Risen Indeed, 1 Corinthians 15
Introduction: In our recent presidential election, candidates and media specialists carefully constructed speeches, sound-bytes, and commercials to persuade the American public to vote for their party. Even with all the hype of new technology, spoken words and personal appearances became the vehicle of choice to gather votes. Throughout history some words have inspired hope, comforted the grieving, and motivated others to reach for new heights. You may recall the words of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or the preamble from the Declaration of Independence. Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation with his famous declaration “Here I Stand.” Jonathon Edwards lit the revival fires of the Great Awakening with his sermon, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.” FDR’s radio address on a “day that has lived in infamy” called for courage to overcome fear and rallied support for America to enter the world war that threatened our freedom. But of all the words ever spoken, none have echoed through the ages and changed the course of history as the words spoken by an angel at an empty grave, “He is not here. He is risen!”
This Easter we turn our attention to the resurrection. While every Sunday worship service is a testimony that Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, Easter provides a wonderful opportunity to consider the significance of the resurrection to our faith. An interesting aspect of early Christian history is that the resurrection, not the Cross, was the central theme of Christian preaching. Many contemporary Christians assume the Cross has always been the focal point of Christian faith. They view the Cross as the touchdown and the resurrection as the extra point. Certainly the Cross is vital to our faith for it was the means through which Jesus atoned for our sins, but listen to Paul’s words, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith…if Christ has not been raised then you are still in you sins” (1 Cor. 15: 14,17).
The early believers saw themselves as “witnesses to the resurrection” (Acts 1:15-16). Peter and John created an uproar because they were preaching about Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 4:1-2). The Bible says with great power the apostles testified to the resurrection (Acts 4: 33). On his missionary journey several years after the crucifixion while preaching in Athens, Paul preached the “good news about Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 17:18).
Chapter 15 of First Corinthians is an incredible passage of encouragement and hope, as it provides comfort to those who are grieving. Christ is presented as the mighty conqueror who removes the painful sting of death and promises a holy transformation from the mortal flesh to the immortal spiritual condition of being re-united with God. The grand and glorious promises are presented in a logical progression as a gift from the resurrected Savior. Because Jesus rose from the dead, He is able to make and to keep the glorious promises recorded in this chapter.
Proclaims Christ’s Deity
The resurrection proclaims the deity of Christ. His death on the Cross may have accomplished our redemption as He paid for the sins of the world, but it did not prove to the world that Christ was God in the flesh. Some view the crucifixion as an honorable sacrifice made by gifted teacher. Others would point to the Cross as a failure of Jesus to demonstrate His power. Like the thief who mocked Jesus saying, “If you are the Messiah then get us down from here,” critics view the Cross as an insignificant death. They see as one of many who reveled against the Roman Empire and suffered the consequences.
The Bible paints a different picture. The crucifixion was not a tragedy; it was a triumph as illustrated and declared by the resurrection. The apostle Paul declared that the resurrection proved that Jesus was the Son of God (Rom. 1:4) In this text of First Corinthians chapter fifteen, we read that Christ conquers all enemies and destroys all dominion, and hands the kingdom over to God the Father (1 Cor. 15:24-27). Every thing has been placed under the authority of Christ because of the resurrection.
Others have made similar claims of deity. Muhammad is dead. Buddha is dead. Rev. Moon is dead. Joseph Smith is dead. Mary Baker Eddy is dead. Ron Hubbard is dead. But the tomb is empty, and Jesus is alive. He is the holy Son of God who is worthy to receive glory, honor, and praise!
Promotes Our Dignity
Look at the pronoun used the verses twenty and twenty-three, “those who have fallen asleep” and “those who belong to Him.” Who are those? We don’t know who they are. We know what they did. They placed their faith in Christ as the Savior of the world, and therefore belonged to Christ or died in Christ. “Those” refers to common ordinary people like you and me. They are people who collided with Jesus at an intersection in life, and accepted the gift of eternal life offered by Jesus. They are the “whosoevers” of the world. Eternal life is not just for the luminaries of the faith like the apostles. All who call upon the name of the Lord can be saved. Men, women, young, old, rich, poor, educated, and the uneducated are all welcome into the family of God.
The resurrection shouts that you are special to God. You possess a dignity worth redeeming. Jesus died for your sin and rose again to prove His sacrifice was not in vain. He is alive to declare to you and to the world that you are an unique creation of God with significant role to play in His kingdom. You are one of the “those” precious souls who are too many to name, but considered to be the fruit or blessing of the resurrection.
Protects Against Despair
Verse nineteen says without the resurrection, we should be pitied more than all men. Then is verse thirty-two, we read that without the resurrection we should just “eat, drink, and die.” But, the Jesus is alive and protects against a life of despair filled only with selfish indulgence. The resurrection communicates a higher purpose. We understand that we are loved by our Creator who has gone to great lengths to communicate His love. The resurrection reminds us that trials are temporary. We may have to carry a cross for a short time, but there is a resurrection into eternal glory. Despair is like a locked door keeping one trapped in a room of pain. Hope remains at an unreachable distance behind the locked door, but the resurrection kicks open the door to freedom, peace, and hope for a better future.
Prepares Our Future
Verse twenty-four declares “the end will come.” The resurrection is the guarantee that the promises of Christ are true. Jesus declared that He was going away to prepare a place for His followers (John 14: 1-6), and He promised that He would return. The end is coming when all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Those who have received Christ’s offer of eternal life will be “made alive” as proclaimed in verse twenty-two, but those who reject Christ will experience an eternal death of torment in hell. The Bible calls this punishment the “second death” (Rev. 21:8). The resurrection is an invitation to receive what Christ has prepared for you. His offer of eternal life is a gift that must be received. What have you done with your invitation? Jesus is alive and calling for you to receive Him today. Will you be made alive to spend eternity with the risen Savior or reject his offer to experience the second death?