THE RESURRECTION'S MEANING
A Study of CORINTHIANS 15:1-16; 50; 54-58
This text offers five ways the believer can personally find meaning in the resurrection, which assures us of eternal life with our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father. Here are the main points in line-summary, while Pastor Paul’s full explanation of each can be found by scrolling down to below the transcript of his sermon:
– Our sin-debt has been paid in full
– God’s transforming grace is freely offered to believers
– We, too, are assured of being resurrected
– Upon Christ’s return, we will receive glorified bodies to live in eternity with Him
– We have victory over death and the grave
Pastor Paul Glover from the pulpit
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is arguably the most important event in history.
Billy Graham said, "The entire plan for the future has its key in the resurrection."
Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian, said, "Without the belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, there is no salvation."
Accepting the reality of the resurrection is a challenge for many. The idea a person came back to life three days after dying sounds far-fetched. While I have never doubted Jesus’ resurrection occurred, I understand the misgivings of rational thinkers who do. But His resurrection is not a matter for the head, but the heart. If you have never personally encountered the risen Christ, you will have difficulty understanding. If you have never experienced Jesus for yourself, no amount of explanation or scientific evidence can convince you that He was dead, but is now alive.
The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Church at Corinth, devotes the entire 15th chapter to the resurrection. He expounds on its significance, process, meaning, and implications. Paul begins by saying,
– “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. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.”
Paul is pointing out that salvation comes through the proclamation of the gospel. It is a two-step process that involves receiving the Word in the Gospel or Good News, then accepting it to be true.
It is really that simple. As the gospel message is proclaimed, it penetrates our conscious and subconscious and finds a place in our soul where it ultimately resonates. Through this resonance, we become convinced of the Word’s truth, and reject anything that is contrary. Why does this not happen to everyone? It depends on whether people are looking for truth or evidence.
The quest for truth requires an open mind. The quest for evidence requires physical, tangible proof. Paul says,
– “The good news you received.”
To receive you have to be open to accepting what is on offer. I suspect most people (I include myself in the majority) listen to sermons without being overly focused on truth per se. Sure, folks want accuracy from their preachers, but many seek rather to feel good about themselves or their situations. This, to a certain extent, closes the mind to truth, and a closed mind is the same as a closed door: nothing penetrates.
Jesus encouraged us to watch and pray. When we are open, the proof will present itself. There is no denying the impact the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has had on people throughout history and in our world today. People’s lives have been changed, marriages saved, children returned to their families, families reunited, and so on – all because of the good news of Jesus Christ.
Paul goes on to explain the nature of the Gospel, saying,
– “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.”
Indeed, the Gospel message is that Christ died, Christ was buried, and Christ rose from the dead.
The authenticity of the good news is found first in the fulfillment of Scripture. In the book of Isaiah chapter 53 we read about the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.
– “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But, he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants?
– “For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore, I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Isaiah’s prophecy hundreds of years before the birth of Christ is confirmed in the gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
The accounts of people who saw Jesus after His resurrection provide another authentication of the gospel. Paul recounts Peter was among the first to see the resurrected Christ, then the apostles, then 500 others who were independent of the apostles, and, finally, James the brother of Christ.
Paul provides us with a third category for authenticating the gospel: personal spiritual encounter, which he, himself, experienced. The apostle recalls that he persecuted the church before encountering and coming to know Christ. His personal spiritual experience with Christ changed him.
After making his case for the resurrection, Paul ponders on where we would be spiritually had it not occurred. He says,
– “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.”
In essence Paul suggests that without the resurrection, there is no Christ. With no Christ, there is no God, and we are left to save ourselves. He also says the entire gospel would be a sham – for without the resurrection, there is no good news. The absence of a resurrection would also make every Christian preacher a liar for what is the point of preaching if there is no good news? Without the resurrection, our faith would also be meaningless, for we would have no hope beyond the miseries of this life, which would end in death, with the grave our final destination.
We can see how bleak life would be without the good news of the resurrection. As the apostle says later in this chapter,
– “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
Without the good news of Jesus’ resurrection we might as well close every church door. Every man, woman and child would have to fend for themselves.
Our Sin–Debt Paid in Full
We serve a Holy God who desires that His people be Holy too. But when Adam and Eve fell in the Garden of Eden, their disobedience forever stained humanity. It created a rift in our relationship with the Holy God, and the only way to cleanse the stain was through sacrifice. However, unlike the priestly sacrificial system in the Old Testament, the blood of bulls and goats was insufficient. Indeed, such sacrifices had been frequently necessary since their effects were ephemeral. To remove the stain of sin, God required a one-time major sacrifice. It needed to be of someone who was holier than we, and completely without sin. Yet in order for it to be applied to people, it also needed to be someone who was like us in every way. Jesus Christ made that sacrifice on the cross. He paid the price so we need not pay it. Because Christ’s shed blood wiped out the debt of our sins, we now belong to Him.
God’s Transforming Grace Freely offered to Believers
The Apostle Paul, who’d been a murderer before becoming a missionary, said,
– “It is by the grace of God I am what I am.”
Indeed, God’s love for us led Him to sacrifice His son. God invites us to share in His love, and whether or not we do so is our decision. By participating, we are able to experience God’s grace, which is His favor. It is not something we have earned, yet God makes this unmerited favor available to anyone who will accept it. Through acceptance, God transforms us, imputing His love, mercy and character to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. As we take on more of God’s character, we express more of God’s qualities. The grace of God can change the vilest of people, but they have to want to accept it.
We Are Assured of Being Resurrected
The text says in verses 21 & 22,
– “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.”
This is the assurance that believers also will be resurrected, just as Christ Jesus rose from the grave. No matter what happens to us in this life, believers have the promise of spending eternity in the presence of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Upon Christ’s Return, We Will Live in Eternity with Him in Glorified Bodies
The apostle points out in verse 50,
– “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”
In verse 53 he says,
– “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.”
Paul is letting us know that the bodies we presently have are not suited to live in eternity with God. They harbor sickness, disease and pain, and ultimately decay. God has new bodies for us upon Christ’s return for His people. These new bodies will not get sick or decay, and they will never know pain because they will be immortal.
We Have Victory Over Death and the Grave
In verse 54, Paul concludes by stating,
– “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Death should no longer be feared, for while it marked passage to a final resting place for all before the resurrection, it is now the door through which believers pass to enter into eternal life in the presence of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. It is because of Christ’s resurrection that death has lost its sting. We have gained the victory.
Sunday 12 April 2009
May God Bless You