12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 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. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every 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 “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why am I in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” 36 You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. 39 For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. 40 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is 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 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
One of my greatest and most consistent burdens as a pastor has always been to help people really consider the the claims of Christianity. For non-Christians, I want to help them better grasp what it is that they are rejecting. It happens more often than not that when I ask an atheist to describe the god they don’t believe in, I don’t believe in that god either. It’s my hope that by helping them consider the true God, they might believe. And for the professing Christian, most of you all, I want to help you really consider what you claim to believe and whether or not your life makes sense in light of your claim. It is this burden that draws me to title my sermons “The Ridiculousness of Christmas” and “The Incredibleness of Easter” and “The Insanity of Missions”. I earnestly want the sleeping world to really consider Christ.
There is, perhaps, no more significant example of this than Easter. The claims that Jesus rose from the dead and that all who hope in Him will share in His resurrection are truly staggering. My main aims this morning, then, are to call you to consider the nature of the resurrection and then to live like it’s true—live consistently with the facts that Jesus really rose from the dead and you will too! Please pray for God to open all of our eyes to the resurrection and all its implications for all of the world.
THE HISTORICAL BASICS OF JESUS’ RESURRECTION
The first thing I want to help you see is that the resurrection is a fact. It is an actual event that took place in history in the same way that the Declaration of Independence was written in 1776, we landed on the moon in 1959, and Michigan State won the men’s basketball national championship in 2000. For reasons I don’t really understand, Jesus’ resurrection is often treated more like a spiritual lesson to learn from than a historical claim to be accepted or rejected.
For that reason, it is important for us to have at least a basic understanding of the historical accounts that have come down to us. Because the kids did a great job retelling the Easter story for us last Sunday and Mike did a great job as well on Thursday, I don’t intend to do anything more than provide a brief fly-over. However, I can’t urge you enough to really dig into this if you haven’t already. Truly, all of history hinges on the veracity of the claim that Jesus rose from the dead.
In simplest terms and broadest strokes, then, the basic historical claim is that somewhere around 6BC, at the hand of God, Jesus of Nazareth was conceived in His virgin mother’s womb by the Holy Spirit. He was/is the very Son of God and the long-promised Messiah (Christ). For the first 30 years of His life he lived in relative obscurity as a carpenter’s son.
And then, at the appointment of God, the time of His earthly ministry came. For three years He traveled, taught, healed, confronted, and lived as a perfect example of what it means to truly honor God. As Jesus gradually revealed His true nature, He was met by strong reactions from most people. He was increasingly revered by the humble and lowly. Even as He was increasingly despised by the proud, religious leaders. These opposite responses grew and grew until something had to give; and so it did.
On what we now call “Palm Sunday,” Jesus rode into Jerusalem and for the first time, publically and unmistakably presented Himself as Messiah to the hoards of people who had gathered to celebrate the Passover feast. He did this to the extravagant praise of the people and the fierce anger of the Jewish leaders. Throughout the course of the week, however, things changed as the masses realized that Jesus was not the kind of Messiah they were expecting. They were expecting a powerful military leader who would overthrow Rome and restore the nation of Israel to a place of David-like prosperity and power. When it became clear that this was not the kind of Messiah Jesus understood Himself to be, the people quickly buckled under the mounting pressure of the religious leaders.
By the time the Passover meal was actually celebrated, then (Thursday night), the trap had already been laid for Jesus’ capture, torture, and crucifixion. Having been brought through a series of sham Roman and Jewish trials throughout Thursday night and into Friday morning, and having been severely beaten during that time, the final verdict on Jesus was handed down: “guilty” (of nothing in particular). Knowing this was His Father’s plan all along, however, Jesus willingly gave Himself over to be crucified to save the people, not from Rome, but from themselves (from their sins).
By 9am on Friday, Jesus was hanging on the cross. By 3pm he had died. He was put in a tomb and remained there Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning. Then, on that third day He rose from the dead and revealed himself to many in His glorified body. He remained on earth for a number of weeks before ascending to the right hand of the Father, advocating (still) for those who would trust in Him and awaiting His return in power.
Again, the main thing to understand is that this is not presented in the Bible as a parable or as symbolic or as a spiritual lesson. It is presented as a historical fact. Either it is true and we ought all to honor and trust in Jesus as the resurrected Messiah or there are no people more to be pitied than us who have been duped into believing a lie.
Grace, kids, guests, skeptics consider this now. This—the fact of the resurrection—is the only reason to accept the rest of the claims of Christianity and to trust in Jesus as the Christ. This is the foundation of our faith. Everything rises or falls based on whether or not the resurrection is a historical fact or a historical hoax. If it is a hoax, we are right to dismiss every other aspect of Christianity. If it is fact, however, (and it is!) it means that we ought to trust and eagerly submit to everything else Jesus said and did. The rest of this sermon is meant to help you understand what that means and motivate you to go after it in faith. Christ is risen, Grace Church. Let’s live like it.
LIVE LIKE JESUS REALLY DID RISE FROM THE DEAD
With all of that, it’s important to ask what difference the resurrection makes in order to know what living in light of it looks like. It’s clearly a remarkable thing all by itself, but the Bible presents it as much more than some sort of awesome parlor trick. The Bible presents many staggering benefits of the resurrection for those who trust in Jesus. What was accomplished by Jesus’ resurrection?
- The resurrection proved that Jesus truly was the Son of God (Romans 1:4). Let’s live like it in humble awe.
- The resurrection ensured that we have a Savior who can never die again (Romans 6:9). Let’s live like it in unwavering confidence.
- The resurrection gives repentance (Acts 5:30-31). Let’s live like it in turning from our sin to righteousness.
- Living hope and new birth come through the resurrection (1 Peter 1:3). Let’s live like it in expecting victory.
- The resurrection is tied to the forgiveness of sin (1 Cor 15:17). Let’s live like it casting aside all shame and guilt.
- The resurrection was for our justification (Romans 4:24-25). Let’s live like it, walking in freedom.
- The resurrection ushered in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:32–33). Let’s live like it, obeying in a power greater than anything we have in ourselves.
- The resurrection guarantees that there will be no condemnation for those in Christ (Romans 8:34). Let’s live like it in full assurance of our salvation.
- The resurrection secured Jesus’ continual presence and intercession (Matthew 28:20). Let’s live like it, knowing that we are never alone or unheard by God.
- The resurrection is a guarantee that there will be a coming judgment (Acts 17:31). Let’s live like it calling the world to repent and believe.
- The resurrection is a guarantee that we are freed from the wrath of God at the coming judgment (Romans 2:6-8). Let’s live like it by running quickly to the gospel when we stumble.
- Jesus’ resurrection means that death is dead and Christians will rise with Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:14; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:20). Let’s live like it and I’ll tell you how in a minute.
What an awesome, awesome list of resurrection blessings. What, then does it really mean to live in light of these things? Let me suggest just two things.
Worship in the Highest
If I were to ask you to make a list of everything you could possibly want in life, I wonder what would make you’d write on it. Kids, what’s the first thing you’d have on your list? Adults, be honest, what would you write down? The fact of the matter is that if your list isn’t primarily filled with the resurrection-benefits I just mentioned, your sights are set way, way! too low. If ever there was a time to quote C.S. Lewis, it’s here.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (Weight of Glory).
To begin to grasp the resurrection of Jesus and its implications is to be filled with a sense of awe and wonder that cannot be matched. It is to be overwhelmed with a hope and a gladness that nothing else can produce. It is to be filled with amazement and humbleness that is truly unique. And to be filled with that kind of awe and wonder, hope and gladness, and amazement and humility is to filled with the need to express those things back to the source of them all, to the Triune God. That is why the author of Hebrews declares,
Heb 13:20–21 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Grace, let us live like Jesus really rose from the dead. And let us know that doing so means being filled with worship for the Father, and the Son whom He “brought again from the dead,” and the Spirit who grants us eyes to see and behold such things. Praise God, Grace. Praise Him in the highest. Christ is risen!
And secondly, living as if Jesus really rose from the dead means telling everyone we meet. Not merely or even mainly as an obligation (although we are commanded to do so), but ultimately out of an inability to keep it to ourselves.
What would you do if you had a good friend who won the Super Bowl as the starting quarterback? What would you do if one of your immediate family members was part of a NASA team that landed on the moon? What would you do if one of your kids made a billion dollars by developing a life-saving medical device? In each of these cases, amazed by the accomplishment and honored to be so closely connected to it, you would tell everyone! You wouldn’t be able to help it. You just couldn’t keep it to yourself.
Again, C.S. Lewis says it best, “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation” (Reflections on the Psalms).
We can’t not keep our joy in things to ourselves. And the greater the thing, the greater the need to share our joy in it. If you’ve known me for any length of time you’ve heard me speak of the things I most value many times: my family, Fogo de Chao, Smokey’s, Slap ‘ya Mama, stretchy jeans, MSU sports, and impact drivers are near the top.
Above all of those things, and above all things, though is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. If we find ourselves compelled to share those other good things with the people in our lives, how much more must we proclaim the resurrection to the very ends of the earth?!
When I say, “He is risen” and you respond, “He is risen indeed,” you must live like it. And living like it means praising God and telling the whole world.
LIVE LIKE YOU REALLY WILL RISE FROM THE DEAD
Finally, then, we must come to know the resurrection as fact, we must live like Jesus really rose from the dead, and we must live like we will really rise from the dead as well.
1 Corinthians 6:14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.
2 Corinthians 4:14 …He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus…
If you were here last week, you may remember that we briefly considered the “order of salvation.” The order of salvation is an attempt to articulate all that it means to be saved by God. If you remember that, you may also remember that the final two aspects of God’s saving work in us are death and glorification.
Counterintuitively and not a little ironically, for Christians, death is part of our salvation. At death our bodies go into the ground to decay. Our souls, however, are finally and fully made holy by God. From death into eternity, we will never again feel an ounce of desire for anything other than God and His will. Instead, we will be entirely satisfied in God. Our souls will then be brought into the presence of God as we await the return of Jesus.
And the final saving work of God will be the “glorification” of every single person who trusted in Jesus. Jesus did not die just to redeem our souls, but our entire beings. Our glorification, then, is when our bodies are raised from the dead, healed in every way, and reunited with our souls. It is in this condition that we will exist in perfect fellowship with God and man in the new heavens and earth. It is at this point that our salvation will be complete and we will be wholly restored from all of sin’s effects—both spiritual and physical. Awesome.
But how do we know that will happen, when it will happen, and what will it be like? To answer those questions, and a few more, let’s turn to our passage for this morning. There we’ll find six very brief lessons on our resurrection and what it means to live like it’s true.
Jesus’ Resurrection, Our Resurrection, and Our Forgiveness of Sins Are Inseparably Linked (12-19)
There was debate among the Jewish people (the Sadducees, most notably) and within the early Church as to whether or not God’s people will be raised from the dead. Therefore, Paul wrote,
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? … 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
In vs.12-19 Paul argued emphatically that Jesus’ resurrection, our resurrection, and the forgiveness of our sins are all inseparably linked. If one is false, all are false. In other words, if Easter is a lie and Jesus did not raise from the dead, then there is no forgiveness of sins and no resurrection for anyone. Our hope for forgiveness and resurrection both hinge on whether or not Jesus did rise. We will rise. Let’s live like it. That leads to the second lesson.
Jesus Did Rise, We Are Forgiven, and We Will Be Raised (20-22)
As emphatic as Paul was in the previous section, he is even more so here, “20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead…!” More still, “21 For as by a man [Adam] came death, by a man [Jesus] has come also the resurrection of the dead.”
Again, in vs.12-19 Paul argued that Jesus’ resurrection, our resurrection, and the forgiveness of our sins are all inseparably linked. If one is false, all are false. But in the same way, Grace, if one is true, all are true! And since Jesus did rise, there is real forgiveness and resurrection for all who trust in Him. Jesus is risen…and we will rise indeed. We will rise. Let’s live like it.
The Time of Our Resurrection Will a Time of Total Victory (23-28)
Third, we will rise when Jesus returns. “22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”
And when Jesus returns, our passage tells us that he will destroy every rule and authority that have set themselves up against the Father (24). He will put every one of them under his feet, including and finally death itself (25-26). And He will deliver all of the conquered kingdom over to the Father (24).
The time of Jesus return and our resurrection will be a time of total victory for the Son of God and all who have trusted in Him will reign with Him without opposition. We will rise. Let’s live like it.
Our Resurrection Bodies Will Be Glorious, Imperishable, Honorable, and Powerful (35-49)
Forth, the church in Corinth seems to have been all kinds of backwards in their thinking on all kinds of things. Among the things they missed were the facts that the dead in Christ will rise (as we just saw), and that the dead will rise into the kind of glorious condition (that’s why it’s called “glorification”) that Jesus possessed after His resurrection. In 35-49 Paul insists that our resurrection bodies will be glorious, imperishable, honorable, and powerful.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory…42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
As I mentioned above, every defect and weakness in our earthly bodies will be perfectly healed and strengthened. This is when we will run and not grow weary. This is when our divine image bearing will be full. This is when the fullness of life Jesus promised will begin in eternal earnest. We will rise, Grace. Let’s live like it!
Death Will Be Finally Dead when We Rise (50-57)
Fifth, when Jesus returns, all who had previously died will be raised from dust to glory and all who are still alive will be raised straight to glory. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
And when this happens, oh Grace when this happens, 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The death of death that Jesus secured on the cross will finally come to pass. We will be raised, Grace, and when we do, death will be swallowed up in victory. Death’s sting will forever be removed. In our glorified bodies we will live forever in perfect fellowship with God and one another and we will never die. We will rise, Grace! Let’s live like it. But what exactly does that mean? That’s the point of our final point.
We Must Live Now Knowing that We Will Be Raised (29-34, 58)
Paul taught all of this because God inspired him to do so. But God also inspired him to believe it and not doubt. In his life, then, we are given a glimpse of what it really looks like to life to live in light of his unwavering belief that we will be raised from the dead one day.
“30 Why am I in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus?”
Paul lived in constant danger of death and in constant battle with the forces of evil, but because he knew he would rise from the dead, he did so without fear. Paul knew that it is not death to die! And so he was free to obey in courage and confidence. He knew that even if the worst happened on earth, that would not be his end; far from it. He would be raised from the dead like Jesus was, because Jesus was.
The main way we live in light of our resurrection, is through a kind of fearless obedience to the commands of God. We are compelled to worship and share the gospel in light of Jesus’ resurrection and we are free to do so everywhere and always because of ours. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
He is risen, Grace Church! And we will be also. Let’s live like it in all we do, in resurrection power. Amen.