OUR ASSURANCE OF RESURRECTION
1 CORINTHIANS 15 PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH 09 APRIL 2023
The Easter message must be about resurrection. There is no better place in Scripture to find the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and our coming resurrection from the dead than that we find in Paul’s writing to the Church at Corinth.
In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Paul tells us that because of the Resurrection, we have a new identity, a new purpose, and a new hope.
What do you think is the most important event in world history? A lot of Christians might say the Birth of Christ. Our calendar is based on Christ’s birth … and Christmas is our biggest celebration. The birth was a big event.
But the most important event in world history is the day Jesus rose from the dead. That is when NEW LIFE came into the world for everyone who believes in Him.
This is what the Apostle Paul is saying when he wrote to the Corinthian church in chapter 15:1-4 - "Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word, I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Paul was reminding the Corinthian congregation of the message he preached when they first heard the Gospel. We need to understand that the Gospel message is NOT a new kind of Philosophy or a new code of Morality or a new set of Teachings. The Gospel contains all of this, but at its heart, the Gospel is a message about a Person and an Event. The Person is Jesus, and the event is His death and resurrection.
Everything, absolutely everything, about the Christian life rests on this Person and this Event. That’s why Paul was so frustrated to hear that certain people in the Corinthian church were trying to say there was no such thing as Resurrection (verse 12) “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”.
We run into the same kind of problem today --- even in the church. Some Christian groups celebrate Easter as a symbol of renewal and new life. They may believe that the Resurrection account in Scripture is a nice make-believe story. So, they think that it never really happened.
Here’s a recent quote from a "Priest" who lectures at seminary campuses: “I don’t believe the dead body of Jesus got up and walked out of the tomb. … We can give up worrying about the afterlife and focus on the only life we know that we have. … That gets us close to Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God.” (Robert J. Miller of Juniata College – Jesus Seminar on the Road)
This is pretty much the same attitude Paul was confronting in Corinth. Some folks were trying to hang on to the promises of the Gospel while at the same time, rejecting the HEART of the Gospel.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes it clear that if you reject the literal resurrection of Jesus, you have rejected the entire Gospel. Every promise of the Gospel message is based on the Resurrection. Our Christian faith is based on the resurrection.
In verses, 3-8 Paul emphasizes that he is NOT telling a fairy tale about Jesus’ resurrection. Paul lists the eyewitnesses who saw and interacted with the visibly risen Jesus. Most of them were still living when Paul wrote. Here is a list of Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection, that are recorded in the New Testament:
1) Mary Magdalene (John 20:14, Mark 16:9)
2) Women returning from the tomb (Matt.28:9-10)
3) Peter later that same day (Luke 24:34)
4) Two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13
5) The Apostles without Thomas (Luke 24:36; John 20:19)
6) The Apostles with Thomas (John 20:26-29)
7) The seven by the lake of Tiberius (John 21:1-23)
8) Five Hundred Believers (1 Corinthians 15:6)
9) James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
10) The Eleven Apostles (Matt. 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; Acts 1:3)
11) At the ascension (Acts 1:3-12)
In addition to those 11 appearances, Jesus’ two appearances to Paul, once to Stephen, and to John on the Isle of Patmos that makes over 15 recorded appearances of Jesus after his death.
In his book, Miracles, C. S. Lewis wrote, “The first fact in the history of Christendom is the number of people who say they have seen the resurrected Jesus. If they had died without making anyone else believe this Gospel, the Gospels we read would never have been written.”
Everything rests on the resurrection – our salvation, our purpose for living, our hope of eternal life. In the rest of this chapter, Paul talks about some of the things we have received because of the Resurrection. Let’s look at three of those things we have received because the Resurrection did happen.
First, we have a NEW IDENTITY.
In verses 20-22, Paul describes the NEW IDENTITY we have because of the resurrection: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
By His Resurrection, Jesus made it possible for us to have New Life.
We are born again, not of the flesh but of the spirit, so that we escape the inevitable death that comes from Adam’s race, and we are given forgiveness and eternal life as NEW CREATIONS.
This is an amazing promise to all who believe, and this new reality rests on the resurrection.
In vs. 14, Paul explains: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. And in verse 17-19: 17 “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Here is the stark reality for anyone who rejects the Gospel Message. Paul very clearly says this to warn those who are unbelievers in the Resurrection. “Don’t try to hold on to the beautiful promises of the Gospel while you reject the Heart of the message. The Heart of the message is the Resurrection! If there is no resurrection, you are not a new person – you are not born again – you have no forgiveness of sin – you have no indwelling Spirit – you have no reconciliation with God – and finally, you have no hope of eternal life.”
Besides that, Paul says, “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we are all false witnesses about God.” (vs. 15) In other words, “If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we’re all liars.” Either accept the Gospel or reject it, but we cannot have it both ways.”
The second thing we have because of the Resurrection is that we have a
Because of the Resurrection, we have a New Identity in Jesus. And because of the Resurrection, we have New Purpose for living our life here on earth.
A few years ago, a new book came out called The Purpose Driven Life. It was a bestseller. Why? Because people in general are hungry … even desperate … to know that life has meaning. Even toddlers show this basic human need. If you have one or ever had one, you know they never get tired of asking WHY????? The truth is we all need to know that we are working for some sort of higher purpose. Otherwise, life feels random and pointless.
Paul makes this point with an example that is pretty strange in verse 29. He says, “Now, if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? There are all kinds of ideas about what this means. Evidently, the Corinthians had some sort of practice, perhaps of being baptized on behalf of those who died before they heard the Gospel.
This is NOT something that was part of church doctrine and certainly isn’t in the church today because there is no Scriptural teaching to do so. But Paul’s point is aimed at the ones who were denying the resurrection. It’s simple logic. Why are you baptizing for the dead if there is no life after death?
Then Paul went on to give himself as an example. If there is no life after death, why would he (Paul) risk his life to preach a lie? Paul literally poured out his earthly life in order to spread the news that Jesus rose from the dead. Paul was imprisoned, beaten, stoned, and even thrown in an arena with wild beasts. All so he could spread the Good News that Jesus died for our sins and then rose from the dead.
As Paul said, if there is no life after death, then there is no higher purpose in life. So… “Let’s eat and drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” “Do the Hokey Pokey, and turn yourself around, that’s what it’s all about.” Do whatever feels good to you. There will be no consequences.
We can see why Paul said in verse 19: “If we have hope in Christ only for this life, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
But thank God, this is NOT the case. Jesus HAS risen from the dead!
Jesus’ teaching and promises are all authenticated … by His resurrection!
We can count on the truth of promises like John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
We can follow Him through good times and through bad, knowing that He has overcome the world.
The third thing we have because there is a Resurrection is that we have a NEW HOPE.
Jesus has done MORE than overcome the world – He has overcome DEATH! Instead of “eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” we can join Paul when he quoted a much more powerful saying.
In verses 54-55 Paul wrote, the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
Death has been swallowed up in victory. Because of Jesus’ Resurrection, death has lost its power. Death has become an entryway to NEW LIFE.
Verse 35 says: But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”
Part of what Jesus accomplished in His Resurrection was to answer this question. In verse 20, Paul called Jesus the first fruits of those who will rise from the dead. And again, in verse 23: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.”
We can learn a lot about what our new body will be like from the eyewitness accounts of those who saw Jesus after His resurrection. Jesus’ Resurrected body was Recognizable; He was able to eat, walk, talk, touch, and be touched. Jesus was still “himself,” but He was also able to appear and disappear, We know that the last sight anyone had of Jesus was as he rose into the sky in His ascension. In other words, His Resurrection Body was able to function both within Time and Space – and outside of Time and Space.
There is another amazing thing about Paul’s reference to Jesus as the FIRST FRUITS, That is its connection to a Jewish Feast day. On the Sunday after Passover (which is the day Jesus rose from the dead) the Jews celebrated the Firstfruits offering (Leviticus 23)
Jesus himself WAS that firstfruits offering!
Our resurrected body will be so superior to our current body that Paul gives several comparisons to try to help us comprehend this NEW HOPE.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul compares our new body to the full-grown plant that grows from a seed. He mentions the amazing differences we see even in the mortal world between the bodies of various animals, the heavenly bodies as compared to bodies on this earth, and the difference between the sun, moon, and stars.
Then he sums it up in verse 42: “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable. “
Today we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus which is the Foundation of our NEW IDENTITY in Christ – it is the foundation of our NEW PURPOSE for living here and now – and it is the foundation of our NEW HOPE for our own future resurrection. Let’s look at what Paul taught us about our HOPE of resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:50-53: “I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality.”
And we’ll conclude with this challenge in verse 58:
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you.
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.