1 Corinthians 15: 1-58
The Resurrection Story (1-11)
”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. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”
I received Christ in high school without any previous knowledge of God or the Bible or without any previous church attendance (explain). I was green. Abruptly I switched friends. Instead of going to parties I went to meetings called Bible studies and small groups. I put a lot of trust into these new Christian friends, whom I did not know very well. My family did not understand what I did. Some thought I got brainwashed. My life became pretty different, pretty fast. Soon I hit a crisis point. Call it conversion remorse. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. What did I put my trust into? I made a life changing decision based on what a handful of people were telling me. Was this really true? My stand was very shaky, my hold was slipping. Doubts were creeping in. What did I allow myself to get talked into? How do I know Christianity is true?
A Tim Keller quote: “Believers should acknowledge and wrestle with doubts. It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them.” I was wrestling with doubts.
This unrest caused me to do some research on my own. I investigated the historical record of Christianity and in particular Jesus. I studied the Bible, read some books, the writings of Josephus (a Roman secular historian of the first century), and I asked a bunch of questions. My doubt turned to confidence and my crisis turned into confirmation. A very pivotal point in my life. My stance and my grip strengthened and set me on course to where I find myself today. My research centered around the death and resurrection of Jesus and what is found in the first part of chapter 15.
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 Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living (explain), 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.
I learned that in the 40 days after the resurrection Jesus appeared to over 500 at one time. You can make a case for individual hallucinations but you cannot make a case for a mass hallucination. I learned that 10 of the 12 disciples died violent deaths for their faith. People don’t die for lies. With other additional supportive material I concluded Jesus was who He said He was. Therefore I could trust everything else he said. No other faith or religion or spiritual system ever had a founder predict His death and resurrection and then die and then rise again. Andy Stanley says “When someone says I am going to die and rise and then does it, I am with him.” That is my conclusion.
A skyscraper can only go as high as it is deep. The world record for the highest set of towers are the PETRONAS towers in Malaysia (picture). They rise 1400 feet above the surface. They also hold the record for the deepest foundation, some 400 feet. Our faith is meant to soar upward as it’s anchored to a deep foundation of bedrock. If we are going to break some records in our witness for Christ publically, God will help us break some records under the surface where our foundation lies. The foundation and bedrock of our faith is what Jesus did when He was raised from the dead. This is what we stand on, this is what we hold onto. Standing is one of the greatest evidence of authentic faith. God wants your faith built deep into the solid rock of Christ to support us standing for Christ in our homes, neighborhoods, jobs and communities: His death, His burial, His resurrection.
This changed Paul’s life too.
9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
The Resurrection Story (1-11)- Here is what we learn about the resurrection story:
- Good News – that is what the word gospel means. It is the flavor of everything about the Kingdom and the church. We are a product of a good news, a glad gvannouncement. The resurrection is a tough story of suffering, of crucifixion, of death but as Tony Campolo would say Friday is here, but Sunday is coming! The implications of the resurrection is good news. The love shown by God and His Son Jesus for all of us within the death, burial and resurrection is good news as well. Not only the what of the resurrection, but the why of the resurrection.
- First Importance – The early church prioritized Jesus being raised from the dead. That was their central message. The gospel is about what He did. That is what the early Christians banked on. Their message was what Christ did. This is what Paul first preached, it is what the Corinthians first believed. It is the central ingredient to the Good News. It is first importance for the Corinthians and it is for us. That is our hope and provides the substance of what our faith rests on.
- Verified – The Corinthians were encouraged to follow up and test the post resurrection appearances by those still alive. Multiple appearances amongst multiple groups of people would all verify they saw him. Paul on the road to Damascus attests to seeing him as well.
Now Paul turns his attention to the Corinthian debate surrounding the resurrection. Of course somebody in Corinth has to disagree with Paul, seems to be standard procedure for some of these extra smart leaders.
2. The Resurrection Debate (12-34)
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 of all people most to be pitied.
Some leaders were spreading false doctrine that the dead could never be raised. So those who had loved ones who had passed on had no hope for resurrection, which meant no one did. These are people who cannot wrap their head around how this could happen. So because they can’t understand it they discard it. They don’t see how it is possible that the bodies, or corpse that since put in the ground in varying degrees of deterioration as well as exhibiting the results of the possibly violent, fatal injuries, such as decapitation or brutal torture could be resuscitated. “We don’t see how the resurrection would work and so we are going to leave that part out. Yes Jesus may have rose from the dead, He was the Son of God, but people, and people who have been buried for a long time…no way”. There may have also been a Gnostic influence as well. This is spirituality that seeks to rid itself of the material world and so to them spiritual realization is removal of the body not the keeping of the body. The faster we get rid of this thing the more spiritual we become. This is a message that robs the church of it’s greatest victory, that diminishes our future expectation. Bottom line this is a dumbing down of the scripture. “Dumbing down” is to extract parts of a story that are complex for a common reader so as to make it more palatable.
Illust. Thomas Jefferson did this when we wrote The Teachings of Jesus so different people groups would accept it more readily. He removed all of the supernatural references from the gospel, the miracles, the healings and his version ends with Jesus laid to rest in the tomb, no resurrection. I don’t think it is advantageous to whittle the Bible down to our level. It is always best to let the Bible lift us up to it’s level, even if we have to admit it is beyond our own logic. Are we faith driven or logic driven? Paul outlines the ramifications hypothetically if what they assert is true. It shows the absurdity of their assertions:
2. The Resurrection Debate (12-34)
If dead is not raised: (12-19)
- Christ is not raised – The assertion that Jesus accomplished a victory for all who would trust in Him. He disarmed all the spiritual enemies for all time. If the dead can’t be raised then it means that means Jesus failed and did not secure this victory. If this victory can not be experienced by His followers it means Jesus never won the victory in the first place and therefore the assertion that he did win this victory and rise from the grave was false.
- Message is False – The ramifications apply to the message that is being spread all over the known world as well. It is an empty message, with empty promises. And it is being perpetuated by false messengers who are lying and fabricating this story. Essentially this is a major discredit to Paul who is a chief spokesman for the resurrection of Jesus and people.
- Unforgiven –The implications continue. It gets worse. If Jesus was not raised he did not win the victory over sin. People are still in their sins, under the power of sin and separated from God in their sin for now and forever more. There is no forgiveness, no washing, no cleansing. Sin brings forth death and without the forgiveness from sin we are powerless over it and we die in our sins. It implies Jesus was not the spotless lamb who takes away the sin of the world, whose shed blood provided cleansing and forgiveness for all.
- People are Lost – Ultimately those in the grave have found their final destination and will journey no farther. The faith they put in Jesus for salvation and eternal life was empty and baseless. Their end has come, no hope. Death has won, they are lost and so will be those who follow in time.
Paul now closes out this hypothetical “what if” and exposes what would be the results if their limited opinion were true. He now outlines the ramifications of Christ being raised from the dead. The implications are quite different, and shall I say exciting;
Let’s look at the other side of this argument:
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.”[c] Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
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? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 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.
2. The Resurrection Debate (12-34)
If Christ is raised: (20-34)
- Firstfruits – The Old Testament described a firstfruit ritual which took place at the beginning of the grain harvest.
(Grain stalk) The first stalks of grain picked called the sheaf would be waved by the priest as an offering to the Lord, which in turn would consecrate the entire following harvest. This sheaf was a sample of what was to come. Jesus then as a firstfruit, acceptable to God, is the first sample, the sheaf, of an entire new harvest to come. A harvest of resurrection for all those who believe.
- Enemies Defeated – Destruction is a part of the resurrection. Destruction of all that opposes God. Anything that is in conflict with the nature of God, the intention of God, the rule of God, the love of God. That is why the tears are wiped away in heaven. No more diseases, abuse, injustice, violence, evil. We can look forward to those days can’t we.
- Life Changing – The fact that believers will rise changes everything. We see that Paul exhibited courage mainly because he knew that if he died, he would be raised. He took risks, but they were calculated risks. He calculated in the promise of resurrection. Otherwise he may have been a little more of a self preservationist. Instead of moving toward potentially dangerous ministry assignments he may have gone the other way, much like Job in the Bible. Paul was somewhat wreckless with his life in the body, all because he knew he was getting a new one in the future.
Now that Paul has reminded them of the resurrection account and addressed this lingering question he moves on to unpack this idea further and to give details of how all of this actually works.
3. The Resurrection Details (35-49)
But someone will 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. 39 Not all flesh is the same: People have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
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. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47 The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. 48 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
The Resurrection Details (35-49)
- Seed Analogy – He says believers are not buried, they are sown just like a seed. A seed is sown one way into the soil, it’s death in the soil actually is the beginning of the seed blossoming to a new form of life which reappears in a very different way. That is what happens with our bodies. We are sown one way, but reappear in a very different way. It is still you, but it is the most splendid you ever imaginable. Some of us with a healthy self esteem are saying how does it get any better than this, well it does. Others of us are saying, “Thank the Lord”. I need to get rid of this thing and trade it in for an upgrade. And guess what you will! The upgrade is quite literally out of this world.
- Supernatural Body – Paul says there is a natural body and a spiritual body. Presently we have a natural body with natural concerns and a rigorous maintenance schedule. When we get a new body it will be a spiritual body specifically designed to function in heaven. Jesus shows us a natural body before his resurrection and then we see Him in his new spiritual body. It still is him, but very different. The natural body is suited for earth during this Kingdom of grace. The spiritual body will be suited for eternity in the Kingdom of glory.
- Likeness of Christ – This new body will move us even closer to resembling Christ. Upon our natural birth we are related to Adam, and we bear his likeness, both in body and nature and his future. When we are born again, this new spiritual birth relates us to Christ and we begin to bear his likeness in nature and then at the resurrection we completely resemble him in body and his future.
Paul now summarizes our hope and provides the capstone of the triumph we have through our faith in Christ and what He did on our behalf.
4. The Resurrection Triumph (50-58)
50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: 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. 53 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?”
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 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, 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.
The Resurrection Triumph (50-58)
- Transformation – Resurrection is about a final consummation of the transformation needed since the fall of Adam and Eve and the fall of humanity through the introduction of sin. While on this earth our soul and spirit are renewed day by day, but outwardly our bodies decay. Now, at the resurrection, in conjuction with our soul, our bodies enter that final complete metamorphisis of inheriting the imperishable, incorruptible. Now soul and body have reached the ideal as God originally intended. Redemption is fully realized. Death in the body is not the prerequisite to transition into glory, tranformation is. For those alive when Jesus returns, it will happen after the dead rise first, but in the twinkling of an eye the rest will be changed completely.
- Dedication – So what does this all mean now? This is for encouragement. Encourage means to put courage in us, encouragement. It means to stand firm, unmoveable in our convictions, staying focused on what God wants to do in our life. It means being consistent in living out day to day the Kingdom of God and growing in your own God given assignments and dreams and moving forward in who God created you to be. Not being distracted or swayed away but sensing you are empowered, authorized, deputized to live for Him loudly while here on earth. That is what it means to stand. We know this isn’t home, we know where we are going and the goal is to take as many people with us as possible. Let me give some final thoughts on personal application:
- Victorious – It has been said it is not what happens to you that matters but what happens in you that matters. What happens in you is based on how you interpret life or coach yourself to think about what happens to you. We all have a grid, a filtering system in which we see and process life. God wants us to filter life through a grid of victory, ultimate victory. I know the difference between a victim and a victor is the attitude in which I metabolize all of life.
- Optimistic – In light of the resurrection I believe we should be positive and optimistic people. Our default mode in regards to our attitude represents the victory we carry in our hearts and anticipate in the future. I have been known to catstrophize or imagine negative scenarios. I am not to be ignorant of evil or negativity but it doesn’t mean I have to mirror that. I can overreact critically and negatively as much as the next guy but I think that dismisses this overcoming disposition God wants us to carry in our very DNA.
- Resilient – Ultimately our attitude effects our behavior and this chapter begins and ends with the encouragement to stand. Ephesians 6 says to put on the full armor of God so we can Stand against the schemes of the devil. To stand is to be resilient, to be tough, to be like a Weeble. Weebles are Christian toys that were popular in the 70’s and made a slight comeback recently. Their slogan is “weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”. Proverbs says though a righteous man fall seven times he gets back up again. Our resiliency is the ability to stand and not be dislodged from our love for God and our allegiance to Jesus and stay faithful. It takes power to stand consistently these days for Jesus. I love our pastor and fellow staff members who have served this city with energy for 35 years. That is resiliency, that is resurrection power.on a daily basis. The early church was clothed with power, it comes from the word dunamis which can be translated either dynamite or dynamo. Dynamite is an intense explosion where as a dynamo is an ongoing release of power that keeps us chugging strong over the long haul. Through Christ you are both a dynamite and a dynamo.
Remember Jesus did not rise from the grave in his own power, he was raised from the dead by God’s power. It is no different for us. God’s strength in you gives us the capacity to stand everyday.