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Remembering the Resurrection

April 9, 2023 Preacher: Dustan Ingenthron Series: Easter Sunday

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:12–23

Remembering the Resurrection

Christ is risen! The Christian faith is built on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. As Christians, we are the people of the Resurrection. This is evident in our creeds, in the songs that we sing, even in the fact that we meet on the first day of the week—the Lord’s Day. When we gather every week on Sunday morning, we are commemorating the resurrection as believers have done for almost two thousand years.

In addition, most Christians celebrate the Easter holiday as an additional special day of remembering the resurrection, and I believe that is a good thing. It is important to remember the resurrection, but more than that, to think often and carefully about its significance. This is because, as believers, we understand that the resurrection is more than just a mere historical event. It is also a current and future reality.

Paul’s Reminder

Our text today is from 1 Corinthians 15. In this chapter, Paul reminds the believers at Corinth of the gospel he preached to them—which they believed. In the first 11 verses, he declares the content of the gospel to be of first importance.

  1. That Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures
  2. That he was buried
  3. That he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures
  4. And, that there were eye witnesses to the resurrection. Not just one or two, but Cephas (Peter), the twelve, 500 brothers at once, James (Jesus’ half-brother), all of the apostles, and finally to Paul himself on the road to Damascus.

Controversy at Corinth

In verse 12 however, he comes to a point of controversy. [Read 15:12–13] It seems that some in the church at Corinth were denying the resurrection of the dead. Paul has said in verse 11 that they believed the gospel message, which included the resurrection, so it is not clear if they were just making an exception for Christ (that he was raised, but believers would not be), or if they had come to doubt that Jesus physically rose from the dead and instead believed the resurrection to be something spiritual only.

Either way, Paul makes explicitly clear in this chapter that the bodily resurrection of Christ is inseparably linked to the bodily resurrection of believers, and that to deny it destroys the gospel message.

In our text today, Paul outlines:

  1. The Necessity of the Resurrection
  2. The Certainty of the Resurrection
  3. The Results of the Resurrection

It is my prayer this morning that the truth of God’s Word will cause us to look at the resurrection of Christ with fresh eyes, and that we would consider carefully its implications in our lives. Believers, I hope that as we go to our homes or our celebrations this afternoon, you will celebrate the resurrection, not just as an historical event, but as a present and future reality.

The Necessity of the Resurrection

In correcting the misunderstanding of the Corinthian believers, Paul begins with the necessity of the resurrection. The resurrection is essential to the message and the hope of the gospel. Our text today outlines four ways in which the resurrection is necessary to the Christian faith.

Foundation of the Gospel Message

First, it is the foundation of the gospel message. [Read 15:12–14] Without the resurrection our preaching is vain—it is empty. The word translated as preaching here refers to a proclamation. It is the act of making something known. Biblical preaching is more than just the act of speaking in front of a crowd. It is the content of what we proclaim.

This is not limited only to the pastor’s sermon on Sunday morning. Without the resurrection the entire Christian message is empty because without the resurrection the gospel itself is empty. If there is no resurrection, there is no good news. Without the good news of the gospel what is there for us to proclaim? Moralism? “Try to be a good person.” You’re not! “We could offer words of wisdom.” Whose wisdom? Yours? Without the good news of the gospel all we have to give is nothing more that the empty platitudes that are offered by every false religion. These don’t provide any solution to the problem of sin, and death. They offer no hope to be reconciled to God.

Not only would our message be without hope, but if there is no resurrection then, “we are even found to be misrepresenting God”. If Christ was not raised then not only is our message empty, but we would be lying by proclaiming a message of hope and forgiveness. This would also undermine the reliability of Scripture for the apostles themselves would be false witnesses.

Foundation of Saving Faith

Secondly, the resurrection is necessary as the foundation of saving faith. The last half of verse 14 makes clear that without the resurrection, “your faith is vain.” Notice how closely, Paul links preaching with faith in this verse. These two are tied together more closely than we might sometimes realize. We proclaim (or preach) because we believe, and we believed because we heard someone preach.

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:14–17)

Faith and preaching are closely linked with one leading to the other. If our preaching is vain, our faith is vain. Empty preaching results from and leads to empty faith. If our message is empty then what is there to believe, and if we don’t believe then why preach?

Sadly there is much empty preaching taking place in many places today. I’m not talk about those who place less emphasis than we do on expositional preaching. I’m talk about sermons are empty of any gospel proclamation. Such sermons, well crafted and expertly delivered, will draw crowds, but they have no ability to change hearts apart from the power of the gospel. Preaching that is not grounded in the truth of the resurrection is void of resurrection power.

Foundation of Our Forgiveness

Thirdly, The resurrection is the foundation of our forgiveness. In verse 17, Paul moves from preaching and faith, to forgiveness. [Read 15:17]

The reality of Christ’s resurrection is directly linked to the forgiveness of our sin. Down through history and even today, some have taught the idea of a “spiritual resurrection”. They reject the doctrine of a bodily resurrection as too fantastic and miraculous, believing instead that the resurrection of Christ was merely spiritual, and that his physical body remained in the grave.

It is not possible to separate the physical bodily death of Christ on the cross from a physical bodily resurrection. We cannot hold on to the salvific work of the cross if we abandon the resurrection of the body. The cross without the resurrection saves no one.

Paul alludes to this in Romans chapter 4, when he is explaining how Abraham was justified by faith.

But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:23–25)

Notice the parallel phrases, “delivered up for our trespasses” and “raised for our justification”.

Jesus, the sinless Son of God, who kept the law perfectly—never once breaking a single command—went to the cross taking our sins upon himself and suffering the wrath of God in our place. He was delivered up for our trespasses.

However, if Christ were not raised it would have shown that he did not actually conquer sin and death, but rather that sin and death were victorious over him. If he had remained under the power of death, which is the penalty for sin, it would have proven him to be condemned rather than justified.

The resurrection then was God’s vindication of Christ’s atoning work. By raising him from the dead, God was publicly declaring that Jesus had succeeded. His atoning sacrifice was accepted. He had ransomed a people for God. The power of sin was broken, and death as the wage for sin, had no hold on him. His death accomplished salvation for his people. This is what it means that “he was raised for our justification”.

Foundation of Our Hope

Fourthly, the resurrection is the foundation of our hope. [Read 15:18–19] “Those who have fallen asleep” is a metaphor for Christian death that, by its very imagery, points to the hope of a resurrection. Those who sleep will wake again.

Although there were many witnesses who had seen the resurrected Christ still alive at the time Paul is writing, verse 6 tells us that some had fallen asleep. Paul makes the point that if there is no resurrection, then there is no hope for the dead. If Christ is not raised there is no victory over sin and death, and the believers who have died are lost in their sins with no hope of justification. Instead they have perished just like the unbelievers.

If this were the case, these believers would be most pitiful. What did they suffer persecution and give up everything for? Consider the Apostle Paul. Why give up his prestigious place among the Pharisees? Why cast aside all his achievements as rubbish?1 Why endure hunger, beatings, prison, and shipwreck? Hope in a Christ that did not rise from the dead is no hope at all.

The Certainty of the Resurrection

In verse 20 Paul moves from the necessity of the resurrection to the certainty of the resurrection. [Read 15:20] All of the implications of verses 12–18 are countered by this one declaration. Christ is risen!

Paul is absolutely certain of the resurrection and he wants the believers at Corinth to be as well. The resurrection was not a secretive, or speculative thing. It was a historical, verifiable fact. Just consider a few of the evidences already mentioned in the opening verses of the chapter.

  1. Christ’s resurrection was a public event. It was not kept secret, but was public knowledge to the point that the religious leaders who had opposed him had to bribe false witnesses to try and cover up the fact that the tomb was empty.
  2. It was grounded in eyewitness testimony. And not just one or two witnesses, but hundreds (500 at one time) in many locations spread over many days. And they did not just catch a glimpse of Jesus from a distance. They talked with him, touched him, and ate with him.
  3. Finally, God’s word itself testified to this truth. His death and resurrection were not unexpected events, but they were foretold in scripture long before.

Because Christ rose again, we have good news to preach, and a sure foundation for our faith. Because he lives, we can be assured that our sins are forgiven, and that those who have fallen asleep in Christ will awaken. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, those who seem pitiful in the eyes of the world end up being the happiest and most blessed people of all.

Results of the Resurrection

On the other side of this affirmation of the certainty of Christ’s resurrection, Paul begins to expand on the results of the resurrection for all those who are in Christ by explaining the relationship between Adam and Christ. [Read 15:21–22]

New Life in Christ

Adam, the first man, sinned, and that sin brought the consequence of death. Because Adam was the representative head of the human race, all those descended from him inherited both the guilt and consequence of his sin. Thus, “in Adam all die”.

Likewise, Christ represented all those who belong to him. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, he did not inherit Adams guilt. He was without sin, and remained so throughout his entire life, keeping the requirements of God’s law perfectly. Having no sin of his own, His death paid the penalty for the sins of his people, and his resurrection proved that he was accepted by God as the perfect sinless sacrifice. Death had no claim on him.

Like Adam before him, Christ represented all those who belong to him. His perfect obedience and sacrifice is accounted to them, and they will share in his resurrection. Thus, “in Christ shall all be made alive.”

This is the good new of the gospel. If you are in Christ, the wrath your sin deserved was poured out on him. By raising him from the dead, God demonstrated his acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice. Now, because Christ is risen you are delivered from the penalty your sin deserves.

From Adam we not only received a sin nature, but we also shared in sins consequence—death. However, Christ has defeated death for those who are his. For now, our bodies still suffer the effects of sin because they have not yet been made new, but when Christ comes again they will be transformed. Death’s last area of dominion will finally be defeated.

Hope of the World to Come

Lastly, the resurrection of Christ give us hope of the world to come. In the second half of verse 20 Paul says that Christ is “the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep”. Firstfruits was an agricultural term that referred to the very first of the harvest which was a foretaste of the greater crop to come. Under the Mosaic law, the Israelites were required to bring an offering of these firstfruits to the Lord.2 This was an reminder that the entire harvest belonged to the Lord. 3 Jesus was the firstfruits in that he was the first to rise from the dead having conquered its power. His resurrection points to the future resurrection of believers.

Because Christ lives we have new spiritual life, and because Christ was resurrected, believers have an assurance of bodily resurrection and life to come. This is what I meant at the beginning when I said that Christ’s resurrection in not only a historical event which happened in space and time, but it is also a present and future reality. If you are in Christ you have been given spiritual life, but there is a day coming when you will have a new resurrected body, free of sin and all its effects. [Read 15:22–23]

Because Jesus rose, we can have complete confidence that those who have fallen asleep in Christ will be raised to new life, that those who are alive at his appearing will be transformed, and that both will be forever with the Lord.

Conclusion: The Dividing Line

The resurrection of Jesus changes everything! It is the ultimate dividing line of humanity. Nations and empires rise and fall, wealth and prestige appear for a little while and then fade away. The only distinction that matters eternally is whether you are in Christ, or in Adam. It all comes down to wither you accept or reject the resurrection of Jesus and its implication—that God raised him up, vindicating him as the one and only Savior.

Let me encourage you in closing, If you are in Christ, then celebrate the resurrection today by resting in him. Because Jesus rose for the dead, your faith is sure, your sins are forgiven, and you do not need to have any fear of death. Church family, remember what Pastor Jeff said last week during communion. Your whole life is a testimony of the cross and power of the resurrection.

Finally if you are not in Christ, if you are still in Adam and under condemnation for your sins, Repent and believe the gospel! That’s it! You can do nothing to save yourself, Christ has already done everything. The work is finished. Come to him by faith and you too will have new life and share in the promise of the resurrection.

  1. Philippians 3:8 ↩︎

  2. Lev 23:10 ↩︎

  3. Rom 11:16 ↩︎