Because Christ Has Been Raised
Topic: Easter Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:1–15:28
Because Christ Has Been Raised
1 Corinthians 15
Every year when Easter rolls around, there is one song that I request to be sung on Easter Sunday: the song we sang, Christ the Lord is Risen Today. Part of it is cause I love that song! But part of it is that it reminds me of Easter Sundays when I was a child – and the feeling I got on those warm sunny days with Easter lilies and everyone dressed up specially nice and a big family dinner after church. Even as a young boy the songs and messages of the resurrection from the dead stirred something deep within me – still get that feeling. Maybe you do too. Not bad – but it’s not enough either.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is much more than a beautiful story or a sentimental feeling. It is everything to the Christian faith. All of Christianity stands or falls on the historical event of the resurrection. If you could disprove the resurrection you would destroy Christianity in moment. Unlike all other religions in the world, Christianity isn’t based on a set of teachings or morals or ideals given by a dead teacher, but it is based on the life and teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the living Savior! Without the resurrection, there is no Christianity.
That is exactly why Paul wrote this 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians. There were some in the church who were saying that there was no resurrection. Maybe they believed the soul lived forever, but not the body – when you die, you die. Crazy thing was, they didn’t think it affected their Christian faith to teach this. They didn’t realize that by denying the resurrection, they were denying the Christian faith at its core. To paraphrase Paul: if the tomb isn’t empty, then our faith is! And so as Paul defends the resurrection, he does so knowing that the very gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ is at stake.
I. The resurrection is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ (vv. 1-8)
I’m gonna remind you of the gospel I preached to you – the gospel you received by faith, gospel you stand upon, the gospel that saves you – if you hold fast to it and don’t let it go. If you let it go you will have believed in vain.
This is what I delivered to you as of first importance: Christ died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day he rose again. The resurrection is central to the gospel – Jesus rose according to the prophecies in scripture that said he would. Remember, hundreds of eyewitnesses saw Jesus resurrected. And they have been willing to die brutal deaths for that witness.
The gospel cannot be limited to this: Jesus died for our sins. True and vitally important part of the gospel – but it falls apart if the resurrection did not happen. All of Christianity hinges on the resurrection.
If Christ has not been raised…
Paul then begins to imagine the Christian landscape if Christ has not been raised. Read vv. 17-19.
It is a bleak picture: if Christ has not been raised then he is rotting away in a grave somewhere and our faith in Christ is empty and we are still in our sins. And those who died trusting in Christ –they have perished forever and we will follow them one day. If our hope in Christ is for this world only, and there is no resurrection, then we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in verse 20 Paul brings this hopeless “what if Christ has not been raised” to an end and declares what Christians have been declaring for two thousand years since – millions of Christians are declaring this morning:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead!
And because Christ has been raised – there are eternal and precious consequences to all who believe.
II. Because Christ has been raised, those who believe in Him have been forgiven of all their sins (vv. 17, 21)
The resurrection affirms that the purpose for which Jesus died was fully accomplished. Jesus died to reverse the devastating effects of the fall. When Adam disobeyed God sin entered the world, and with sin, death. Spiritual death – separation from God our Creator, and eventually physical death. Worst of all eternal death – God’s eternal punishment for our sin and rebellion.
Most religions teach in one way or another that we should try to be good as much as possible and offer to God our good works as payment for our sin. The Bible tells us that our debt is far beyond what we could ever pay. There is nothing we could ever do to bridge the chasm between God and us.
This is an offensive message. We like to think that we have something to offer God. We are impressed by our religious efforts and think God is impressed. And we don’t realize how polluted and twisted sin has made us. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day – the Pharisees – didn’t realize. Thought they were doing pretty good and keeping God’s commands. And on the rare occasion that they missed, there was always the sacrificial offerings to make up the difference.
At one point it seems as though Jesus confirms this impression they have of themselves. Jesus tells the Pharisees that it was for desperate sinners that he came – a physician doesn’t come for the healthy but the sick. Jesus didn’t come to call the righteous but the unrighteous. That used to confuse me - was Jesus saying the Pharisees were righteous and didn’t need His help? What gives? Tell a story gives light…
Joseph Bayly interviewed several German Christians who served in the Nazi army in WWII. Two of them were told they were up for promotion but the commandant would only promote them if they joined the Officer’s Club. Knowing there would be weekend parties that would include dancing and having strong convictions against dancing they turned down the promotion.
Later in their careers these same military men were assigned to serve in one of the Nazi death camps where thousands of Jews were executed in ovens. They did not directly participate in the killings but they knew they were going on and did not voice any protest.
Years later when they were interviewed by Bayly they said they had no regrets about their decisions: that they had stood against social pressures of dancing made them feel they had made a righteous decision. And that they remained silent and served patriotically while thousands were burned in ovens did not make them feel unrighteous.
So it was with the Pharisees: the fact that they tithed their mint and spices and money and did not violate their rules for the Sabbath made them feel righteous. The fact that they hated, cursed, and murdered God’s own Son, the promised Messiah, did not make them feel unrighteous.
So they did not come to Jesus. But the people who were laid low by their sin – those who knew they had no chance of earning God’s good graces and acceptance – they came to Jesus for mercy. And Jesus made an amazing claim: claimed that he was the Lamb of God who would die for the sins of the world, taking those foul sins upon himself so that any who would believe on Him would not perish but have everlasting life. Not a wage earned, but a gift given. But how do we know He was right? How do we know God accepted His death as punishment for all who would believe? How do we know?
Because Christ was raised from the dead! The resurrection is God’s amen to all of Jesus’ life and teachings. It is God’s confirmation that when Jesus said “it is finished – paid in full” that God agreed our sins were paid in full and we would never need to pay for them.
Because Christ has been raised those who believe in Him have been forgiven of all their sins!
III. Because Christ has been raised, all those who believe in Him will be resurrected too!
This is the hope of the resurrection that stirred my heart as a young boy and still stirs my heart today! Jesus’ resurrection is the firstfruits – the forerunner – of all who have fallen asleep (vs. 20). That means that Jesus’ resurrection speaks of another resurrection – a day when all those who have believed in him will be raised from the dead too!
I still remember the day that I first became aware of, and frightened by, death as a young boy. I was in church oddly enough, and I ran to my mother to ask her if it was true – when you die you go into the ground for a long, long time? Death seemed cold, dark, frighteningly final. It still does.
Frightening and despairing to think of lying in a dark coffin under the ground. No longer to see the beauty of the sun or the trees or hear the birds sing. No more to be with the people you love – or with anyone. Alone, rotting, dark, lifeless. That will be your body. That will be my body. It may not be much, but I’m kind of used to it – and kind of attached to it. Death is dark and hopeless and final – unless. Unless there is a resurrection!
So let me declare with all my heart this Easter morning – Jesus was raised from the dead and so will everyone who believes in him! The grave was not the end of Jesus – death could not hold him in its grasp. And therefore the grave is not the end of the Christian believer – death can no sooner hold us in its grasp than it could keep Jesus down. We will rise again – that is based on Jesus’ sure promise to everyone who believes.
I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. John 11:25-26
The revolutionary war hero Ethan Allen was a loud and open critic of religion and Christianity. Even though his first wife, Mary, was a deeply religious woman, he taught his children to scorn her belief in Christ.
A short time after his wife Mary died, his beloved daughter Loraine contracted tuberculosis. One night he was told by his servants that she had taken a turn for the worse and with his dinner guest he hurried to her room. She told him she was certain she would die soon and she had a question: “Father, you and mother did not agree on religion. Mother often spoke to me of the blessed Savior who died for us all. She prayed to him for both you and me, that the Savior might be our friend and that we all see Him when he sits enthroned in His glory. I don’t feel I can go alone through the dark valley of the shadow of death. Tell me, father, who shall I follow? You, or mother? Shall I reject Christ as you have taught me? Or shall I accept him? He was mother’s great friend in the hour of her great sorrow.”
Ethan Allen was so shaken he could barely speak through his tears.
“My child, cling to your mother’s Savior, she was right. I’ll try to follow you to that blessed place.”
The valley of the shadow of death is not so dark because Christ has been raised from the dead and all those who believe in Him will be resurrected on that final day too!
IV. Because Christ has been raised, He is the risen and returning Lord of all!
Finally, the resurrection of Jesus Christ declares something amazing about who Jesus is. Who is Jesus? Who is this man who was born in a humble stable, yet had wise men travel long miles to bring him who was born king of the Jews gifts? Who is this man who lived poorly and humbly, did not even have a place to lay his head, yet healed the sick, raised the dead, and gave sight to the blind? Who is this man who had the authority to calm the winds and the seas with a word? Who is this man who was scorned and mockingly hailed as king of the Jews by soldiers and Jews yet when demons saw him they screamed out, “I know who you are, Son of the Most High”? Who is this man who humiliated and dying on a cross, yet when the criminal dying next to him asked him, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”, told him, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise”?
The resurrection declares that this Jesus is king of heaven, Lord of Lords, high above all authorities in heaven and earth. He not only rose from the dead, he ascended to the right hand of God Almighty and He is Lord over all. He has authority over all things, and will destroy all his enemies. The last enemy to be destroy. Paul says, is death.
At his coming (vs.23) all those who believed and belonged to him shall rise from the dead to be with him. Then comes the end – not the end really, but the beginning. The end of all rebellion and sin and Satanic activity in the universe. The beginning of everything being made subject to His Lordship, and He in turn submitting it all to God the Father. And we will be reigning right alongside of Jesus at that time.
When he returns, it won’t be as the Lamb of God. It won’t be in humility and weakness. He will return as the Lord of all – so powerful and so glorious that even the Apostle John, his dearest friend on earth, when he saw him in His glorified state, fell down before him as a dead man.
The risen Christ is the ascended Christ – Lord over all. And we belong to Him.
But there may well be some here who do not belong to Christ. Do not call him Lord. Maybe you are skeptical about the resurrection – nice story, but it can’t be real. This is the gospel, pure and simple, Christ died for our sins, was buried, and on the third day he rose again.
Will you believe? Will you pray and ask Jesus, if you are real, convince me. Show me that you are real and Lord of all. If you are sincere, I believe the Lord will answer that prayer.