Have you noticed how rare it is to see people asking questions about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? People debate about the division between church and state. People wrestle with questions what songs to sing on Sunday morning but the claim that Jesus resurrected from the dead just seems to be glazed over. Isn’t that interesting?
How many times have you been at a cemetery, visiting the memory of someone in your family and out of the corner of your eye you see someone resurrecting from the dead? How many times have you been at a family reunion and thought, “Is that Uncle Gene?”
Even when people are debating arguments theologically. People will discuss the trinity; Father, Son and Spirit for hours, people ask questions about the role of women in the local church, people will argue back and forth about how and when Jesus will establish His New Heaven and New Earth; but what about Jesus resurrecting from the dead?
This morning we are going to cover a lot of verses. A few years ago, I spent 6-weeks covering the passage we are going to look at this morning, but I wanted us to see the big picture of Jesus’ resurrection, so we’re going to start slow and then move fast. Let’s look at verses 1-2:
1 Corinthians 15:1-2, “1 Now I make known to you, brothers and sisters, the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received, in which you also stand, 2 by which you also are saved, if you hold firmly to the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”
1 Corinthians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to local church in Corinth and over the last 14 chapters we have seen a number of areas addressed. The arrogance of the Corinthian church, sexual immorality, how they are treating one another, communion, spiritual gifts but in 1 Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul begins with the gospel. Do you see the word “gospel” in verse 1?
The gospel is a word that means the good news of Jesus. The gospel is not advice about what you must DO to be a religious person, but the gospel is what has already been DONE for you in Jesus.
The gospel is that all of humanity is walking in a broken world, broken soul and broken lives until Jesus comes to bring healing to all who trust in Him. Listen to me, if you have yet to believe in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, then do so this morning. It’s the best decision you will ever make.
In verse 1 we not only see the word “gospel” but we also see this progression of how the gospel works in our life today. Do you see it?
The Apostle Paul writes, “I preached the gospel, the Corinthian church received the gospel, the Corinthian church stands in the gospel and the Corinthian church is saved in the gospel.” Do you see the progression? The gospel is preached, people receive, they stand and they are saved!
I hope, as you sit here this morning, you have memories of someone preaching the gospel into your life. I hope you have memories of receiving the gospel into your life. It isn’t to just to believe. It is to take in and digest but it doesn’t end there.
The gospel is the truth we stand in every day. Our faith in Jesus isn’t just an ideology we get through a class. Our faith isn’t a hobby we explore on Sunday mornings. We stand in our faith. We make decisions in our faith. We walk into our day as men and women in Jesus, so that we are saved.
It’s possible that some of us see that last “if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain” and those words might stir up some doubts but you need to know the context isn’t about whether or not you hold on to Jesus through our moral behavior but holding on to our faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Stay with me. Let’s look at verses 3-4:
1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “3 For I handed down to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,”
The Apostle Paul had been writing to the Corinthian church about many areas of their faith but in the closing chapters we see the most important part, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” Do you see that phrase in verse 3?
Oh, those words are loaded with goodness. First, the word “sin” means all of humanity was created to be in perfect relationship with God. Read it in Genesis 1 and 2. Everything is perfect. Adam and Eve are naked and unafraid. Please, read it. It’s awesome!
Genesis 2 reminds me when we had our dog Roscoe. When Roscoe was in our home he is living in Genesis 1 and 2, in a garden of perfection. The whole of our house was for Roscoe to enjoy.
When Roscoe was hungry there was food. When Roscoe was thirsty there was water. Roscoe literally slept 20 hours a day. Roscoe had his servants to rub on him, cuddle with him, play with him, and everything was perfect for Roscoe.
But, there were times when Roscoe wanted to do what was right in his own eyes. It’s called sin. Roscoe would want to leave the safety of our home and run out the door and in those moments, Roscoe was fully convinced that he was running toward freedom, life, and pleasure.
But Roscoe doesn’t realize he was running toward death. Roscoe doesn’t know what life is like on his own. Roscoe doesn’t know what it is like to provide his own safety and security.
When we go through live apart from God we are living out our sin but notice the word “for.” Christ died for our sins. The word “for” means Jesus’ death is substitutional. Write that down!
Substitution means Jesus stands in our place. All of humanity has sinned against the righteousness of God and Jesus willingly steps up so as to say, “I will take the consequences of humanities sin on Me.”
Remember the movie Hunger Games. There’s a scene in the beginning of the movie when Effie reads off the name Primrose Everdeen.
All the districts had fought against the capital but to restore peace every district had to sacrifice two tributes to pay the price and Effie reads off the name of a little girl named Primrose Everdeen
In the movie, the camera pans in on this little girl’s face. The adults are grieving at the possibility of what this might mean. Judgment is coming for Primrose. She’s a little girl.
And then you hear the voice of Katniss, Primrose’ big sister who cries out, “I volunteer for tribute.” Why is that moment so dramatic in the movie? It’s because Katniss is standing in the place of her little sister, Primrose.
There were thousands of people who died on a cross in the ancient world. But when Jesus dies on a cross Jesus isn’t dying for His sin. Jesus is innocent. Jesus is without sin. It is a noble offer for Katniss to volunteer for her sister but the next year names will be drawn and the next year one of those names could be Primrose.
But when Jesus stands in our place and dies for our sin at the cross it is a death that is available to all who trust in Him, because Jesus not only dies for our sin but Jesus conquers our sin in the resurrection. Does that make sense?
It is in Jesus’ resurrection that death is conquered. The judgment is paid. In a second, we will see that Jesus appeared to hundreds of people, so as to say, “Don’t worry. I stood in your place. I took your judgment. I conquered death. I defeated darkness.” Look at verses 5-7:
1 Corinthians 15:5-7, “5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
In verses 5-7 there is an attendance list of everyone who visually laid eyes on the resurrected Jesus. Is the resurrection true? The Apostles saw Jesus resurrect.
Surely the most skeptical part of ourselves would think, “Well, sure, those guys said Jesus resurrected from the dead. They were all in on the secret.”
But the Apostles all suffered horrible deaths. They all committed their lives going city to city proclaiming the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and got nothing but pain in return. Who would do that for a lie?
Then, in verse 6 we see the resurrected Jesus appears to over 500 people at one time, so that if the Corinthians wanted to go and talk to those people who saw the resurrected Jesus they could. Those people were still alive. The Apostle Paul was citing his sources!
It’s possible you hear about the resurrection of Jesus, or you personally profess belief in the resurrection, and you say to yourself, “I guess it just takes faith.” No, that is the exact opposite of 1 Corinthians 15. This chapter is written to provide evidence to the resurrection of Jesus. Let’s jump to verse 12 for the sake of time.
1 Corinthians 15:12, “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?”
This is a little confusing, but it’s not that the Corinthian church was struggling with Jesus’ resurrection but they weren’t convinced their bodies or our bodies were going to be physically resurrected.
Now stay with me: The common belief in the Corinthian culture was the physical was inferior to the spiritual, therefore, the physical body didn’t really hold any lasting value in the Corinthian culture.
We could poke fun of the Corinthians but we still get wrapped up in that thinking today. Think about the motto in Las Vegas, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” because the assumption is what you do with your body in Vegas doesn’t matter.
When our culture discusses gender ideology have you noticed there is a devaluing of the physical body? Our culture will say, “The physical body parts you are born with doesn’t matter, but what is important is the inward essence of the person.”
Listen to me, what we do with our bodies matter because one day, through faith in Jesus, our bodies are going to be resurrected. Our bodies are going to be with us for eternity! Jump down to verses 16-19:
1 Corinthians 15:16-19, “16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ only in this life, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
Look at that word “worthless” in verse 17. If Jesus stays dead in that tomb then all of this is worthless. The Scriptures are worthless. The Virgin birth is worthless. The miracles and teachings are worthless. None of it matters.
But, the good news is Jesus doesn’t stay dead. Jesus conquers death, and Jesus resurrects in bodily form for 40 days. Jesus is seen, touched, and heard by over 500 men and women, and then Jesus ascends into the heavens (Acts 1.)
The resurrection of Jesus is so powerful Jesus doesn’t even stick around to tell everyone. But instead Jesus entrusts the most important event in all of human history to a bunch of regular men and women.
The story of Jesus should have died out. The story of Jesus should have been lost in all the stories of humanity. But instead the name of Jesus becomes the most important name in all of human history. How is that? Look at verse 20-24:
1 Corinthians 15:20-24, “20 But the fact is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man death came, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to our God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.”
I know that’s a lot but stay with me. In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve do what is right in their own eyes, like Roscoe, and everything God created to be good is distorted in sin, and in that moment, physical and spiritual death enters into humanity.
That is why in 1 Corinthians 15:22 the Apostle Paul writes, “For since by a man came death.” In Adam all of humanity is born into sin, and born physically and spiritually separated from God.
In Adam, all of humanity falls into a broken relationship with God but for those who are “in Christ” will be “made alive.” Do you see that in verse 22? In verse 23 Jesus is described as “first fruits of being “made alive.” Jesus’ is that model home!
The phrase “first fruits” is an agricultural reference, and I am guessing not many of us work on a farm but in the Corinthian culture all of life would have rallied around the harvest and the first sapling would have been signs of hope that the harvest was coming!
Therefore, the Apostle Paul says, “Jesus is our first fruits.” Jesus’ resurrection is a glimpse of what is to come for all those who are in Christ.
I remember when Holly and I first moved to Austin we would drive around the city to look at houses, and sometimes we would come to these neighborhood developments that were just beginning.
We would see this huge stretch of land with unpaved roads, orange flags everywhere, and at the beginning of the neighborhood there was always a really nice model home.
The whole development was empty, untouched land, but the model home was beautiful. The model home is there to give you a picture of what life could look like in this neighborhood, and today, years later, if you drive to that neighborhood there are hundreds of homes, and most of them look like that first model home.
In a similar way, Jesus’ life, death, and bodily resurrection is the model home for us as Christians. Jesus’ life, death, and bodily resurrection is a sign to see what eternal life in Christ might look like one day when the God of Scripture is done fulfilling His promise of a New Heavens and a New Earth for all of creation.
That’s why we see the phrase “then comes the end” in verse 24. Do you see that phrase? In verse 23 there is an order. First there is creation, then the brokenness of sin, then all of humanity is longing for the hope of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s happened, but it’s not over.
One day, in the near future, Jesus will return, and those who are in Christ will be bodily resurrected in glory from the dead, and then comes the end. Do you see that?
Death isn’t the end. All who are in Christ will be raised and then comes the end. It is why back in verse 20 the Apostle Paul refers to those who are dead as “asleep” because death isn’t the end. Our physical bodies are simply asleep, waiting for the day when they will be raised in glory.
One day there will be a trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first (1 Thess 4:16). Revelation 19 says one day Jesus will return on a white horse, His eyes blazing fire, and out of His mouth will come a sharp sword. Let’s jump down to verses 29-34:
1 Corinthians 15:29-34, “29 For otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? 30 Why are we also in danger every hour? 31 I affirm, brothers and sisters, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, that I die daily. 32 If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what good is it to me? If the dead are not raised, let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 34 Sober up morally and stop sinning, for some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”
In verse 29 we see the Apostle Paul reference “baptism for the dead” and baptism means to publically identify yourself with a set of beliefs, and the people in the Corinthian church were being baptized for friends and family members who have already died in the past, which doesn’t make sense.
In one breath the Corinthian church is sure the physical body doesn’t matter and in the next breath the Corinthian church is trying to do something to help those who have passed with their physical bodies.
We aren’t exactly sure what the Corinthian church is teaching at this point but we know, based on the whole of God’s Word, our relationship with God is always established by grace through faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Even people in the Old Testament are trusting (faith) in a Savior to come just as we trust in a Savior who has come.
I will invite the worship team up. I want to ask the lights to be lowered and I want to give us a few minutes to consider, “One day Jesus is going to return and establish His New Heavens and New Earth.”
I don’t know if I fully understand it, but the New Heavens and New Earth isn’t some distant outer realm in another world.
It is right here. One day Jesus is going to remove the brokenness of our city. One day we want see people hurting one another. One day Mo-Pac is going to be perfect! One day allergies are going to be removed! Humidity is going to be gone!
Jesus is going to make all things new right here, so that everything we do with our bodies, our minds, our words, our emotions, and our lives matter. It’s because of Jesus’ resurrection. Death isn’t the end of the story. Death is just a catnap.
You know in WWII was beginning and the Nazi’s were attacking the French in 1940, the French were hiding their French national flags in their pillows and mattresses because they didn’t want to face the wrath of the Nazi soldiers.
But, upon the D-day invasion in 1944 it was obvious the Nazis would lose the war, and the Nazis retreated through France burning down French buildings and destroying French property as they marched back to Germany, but do you know what?
Even though the Nazi’s were still destroying French property, and killing French citizens, the French started to hoist up those French flags.
Do you know why? The victory was sure, the Nazi’s were defeated, and as a result the French citizens lived differently.
In 1 Corinthians 15 the Apostle Paul is writing, “The victory is sure. Jesus will return. Our bodies will be raised. All things will become new.” Let us live accordingly.
If you have yet to trust in Jesus. Do so this morning. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. We will have people to pray for you at the back. Will you pray with me? Will you stand and worship with me?