1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Over the last few weeks our Readings have centred on Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians. We’ve had his teaching on the use of spiritual gifts … then on the local church as the Body of Christ … then last week we focused on his magnificent manifesto of love, in the context of our covenant service.
Now, as his letter is coming to a close, Paul sets out to remind the Corinthian Christians of the gospel he had preached to them.
The word Gospel is an English translation of the Greek euangelion, which literally means a “glad announcement,” or “good news”. When a proud new parent sends out the sms or WhatsApp, makes the phone call or posts the Instagram photo to announce proudly: “It’s a girl … or It’s a boy” … or when a young person calls to say excitedy, “I got the job!” … that is a euangelion … a glad announcement.
At its heart, Christianity started … and still starts … with a glad announcement. Everything else in the Christian life flows from this one, single, original glad announcement. So let’s start right there. What was the glad announcement according to the Word of God through Paul in 1 Corinthians 15? We find it in v.3-4.
A: THE GLAD ANNOUNCEMENT
“3 …What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, (and) that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
The glad announcement thus has two parts. Both are exceptionally good news for us.
Christ died for our sins.
Sin leads to death! In 2019, popular culture and even some popular versions of Christianity will shudder at this ‘in-your-face’ statement … but there’s no way around it when you take the Bible seriously. Sin leads to death … because “sin” is rebellion against God.
“Sin” is insisting on MY way in rebellion against the good, pleasing, perfect, and life-giving way of God.
“Sin” is the blatantly foolish choice to rush headlong into a course of action which leads away from God, and away from life, and into the path of an oncoming freight-train called “death”.
“Sin” is a personal Unilateral Declaration of Independence from God.
“Sin” is the decision to reject a relationship with the One who is the fountain of eternal life.
“Sin” therefore inevitably leads to both physical and spiritual death.
And every person sins … every single human being in this room … when left to our own devices … has taken the pathway that leads to both physical and spiritual death.
Sin leads to death and all have sinned. All therefore must endure both physical and spiritual death.
That is … until the subject matter of our “glad announcement”. One could state and restate it in so many different ways.
The glad announcement, Part 1 is: Jesus Christ died FOR OUR SINS. He died in order to take responsibility for our sins … He died because of our sins. He died our death. He did it in our place. He did it on our behalf. And now it is done!
The glad announcement for ME is that Jesus Christ died for David Howard’s sins. Jesus Christ died David Howard’s physical and spiritual death. Insert YOUR name here … because it’s true for you too. It is in fact universally true. Christ died for all! (2 Corinthians 5:15)
Part 2 of the Glad Announcement is even better:
Jesus Christ was raised on the 3rd day
Did Jesus’ death in our place actually pay for our sins? Is this really the way it is? How can I know that Jesus’ somehow solved the issue of my sin once and for all by offering up His life in my place 2000 years ago? Well, the Bible alleges that God proved it by raising Jesus from the dead.
Part 1 of the glad announcement is that the death of Jesus on the Cross pays the price once and for all for our sin. It deals with our PAST.
Part 2 is that the resurrection of Jesus proves that because our sin is dealt with, LIFE is now freely given to us. It deals with our PRESENT and our FUTURE. We are alive NOW in the beauty of an intimate relationship with the Lord, the Fountain of Life. And we WILL be alive forever.
What happened to Jesus physically mirrors what happens in our lives spiritually NOW. While we were dead in sin, our sins were paid for and removed from us as far as the east is from the west … and … we are then raised from spiritual death to the eternally abundant spiritual life of a restored relationship with God … and this spiritual life is eternal … it has started now and will go on forever.
Jesus’ resurrection ALSO foreshadows exactly what will happen for us physically after death … we will be raised to both physical and spiritual life forever. This we will explore more next Sunday.
But for now, Romans 4:25 explains: “He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.”
Now two questions remain:
- How can we be sure that Jesus was truly raised from the dead?
- What shall we do?
B. HOW CAN WE BE SURE?
There was never any doubt that Jesus had died. He had been certified dead by Roman executioners who were professionals at their task. If they certified someone dead and released the body for burial it meant the person really was dead. They didn’t make mistakes because if they did then their own life would be forfeited.
Not only that, Jesus body had been prepared for burial by people very familiar with death. He had been buried in a tomb and the tomb sealed by Roman soldiers. There was never any doubt that this Jesus was dead and buried.
But His resurrection. In our day and age we would ask, “Isn’t this maybe fake news.”
Think about it this way. If you see a headline that says: Baby born with three heads … click here to see what happened next. Don’t click there whatever you do!
You read: “6 meter long snake swallows man alive [WATCH]” … well … I guess it’s possible. I wouldn’t want to watch it anyway … but … Is it possibly true? What are you going to look at to help you decide if this is a serious news video or just “click bait”?
What you should look at is, who posted it? Is it a website called viralnewsvids.tv? Or is it BBC.com? In other words… is it a source that has proved itself trustworthy and true in the past?
This is the test Paul asks the Corinthians to apply. How can you know whether the news of the resurrection is true? Well, look at who has said they saw Jesus alive from the dead. His list is:
- Simon Peter
- The other apostles all together at the same time
- A group of 500 disciples at once … so that was a large gathering of the early church somewhere … we’re not told where
- Then to his brother James, the leader of the Jerusalem church
- Then again to all the apostles
- And lastly Jesus appeared to Paul at the time of his conversion.
Now the Corinthians knew Simon Peter personally. They knew Paul, obviously. They knew James by reputation. And they knew that some of the apostles had already died because of their testimony that Jesus was alive from the dead … and even under threat of death … they would not recant their testimony. It was true and they were willing to die for it.
The source was fundamentally believable. The news of the resurrection was fundamentally trustworthy.
C: WHAT SHALL WE DO?
The glad announcement has been made. The evidence for its trustworthiness has been presented. All that remains is to ask, “So then what are we supposed to do with this news?”
The passage uses three words:
- Receive it: This means that they embraced the good news. They heard it gladly. They received it as a true story … a true witness. They opened their hearts and minds and welcomed with joy the glad announcement as being true. That’s what it means to receive it. Is that where you are? Are you perhaps someone who has always resisted the message rather than receiving it. Have you always approached it as a bit of a sceptic and not really ever given it a chance to impact you? Well today’s the day to change that and to receive the news. Open your heart to the possibility of the Lord Jesus literally having been raised from the dead and give Him the opportunity to reveal Himself to YOU as the Lord who has conquered death!
- Believe it: He says they believed the glad announcement. They not only believed that it was true … but they believed IN IT … they put their faith in it. They entrusted their destiny to the truthfulness of this announcement. They threw themselves ALL IN … into the implications of it. Some gave up their idols and their temple prostitutes … others gave up their law-keeping legalism … they repented of their sins and threw themselves into the free relationship with God which Jesus had died to make possible. Are you perhaps at this point? You have become convinced over the years that the message is true and that Jesus Christ has in fact been raised from the dead. But you’ve not taken it further than that … a cognitive acceptance of the glad announcement. Today’s the day to throw yourself all-in and to entrust your life to Jesus in its entirety.
- Stand firm in it: Paul says that now they are to stand firm in the good news. Scripture is full of similar exhortations to stand firm in the faith once received. The Christian life is not a once off purchase of a fire-insurance policy. It is a lived relationship with God which fills our lives with love and joy and peace. But only if we live in it. Jesus gave His life so that we could live in intimacy with God … talking to Him, listening to Him and being empowered by Him to overcome sin and to live a victorious life of fellowship with God. We ought not to settle for anything less than that.
1 Corinthians 15 says that the Gospel saves us if we stand firm in it. In other words, unless we are living in the reality of the relationship with God that Christ died and rose to give us, the glad announcement will make no difference to our lives.
Today, stand firm in the good news … stand squarely in the reality of your relationship with Jesus! Let your relationship with Jesus be centre-stage in your life. Let it be what defines who you are and how you live. Let it influence every aspect of your life and work and relationships … or else it will make no difference to you at all.
The glad announcement is not that Jesus is risen from the dead in order to become a beautiful appendage to our lives.
No! He has risen from the dead in order to totally, and radically transform our lives. But for that to happen, we have to stand firm in Him! We have to make Him the centre … not an appendage … we have to daily surrender full control to Him … the way we were invited to do last week.
Our Covenant with Christ is not an annual moment of commitment … it is a pledge to DAILY total surrender to His presence, His friendship, His love, His grace, His POWER!
I’m inviting you today to make a renewal again … not of your Covenant with Christ … we did that last week … but of the commitment to walk daily with Him in deep, and total surrender … giving Him centre-stage… giving Him free rein to direct the course of your daily life. I’m inviting you to renew a level of commitment you perhaps once had but you have grown lukewarm … you were passionate for Jesus … you were on fire … your life was a living testimony and people sat up and took notice that you had been with Jesus. Now they might not even notice any difference to anyone else around you.
I invite you to change that today … to commit yourself to radical discipleship … to standing in the truth and the power of the resurrection again.