Title: The Church’s Foundational Doctrine
Text: 1 Corinthians 15.1-11
Introduction: We’re in 1 Corinthians 15 this morning. Our topic: the resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15.1
“Our Savior’s resurrection is truly of great importance in Christianity, so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it.” – John Locke
John MacArthur says: The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns and without which none of the other truths would much matter.
If Christ is not risen, we are to be pitied more than all other religious peoples. 1 Cor 15.17-19: 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 in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Christ repeated this idea dying and rising again to his disciples throughout his ministry with them: 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. Mk 8.31-32
David Jackman, the British preacher recorded in his commentary on 1 Cor. 15: The climax of the story of the cross is the resurrection. Indeed, without that demonstration of his triumph, we could have no assurance of Christ’s victory.
How can these men make such an assumption? Can it be true? Does the crux of Christianity rise and fall on this one doctrine? 1 Corinthians 15 declares it to be so. Turn there with me.
We’re in the midst of a sermon series on HiStory. The premise has been that there is one storyline that rises above the many stories of the Bible. That in actuality, although the Bible contains hundreds, thousands of stories, there is to it a basic story of Salvation: That God was always at work saving his people.
Paul presents three separate testimonies or pieces of evidence to the Corinthian church demonstrating the reality of Christ’s resurrection. The purpose is clear: without the resurrection, salvation as we know it could not happen. Consider Paul’s teaching to the Romans: that if you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead… you will be saved.
I think it is important to point out that the Corinthians didn’t have a problem with the resurrection, per se, but rather with their own resurrection. With that being said, let’s look at the evidence Paul presents to them. As in a trial, I’d like to call each piece of evidence Exhibits. First we have Exhibit #1
I. The Church (1-2)
exp.: rd v 1-2; In our opening sentence, we read: Now I would remind you, brothers – the word remind, is really an interpretation, not a translation. The thought is right, but it is inaccurate as a translation. Let me remind you that I say this with caution. 1st, I’m no Greek scholar. I practice Greek like I ride my bike. I’ve got one and I ride a few times every week. But, that doesn’t make me a pro. I’ve never ridden in a race. 2nd, there are people who do this translating work who are a lot smarter than me. With that said, let’s look closer at this phrase Now I would remind you, brothers…
This word translated ‘remind’ means to make known. Luke 2.15: 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” The angels didn’t remind them: they announced!
In modern day English we might say something more like: I’ll have you know… which means you probably already know, you’re just not acting like you know. Maybe that is why the translators used remind, because their knowledge of the matter is already sure. So, he’s just reminding them… but in a stern way
In the original language though, the thought is clear: Paul is not happy with them. He’s chiding them. Some people, it would appear, have begun to live like they never even heard of Christ. And Paul is saying, That isn’t the Gospel I preached to you!
Ill.: Can you hear your momma or your daddy in your head? That isn’t the way I taught you to … Paul is saying something like: I’ll have you know, brothers that the Gospel I preached to you is the one you received, in which you stand and are being saved.
Something interesting to note: The Gospel (εὐαγγελίζω), is the same Greek word as Preached (εὐαγγέλιον), The Gospel is a noun and ‘preached’ is a verb. That’s the difference.
- I Preached (εὐαγγέλιον),
- You Received, (arorist, not passive)
- In which you stand, You are living out; Stand; in the pft, the idea that they are in a present state of being because of this past action in their lives. It is the Gospel being lived out still.
- The result: by which you are being saved – a passive verb. God is saving them, they can’t save themselves.
Paul is in effect saying: Whatever word you’re getting of no future resurrection or that it already happened is rubbish! That’s not what I taught you. In both of his letters to Timothy, Paul refers to a man named Hymenaeus. Hymenaeus was a thorn in Paul’s side. He cause Paul a great deal of harm. It appears that some of his teaching was that the resurrection had already happened. Paul calls this false teaching a sickness like Gangrene. It makes me wonder if this false teaching had infiltrated other congregations, as well. Like here in Corinth. We don’t know that, but it is apparent that there were men who were just making stuff up!
A great reminder for us today: we must be careful who we chose to listen to or read.
Paul continues in v 2; Rd v 2 with me: 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
Some people think this is a proof text for apostasy. They say: This is one of the verses that proves you can loose your salvation.
Ill.: I received a phone call from a man in Oregon who said he is moving to Tyler and looking for a church. He said the purpose of his call was that he wanted to see what I believe. In the course of my doctrinal interview (which by the way, happens more than you think) we came across this doctrine. Can you lose your salvation? No, I said. I do not believe in apostasy. At this stage of the conversation, I began to realize that he didn’t want to know what I believe. Rather, he was looking for someone to debate with him. This was one of his many verses to ‘prove’ to me that you can indeed lose your salvation.
Those of you, who know me, you know my understanding that one does not and cannot lose their salvation.
This is one of those verses that helps me with this doctrine. As you see it in English, you might infer that one can lose their salvation – that is to say if you hold fast like it is this condition God has set up with believers. I’m willing to save your soul, but one false move, Buddy and you’re out of here! That isn’t the way this is set up. Paul isn’t saying if you do this, then that and if you don’t….
There are clearly people who make a profession of faith. They come to church and maybe even get involved. They can even share Christ with others, but one day, they walk away from the faith. This man who called me would say they lost their salvation. I, on the other hand, would say they were probably never saved. I say ‘probably’ because I don’t know. They may very well come back to Christ in the future. That is my prayer. I know people like that. You probably do to! That is my hope that they’ll return. They may grow up, have some kids and begin to realize their frivolity. If that happens, they cannot crucify the Son of God all over again. But they can repent and be restored.
It appears to me that much of this arguing is mostly semantics in nature. Someone says they lost their salvation, I say they never really were saved to begin with. The end result is the same. They say that someone comes to Christ after having lost their salvation. I say they’re rededicating their life. The result is the same.
app.: Here is all we really know from what Paul says: If you’re not living out the Gospel, you’re probably not saved. Again I say probably, because I don’t know. That call is way above my paygrade. I know that sounds harsh, but that is all we have. A salvation experience is evidenced by the life of a changed person. Paul says – if you’ve gone through this whole experience and walked away from it all, then your salvation was all on you – not God. You’re resting your hopes on your ability, your obedience, your following the rules, your church attendance, your…whatever. And if salvation rests on you – then you’re not saved. If you think you can get into heaven on your dad, your husband, your service, your money – think again. That is all in vain. And, you’ll walk away from it someday. Why? Because you’re incapable of fulfilling such a impossible task.
t.s.: in this phone conversation with this man from Oregon, I told him he might like to call another pastor, who shall remain nameless in this recording. This man thought I was saying to him, you’d be happier somewhere else. Well, that is true, but it wasn’t what I was saying. I said, you like to debate – so does this pastor. He got upset with me and said, you want me to go to a church that condemns your’s, because you don’t believe God’s Word.
Now that upset me. But I was nice and closed the conversation with kindness. But he’s got it wrong. No church, nor any person will be my judge, but Christ alone. And that goes for you, too. Sure, we do our best to maintain purity in this local body. That is our responsibility. But it is Christ who sits as judge over salvation.
And I think that is really what Paul is saying here: Salvation that comes by the hands of humans is no salvation at all. It is Christ alone who saves and the church is evidence, a testimony to the risen Christ.
His 2nd exhibit…
II. The Scriptures (3-4)
exp.: rd v 3-4; in accordance with the Scriptures. The scriptures testified to what would happen. The NT Scriptures testify to what did happen. Notice Paul says I delivered to you. This isn’t something he made up or designed. This isn’t something he created. He simply delivered to them what the Bible said would happen.
That’s the mark of a good preacher. Be very leery of someone who gets up and is crafty about God’s Word. A preacher’s job is delivering the groceries. That’s it, he’s just a delivery boy. It is the same with teachers.
Let’s look at these three components.
- Jesus died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; Jesus told the two men on the road to Emmaus about how the Scriptures pointed to the Messiah and his death. 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Jesus pointed to Jonah as a sign for this unbelieving generation. The disciples quoted from Psalm 16 and Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52-53 and the list Goes on.
- He was Buried
- He was Raised on the 3rd Day in accordance with the Scriptures. His body did not see decay, as David had foretold.
app.: Paul uses this phrase twice according to Scriptures to point to the fact that the Word of God is a piece of evidence to be witnessed and acknowledged when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus.
t.s.: His 3rd exhibit.
III. Eyewitnesses (5-10)
exp.: Eye-witnesses; rd v 5 and that he appeared… There is a good list here.
- Cephas, if find it interesting that the ladies are not mentioned first; this is Simon Peter.
- The Twelve, a title for the closest disciples. There aren’t really 12 anymore because Judas has died before the resurrection; however, it is a title for that group, even if there aren’t that many at that moment. And, at first, Thomas was there either. But eventually, he was.
- 500 brothers – most of who are still alive. We don’t know when this was or where this was. 500… brothers? It must have been at the ascension. But it doesn’t have to be. But Paul is saying, Hey, most of these people are still alive. You can ask them about it. Edwin M. Yamauchi, former professor of history at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, emphasizes: Do you realize that if each of these 500 men were to testify in a court of law and each were given just 6 minutes of examination, there would be an amazing 50 hours of testimony?
- James: the Lord’s brother; this one is pretty powerful for me. James used to be an unbeliever. You probably remember when we were in the Gospel of Mark of how he, his momma and siblings thought Jesus was crazy. He was embarrassed at the behavior of his brother, Jesus. Paul lets us in on something incredible here. Without this letter, we would have no idea that James was an eyewitness to the resurrection.
James saw Jesus resurrected from the dead and what a difference it made in his life. His life was so affected by what he witnessed that the direction of his life changed. James became the pastor of the church at Jerusalem and a leader in the early church. He served the Lord with his life.
- The Apostles: all of the Apostles.
ill.: Nothing beats a great list of eye-witnesses. David Jackman tells of Frank Morrison, who set out to write a paper disproving the resurrection. His paper was to be entitled: Jesus, the last Phase. He started with the crucifixion and ended with the testimonies of the witnesses. In the course of his trial, he mind was changed and he was convinced that Jesus really did rise from the dead. The end result was his conversion to Christ and his book, Who moved the Stone? Josh McDowell has a similar testimony of his efforts in college and the overwhelming evidence that demanded he cast a verdict of Risen!
app.: Paul says to the Corinthians: some of you aren’t living your life by the Gospel – at least not on the Gospel I preached to you. I presented to you truths from the Scriptures that point to this very phenomena: the Christ was to suffer and die, be buried and rise again three days later. Furthermore, there are hundreds of people who testify to this fact: Jesus is risen!
t.s.: Today is July 30th. Do you know what happened on July 30, 1967? Joni Eareckson dove into Chesapeake Bay and broke her neck. 50 years ago today. That human error has put her in a wheelchair for the last 50 years.
Some years ago her mother-in-law invited her and her husband out to Forrest Lawn, a cemetery. Being a Sunday afternoon, she thought of a hundred different things she’d rather do, but being the dutiful daughter-in-law, she and her husband headed out to meet her mother-in-law.
The Realtor met them at the plot and began her sales pitch. The plot is located in the section called Murmuring Pines. She gave her spiel: with Joni’s head here and her feet there, she’d have a wonderful view of the mountains. Joni kind of chuckled to herself… like it really mattered where her bones lay.
The family walked around, but Joni rolled her wheelchair over her plot – the very place her body will be laid to rest when she dies – and she turned to face the mountains in the distance. A gust of wind blew through that area, rustling her hair and indeed, creating a murmuring sound in the pines. She writes that a profound peace settled over the scene.
Suddenly, in a sort of way that just overtook her, she realized that she was actually situated over the place her body would rise from – should she die before Christ returns. Listen to her in her own words: Jesus is quoted in John 5.28: for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out. Astounding! One day actual spirits will return to their actual graves and reunite with stone-cold dead forms and – in the twinkling of an eye – we shall be changed.
I think of Ezekiel 37: Can the dead bones live again? You bet!
Joni continues: We shall come forth and rise strong and brilliant with hands and arms, feet and legs, and like Jesus with his glorious body, we shall be perfectly fitted for both earth and heaven.
Sitting in my wheelchair under the pines, it was enough to spill tears. That grassy hillside ignited the reality of the resurrection, wrapping sight, sound, and touch around all the sermons and essays I’d ever read on the subject.
What Joni began to realize in that moment was something possible because Jesus has already been resurrected. And that is the hope that you and I have, too. Because he has conqured the grave, you and I have the hope – not hope like I hope it rains – but a certainty that says, that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.