THE GOSPEL OF THE RESURRECTION (1)
(What Good News!)
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Key Verses: 15:3&4
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..."
Paul wrote a long letter to Corinth, trying to direct them toward serving God well in their day. They had many shortcomings and trouble, like factions among themselves, sinful young man sleeping with his father's wife, gluttonous people eating all the food at the charity dinner fellowship and a lot of theological questions about their spiritual gifts and even how to conduct fellowship or worship service. On top of those practical issues, they were quite confused about the resurrection. They were curious what it means to rise from the dead and they wanted to know how to prepare or what to look forward too. Surely they also wondered when it would happen and if their family and friends are included. Some even worried the resurrection already happened, meaning the rest may have missed the chance to go to heaven. In Chapter 15, Paul shares some intricate details and arguments about the resurrection from Christian perspective.
1. ... hold firmly to the word I preached to you.
Let's read verse 1&2. "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain." Considering all the issues that Paul already wrote about, he recognized that the Corinthians might be in great danger of losing track of the real gospel. There were many people distorting the Gospel among all churches, even less than 30 years after Jesus died. Most famous of the "false gospel" preachers are known as Judaizers. They were sure that gentile Christians must implement all the Jewish customs and religious rituals based on Moses’ writings. There were also factions growing among the Corinthians based on their own allegiance and thought worlds. Some wanted to follow Peter, others Apollos and some Paul. All those ideas were straying away from the message that saves people. So, Paul took a break from practical applications to remind them of the gospel he preached to them at first.
The Corinthians are real 1st generation believers who took their stand on Paul's message. It means they heard about Jesus and made a decision to trust him for salvation, turning away from their many different religions and worldly hopes. Some of us heard the Gospel very faithfully since they were kids. Others heard about the gospel here and there, but did not pay much attention for many years. There are some here that grew up in other religions altogether. How long we heard the gospel and how closely we listened to it vary, but there are two things Paul said that Christians should have in common. We should take a stand on the gospel at some point, and we should hang our lives on the gospel to the end. Paul wrote, "... you are saved, if you old firmly to the word I preached to you..." We learned the difference between holding firmly to Paul's gospel and compromising with our own ideas through his letter to the Romans. He taught us in Romans 3 that soul saving "righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile ..." In this way, Paul's gospel is rather narrow. By specifying ¡°faith in Christ¡± it excludes other religions and other ideas of what makes us righteous. Standing firm on this gospel will always have conflicts and we are tempted to add or subtract something to make Paul's gospel more compatible with our ideas. Just a few weeks ago, we heard of a professor at a Christian college who told the students that Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same God. I never heard of a Muslim or Jewish person who believes Jesus is the Son of God and that he died for their sins and rose again according to the scriptures. Such thinking is opening the door to all kinds of compromise these days. The professor got suspended and later decided to quit over this issue. The university also got some bad press for standing firm to the gospel. Cases like this show how we are tempted to treat Paul's gospel lightly no matter when or where we live. They show how easy it is to invent our own gospel and spread our own ideas like gangrenes. I pray we all will take our stand on Paul's gospel, described in the Christian Bible. I pray we'll hold firmly to Paul's gospel to the end. He gives us the quick summary of his gospel in the next verses.
2. Christ died for our sins
Paul shares the main facts of his gospel in verse 3&4. "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, ..." Paul considered this message the matter of first importance. There are three or four important concepts in his gospel. The reason Jesus died, the fact that he really died and the unimaginable reality that he was raised from the dead. Alongside them all is the fact that they happened according to the scriptures.
Consider the idea that Christ died for our sins. Why it is so important? For one thing, Paul's gospel make is very clear what Christ's mission and purpose were in this world. It is easy to doubt about Jesus being Christ, if one listens to what the Jewish people were expecting Christ to do. They expected a political kingdom of God in this world, starting with Christ in Israel. Jews still reject the gospel because they expect the Christ to be a king on this earth, like David or Caesar who rules the world with armies and politics. Paul's gospel tells a very different story about the Christ. He said. ¡°Christ died for our sins¡±. He did not come to make Israel or any other nation as we know it the leading empire over the whole world. Jesus came to open the way for people of every nation to enter God's kingdom where they will live forever.
The fact he died for our sins is also a matter of first importance. Sin is devastating and deadly rebellion against God, with dreadful consequences beyond this life. The Bible study guide led us to think deeply about the reality and consequences of sin. Verses in Hebrews and Romans reminded us that "...the wages of sin is death ..." and, "... man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment..." Then one question asked "What comes next?" after dying and judgment. It led us to read Revelation 21 where there is described a fiery lake that burns all ungodly and sinful things forever. It's very scary, but seems like an eternal reality. Jesus also taught about eternal consequences of sin. He told his disciple not to worry much about what man might do to them, because at worst, our fellow man can only kill our bodies. Jesus counseled us to fear God the most, because he has power to destroy our body and our souls in hell. He said it is better to go to heaven with one leg or arm and blind in one eye than to be cast into hellfire where the worm that eats you never dies, and the fire that burns is never quenched. Why such a terrifying end for sinners?
We have to remember that when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they sinned and brought the whole creation under the curse of death. God made the universe good, for mankind to enjoy forever, but when they sinned, the whole thing was tainted and unacceptable to God. It is our fault, and we are suffering many ways because of death and decay all around us. I guess there are many ways that we die in this world, but I think disease, bodily failure and fatal injuries seem most prevalent. But the curse of death seems to reach much further. I even saw a news that said secular scientists now agree that eventually, everything thing in the universe as we know it seems to be dying and will eventually fizzle out, something like how fireworks go out in the sky. This spiral toward deadness all happens because of the curse that came on this world when Adam sinned. Since then, mankind has been unable to escape from the power of death. Isn’t that a miserable situation? God was the most heartbroken and unhappy about it, so he decided to fix it by sending Jesus to die for our sins, providing atonement and redemption for us and the whole creation! Hallelujah! It is wonderful Good News! God does not want us it to be ruined forever. He loved the world so much that he sent his only begotten son to save whoever would believe on him, helping them crossover from death to life! Thank God.
Paul did not spend so much time elaborating about sin in this letter. He only mentioned it in one brief sentence. I don't know why I wrote so much about our sins either. Maybe we have to know the horror of our sins, to understand how truly good Paul's good news is.
3. He was buried
How about the other parts of his gospel? Let's read verse 3&4 again. "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures. The fact that Jesus was buried seems easy to overlook. There are not so many messages based on Jesus burial as there are based on our sin and his death to save us. Some years ago, there was a movie called "The Passion of Christ" that showed Jesus trial and crucifixion. While it was in the theaters, I wondered what would happen if somebody made a movie called, the Burial of Christ. I think it would be very boring to only stare at a picture of the tomb for two hours. Why was Jesus being buried a matter of first importance? There are some ideas that Jesus did something while his body was in the tomb, but we simply cannot be sure if Jesus did something outside of his body during that time. One thing we Christians believe is that his burial was also according to a scripture from Isaiah; specifically, that was assigned a grave with the wicked people of earth and with the rich in his death. We believe it came true when a rich man named Joseph took Jesus' body and put in his own tomb.
The gospel stories say there were guards placed at Jesus' tomb and a seal set on the entrance so that no one would be able to go and steal his body. The leaders of the day did that to protect their reputations. They understood Jesus' own promise to rise on the third day. They were in fear for their lives because they were acting against God at the very time they ought to have been leading people to Jesus the most. What if he really rises from the dead? Those leaders will be exposed as false teachers who have no concept of who their Messiah really is.
One other thing I came to mind when I thought of Jesus being buried. It happened because he was really dead, beyond all doubt. Pilate was surprised to hear Jesus died so soon on the cross, but after his body was pierced by a spear the report was confirmed. (That also happened according to scriptures in the Psalms and Zechariah.) Knowing he was dead as could be, there was no reason to let his body lie "in state" as if he were sick or possibly comatose from an injury. Jesus’ time in the tomb shows he suffered death, on behalf of all those who believe in him. Jesus the son of God, laid down his life as a ransom for many, and his burial with the secure tomb set the perfect stage for his resurrection. Though they tried to cover it up with a lie, the secure tomb made sure that none of the leaders who condemned him will be able to deny Jesus has risen when they come before God at the judgment.
4) "... he was raised on the third day ..."
Let's read verse 3&4 again. "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, " When I considered this part of Pau’s summary, I started to think Paul was so brief about Jesus' death and burial because he really intended to preach only about the resurrection. In context of the rest of this chapter, to be ¡°raised from the dead¡± ¡°according to the Scriptures¡± seems especially relevant in verse 4. Resurrection of the dead was a theological hot issue in the Jewish community. We can read of one argument about that between Jesus and the Sadducees. Paul caused a riot by mentioning the resurrection of the dead in front of the Jewish court in Acts 23. It should be no surprise that the controversies about resurrection would spill over to the Christian communities too. To any logically thinking person, a resurrection of the dead was probably a very difficult thing to consider. Maybe it's possible to believe in a transportation of our souls, but reviving our bodies after injuries and old age is too hard. How can a person be resurrected if their body was cremated or devoured by pigs? These are logical observations, but many other reasons to doubt the resurrection were swirling around. So, Paul added the fact of Jesus' resurrection to his list of issues that are a matter of first importance.
The gospel Paul preaches provides the same hope often described in the Hebrew Bible. Job testified about his hope to see God in his flesh. They say Abraham had to believe God would raise the dead, or he would not have been able to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. King David's hope to rise from the dead is the one that the Apostles quoted several weeks after Jesus resurrection as they preached about it to a large crowd. David wrote: "'... my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your holy one see decay." Peter taught us that King David "... spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay." These are just a few. Isaiah 26:19, says: ¡°... your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy." Daniel wrote something similar in Daniel 12:9 "many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." Jesus told his disciples plainly that he would rise on the third day, so Paul is clearly agreeing with the other apostles testimony of the times. Nobody can say Paul was preaching his own gospel or his private account of Jesus' resurrection. In fact, he shared the name of many who met Jesus face to face and mentioned more than 500 brothers, most of whom were still living, in case anyone had a doubt about the story. Paul was not making up the idea that Jesus rose from the dead, but sharing the same good news all the other apostles shared at the beginning. We are going to learn more about the need for dying and rising again in the coming messages. The matter of first importance at this moment is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.
Why is that so important? First thing I thought of was the fact that Jesus won the victory over sin and death. His resurrection gives us sure hope that there is life after death. If there is nothing to look forward too, then our life here on earth is meaningless. Believers can thank God for hope to live forever in Jesus, if we know he truly rose from the dead. Second thing I thought of is that knowing Jesus is alive, puts a lot of things in perspective for his followers. He is worthy of our allegiance, and able to help us with our biggest problem. Swearing allegiance to a dead leader is useless, there is nothing they can do to help you. We also see that if Jesus rose from the dead, his other promises are trustworthy and sure. Compare it to putting your money in a bank. You should save money in a bank that pays interest, or you are wasting your time. Even worse, if you put money in a bank that is out of business, there is no benefit. Can bank that is out of business pay any return on your savings? No way. The same problem happens if our Christ is dead. He told his followers that he would rise on the third day, so if he did not, Jesus is a fake. He told the Jews who tested him that they would know he is telling the truth based on the sign of the Prophet Jonah, who was three days and nights in the belly of the sea creature. In the same fashion, Jesus told them that he would spend three days and nights in the heart of the earth. Even more exactly, he spoke to them with a parable about his body when he challenged them to destroy his temple and watch him raise it again in three days. It was a prophetic statement about his death and resurrection. Because it happened as he said, we trust that Jesus is alive and we have confidence that all his words and promises are true.
In all these things, Paul agrees and testifies that Jesus resurrection happened just as the Apostles testified and that his resurrection was in accordance with the scriptures that all Jewish people learned from their childhood. We can have confidence in their testimonies too. Let's read verse 3&4 one more time. "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,"
5) ... this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.
Paul shared his testimony in verse 9 and 10 confessing that he was not worthy to be known as an apostle and he thanked God for the grace allowed him to work harder than all the other apostles to preach the gospel. There is a gracious lesson for us in his testimony and the life of the other apostles. Many other apostles were also unlikely types to be witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Among the twelve were fishermen, a tax-collector, a militant tough guy and other country boys from Galilee. We can thank God that he calls unworthy people to serve him and inherit his kingdom when they believe the good news of Jesus’ kingdom.
The same is true for Corinthians and all other gentiles. Paul noted earlier in this letter, that there were not many wise, rich or of noble birth among them. It's a miracle that they believed a Jewish guy who died many years earlier is the one who can save them from sin. They were doing their best to transform their lives and eager to understand their place in God’s world mission plan. They are not much different from us. We might be better off because we have many letters from the apostles to study, but practically speaking, we have the same human security fears, same selfish tendencies, same doubts and the same struggle to stand firm on the Gospel to the end. While I studied this passage I lamented that I am not wise or knowledgeable about the Bible. Though I learned the Gospel many years, I noticed my scripture knowledge is very low. I don’t know how all the scenes of the gospel happened according to the scriptures. I searched around several hours trying to grasp many greater theological insights about how Jesus dying, burial and resurrection work according to the scriptures, but I quickly noticed there are many higher level concepts than I can understand well. All I could do was thank God for his amazing grace that gives me faith that Jesus my savior has risen from the dead. It’s a very I thanked God for the Gospel stories and a few letters that share many scripture verses that come true in Jesus. The gospel shares many times, ¡°this happened that the scripture might be fulfilled. The letter to Hebrews makes the law and prophets come alive with testimony of how Jesus accomplishes all that humans cannot achieve to make us right according to God’s law. There are also glimpses of eternity in there letters, where all the sorrow and sinful tragedy we know in this world will be gone. Thank God for the gospel Paul and the apostles preached which transforms unworthy, hard hearted sinners like me into servants of God who may share the work of preaching his kingdom to the ends of the earth. I pray all here may believe the gospel Paul preached and find comfort that the scriptures are fulfilled as we study the gospels and apostles letters one by one. Let’s read the key verse again and pray. "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..."
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