Text: 1 Corinthians 15:1-34
Location: Park Community Church South Loop
Date: Sunday May 7, 2023
One thing I’ve learned from reading many adventure stories over the years, is that perspective often changes everything. There comes a moment in many stories where the main character is lost. He’s surrounded, and doesn’t know which way to turn in order to get to safety. He needs perspective. He needs to get to higher ground, to climb the tallest tree, or hike the tallest hill, in order to be able to survey his surroundings.
Sometimes life feels a little bit like you’re lost in the woods. Hardships, trials, discomforts, difficult questions about the future, all lie in our path. And it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming trying to get a sense of which way to go, of which way leads to safety. Well today we climb the mountain, we scale the tallest tree, to get perspective. In the Christian faith the perspective that ought to guide every facet of the Christian life, is our eternal perspective.
We are going verse by verse through the book of 1 Corinthians. We’ve just finished a three chapter section on the topic of Spiritual Gifts. And now we come to 1 Corinthians 15, that great chapter in the Bible that speaks on the resurrection.
Big Idea: Build your life around the resurrection of Christ
Move 1: The Gospel Made Simple
Paul in this opening section is going to provide the basis for his entire argument about the resurrection and its centrality in a believer’s life. I want you to see the details of these first two verses in which prepares to explain the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 “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, th…”
1) I preached to you: Paul here is simply reminding them of what he had preached to them many times over. Paul was an amazing theologians. Much of our instruction in the New Testament comes from his pen. He taught his Churches the depths of theology in many different fields. Yet Paul never wearied of preaching the simple gospel.
2) In which you stand: Those who he was writing to had taken their stand on the truth of the Gospel. To take a stand is to affirm one thing and reject its opposite. This Church in Corinth stood firm against the secular calls of their day, stood firm against gnostic heresies, and unitarian heresies, and we will see in this passage, they stood firm against heresies regarding the resurrection.
3) You are being saved: Paul states it is this gospel by which you are being saved. Paul need not expand on what he meant by that language. Paul was hinting at being saved from hardship, saved from hurt feelings, saved from loneliness, depression. They were saved from the wrath of God. The Scriptures say that the wrath of God is stored for all those who have broken his law. Eternal destruction is their future. At some point in everyone’s life we have to wrestle with a future eternity and where we will spend it. The Word of God teaches that to break any of God’s commands in the slightest is to be declared a rebel to God, and punishable by death, “the wages of sin is death.” But in Christ we are “saved” from this punishment.
4) If you hold fast: How are they saved? They are saved by clinging and holding onto the truth that Paul had preached about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here we touch on an important doctrine known as The Perseverance of the Saints. If you have authentically put your faith in Jesus, and experienced regeneration of the soul, you will hold fast until the end. You may have seasons of doubt, even drifting away, but you will never fall away completely. Those who fall away never put their in Christ in the first place.
5) Of first importance: For Paul the death and the resurrection are of first importance. Until a person comes to the truth of these claims, they have not truly considered life. For the claims of the resurrection of Jesus must change your life. They cannot leave you the same. These truths are of first importance for every human being, for in these truths your eternity hinges.
Paul explains that Christ died for our sins. This language is a stumbling block for many. But the Word of God is fundamentally clear, that on the cross a divine transaction took place. Your sins and their penalty was placed upon Christ. And Christ’s righteousness was placed upon you. Theologians call this a double imputation.
2 Corinthians 5:21 “21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
It was at the cross where this divine substitution took place. One man experienced hell, agony, for the many. The Word of God states that if you look to Christ, if you will humble yourself by repenting of sin and receiving Christ’s offer of forgiveness—what we call a gift of undeserved grace—your wages are paid in full. God no longer sees you as an enemy, but rather as a Beloved Son as Christ’s righteousness as transferred upon you.
He was buried in a rich man’s tomb as the prophets foretold. Joseph of Arimethea, a well known religious leader of the day, requested to take the body of Christ and place him in a tomb hewn from stone.
He remained two full nights. Until the third day, when a miracle upon miracles took place. And Christ’s dead body resurrected to new life. His heart which had not beat for three days began to beat again. His lungs, which had been punctured and bled out by a spear, were healed and he began to breathe again. Christ did not just raise from the dead spiritually, as some kind of symbol of new hope. Christ took on flesh at his resurrection, as the Scriptures said he was. This was all foretold hundreds of years prior by the ancient prophets.
This reality was evidenced by many witnesses. First hand, eye witness accounts of the resurrected Christ. He appeared Cephas (that’s Peter), who only dies prior had cowered in fear at being associated with Jesus, but upon seeing the resurrected Jesus was filled with such courage that he was ready to preach the message of Christ crucified to any and all that would listen. Then he appeared to the full group of Apostles. At another time he appeared to a group of five hundred individuals. He appeared to James, his half brother who had doubted Christ’s identity during Christ’s earthly ministry. But upon seeing the resurrected Jesus, upon witnessees that evidence, James became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem. Lastly, he appeared to the Apostle Paul, while Paul was on a road to Damascus. In a blinding light, the resurrected Christ changed the course of Paul’s life, and made him an Apostle, a sent one, carrying the good news of Christ risen from the dead to the nations.
The resurrection and the crucifixion are interwoven with each other as one event. While the divine transaction occured at the cross, the resurrection serves as the validation that the Father accepted the sacrifice. And so we might say that these two events, though separate, are interwoven in such a way that Paul can rightly sight the resurrection as of First Importance when speaking about the Gospel right alongside the death of Christ. And so if anyone ever asks you, ‘What is the Gospel about?’ Your response must prioritize the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Move 2: Paul Confronts an Anti-Resurrection Sect
1 Corinthians 15:12-19 “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.”
Paul is now concerned that after preaching this message with such clarity, that a new group has risen up inside the Church who claimed that there is no resurrection from the dead. Their claim is not that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, but rather that we will not rise from the dead. This is likely part of the philosophy of the day, from cities like Athens, where the belief was that the physical body was dirty and unholy, and that when we die we leave the physical behind. And so, in some way, this group was importing Greek philosophy into the Church and corrupting the central message of the Gospel. This is why Paul adamently opposed importing philosophy into our Christianity.
Colossians 2:8 “8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Eight Arguments for the Resurrection
In these next few verses Paul obliterates the notion that there is no resurrection. I see in this section eight argument Paul uses in quick succession.
1) Not even Christ has been raised (13): If there is no truly no resurrection then not even Christ has been raised. And that is a problem for a number of reasons, but functionally it causes the entire Christian faith to fall apart. It means that Christ was a liar when he said it was rise from the dead. And it means that the Father did accept the sacrifice of the Son.
2) Our preaching is in vain (14): If Christ is not raised then every second you have ever sat on a Sunday morning listening to a sermon by a preacher has been a waste your and everyone else’s time. Because its utterly foolish. Not one second was worth it.
3) Your faith is in vain (14): Additionally, your faith is in vain. If Christ is not raised from the dead then you are trusting and following a failed messiah. You are trusting and following a man named Jesus who made a whole lot of noise, but didn’t have the goods to back it up.
4) We are misrepresenting God (15): Further, Christianity therefore misrepresents God. If Christ is not raised then the Bible is false and everything we think we know about God, about eternity, about our souls, about our purpose, is all false. We’ve misrepresented God.
5) Your faith is futile (17): Further, your faith is futile. What does ‘futile’ mean. It means its a dead end. It’s worthless. It may get you through a moment, make you feel good when times are rough, but in the end it has no substance. It is just a pack of lies.
6) You are still in your sins (17): Importantly, number six, you are still in your sins. If Christ has not been raised then truly he was no mediator between God and man. His death was just one man dying on a cross, not one man taking our place underneath the wrath of God. And if Christ has not taken our place, then we still have a debt to God that will be paid in eternity. If Christ is not raised then the full wrath of God against all of our sin and all of our misdoings, is aimed at us.
7) Christians who have died have died in vain (18): Seventh, the Christians who have already passed away, bearing the title of Christian faithfully, died in vain. They died deceived, believing a lie.
8) We are all to be pitied (19): If following Christ is simply about how to live well in the here and now, then we are all to be pitied. Because truly death comes us for all. One day every one of us will face that same reality. And if this is all we got, just this short flicker of life on this planet, and if in the end it all burns up and dissipates to nothing, then ultimately it was all meaningless because nothing lasts. The love you shared, the family you poured into, the battles you fought for… meaningless. In that case we are to be pitied.
Move 3: But Christ Has Been Raised!
But, in fact Christ has been raised, which is what he demonstrated in the first verses. History turns on the moment of the resurrection of Christ. And now he begins to consider reality in light of the resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:20-34 “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. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being b…”
Six Parts of World History
From verses 20-29 Paul lays out the course of history from the moment Christ rose from the grave until the moment the final heavens are restored. And we find ourselves right now in the middle of that history. We know what is to come. Remember, the title of this message is ‘How Eternity Must Shape our Reality.’ And so if we know what is to come, where this headed, we must live differently here and now. Paul, doesn’t go chronologically, he kind of starts at the end, and then starts from the beginning. So let’s lay out world history in order.
1) Jesus rose from the dead as firstfruits (20, 23): This age of world history began at Christ’s resurrection. That’s when it began. The world has been going down a certain course from that moment. Every event in world history, every war that has ever been fought, every conspiracy thats ever been uncovered, every neighborhood that has ever been developed, is part of God’s plan to achieve the ends He has decreed.
2) Christ is ruling over a Kingdom given to him by the Father (24, 25): Verse 24 speaks of a future event where Christ gives the Kingdom over to the Father, and verse 25 speaks of him reigning right now. Historically, theologians have called the Mediatorial Kingdom or others have called the Economic Kingdom. In this Kingdom, Christ is King ruling and reigning over all things. Truly Abraham Kuyper when he said,
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”Abraham Kuyper
In this Kingdom, Christ is working two particular ends. These are two ends that any good king in any kingdom labors for. First, he is conquering and vanquishing his enemies. Christ’s Mediatorial Kingdom has been established, and Christ is in the process of defeating every rebel that stands against that Kingdom. Every ideology will ultimately fail as Christ gains the victory. Secondly, Christ is ruling and reigning over His Church, guiding and guarding His people. In other words, He is gathering his elect from the corners of the Earth. This work has been taking place for the last 2,000 years of Church history, and will continue until all of Christ’s enemies have been defeated. Personally, the view I hold is that this makes me very optimistic of where history is headed. While it may seem at times that the Church is losing, we know that in history Christ will ultimately win, and so we cling by faith to these promises and act boldly on behalf of Christ until he returns.
3) The Resurrection at His Coming (23): Third, we now look forward to a future day when Christ returns. We are told in Revelation that when Christ returns he will return on a white horse signifying victory. His return will be a world wide event, something I believe made possible by the technology of television and media. No one will be confused when Christ returns. Any remaining enemies will instantaneously be vanquished at his return. He will, “destory every rule and every authority and power,” that dares to defy his kingship. This language seems to allude to Psalm 110.
Psalm 110:1 “1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.””
At his return, those who have died will be reunited with their former bodies, now made glorified. The resurrection of all who have died will take place on this Earth.
4) Death, the final enemy is Destroyed (25, 26): At that resurrection from the dead, death will be declared defeated once and for all. Victory over death was declared at the resurrection, and yet physical death continues to take place. But once Christ returns, there is no more death. We will receive physical glorified bodies that cannot break.
5) He Will Deliver the Kingdom to the Father (24): Christ will then deliver this Mediatorial Kingdom to the Father. Why? Because the work of the Mediatorial Kingdom is complete. His enemies will have been vanquished, and his Church will have been perfectly gathered, not one lamb missing. With the work complete, he hands the Kingdom to the Father and continues to rule and reign though in a different way. Not as one defeating any more enemies, nor as one gathering his children, but rather as King among His people.
6) God will be all in all (28): And once the Mediatorial Kingdom has been handed over to God the Father, Christ, the second person of the Trinity, will willingly subject Himself to the Father, in order for the Full Trinity to shine brightly for all eternity. God will be all in all.
Move 3: A Final Plea
I want to look at this last section briefly because Paul leaves us today with a choice. Continuing with this theme of Resurrection, he says
1 Corinthians 15:29-34 “29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.”
“Baptized on behalf of the dead,” is tricky language and there are a few ways people have tried to interpret this. Some have thought he was calling out a bizarre practice that had developed in the Church. I think the grammar actually leads to this just meaning, “why did you get baptized.” The “dead” in the phrase, is a reference their lives before they knew Christ. Like how he writes, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins.” His argument is, “Why did you get baptized.” Baptism is a symbol of resurrection, that’s the whole point.
Then, he looks at it quite practically, “If the dead are not raised… then let’s eat and get drunk. Because tomorrow we die and there is nothing else.” That phrase is so important for us. He has hit on something remarkable. And I believe he has hit on something that echoes not just across his culture in first century, but across our culture in the 21st century. The resurrection is the end of all things. It’s our telos, it’s our purpose. And when you know a purpose of a thing, what its destiny is, then you can understand what it ought to be doing in order to get there. It’s like a map, once you know the destination you can pick the roads to get there. If you don’t know the destination, you just drive aimlessly. And that is precisely what he says, “If there is no resurrection, then just drive aimlessly. Eat, drink, and be merry.
But then he pleads with them. Do not be deceived. Wake up from your drunken stupor. Church—may I plead with you on behalf of the resurrection. Every soul you meet will rise from the dead, and face judgment before the just judge of creation. The Alpha and the Omega will stand over your life. This is what you believe Christian. And I would argue, that had we no special revelation through God’s Word, every soul would still be accountable for knowledge of this judgment for its reality is carved in the fabric of our very beings. We all know we will give an account before God. We all know that the soul will exist forever. All of Scripture bears evidence of this. All of life bears witness to this. And the wise Christian will build their life around this reality. We’ll make decisions now, that will bear the most fruit then.
Matthew 6:19-21 “19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Order your life around the Resurrected Christ.
As I close, I also want to give us a word of comfort in application. The resurrection is not only the point of order of our lives, but it is also the point of hope for our entire life. We live in a sinful fallen world that is full of hardship. Every one of us will experience sickness, death, hardship of all sorts. The resurrection is the hope that Christ will set all things right. That which we must endure here, is not the end of the story. I was reading an old sermon by Charles Spurgeon on the resurrection recently, and he said these words.
“Ah, poor slave, every scar upon your back shall have a stripe of honor in Heaven. Ah, poor martyr, the crackling of your bones in the fire shall earn you sonnets in glory. All your sufferings shall be well repaid by the happiness you shall experience there. Don’t fear to suffer in your frame, because your frame will one day share in your delights. Every nerve will thrill with delight, every muscle move with bliss. Your eyes will flash with the fire of eternity. Your heart will beat and pulsate with immortal blessedness. Your frame shall be the channel of beatitude–the body which is now often a cup of wormwood will be a vessel of honey. This body which is now often a comb out of which gall distills, shall be a honeycomb of blessedness to you. Comfort yourselves then, you sufferers, weary languishers upon the bed–fear not, your bodies shall live!!Charles Spurgeon
Church—this is your hope. This is your life. Every hardship you face will be met by perfection in Christ. Let eternity shape your reality.