Reading: [1Co 15:50-58 NASB] 50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not [in] vain in the Lord.
In his letter to the Church of Corinth, the Apostle Paul deals with several issues of great importance. The first was division brought on by some sort of man-made spiritual pedigree. "I follow Paul," "I follow Apollo's" etc. This was revealing a more significant issue; people living by the natural Man Vs. The spiritual man. A theme that will carry on throughout Paul's entire letter.
Next, Paul addresses a particular issue of sexual immorality. One that was so reviling he says it "doesn't exist even among the Gentiles." It didn't exist even among those without God in the world.
Moving from this Paul address is another issue of Christians suing one another in full view of the world. These Christians were so immature or maybe so thinking with the natural man that they couldn't judge their own cases. So they made a mockery of the gospel and paraded their issues before secular courts.
But one of if not the most critical issue Paul addresses is that of a people group not believing in the resurrection of the Dead.
This issue is so important to Paul that he writes some of the most sobering words of warning in the New Testament. Paul says that without the resurrection verses 17 through 19 your faith is worthless you are still in your sins and that if we have hope in Christ in this life only we are of all men most to be pitied.
Seeing that this is a foundational belief for Christians we need to look into it.
Today I want to show you not only that we must believe and proclaim the resurrection of Christ but also believe and proclaim the resurrection of the Dead. In doing so, I want to communicate three "why's." I hope to show you today that only through the resurrection can we find meaning in all of life's toil in all of life's pain in putting sin to death and anything else we face in this life.
Now that we know what Paul is contending with in Corinth (people who rejected the resurrection of the Dead) we can understand what Paul means in verse 1-4. "Now I make known to you, Brethren, the gospel which I preached to you... for I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures."
Although this is a gospel outline of sorts, we should be cautious in our attempts to reduce the gospel to a few quick propositional truths hoping that some magical power lies behind them.
The model presented by Jesus, his disciples and the testimony of the entire New Testament reveals a Gospel declaration of reasoning with people from the scriptures over time, inviting them to walk with Jesus, to be baptized, and to begin learning to follow all that He has commanded.
It's a relationship in which we establish the sinful, helpless state of man, showing them the promised solution found in Christ. We are to explain how Jesus' death, burial, and his resurrection satisfy the crucial parts of the story and teach them how to respond. Through a relationship, we can guide them in following him, teaching them what it means to turn from our sinful ways; that is to repent and to pursue God in Christ.
Pauls point in addressing a kind of Resurrection apostasy was to say that Jesus' death, burial, and His resurrection were of first importance. In other words, you can't have one without the others, or you can't have the others without the one in particular. It was not to merely boil down the Gospel...
So what Paul is doing is not reducing the gospel to some irreducible nuts and bolts. Instead, he is saying that the death burial AND Resurrection are of first importance, not just one. They are also not the only important matters but rather first order things. Paul then goes on to make a case for resurrection and why it matters so very much.
3 Why's: 1. If there's no Resurrection, then Christ also hasn't been raised. If Christ hasn't been raised, then we have a really big problem. The problem is a sin problem; namely that we are still in our sin. This is why Paul says if we have hoped in Christ in this life only we are to be pitied. Why is that? Because without Resurrection Jesus merely came to offer a new religion which results in death as the final punctuation to the story of life.
Verses 56 and 57 "The sting of death is sin... but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory THROUGH Christ our Lord."
If Christ is not raised and doesn't afford us resurrection also then verse 26 should read that the last enemy death, is victorious.
So 1. if not for the resurrection we are still in our sins and 2. if not for the resurrection this whole thing (the Christian life) isn't worth our time.
How many of you know that what we believe will always affect how we live? We may try and suppress it but it will never last. Paul knows this too. So he tells the people if you are not going to believe in the resurrection then you should live consistent with your belief. Paul was quoting Isaiah 22:13 when he says "if the dead are not raised let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die." If our hope is only in this life even if it's in Christ, it's a pitiable hope. If there's no Resurrection, then you are not drinking enough. If there is no Resurrection, then you are not eating enough. If there is no Resurrection, then you are not living enough.
But for you and I who do believe in the resurrection, Paul gives us instruction too. Verses 33 through 34 is something every professing Christians should take to heart. "Bad Company corrupts good morals" even if that company is a bad belief system it corrupts good morals if you do not believe in the resurrection you should live entirely different. Paul goes on to say "become sober-minded" that is to say wake up and "stop sinning, for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."
Our belief affects our Behavior. The only two options set before us are 1. don't believe in the resurrection and therefore eat drink and be merry because the end is indeed the end. Or 2. believe in the resurrection and thus put the old man to death. Stop sinning. Wake up!
Paul writes to the Ephesians (the wild beasts he refers to in verse 32) and says Ephesians 5:11-14 "do not participate in the unfruitful Deeds of Darkness, but instead even expose them for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But All Things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason, it says awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
Awake, live what you believe, a hope-filled, forward-looking resurrected life!
3. So without the resurrection, we are still in our sin. Without the resurrection, we are wasting our time. And lastly, without the resurrection, all of our pain, toil, putting sin to death, all of our journeys are in vain. That great scripture that says "God works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes" (Romans 8:28) without the resurrection it's all a lie.
I'm sure you know how it feels to be without hope. But imagine no hope of redemption ever. No hope for True Justice. Imagine all the pain you've suffered emotionally, physically, mentally being meaningless. Without Resurrection that's exactly what life is; pointless. But through the resurrection, through this reality which is of first importance, all of life has purpose and meaning.
Verse 36 Paul goes on to say that "what you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that what you sow, you do not so the body which is to be but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else." He says that last line as an example of what they know. Agriculture. Paul then spends a little bit of time communicating that the future glory is up to God, but then in verse 42, he puts it all together for us. "So also is the resurrection of the Dead" just like the seed planted has to die to be raised in glory so do we and all of our issues. "It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a Natural Body, it is raised a spiritual body."
Paul says earlier if the dead are not raised "why are we also in danger every hour?" If the dead are not raised "why do I Die daily?"
Pauls point is that in the resurrection of the dead and only in this Doctrine is there meaning in this life! Only through this truth can we die daily for any eternal purpose. Only through this truth can we endure persecution. Only with resurrection in view can we put sin to death and provide light to a darkened world.
Your pain, toil, fear, lost, struggle against sin, rejection by those you love for the sake of Christ all of it is to be sown into the ground of this life with the full assurance that that seed will produce a Heavenly Body in the glory God intends. From glory to glory. All of our pain producing in us an Eternal Weight of Glory to be revealed in the end.
Paul ends with these great words, "therefore, my beloved Brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord."