One night a drunkard man broke into a house. Right before leaving the house with a suite case full of cache and valuables he set the house on fire to cover his tracks. When he went home however he found out that his own house is on fire. To his amazement he had in fact, burgled and ignited his own house. Later on he said, “I had no idea I had so many valuable possessions.”
When we look around us we cannot help but see that there are many things about Christianity we take for granted. Take Easter for example. We are so familiar with it we take it very casually. What it would be like if resurrection never happened and there was no Easter. Let’s see.
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:1-58
1. The core of the Gospel
Read 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
The core of the Gospel about Christ is formed of 3 major historical happenings. In the following order these are,
(A) That Christ suffered
(B) That Christ died
(C) That Christ was resurrected
Take any of these out and the Gospel becomes useless. It turns into half truth (religion) or a lie (Philosophy). Jesus said “You will know the truth and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). If Christ was not raised the gospel becomes false and thus powerless to save those who believe. How do we know what we believe is the truth or that God actually raised Christ from the dead? The Bible presents us with 4 types of evidence.
(A) The Old Testament and Prophets
The resurrection was not God’s “Plan B”. It was the original plan that God designed even before he commanded the world into existence and later spoken through prophets. In Psalm 16:10 David wrote “You will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful follower to see the Pit.”
In our text the apostle Paul refers to Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits which in the Old Testament were presented to God on the day following the Sabbath after Passover (Leviticus 23:9-14). Since Jesus was the Passover lamb that was slained on the Jewish Passover, His resurrection on the day after the Sabbath fulfills this scripture.
(B) The Gospels
The Gospels record a number of occasions in which Jesus himself predicted his resurrection and death, (Matthew 16:21; Matthew 17:9; Matthew 17:23; Matthew 20:19; Matthew 27:63; John 2:19)
(C) The testimony of the eye witnesses
Paul names Peter and the rest of the disciples, the three Marys and 500 other individuals that eye witnessed the risen Jesus. Besides the fact most of them hesitated to believe that Jesus was indeed raised, defeats the claim that resurrection was a fabrication of Jesus’ disciples. (Especially Paul prior to his encounter en route to Damascus)
(I) Mary Magdalene wept (John 20:11-14)
(II) The disciples thought the risen Christ was a ghost (Luke 24:37)
(III) They refused to believe the 3 Marys (Mark 16:11)
(IV) Some were reluctant even after seeing the resurrected Christ (Matthew 28:17)
(V) Thomas refused to believe the testimony of the disciples unless he sees the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and put his fingers where the nails were, and put his hand into Jesus’ side (John 20:24-25)
(D) Transformed lives
While the conversions of the Corinthians and millions of others in every century and culture have testified to the life-changing power of the risen Savior, Paul’s own conversion serves as the most incredible example. So much was the impact of resurrection on the man who persecuted the church, later poured out his life on its behalf.
These evidence convicts us that resurrection was indeed a real and historical incident that we cannot take for granted.
2. The core of our faith
Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-34
In the time of Paul there were certain men in Corinth, who under the influence of Greek philosophers claimed there’s no such thing as the resurrection of the dead. Paul argues if there’s no resurrection of the dead then Christ has not been raised and if that’s the case, a number of other consequences follow.
(A) Preaching will be worthless
We are preaching an empty faith if resurrection never happened. Christianity might have some impressive moral platitudes but it simply takes its place among other powerless religions and ethical systems if the living Lord Jesus is taken out.
Even worse all the New Testament writers would be lying unless Jesus was raised. If they lied about something as crucial as the resurrection how can we say the scriptures are inspired by God? (2 Timothy 3:16)
(B) Our faith will be blind faith
Someone said “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.” Now that is blind faith. Consider this example. An office worker sincerely believed the windows in his office were unbreakable. He wanted to prove this to his colleagues and slammed his body full force into the window on the 36th floor. Unfortunately he was proved to be wrong.
We cannot take resurrection out from the Gospel because saving faith is objective, (Refers to everything in which we believe for our salvation including resurrection of Christ). If Jesus is dead how can we trust a dead God to save us from our sin? We will be in our sins forever. As for our faith it will be sincerely blind.
(C) Our hope will be lost
There are 2 basic thoughts of school about life after death. One of them believes we simply cease to exist while the other believes we continue to live in a more advanced realm. Observing the history convinces that latter was more popular (Pyramids in Egypt). For man the thought of coming to a state of non existence brings fear because that was not the way he was created, (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Jesus said everyone who dies believing in him has the hope of being raised from the dead on the last day, (John 6:40). Additionally we will be reunited with our deceased loved ones and the impact of sin upon our lives will be reversed at all levels as our final enemy (death of the body) will be conquered through the resurrection. Yet if Christ was not resurrected all of these expectations become null and void because if God could not resurrect Christ he doesn’t possess the power to resurrect us either.
Today there are many false teachings being taught about death and after life. The majority of them promote the theory “Anyone can go to heaven as long as they were good”. Such theories contradict Jesus’ teachings recorded in the New Testament. These teachings underestimate the absolute holiness of God and the awful sinfulness of the human heart. It assumes that a person can be his own Savior, with just a little push from God.
Why did Jesus had to leave heaven, take on human flesh, suffer at the hands of sinners, and die upon the cross if we are capable of saving ourselves. Because his suffering and death were the only price that could afford our salvation. Hence resting our hope on human theories about God and eternity is worthless. Our hope for eternal life for us and for our loved ones can only be built upon the death and resurrection of the sinless Savior who bore our sins.
(D) Submission to Christ is useless
When Paul says what will those do who are baptized for the dead he is referring to pagans who later converted to Christianity and were baptized because they wanted to be reunited with the departed Christian friends or family members in the life to come. Doing so would be useless if the dead are not raised at all.
(E) Our authority will be lost
Paul says when Christ defeated death (the most powerful enemy known to man) he also destroyed every other dominion, authority and power. God also put everything under his feet. Jesus confirmed this when he charged the apostles with the great commission followed by his resurrection, (Matthew 28:19). Our authority rests in the resurrection and without it carrying out the great commission would be next to impossible.
(F) Suffering and toiling will be fruitless
On the 11th of June 1963 Thich Quang Duc a Buddhist monk in Vietnam set himself on fire to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government led by Ngo Dinh Diem. Later several Buddhist monks followed Quang Duc’s example, also immolating themselves. Although these acts increased international pressure on the Vietnamese government and led it to announce reforms with the intention of mollifying the Buddhists we cannot say these deaths actually served any eternal purpose.
Paul also was a man that suffered and laid his life in the name of his faith in Jesus. He even wrote down some his sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11:25-27. Paul still rejoiced because he knew that Jesus is alive and his sufferings and toiling are not in vain. Today millions of Christians are following Paul’s example. But if Christ was not raised our sufferings, toiling and deaths will be nothing more than the deaths of those Vietnamese monks I mentioned before.
Unfortunately most Christians live as if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not true, (“…Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die…”) Their goal in life is to pursue personal comfort, pleasure and affluence. Their dream is to make life more enjoyable. They get involved in ministry to the extent that God and the church make them feel good and increase their happiness. If they truly believe in the resurrection of Christ of course they will seek first the Saviors Kingdom and his righteousness.
3. The fullness of salvation
Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-58
Finally, Easter matters because salvation applies to the whole body and our salvation is not complete until Christ resurrects us at his second coming, (Romans 8:18-25). Our personality is incomplete without it.
The gospels record that Jesus raised several people from the dead, (Mark 5:35-43; Luke 7:11-17; John 11:1-43). However all of these people were raised back to their temporary earthly bodies. When the time came they all died again.
The believer’s resurrected body in the other hand will be a glorified structure like Jesus’ own resurrected body. (Paul uses the illustration of a seed that becomes a plant to explain the transformation.) It’s free from diseases and weaknesses known to our earthly bodies. Everyone that dies in Christ and raised back to life will enjoy eternity in these immortal bodies.
Finally Easter does mater because it indicates that Christ is alive and he will come again to take us to be with him. It’s not only the dead in Christ that will be raised and transformed. But the believers also who are alive. Now when Paul says “We will not all sleep” his use of “we” indicates he held to the New Testament perspective that Christ could come for the faith of his churches in his lifetime. Paul did not err in believing as he did for he knew that Christ could come at any time. We should remember that Jesus’ second coming becomes close by another year every time we celebrate another Ester because the words of Jesus and New Testament writers urge us to believe it is the last hour and to live in the hope that Christ might return in our lifetime, (Romans 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).