-Easter car accident
-I was contemplating first aid
-ABC: airway, breathing, circulation…now CAB…compressions, Airway, breathing.
-But what if there is massive injury, blood loss?
She did live…in critical condition but alive.
The Corinthians were the equivalent of showing up for an accident and examining a broken toe and ignoring the fact that the victims heart wasn’t beating.
A broken toe is important…a beating heart is essential.
My wife broke her toe last summer, it caused her a lot of pain, trouble, immobility…it is not a small thing to break a toe…it can impact your life.
But if someone’s heart is not beating, a broken toe, is by comparison…not important .
Several weeks ago I spoke of getting caught up in cultural and theological minutia…and how missing the essential for the non-essential… can misshape our hearts.
In his letter to Corinth Paul is not saying small things don’t matter…but to miss the largest things…like Love…and to focus on the smaller things…like gift use…is to be completely off target.
Jesus used the funny hyperbole to describe this when he told some people that they “Strained the gnat and swallowed the camel.”
Jewish law said that eating certain flying insects was forbidden…there were some very religious people who were so intent on keeping this law that they would strain anything they drank through a cloth to make sure they didn’t swallow a tiny unseen gnat.
This, they thought, made them very devout…mature in their faith.
Jesus said, you pay attention to the small details (the gnat) but miss the larger issues (the camel issues)…like how you treat others and the matters of the heart.
This is now a cultural idiom…you can read or hear “They are straining the gnat.”
Meaning…caught up in the details and missing the larger point.
Today we are at the beating heart of the Christian faith.
The death and resurrection of Christ.
Of course the resurrection is literally and figuratively the beating heart of the Christian faith.
Literally, Jesus rose from the dead…his heart beat again.
Figuratively…it is the center/heart of the gospel.
In this beautiful chapter, Paul gives the final, theological, foundational answer as to why we hope, and how this hope impacts how we treat one another and how we are to respond to challenges.
It is long and packed full of content and so here’s how we will proceed today.
- I’ll give a summary of the chapter, pointing out several key verses.
- Then we will look at the historical reality of the resurrection
- Then we will consider how the reality of the resurrection impacts our hope, our decision making and our relationships today.
- I COR. 15 UNPACKED
15 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
Paul wraps this up the teaching component of his letter with a reminder of the gospel.
Those who have believed and received the gospel will endure to the end.
If you don’t endure then what you believed was in “vain”
We will see that some doubted the resurrection…so their belief was in fact…in vain.
Saving faith is based on the resurrection of Christ…and saving faith will endure to the end.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
Paul writes that he received this message from God…he didn’t make this up and it is therefore of “first importance”
- Christ died for our sins according to Scripture: His death was an atoning death, he didn’t just die, he died for our sins. It paid the penalty for our sins and it was foretold by God before it happened.
- He was buried: He actually died. His dead body was laid in a tomb.
-He had not passed out, there was no scam…he was dead.
- He was raised on the third day according to Scripture: He physically, literally rose from the dead and this was foretold by God before it happened.
Then Paul gives the abundance of eye witnesses to the historical reality of the resurrection.: (This is not even an exhaustive list, there were more)
Here’s his list:
- Peter and the Twelve: The “Twelve” was a nickname for the original disciples.
-Peter was of course one of these, but he also stood out as a well-known name.
-These were the ones who had the most intimate knowledge of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
- 2. More than 500 at one time:
-Most are still alive…you can go talk to them if you want.
-In 2001 the Warren West Theater manager called and asked me to participate in an event they were planning around the upcoming release of the film Pearl Harbor.
-They were inviting Pearl Harbor survivors from around the region to come and be their guests at a preview of the film.
-I was asked to welcome them and say a prayer…which I was happy to do.
-Between the initial planning and the actual event, a number of survivors died.
-But at the showing there was a good group of Pearl Harbor veterans in attendance.
-I had the privilege of talking to them after watching the film about their experiences…it was very different than just reading about it, or watching a movie about it.
-I had been to the site where the USS Arizona lies on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, still leaking oil after 80 years…but these guys were there when it went down.
Paul is writing to a church and telling them… “You can talk to people, lots of them…who were physically present with the resurrected Jesus.”
-Lots are alive, but some have fallen asleep (euphemism for death).
Death was viewed as a thing of horror by most of the people of that time (and ours)…but for the believer…this terrible horror has become like “sleep”
-Not that we sleep after death…we are awake and alive…but that it has lost its ability to terrorize.
- Then James and the other apostles:
-This is Jesus brother’ who didn’t believe during Jesus’ pre-resurrection ministry (John 7:5) who now did believe…because he had seen Jesus die and had seen him alive again.
-Along with others, beyond the 12 disciples, called apostles…who became key witnesses of Christ.
- Finally, Paul says, there is me…abnormally born.
-The word literally means “miscarriage”
-Strong word…Paul did see the resurrected Christ in person but not before he had taken part in killing Christians.
-He knows his life and ministry are all grace…but just because his experience is unusual…doesn’t mean it’s not valid…it’s all God’s grace.
Paul’s life is a great encouragement that God can choose and use…anyone.
So…take all these witnesses, including myself, Paul writes…and we have the same message and this is the message you have believed.
Now to the problem at Corinth (one that theologically was foundational for their practical, relational problems)
Some doubted the reality of the resurrection of believers.
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
Some were doubting that Christians will experience resurrection.
Paul says that if we won’t experience resurrection, then neither has Christ raised (both of those promises and realities are tied together by Jesus)
He said…”I am the resurrection and the life, the one who believes in me will live even though they die.” John 11:25
If the dead are not raised then Christ has not been raised…and if Christ has not been raised them our message and your faith are useless because you are still in your sins…you have not been forgiven of them.
In fact, we are to be pitied…if there is no resurrection.
Really? Futile? Pitiful?
What if the resurrection didn’t happen…isn’t God still God…can’t I have hope in him…even if Christ just died and stayed dead?
No, Paul would say…because what happened to Jesus happened according to Scripture.
God, who took the initiate in speaking to us has revealed himself in a series of redemptive events reaching back to deliverance from Egypt and beyond.
This series of redemptive events pointed forward to the coming of Jesus…his resurrection was the event that validated all that came before it.
If Christ has not risen from the dead…God’s long course of redemptive acts to save his people dead ends, literally, in a tomb.
If Christ has not risen, then death, not God has the final word.
So, if Christ has not risen…you have no hope, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
But…Paul, wrote…Christ has in fact been raised from the dead. The first fruits of many to come.
First fruits were just that…the first part of a harvest…that were used to celebrate God’s provision and they were the hopeful evidence that more was to come.
First fruits were the not the full harvest itself…but they were the beginning of it.
In his resurrection Jesus planted the flag of the eternal in the realm of the historical.
Our future hope is secured in the historical event of the resurrection of Jesus.
Verse 29 is odd and there are over a hundred different explanations for what Paul meant.
Which to me means…no one knows…but it doesn’t matter because Paul is not prescribing a practice, he is describing one.
29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?
Paul likes to use cultural examples of things people do…to show how their belief and behavior often don’t align.
He doesn’t say “us” or “me” “we”…he is referring to others… “those”…what about those who do this?
Whatever strange thing it was…they were being inconsistent in doing it and then doubting the resurrection.
But then he does get first person.
30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour?
If there is no resurrection…why do we continually put our lives at risk?
If the dead are not raised, we should just live for the moment.
He then gives another Corinthian bumper sticker “Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.’”
This is, in fact, what you see lived out all across our nation and world…the loss of hope and perspective regarding the reality of eternity…leads to broken lives right now.
“Eat and drink for tomorrow we die” means…do whatever you want…this is all there is and none of it ultimately matters anyway.
Which for me, logically makes sense.
If this life is all there is…then ultimately in some distant future, when the earth goes cold or explodes in fire…and humanity becomes an unremembered (there is no one there to remember it) and meaningless blip in cosmic history.
Then what difference did it make if you gave your life to serve and love others…or that you hurt people every chance you had.
What difference then between the mass murderer and mother Teresa?
So if there is no eternal future…what difference really does it make now what I do?
Nate Ruess won the Grammy for song of the year in 2013 with “We are Young.”
“Tonight, we are young So let’s set the world on fire. We can burn brighter than the sun.”
Ruess says the lyrics were inspired by “my worst drinking night of all time.” He said that he was kicked out of a taxi cab for vomiting all over it.
“The cabbie was demanding all this money, and all I could do was stand on the corner with my head against the wall. It took me another day before I was a functioning adult and could actually write down the verses,”
His group is called “Fun”…for some reason that doesn’t sound fun.
An NPR story this week told of young people who were finally finding in their words…”hope” because of the vaccine.
What did this hope lead to in their minds and lives?
Here’s a quote from one young lady:
“Life is too short to not get drunk with your friends and life is too short to not try to find love(chase sex).”
“Tonight we are young so let’s set the world on fire we can burn brighter than the sun.”
And in the morning I will vomit, feel terrible, not remember the night…and in a few years I will not be young…and I will have ruined my health and my life…and have wasted my youth.
“Come on, Terry you are just an old guy who doesn’t want young people to have fun.”
I was 19 when I realized what fun is and isn’t…and that it wasn’t that.
I had started watching my young friends try to burn brighter than the sun…and I saw their misery and brokenness already.
I was young when I became convinced of the reality of the gospel hope.
The Corinthians lack of theological understanding concerning the reality of the resurrection showed up in their actual behavior…it always does.
33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.
So…theological ideas are like seeds that produce a harvest in our actions.
Wrong ideas…will bring a harvest of wrong actions.
Paul then deals very directly with objections. Some translations soften his language by making it impersonal “how foolish of you”
That’s not what Paul wrote…it is “You fool!”
Look around you, there are parallels of this in everyday life.
35 But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.
Our familiarity with the marvel of the harvest has dulled our sense of wonder.
Put a seed in the dirt…the seed in a real sense is destroyed and then new life appears.
A single grain of wheat brings on average 110 seeds per plant.
This is incredible… “Nah it’s science, just natural stuff”
No…it’s incredible…a seed(acorn), dirt, water, sun…and you get that oak tree out in our courtyard that weighs around 20,000 pounds.
Paul says “think about it”
Look around you…look at what God has done in the natural world of seeds, men, animals, the cosmos.
Now…this is all similar to the resurrection.
44 If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
By Spiritual body he doesn’t mean “disembodied spirit”…he means a body, just a different kind that this one.
In Luke 24:42 the resurrected Jesus “took a piece of fish and ate it in their presence.”
The wording is clear, it used to emphasize that Jesus has physically resurrected.
On two occasions Jesus suddenly appears to his disciples and in both cases John makes it clear that the doors were locked.
This resurrected body could interact with the natural order (eat food) but at the same time transcended this order (move through physical objects)
The resurrection life is a different kind of life than this one…but it is not “floating around” like some kind of ghost.
It is a real tangible, physical existence.
50 I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Flesh and blood refer to the nature of this current body…it is inherently temporary.
51 Listen I tell you a mystery (you could never have figured this out on your own) : We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
This is a taunt of death.
Not making light of it…it is a bad thing…but death it is like a wasp without a stinger…here is why.
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58
Death itself is not what is most fearful…it is death as “the wages of sin” that is terrible.
Where sin has been atoned…death has lost its sting.
Then comes his great “Therefore”, verse 58.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Therefore…in light of the reality of the resurrection…stand firm…be stable, don’t be easily disturbed or moved from your position.
The Corinthians were prone to be fickle…always chasing cultural trends and emotional winds.
They would shift easily from one position to another…one hero to another…one emotion to another.
If they would get a firm grip on the facts of faith…the reality of the resurrection…God’s final plan for all people and all things…they will not be so easily blown about by the winds of culture and emotion.
I read of Bernie Madoffs death on Wednesday as I was reading and thinking about this chapter.
His pursuit of money and power…his final years in prison (dying alone), the suicide of his son, the divorce of his wife…the people who were hurt by him, the organizations, like hospitals that had to close because of him.
I thought how his life would have been different had he lived with a long-time horizon…not a lifetime, but eternity in mind.
Thinking of the doctrine (the fact) of the resurrection does not just touch my head…it touches my heart, and it does so in deep ways…ways that extend to it my attitudes and my actions.
I live differently with people…I speak differently…I feel differently…when I think and believe with the big picture in clear view.
A long-time horizon in making decisions, in behavior, is essential to wisdom.
Children live with a very short time horizon…”I want it right now!”
They don’t think of long-term consequences…and this is dangerous at times.
Adults who live this way ruin their lives…they think of the moment not the long term and make devastating decisions.
The longest, wisest time horizon to live by…is eternity.
Paul has been addressing attitudes and actions in his letter…here, he gives the foundational belief…the reality of the resurrection.
This fact of faith…directs the attitudes and actions of our lives.
- BRIEFLY LOOK AT THE HISTORICAL EVIDENCE FOR THE RESURRECTION
Many years ago I put together a simple acrostic to help me and a friend remember the 5 main evidences for the resurrection from a book we had read together…it was a long book and we wanted to have a way to keep the main ideas in mind when talking to others.
My acrostic is:
-This first point has to do with answering those who say Christ did not actually die.
-Some say and have for years said…that he simply passed out from pain and then later when placed in the tomb resuscitated.
-If you study the evidence for the Roman crucifixion and read the details of Jesus’ death by Doctor Luke…you see that Jesus was dead….conclusively dead.
-There is a long line of evidence that demonstrates how a bunch of fearful, hiding, nervous disciples became as bold as lions after encountering the risen Christ.
-It includes the conclusive evidence that most of his followers died terrible deaths…few if anyone would die for what they knew to be a lie.
-But in fact, many of them died and virtually all suffered for what they believed…because they had in fact seen Christ risen from the dead.
-The results in the lives of the people who knew him is conclusive.
-This has to do with the line of evidence regarding the fact that the tomb was empty…that is, this was not an elaborate hoax by the disciples.
-The Roman soldiers who were supposed to guard the tomb should have been killed for failing at their duty…instead ,they were allowed to live and were given a large sum of money to lie about what happened.
-And again, if the empty tomb was an elaborate ruse put on by the disciples…why would they die for a lie?
-Also, how hard would it be to keep this a secret…the truth would have come out…and certainly 20 years later Paul would not be able to say… “There are hundreds who saw the resurrected Christ…go interview one of them…they will tell you that the tomb is empty.”
-This “s” reminds me of the large number of sources, both inside and outside the Biblical record that refers to the resurrection.
Gary Habermas is his book “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” list these sources…as does Josh Mcdowell and others.
Still goes on
-This final letter of the “cross acrostic” refers to the fact that the impact of the reality of the resurrection still goes on 2000+ years later.
-People’s lives continue to be changed, people continue to die for their faith…continue to live sacrificial lives for their faith.
-People, many people, continue to be “Steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
-Why?…because the practical impact of the resurrection is a reality in their lives.
-This impact still goes on.
III. APPLICATION TO PRESENT HOPE
Our culture has been told this past year… “Don’t you dare to hope”
If you raise your head and hope…we will slap you back down.
Sure the Bible gives permission to lament and to suffer openly and honestly…in the Psalms we see this clearly.
Jesus wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.
But the Bible, the resurrection…gives us the foundation to hope…even if we hurt.
Not a belief in some vague theological idea that someone made up to inspire courage.
But the historical reality of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that has literally changed the world.
We don’t need permission to hurt…we have that…we can be honest with our hurt.
We need permission to hope…because it has largely been taken from us.
And if you are hopeful right now in our culture…well you are naïve, or dumb, or out of touch, or even unkind.
But we don’t just have mere permission to hope in the Bible….we live on it.
Every bit as much as we live on food and water…even more so.
People can go days without food and water…but no one lives for a minute without any hope.
And when hope is low…we do not thrive as humans.
Hope is a bottom-line necessity.
Last year has not caused hopelessness…it has revealed a lack of foundation for people’s hopes.
You can’t hang hope in mid-air, you can’t build sold hope on sand.
The facts of the faith are foundational for our lives…the reality of the resurrection of Jesus and our own eternal future has ethical, relational, emotional impact on our lives right now.
“Therefore…because the resurrection is a reality…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, because your labor in the Lord is never in vain.”
I have been fascinated with the artist Tim Berling. His stage name was Avicci.
His hit song “Wake me up when it’s all over” happened to be released the same year Ruess won his Grammy…for we are young.
His life was famous, short, and sad.
Three years ago this week he killed himself, alone in his room at age 26.
His enormous fame was unable to provide hope or meaning.
Those who knew him said he was searching for purpose in a confusing world.
Here’s the chorus to his song:
So wake me up when it’s all over When I’m wiser and I’m older
All this time I was finding myself And I didn’t know I was lost
The songs of culture are important, some are simply empty and stupid…but many of them tell stories of the human heart searching for hope and meaning.
I think about him…fairly often…alone, desperate in a hotel room…so hopeless that he died at 26.
I listen to his song from time to time.
Why do I do that? To remember that this hope I have is for me to share not to keep to myself.
If you have believed and received the gospel…ask God, beg God to give you are heart for those who are far from him.
The reality of your hope is not just for you to enjoy…it is for you to share, along with your life, with others.