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Restore the Resurrection

Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare these remarks.

https://www.behance.net/gallery/110813615/Sermon-Illustrations-2022

In 1 Corinthians 15:13-14, Paul stated the central importance of our belief in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ with these words:

FOR IF THERE IS NO RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD, THEN CHRIST HAS NOT BEEN RAISED EITHER. AND IF CHRIST HAS NOT BEEN RAISED, THEN ALL OUR PREACHING IS USELESS AND OUR FAITH IS USELESS.

About one-third of the world’s population identify themselves as Christians. These three billion people are divided into 33,820 denominations in 238 countries and use 7,100 languages. If Jesus Christ is not resurrected, we might as well tell all those Christians they ought to go practice some other religion or just party on.

British evangelist Michael Green put it this way:

“The supreme miracle of Christianity is the resurrection. It is the crux of Christianity, the heart of the matter. If it is true, then there is a future for mankind; and death and suffering have to be viewed in a totally new light. If it is not true, Christianity collapses into mythology.”

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important doctrine of our faith. It must be our focus and we must refuse to compromise on this point.

It may sound ridiculous to you that anyone would seriously deny that Jesus rose from the dead. Especially anyone who claimed to be a Christian. And yet it happens. When it happens, power and authority drains out of the church and rightly so. Failure to support the historical, physical, spiritual, and miraculous Resurrection of Jesus Christ tears the heart out of the Gospel and makes every other claim we can make about our faith an utter farce.

CONTEXT – Having just spent four chapters on the subject of worship, Paul turned to the major reason we have to worship God: Jesus’ Resurrection. This section of Corinthians is the oldest written testimony we have to the Resurrection. As verse six tells us, Paul wrote these words at a time when MOST of the witnesses of the Resurrected Christ could still be questioned personally to verify the truth of Paul’s summary. 1 Corinthians was written ten years before any of the Gospels!

1. The importance of the truth of the Resurrection. (1-3)

It is the original truth = THE GOOD NEWS I PREACHED TO YOU BEFORE. (1) The phrase GOOD NEWS usually translated as “gospel” in English translations. It is, however, THE GOOD NEWS in the sense that it is the best possible news a human could ever receive.

GOOD NEWS is the phrase Paul used to summarize the Christian faith. Because Jesus rose from the dead, we will too, and in much the same way. According to 1:17, Paul’s mission was to preach the GOOD NEWS and he let nothing interfere with his mission.

It is the foundational truth = YOU STILL STAND FIRM IN IT. (1) This was the truth the Corinthians had WELCOMED eighteen months ago when Paul first visited their city. The word translated as WELCOMED is a little stronger in the Greek than in English: it meant accepting or taking possession of a thing, be it land or a title or an object. It implies an important, life-changing transaction.

From then to the present moment, the Corinthians had remained firmly committed to GOOD NEWS. They had problems and were confused on some points of doctrine but had not rejected Christ.

It is the saving truth = THIS GOOD NEWS THAT SAVES YOU IF YOU CONTINUE TO BELIEVE THE MESSAGE I TOLD YOU. (2) This is the ninth time Paul has referred to salvation in this letter. Even as he brought correction to the church’s problems, Paul wanted to reassure them that their salvation was not in doubt, because it is Jesus who saves them.

It is the primary truth, the MOST IMPORTANT thing about which Paul wrote them. (3) The phrase PASSED ON may not seem important, but it is Paul’s acknowledgement that the GOOD NEWS he presented to them was not his own invention, but was the truth he’d received from Jesus Christ Himself, and the same truth preached by all the apostles (11). Jewish rabbis used this same expression to describe how their teaching was trustworthy because it was the same teaching they had received from the rabbi who instructed them.

This is contrary to the notion of our present culture that truth is in the eye of the beholder, that religion is something you’re free to make up. Worse, we’ve been told that if you didn’t make it up you’ve blindly swallowed antiquated beliefs and aren’t very smart. The Bible’s teaching is that we receive the truth as handed down to us and make it our own by study that verifies its truthfulness and reliability.

2. The substance of the truth of the Resurrection. (3-9)

Paul summarized the truth of the Resurrection in four verbs. We examine each of them below.

First, CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS. (3) Jesus actually, physically, historically, DIED. He did not “swoon” or fake death; there is no conspiracy on the part of His disciples to deceive the people. (According to Matthew 28:11-15, the only conspiracy regarding Jesus’ resurrection was the one cooked up by the religious leaders and the Roman soldiers to deceive the people into believing Jesus’ disciples stole His body to fake a resurrection.)

The reason for Jesus’ death was to pay the penalty for our SINS. If He didn’t actually die, there was no sacrifice and we are still doomed. Jesus’ sacrificial death makes life possible.

Second, HE WAS BURIED. (4) Jesus’ burial is the most important piece of evidence for both His death and Resurrection. It has more importance than a casual reader might assign to this detail.

Third, HE WAS RAISED FROM THE DEAD. (4) Here is the single most important truth in all of Scripture: everything that came before leading up to it, everything that came after was precipitated by it. Jesus was dead and buried but He did not stay that way. God the Father raised Him to life in a new kind of resurrected body.

Fourth, HE WAS SEEN. (5-9) Jesus’ Resurrection was verified by HUNDREDS of eyewitnesses, MOST of whom were still alive at the time this letter was written; they could vouch for its historicity. No one in Corinth had to take Paul’s word for the Resurrection; they could have heard testimony from HUNDREDS of witnesses! (See Acts 1:3.)

3. The truth of the Resurrection was the basis of Paul’s apostleship. (8-11)

Paul saw himself as one of THE APOSTLES, but different from them. (8-9) He identified himself as LAST and LEAST of the Apostles.

Why THE LAST? (8) The phrase AS THOUGH I HAD BEEN BORN AT THE WRONG TIME was an expression used to describe babies that had been aborted, miscarried, born prematurely, or stillborn, all tragically dead. There’s debate about what Paul meant by this provocative figure of speech. I think Romans 6:13 supplies the answer. There Paul taught we are all DEAD IN SIN before we receive Jesus Christ as Savior. By faith we are alive in Christ. This is an evocative way of emphasizing that though he may’ve considered himself right with God by keeping the Law, Paul was actually DEAD in his sins.

It may also Paul’s way of saying he was the LAST person Jesus selected for apostleship. He was LAST in a chronological sense, being the last person to see the Resurrected Christ. Jesus appeared to Paul possibly three years after His Resurrection. Read the account of his conversion experience in Acts 9:1-19a and his later retelling of those events in Acts 22:1-16 and 26:1-23 and in Galatians 1:13-17.

Why THE LEAST? (9) Paul saw himself as undeserving of the title APOSTLE, BECAUSE he PERSECUTED GOD’S CHURCH. In Acts 7, Paul (then known as Saul) oversaw the death of Stephen, the first martyr. He was undoubtedly a zealous persecutor of the Church.

However, in spite of being LAST and LEAST, God’s SPECIAL FAVOR made Paul an apostle. (10) Paul is careful to give God all the credit – his conversion and his ministry are due to God’s grace (another word for SPECIAL FAVOR). NOT WITHOUT RESULTS refers to Paul’s ministry after his conversion, offering the RESULTS of his ministry as evidence by works that He genuinely saw the Resurrected Christ.

After receiving Jesus as his Savior, Paul WORKED HARDER than the OTHER APOSTLES, but that too was God’s GRACE, nothing for which he could take credit for himself. WORKED describes exhausting labor (usually manual labor), which is a good description of the way Paul devoted himself to the ministry.

Even if he was LAST and LEAST but WORKED HARDER than the rest, Paul set all the apostles on the same level when he wrote all of them PREACH THE SAME MESSAGE. (11) He also wants to reassure the Corinthians that the MESSAGE they had ALREADY BELIEVED was that same message. Everyone who held to the faith PASSED ON by the apostles is on the same page. In 2 Corinthians 11:4 he identified anyone who teaches anything different – A DIFFERENT KIND OF GOSPEL – as being false teachers.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is the single most important doctrine of our faith. It must be our focus and we must refuse to compromise on this point.

George Herbert, a 17th century English poet made a wonderful observation about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: "Death used to be an executioner, but the resurrection of Christ makes him nothing but a gardener. When he tries to bury you, he's really planting you, and you're going to come up better than before."

This is a beautiful, encouraging way of thinking about the Resurrection. As Paul would write later in 1 Corinthians 15, the “sting” (verses 55-57) of death is removed. We need not fear death as it is a necessary first step to the greatest life possible. This gives us a very strong and very positive motive for guarding this doctrine against all who would deny or diminish it.

To those who deny the Resurrection ever happened I say, “You can’t touch my Jesus! His death and Resurrection are articles of faith but are also the most well-attested event in all of ancient history.”

To those who want to dilute it of its power or qualify the Resurrection into effective meaninglessness I say, “You can’t have my Jesus! Rising from the dead He fulfilled the plan of God and changed everything forever.”

We long to transform ourselves, our homes, our communities, nation, and world into the image of Jesus Christ. We long to take back what was stolen from us while we slept the dreamless sleep of the apathetic. None of that will happen unless it is grounded on the Resurrection.

If we truly believe Jesus is alive, we have no choice but to compel everyone we know to share that belief. We must restore the Resurrection to its rightful place as the historical and prophetical center of all we believe and do.


RESOURCES:

Christianity statistics and Green quote found at https://www.truthchallenge.one/blog/2021/09/13/the-new-testament-evidence-refutes-a-postmodern-resurrection/ on 24 august 22.

Cornerstone Bible Commentary, Vol. 15, 1 Corinthians, 2009, William Baker

Herbert quote found at https://www.inspiringquotes.us/topic/6041-resurrection on 25 august 22.

Restoration Work” #7 - 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 - “Restore the Resurrection

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