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God's Will for the New Creation

Thy Will Be Done  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  22:39
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The Resurrection story does not end on Easter morning. Jesus' resurrection was only the beginning. The Resurrection story will not end until every person who has placed their faith in Christ is raised from the dead! (This message incorporates material from a message written by Justin Rossow.)

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This morning’s Scripture Lesson is taken from 1 Corinthians 15:1-6, 12-24.
1 Corinthians 15:1–6 ESV
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:12–24 ESV
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
Today, as we celebrate the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul points us to the End of the resurrection story, to the fulfillment of God’s ultimate will and purpose for his creation:
“In Christ all will be made alive, but each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the End will come …”
So along with our traditional Easter greeting, we add another acclamation of the Church: I say, “Christ has died; Christ is risen;” and you say, “Christ will come again!”
Let’s try it: Christ has died; Christ is risen; (Christ will come again!)
That’s how the resurrection story ends; that’s my future, and your future; that’s what’s in store for all who belong to Jesus.
Christ has died; Christ is risen; (Christ will come again!)
But we’re not there yet.
Oh, Jesus has already won the victory; the sting of sin and the power of the law have been removed. The grave no longer holds terror for those who are baptized into the death of Jesus, and therefore have also been united to the physical resurrection of Jesus.
And yet, the final, ultimate victory has not happened, at least not fully. People who belong to Jesus still struggle with sin. People who belong to Jesus still get sick. People who belong to Jesus still die.
And if there is one thing Paul wants to make perfectly clear to the Church, it’s this: as long as even a single human body is still in a grave, Jesus isn’t finished yet.
Only when every gravestone is obsolete and every Christian corpse stands redeemed and restored, joined again with a redeemed and restored soul—body and soul together, the way God intended it to be—only then will we see God’s ultimate will for his creation. Only then will the resurrection story of Jesus reach its crowning chapter.
Christ has died; Christ is risen; (Christ will come again!)
But we’re not there yet, so while we wait, Paul wants to clear up a couple of misunderstandings about the resurrection…

Narrow Hopes and Nagging Doubts

The hopes of most of the Corinthians (and sadly most people today) were very narrow. The best the Corinthians could hope for in the afterlife was that their soul would make a trip across the River Styx and there remain a disembodied spirit forever. In fact, their philosophers told them that their bodies were a “prison” and that to be freed from it was superior in every way to life in a body.
Today, most people’s hope for an afterlife are not much different, the popular image of the afterlife is growing angel wings and sitting on a cloud playing a harp. No wonder so few people have little interest in the afterlife. The only redeeming aspect of this picture about it is the hope that you will be playing harps with your friends and loved ones.
Then there are the nagging doubts, just as it is today, there were those who claimed there was no afterlife. The philosophers of Greece would be quite comfortable with John Lennon as he sang, “Try to imagine there is no heaven or hell. It is easy to do...”
Yes it is easy to do. Far too easy. Even now some of you who are listening to this sermon have these doubts swirling around in their heads.
Apparently the new Pope has doubts about Hell. It is not “hard to imagine” he has doubts about heaven as well!
It is no wonder then that the Corinthian church had drifted from Paul’s original message. Their narrow hopes and their nagging doubts had caused them to suggest that there was not bodily resurrection, only a spiritual one. People today are not that much different, our “scientific” worldview has caused many who call themselves Christians to jettison much of the message about Jesus: No virgin birth. No miracles. No atoning death. No resurrection. Jesus for them is just a good teacher.
Paul warns that such thinking is not “Good News” it is....

Fake Good News

Through a series of IF -THEN statements (almost like a computer programmer), Paul exposes their “Good News” for what it really is—“Fake Good News”! (1 Cor 15:16-19)
{IF physical bodies aren’t raised THEN Christ is not raised.}
{IF Christ is not raised THEN your faith is worthless.}
{IF your faith is worthless THEN you are stuck with your sins, and the dead people you love are just dead.}
{IF you are stuck with your sins, and the dead people you love are just dead THEN this religion is a lie, we have no hope, and followers of Jesus are pitiful, disillusioned suckers.}
If you don’t have the actual resurrection of the body, Paul says, then you don’t have Jesus!
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead! That’s Paul’s basic message in 1 Corinthians 15! Your faith is NOT worthless; you are NOT stuck in sin; the people you love, even if they are dead, are MORE than corpses; YOU have a strong and powerful HOPE.
Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
And more than that, Christ has died; Christ is risen; (Christ will come again!)
In fact, you have a concrete, tangible sign of that coming again. You have the resurrected body of Jesus, what Paul calls the “first fruits” of those who have fallen asleep.

Firstfruits

Firstfruits are the first evidence of more to come. They are like blossoms in spring. If you look around town you can see the daffodils being to come out of the ground and bloom. I love daffodils because they are a sign that warm, sunny days are just around the corner! Soon all kinds of beautiful flowers will begin to bloom!
In the Old Testament, firstfruits are part of the prescribed offering to God. When the first grain was ripe, on the first day after the first Sabbath after Passover … let’s see, the first day, after the first Sabbath after Passover … so that would be today, the Sunday of the Resurrection! On the day Jesus rose from the dead, God’s Old Testament people would bring in the first of the harvest of grain to God’s house as an offering.
To set aside the firstfruits as holy to the Lord acknowledges the God from whom this harvest came. But it is also a statement of trust: hail or lightning or locusts or war could destroy the harvest at any minute. To bring in the firstfruits is to express your dependence on God for the rest of the harvest.
It is with this background that Paul says Jesus is the first fruit of the resurrection. His resurrection is the first evidence of more to come. His bodily resurrection is the first permanent, physical, New Creation resurrection in history, but it is not going to be the last!
And if you want to know what the New Creation is like, then look to Jesus and his living body that eats and walks and talks and loves and shares with those he loves. The New Creation looks, feels, smells and tastes like Jesus.
He is the firstfruits offering, set aside as holy to God even as we, God’s people, depend on God for the rest of the harvest that is still to come.
1 Corinthians 15:23 ESV
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
So take your narrow hope and your nagging doubt to Jesus. He is the first evidence of more to come. His resurrection is the first bloom of the New Creation.
Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
And there is more to come:
1 Corinthians 15:23–24 ESV
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
And that ultimate End is Jesus, placing his resurrected foot on the neck of the final enemy, Death, and declaring total victory forever and ever. That, Paul says, is the End of the resurrection story. That is God’s ultimate will for his creation.
Christ has died; Christ is risen; (Christ will come again!) Amen.
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