Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our text for today is the epistle, 1 Corinthians 15:1-10. We find in these verses the Gospel in a brief form. As St. Paul says, "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And so he was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. "
This sounds similar to what? It is like a creed, right? This is a simple creed. Some people ask, Where do we get the Apostles' Creed? Or the Nicene Creed? Or the Athanasian Creed? The creeds are not biblical. But if they are. This is a simple creed that says what we believe about Jesus Christ, and what Christ has done for us. Christ died for us and rose again on the third day. The Apostles' Creed has more details, He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was born of the Virgin Mary, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence he shall come to judge all nations, etc. However, here is the core of all the creeds.
Christ died for us, so we can not rely on our own works. As the hymn says, we are justified, so therefore we have peace with God. As the Lord says in our Gospel for today (Luke 18:9-14), two men went to the Temple to pray, but in different ways. The Pharisee, a respectable and religious man with a high position in society, prayed standing in this way: God, I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
Was he focused on God or on himself? On himself! What a good man I am! He also looked at the publican and said I'm better than him. The publican was a tax collector and more than that, a tax collector for the Romans. A foreign empire governing the land of Palestine. The Jews did not like to pay taxes to foreigners in their own country. So the Jews who collected taxes for the Romans were rejected by their countrymen as traitors and thieves.
However, the Lord said that the publican was justified in the eyes of God because his attitude was not "I'm a good man," but "I am a sinner. I am sorry for my sins. Lord, have mercy on me. " This is the attitude for everyone because we are all sinners.
The rule, or measure, for us it is the perfect law of God. Not the behavior of others worse than ourselves, but the perfect will of God. The law shows us our sins. The law is like a mirror for us sinners. It shows us our sins and our need for a Savior.
The world does not like to acknowledge its need for a Savior. So there are always enemies of the cross of Christ. But for us, the gospel is the good news what God has done for us. Jesus fulfilled the law, died on the cross in our place and rose again on the third day. And in the resurrection of Christ we have the promise of resurrection and eternal life also after physical death. This is our hope. Paul says so in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15.
What else does Paul say in this short creed? "Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. "
That means, we know Christ, we know the gospel through the Bible. The inspired Word of God, the Scriptures are the testimony of the prophets, the apostles, all who witnessed with their own eyes the wondrous works of God. Paul also was one of many witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. Paul says, he rose on the third day and what else?
"And that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at once; some of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James; then of all the apostles. And last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared unto me. "
We can trust God's Word not only because we want to believe in the beautiful stories of the Bible, but because there is evidence of the truth of Scripture. There is evidence to support belief in God's Word. At that time, Christ appeared to many people after his resurrection.
According to the Gospels, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene and the women who came to His grave. The women discovered the empty tomb. This is the first proof, but it was not enough in itself, because the enemies of Christ said the disciples robbed the grave and hid the body of Christ to continue their roles as apostles. Today there are still people who say the empty tomb is a scam. But, we do not have only the evidence of the empty tomb.
We also have the testimony of the apostles and others who saw the risen Christ with their own eyes.
Now Christ has ascended into heaven and is not with us in a visible form. But we have in the books of the New Testament evidence for the resurrection. Obviously, the authorities could not explain the empty tomb. This story of a man who rose from the dead is strange. It is not a story that we would believe without evidence. We have not only the evidence of the empty tomb, but also the testimony of the apostles and others of the risen Christ.
Why can we be sure of this testimony? According to the stories, only St. John died of old age. The others apostles were martyred. We talked last Sunday of St. Bartholomew who was flayed alive and beheaded. Others were crucified and executed in other ways. Now, a question: Who is going to die for a story that they know is a lie? No one.
Martyrdom means when a person, faced with the decision to renounce faith or die, chooses to die. If the story of the resurrection of Christ was a legend or myth, no one would have died rather than deny it. But they saw with their own eyes and could not deny the risen Christ. Their hope was based on a true story. So they died for their faith.
Today we can still be sure that this story is true. Paul said all his authority was based on the Word of God. Paul was not one of the original apostles. Christ appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, and was called to be an apostle in that way. Paul was a true apostle because he saw Christ with his own eyes. Now Paul says, "I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. I however by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace has not been in vain for me; but I labored more than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God with me. "
Paul was a persecutor of the church. He was on the way to Damascus to kill Christians. But Christ changed his life. For us this means no matter our past as sinners, we can repent of our sins and receive new life in Christ. We have a second chance to live as children of God by the mercy of God which covers all who repent.
So we have the hope of eternal life, forgiveness of sins and peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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