Textual Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:12-22
Let’s start with these questions: What are some things that come to your mind when you think about Easter? What are some traditions that are associated with Easter? What is so special about Easter?
As you talk to different people, you get different explanations. Here are a few:
1. Easter eggs for children!
2. It’s a time of celebration: so it’s all about the food! You’ll find that a lot in traditional churches where they’ve observed “lent” for more than a month. They’ve abstained from eating meat so far and so people lose total control of their appetites on Easter!
3. Most people would say…it’s a Christian festival to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. If you go to a Catholic or a traditional church and ask people what the meaning of Easter is, they’ll tell you that Jesus died on Good Friday and rose again on Easter Sunday. And even though that’s factually true, I don’t think they really understand or believe that it really took place. They’ll say it in a way as though it was a legend that was passed down over the ages. The main focus is the festival!
And I think that’s where the original context of this Resurrection Day event matters. Just imagine if all of us existed in Jesus’ day. We noticed him during his earthly ministry, witnessed the great and wonderful miracles he performed: healing the sick, driving out the demons.
We heard his message: Repent and believe in me for the kingdom of God is near! We observed his life: impeccable! Nobody could point a finger at him because he was sinless. He lived a perfect life! And then people falsely accuse him and put him on a cross and crucify Him. After his death, he is buried in a tomb and all that hysteria surrounding him is silenced! So they thought…but in three days he is raised from death and comes back to life! Do you think they celebrated a festival for his resurrection?
No, there was restored joy and hope for all who believed in Him and fear upon those who rejected him. Why? Because if Jesus conquered death, then everything He said about Himself is true and so is the judgment that will come upon those who rejected him! That’s the impact that the resurrection has. It’s not a festival or a feast but an encounter with the risen Lord!
Therefore, Jesus’ resurrection has major and huge implications for our lives today! We’ll attempt to glaze through a few of them in today’s passage: 1 Cor 15:12-22
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 Christ we have hope[a] in this life only, 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.
When you read 1 Corinthians, you realize that this church has a lot of problems. Paul writes this letter to correct these problems. It was a church struggling with division, immorality, idolatry and theological confusion. One of the facts that some of the Corinthians was denying were believers being raised from the dead.
Why would some Corinthians deny the resurrection of the dead? It’s not just because they were confused or ignorant. Rather, a denial of the resurrection would mean hopelessness with regards to the future and also an unaccountable life which gives them the license to do whatever they wanted to do!
V32-34 says “If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right and do not go sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
If there’s nothing to look forward to after we die, then that leaves us with no reason to live a holy life. Therefore, these Corinthians were using this as an excuse to justify their promiscuous lives.
And the way Paul puts it: he says it’s a BIG issue! You can’t allow this to slip under the rocks. It’ll ruin the entire foundation of our faith.
We’ll try and understand this by first looking at the resurrection event and then its effect!
1. Event of the Resurrection
v12, 13: 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.
The argument being, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then even Christ has not been raised! And if Christ is raised, then there is a resurrection of the dead!
So let’s answer this question first: Did Christ really rise from the dead? If this question is answered then every other question is laid to rest.
A. The Empty Tomb: Jesus was publicly executed in the most torturous manner and then placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Council. 3 days later a few women claimed that the tomb was empty! This is publicly verifiable! As we all know, Jesus had a hostile opposition. They could have easily squashed the news that Jesus rose from the dead by producing a body which they certainly tried to do. But they couldn’t…the tomb was empty and the body was nowhere to be found.
B. Jesus’ Post-Resurrection Appearances: One thing we need to remember is that the Bible is also a historical book which lists events in history as they were.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (1 Cor 15:3-7)
This letter was written within 20 years of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Paul explicitly states the number of people who saw Jesus after his resurrection and also provides names of people “who were still alive”. If anyone wanted to cross-check and cross-examine these witnesses they could do it and confirm if Jesus truly rose from the dead or not.
These are two of the many reasons for believing that the resurrection of Jesus actually took place. These facts and witnesses that can be examined to verify the accuracy of the events and authenticity of the claims!
2. Effect of the Resurrection
So Jesus’ resurrection is Real and Accurate! How does that impact us is probably the question on your minds? It has everything to do with us.
In other words, the resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith!
a. Christ’s resurrection settles our debts once and for all
V17: 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 Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
We know that the main reason why Jesus came into the world was not to be a moral teacher or a miracle worker. He came to die and give his life as a ransom for many (Mk 10:45) Jesus lived a perfect life completely in obedience to God. He lived the perfect life that we could never live. His death on the cross wasn’t because he deserved it…he died as a substitute for our sins. All our sins were placed on Him and he paid the penalty of us all. His resurrection was God’s stamp of approval on the sacrifice. God completely accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf and it means that
ALL of our sins are totally paid for!
Rom 4:25: He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
How awesome is that! One sacrifice of Jesus now makes us right before God!
b. Christ’s resurrection seals our resurrection!
V20-22: 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.
Not only are we presently in right terms with God but even our eternity is secured by His resurrection!
What’s the biggest fear in the hearts of men? It’s the same fear for the richest person in the world and the poorest person in the world. No matter how successful you are, you still won’t have an answer to the problem of “Death”. Even if you take all of the health precautions, that still doesn’t guarantee a long, never ending life. Everyone fears death!
But here’s the amazing truth for everyone who believes and trusts in Jesus for their salvation, know that your earthly death won’t be an end in itself! That’s why Paul uses the term “fallen asleep” and not dead. Just like Jesus was raised from the dead, everyone who trusts in Jesus as their Lord will be raised to life! The greatest enemy and fear was conquered by Jesus! Jesus reduced the impact of death to nothing with His victory over the grave. Death is no longer a consequence for believers in Christ!
You might wonder how does that take place. How can Christ’s life, sacrifice and resurrection be closely tied to mine? How does Christ’s resurrection impact my resurrection?
The reason is because believers are united to Christ in a very special way. Union with Christ is a very key theme in the Bible. It’s the same reason why Christ’s death for sins has been shared by us. It’s the same reason why the righteousness of Christ has been attributed to us. It’s the same reason why the close fellowship with God also been gifted to us. Similarly, our union with Christ also insures us of a resurrected body just like his!
Eg: How a married couple can share the financial benefits of their union with each other….
That’s how important and significant Christ’s resurrection is for us!! Let’s look at the application:
i. It empowers us to be focused on the mission:
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. V58
After a long discussion on resurrection, Paul exhorts the believers to be steadfast in the work of the Lord. It is because Christ was raised from the dead, and we too shall be raised from the dead, that we should continue unswervingly in the Lord’s work. Everything we do to bring people into the kingdom and build them up will have eternal significance, because we shall all be raised on the day when Christ returns and we will all live with him forever.
This is point that needs to be driven home! Christians living with the knowledge of the resurrection can’t be living for themselves! They can’t be living without a purpose. Christ and His mission are constantly on the forefront! Just imagine being like Jesus and with Jesus forever…1 John 3:2. We know how the story is going to end. We know what Christ is doing in the city of Mumbai and all over the earth and we know what He calls us to participate in! Every other ambition or purpose pales in comparison to the joy of serving God in building His kingdom. Maybe Christ’s mission not been the single focus of your life so far. In the light of the resurrection, would you surrender yourself to be steadfast in the work of the Lord?
ii. It demands us to stop yielding to sin in our lives:
Rom 6:11-13: In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
When you evaluate your life, in which areas do you find yourself yielding to sin? Where is God asking you today to kill the sin in your life? What would it mean for you to offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness?