April 21st, 2019 | Easter Sunday
Main idea: The resurrection of Christ is the only hope for our own lives and for the whole world.
I. THE RESURRECTION & OUR HOPE (15:12-19)
The church in Corinth is struggling with doubt related to issues of resurrection. We often get the idea that people in the 1st century were simply more prone to believe in a previously dead person being raised, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Death was viewed as an “escape” or “liberation” from the body. The physical world was viewed as fallen and evil, so death was leaving this realm for the preferred spiritual realm.
This made the claim of the bodily resurrection of Christ not only unthinkable, but undesirable.
They had more of a concept of resurrection, but they believed this would happen for all of the righteous of God at one time at the end of human history.
For an individual to be raised in the middle of human history, without the rest of the world being renewed, did not fit in their thinking or expectations.
Paul argues that a denial of the resurrection has at least 7 implications: If there is no resurrection from the dead, then...
1. Christ has not been raised (15:13, 16)
2. Our preaching is in vain (15:14a)
3. Our faith is in vain & futile (15:14b, 17a)
4. We are misrepresenting God (15:15)
5. We are still in our sins (15:17b)
6. Death is the end (15:18)
7. We have no real hope (15:19a)
If the Christian faith is based on an empty gospel and a fraudulent savior, “anybody is better off than the Christian” (Leon Morris). Everything hinges on whether or not Jesus was really raised from the dead.
“We cannot be saved by a dead Christ, who undertook but could not perform, and who still lies under the Syrian sky, another martyr of impotent love. To save, he must not merely pass to but through death. If the penalty was fully paid, it cannot have broken him, it must need to have been broken upon him. The resurrection of Christ is thus the indispensable evidence of his completed work, of his accomplished redemption.” ~ B.B. Warfield
When we flip all of these statements around (since Paul is indeed fully convinced of the resurrection), we see the hope of the resurrection. We can look forward to our own resurrection one day, our faith has power, the stranglehold of sin in our lives has been broken, and we can have a real, tangible hope in the here and now. Rather than pity, joy is offered to us.
II. THE RESURRECTION & THE HOPE OF THE WORLD (15:20-26)
Christ as the “firstfruits” was a powerful imagery for an agricultural society. The “firstfruits” were the initial haul of the season. It indicated that the harvest was coming, while also illustrating the quality of the rest of the crop to come. Paul is contending that Christ’s resurrected body gives a foretaste of what is to come for the believer.
“The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the ‘firstfruits, the pioneer of life,’ He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because he has done so” ~ C.S. Lewis
Paul draws a comparison between Adam and the “second Adam” (Christ); everywhere that Adam failed, Christ succeeded, and now his people experience union in Christ. Everything that is Christ’s is ours: his death was our death, and his life is now our life.
15:23-26 is steeped in military and kingdom language. Christ, as the commander and chief, goes first and will fully and finally destroy “every rule and every power and authority.” Their defeat has already begun at the resurrection.
The last enemy to be destroyed is death itself. This means:
Death is still our enemy
Death is a defeated enemy
Death will soon be “swallowed up in victory” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:54)
“The message of the resurrection is that this world matters! That the injustices and pains of this present world must now be addressed with the news that healing, justice, and love have won. If Jesus Christ is truly risen from the dead, Christianity becomes good news for the whole world – new which warms our hearts precisely because it isn’t just about warming hearts. Easter means that in a world where injustice, violence, and degradation are endemic, God is not prepared to tolerate such things – and that we will work and plan, with all the energy of God, to implement the victory of Jesus over them all.” ~ N.T. Wright
So what’s the big deal about the resurrection? Paul has answered this in 2 ways:
If Christ has been raised, there is real hope for our lives right now.
“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching, but whether or not he rose from the dead. That is how the first hearers felt who heard reports of the resurrection. They knew that if it was true it meant we can’t live our lives anyway we want. It also means we don’t have to be afraid of anything, not Roman swords, not cancer, nothing. If Jesus rose from the dead, it changes everything.” ~ Tim Keller
If Christ has been raised, there is real hope not only for us, but for the whole world