Wednesday, July 1, 2015

1 Corinthians 15:12-19... Satan's Waterloo (a sermon)

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 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. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Anticipating the worst, England braced itself for news from the front. Their embattled general, Wellington, faced the notorious warmonger, Napoleon, in a winner-take-all battle that would determine the fate of all Europe.

Napoleon’s objective was clear - to extend the borders of France BY FORCE till the whole of Europe submitted to his rule.

The future of the British Isle was uncertain. The English waited for news on bated breath.

There were no cell phones or 24-hour cable news networks in those days. Their best mode of mass communication was “semaphore.” A ship would sail into the harbor, use flags to signal a message to a watchman stationed atop Winchester Cathedral, who in turn would signal that message to another and another till news had reached the whole realm.

When the ship came into harbor to report news from the front, the signalman began his message. First word, “Wellington.” Next word, “Defeated.” Before another word could be signaled, heavy fog moved in and obscured the messenger.

England plunged into mourning as the news, “Wellington Defeated,” traveled to every village and hamlet across the English countryside.

Three hours later, the fog lifted and the REST of the message came through, “Wellington Defeated - - the Enemy!”

Which reminds me of the day they placed our Lord’s broken body in the tomb. On all accounts, the message was “Christ defeated.” But three days later, the fog lifted and the good news rang out – “Christ defeated - - the enemy!!!”

For 2,000 years, no other message has brought greater hope and joy than the message “He is risen!” But in recent decades, Satan has launched a massive propaganda campaign to sew seeds of doubt in the minds of many regarding our Lord’s resurrection. Every year or two some story circulates that acts like a thief - stealing what little faith our world might have had.

Tragically, it has been successful. Even some formerly great “Christian” denominations and colleges, are questioning the validity of this long held doctrine of the church. But they fail to understand the implications of a dead “savior.”

This controversy surrounding the resurrection is NOT new. All the way back to the first century, Christians were ridiculed for believing the resurrection.

The city of Corinth was something of a paradox. Though immoral to the core, still there were those who enjoyed discussing religious and philosophical ideology. It mattered not that their religious speculations made no impact on their behavior. To THEM, a man whose lifestyle may seem reprehensible to US, had just as much right to engage in religious debate as the most orthodox and upright.

The widespread rejection of the resurrection had proved difficult for that little body of believers to overcome. Some were waffling in their faith. But they had failed to consider what this compromise might mean. So Paul asks, “how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” And what follows is a list of 7 disastrous consequences that would result if such a compromise is taken to its logical conclusion:

1. First, if there is no resurrection, then Christ is not risen. You can’t get much plainer than verse 13, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.”

The reason many Corinthians had made this disconnect in their minds, that Jesus’ resurrection in NO WAY guarantees OURs, is because many false teachers preached that Jesus was not fully man. “Since Christ was God,” they said, “He was not ACTUALLY human, and therefore he was not subject to death.” They said, “When the disciples saw Jesus after the resurrection, they only THOUGHT they were touching a human body.”

But that view doesn’t square with the NT, does it?

The Gospels clearly prove Jesus was human. He was physically born to a human mother. He ate, drank, slept, and grew tired just like any other man. He felt real pain when He was beaten. He shed REAL blood when he was crucified, and his human body died – as was verified by Roman soldiers.

When He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He encouraged them to TOUCH and see that he was not an apparition… a ghost – but actual flesh and bone. He ATE with them.

The Corinthians had failed to understand that Jesus HAD to be human in order to PAY for our sins. He HAD to DIE because OUR redemption REQUIRED it.

Jesus was truly God…and truly man. At Pentecost, Peter said, “Jesus of Nazareth, a MAN approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did BY Him in the midst of you, as you ALSO know, Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” Later in that same sermon, Peter said, “This Jesus -- hath God raised up -- whereof -- we are ALL witnesses.”

John, years later, warned the church, saying, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do NOT acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. THIS is the deceiver and the antichrist.”

Paul would not allow the Corinthians to chase after the false doctrine that Christ only APPEARED to be human. No, He was FULLY man. He physically LIVED, DIED, and LIVES AGAIN! He HAD TO to be our SAVIOR and REDEEMER.

Therefore, if there is no such thing as bodily resurrection, THEN not even Christ is raised.

2. Secondly, if there is NO resurrection, the Gospel is meaningless. He said in v. 14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” The church would be perpetrating the greatest fraud known to man if they had ACTUALLY found the bones of Jesus. What we DO here would make NO SENSE and NO DIFFERENCE without the resurrection.

Paul had just told them that the resurrection of Jesus was the HEART of the gospel. The word “Gospel,” literally means “Good news.” Without the resurrection, there is no good news and all our preaching would have NO meaning whatsoever. If Jesus is still in the tomb, we need to CLOSE our doors, because, WITHOUT the resurrection, Jesus could NOT have conquered sin, death, and hell, and those great evils would forever hold the human race hostage.

3. Third, Paul says that Faith in Christ would be meaningless without the resurrection. v. 14, “your faith is vain.” The word “vain” means “empty… void of effect... of no value.” His point? A dead savior cannot save. He cannot give life if He doesn’t have it to give. If Christ did not rise, then we would agree with the discouraged psalmist who wrote in Psalm 73, “Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure.” We would agree with the misguided servant quoted in Isaiah 49, who said, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent my life for nothing.” If there is no resurrection, the Spiritual Hall of Fame found in Hebrews 11 would be the Hall of the Foolish. Great men of old, like Abraham, Moses, and David, were faithful for nothing. The Apostles would have all been mocked, beaten, and put to death – for nothing.

4. Fourth, if there is no resurrection, all of the eye-witnesses of the resurrection are liars of the worst sort according to v. 15.

There is no possibility that such a mistake could have been innocently or naively passed on. Those men were not honest men who unwittingly gave bad advice. If Christ was not raised from the dead, they are all liars of the worst sort, who would have had to conspire together for their lies to remain consistent.

Why would anyone consider them to be men of high moral character and their teachings inspiring, IF they so blatantly falsified their testimonies about Jesus? Not only would they be liars, they would be STUPID liars, because they willingly endured ridicule, imprisonment, torture, and death in order to preserve a lie.

And what’s more, not only did the prophets and the apostles lie, if there is no resurrection, JESUS lied. For He prophesied before His death, “The Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: and they shall KILL Him, and the third day He shall be raised AGAIN!”

The Lord had received word that one of His dearest friends had died. Often he had stayed in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. When Lazarus died, his sisters were devastated. Jesus showed up AFTER the funeral had already taken place... FOUR DAYS AFTER his death, and the body of our Lord’s friend was secure in the tomb.

When Martha saw Jesus, she spoke from a broken-heart and said, “Lord, if you had only been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” She might as well have said - “Lord, why didn’t you answer our prayers? Don’t you care???”

Jesus answered, “Your brother WILL rise again.” THEN He said, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though He were dead, YET shall he live!” And Christ was led to the tomb where that voice that commands myriads of Angels cried out, “Lazarus, COME FORTH!” And John says, “And he that was dead… came forth!”

Had Jesus not qualified who He was talking to, every man, woman, boy and girl in that graveyard would have come to life!!!

SO, if there is no resurrection, Jesus is a liar.

5. Fifth, and here is where Paul gets personal, if there is no resurrection, then there is NO SOLUTION for man’s sin. Listen to verse 17, “And if Christ has not been raised… you are still in your sins.” Without the resurrection, the greatest Christian is no different than the vilest pagan. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, SIN WON, SATAN WON, and DEATH REMAINS the ULTIMATE CONQUEROR and continues to destroy all those it touches.

If Jesus is still dead, then YOU, my friends, are still dead. For the Bible is clear when it says “The wages of sin is death!” The whole reason we are encouraged to place our trust in Christ ANYWAY is because sin has condemned each one of us to an eternity of separation from God. Our faith in Jesus is the only thing that gives us any HOPE of heaven.

BUT, if Christ is still in the tomb, then our sins are STILL counted against us and we will spend all eternity separated from God!

6. Sixth, if there is no resurrection, then all our deceased loved ones are in hell today. For Paul says in verse 18, “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” Every person who has ever lived, all those we have loved and respected – people who taught us the Bible and lived it before our eyes, who loved us and shared God’s love with us – without the resurrection, their bodies become dirt and their souls are consigned to hell’s all-consuming flame. Your fond memories of family, the hope of being reunited with them in heaven – if there is no resurrection, it’s all make-believe.

7. THEN Paul offers ONE MORE consequence – without the resurrection, those who believe are THE MOST pitiful people on earth according to v. 19.

Can you imagine how SAD life would be without the resurrection??? With no Savior, no forgiveness, no gospel, no meaning, purpose, or hope??? We would have spent our lives working for nothing, sacrificing for nothing, praying for nothing, giving for nothing.

A Christian has no Savior BUT Christ, and if Christ is not raised, we have no Savior.

There are only two positions a person can take in this thing: Either you believe that Jesus IS alive – OR – He is dead.

In which camp are you?

I don’t know about YOU, but I BELIEVE in the resurrection. And BECAUSE I believe, I have the Lord’s promise - one day in the future, I have a home in heaven waiting for me. UNTIL then, I have His peace, purpose, and love in my heart. I have a hope that one of these days I’m going to see My Lord face to face. One of these days I will be reunited with my loved ones who have died in Jesus. I will never again feel the sorrow of death…

As Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though He were dead, YET shall he live!” Then He asked Martha, “Do you believe this?”

Do YOU believe this? Do you want to place your trust in THIS resurrected Lord? Why not do that right now, here, in the company of friends who have ALSO made this decision. Will you?

We are going to give you that chance, right now…