Friday, April 03, 2015

The Fact of the Resurrection of Christ

INTRO Yeary, Christians talk of resurrection on what the world calls "Easter." That subject is critical to us. Romans 10:9. If you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved. Can't do that without Spirit of God. Faith in and Confession of the resurrection of Jesus defines a saved person. So we ought to know what happened on Resurrection Day. To ask ourselves, do we really believe this? And remember, it's going to happen to us, too. This story is not just about our past, but our future. That's what 1 Corinthians 15 is all about. Please turn there. THE BIBLE I want to begin today by giving praise and honor to God for giving us His Word. Through the centuries, piece by piece, man by man, came the infusion of the Holy Spirit into the minds of 40 different authors living at different times in different places. But one unified message we call the Bible. Today that word comes to us still intact, still proclaiming Truth. So many attacks have been mounted and are still being mounted against it, but it remains, unchanging, solid, true. You can build your life on it. I have been present when foreign peoples have received their first Bible. I saw firsthand the weeping of Filipinos when a shipment of Bibles came in, and they were holding one for the first time. What an emotional moment. You've perhaps seen the videos of those Chinese in the same situation. What glory to know you are holding in your hand God's very words. Now we put the Book on a screen. People don't carry them to church like they used to even in my day. And at home, the Book is all but forgotten by many. You should know what is in this Book, for out of it we will be judged on that Day. Learn it. Obey it. 1 CORINTHIANS New Testament books were written by apostles and those with whom the apostles associated closely. One of those apostles was a man named Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. We like to call him our apostle. But he's not easy to get to know. He can be very sharp. Even harsh. But always true. A church in Corinth found this out first hand. 29 chapters of your New testament were written to this congregation. Not because they were so wonderful, but quite the opposite. They had serious problems, and Paul addressed them one by one. In First Corinthians alone, Paul had to deal with their lack of unity, their need for the wisdom of God, their lack of understanding of the Spirit of God and the gifts that he was giving, and why He was giving them. They, like us, valued giftedness above character. There was rampant immorality in the church. There were people filing lawsuits against one another. They needed marriage counseling. And counseling about true liberty, and church order. And, in chapter 15 of the first of the 2 letters, a very strong statement about resurrection. Christ's. And ours. Corinth was a trouble spot. Unfortunately, the things Corinth experienced are not a lot different than the church in America, even Chicago. That's why the Holy Spirit in His wisdom allowed an apostle to write down, under His anointing, answers to these problems. THE RESURRECTION PROBLEM Now, how is the resurrection of Jesus a problem in our world today, and in Paul's time? They and we are dealing with the same issues about it: 1. Did it happen? Is there even such a thing as resurrection? 15: 1-12 2. Who gets resurrected, when? 15 20-28 3. What do we even mean by resurrection? An awakened corpse, like Lazarus, or one of the people that Jesus raised? 15: 35-49 4. What about our own resurrection? What has God shown us so far? 51 ff VERSE BY VERSE 1-12. The fact of resurrection, His, and Ours 1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, Acts 18 tells the story of Paul's visit to Corinth, and the awful struggles he went through to get the Gospel there. By Gospel, Paul means a very specific set of facts, historical facts about their salvation, accomplished in Christ Jesus. They received it, now Paul says, if you let it go, you will fall. Keep it, you will stand. 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. How can one believe the Gospel in vain. Here he is referring to the fact that many in Corinth do not believe in resurrection. Therefore to believe in Christ's resurrection would have been worthless. As he says later, if Christ didn't rise from the dead, your faith was vain! You've been wasting time. It is this set of historical facts which we are called upon to believe for our salvation. These facts alone are the power of God, according to Paul in Romans 1:16. the Gospel is the power of God to salvation. Believe these facts from your heart, you will be saved. You cannot start on your true spiritual journey until you sell out to these things that Jesus did for you. What are the facts? 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, Paul wasn't there when these facts happened. The other apostles knew these things first hand, but Paul had to receive them by a special revelation from God. In a sense, we must receive this way too. We did not witness the facts, but the Holy Spirit stirs our hearts and minds in such a way that we can believe the Good News. And it is good news. Bad news is sin and death and hell. Jesus defeated all of that and passes His victory to us. That victory is Good news. Righteousness, life, and heaven. All in these facts. Fact one: He died. According to the Scriptures. Isaiah 53 for example. Led as a Lamb to the slaughter, said Isaiah. Cut off from the land of the living. In dying, he paid the price that God demanded for sin, a perfect sacrifice whose blood would cover every transgression of every human being who calls upon the name of the Lord. Good news. Sin is covered. We are free. 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, Fact two. He was buried. He wasn't caught up into the heavens before he had to suffer. He died like men die. He was buried like men are buried and like that same Isaiah had seen in that same chapter. They made his grave like the wicked, but with the rich. Died like a common criminal on a Roman cross, carried away to the grave with no fanfare or mourning, except for a couple disciples who secretly admired Jesus. One of them, very rich, to fulfill that prophecy. Fact three. He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. Jesus had said he would give them a sign like the ancient prophet Jonah of their Scriptures: the third day, Jonah was delivered. The third day, Jesus was raised. David said that God would never leave the soul of His holy One in the grave. He had to rise to fulfill Scripture, and to be identified as the Holy One. The very integrity of God's promises was at stake! 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. Fact four is really a part of fact three. His resurrection was witnessed! How many of the false prophets ask us to believe something, but only give us themselves as a witness. Joseph Smith of the Mormons, Muhammad of the Muslims, want us to believe they received a separate revelation from God. But who was there when the revelation came? No one. They claim an angel was there, but who saw these angels? Jesus gives us a multitude of witnesses who saw him after he rose from the dead! Peter, all 12 apostles, 500 brothers at one time! James, his half brother, all the "apostles", meaning beyond the 12 there were men wearing this title, for the church was sending them out with the Gospel. We call these people missionaries today. And lastly, Paul himself. This thing, as Paul will later say, was "not done in a corner". It was witnessed by many, and some of these men, through the direction of the Holy Spirit, wrote their testimony down, their affidavit, as it were, their legal brief, and have passed it down to us, sitting in that same courtroom of humanity, as we are being asked to view that same evidence and decide, do we believe in Jesus' resurrection. Do we believe in resurrection at all? 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (See above) skip 7-11 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? They obviously had been infiltrated by the Greek philosophers, as mentioned in Acts 17. Paul had been preaching a strong message to them, and they had been listening. But he had to mention the resurrection. One cannot preach Christ without mentioning the resurrection. Some Christians even today shy away from it, fearing the very reaction given by the Athenians, 17:32. They began to mock Paul when he mentioned it. Then they basically unplugged the microphone. They stopped him, and said, thanks, but maybe we can listen to you some other time. Goodbye Paul. Very few people in this world have ever witnessed a resurrection. No one has seen a resurrection like Jesus' and the one he describes for us. All resurrections in the Bible times, and if there be any today, are simply bodies coming back to life, like as we know it. Jesus' resurrection was also a transformation. Yours will be too. And people will laugh at you when you talk about it to them, unless the Spirit has prepared their heart for you. Even in civilized Athens there were a few who came to Jesus at that event. So this poison of unbelief and the wisdom of men and the cynicism of men and the intellectualism of men had infiltrated the church. And some were beginning to spread it. By the way, that kind of unbelief in anything miraculous past or present, is still in Christianity. But according to Paul in that verse we started with, it is not in the true church. No one who truly knows Christ - and that is the church - denies his or their own resurrection. That is an entrance requirement! 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. Obviously. Now follow the rest of the logic: 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Vain. Worthless. You can have your prosperity Gospel without the resurrection. You can have your self esteem Gospel without the resurrection. You can teach a moral Gospel without the resurrection. But you cannot have the Gospel of Christ without the resurrection of Christ. Your faith is empty. You have a sign outside that announces "church" but there's no true church there. You wear the title of "Christian" but inside your heart where Christ should be, is nothing but you and your ideas about God. Your religion is made up, imaginary. And the preacher can preach with the greatest of eloquence but if he does not include the resurrection in his message of salvation, his words carry no weight, no eternity, no Christ. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up--if in fact the dead do not rise. Paul now expresses the apology he would have to make. He would have to go to all the churches he started, and tell them, I made a mistake. I misunderstood. God never really said that Jesus rose from the dead. The other apostles might have seen something that looked like that, but really, Jesus is still in the grave. I am so sorry to have misled you. That is, if these false Corinthians were really true. If the Greek philosophy was really correct. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. He repeats himself for emphasis. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Not only did you believe a lie, but you are still lost! No forgiveness is available. You're going to Hell, if Jesus did not rise from the dead! With that point, we might confuse some Christians today. I think we understand when we say, Jesus died for our sins. That idea has been around a long time. We believe that Jesus' sacrifice was needed to appease a holy God. We believe blood had to be shed, the perfect blood of a perfect Lamb. The pictures of the Old testament sacrifice are clear here. Animals died. Blood shed. But none of those animals came back to life. The Jews believed their sins were rolled back, until the next time they had to bring a sacrifice. But no sacrificer was told to expect a resurrection of their sacrifice. Why did Jesus have to rise from the dead in order for our sins to be forgiven? What if Jesus had remained in the tomb, what then? What if He were in the tomb even now? How would this affect our salvation? Of course it is an awful thing to suggest. Jesus promised several times that He would rise, though the disciples never understood His comments. I have given you above the prophecies that pointed to the resurrection of Messiah. But we are still left with "why?" We know that God cannot remain in a tomb. God cannot be left to decay. Of course that is one reason He had to rise. But there is more. There is the law of sin and death. If Jesus had remained in the tomb, and was there now, would it not be a confession of God that this Man who died really was just another sinner? And how could another sinner take away my sins? Could just any man die for me? More still: It is the resurrected Christ, through His Spirit, that enters the heart and life of a believer, sanctifying and forgiving Him, on the basis of the blood shed. No resurrection means this Christ is not in you, saving, forgiving, making holy, leading you into paths of righteousness. And of course, Jesus conquered the consequences of sin by rising from the grave. Not only sin is defeated, but death itself now is defeated too. Indeed, "you are still in your sins" without the resurrection. Preach the full message of Jesus. 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. Fallen asleep is Paul's way of saying, "have died." The Bible does not teach "soul sleeping." Paul elsewhere says that when we (our soul) are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord. At the resurrection our body and soul will be united. John sees the souls of martyrs in Revelation 6, and they, the souls, are crying out, Lord, how long? They are at rest with Jesus, but not sleeping. So Paul's expression only has to do with death, and what appears to be sleep. Our bodies do indeed fall asleep, never to be seen in that same state again. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, conquering sin and death, then the people who died thinking they were saved were not really saved at all. They have simply died like every other man died, and will suffer the consequences of sin, which is death and eternal punishment. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. People who do not from the heart believe in resurrection, both Jesus' and ours, have only their mortal life to enjoy all that there is. This is why you see people going after money. They have nothing else. Death is the end. Some are going after fame and success. This life is all there is. Gotta make it to the top and be remembered by the ones who come after me. They have nothing else. Death is the end. Some are pleasure crazed, not realizing that at the right hand of Jesus are pleasures forever. But they must have pleasure now. This life is all there is. They have nothing else. Death is the end. Of course, the Christian does not live for these things. I hope no one here is living for any of those things. Christians are called to deny themselves the things of this world. Christians are taught to take up a cross and follow Jesus to a place of death. Martyrdom. Sacrifice. Poverty. Pain and suffering. And then, according to those Corinthian Christians, that's it. Just like the world. This life is all there is. We have nothing else. Death is the end. 30, 50, 70 years of extremely difficult circumstances, then that's it! How miserable it must be to be a Christian. If there is no resurrection. Come to think of it, that seems to be the attitude of many Western believers. One would think that many really do not believe there is anything in the next life, when we see them going after all the benefits of this life. Joel Osteen wrote a book called Your Best Life Now. No, Joel, for the true believer, our best life is yet to come. There is a resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead, and made a way for us to be raised also. Where we are going there is no poverty, pain, sickness, death. But that is far from the truth here and now.

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