Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 27, 2016
Open your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 15:1-19.
Therefore, in light of that, today I want to contend for the faith. I want to stand up and refute your disbelief. My goal today is to persuade you by using the word of God that Jesus has in fact died on the cross and has risen from the dead, and that the reality of His resurrection is the most important reality of your life.
A World Without the Resurrection
To begin, let us first think about a world without the resurrection of Jesus. In our text today, Paul discusses four consequences of a world without the resurrection. The first is found in verse 14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain.”
If Christ is not resurrected then this moment is an utter waste of your time. You would be better off watching an infomercial then sitting here listening to me. In fact, not only would it be a waste of your time, but everything I say to you is a lie. And who in their right mind would want to subject themselves to the rantings of a liar for 45 minutes.
But this wouldn't just be true for my preaching today, but for every Sunday. I have been preaching for three years at Cornerstone Church, that is over 150 sermons. If I spent on average, 12-15 hours in preparation, this means I would have wasted nearly 2000 hours of my life in the last three years to absolute meaningless.
But this would not be only true for me, but also for Billy Grahm, D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wycliff. All of their passionate preaching regarding Jesus was complete vanity. These mighty men of the Church are nothing but straw. Not to mention the Apostles, our author Paul being one of them. In Acts 17:6, these men are described as one “who have turned the world upside.” But if Christ is not risen, it was all for nothing.
And if Christ is still dead it is not only that our preaching is in vain, but so is the faith that springs from it. Once again, look verse 14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” This means that all of you who have heard the preaching and believed the preaching of the resurrection have been duped. The joke is on you. The wool has been pulled over you eyes. But don't worry, you are not alone. Currently there are an estimated 2.2 million self-proclaimed Christians. Christianity is the largest religion in the world, nearly 1/3 of the world claims to believe in the resurrection. But, once again, if the bones of Christ still lay in the dirt, then the resurrection is the greatest hoax ever to have been pulled off.
And this hoax does not just cause people to believe something that isn't true, but it causes radical, life changing transformation. People have left their their jobs, their homes, their comforts and eventually their lives. According to Christianity Today, there have been 70 million people who have laid down their life for Jesus. But, if Jesus did not overcome death, every single one of their deaths is meaningless.
But that is not the worst of it. It is not just that preaching is meaningless and our faith is meaningless but if Christ is not alive, then we are destined to perish in our sins. Look at verses 17-18, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.”
Humanity is the only creature that is governed by a moral code. We all have a sense of what is right and wrong. Why is this? Because we are the only creature created in God's image. This moral code, this law, is instituted by the Law Giver, God, our Creator. The problem, however, is that every single one of us has rejected the Law Giver and his law. This is called sin.
Romans 3:10 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; 11 no one understands; no one seeks for God. 12All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” I don't care how good you think you are, in the eyes of God you are a sinner. We have all rejected God and broken His law, not just once or twice but more times than we can count. In fact in Genesis 6:5 says, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Every... only...continually...evil.
Now many of you may say, how can this be? Simple, if you are made for on singular purpose, and you reject that purpose and go in the opposite direction, every step you take is in defiance to that original purpose. If we are created to love God, trust God, glorify God, yet we reject the reason we exist and live in opposition to God's intent, everything we do, even down to the building of hospital's for children is a sin, it our motive is not to bring glory to God.
None of this sin stuff would be a problem if God was a dead beat Dad, but he is not. He is a Just and Holy God. Every transgression that is committed must be paid for. This is what it means in verse 17, when it says, “you are still in your sins.” This is just another way of saying, that we still owe a debt. So how does Christ not be risen effect that specific debt? This is the reason Christ came. He came to pay our debt. His blood was the restitution that God is owed. If Christ is not risen, that means that God did not accept His payment for our sins. This means that the check signed with the ink of Jesus blood bounced. This means that we still must pay the penalty for our sins. And the place that this penalty is paid is a place created by God to house sinners, Hell. Jesus himself tells us that it is a place of eternal torment. And if Christ is not risen, then Hell is every man's future eternal home.
Therefore, if there is no resurrection, then there is only one conclusion that can be drawn and it is found in verse 19, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” If our preaching is in vain, our faith is in vain, and we are still in our sins destined for Hell, then we are pitiful. So the question is, should we be pitied, or is Christ alive?
To answer this question Paul provides nine pieces of evidence to prove the resurrection. And let me say before we begin, this evidence is a prosecutor's dream. The evidence of the resurrection is overwhelming proof of its reality. So many people claim that Christianity is a blind faith. This is not accurate at all. Christianity is a seeing faith, for we have been given the eyes to see and ears to hear the overwhelming evidence that Christ is a Living King.
Exhibit #1: Verse 3, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” What does that mean? It means the Bible foretold the death of Christ. This is what so many people do not understand. The death of Jesus of Nazareth was not a set of unfortunate events, it was a perfectly ordained plan by God. A plan that he revealed throughout the Old Testament. We do not have time today to go through every one of them, for there are so many, but the most well known is Isaiah 53. Verse 4, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions” Verse 7, “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” The death of Christ was no accident, it was a written down, premeditated murder, orchestrated by God himself.
Exhibit #2: Verse 4, “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” Once again, the resurrection was not back fill. It was not something the disciples dreamed up in desperation, it was foretold long before it happened. We can see this by staying in Isaiah 53 if we want. After describing the death of Jesus it says this in verse 10, “when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” But that is not the only place in the Old Testament that the resurrection is foretold. In fact, after the resurrection, Peter in Acts 2 quotes from Psalm 16:10-11, “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.11You make known to me the path of life” The reason he quotes this passage is to tell the Church that everything is going according to plan. Once again, time does not provide us the ability to go through each an every time the Old Testament pointing forward to the resurrection, for they are too numerous. But make no mistake the resurrection was not dreamed up by some rag tag cult. No, God had called his shot before we swung for the fence.
Exhibit #3: Verse 5, “and that he appeared to Cephas.” Every time I stand in front of a jury, I ask them this question, “What is one of the best pieces of evidence that I could provide you in this case?” You know what every jury says, an eye witness. The jury wants someone to take the stand and swear under oath and tell them what they saw. Peter was one of those eye witnesses. And he was so convinced of the resurrection that he died for it. So either Peter was clinically crazy dieing for a lie that he knew to be a lie, or that he truly saw the risen Savior.
Exhibit #4: Verse 5, “then to the twelve.” Peter was not the only eye witness. There were more, the twelve apostles. In fact, one of the requirements of being one of the twelve apostles was being an eye witness of the resurrection. We see this in Acts 1, the apostles are looking for a replacement for Judas, who betrayed Jesus and hung himself. This is what Peter says in Acts 1:21 regarding the qualifications of being an apostle, “men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” Once again, imagine a jury. Usually, with one eye witness, I can win a jury trial. Just one. With two, even better. With three, it is almost a guarantee. With 12 eyewitness, it is impossible to lose that case. In fact, if I called twelve eye witnesses the Judge would be annoyed at me, for wasting to Court's time. But there is more.
Exhibit #5: Verse 6, “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.” 500 people. Jesus's resurrection was not done in the closet. It was out in the open. As Paul wrote this defense of the resurrection, he dared them to go talk to the people who saw it. Perhaps you can relate to what Paul is doing. Have you ever told someone about some event that took place, and they just won't believe you. Your in frustration you say, “Go ask them yourself. I am not making this up.” This is exactly what Paul is doing. The resurrection was not some quiet hoax, it was a public reality.
Exhibit #6: Verse 7, “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” Who is James? James is Jesus's half-brother. The son of Mary and Joseph. This is important first because James was a leader in the early Church. But second it is important because during Jesus's life James did not believe his brother was the Son of God. John 7:5, “For not even his brothers believed in him.” Once James saw Jesus die and then saw him alive again, his response was to worship him.
Exhibit #7: Verse, 8 “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Paul, the author of this letter, is another eye witness. Just like Peter, Paul gave up everything to serve a resurrected Jesus. And this leads right into Fact #8.
Exhibit #8: Verse 10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Paul's life was transformed because of the resurrection. Before Jesus appeared to Paul, he hated Christians. He thought their leader, Jesus, was a phony. And Paul was literally Hell bent on destroying the Christian faith, but all that change when the resurrected Christ appeared to him. Paul was living proof of the transforming power of the resurrection. He went from hating to loving Jesus. Why? The resurrection.
Exhibit #9: Verse 11, “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” At first, you may wonder, how is this proof of the resurrection? But I believe it is the most powerful proof. There is something persuasive about confidence. Once again, in my job I sit down with people all the time who tell me their story. Some of them are mildly believable, but there are others who are powerfully persuasive. Why? Because what they are saying is true. There is something about truth the resonates within us. This is why billions of people have believed in the resurrection, because it is true. And as this truth goes forth it goes in power and people believe. And this happens every day. In fact, I pray that it is happening as I speak. That as I proclaim this fact that He Has Risen, there is something inside of you that is saying “Yes!” And your new belief is another piece of evidence to put on the pile of Christ's resurrection.
A People to Be Envied
So where does this leave us? It leaves us here. The evidence of the death and resurrection is overwhelming. The only explanation for someone not believing is that your are blind. And by saying that I do not mean to be mean, but to explain the reason Biblically. 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” So my prayer today is that God would lift the veil so that you can see that He has Risen. So that you will recognize that my preaching today is not in vain, nor is the faith of millions, nor are Christians destined to Hell, nor a people to be pitied.
I pray that you will recognize that we are a people to be envied, for we have a hope. A hope that is beyond this World, a hope that spreads out into eternity. A hope that produces joy and peace in this moment. A hope that cannot be taken from us. A hope that is built upon Jesus who has conquered sin and conquered death and He is alive!