In fact, in 6:4 Paul refers to this resurrection life with new-creational language: “newness [kainotes] of life” ( or “new life”), a cognate of the word kainos found in 2 Cor. 5:17: Gal. 6:15 in the well-known inaugurated eschatological expression “new creation,” where in both cases it refers to resurrection life….
Thus, Paul does not give commands to live righteously to those outside the community of faith. This is because they do not have this power of the inbreaking age of the new creation, but are still part of the old age (the “old man” [6:6]), in which they are dominated by sin, Satan, and the influence of the world (so Eph. 2:1-3).
Not taking seriously enough the resurrection language applied to the Christian’s present experience to designate real reschatological resurrection existence, albeit on the spiritual level, has unintentionally eviscerated the ethical power of church teaching and preaching, since Christians must be aware that they presently have resurrection power to please and obey God. This is why in Rom. 6 and elsewhere Paul employs Christ’s latter-day resurrection as the basis for believers’ resurrection identity and for his exhortation that they rule over sin. (G.K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New, [Baker Academic, 2011], p. 250-251)