Summary: Let’s rediscover the hope of the resurrection and how it applies to us.
The modern liberal idea that the resurrection never occurred is not new. Paul’s purpose in writing to the Corinthians was to remind them that the resurrection is the basis of Christianity. Purpose: Let’s rediscover the hope of the resurrection. Plan: Let’s read John 20:1-18 and springboard to 1 Corinthians 15, examining what the resurrection means for us.
Read the Gospel lesson then turn to 1 Corinthians 15
1 Corinthians 15:1-12 Historical Evidence
Paul reminds the church of God in Korinthos that the Gospel which he first preached to them included the resurrection, even though some no longer believe in it. He presents a creed, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Notice that Paul twice says that this was according to the Hebrew Scriptures. He also gave historic evidence of the resurrection, “that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present”.
1 Corinthians 15:13-28 Moral Argument
Some are judgmental of parts of the Bible that conflict with their prejudice rather than seeking understanding without judgmentalism. Paul gives quite a shocking argument for those who deny the resurrection, “if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty… and we are found false witnesses of God… And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile.” Another moral argument is, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” When? For those in Christ, it will be at the last trumpet upon His return and sometime later the rest, after a symbolic millennium (Revelation 20:4-6).
1 Corinthians 15:29-34 For the Dead
Paul possibly addresses the ancient Marcionite heresy of proxy baptism for the dead without their repentance and faith. He states that even this absurd teaching relied upon the resurrection. Another possibility is the early church risk, and even the same risk today in several totalitarian countries, that Baptism into Christ is baptism into His suffering, even to death which many endured through faith in the resurrection. Even those of us living in safer countries, a symbolic death of the old man takes place at baptism, and even includes the death of bad relationships. Not that Christians cut themselves altogether from unbelievers, else who could they witness and spread the Gospel to!
1 Corinthians 15:35-49 Analogy
Like Christ, we too will have a body whereby we can enjoy food and yet are immortal. Eternity will be heaven and earth together where we will enjoy today’s blessings immensely magnified, without the crime, wars and other worries. We will also have an immortal body without aches, pains and disease. It will be a new life so wonderfully different to our lives now. As we get old we say we are just shadows of our former selves, but all our lives we are mere shadows of our future selves. God will give us a new body where we are still us, but more fully us than we have ever been.
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 Triumphant Chant
Visiting elderly family and friends reminds us of our potential future and our mortality. Flesh and blood corrupts and dies. But “the dead will be raised incorruptible” and “this mortal must put on immortality.” Paul describes 3 great victories for the Christians, over law, sin and death. “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” and “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Verse 57 has become a Christian war chant, “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Democratic Rome degenerated into a dictatorship led by the Caesars. Caesars took to using the title “Lord and God.” The two Caesars during Jesus’ earthly sojourn were Augustus and Tiberius. They were followed by perhaps the worst of all, Caligula. When early Christians called Jesus Lord, they were saying that Caesar is not. In ancient Rome Caesar’s edicts were called the Gospel. When early Christians shared what they called the Gospel, they were saying that the edicts of Caesar were not good news. What gave them the courage to stand up against these tyrants was the hope of the resurrection. Faith in the resurrection means that we believe God not Caesar.
As in Adam human creation began and dies, so in Christ human recreation has already begun and will last forever. Now we are a mere shadow of what we will be. The resurrection tells us that new beginnings are possible, for us, for our families, our community, our nation, and the whole world. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption … sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory … sown in weakness, it is raised in power. (1 Corinthians 15:42-43) “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 57).