What the Resurrection Means
Sermon Text: 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, 12-22
Happy Resurrection Sunday! Today is a special day in the life of the Church. This is a day we set aside to celebrate a significant historical event that impacts everyone. The hope of mankind rests on the validity of that single historical event—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His tomb is empty. Jesus is alive. That is what Easter means. That is what we are celebrating today. Maybe you are saying to yourselves, “That all sounds great but it has no bearing on me.” Maybe you believe that you are Ok and do not need any of this Jesus stuff. The truth of God’s Word is that He has clearly answered that objection. The good news from God is that Jesus’ death and resurrection is God’s definitive answer to who Jesus is and our desperate need for Him.
We all have a tremendous need for purpose. We want to know why we are here on planet earth or what we are supposed to do here. We can seek various things to fill our lives with purpose – family, friends, work, and possessions – but in the end, there is a God-shaped hole in each of us that only He can fill. We can run from it if we want, but we will never be whole until we come to Him realizing our absolute need for Him. It is like a medical condition where the doctor only addresses the symptom without healing the underlying cause. If you tackle a medical problem with the wrong medicine or the wrong treatment, then you will not be cured. You will still have a problem. We are all sick with something called sin – we want to do things our way and not God’s way. But, thankfully, God has provided the answer we seek and the cure for the disease that plagues us. It is in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a message of hope.
We see this clearly in the passage from First Corinthians chapter fifteen. Paul wrote the letter of First Corinthians to a church that was struggling with various issues about how to live out their Christian faith in the world. Paul wrote to the church in the city of Corinth to respond to those issues, and in chapter fifteen of the letter, the longest chapter of the letter, he addressed the topic of the resurrection. In fact, this chapter represents probably the most comprehensive discussion of the resurrection in the entire Bible. Paul began the chapter reminding the church of the message of hope he had preached to them:
1 Corinthians 15:1–2 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is Good News
This “good news,” which is what the word “gospel” means, was something in which the believers in that church were firmly established – they believed it. It was also something that was “saving” them. There was a sense of having been saved, or being declared right with God. There was also a sense of the Corinthian believers being saved, or being made righteous. The Christian faith is one that recognizes that Christians have made a decision for Jesus Christ and are declared right before God, but they are also in the process of being made righteous, where their behavior is conforming to that of Jesus Christ. Paul explained this good news, the gospel, as the following:
- Jesus Died for Our Sins
- Jesus Was Buried in a Tomb
- Jesus Was Raised from the Dead
That is the good news – Jesus died, was buried, and was raised! Maybe that does not sound like good news to you. But, in order to have good news, there must have been some bad news, and the passage told us what that was. The bad news is that we are sinners. We are separated from God because we are all born with a nature to do those things that God has told us not to do. This is sin – breaking God’s law. God is holy and we are not! And the penalty of this condition is death – a spiritual death, an eternal separation from our Creator. Scripture declares that the “wages” of sin is death. We earn death by being sinful. That is the bad news!
But the good news is that we have hope. The good news is that God so loved the world, that He sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, who is fully divine and fully human, to be the payment for our sin. We earned death, but God paid what we owe for sin through His Son, Jesus Christ. Paul reminded us in the passage that Christ died for our sins. Over two thousand years ago, in the city of Jerusalem, God’s one and only Son, who was innocent and sinless, was condemned by the Roman authorities and killed by the definite plan of God. God laid on Jesus the sin of us all. The wrath that we justly deserved was placed on God’s Son, who died and was buried in a borrowed tomb. God’s plan all along was that He would send His Son as “a ransom for many.” Jesus died for us, so that we would not endure the wrath of God, the penalty of our sin.
But that was not the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say. That is not all of the good news. If we stop with the crucifixion, we have not told the entire story. You cannot separate the Cross of Christ from the Resurrection of Christ. You cannot separate Good Friday from Easter Sunday. The two go together. The good news of Jesus Christ is that three days later, after Christ had been beaten, crucified on a cross, and buried in a borrowed tomb, God demonstrated His love and power by rolling the stone away from that tomb, and raising His one and only Son to new life. Death could not defeat Him. The grave could not keep Him. God raised His Son, who had died for our sins, to new life. And this was prophesied hundreds of years before Christ. This is why Paul wrote that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, was according to the Scriptures.
Jesus’ disciples thought He was gone for good. They thought the world had defeated their Savior. But then, the resurrection happened and Jesus appeared to His disciples. As a testimony to who He was and that death was not the end of the story, Jesus appeared to His disciples. The first Christians spoke with certainty of Jesus’ resurrection by telling others of His appearances from eyewitness accounts. That is what much of the New Testament is. That is what a witness does – tells what he or she knows from first hand knowledge. Paul was one of these witnesses, who met the resurrected Lord on a road to the city of Damascus. Paul, a persecutor of Christians, had an encounter with Jesus that changed his life. Jesus set Paul apart to be His witness for the Gospel. There are at least three things Paul mentioned in the passage this morning about what the resurrection of Jesus Christ means for us.
- Because of the Resurrection, Our Faith is Sure
- Because of the Resurrection, We Have Forgiveness
- Because of the Resurrection, We Will Have Eternal Life
Because of the Resurrection, Our Faith is Sure
1 Corinthians 15:13–14 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.
If Christ was not raised, then the apostolic preaching of the resurrection was both useless and false. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Christian faith, what we believe, what our purpose here is, and what our future holds, is futile. If our hope is only in this life, if Christ has not been raised and there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christians should be pitied more than anyone. We have placed all our hopes in a lie. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ did not happen, then our faith is meaningless. If the resurrection did not happen, then we ought to just close the doors of the church, go home, eat, drink and be merry, for there is no hope of anything else. But Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. The tomb is empty. His disciples saw Him and testified about Him. It happened, and because Jesus was raised from the tomb and is alive today, we can believe in Him. We have the assurance that Jesus Christ is exactly who He said He was – the Son of God!
Because of the Resurrection, We Have Forgiveness
1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
No only would our faith be futile and useless, but if Christ was not raised from the dead, we would still be in our sins. The curse of sin and the separation with God would still be very real today. The proof that Jesus’ death was an effective sacrifice for our sins lies in His resurrection from the dead. If in fact Christ was not raised, if He is still dead, then His death did not pay for our sin, and there is no hope for life with God in heaven. Our forgiveness of sin is tied to the fact the Christ not only died for it, but also rose from the grave defeating the consequence of sin – death. Jesus’ resurrection reversed the consequence of Adam’s tragic rebellion to God in the Garden of Eden. The death Adam and Eve brought upon all humanity has now been eliminated. The separation between God and mankind has been restored for those who place their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We can have forgiveness because of Jesus is alive.
Because of the Resurrection, We Will Have Eternal Life
1 Corinthians 15:20–21 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
Without the resurrection, we are without hope. Our Christian family and friends who have died before us are lost – they have perished without hope of eternal life. Paul referred to Jesus as ‘‘the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Since Christ was the first to arise from the dead in a glorified state, His resurrection is the basis for the resurrection of all believers. Jesus’ genuine, well-attested resurrection is the guarantee of our future resurrection. First fruits referred to the assurance that Christ’s resurrection is the first-of-a-kind resurrection that promises others who believe in Him will follow in the future. Because Jesus was indeed raised from the dead, so shall all those who place their trust in Him as Lord and Savior. Adam was the representative of the human race bringing sin upon the whole human race. Likewise, Jesus is our representative of the risen humanity. He guaranteed that those who believe in Him will one day rise to meet Him and live eternally with Him. What a glorious day that will be!
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not only an historical event. It is also a powerful statement that compels us to make a choice. We have a choice! As C. S. Lewis once said, either Jesus is a lunatic, a liar, or Lord. Jesus left no other option. Was He a lunatic? Was He a liar? Or, is He Lord? Jesus was raised from that tomb almost two thousand years ago. The tomb is empty. He is Lord, indeed! Our Savior is alive. And He is the Savior of the whole world. He did not come to just save the Jewish people, but people from every tongue, race and nation. He is also the Way, the Truth, and the Life. God’s Word declares that no one can come to God except through His Son, Jesus Christ. There is no other name we can call on in order to be declared right before God.
1 Timothy 2:5-6 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…
If that sounds exclusive, well, it is. The Gospel is exclusive. But it is also good news. You do not have to look any further than Jesus Christ to have a relationship with God. Jesus was born to die in order that we would have life in Him. He gives life – abundant life and eternal life – to those who place their trust in Him. Jesus did rise from the dead and is waiting for His people to come to Him. He is preparing a place for them.
Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
God’s plan to save His people was not an after thought. He did not just one day say I have to fix the mess these people have made. He has prepared a plan and a place from eternity past for all those who will come to His Son. Salvation is available to anyone who comes to Jesus, confessing Him as Lord and believing that God raised Him from the dead.
Romans 10:9 …if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
There is no salvation without confession and faith. Anyone who trusts in Jesus Christ will be saved. The tomb is empty! Jesus is alive and because of that, you can have hope and true life! Will you come to Him today?
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.