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1 Corinthians 15:1-15:11
Key Verse: 15:3,4

Thank God that we could celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ studying about his death and resurrection at the Easter. Since these words are in our hearts, it will be good that we can go deeper into the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection through studying 1 Corinthians 15, which is called resurrection chapter. We ask God for his blessing upon this study.

Verse 1 says, “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” The Corinthian church was so blessed by God. Paul said that in Christ they had been enriched in every way—in all their speaking and in all their knowledge. And they did not lack any spiritual gift (1:5,7). In many blessings of God the church had many problems such division, sexual immorality, law-suit, eating problem, etc. In order to help them Paul stressed that they were one body of Christ and he wrote about a beautiful love poem, which says, “Love is patient…It does not envy…it is not proud…Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (13:4-7). Paul wanted the Corinthian church to be the community of love. However, Paul could not finish this epistle of 1 Corinthians with the love chapter. As the last analysis he had to write 1 Corinthians 15. He realized that in the end each Christian had to go back to the basic of the gospel and take stand on this ground of the gospel.

Look at verse 2. “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” How disappointing it will be to turn out believing in vain! Paul did not want them to believe in vain. Not at all. Absolutely not. Paul makes it clear that they are saved by the gospel, if they hold firmly to the word of the gospel. And Paul believed that holding to the gospel would be the fundamental solution to their human problems.

Then what is the gospel? Gospel in Greek is “euaggelion”, which means “good news” or “good tidings.” There are four Gospels in the Bible. Broadly speaking, the gospel can be the whole life story of Jesus. But precisely, the gospel can mean two things, Christ’s death and his resurrection. Look at verses 3,4. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” As for Paul the gospel was of first importance in life. Let’s think about these two essentials of the gospel.

First, Christ died for our sins (3). All men die. No one’s death is special; death makes all people equal. And no one’s death has any effect on others fundamentally. Death is death and it is the toll of the ending of one’s life. But Christ’s death is different. It is truly special. It has a tremendous effect on mankind individually. For Christ’s death is related to man’s sin. In order to understand the greatness of Christ’s death, we need to know what sin is. It is spelled S, I, N. It is not SIN, acronym of Social Insurance Number. Sin is not such good thing related to insurance. With the number in the SIN card you are insured and secured to work and receive government benefit as a member of the society in Canada. But sin makes a person unsecured. There is no insurance or coverage for sin in the world.

In our society there are crimes. Criminals are guilty of their wrong-doings. They are those who break the rule of the society and must be treated properly as their crimes deserve. Otherwise a society cannot be maintained. Crime and criminal are social or legal terms. Sin and sinners are spiritual terms. Those who think that humans are just physical beings composed of merely chemical elements say, “There is no such a thing as sin.” But according to the Bible human beings are spiritual beings and sin is a spiritual reality. It is breaking God’s given law or God’s law written in one’s heart, which can be called conscience (Ro 2:15). It is heart-breaking to God. And it breaks one’s own life, leading the person ultimately to death. Romans 6:23a says, “…the wages of sin is death.” Death is not something that comes without cause. Death is the wage or the result of sin. The MSG translation says “work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death.” What kind of wage or pension this is! No one wants such wage or pension. But unwittingly people work hard for sin and sin is accumulated, and the wage of sin is paid off in the end. Each one dies for each one’s own sin (Dt 24:16). Death comes to everyone, because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Ro 3:23; Ro 5:12).

Yet, the wage of sin is not paid off only at the end of one’s life. Sin makes man sin-sick while one lives in this world. As a virus is the cause of physical sickness, sin is the cause of the spiritual sickness. Some become too silent, while others become too talkative. Some become too shy and cautious, while others, rude and ruthless and audacious. Some become fearful and powerfulness, while others, bold and powerful to do evil. Sin makes man extremely individualistic, proud, angry and self-righteous. And sin makes man senseless, heartless, and faithless. People become lovers of themselves, lovers of money and fame and lovers of pleasures, rather than lovers of God. They even become God-haters. It is because they are cut off from God. Exposing these sicknesses men are to die. We all know how death makes people full of dread, sorrow and void of hope .

As we studied, the wages of sin is death. However, the destiny of sinners does not end with death. After death, comes judgment. Hebrews 9:27 says, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Even standing before a traffic judge is not easy. In many cases traffic judges are generous. But to be judged by the holy God will be totally different. It will be a thorough judgment because of his righteousness. There will be no favour in his righteous court. After judgment comes eternal punishment. Revelation 21:8 says, “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” The second death is eternal punishment. While on earth Jesus himself talked about entering the kingdom of God and being thrown into hell, which is eternal punishment. It is to suffer eternally in the fiery lake of burning sulfur, where worms do not die and the fire is not quenched (Mk 9:48). In the spiritual world heaven is real, so is hell. This is the inevitable situation of mankind! Because of sin and its consequences, humans seem to be the most pathetic and miserable creature among all the creatures. In his extreme suffering in this world Job a best kind of man cursed the day of his birth, saying. “May the day of my birth perish…May those curse days curse that day…” (Job 3:1-8). Undoubtedly the suffering in the fiery lake of burning sulfur could not be compared to Job’s suffering. Because of sin and death and eternal punishment human life is too horrible for anyone to think of. We must correctly know the destiny of mankind.

But there is an amazing transition. 1 Corinthians 15:3 says, “Christ died for our sins.” We are to die for our sins, but Christ died for our sins. Who is the Christ? He is the one God promised to send into this world for the salvation of mankind. He is God’s one and only Son. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is the reason Jesus was willingly crucified with the criminals in our places as an atoning sacrifice and prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). In order to give us forgiveness, salvation and eternal life Christ died for our sins. He became the Lamb of God, shedding his blood. John the Baptist cried out, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29). We are not to die for our sins, for Christ died for us sinners. He is the Creator, but he died for his creature. What a grace! This is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s why God is love, not because of any other things. We thank and praise God for the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God our Father. We must always remember this and ever thankful to God and ever praising him at any human conditions.

Second, he was raised on the third day (4). At our conference we clearly heard the message, “He has risen!” It is written in Matthew 28:6, Mark 16:6 and Luke 24:6. And we could greet each other, saying, “He has risen!” “It is true! The Lord has risen.” It is truly amazing news to all mortal mankind. In history no one could rise from the dead, but Jesus Christ. Here Paul said, “he was raised on the third day.” “On the third day” is important. He was not raised on the first, the second, the fourth, the seventh, or the tenth day. Jesus was the very one who said about being raised on the third day: in Matthew “…on the third day will be raised to life” (Mt 16:21), “on the third day he will be raised to life” (Mt 17:23), and “on the third day he will be raised to life!” (Mt 20:19), in Mark “he must…after three days rise again” (Mk 8:31), “after three days he will rise” (Mk 9:31), and “three days later he will rise” (Mk 10:34), and in Luke “he must…on the third day be raised to life” (Lk 9:22), and “on the third day he will rise again” (Lk 18:33). Whenever Jesus predicted his rising again, he said, “on the third day”, “after three days” or “three days later.” Christ Jesus knew when and how he would die and also when he could rise from the dead. And he was raised to life on the very day he promised to rise. He is in complete control over time and life. Then what does the resurrection of Jesus mean?

Firstly, it is the validation of his death for our sins. All those who died for their sins could not be raised to life. But Jesus was raised to life, for he did not die for his sins but for our sins. Through his resurrection we are assured that all our sins are paid off and forgiven by his atoning death. Now in him we have the assurance of our forgiveness of sins and salvation.

Secondly, Jesus’ resurrection is the proof that God Almighty is living. When Jesus was crucified by the wicked men and died on the cross, God was silent. The evil people completely ignored God and thought that his tragic death was the end. But they were greatly mistaken. God was not silent to the end at the death of his Son. God raised him from the dead. When God created the heavens and the earth and all things in them, God’s almighty power was declared and displayed. When God raised Jesus from the dead, it was the proof of the power of the Almighty God. Acts 2:23,24 says, “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of the wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Again Acts 10:39b,40 says, “…They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.” It was an awful thing that they had to see the one they crucified. Our God is living. He is almighty. He does not use his power randomly to crush people. He exercises his power to reveal his righteousness and justice. All the evils are completely destroyed. His righteousness stands and truth wins in the end. We don’t need to worry about evil power seemingly prevailing. Because our Almighty God is living, we can live by faith walking together with the risen Christ in a long life’s narrow way. He will come again as he promised and stand on the earth again, this time as the righteous King over all.

Thirdly, the resurrection of Jesus gives us a living hope of the kingdom of God. In this world all things end in death. There is no true hope in the world. All hopes are dead hopes. But 1 Peter 1:3,4 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.” The resurrection of Jesus Christ also assures that there is the kingdom of God beyond this world. Through the resurrection of Christ Jesus we have a living hope of the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of God is our inheritance. Can you imagine that the kingdom of God is your inheritance? Many wish that just a nice mansion will be their inheritance. But the Bible says that the kingdom of God is our inheritance, reserved in heaven for you and for me. The kingdom of God can never perish, spoil or fade. It is imperishable (incorruptible), undefiled and unfading. Imperfect things perish, spoil and fade away. But perfect things will not perish, spoil or fade. In the kingdom of heaven there is no more sin and Satan (Rev 20:10).

In Noah’s ark-making, God told him how to build it. When God commanded to Moses to make a tabernacle, God not only gave him the detailed direction how to make it including the ark of the Testimony, the table, the lampstand, etc, but also showed him the pattern. Exodus 25:9 says, “Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you”, and Exodus 25:40 says, “See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” They say that the tabernacle was beautiful beyond description. But the real pattern was in heaven. We hear that the earth is the most beautiful planet viewed from the outside. Astronauts are awed by the beauty of the earth. Psalm 104: 24, “How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” Yet, the earth has been damaged because of the corruption of men. The whole creation including all nature has been groaning in the hope of being liberated from its bondage to decay. The real one, truly glorious one is coming. 1 Peter 5:13 says, “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” Revelation 21:1 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…” In the new heaven and new earth, God himself will be present. Revelation says further, “…Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no ore death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (21:3,4). We praise God for giving us a living hope of the kingdom of God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 Paul said that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…and was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” When it is said, “according to the Scriptures”, it implies the authenticity and credibility of Christ’s death and resurrection that took place in history as the fulfillment of God’s promises in the Scriptures. Now Paul gives more historical evidences of Jesus’ resurrection that the risen Christ appeared to many people. As we studied in Luke 24, he appeared to two men on the road to Emmaus and to the Eleven and other disciples. The purpose of his appearing to them was to have Bible study with them, opening their minds and the Scriptures so that they might have a firm resurrection faith from their hearts. Anyway, the risen Jesus appearing to many people adds to the historicity of his resurrection. Verses 5-8 say, “and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” Jesus’ resurrection is not a hallucination of one or several people. According to Paul there were more than 514 eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. Paul stresses the historicity of the resurrection of Christ Jesus. He seemed to be saying again and again, “It is true.”

However, we should understand the point of Paul’s writing here. Verse 8 says, “and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” In this verse he said of two things, the risen Christ appearing to him and his being one abnormally born. How wonderful it must have been that the risen Christ appeared to him! One qualification of being called apostles was seeing Jesus face to face. Because the risen Christ had appeared to him, Paul could claim that he was not inferior to the Twelve when people doubted his apostleship. But here Paul was not talking about the magnitude of the risen Christ appearing to him. He wrote about God’s grace that the risen Christ appeared to him as to one abnormally born. Humanly speaking he was one of the greatest people in history with outstanding scholarship mastering the philosophy of East and West at that time. He was a proud and ambitious young man who could have reached the top position of the nation. Before human eyes he was great. But before the risen Christ he felt that he was not even a normal human being, abnormally born. He was changed from a proud man into a truly humble man. What changed him? It was the power of the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection. Paul was not just writing about the risen Christ appearing people, but the changing power of the gospel of Christ’ resurrection. Paul says continually, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” He was full of thanks for the grace of God. Even his hard-working was God’s grace. There was no room for being proud. The resurrection of Jesus is true because the gospel of Jesus who died for our sins and was raised on the third day changes people. So Paul said in verse 11, “Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.”

It was the gospel of Jesus that changed Jemmie from a philosophically minded woman to a woman with a humble and believing heart. With her sophisticated mind she was uncertain and confused and made others confused unwittingly. But now with a humble and believing heart her faith has become crystal clear and makes others clear. At our EBC her message of Jesus’ crucifixion and death was very clear and made the listeners clearly hear the word of God. The gospel has changed Jemmie. When Sara was in the first year of U of T, she cried many tears even hating to go to the school for study. It was because of her heavy life science study at U of T and also unbelieving school environment. But she has been changed. As she shared in her message at the conference, this time was a heaviest time in her life: being rejected from all the graduate schools she had applied for with no other back-up plan and having the assignment of writing final papers due right after EBC and taking the cross of Easter Conference message. She felt too much burdened but she was not crushed by those burdens. In that situation she could have a room to hear the voice of the risen Christ, “I chose you to know me. I am not dead, but alive. I want my resurrection to be your resurrection...Your labour in the Lord is not in vain.” So she could share the living resurrection message with others. She is growing as a woman of the cross of mission for the gospel. Allen grew up in a country where people could not hear even the word “God” not to mention the words of the Bible. But see how much he was changed. He not only believes in God personally through his Son Jesus Christ, but also has been growing as a disciple of Jesus. People were surprised at the conference that he led GBS speaking the words of God confidently and convincingly. In the video-clip he struggled hard to ascend into heaven playing the role of Jesus. To me this was like his change in Jesus from an earthly man with ignorance of God to trying to reach heaven and be a heavenly man. I was one of the most fearful young men. I was a slave to fear and was frozen whenever I had to speak before many people. And I was dreadful of God’s judgment of hell. But in his mercy and grace I have been changed through the gospel of Jesus into a messenger of God’s word with a living hope of the kingdom of God.

We praise God for the changing power of the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The gospel that Christ died for our sins and was raised on the third day may be of first importance in our lives so that we may become the people of the gospel and the servants for the gospel in this generation.

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