Sermon Notes:

What if Friday was all we had? If each Easter weekend all we did was gather on Friday and remember that Jesus Christ died a wicked and horrendous death on a Roman cross. What if that was it? No Easter Sunday, no resurrection. What difference would that make? Sadly, for many people – even self-proclaimed Christian people – not having the resurrection would make very little difference other than one less service to go to.

In practice, many of us are really just Friday-only kind of Christians. We live in the defeat of the grave, rather than the victory of the resurrection. We fall into the trap of living like we are on our own, rather than experience the joy and peace and hope found in daily communion with God.

But here’s the thing. Most of us would never say that. We’ve been trained to know the right answers. The answers that get a pass in church. Yes, Jesus died. Yes, Jesus rose again on the 3rd day. But do we actually let that belief transform our lives? Or do we live with a sort of mental disconnect? Do we actually ask the hard questions?

You know, every day many of us look in horror as we watch the world celebrate insane or logically incoherent events. A man winning a woman’s swimming event or a politician confidently speaking words that are blatantly lies based on their actions from days earlier. And we are right to be disturbed by those illogical, inconsistent, or hypocritical things. But I want to strongly warn each of you that we are constantly in danger of being deceived ourselves. The lies we are most susceptible to believing are the ones we benefit most from believing. If the lie appears to benefit us, then it’s very hard to really examine it because too much is at stake.

The lies we are most susceptible to believing are the ones we benefit most from believing.

That’s why the Bible is so clear in teaching that Christians must think and live logically consistent lives based on the truth of God’s revelation.

If God revealed it. It’s true. If it’s true, then truth has real-world consequences we need to think through and live out – even if that means challenging our assumptions and changing the way we live.

So, with that in mind, let’s read from 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. The Apostle Paul – a messenger on God’s behalf to the Corinthian church – is doing with the Corinthians what I hope to do with you today. He is challenging some of their beliefs and helping them to connect the logical dots so that they can live in alignment with the Word of God for God’s glory.

The Corinthians aren’t exactly known for being consistent in their walk. Paul has already had to call them out for a bunch of things like dealing with sexual immorality, selfishness, division – all things that fly in the face of what it means to follow Christ. Some things are more obvious than others, but it all highlights the reality that inconsistency in your faith is a sign of immaturity in your faith. Frankly, it’s somewhat normal for new believers to be inconsistent at first because they are in the process of applying the outworking of their new worldview. They are kind of switching systems. Relearning how to live in light of what is true. But it’s always a sign of immaturity and something we should outgrow more each day.

One particular area that Paul is going to focus on now is with regard to the resurrection of the dead. Apparently, there were some in the church that believed that dead people stay dead forever and that they will not rise again when Christ returns. It’s understandable that this was difficult for them to believe. That’s a significant hurdle for a lot of people. Walk through a cemetery and boldly declare, out loud, these people will again one day be just as alive as you or I. That’s hard to believe. Many deny it. And that, Paul argues, it an incredibly dangerous way to think and he is going to logically debunk it based on God’s revelation.

Look at 1 Cor. 15:12.

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, [Then] how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Paul is going to use a tool of logic – the if/then tool. If this person is said to be raised from the dead, but you say there is no resurrection, how does that work? Short answer is “it doesn’t.” It’s inconsistent. Reading on it says,

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 [then] your faith is in vain. [and then] 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.

You can get a bit turned around in this passage but essentially Paul is making the case that, if you say there is no resurrection, then clearly Jesus could not have been raised. And if Jesus wasn’t raised, then we start to undermine a whole lot of very important things which we’ll get into in a moment. Notice that here Paul is using a logical sequence of thoughts to show the direct consequence of bad ideas. Logic is a good gift from God that we need to harness if we are going to effectively avoid deception. If you want to know how to avoid deception this is step one.

We avoid deception by using God-given logic.

Sometimes you need to play out an idea to its logical conclusion to see that it is in fact a very bad and dangerous idea. Logic of course has its limits because of the sinfulness of the human mind. It can’t supersede the Word of God. For example, logically it is hard to understand how Jesus can be both fully God and fully man; however, God has revealed Jesus as such and to deny it based on our own logical shortcomings would be to pretend that we should be able to comprehend all of God’s thoughts or ways. We can’t. But that doesn’t mean that logic is useless. It is a tool which Paul uses and which we can use to understand the consequences of bad ideas.

What are those consequences? Well, if dead people don’t rise – if resurrection isn’t a thing – then the tomb isn’t empty. Jesus is still dead. And if the tomb isn’t empty, then my preaching (the way the text reads) is literally empty. An empty tomb would = full preaching. But a full tomb = empty preaching. No resurrection? Then we are wasting our time talking about a dead man that can do nothing for you.

An empty tomb would = full preaching. But a full tomb = empty preaching.

Your faith is also in vain. It’s empty too. What’s worse than wasting your time though is that preachers are actually found to be misrepresenting God. They are found to be liars who say God did something he did not.

So, Paul makes it clear. Denying the resurrection of the dead has catastrophic implications for the Christian faith.

It’s somewhat like the main rotor retaining nut on helicopters. That nut is the key piece fastening the blades on the helicopter and its actually commonly referred to by Jesus’ name because if that nut comes off, the helicopter blades will fall off and the entire thing will plummet to the ground and your only hope will be Jesus. It’s true, look it up. It’s a small piece about the size of your fist, and it makes all the difference. Mess that up and nothing else matters.

Likewise, Satan loves to distract believers by attacking beliefs that are advertised as “not core” to the gospel. You can almost hear him whispering, “As long as you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, you’ll be saved. Isn’t that what Romans 10:9 says? You don’t have to believe that you’ll be raised from the dead. Now is all you’ve got, so live your best life now.” That’s the kind of lie Satan wants to deceive us with.

Some people wonder why true Christians are so fierce in contending for truth in every sphere. It is because smaller lies tend to quickly unravel into bigger lies.

“Why does it matter that a church closed its doors when the government said to. That’s not the gospel. Why does it matter that all the Bible is true? Jesus still exists. Why does it matter that God created the world in 6 literal days? Why does it matter that he created them male and female?”

You get the point. You deny truth in a small area and, before you know it, you are denying truth in a greater area.

As if to really emphasizes this, Paul circles around and repeats the idea. Verse 16.

16 For if the dead are not raised, [then] not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, [then] your faith is futile and [then] you are still in your sins. [and then] 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, [then] we are of all people most to be pitied.

The first consequence of denying the resurrection is that your faith is futile. Protestants like to emphasize the role of salvation by faith alone; however, we need to be clear that faith alone does not save. Faith in Christ alone saves. You can be as convinced as you want about something – even to the point of giving your life up for it – but that faith itself will not save you unless the object of your faith has the power to save you. Only a resurrected Christ has power over sin and death. And that’s why, without the resurrection of Christ, you would still be in your sins – sin would still have power over you. Not only that, but your loved ones that died in Christ would be gone for good. So, does the resurrection matter? Absolutely YES!

Faith alone does not save. Faith in Christ alone saves.

But you can see why the world looks at Christians and laughs. Paul himself says that, If in Christ we have hope in this life only, then we are of all people MOST to be pitied. The world thinks, “Poor Christians. They really were convinced that there was an afterlife, and they gave up everything for their Jesus. What a waste.” That’s the logical thing to think if you deny the resurrection. It really is.

It’s kind of like the old Nigerian Prince email scam where the supposed prince emails to announce that you are the heir of millions of dollars and all you have to do is give them your bank account information so they can transfer the money in.

We feel sorry for the gullible people who fall for that and end up losing their life savings to a scam.

We are even more foolish and pitiable than that if we give up everything in this life to follow a Jesus that is still in the grave.

But Paul is not done. He continues in verse 20, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.”

It’s a fact. It’s absolutely true. If you want to avoid being duped – being deceived – you need to not only think logically, but base that logic on the revealed truth of God. That has to be your starting place.

We avoid deception by basing our lives on God’s revelation.

The problem the Corinthians were having is that they started their belief system with themselves. Asking themselves, “Are we going to be raised from the dead or are we not going to be raised from the dead?” In their culture, Greeks would deny the resurrection of the body, so slowly that kind of thinking slipped into the church. Cause really, there’s no way to physically prove what’s on the other side of death until you go there, so in the absence of good evidence to the contrary, the false belief that denied the resurrection grew.

However, if they had started with the supreme revelation of God – Jesus Christ. They would have come to the conclusion that we in fact will rise because Christ has risen.

Interestingly Paul doesn’t jump into proving the resurrection of Christ like we often do. The resurrection of Christ must have been accepted by the Corinthians who, historically speaking, were able to hear directly from eye-witnesses like Paul who saw the resurrected Christ.

As a side not though, it is helpful for us to think through the fact that Jesus was truly dead, that the tomb was securely guarded, that hundreds of eyewitnesses saw his resurrected body, that all the scared disciples who ran from Jesus at his crucifixion would be emboldened by his resurrection. Emboldened to the point where almost all died as martyrs for the Christ they certainly believed to be alive. There is every reason to believe the historicity of the resurrection, but here Paul is more interested in the logical outworking of that resurrection than the resurrection itself.

The original argument was, “human beings can’t rise from the dead”. Well then Christ can’t rise from the dead as he was human. But here we see that Christ did rise. That’s a fact. So, humans can and will, in fact, rise from the dead. That’s why the passage continues:

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Christ’ resurrection was not the first resurrection from the dead, but it was the first permanent resurrection from the dead and foreshadows or paves the way for the rest. All other resurrections (e.g. Lazarus) died again but Jesus never did. That’s why he is called the firstfruits. Notice that it say “of those who have fallen asleep”. To Christians, death is not a permanent goodbye. It has lost it’s sting because we know there is resurrection coming.

The passage continues in verse 21,

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. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

Adam, the first human being to ever walk the face of the earth, rebelled against God and, as a result, physical and spiritual death became the norm for all who are “in Adam”, that is, born into this world as his descendants. The consequences are for all – no exceptions. Similarly, all who are in Christ will be made alive – no exceptions. Jesus Christ is the great reversal of Adam’s fall. It is important to realize though that the “all” doesn’t mean every single person will have eternal life. The “all” of Adam is every human born of man (Jesus born of a virgin is exempt), but the “all” of Christ is only those that are in Christ – those who belong to Christ.

There is a different kind of resurrection for those not in Christ. They will have a bodily resurrection as well, but their eternal destiny will be in a place of suffering.

Notice also the timeline of things: Christ first, then at his coming (which refers to his second coming still in our future) those who belong to Him. This means our permanent resurrection is future. I say this because some look for God to work miracles and resurrect dead people now. Of course God can resurrect now but that is not the typical plan. We should not look for that now. We should hope for that later. Because even a resurrection now will simply lead to another death now. No resurrection except Jesus’ is permanent until he returns.

And his resurrection is key to the next paragraph,

24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.

A whole series of sermons could be preached on these verses, but for today the takeaway is that you can’t have a reigning king that is still dead in a tomb. So, if you acknowledge Jesus reigning as king, you can trace your way back to a necessary belief in the resurrection of your body. Paul continues,

26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Death was defeated on the cross, but it will be ultimately realized at the second coming of Christ when our physical death is overcome by our resurrection. We get a taste now, but only a taste. He then says,

27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

In other words, Jesus is Lord of all! The Bible shows Jesus to be functionally subordinate to God the Father in the Trinity, but he is not ontologically subordinate. In other words, his role is in subjection to the Father, but he himself in his being is equal and one with the Father.

So, Paul has made the case that if you deny that you will one day rise from the dead, that is tantamount to saying Jesus is still dead, God is a liar, and that Jesus is not king over all.

Again, no born-again Christian would want to say that with their words. We know better than that. But the challenge before us is that we often say it with our actions.

Paul, however, could point to his own life as example of living out his faith consistently. And he uses this as a final call to help the Corinthians from being duped. We learn that

We avoid deception by living the truth consistently.

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!

The first half of this argument may sound a bit strange at first. After all vicarious baptism isn’t a thing we practice or believe is right to practice. Neither did Paul. Notice how he says “people” as if to distance himself from it? He doesn’t say, why do “we”. Or why does “our church”. He is referring to other people that do this and basically saying even they believe in the resurrection of the dead and live consistently with their practices. And that’s humbling. There will be unbelievers that are more consistent in their worldview than Christians. That should help to wake us up.

But Paul himself allowed himself to be exposed to danger for the sake of Christ. He obviously didn’t die a physical death each day, but he did die to self like we are called to do. And why? To what end?

32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”

While Paul probably didn’t fight with animals at Ephesus (he was a Roman citizen and never lists that incident anywhere else), it is clear that he endured persecution for the sake of Christ. He left a successful life in professional religion to become a preacher for a highly persecuted faith group. And for what? So, he could be applauded by a small group of people and live a short, hard life? Not at all. It was because he met the resurrected Christ. And he makes the point, if the resurrection isn’t true, the best logic is to “eat and drink for tomorrow we die for good.” It’s the kind of thinking that says, “If this life is all you’ve got, then just focus on being happy – even if that means abandoning God’s ways.” Clearly that was not how Paul lived his life. And in the final verses of this section he makes it clear that this is not how Christians should live their lives either. He says,

33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”[c] 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.

What a way to finish a message. “Wake up from your drunken stupor!” Just stop sinning! Don’t be deceived!

Sometimes it takes someone shaking us up a bit to really get us thinking straight. Bad company has a tendency to get us confused in our thinking. We take our cues from others, and frankly there are not many that exemplify the life God is calling us to. Today that bad company can take the form of useless, confusing literature, social media, poor friend choices, stagnant Christians. Watch out for those. It’s almost like Paul is saying to the Corinthians, what’s going on is not normal.

Many Christians look around them, take the average spiritual temperature and think to themselves, “This is normal”. Paul is saying here. Wake up! It’s not normal to deny the resurrection! It’s not normal for Christians to functionally deny the supernatural. If you do, that’s actually anti-Christ because Christ is supernatural! The resurrection has real-world implications.

So what marks the life of someone who says the right things but doesn’t really believe in the resurrection? This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a start:

1. They don’t share the good news of Christ with anyone.

2. Their faith doesn’t really cost them anything.

3. They still live in their sin.

4. If they read the Bible, it’s just to check a box not to get to know God.

5. They grieve death just like the rest of the world does.

6. They avoid all danger – especially danger from doing the things Christ did.

7. They always want to be first.

8. All their goals and dreams are about the next thing in this life.

9. They make decisions primarily based on getting ahead financially rather than advancing the kingdom.

Now think of it this way, and this is where I’m deeply challenged this week. Would anyone be able to look at my life from the outside and come to the conclusion: That man believes in the resurrection from the dead? The reality is that

The Christian life is a testimony to the resurrection of Christ.

The question is, are you living the true Christian life? And consequently, is your life a testimony to the power of the death and resurrection of Christ?

Today we remember that Jesus Christ died. But this worship service is not like a Remembrance Day service where we honour a hero from the past who paid the ultimate sacrifice. It’s not like that at all. The reason it is different is because our hero lives. He is here. And if you’ve never been introduced to Jesus, you can meet Him today and thank him personally for what he did on your behalf, and you can begin, starting today to live in light of the power of his resurrection.

Let’s pray.

Keep your eyes on Christ! (Hebrews 12:1-2)