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THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION

1 Corinthians 15:12-15:34
Key Verse: 15:22

anyone. May the gospel of Jesus should truly be of first importance in our lives! Today let’s think about the power of the resurrection.

First, the necessity of the resurrection (12-19). In this part Paul helps the Corinthian Christians to think logically, using “if” statement 7 times. Look at verse 12. “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Here we see that one problem of the believers in Corinth was that they did not believe the resurrection of the dead. It was probably because they were too busy living day-to-day’s life to think about what would happen after death. They were only engrossed by the things of the world. Or it was because the resurrection of the dead did not appeal to their logic, although they recognized the resurrection of Christ. How did Paul help them? Did he say to them, “Since Christ was raised from the dead, Certainly there is the resurrection of the dead”? No. He did not speak to them straightforwardly using an affirmative sentence. Rather, he used a negative and subjunctive sentence: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” What did it mean, when he said, “not even Christ has been raised”? As we studied in the Gospel, the message of Christ’s resurrection, “He has risen!” was truly the most amazing news mortal ears could hear. The resurrection of Christ is like a pillar of hope in this dark world of death. The resurrection of Christ is the only hope amid countless deaths of men in history. So “not even Christ has been raised,” is an awful statement that cannot be true.

Now in verses 14-19 Paul helped the Corinthians think about what the results would be if Christ had not been raised. Look at verse 14. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Who wants to do useless preaching and have useless faith? How about doing such things for one’s whole life time? The implications of there being no resurrection from the dead did not match the fact that Corinthian Christians still chose to live a life of faith.” Look at 15. “More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.” When we read Revelation, the devil and the beast and the false prophet were all thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur (Rev 20:10). False prophets and false teachers are to be punished most severely, for they mislead people bluntly. God is truthful. Proverbs 16:13 even says, “Honest scales and balances are from the LORD.” False teachers and false witnesses are terrible people before God. Being found to be such people is frightening. Paul used such extreme expressions so that the believers might know it was unthinkable for him and his coworkers to be such terrible people.

Look at verse 17. “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Faith without Christ’s resurrection is pointless and fruitless and in vain. However, our faith is not like that. And “you are still in your sins” means Christ’s heart-breaking atoning death is ineffective and failed. Yet in truth Christ’s atoning death is true and works in the heart of those who believe as remedy for sin Look at verse 18. “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” Those who had fallen asleep in Christ did so believing in the resurrection of Christ. So if Christ has not been raise, they are lost. They have become lost dead people. However, they are found in God’s kingdom like Moses and Elijah who appeared at the transfiguration mountain to talk with Jesus. And Paul said in verse 19, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Without the resurrection of Christ Christians are pitiful people, especially sincere Christians. There are Christians who do not have the living hope of the kingdom of God but try to be prosperous in this world only. If Christ had not been raised, such Christians would be the best kind of Christians. And those who struggled hard to follow the way of the cross for the sake of Christ’s kingdom would be the most pitiful people.

In this logic Paul let the Corithian Christians know that in real Christian lives the results are not true. Their preaching is not useless; they are not false witnesses about God. Their faith is not futile. Their lives of mission are not pitiful but glorious. So Paul claims that the resurrection of Christ is necessary.

Second, the power of the resurrection (20-28). Paul did not just dispute that the resurrection of Christ was necessary and reasonable. Now after a hypothetical explanation he declares the fact. Look at verse 20. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” The resurrection of Christ is not an abstract theory, but a concrete fact. It is an undeniable historical event as we studied in 15:1-11. When he said, “indeed,” it was his sure conviction. The message, “He has risen!” is certain and true. This message rang out since it was proclaimed, is still ringing and will ring out to the end of the age: “He has risen!”

And then it says, “…the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” “Firstfruits” means it will be followed by the second, and third and many others. Firstfruits are important. Jesus’ death on the cross is not such a thing. It took place once for all. We are not to die just as Jesus died, although we follow the example of his cross in life. However, just as Christ Jesus was raised from the dead, there will be the resurrection of the dead. It is likely that apples come from apple trees continually, fruits of resurrection will come continually from the source of life after the firstfruits, Christ.

Paul explains further this wonderful analogy. Look at verse 21. “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.” What an excellent discovery of a simple truth! It must have come from his deep understanding of human history. Death did not come out of nowhere or from animals like swine (swine flu) or cow (mad cow disease) or from bird (avian influenza). Death came through a man, Adam who sinned. In the same way the resurrection of the dead does not come out of nowhere or through miracle herbs or medicine or heavenly angels. It comes through a man Jesus Christ, who was sinless yet died for man’s sins and was raised on the third day. Death and resurrection both come through humans, yet two different humans.

Look at verse 22. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” It is a truly amazing succinct statement of human history. This can be the summary of the whole Bible and the summary of the history of mankind. In Adam, Alexander the Great (Jun 10, BC 323) died. His last wish before his death was, “Both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin.” And he wanted the world to know that he came empty handed into the world and empty handed went out of the world. Anyway, with these last words, he died. Julius Caesar (March 15, BC 44), Muhammed (June 8, 632 AD) Napoleon Bonaparte (May 5, 1821 AD) and other people, great or small alike, all died. And all will die. But in Christ all will be made alive. All those who are in Christ are made alive and will be made alive. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” Jesus said in John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” 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.” Anyone or whoever in Christ is made alive and will be made alive. All those who are in Christ are cut off from the line of Adam. Death has no longer mastery over them, as death no mastery over Christ (Ro 6:9). Of course, they die physically. But to them death is a transition step into a new eternal world.

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” We know that there should be no distinction among human beings. All human beings are equal being made in the image of God. Also all humans equal as sinners as Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And all die once. But there is an inevitable difference between those who are in Adam and those who are in Christ. The differences in gender, age, title, wealth, health, intellect, colour, race, etc, are not really important. The truly substantial difference is whether one is in Adam or in Christ. There are two undeniable streams in human life in the world. Paul wanted the Corinthian Christians to see the human history and the world from this prospect, “As in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” And he wanted them to know who they were and who they would be in Christ by God’s mercy and grace. We also should have this perspective of life. Whether one is in Adam or in Christ makes all the difference. This prospect of life will make us ever thankful for God’s grace and make us humble and brokenhearted for the people of this world whoever they are.

Look at verse 23. “But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” We all know the importance of belonging, whose team we belong to. I still remember that when Canadian Hockey team won against American tem in 2010 Vancouver winter Olympic final match, all Canadians rejoiced at the victory. It is because we belonged to the Canadian team. And last Friday Toronto Blue Jays won over Kansas City Royals, and the people in Toronto were happy. Yet, this kind of belonging is not that serious. Again, whether one belongs to Christ is serious and critical. When we belong to Christ, his victory and all of his are ours. We cannot fathom all the blessings of those who belong to him.

Look at verse 24. “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” When we look at the world, we are frightened wondering where the world is going. We don’t know to what extent we can believe the media. We hear about the global world and global village. People in the world try to do many things in the name of New World Order. However, in all their attempt they want to get rid of Christ. While on earth, Jesus talked about the prince of this world, the devil (Jn 14:30). Paul also said about the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit of the evil one (Eph 2:2). In the heavenly realm only Christ is above the ruler of the kingdom of the air. So when they try to eliminate Christ, they are completely in the control of the ruler of the kingdom of the air. Only evil power rules. In this rule power begets power and money begets money. It will be so more and more as the end approaches. But Christ will come and destroy all dominion, authority and power and hand over the kingdom to God the Father. How can we be sure of this? It is because of the power of his resurrection. Ephesians 1:19-21 says, “and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” We don’t need to worry about any worldly power and the power of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, but believe the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Paul writes more about this exciting victory. Look at verses 25-28. “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he (God in ESV) ‘has put everything under his feet.’ Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” This is the way the new world order is established. Paul was so sure of this established of the new order by Christ that he repeated the expression, “under his feet” or “under him.” Christ’s kingdom will come. Praise God for this wonderful hope and his incomparable power which was demonstrated when he raised Christ from the dead.

Third, “Do not be misled” (29-34). In this part Paul makes a contrast between the life of those who believe in resurrection and that of those who do not. Those who believe in resurrection endanger themselves every hour. As for Paul he said, “I die every day.” What does this mean? We do not know it’s meaning completely, but we can imagine that he participated in the sufferings of Christ every day and experienced the power of resurrection every day. As for him, resurrection faith was practical. He said that he even fought wild beasts, not merely for human reasons but surely in the course of doing the gospel work in Ephesus. If the dead are not raised, the best lifestyle can be the hedonistic lifestyle. They can say, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Paul said, “I die every day,” being ready to die. There seems to be not much difference to die today or to die tomorrow, just one day different. But there is a huge difference in their ways of thinking and their lifestyles, and there will be the difference in eternity. Nowadays so many young people are misled with this philosophy. Even if they die tomorrow, they want to enjoy pleasure and get high today. To them life is not that precious or serious. They are right if death is the end of everything and there is no resurrection. But in truth they are deceived and misled.

Paul gives a strong warning against such idea: “Do not be misled (deceived): ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.” Here who are bad company? They are those who do not believe the resurrection. They corrupt good character (good habits, good morals). Here we see that the fundamental reason of moral corruption is having no resurrection faith, that is, no true hope. One’s habit or character is related to one’s faith and hope. Paul really used a strong expression, saying continually, “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for they are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.” Having no faith Christ’s resurrection is sinning against God. The ones who have no faith in the resurrection of Christ are those who are ignorant of God shamefully. Here we learn that we should watch out bad company, and more than that watch out ourselves whether we keep faith in Christ’s resurrection.

Thank God that we are assured Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. In Christ all will be made alive. He will destroy all dominion, authority and power and the end will come, and God will be all in all. May we keep faith in Christ’s resurrection against the corruption of the world and willingly participate in the sufferings of Christ with assurance of his ultimate victory and his kingdom coming.

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