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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

1 Corinthians 15:20-22; Raised In Christ

04/26 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 Raised In Christ; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150426_1cor15_20-22.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

20 Νυνὶ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων. 21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δι’ ἀνθρώπου θάνατος, καὶ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν· 22 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν, οὕτως καὶ ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται. 23 ἕκαστος δὲ ἐν τῷ ἰδίῳ τάγματι· ἀπαρχὴ Χριστός, ἔπειτα οἱ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ αὐτοῦ· 24 εἶτα τὸ τέλος, ὅταν παραδιδῷ τὴν βασιλείαν τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, ὅταν καταργήσῃ πᾶσαν ἀρχὴν καὶ πᾶσαν ἐξουσίαν καὶ δύναμιν, 25 δεῖ γὰρ αὐτὸν βασιλεύειν ἄχρι οὗ θῇ πάντας τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. 26 ἔσχατος ἐχθρὸς καταργεῖται ὁ θάνατος, 27 πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ. ὅταν δὲ εἴπῃ ὅτι πάντα ὑποτέτακται, δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. 28 ὅταν δὲ ὑποταγῇ αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, τότε αὐτὸς ὁ υἱὸς ὑποταγήσεται τῷ ὑποτάξαντι αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα, ἵνα ᾖ ὁ θεὸς πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

Last week we looked at the consequences of believing something that is not true. The gospel is a message that is anchored in real historical events. It claims to be objectively, historically true. If it is not what it claims to be, there are dire consequences. The gospel, the good news is a proclamation that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was really dead, and that Christ was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and that he was really alive – he appeared to many. If Christ in actuality remained dead, then the gospel message is empty and believing in it is worthless, those who proclaim it are false witnesses and frauds, there is no escape from the punishment your sins deserve, and those who have died trusting in Jesus are forever lost. If it turns out that there is no resurrection, we will have wasted our lives. Every sacrifice, all the suffering, all the effort and energy expended, all the heartache, all the storing up treasures in heaven, all the trading present pleasures for future hopes, was an empty fantasy, and our lives are pathetic and pitiable. It matters not only that you believe and how sincerely you believe but it makes all the difference what you are believing, and if what you are trusting in is real and true.

Perfect Tense

Paul has been exploring what if’s. What if there is no resurrection? What are the hypothetical consequences if the resurrection did not in fact happen? Here in verse 20 he moves back into reality. But now Christ is risen from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is an historical reality. The verb ‘raised’ through the majority of this chapter is in the perfect tense; this is a verb tense which emphasizes the present effect of a past event. Christ was raised from the dead. That is an historical fact. But Christ today is risen. He continues today in his resurrected state. He is bodily, physically alive today. This has implications for us today.

Firstfruits

1 Corinthians 15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Christ is called the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. To fall asleep in Scripture is a gentle euphemism for the death of a believer. If you fall asleep, you will wake up still you, but refreshed. Death is pictured as sleep. Later in this chapter, Paul will liken death to the planting of a seed. As seed goes into the ground, it begins to decay, but suddenly life bursts forth! Life comes out of death. That life bears fruit and gives life to others. Christ is said to be the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. In the Old Testament, God’s people were to keep feasts to commemorate his saving activity. They were to keep the Passover, where a lamb was killed to cover them, to protect them from God’s wrath. When God brought them into the promised land, they were to take the first of the produce of the land in the spring and present it to the Lord as an offering. According to Leviticus 23, this was to take place on the Sunday after the Sabbath, after the Passover. The firstfruits was symbolic. The first and the best of the land was given to the Lord, and the firstfruits was the first of more to come. The firstfruits was the same kind as the rest of the harvest, and it was the beginning, which promised more like it to come. You plant crops so that you can harvest and live off of those crops. If you take the first of the harvest and give it to the Lord, this is an act of faith, trusting that there is more to come.

Jesus is called the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep because his resurrection is the same kind as ours; he was physically, bodily, tangibly raised from the dead and lives forever, and we too can expect a real physical bodily resurrection. And Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep because his resurrection is a promise of more of the same to come. Because he died a physical human death, and his life sprang out of that death, we can be confident that we too, although we will face physical death, we will be raised to newness of life.

Adam and Christ

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

Paul gives the reason that Christ is the firstfruits of the dead. Death was through a man. God created man to love him, to obey him, to enjoy him, to glorify him forever. He created humans with the capacity for worship. And he gave them a test. One tree, in the midst of a plentiful garden of pleasure. Submit to God’s authority, or throw off that yoke and become your own authority. Worship the one true God, or worship self. And life and death hung in the balance. Continue in unbroken fellowship with the living God who loves you and cares for your every need, or declare your independence, place self at the center, sever the relationship, and attempt to survive separated from the God who gives life and breath and everything good to enjoy. We rebelled against a generous and good God, and death came into the world. Man brought death into God’s good world. Through man death.

Romans 5 spells this out:

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

Romans 6 says:

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death

The wages of sin is death. Sin came into the world through one man, Adam, and death came into the world as a result of his sin. Humanity rebelled and everything died. This world is broken, and we broke it. God created everything good and beautiful to give him praise and we touched it and said ‘mine’ and it all turned ugly and grew thorns and began to decay. Man sinned and brought death into God’s good creation. Man did this. Humans did this. Death was not a part of human nature. Death, physical and spiritual death was a virus introduced into humanity by the first man.

True Humanity

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

A man did this great evil. A man must undo it. Through a man the resurrection of corpses. This points us to the real genuine humanity of Christ. Just as Adam was human, Jesus was truly human.

There are plenty of Scriptures that clearly tell us that the Son of God is God from all eternity, equal to and eternal with the Father, no beginning and no end, sharing with his Father and the Spirit every characteristic that makes God God. John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1 are just a few of the many many passages that clearly communicate the eternal divine nature of Jesus. But at a point in history God the Son became something he had never been before. He was conceived in the womb of a virgin. He was born in a cave in Bethlehem. He became human. Remaining what he was, he became what he was not. He became God with us. God incarnate. God with flesh on. His divine person was inextricably knit to a real human nature. He became the God-man. Continuing to be fully God, he became really and truly human. That is the wonder of Christmas, that God became a man.

If Jesus was not who he was, he could not have accomplished what he did. If he were merely human and not God, his death would have no value beyond himself. If as God he never took on human nature, he would be unable to stand in our place. He could be our judge but not our Savior. But because he, eternal God, became really and truly human, he could take our place as our substitute. Because he continued to be fully divine, his death was of infinite worth, and he was fully capable of bearing the weight of every sin any human had ever committed.

It was a man that brought sin and its consequences into this world through his disobedience in the garden. It was a man who conquered sin and reversed those consequences by his perfect obedience, restoring God’s good creation so that it could again give him glory and praise. By a man comes resurrection of the dead.

Representatives

1 Corinthians 15:21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

There is a parallel between Adam and Christ. In Adam all die. All of us are descended from Adam. In seed form, we were all present when Adam rebelled. We share his guilt. He acted as our representative. All of us who are in Adam, who are on his team, who are united with Adam in his rebellion against God, will die like Adam died. ‘To be in Adam is to be part of the group that has Adam as its representative leader, who finds its identity and destiny in Adam and what he brought about for his people.’ (Ciampa & Rosner, PNTC p.763).

Just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. At first read, this may sound universal. Because of Adam every single human will experience death. Because of Jesus Christ, every single human will enjoy resurrection. But if we read more carefully, we see this is not the case, and this would be contrary to the clear teaching of all of Scripture. It is all those who are in Adam that are included in the consequences of his rebellion. This indeed includes all humanity. But it is all those (and only those) who are in Christ who enjoy resurrection life. This does not include every human; this is a sub-set of humanity. Not all who are in Adam come to be in Christ. Those who are in Christ are those who take Jesus as their representative leader, who find our identity and destiny in Christ and what he brought about for his people. Those who belong to him.

Many people complain about the injustice of suffering the consequences of the rebellion of Adam. It doesn’t seem fair. But this is fair. If you are in Adam, you join him in his actions and in his consequences. You follow in his footsteps. You do what he did, you refuse to worship and submit to the one true God, and you set yourself up as the god you worship and serve, and you sever yourself from the God who really is. You deserve the same consequences Adam received. But the good news is you don’t have to stay in Adam. There is another choice. You can transfer your allegiance. You can take Christ as your representative. All those who are in Christ, who unite themselves to Christ and belong to Christ, will be made alive. This refers to more than a bare resurrection, it points us to real life. Jesus said

John 10:10 … I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

God will give abundant life to those who are in Christ Jesus. They will truly live. They will know the fullness of joy in his presence. A reconciled relationship. Fellowship with God. Intimacy. Communion. To all who are in Christ.

In Christ

What does it mean to be in Christ? Much of the New Testament talks about being in Christ. This letter starts out addressing the church of God, ‘to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints’. Paul gives thanks to God for ‘the grace of God that was given you in Christ.’ Paul says in 1:28-30

1 Corinthians 1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

We are set apart in Christ Jesus, we are given grace in Christ, we are in Christ Jesus because of God who chooses what is low and despised, the nothings in the world. Wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption are found in Christ Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5 says

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Romans 8 says

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

God reconciles people to himself in Christ. He does not count our sins against us in Christ. In Christ, we are made new. The condemnation we deserve is taken away in Christ Jesus. Paul says in Philippians 3:

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—

Righteousness comes not from works of the law but from being found in Christ through faith. Jesus told his followers in John 15:

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus invites us to abide in him like a branch abides in the vine. We stay connected to him, drawing everything we need from him, bearing fruit through his resources and for his glory.

We are placed in Christ by God through faith. We receive grace in Christ, we are sanctified in Christ, we are reconciled to God in Christ, we find forgiveness in Christ, we escape condemnation in Christ, we receive God’s righteousness in Christ, we are made new in Christ. If we are in Christ, if we died in Christ, at his coming we will be raised to life, abundant resurrection life in him. We will find that whatever the sacrifice, whatever the cost, however we were poured out and laid down our life in the service of Christ, it was worth it. It was not in vain.

Who is your representative? Who are you connected to? In whom do you find your identity and your destiny? Is self at the center, independent, autonomous, I can do it my self my way. Or are you connected to Christ, being found in him, not having your own righteousness, but trusting in him, depending on him, receiving from him, drawing sustenance from him, submitting to his good authority? Giving all glory and praise to him for he is worthy?

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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April 26, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:12-19; Objective Truth

04/19 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 Objective Truth; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150419_1cor15_12-19.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

12 Εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς κηρύσσεται ὅτι ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται, πῶς λέγουσιν ἐν ὑμῖν τινες ὅτι ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν; 13 εἰ δὲ ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 14 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, κενὸν ἄρα τὸ κήρυγμα ἡμῶν, κενὴ καὶ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, 15 εὑρισκόμεθα δὲ καὶ ψευδομάρτυρες τοῦ θεοῦ, ὅτι ἐμαρτυρήσαμεν κατὰ τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι ἤγειρεν τὸν Χριστόν, ὃν οὐκ ἤγειρεν εἴπερ ἄρα νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται. 16 εἰ γὰρ νεκροὶ οὐκ ἐγείρονται, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται· 17 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, ματαία ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, ἔτι ἐστὲ ἐν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ὑμῶν. 18 ἄρα καὶ οἱ κοιμηθέντες ἐν Χριστῷ ἀπώλοντο. 19 εἰ ἐν τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ ἐν Χριστῷ ἠλπικότες ἐσμὲν μόνον, ἐλεεινότεροι πάντων ἀνθρώπων ἐσμέν.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

I have recently talked to two different people who said very nearly the same thing. What they said went something like this. It doesn’t really matter what you believe or what faith you belong to, as long as you believe it and live by it and you are a better person for it. If everybody would really live and truly follow what they believe, we all would be better for it, and the world would be a better place. It doesn’t really matter what you believe, as long as whatever you believe makes you a better person.

This is appealing, this sounds inclusive, and there is even an element of truth to it. If the common denominator of all belief systems were love and being nice, that would make for a much more pleasant and peaceful coexistence on the planet. A major problem with this way of thinking is that this is simply not true. Many belief systems are openly hostile and hateful toward others who do not embrace their teachings. But even if it were true, this is a view that is limited to this life only. If life on this planet is all there is, and whatever you believe helps you to be a better world citizen, then this makes some sense. But if there is a God, and if there is existence beyond death, then it matters a great deal if what you believe is right or wrong, true or false. What if God has a dearly loved Son, whom he sent to die in my place for my sins, and he raised him from the dead as proof that he was who he claimed to be and accomplished what he set out to do, and what if I live a life that is good and I treat others with kindness, but give no regard to God or his Son? It matters not only that what I believe makes me a better person, but that what I believe is true. Really, objectively true.

This is what Paul deals with in our text today. He has built the historical case for the gospel – the good news that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was really and truly dead, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he was really and truly alive, as attested to by many trustworthy eye-witnesses. These are the historical facts with theological meaning. Paul has given us himself as an example of a life radically transformed by the power of God’s resurrecting grace. And now he gives us some logic. He challenges us to use our brains. He reasons with us. He invites us to think clearly and carefully. Ideas have consequences. Some truth claims lead us to conclusions that are contrary to the evidence, so they must not be true. In verse 12, Paul states the problem. In verses 13-15 and in verses 16-18 he lays out two parallel lines of logical reasoning demonstrating by the necessary conclusions that their belief in verse 12 must be false. Then in verse 19, he gives a concluding logical argument.

Problem Stated

1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul has just declared the united preaching of all the apostolic witnesses of the resurrection. So we preached and so you believed. All the eye-witness agree and proclaim Christ as raised from the dead. That is the gospel message that was preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to it, unless you believed in vain. Some in Corinth were questioning the resurrection. It appears they were not specifically doubting the resurrection of Jesus, but rather questioning any kind of physical resurrection at all. Some were saying ‘the dead are not raised’ and ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ What happens when a person dies? We know physiologically, that the body decays, decomposes, is eaten by worms, and returns to dust. But is that all? We know that the Sadducees believed that there is no resurrection, and they came to Jesus with their own logical argument to try to prove the absurdity of the idea of resurrection (Mt.22:23; Mk.12:18; Lk.20:27). There was much in Greek and Roman thought that also doubted the idea of a resurrection. When Paul proclaimed the good news of the resurrection in the Areopagus at Athens, some mocked, but others were curious (Acts17:32). It seems some at Corinth had begun to question and doubt that resurrection was possible. Their issue was not what happens to your soul or spirit or consciousness after you die; their question had to do with what happens to your body. What happens to your person, to all of you? Does your decomposing rotting worm eaten flesh actually come back to life? That sounds impossible, that sounds creepy and gross. Paul challenges the logic of their thinking. If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, then how can you say there is no resurrection of the dead? You can’t have one without the other. Christ died for our sins. He was buried. Christ was one individual who died. If none of the dead are ever raised, then it follows that Christ was not raised, and Paul will now point out the tragic consequences of this idea.

Round One

1 Corinthians 15:13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Paul starts with their premise, that he will restate in verse 16, that ‘there is no resurrection of the dead.’ If this premise is absolutely true, then it follows that not even Christ has been raised. This leads to three unacceptable consequences.

Consequence one: our preaching is in vain. In verses 8-11, Paul used himself as an example of God’s resurrecting grace at work in someone who was once vehemently opposed to the gospel. If Christ has not been raised, all my missionary labors, all my hardships, all my pain and heartache and sacrifice, all the abuse and persecution I have suffered has been for nothing. It is empty, fruitless, worthless. There was no point. And not only Paul. Stephen had been stoned to death. James had been beheaded. All the preaching of all the eye-witness was empty, vain, useless, for nothing. A complete waste of time and energy and resources. Because if Christ has not been raised then there is no good news to bring, which leads to the second tragic consequence.

Consequence two: your faith is in vain. Paul had cautioned in verse 2 that they not believe in a way that is empty, fruitless, worthless, pointless. He encourages them to receive the gospel, to stand firm in the gospel, to hold fast to the gospel, to be transformed by the gospel. He will encourage them in verse 58 that their labor is not in vain in the Lord. But if Christ has not been raised from the dead, then all their believing, all their standing firm, all their holding fast is in vain. It accomplishes nothing. It is worthless, futile, empty. If Christ is not raised, your belief gets you nothing. Nothing. Zero.

Consequence three: We are shown to be false witnesses.

1 Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, …15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

Not only did we who proclaimed the gospel of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus waste our time and accomplish nothing, but worse, we misrepresented God, we bore false testimony about God. We broke the ninth commandment, and probably also the third, to not take the name of the Lord in vain. We bore witness that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead. If it is true, as you say that the dead are not raised, then God did not raise Christ from the dead, and we all, Peter and the twelve, the five hundred, James the Lord’s brother, and all the apostles together are demonstrated to be false witnesses. This is a grave accusation. They apparently did not think through the consequences of their assertions very carefully. Paul challenges them to think.

Round Two

1 Corinthians 15:16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

Paul again revisits their premise, that ‘the dead are not raised,’ and again points them to the necessary logical conclusion that if that is true, not even Christ has been raised, and points them to three more devastating consequences of their truth claim.

Consequence one: Your faith is futile. He is picking up the middle of his first three consequences and fleshing it out. Their believing in vain was sandwiched between the vain preaching and false testimony of the eye-witnesses. Here he uses a synonym to the word ‘vain’ that he used there in verse 14. Worthless, empty, devoid of truth, bringing no results. Your belief in the gospel is futile.

Consequence two: you are still in your sins. This gets to the root of the gospel and the reason for the vain futility of their faith if the resurrection didn’t happen. The good news proclaims that Christ died for our sins. If Jesus claimed to die for our sins, and then he stayed dead, his claim is empty. He didn’t accomplish what he set out to do. Romans 1 tells us that the resurrection validated that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

Romans 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, (cf. Acts 17:31)

And Romans 4 tells us:

Romans 4:25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

If Jesus stayed dead, then he was a fraud and his death accomplished nothing for us. This highlights the absolute centrality and necessity of Jesus. If Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be, as evidenced by the resurrection, then you are still in your sins. There is no other way for sins to be dealt with. Jesus claimed to be the way; the only way to God (Jn. 14:6). If Jesus’ sacrifice was not accepted by the Father, there is no way to be delivered from our sins. We are finally and forever lost. Our salvation, our justification, our forgiveness is contingent on the resurrection.

Consequence three: those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. To fall asleep is a gentle euphemism for the death of a believer. To die is merely to fall asleep, with the confidence that you will wake refreshed. But if the dead are not raised, and the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then those who put their confidence in Christ, those who were depending on Jesus, holding fast to the gospel, they have perished. He is not saying that they simply died and ceased to exist. That is not how Paul uses the word ‘perish’. In chapter 1:18-19, he uses this word to contrast those who are being saved with those who are perishing, who are being completely destroyed, whom God is opposing, shaming, bringing to nothing. God’s justice demands that if our sins are not paid for by another, we will pay for them through eternity.

Conclusion

Paul now brings this part of his argument to a conclusion. If the dead are not raised, then Christ is not raised. If Christ is not raised, the gospel is false, preaching is worthless, believing the gospel will profit nothing, you are still in your sins. All we have left then is whatever benefit we have in this life.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

What if it’s not true? What if there is no resurrection? What if the gospel we believed turns out to be a lie? At least we were sincere and it gave us hope and we were better citizens, right? It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere and it makes you a better person, right? Paul’s answer is No! If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. Pathetic. Miserable. Pitiable. How can Paul say this? Isn’t the Christian lifestyle better, even if it is not true? Doesn’t it make you a better person, a better citizen?

Paul does say in 1 Timothy 4:8 that

1 Timothy 4:8 godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come

He exhorts us to be good fathers, husbands, citizens, good employees and employers. But if what we believe is not true, we are pitiable, miserable. Why?

As followers of Jesus, we are to be good citizens and live in submission to the authorities, but we are citizens of a different country and submit first to a higher authority. We are to be good husbands and parents, but we are to be devoted to our first love that takes precedence over all earthly loves. We are to serve our employers well, but all our service answers ultimately to the supreme Master.

Look at Paul, for example. It seems that in almost every city Paul visited a riot broke out. The authorities had to work overtime to try to keep the peace. He often required a military escort and protection. He moved around a lot, sometimes picking up jobs, sometimes taking donations to cover his expenses. He spent a lot of time in prison. Whenever he opened his mouth he was offending someone. Sometimes what he said hurt local businesses and they ran him out of town. He got himself beat up and almost killed on multiple occasions. He was successful in persuading many people to leave their long held religious beliefs and follow his teaching. He stirred things up so much that people were taking vows to assassinate him. Paul the model citizen!

Paul was passionate about one thing; making Jesus known. If the resurrection was not an historical reality, Paul wasted his life. We should feel sorry for him.

What about you? What about me? Do we live this life in such a way that if the resurrection were not true, if Jesus were not who he claimed to be, our lives would be viewed as a colossal waste? Have you sacrificed? Have you suffered for the sake of Christ? Is it true of you that if you have hope in Christ in this life only, you would be of all people most to be pitied? Or is your best life now? Is life comfortable and safe and happy and not too much is risked for the gospel? Do people view you as a good person, a respectable citizen, a responsible neighbor, or do they see a life so transformed by God’s resurrecting grace, so centered on Jesus, that there is tangible evidence that Jesus is really alive today?

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 19, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:8-11; Resurrecting Grace

04/12 1 Corinthians 15:8-11 Resurrecting Grace; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150412_1cor15_8-11.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

8 ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί. 9 ἐγὼ γάρ εἰμι ὁ ἐλάχιστος τῶν ἀποστόλων, ὃς οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς καλεῖσθαι ἀπόστολος, διότι ἐδίωξα τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ· 10 χάριτι δὲ θεοῦ εἰμι ὅ εἰμι, καὶ ἡ χάρις αὐτοῦ ἡ εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ κενὴ ἐγενήθη, ἀλλὰ περισσότερον αὐτῶν πάντων ἐκοπίασα, οὐκ ἐγὼ δὲ ἀλλὰ ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ σὺν ἐμοί. 11 εἴτε οὖν ἐγὼ εἴτε ἐκεῖνοι, οὕτως κηρύσσομεν καὶ οὕτως ἐπιστεύσατε.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Paul has made known the gospel, the good news message of Christ crucified for sinners and risen triumphant. This is the powerful resurrection message that transforms sinners into saints, brings life out of death, and makes people new creations in Christ. Paul holds himself out as a caricature, an exaggerated example of the gospel at work in an extreme case. His emphasis is on grace (he uses the word 3 times in verse 10) – God’s startling, unexpected, irrational grace extended toward unworthy recipients at inopportune times. Grace is that which is freely given, lavishly poured out, extravagantly supplied, and it is completely unearned, totally undeserved, absolutely unmerited. The polar opposite of grace is wages, that which I earn, that which I deserve, that which is owed to me. The gospel is all about grace.

Paul could have held up any of the apostles as exhibits of God’s grace. Peter, James, and John, common fishermen, called into the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples. Matthew, a despised tax collector, chosen to follow Jesus. Simon, a violent Zealot eager to overthrow Rome with force, called now to lay down his own life in love as part of a different kind of rebellion. He could have pointed to James, one of the Lord’s earthly brothers, who did not believe in Jesus until after the crucifixion, yet the risen Lord appeared to him, and by grace, he became a leader in the Jerusalem church. Each one is a trophy of grace, evidence of God pouring out favor on those who didn’t earn it, transforming broken people and using unlikely instruments to accomplish his good purposes.

Saul

But Paul holds himself up as the extreme example of God’s resurrecting grace at work. He says:

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Paul was called by God to be an apostle. But Paul considers himself least of all the apostles. He considers himself unworthy to be numbered among the apostles. And that is the definition of grace; a good gift extended to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Grace and unworthy go together. They must be kept together. God doesn’t give grace to those who think they deserve it. But if we could rank unworthiness on a scale, Paul was at the extreme end of unworthy. Paul was formerly called Saul, and he was present when Stephen preached the good news about Jesus, and, we are told:

Acts 8:1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Saul took pleasure in the execution of this godly man. Saul was ravaging the church. The persecution became so severe that the believers fled Jerusalem and scattered into the surrounding areas. But Saul was not content to drive them out of Jerusalem. He intended single-handed to extinguish this faith in Jesus from the earth.

Acts 9:1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Saul was seething with rage and malice toward the followers of Jesus. His was not just a passive feeling of hostility; he was actively creating opportunities to carry out evil against Jesus’ disciples. He obtained authority to pursue the scattered believers into the surrounding regions, even past the borders of Israel, far north, about 135 miles, to Damascus in Syria.

When he was interrupted on his way to Damascus, Jesus asked him “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

Paul describes himself in 1 Timothy as formerly a ‘blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent”

1 Timothy 1:14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.

He refers to himself as the chief or foremost or most prominent of all sinners, the worst of the worst, completely unworthy of any kindness from God. Given the opportunity, it seems, Saul would have gladly taken the crown of thorns from the soldier’s hands and beat it into Jesus’ skull himself, spitting in his face.

An Abortion [εκτρωματι]

Paul describes his conversion on the Damascus road this way:

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

The word translated ‘to one untimely born’ could more literally be translated a miscarriage or an aborted fetus. This word is used in Numbers 12:12, Job 3:16 and Ecclesiastes 6:3 of a stillborn child.

We see this imagery in Ezekiel 16, addressed to Jerusalem, vividly describing the unworthiness of God’s chosen people.

Ezekiel 16:4 And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. 5 No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. 6 “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’

I don’t think there is a more startling or graphic picture of helplessness and hopelessness than this. This is Paul’s view of himself. When Jesus appeared to him, he compares himself to a discarded abortion, wallowing in his own blood. God called him when he was helpless and hopeless, hostile toward God, dead in his trespasses and sins.

Our Condition

I think Paul means for us to recoil at the thought, to be amazed by God’s grace, and then to identify with him. What a grotesque image, an aborted fetus, rejected, discarded, wallowing in its blood. Helpless, far beyond all hope. A blasphemer, persecutor, insolent opponent, breathing threats and murder against the disciples, ravaging the church. Why? Why extend grace to this one? What amazing grace that saved a wretch like …Saul. This is the way Paul describes his own condition, but this is also the way he describes our condition. We need to see ourselves in this light. He says in Colossians:

Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

He says in Ephesians:

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

This is free, sovereign, undeserved, resurrecting grace. This is immeasurable riches of grace. We, we who were dead were made alive with him. I was utterly helpless, beyond all hope, hostile toward God, entirely self-focused. When he saw me wallowing in my blood he said ‘live!’ I was dead in my trespasses, and he said ‘Live!’ He spoke life into me, he made me alive, he raised me up, he seated me with his beloved Son. He demonstrated immeasurable riches of grace to an utterly unworthy sinner.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

He caused us to be born again. He poured out unmerited resurrecting grace on a wretch like me.

Grace, Grace, Grace

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am,

God’s unmerited grace came to Saul and said ‘Live!’ and Saul, although last of all the apostles, least of all the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, by God’s irrational grace, he is made eyewitness to the resurrected Lord, apostle to the Gentiles. Anything good he is, he is by God’s grace. He is alive because of grace. He was confronted with his own sinfulness by grace. He turned to Jesus by grace. He became a follower by grace. He was appointed to serve by grace.

Ephesians 3:7 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

This was all of grace. Paul acknowledges his entire and absolute dependence on God’s grace. Nothing was earned. Nothing deserved. All was freely given to him by grace.

Grace Works

Paul goes on to say that, although he did nothing to work for that grace, that grace was hard at work in him.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them,

God’s grace was not in vain. It was not empty, fruitless, or without effect. God’s grace produced results. It produced fruit. Unlike Jerusalem in Ezekiel 16, where God’s grace brought life, and cared for an nurtured, and made her his own, provided for her needs, but she became unfaithful to him. In Paul, God’s grace was effective. He worked harder than any of them. Paul is comparing himself to the other apostles. I think he is saying, ‘I worked harder than all twelve of them put together.’ And what we see in the record of Acts bears this out. Paul proclaimed Jesus in Damascus, Jerusalem, Tarsus, Caesarea, Syrian Antioch, Seleucia, Cyprus, Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Attalia, Troas, Neapolis, Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Cenchrea, Ephesus, Assos, Mitylene, Trogyllium, Miletus, Patara, Tyre, Ptolemais, Antipatris, Sidon, Myra, Fair Havens, Malta, Syracuse, Rhegium, Puteoli, Appian Way, Nicopolis, and Rome. 2 years after writing 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote to the believers in Rome, stating:

Romans 15:15 …because of the grace given me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles … 17 In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, … 23 But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you, 24 I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.

Paul brought the gospel to the provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia, and by 57 AD he considered the evangelization of the Agean lands complete. His ambition was to visit Rome briefly and then to travel on to Spain!

In 2 Corinthians Paul catalogs the hardships he faced in service to Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

Paul could rightly boast ‘I worked harder than them all,’ but he is quick to clarify:

1 Corinthians 15:10…though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Everything I accomplished for the cause of Christ was not me. It was God’s grace. God’s grace accomplished it all through me. Paul gives all credit to God for every accomplishment.

Romans 15:18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me

This is the way he talked in the book of Acts.

Acts 15:12 And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.

Acts 21:19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.

Notice, it is all the things God has done. Christ has accomplished. He had already told the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

God, by his grace, accomplishes his good purposes through us. Paul teaches the Philippians:

Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

God is at work in you. You are his workmanship. He works in you to will. If you want to do great things for God, God worked that desire in you. If you have an unstoppable passion to preach the gospel from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, and then in Rome and on to Spain, that is grace. God worked that desire in you. If you carry it out, that is God’s grace, God working in you to work for his good pleasure.

This is how Paul describes his ministry in Colossians:

Colossians 1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Paul labors, he agonizes, he is wearied from the work, but it is God’s energy that is energizing him in power. God’s grace is at work in him.

Peter says it this way:

1 Peter 4:11 …whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Jesus said it this way:

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

How do you let your light shine? Where did you get the light? It was a gift! How do you do good works? God’s grace is working in you! Then God gets the glory for your good works, because God’s grace has become effective in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

All of Grace

It is by unmerited grace that I am forgiven, purchased, redeemed, made clean and set apart for his use. It is by undeserved grace that I am given grace gifts with which to serve others. It is God’s powerful resurrecting grace that is at work in me that supplies both the desire and the energy to use those gifts in service to others for the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

So we preached so you believed. This gracious message, that Christ died for our sins, and that he was really and truly dead; that he was raised from the dead and he is really and truly alive, this undeserved gift to unworthy recipients, this transforming message that is at work in me healing my deepest hurts and mending what is broken in me, making me useful for the glory of God in the earth, this is the unanimous voice of apostolic witness on content of gospel. It really doesn’t matter who preached it, Paul or Peter or James or Matthew or Thomas, we all preach one message, that Christ died for our sins according to scriptures and that he was raised. This is what we preached, and this is what you believed. This is what you are trusting in, clinging to, being transformed by. This is a message of resurrecting grace.

Have you believed? Do you see yourself as utterly helpless and hopeless, dead in your trespasses and sins? Do you believe that God took action when you were unworthy and could contribute nothing? That God provided everything necessary in Christ for you? That he gives it freely to you as a gift? That he takes you to be his by grace, and that he enables you by his grace to be pleasing to him? Is his resurrecting grace at work in you?

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 12, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1 Corinthians 15:1-8; Resurrection Good News!

04/05 1 Corinthians 15:4-8 Resurrection Good News; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20150405_1cor15_1-8.mp3

1 Corinthians 15 [SBLGNT]

1 Γνωρίζω δὲ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, ὃ καὶ παρελάβετε, ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἑστήκατε, 2 δι’ οὗ καὶ σῴζεσθε, τίνι λόγῳ εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν, εἰ κατέχετε, ἐκτὸς εἰ μὴ εἰκῇ ἐπιστεύσατε. 3 Παρέδωκα γὰρ ὑμῖν ἐν πρώτοις, ὃ καὶ παρέλαβον, ὅτι Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, 4 καὶ ὅτι ἐτάφη, καὶ ὅτι ἐγήγερται τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ τρίτῃ κατὰ τὰς γραφάς, 5 καὶ ὅτι ὤφθη Κηφᾷ, εἶτα τοῖς δώδεκα· 6 ἔπειτα ὤφθη ἐπάνω πεντακοσίοις ἀδελφοῖς ἐφάπαξ, ἐξ ὧν οἱ πλείονες μένουσιν ἕως ἄρτι, τινὲς δὲ ἐκοιμήθησαν· 7 ἔπειτα ὤφθη Ἰακώβῳ, εἶτα τοῖς ἀποστόλοις πᾶσιν· 8 ἔσχατον δὲ πάντων ὡσπερεὶ τῷ ἐκτρώματι ὤφθη κἀμοί.

1 Corinthians 15 [ESV2011]

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

We are being reminded today of the gospel. We celebrate the gospel. We are standing in, holding fast to the gospel. We are being transformed by the gospel. The gospel is a message of good news. The gospel is the message by which we are being saved, so we need to know the gospel and remind ourselves of the gospel. This message is of first importance. So whatever else is on your mind or on your heart, whatever else there is that seems so important, you can safely set aside as second. This is of first importance and demands your immediate attention. This is the priority that displaces every other priority.

For those of you who were here two weeks ago, I want to ask you, how are you doing on your homework? In case you missed the homework, I will give it to you up front today, so that you can be thinking about it throughout the message. I want you all to know the gospel so well that you are able to proclaim the gospel to anyone you meet. These first 8 verses of 1 Corinthians 15 are such a clear summary of the gospel that they are worth memorizing, and being able to unpack the meaning to anyone you meet. And not merely being able to, but actually doing it – actually telling someone the good news contained in these verses. These verses contain the facts of the gospel, the meaning of the facts, and the necessary response to that truth.

That will be my outline for the sermon this morning: The facts of the gospel, the meaning of those facts, and our necessary response.

Christ Died

I’m not great at memorizing things, so I want to keep this simple, and thank God, Paul kept it simple for us. He gave us two facts to hold on to. That Christ died (that’s what Good Friday was all about) and that he was raised (that’s what resurrection Sunday celebrates). Those are the two facts. Do you think you can remember those? If the two holidays that commemorate those events aren’t enough to cement them in your memory, maybe you are a visual learner and you need an image to hold on to. The cross and the empty tomb – Christ died and he was raised. Paul gives us one sub-point for each of these two main facts. All four start with the word ‘that’ – they are events. These are thing that happened in history. That Christ died, that he was buried, that he was raised, and that he appeared. The burial and the appearances are authentication for the two main facts. Christ died, and he was buried to demonstrate that he was really and truly dead. You don’t bury live people. You don’t bury sick people. You don’t bury severely injured people. You don’t bury mostly dead people. You take them to the hospital, or you take them home and try to care for them and help them get better. Jesus was really dead. The expert Roman executioners were absolutely convinced that he was completely dead. But their lives would be on the line if they were responsible for executing a prisoner and they let him go alive. So they made sure. A soldier thrust his spear up under the rib cage and into the chest cavity, and out came blood and water, evidence that fluid had already gathered in the pericardial area. Pilate allowed the corpse to be handed over to Joseph of Arimathea who, together with Nicodemus, wrapped the body in linen cloths with 75 pounds of spices and laid him in a new empty tomb. The tomb was sealed with a large stone, and at the request of the Jews, a guard of soldiers was posted to keep anyone from stealing the body. Jesus died and he was buried to demonstrate that he was really and truly dead.

He Was Raised

The second major fact is that Jesus was raised. Jesus didn’t stay dead. His corpse didn’t stay in the tomb. The linens were there but the body was gone. The Roman soldiers responsible for guarding the tomb were unable to produce the body. The Jews, who feared the body would be stolen could not produce the body. The disciples had gone into hiding for fear of the Jews. Jesus had been raised and was really and truly alive, evidenced by multiple appearances to different individuals and groups at different times.

He Appeared to Cephas, Then to The Twelve

He presented himself to Cephas (or Peter), the leader of the twelve. Then he presented himself to the twelve – which was still used as a title for the original twelve apostles even though Judas was no longer with them. Thomas was not with the other ten the first time, so eight days later Jesus presented himself to them again and invited Thomas to inspect the crucifixion wounds to verify that it was really and truly the same Jesus who had been killed that was now really and truly alive.

Then He Appeared to More Than 500

6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

We aren’t told exactly when this happened. It could have been in the upper room in Jerusalem, when he appeared to the eleven and those who were with them. Probably it refers to his appearance in Galilee before he ascended. The women who saw him first were instructed to tell his followers to go to Galilee and he would meet them there. If you had heard that news, would you have stayed home? Paul is explicit that there were more than five hundred who saw him all at one time. Paul, writing 1 Corinthians in the spring of AD 55, a mere 22 years after the event, could say that the majority of those five hundred were still around. At least 251 of them, along with Peter and the majority of the eleven were still alive and could be interviewed. That is a substantial amount of eye-witnesses.

Then He Appeared to James, Then to All the Apostles

Then he appeared to James. There were several James’s in the New Testament. James the son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus were both disciples, but why would they be mentioned separately? James was also the name of one of Jesus’ brothers, who we are told in John 7:5 did not believe in Jesus prior to his death. This James became a leader in the Jerusalem church, and wrote the New Testament letter that bears his name. It was apparently the resurrection appearance of Jesus to his brother James that persuaded him that his brother Jesus was in fact the Lord.

Then to all the apostles. This is a wider group than the twelve. Paul refers to James the Lord’s brother as an apostle in Galatians 1:19. Others, like Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:14), and possibly Andronicus and Junias (Rom.16:7) were also called apostles who were not part of the original twelve. Jesus appeared to this wider group of apostles, making them eye-witnesses of his resurrection.

Last of All He Appeared to Me

Last of all, he appeared also to me. Paul, at that time Saul, vehement persecutor of Jesus’ followers, was confronted by the risen Lord on the road to Damascus and was made the final member of this wider apostolic group.

These are the facts of history. Christ died, and he was really dead – they buried him. Christ rose from the dead and he was really alive – he appeared to many different individuals and groups on different occasions, several of whom were not believers in him at the time of his appearance. As we are told in Acts,

Acts 1:3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

These are simply the facts of history, attested to by many ancient documents. But that is only part of the good news. What do those events mean? What is their significance?

The Meaning: Christ

Christ died. Christ is not a name, it is a title. The man from Nazareth, Jesus son of Mary, was the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one, the promised coming King, the eternal one. The Christ died. But why? The Christ was expected to conquer, rule and reign. Why did he die at the hands of the Romans?

Died For Our Sins

Christ died for our sins. He did not die for his own sins – he had none. He did not die because he was defeated – his death was a victory, in fact he came to die. He came to be the substitute sacrificial lamb, to die in our place, to pay our debt, to suffer the wrath of God against our sins. The wages of sin is death and Christ died for our sins. Our sins separate us from God, and Christ was forsaken by the Father so that we could be reconciled to the Father.

According To The Scriptures

This death for our sins was not some new idea. This was in accordance with the Scriptures. This is what the entire Bible is about. Genesis to Malachi points to the one who would come to pay for our sins. We looked at some of those scriptures a few weeks ago. Isaiah 53, for instance, paints a vivid picture of the one who would suffer as a substitute and bear the sins of many, written 700 years before Christ came.

He was Raised on the Third Day According to the Scriptures

The fact that he was raised from the dead was also according to the scriptures. Psalm 16:10 is pointed to in the preaching of the Apostles in Acts 2 and Acts 13 as a promise of the resurrection.

Psalm 16:9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Jesus himself pointed to the sign of the prophet Jonah,

Matthew 12:40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

We could look at Genesis 22, where Abraham comes to them mount of sacrifice on the third day, where he would receive the son of promise back as from the dead.

We could look at Exodus 19, where God came down to reveal himself to his people on the mountain on the third day.

We could look at the feast of firstfruits in Leviticus 23, to be held after the Passover on the Sunday after the Sabbath.

We could look at the prophecy about the nation of Israel in Hosea 6

Hosea 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Jesus’ own words were clear predicting what would happen to him

Luke 9:22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

In John 2:

John 2:19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” …21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Father raised Jesus from the dead as a confirmation that Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be. In Romans 4, we are told that Jesus

Romans 1:4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,

In Acts 17,

Acts 17:30 God… commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

The Response

We understand the historical facts; Christ died, and he was really dead; he was raised and he is really alive. We understand the meaning; Christ the Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; he was raised according to the Scriptures, authenticating his claims to be equal to and one with the Father. That is the gospel message. That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and that he was raised. That is good news – forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death; the promise of new life through his resurrection. That is good news indeed. But that good news demands a response from us. That greatest of all news, that message of first importance does us no good if we do not respond. What kind of response must we make? The first two verses of this chapter tell us.

1 Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

This is a message that must be believed. Jesus said ‘whoever believes has eternal life.’ But what does it mean to believe? Paul tells us that there is a way to believe in vain. James tells us that even the demons believe (2:19). So what does it mean to believe in such a way that the good news benefits me? Does it mean to agree that the historical facts of the gospel message are indeed historical? The demons know that to be true. Does it mean to agree with the theological significance of those events, that Christ died for our sins? I think the demons believe that too.

Paul spells out what the kind of believing looks like that brings with it all the benefits of the gospel. He says you received it. You took it to be your own. The good news is that God offers you a gift. A gift cannot be earned. You insult the giver if you attempt to pay off a gift as if it were a debt. Gifts must be received. Humbly take what is offered.

He says for the gospel to benefit you, you must stand in it, you must hold fast to it. The good news that Jesus died for your sins is not something to enjoy for a moment and then move on to the next thing. The gospel is where the true believer stays. The gospel is my only hope, so I cling to it, I take my stand in it. I never depart from it. I live daily in the gospel. I breathe gospel air. I move in gospel truth.

And the gospel does something to me. Paul says that I am being saved by this amazing good news message. I am being acted upon by this message. It is a powerful message that is at work in me, changing me, making me new. It is a message that heals what is sick in me, that fixes what is broken in me, that rescues and redeems what is lost and gone astray in me. As I live and breathe in the gospel, as I cling to the gospel it is in the process of shaping and transforming me.

I would invite you today to believe the good news that Christ died for your sins and that he rose again. Believe it in such a way that you receive it as a gift and take it to be your own, in such a way that you cling to it and live in it, in such a way that it begins to work on you, to transform your thoughts and your desires and your attitudes, that it so transforms your heart that you begin to live like Christ, you begin to really live, in intimate fellowship with Jesus. You begin to live a resurrection kind of life.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

April 5, 2015 Posted by | 1 Corinthians, occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment