Summary: An Easter message about resurrection based on First Corinthians 15. Because of the resurrection we have a new identity, a new purpose, and a new hope.
Resting on the Resurrection (Easter Sermon)
What do you think is the most important event in world history? A lot of Christians might say the Birth of Christ. Our calendar is based on Christ’s birth … and Christmas is our biggest celebration. The birth was a big event … but the day Jesus rose from the dead is when NEW LIFE came into the world for everyone who believes in Him.
This is what the Apostle Paul is saying when he wrote to the Corinthian church in chapter 15 - "Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures …" 1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Paul was reminding the Corinthian congregation of the message he preached when they first heard the Gospel. You see, the Gospel message is NOT a new kind of Philosophy or a new code of Morality or a new set of Teachings. The Gospel contains all of this, but at its heart, the Gospel is a message about a Person and an Event. The Person is Jesus and the event is His death and resurrection.
Everything else about the Christian life RESTS on this Person and this Event. That’s why Paul was so frustrated to hear that certain people in the Corinthian church were trying to say there was no such thing as Resurrection. We run into the same kind of problem today --- even in the church. Some Christian groups celebrate Easter as a symbol of renewal and new life, but in reality, they see the Resurrection account as a nice little make-believe story … that never REALLY happened.
Here’s a recent quote from a "Priest" who lectures at seminary campuses: “I don’t believe the dead body of Jesus got up and walked out of the tomb. … We can give up worrying about the afterlife and focus on the only life we know that we have. … That gets us close to Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God.” (Robert J. Miller of Juniata College – Jesus Seminar on the Road)
This is pretty much the same attitude Paul was confronting in Corinth. Some folks were trying to hang on to the promises of the Gospel while at the same time, rejecting the HEART of the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes it clear that if you reject the literal resurrection of Jesus, you have rejected the entire Gospel. Every promise of the Gospel message RESTS on the Resurrection. Our Christian faith RESTS on the resurrection.
In verses 5-7, Paul emphasizes that he is NOT telling a fairy tale about Jesus’ resurrection. Paul lists the eye-witnesses (most of them still living when Paul wrote) who saw and interacted with the visible risen Jesus. Here’s a list of Jesus’ appearances that are recorded in the New Testament:
2) Women returning from the tomb (Matt.28:9-10)
3) Peter later that same day (Luke 24:34)
4) Two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13
6) The Apostles with Thomas (John 20:26-29)
7) The seven by the lake of Tiberius (John 21:1-23)
8) Five Hundred believers (1 Corinthians 15:6)
9) James (1 Corinthians 15:7)
11) At the ascension (Acts 1:3-12)
Add to this Jesus’ two appearances to Paul, once to Stephen, and to John on the Isle of Patmos and that makes over 15 recorded appearances of Jesus after his death. In his book, Miracles, C.S.Lewis wrote, “The first fact in the history of Christendom is the number of people who say they have seen the resurrected Jesus. If they had died without making any one else believe this Gospel, the Gospels we read would never have been written.”
Everything rests on the resurrection – our salvation, our purpose for living, our hope of eternal life. In the rest of this chapter, Paul talks about some of the things we have received because of the Resurrection.
1. New Identity
In verse 20-22 Paul describes the NEW IDENTITY we have because of the resurrection: But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.