Reframing the Resurrection | 1 Corinthians 15:12-28
Topic: New Testament Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:12–15:28
Randy Loveless, November 11, 2018
Reframing the Resurrection | 1 Corinthians 15:12-28
Good morning, and welcome to Damascus Road Church. My name is Randy, and I’m one of the elder/pastors here. As many of you know, we’re taking a verse-by-verse walk through the book of John. Last week – in Chapter 4 – we saw Jesus heal a boy who was about to die from a fever… and he did it from miles away at the request of the boy’s father who had faith that Jesus would heal his son.
Throughout the book of John there are a couple of themes that emerge… and John calls them out, at the end of the book in Chapter 20… right after doubting Thomas places his hand IN the side of Jesus. John actually reveals the why behind the whole book of John:
John 20:30-31 ESV Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book, but THESE are written so that you my believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
The two reasons John gives for this book are that 1) we would believe Jesus is the Christ, and 2) that belief would give us life.
All throughout John the ideas of FAITH and LIFE are repeated… though the word faith never appears once in John, the idea of belief occurs nearly 100 times. And, as we discussed last week FAITH and belief in Jesus as the Christ are synonymous. And the concept of Jesus giving eternal life to those who possess this faith appears about 50 times. So John is really trying to hammer home for us this concept: Faith in Jesus as the Christ – as your savior – brings eternal life.
And this is not eternal life that is even remotely like what life is like right now… because sometimes… often times… life stinks. Doesn’t it? It’s not at all like what we experience now… it’s so much better!
And so we’re going to pause the book of John for this week, and we’re going to spend today reflecting on this idea of FAITH THAT LEADS TO ETERNAL LIFE. And to do that, we’re going to be looking at 1 Corinthians 15. So turn with me there… let’s pray.
Setting the Stage
1 Corinthians is a letter that contains a lot of correction. There are several ways in which the Corinthian church had gone astray. So, Paul, after spending much of his letter answering questions and responding to reports of errors and sinful behavior in the church, turns to remind the Corinthians of what is most important.
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, -2- and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. -3- For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, -4- that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…
He says the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ – is a matter of FIRST importance. And we should take that seriously. Christians are good at arguing – aren’t we?! Yes, with each other.We can get so caught up in debating points of theology and dismissing those who hold different views as if they’re inferior, unenlightened half-wits, while we possess true knowledge… and this pride divides the Church.
I have to stop and think about things like… RC Sproul… a man widely regarded as one of the most influential and brilliant theological thinkers of our day… believes in infant baptism. I do not. Do I respond with prideful arrogance, or with humility?
Though it’s important to show humility and to give grace to one another in theological arguments, there are some things that we MUST agree on if we are to be followers of Jesus. Paul lays them out here… the essentials are that Jesus Christ died for our sins, that he was buried, and that he was raised. If any of these things are missing, it all comes crashing down.
1 Corinthians 15:12-28 ESV Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? -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 your faith is in vain. -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. -16- For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. -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.
CONSEQUENCES IF THERE IS NO RESURRECTION
Let’s read verse 12 again: Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
The Corinthians were denying the reality of the resurrection, and that was a major concern for Paul – because if you lose the resurrection, you lose the gospel itself. Paul says that if there is no resurrection for us, than Jesus would be dead, in a tomb, and that we should all just go home and find something better to do with our time.
The gospel teaches us that Jesus SECURED the restoration of everything that sin has broken and destroyed and corrupted. We will be restored to perfection in every way. Body and soul – perfectly restored. If we deny that this is the reality, than we deny that Jesus himself was raised from the dead. And if we do that, there are serious consequences which Paul lays out here.
- Our preaching is in vain. If Jesus is not alive, then that means that telling people about Jesus is foolish. If he’s dead, then he’s a story. He’s devoid of all power and glory. He’s someone who taught good life principles, like an ancient Tony Robbins. We have no hope to offer anyone if Jesus is not alive. Jesus can’t help anyone more than a hamburger can.
- Our faith is in vain. If Jesus is still dead than we don’t really believe in anything worth believing in. It would be like the times in the Old Testament when God’s people are said to believe in idols that can not see, touch, or hear… completely impotent and powerless. If our God is dead, then faith in God accomplishes nothing.
- We are lying about God. 1 Cor 12:15-16 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. -16- For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.
Paul is saying that it would be impossible to share the gospel without misrepresenting God.When we share the gospel, we are sharing the story of Jesus. Without the resurrection, we’re telling a lie – a lie about God.
- We are still in our sins.1 Cor 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
Without the resurrection, our faith is futile and we are without salvation. Did Jesus have to die for us to be forgiven?Yes.But he also had to rise again – that he could be victorious. As the song goes, “And as He stands in victory, sin’s curse has lost its grip on me.”
- Those who have died are dead, and that’s all there is to it. How can believers be in heaven with Jesus if he’s dead in a tomb on earth? Without a risen, victorious savior, we have nothing to look forward to. Death remains the victor that we will all face, and there’s no hope in any of what we experience.
This is pretty bleak, is it not? The result of all of these things, Paul says, is that our hope is in this life only… and that we, more than anyone, are people to be pitied.
IMPLICATIONS OF THE RESURRECTION BEING TRUE
But Paul continues on – and provide the correct perspective of the resurrection. He starts by simply stating, in verse 20:
1 Corinthians 15:20-28 ESV But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. -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. -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. -26- The last enemy to be destroyed is death. -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.
This is the truth that was being denied, and so it is the truth that Paul is contending for. Jesus has been raised from the dead.
And he goes on to talk about how Jesus – being raised from the dead – is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep:
1 Corinthians 15:20-23 ESV But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. -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.
Essentially Paul is saying that there is a crop (the resurrection) and that Jesus is the first of many who will be raised. The firstfruit is given as a demonstration of – or proof of – the nature and quality of the harvest.
And it verse 22, we are pointed to a very important concept… the connection between Adam and Christ.Namely that in the same way that we all have inherited corruption, sin, and death through Adam (Adam & Eve…) so also we inherit ETERNAL LIFE through Jesus IF and only if we are – as Paul says here – in Christ.
Now we can be sure that it makes no difference what sinful things you have done. If God can forgive one sin, he can forgive any sin.If you don’t believe me, look at Romans 1. It’s one of those places in the bible where a list of wrong sinful things is given. It even says that those guilty of these things DESERVES to die.The list includes MURDER – as you’d expect – but it also includes DISOBEDIENCE TO PARENTS.
Raise your hands if you’ve been disobedient to your parents at some point in your life… we are all guilt and deserve to die. But in Jesus, we have forgiveness, and that forgiveness leads to LIFE. Life NOW and life ETERNAL.
JESUS HAS COMPLETE VICTORY
Because Jesus is alive, I want to focus on three things that we see Jesus doing in this passage, and the implications those actions has in our lives.Now.
The big picture here is that Jesus Reigns. He reigns over all things – so nothing, nothing at all is outside the scope of his control and authority. In verses 22-28, we find the words “all” or “every” 10 times. We see a picture of complete control, comprehensive power, and ultimate victory.
1 Corinthians 15:24-26- 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. -26- The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
In this statement, Paul is not suggesting that at the end that Jesus will usher in a cosmic movement of anarchy where all structure and order is overthrown. Anarchy is what exists now – both in the world around us, and in those high places of our hearts.
When Jesus returns, he will reorient every broken aspect of this world we live in to his good and perfect design. He will take the spiritual anarchy and disorder that started when Adam and Eve rebelled against God and restore his rule, authority, and power.
This isn’t a political movement – it’s a spiritual battle. Every rule, every authority, every power that is something other than the rule, authority, and power of King Jesus – will be destroyed.
Now, before you start cheering, let me ask you: what rules your heart? What have you given authority and power to in your life?
In the Old Testament, when Israel enters the promised land they are told to rid the land of the people who lived there – and destroy strongholds and wipe out their idols. And they do okay at first – but eventually they settle in and get comfortable and decide not to do the hard work of continuing to work to eliminate the rulers, authorities, and powers of the land. And it results in generation after generation of devastating consequences.
We are no better. We allow sin to reside in our hearts thinking it will stay dormant – what’s a little pride going to do? I’m not as bad as that person… etc.Know this: God will destroy every rule, authority, and power that has taken root in your heart.He has to.
Let’s be people who take our sin seriously… who walk in repentance…
Destroys ALL His Enemies – the Last of Which is Death
In order for Jesus to fully reign, he has to destroy death. Paul says here that the final enemy to be destroyed is death, at which point all who were asleep in Christ – meaning all those who died with faith in Jesus – will be raised, and their bodies will be made perfect.
And later in 1 Corinthians 15 – as well as other places – the resurrected human body is described as being glorious – like a tree is more glorious than a seed – and without defect or blemish. And when Jesus is ruler, we are promised:
Revelation 21:4 ESV He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
What a great hope we have in Jesus!! Death is defeated.
Delivers the Kingdom to the Father
Finally, I want to draw your attention to another amazing reality we see in how the resurrection works. In verse 24, Paul mentions that when the end comes that Jesus will hand over the Kingdom to the Father. And then later verses 27 and 28 say,
1 Corinthians 15:27-28 ESV For “God has put all things in subjection under his [Jesus] feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted [God] who put all things in subjection under him [Jesus]. -28- When all things are subjected to him [God], then the Son himself will also be subjected to him [God] who put all things in subjection under him [Jesus], that God may be all in all.
Now these two verses may have left your head spinning a little bit – like you need a flow chart to make sense of it all. Frankly, reading commentaries on these verses gave me a migraine. Even though there is complexity in these verses, I’m going to do my best to draw out the beauty that we see here.
These verses talk about the relationship between God the Father and God the Son (Jesus). Put very simply, God the father is the head of the Trinity (Paul says this in Ephesians 5) but has given authority over all things to Jesus – that he would reign until the end, which is when death – the last enemy – will be destroyed. And Paul belabors the point that even though all things were put in subjection to Jesus, that God himself is not in subjection to Jesus. Meaning, Jesus is in charge of everything, but he’s not in charge of God. Jesus is subjected to God.
What we need to realize about this subjection is that it’s not a forced or coerced arrangement. Jesus is completely willing to be in subjection to the Father – so much so that he would allow himself to be put to death on the cross. And even though the Kingdom was secured by his blood, he then gladly hands the kingdom over to God.
Hebrews 1:2-3 ESV [God has appointed Jesus as] the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
Jesus is not some lesser version of God or someone that is somehow less deserving of power, authority, and rule.
Philippians 2:4-7 ESV Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. -5- Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, -6- who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, -7- but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…
Jesus is every bit as powerful and glorious as God the Father but yet he humbles himself… and we keep reading to see how God responds to Jesus’ humility…
Philippians 2:9-11 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, -10- so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, -11- and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Do you see how this works? Jesus works in humility to serve and glorify the Father, while the Father is exalting Jesus. And when Jesus gives, he isn’t lessened by it – he gains from it.
Now take a moment to consider how different you would be if you lived this out more faithfully. How would your life be different if you cared not so much about what you thought you deserved, but about what was in the best interest of others? Our marriages would change, our friendships would change, everything about how we relate to God and to other people changes when we strive to follow the example of Jesus – Paul actually lays it out as that in Philippians 2 – he says, we have an example in Jesus’s humility.
And still, we realize in the end that the motivation for this change can only come from Jesus. We are commanded as Christians to strive and to push – to put out effort. But we’re also promised that the power to do this doesn’t come from us – but from him.
John 6:33-40 ESV For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” -34- They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” -35- Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. -36- But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. -37- All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. -38- For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. -39- And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. -40- For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”