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Friday, April 18, 2014

Paul Preaches About Easter

  Paul Preaches About Easter

1 Corinthians 15



Paul was having more trouble with those pesky Corinthians in the church he had started in Corinth!  The new Corinthian Christians had been so excited about following Jesus when Paul first came to them preaching the gospel.  So many in Corinth had rushed in and become Christians and then formed a dynamic Spirit filled church that was changing and influencing the whole surrounding area for Christ.  But even though these new Corinthian Christians started out so well in their Christian faith, so many of them kept falling back into their old sins.  And Paul, like a frustrated spiritual father worried and prayed over them and lectured them and kept coming back to Corinth time after time to straighten things out in their struggling church... 


And now an upset Paul was back in Corinth again!  Evidently there was a group in the Corinthian church that had decided that they didn’t believe that Christian people would go to heaven after death.  Had some enemy of the faith crept in and planted that doubt in their minds?  And now they were teaching this heresy to all of the others!  In fact, they had decided that when a person dies that that is the end of him or her.  No life after death.  They said they would continue believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord but just not believe in eternal life!  Isn’t that silly?  


Well Paul had a fit!  He said that Jesus wouldn’t be the Savior if He hadn’t saved them for eternal life after death.  He rushed back to Corinth to get them back on track!  Paul knew that what these new Christians believed – their theology- was all important.  And what you and I believe – our Christian faith - is all important today.  There will always be enemies creeping in and trying to plant doubt.  Trying to undermine our precious faith.  Let’s listen to what Paul said to his new church in Corinth about the heresy of the false belief that there is no life after death! 

“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?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised!  And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.  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.  But if He did not raise Him if in fact 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.  Then those also who have fallen asleep (died) in Christ are lost, if only for this life we have hope in Christ we are to be pitied more than all men.”  (I Corinthians 15:12-18)


Paul is saying that if Jesus did not rise from the dead (conquer death) then the Christian faith is empty of all content!  Paul tells his beloved Corinthians: “If there is no resurrection of the dead for us, then not even Christ has been raised!” (I Cor.14:13)  If you are a Christian, then when you die you will rise from the dead because Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  And because He rose from the dead, you will also rise from the dead.  Scripture says: “Because He lives, we shall live also.” (John 14:19)  We are tied together with Him in this rising from the dead!  That is the “good news” – the gospel!  Paul was emphasizing this truth. That is the message of Easter!  


Paul was on a roll.  He went on explaining that because Adam sinned, sin has been passed down to all of his children. -that’s us.  Remember Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command in the Garden of Eden.  Paul preached on: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”  (1 Cor. 15:22)  Paul continues: “But each in his own turn, Christ, the first fruits: then when He comes, then those who belong to Him.”  The order of resurrection is discussed here by Paul.  The “first fruits” are the first ripened part of the harvest furnishing actual evidence that the rest of the harvest is on the way.  Jesus’ resurrection (first fruit) comes first and the rest of us (our resurrections) will follow.  


Paul continues fussing at his beloved Corinthian Christians for even thinking that death was the end- that the promise of Easter is not there.  He is angry at the people who came in and lied to his new church and tried to ruin their Christian faith.  He tells them not to keep company with these false teachers.  “Do not be deceived, evil company corrupts good habits.”  He tells them. (1 Cor. 15:33)


Paul tells his beloved church, “”If the dead do not rise, let us eat and drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!”  (1 Cor.15:32b)  I think Paul is saying that if there were no resurrection from the dead why should we live a Christian life of sacrifice?  Instead we maybe should just live a life of self indulgence since there would be nothing to live for..


Paul continues preaching to his beloved Corinthians about life after death.  He says: “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.  When you sow you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed …But God gives it a body as He has determined…” (1 Cor. 15:36b-37)   Paul seems to be explaining a life-death principle here.  A seed must give itself up to a death process so that new life can emerge from it in the form of fruit or grain.  Liked the seed, our present physical bodies potentially contain the resurrection body that shall be.


Paul continues: “So it will be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable:  it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory:  It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power, it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”  (1 Cor. 15:41-44) 


Paul continues:  “Listen I tell you a mystery:  We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed.  In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed. (1 Cor.15:51-52)   


He continues: “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality.  When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:  “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”  Where O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting? “  (1 Cor.15:53-55) 


And Paul closes his sermon with these words:  “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm, let nothing move you.  Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.  Because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”  (1 cor. 15:56-58) 


Paul challenges his new church: “Let nothing move you” In other words, “Stand firm.”  We have such an amazing Christian faith – and the very heart of that faith is the resurrection of Jesus which is tied to our future resurrection.  But there are so many who would try to take that away from you or water that down!  Even in the name of Christianity!  Two thousand years ago the Corinthians followed Paul’s advice and learned to “Let nothing move them.” And today we must do the same and let nothing move us from our glorious faith!  “Because He lives, we shall live also.” (John 14:19)       




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