June 23, 2010 David Balzer

1 Corinthians 15:12-58: Jesus’ resurrection – so what?

“Value this time of your life, kids. Because it’s a time of your life when you still have your CHOICES. And it goes by so FAST.

When you’re a teenager, you think you can do ANYTHING. And you do.

Your twenties are just a blur.

In your thirties. You have a family. You make a little money. And think to yourself, “What happened to my twenties?”

In your forties, you’ll grow a little pot belly. Grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud. And one of your friends from school becomes a grandmother.

In your fifties, you’ll have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure, but it’s surgery.

In your sixties, you’ll have a MAJOR surgery. The music’s still too loud, but it doesn’t matter, because you can’t hear it anyway.

In your seventies, you and your wife retire to Florida. And start eating dinner at 2 in the afternoon. Lunch at 10 am. And breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time walking around the malls looking for the ultimate soft-serve yoghurt. And muttering, “How come the kids don’t call? How come the kids don’t call?”

In your eighties you’ll have a major stroke. And end up babbling to some nurse your wife can’t stand, but who you call, “Mumma”.

Any questions?”

That’s Billy Crystal, in the movie “City Slickers”. And it’s his speech to his young son’s class at school. Sharing the wisdom of his life.

The problem is/ he’s having a mid-life crisis. He’s turned 39. And he’s decided he’s half-way to . “The world’s a mess. And all I can see in front of me is pointlessness. And pain. And .”

Well, Billy Crystal’s answer is to go on a WESTERN ADVENTURE. An old-fashioned cattle muster. But it’s not REALLY an answer. It does nothing to change the REALITY of his situation. It only makes him FEEL BETTER about things.

And the questions he’s struggling with/ are ones MANY people struggle with. “How do I cope with the inevitable on-coming of ?” How do I cope with a world where life doesn’t make sense, and where is inevitable?”

And people try to answer these questions in lots of different ways, don’t they? For some people it’s physical fitness. Or plastic surgery. Or non-stop partying. Or extreme sports. Or health food.

Or they sink themselves into their family. “After all – family’s the MOST IMPORTANT thing, isn’t it?”

Or they link up with causes – like environmentalism. Or political reform. Or protests against globalisation. To put some MEANING into what seems to be such a MEANINGLESS life. Such an EMPTY life.

The inevitability of . And the meaningless of life.

Have you noticed the obituaries for the victims of the Bali ing. They’ve been in the Sydney Morning Herald over the last month. And they make sobering reading.

The senseless slaughter of so many people. So many people with so much to offer. The articles are full of phrases like “So full of life and energy”. “The life of the party” “So young”. “So much potential”.

If is all there is, what’s the point of life?”

Death is a horrible, painful, senseless invasion. He’s a destructive monster. Who chases us. He’s relentless. He never gets tired. He never gives up. He never misses his target.

But God didn’t design things to be that way. In the beginning there WAS no . only came because of SIN. Our rebellion against God.

And what’s more. ONE DAY/ there won’t BE ANY MORE . God’s plan is that that awful scary monster called will get put down. Destroyed. COMPLETELY SQUASHED. I know that FOR SURE. I’m COMPLETELY CONVINCED of it.

How can I be so sure? BECAUSE GOD RAISED JESUS FROM THE . It’s the crucial event in history. The one which gives meaning to everything else. It’s the one which RESTORES this world to the way God designed it.

It’s the one which gives me the hope that has been defeated. And that life isn’t as tragic, and empty, as Billy Crystal imagines it.

1. Consequences of NO Resurrection (12-19)

And it’s Christ’s resurrection which Paul’s focussing on in these verses.

What starts him off is a question from the Corinthians. Some of them were saying that there was NO RESURRECTION for Christians who died. That’s what Paul says in v12.

Now, we don’t know EXACTLY what they WERE saying. And it’s probably getting off the track to even GUESS. But we DO know the way Paul answers. And in this first section, he shows the CONSEQUENCES for what believing such a thing means.

There are consequences for PAUL AND THE REST OF THE APOSTLES. There are consequences for the corinthians themselves. And there are consequences for THEIR LOVED ONES who’ve DIED.

And it all hinges on the resurrection of Jesus. Look at v13.

(1 Cor 15:13 NIV)  If there is no resurrection of the , then not even Christ has been raised.

Denying that CHRISTIANS are resurrected/ most importantly means/ that you’ve denied that Christ has been raised.

And if you deny THAT, Paul goes on, then three things happen. His PREACHING is empty. Their FAITH is empty. In fact the WHOLE CHRISTIAN LIFE is empty.

Look at v14.

(1 Cor 15:14 NIV)  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless.

The word for USELESS there also means EMPTY, or FUTILE. Paul has NOTHING TO SAY if Christ isn’t raised.

In v15, he says that makes him a false witness against God – saying God had done something when he hadn’t.

Secondly, Paul says that THE FAITH OF THE CORINTHIANS is ALSO empty. That’s in v14. It’s Without basis. Hollow. No better than believing in Santa, or the Easter bunny. Or pixies at the bottom of the garden.

But it’s actually WORSE than harmless. Look down at v17.

(1 Cor 15:17 NIV)  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is FUTILE; YOU ARE STILL IN YOUR SINS.

Christ’s resurrection was God’s declaration/ that the of His Son was SUFFICIENT PUNISHMENT for our sin. His sacrifice WAS acceptable. It’s God’s proof that Jesus died PERFECT and SINLESS and BLAMELESS. God’s receipt of an acceptable transfer from my account to Jesus’. All my guilt transferred to Jesus.

The resurrection is God’s receipt of an acceptable transfer from my account to Jesus’. So if that didn’t happen, then how do I know I’m forgiven?

But Paul goes on. “It’s not just YOU CORINTHIANS. What about YOUR LOVED ONES who’ve died? What does denying Christ’s resurrection mean FOR THEM?” Look at v18.

(1 Cor 15:18 NIV)  Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are LOST.

If you deny Christ’s resurrection, then you’re saying that Christians who’ve died are LOST. Beyond hope. They’ve just ceased to exist.

It’s the difference between a Christian funeral and a non-Christian funeral. One has HOPE that there’s life BEYOND . The other has NO HOPE. Just wishful thinking. And it’s CHRIST’S RESURRECTION that’s the ONLY BASIS for that hope.

(Empty preaching, Empty faith)

Lastly, Paul says that THE WHOLE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE becomes empty. Look at v19.

(1 Cor 15:19 NIV)  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

If there is no hope beyond , then life for the Christian is JUST AS HOPELESS and EMPTY and POINTLESS as everyone else’s. We’re ALL on a road to nowhere.

But Paul says MORE than that. The Christian is actually to be pitied MORE than anyone else. How does that work?

Well, a bit further on, Paul explains what he means. He uses himself as an example. Look down at v30.

(1 Cor 15:30-32 NIV)  And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? {31} I die every day–I mean that, brothers–just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. {32} If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

Life would be MUCH EASIER says Paul, if he wasn’t a Christian. “Why am I knocking myself out every day? Why go somewhere I KNOW I’m going to cop heaps?”

“If my message is empty. And my faith is empty. And is all I’ve got coming. Why am I bothering? What’s the point? I might as well just go to the pub every night. Sit on my backside. Look after number one. And everyone else can just get nicked!”

And my guess is, life FOR YOU would be easier if YOU weren’t a Christian. Perhaps you wouldn’t have been disowned, or ridiculed by your family. If you didn’t give money for God’s work, you’d probably have more money to spend on the FUN things – like that boat, or the house extension, or the overseas holiday.

And you’d actually have your Sundays free to ENJOY those good things you’d bought. There’d be more nights during the week when you could play sport, or catch up with friends.

How silly we’d be/ if we’d given up ALL THAT/ for NOTHING. What a waste!

Lachlan had a good chance of making the rep soccer team this year. But when do they play? Sundays. Anywhere from Dubbo to Newcastle to Nowra. And there’s no way we can meet with God’s people, AND do rep soccer. And Lachlan was disappointed about that! And we feel guilty because he’s missing out on opportunities.

What a waste if we gave THAT up for nothing!

If Christ wasn’t raised from , then the Christian life would be empty. Useless. Futile. Even worse than for the non-Christian.

2. Consequences of Christ’s Resurrection (20-28)

That’s all a bit depressing, isn’t it!

Just as well it’s not the end of the story. Because Paul moves onto a BIG ‘But”. Look at v20.

(1 Cor 15:20 NIV)  But Christ has INDEED been RAISED FROM THE , the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Paul’s painted such a depressing picture, we’ve almost forgotten that none of it’s TRUE. None of it will actually happen because Christ HAS been raised.

And Paul describes two consequences of his resurrection. What results because of it.

A: Christians raised

And the first consequence is HINTED AT in that verse I just read. “Christ is the FIRSTFRUITS of those who’ve fallen asleep.”

Because Christ was raised, those who follow him will ALSO be raised. The firstfruits is the guarantee that more will follow.

Every year there’s a charity auction of the first box of cherries. And it often goes for thousands of dollars. Not because it’s the necessarily the NICEST box of cherries. In fact they’re probably pretty ordinary. But they’re the FIRST. And they’re important for that reason.

But more than simply IMPORTANCE, firstfruits is significant for another reason. Where there’s ONE BOX of cherries, there are many more to come. The celebration and charity auction isn’t because there’s one box of cherries, but because it’s just the start of the season. This box leads the way for THE REST to follow.

And it’s the same with Jesus. He’s led the way. Walked right up to ’s front door. And knocked it down. And kept right on walking out the back door. Through and out the other side. And where he’s gone, we can follow. Because he’s the firstfruits. Look down at v23.

(1 Cor 15:23-24 NIV)  But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. {24} Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.

And notice WHEN this will happen? WHEN HE COMES, we’ll be made alive. The New Testament seems pretty clear that we’ll receive our resurrected bodies ONLY when Jesus returns. And not before.

B: destroyed

Paul goes on to describe another consequence of Christ’s resurrection. He hasn’t just CHEATED , slipped through his fingers. He’s DESTROYED it. So NOONE ELSE will have to suffer it!

And THAT only happens when Christ returns, too. Look at v24 again.

(1 Cor 15:24-26 NIV)  Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has DESTROYED all dominion, authority and power. {25} For he must REIGN until he has PUT ALL HIS ENEMIES UNDER HIS FEET. {26} The LAST enemy to be destroyed is .

When Jesus returns, he will destroy ALL dominion, authority and power. Every human and spiritual power that sets itself up against God. And ONE of those powers is . And will be destroyed LAST of ALL.

But look at v25. He must REIGN / UNTIL / he has PUT ALL HIS ENEMIES UNDER HIS FEET. Two different time periods. Jesus is reigning NOW. He has defeated and sin IN PRINCIPLE. Our sin has been paid for. And our new life is guaranteed.

But Christians STILL SIN. And Christians STILL DIE. Christ reigns over sin and NOW. But they’re not UNDER HIS FEET. YET.

When God winds this world up, Jesus will FINALLY destroy . Once and for all. And the victory that was won IN PRINCIPLE will be A REALITY. And those who follow Christ will be with him for eternity.

3. Our Resurrection Described (35-57)

Well, now Paul gets around to answering some questions. Perhaps they’re even ones that YOU’VE thought of as we’ve been going through these verses. Look at v35.

(1 Cor 15:35 NIV)  But someone may ask, “How are the raised? With what kind of body will they come?”

And so Paul goes on to describe what our resurrection will be like. When and how and what.

Perhaps those who were denying the resurrection of the were MAKING FUN of Paul’s position. “Who ever heard of such a thing? people walking around? Things would start getting SMELLY, wouldn’t they?”

But Paul calls that sort of thinking FOOLISH. It’s a MISTAKE to think that our resurrected bodies will be THE SAME as our earthly bodies. We’re not going to be walking corpses – ZOMBIES – complete with wounds and sores. We’ll be as different THEN as a wheat plant is/ from the seed it started from.

As different as HEAVENLY BODIES (like the sun, moon and stars) are, from EARTHLY bodies (like animals or people).

Look down at v42.

(1 Cor 15:42-44 NIV)  So will it be with the resurrection of the . The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; {43} it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; {44} it is sown a body, it is raised a spiritual body.

THAT’s how different our resurrected bodies will be/ compared to our old bodies. Imperishable, glorious, powerful, spiritual.

And Paul goes on to describe it further. Our bodies will be like that of JESUS. Verse 47.

(1 Cor 15:47-49 NIV)  The first man (that’s Adam) was of the dust of the earth, the second man (that’s Jesus) from heaven. {48} As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, SO ALSO ARE THOSE WHO ARE OF HEAVEN (that’s Christians). {49} And JUST AS WE HAVE BORNE THE LIKENESS OF THE EARTHLY MAN (AS HUMANS), SO SHALL WE BEAR THE LIKENESS OF THE MAN FROM HEAVEN.

And that perhaps helps to answer some of our questions. What will our resurrected bodies be like? Will we recognise each other? We’ll be LIKE JESUS.

Think about his appearances after Easter Sunday. True – Mary didn’t recognise him, nor the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. But I’m not sure that’s because he LOOKED DIFFERENT.

Plenty of others certainly DID recognise him.

Jesus was MORE than just revived. He didn’t JUST come back to life. That’s what happened to Lazarus. But, presumably, Lazarus went on to die again. But not Jesus – he was RESURRECTED. NEVER to die again. This was Jesus’ ETERNAL body.

And although there were some similarities, (he still ate and drank. He still had the holes in his hands from the nails/ and in his side from the spear)

But there were DIFFERENCES, too. John’s Gospel tells us that he appeared inside locked rooms. And that disappeared instantly when he was eating with the disciples at Emmaus.

And it’s THAT sort of body that we’ll receive. A real physical, GLORIOUS body. That’s similar, but VASTLY DIFFERENT to our old body.

Paul continues with his description. What sort of EVENTS will happen on that last day? Look down at v51.

(1 Cor 15:51-53 NIV)  Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– {52} in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. {53} For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.

Whether a Christian who’s DIED, or one who’s STILL ALIVE. Paul says we’ll ALL be changed. When the trumpet sounds. And God brings everything to an end. The will be raised imperishable. In other words – they’ll receive their resurrected bodies.

AND “we’ll be changed”. Christians who are still alive will be changed. Their bodies will be altered from perishable to imperishable. Like putting on a coat.

What a wonderful day that will be. Because not only are CHRISTIANS changed from perishable to imperishable. But the WHOLE CREATION is restored to the way God made it in the beginning. BEFORE sin and . BETTER than before.

And so Paul TAUNTS . Like the schoolyard bully, whose finally been caught. And expelled. And as he’s led by the Principal through the school grounds and out the front gate. For the last time. All the little kids he’s bullied/ lean out the windows. And cheer. And tease him. And ridicule him. Throw tomatoes. Verse 54

(1 Cor 15:54-55 NIV)  …”Death has been swallowed up in victory.” {55} “Where, O , is your victory? Where, O , is your sting?”

4. An purposeful life (58)

And Paul concludes. This future hope has consequences TODAY. It’s not irrelevant to life now. It’s INCREDIBLY relevant. It’s what gives life the FULNESS. The PURPOSE. The DIRECTION.  A reason for living. And a reason to keep striving.

Life is worth living because of where we’re headed. Life’s purpose is to make sure OTHERS are ready as well. Look at v58

(1 Cor 15:58 NIV)  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Life is MUCH MORE than what Billy Crystal thinks. It’s not empty at all. Because “Christ has indeed been raised from the ”

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