Easter 2004: “Because He Lives :  1 Corinthians 15:12-20

By

Jim Bomkamp

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1.                 INTRO

 

1.1.         In our study today, seeing that it is Easter Sunday, 2004, we are going to set aside our regular study and consider what it means to us as people that Jesus Christ has been raised up from the dead, and that He lives today.

 

1.2.         Since the gospel preaching of the early church always featured prominently the proclaiming of the truth of Christ having been raised from the dead, then I have no qualms with spending one Sunday per year emphasizing the resurrection of Christ in my teaching.

 

1.3.         In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the apostle Paul summarized for us all of the essential doctrinal truths of the Christian faith, and thus the truth of the death and resurrection of Christ are centrally expounded upon in that chapter.

 

1.4.         In our study today, we are going to concentrate upon 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 where Paul has the Corinthians consider the hypothetical question of what if Christ is not raised from the dead,  12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact 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 worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.”


 

2.                 Thomas Jefferson was one of the founding fathers of our nation and a great man, nevertheless he could not accept the miraculous elements in Scripture. He edited his own special version of the Bible in which all references to the supernatural were deleted. Jefferson, in editing the Gospels, confined himself solely to the moral teachings of Jesus. The closing words of Jefferson’s Bible are these: “There laid they Jesus and rolled a great stone at the mouth of the sepulcher and departed.” Thank God that is not all that history records!

 

3.                 Henry Morris has said, “The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. Everything else that was said or done by Christ and the Apostles is secondary in importance to the resurrection. If the resurrection did not take place then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth.”  Truly, if Christ raised from the dead then this fact has far reaching effects and implications.

 

 

4.               Before we consider the implications of Christ’s resurrection, lets consider what the implications are “if Christ has not raised from the dead” :

 

[  NOTE:  Everything mentioned here is really just an extapolation from our text in 1 Cor. 15:12-20 where the apostle Paul causes the Corinthians to consider the hypothetical situation, “If Christ is not raised…” ]

 

4.1.         Jesus would be a liar.

 

4.2.         There is no gospel.

 

4.2.1.  "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain . . . ." (1 Cor. 15:14a).

 

4.3.         The gospel is a worthless message, and a useless focus for faith.

 

4.4.         The message of the Bible is without authority and hollow.

 

4.5.         Our faith is groundless, it is nothing more than wishful thinking.

 

4.6.         Christ is still dead thus He has no power to save us.

 

4.7.         All preaching is to no avail and our faith is useless because it rests upon a faulty foundation.

 

4.8.         The apostles were liars.

 

4.9.         We are spreading a lie.

 

4.10.    Our faith is in vain!

 

4.11.    Our faith doesn’t even have any meaning.

 

4.12.    We are superstitious fools living in a dream world.

 

4.13.    We have no hope for the future.

 

4.14.    Everything we believe, and all of our hopes are nothing more than misplaced confidence in a mirage.

 

4.15.    There are no absolute standards and no future judgment so people on earth might just as well do whatever they want or feel like doing.

 

4.16.    Our loved ones who have died, whom we so greatly desire to see again, are totally perished and any hope of being reunited with them is a false hope.  Christians who have died are forever lost. 

 

4.17.    Every obituary column that mentions a future world and hope in heaven would be a lie.

 

4.18.    Life itself is but a vale of tears or a fleeting dream that will be snuffed out at death.

 

4.19.    The gospel would neither be true nor a living and vitalizing power.

 

4.20.    We are still in our sins.

 

4.21.    There is no redemption and no reconciliation with God.

 

4.22.    We suffer for nothing.

 

4.23.    We are the most miserable people in the world.

 

4.24.    Why bother to go to church? You would be better off somewhere else.

 

4.25.    Why give money to a church or Christian organization? You’re only giving to a lost cause.

 

4.26.    Why bother to serve Him? You’re only wasting your time.

 

4.27.    Why tell others about Him? You might as well save your breath.

 

4.28.    It is indeed "biodegradability" which has the last word about our life – As a website for Christian ecology I read stated.

 

4.29.    The apostle Paul would say, “If the dead are not raised – if this life of risk and sacrifice is my only life – I am a fool. A pitiable fool.”  This means that a deep abiding confidence in the resurrection is what kept Paul going in his life of radical risk-taking love.   This same confidence in the resurrection can be the key that opens a new life for you.

 

 

5.               Illustration :

 

It was June 18, 1815, the Battle of Waterloo. The French under the command of Napoleon were fighting the allied forces of the British, Dutch, and Germans under the command of Wellington. The people of England depended on a system of signals to find out how the battle was going. One of these signals was on the tower of Winchester Cathedral.

Late in the day it flashed the signal: “W - E - L - L - I - N - G - T - O - N - - - D - E - F - E - A - T - E - D - - -.” Just at that moment a fog cloud made it impossible to read the message. The news of defeat quickly spread throughout the city. The whole countryside was sad and gloomy when they heard the news that their country had lost the war. Suddenly, the fog lifted, and the remainder of the message could be read. The message had four words, not two. The complete message was: “W - E - L - L - I - N - G - T - O - N - - - D - E - F - E - A - T - E - D - - - T - H - E - - - E - N - E - M - Y!” It took only a few minutes for the good news to spread. Sorrow was turned into joy, defeat was turned into victory!

So it was when Jesus was laid in the tomb.  Hope had died in the hearts of Jesus’ most loyal friends.  After the frightful crucifixion, the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding had crept in on the friends of Jesus.  They had read only part of the message.  “Christ defeated” was all they knew. But then on the third day the fog of disappointment and misunderstanding lifted, and the world received the complete message:  “Christ defeated death!”  Defeat was turned into victory;  death was turned into life!

 

 

6.               Now, let’s consider the implications of Christ’s resurrection for us His people, or what is true now “Because He Lives” :

 

6.1.         Because Christ is risen, we can receive the forgiveness of sins and the hope of new life not only in this world but also beyond this world.

 

6.2.         Because Christ is risen, we are the most happy of all men.

 

6.3.         Because Christ is risen, we live too.

 

6.4.         Because is risen we are identified with Him. 

 

6.4.1.  Paul wrote in Romans 6:3-4 about the fact that those of us who have come to know Christ as our Lord and Savior have been identified with Jesus in His death and His resurrection and that we are now walking in that resurrection life in Christ, “3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” 

 

6.5.         Because Christ is risen we die and our life is hid with Christ in God.

 

6.6.         Because Christ is risen, we too have the promise of eternal life for He has promised that one day He will raise us up with Him ( in a body just like His ), and from then on we shall always be with the Lord.

 

6.7.         Because Christ is risen, I know that in my flesh I will see God.

 

6.8.         Because Christ is risen we worship.

 

6.9.         Because Christ is risen, He supremely reigns over all creation and brings ultimate victory.

 

6.10.    Because Christ is risen, the victory has been won, Satan, sin, death, hell and the grave have been overcome.

 

6.11.    Because Christ is risen, we are seated in the heavenly places with Him.

 

6.12.    Because Christ is risen He sits on the throne and reigns, and we will also reign with Him.

 

6.13.    Because Christ is risen, our choices and what we do in our life matters supremely for one day ultimate justice will be carried out for all men and women, for all shall stand before Him as judge and give account of our lives.

 

6.14.    Because Christ is risen, the Christian cannot be pessimistic.

 

6.15.    Because Christ is risen, we are never alone.

 

6.16.    Because Christ is risen, death does not have the last word in our lives.

 

6.17.    Because Christ is risen, then faith in Him is not in vain.  Our hope is not uncertain.

 

6.18.    Because Christ is risen, everything has changed!  All of history has the glorified Christ as its center, measure and guide.

 

6.18.1.By the way, remember that even our very calendar is divided by the death of Christ into BC and AD.  Nothing like this can be said of any other religious leader in history.

 

6.18.2.St. Paul writes that we need to "seek the things that are above" and evaluate our lives and our history against the teachings of the risen Christ.

 

6.19.    Because Christ is risen, everything changes and life and history acquire new meaning.

 

6.20.    Because Christ is risen, we can look with new eyes and hearts at every event in our life.

 

6.21.    Because Christ is risen from the dead, it means that it is possible for the Christian to live every moment of every day in the presence and the fellowship of the living Christ.  It means that the Christian approaches no tasks alone, bears no sorrow alone, attacks no problem alone, faces no demand alone, endures no temptation alone.  It means that Jesus Christ does not issue His commands, and then leave us to do our best to obey them alone, but that He is constantly with us to enable us to perform that which He commands.

 

6.22.    Because Christ is risen, the resurrection of believers is an indisputable fact.

 

6.23.    Because Christ is risen, it means that there is a God and that the God of the Bible is the true God.

 

6.24.    Because Christ is risen, He has beaten the curse of death, He's done what is humanly impossible.  His teaching has been validated, He has been proven reliable and most powerful. 

 

6.25.    Because Christ is risen, we know that  every word of God in our scriptures is trustworthy and inerrant and can be relied upon. 

 

6.26.    Because Christ is risen, there is such a thing as absolutes and absolute truth!

 

6.27.    Because Christ is risen from the dead, this confirms His claims to speak and act with the authority of God himself.

 

6.28.    Because Christ is risen from the dead, His truth and His cause live also.

 

6.29.    Because Christ is risen, then your life cannot be as it was before Easter.

 

6.30.    Because Christ is risen, then He is victorious forever and eternal life is already started on earth.

 

6.31.    Because Christ is risen, then life and love ultimately triumph.

 

6.32.    Because Christ is risen, we don’t need to live in fear.

 

6.33.    Because Christ is risen then all the world is the stage for this drama of saving grace, and there is no grain of sand or star in the distant heavens that does not somehow participate.

 

6.34.    Because Christ is risen, you and I must be active partners in evangelizing the world in which we live.

 

 

7.               Now, let us consider the implications for us as Christians of what the resurrection life of Christ “in us” really means to us :

 

7.1.         Paul writes about how the resurrection life is a mystery in 1 Cor. 15:51, something that can be understood in this life only by divine revelation.

 

7.2.         The resurrection life is very much the way the apostle Paul describes the “new creation,” the risen life, the born again life.

 

7.3.         The resurrection life is a life that cannot be touched by death.

 

7.4.         The resurrection life is a new creation: the earthly life is put to death and is replaced with a brand new life that flows out of heaven.

 

7.4.1.  2 Cor. 5:17 tells us, “Therefore if any man is in Christ the old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.”

 

7.4.2.  I tend to think of this new life which we receive in Christ as being sort of like that of the butterfly.  The butterfly does not begin as a butterfly but rather as an ugly green caterpillar.  However, one day that caterpillar spins a cocoon.  Then, when the time is ready out of that cocoon comes a caterpillar.  Everything is different about that butterfly.  Whereas a caterpillar crawled along a butterfly flies.  Whereas a caterpillar is furry and ugly a butterfly is beautiful.   Whereas a caterpillar eats green leaves a butterfly eats nectar.

 

7.5.         The resurrection life is His life.  You've done a swap, remember?  You've changed places.

 

7.5.1.  Remember, the apostle Paul wrote in Gal. 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ.”  This is resurrection life.

 

7.6.         The resurrection life is not just a future hope, but a current crucial aspect of our very existence.

 

7.7.              "The Resurrection is essentially the proclamation that the Reign of God is here, that it is in the midst of the world. The resurrection life is the Reign of God.  To live that life is to live a life in all fullness in spite of the fact that it has to be lived in hardship, pain, and suffering...It is the transfiguration of life and the world not only at the end time but in the ongoing life and history of humankind." (C.S. Song, Jesus and the Reign of God. P. 287, 1993.)

 

7.8.         If, then, the resurrection life is a being in the world which Christ's proclamation creates, and if the content of Christ's proclamation was in the way in which, on God's behalf, He turned the world over to man as his responsibility, then the content of the resurrection life is man's assumption of responsibility for the world as a heritage from God.

 

7.9.         The light of salvation is shining into a world of sin and the light of the resurrection life is shining into a world under the control of death.

 

7.10.    The resurrection life" is manifested in great spiritual power and holiness.

 

7.11.    The resurrection life is not something realized once for all, then to become an independent life.  Rather, it is a life of which Christ is the center and the source.

 

7.12.    The cancellation of bereavement is precisely what the resurrection life is all about.  

 

7.12.1.The highest reward of heaven, however, is that it is a place where we will be with God. We have seen how the most blissful experiences of earthly life give Christians fragmentary glimpses of what the joys of heaven will be like.

 

7.13.    The resurrection life is flowing into me and making me able to do what God wants me to do with all joy and delight.

 

7.14.    The resurrection life is not yet completely the believer's own.  It is still in part hidden, to be revealed fully only at Christ's coming.

 

7.15.    The resurrection life is beyond the power of man. It is the eternal, the invaluable life.

 

7.16.    The resurrection life is not exempt from losing your job, suffering fractured relationships, facing serious illness or losing loved ones, but it is the life that allows us the victory, joy and peace in the midst of these circumstances.

 

7.17.    The resurrection life is not just an event to take place, it is a person who is alive, and with us today.

 

7.18.    The resurrection life is movement and adventure;  it sets out to do something new.  It expects to be surprised.

 

7.19.    The resurrection life is a life of service.

 

7.20.    The Resurrection life is to live the life of a steward of God, using our skills our time and our energies in serving the Lord as we allow Him to flow and work through our life.

 

8.               ILLUSTRATION :

 

Every year thousands of people climb a mountain in the Italian Alps, passing the “stations of the cross” to stand at an outdoor crucifix.  One tourist noticed a little trail that led beyond the cross.  He fought through the rough thicket and, to his surprise, came upon another shrine, a shrine that symbolized the empty tomb. It was neglected.  The brush had grown up around it.  Almost everyone had gone as far as the cross, but there they stopped.

Far too many have gotten to the cross and have known the despair and the heartbreak.  Far too few have moved beyond the cross to find the real message of Easter.  That is the message of the empty tomb and also of the life that we Christians can now live in.  Lets ask the Lord to help us live this year in the reality of what the resurrection life of Christ which is in us is intended by God to be.

 

 

9.               Lets conclude by singing and considering the song “Because He Lives”  by William and Gloria Gaither:

God sent His son, they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal, and forgive.
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

How sweet to hold a newborn baby,
And feel the pride and joy he gives.
But greater still the calm assurance,
This child can face uncertain days because He lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

And then one day I'll cross the river,
I'll fight life's final war with pain.
And then as death gives way to victory,
I'll see the lights of glory and I'll know He lives.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, All fear is gone!
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives!

 

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