1 Corinthians 15:12-58
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, "All things are put in subjection," it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.
Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? Why are we also in danger every hour? I protest, brethren, by the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE.
Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?" You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL." The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual.
The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O GRAVE, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Sermon for the Third Wednesday in Advent
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Most typical Advent sermon series have a three point outline: He was promised, He came, He is coming again. This one is no different, in that regard. The Three Men of Advent cover that three point outline. Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah. John was there when Jesus arrived , and he witnessed Jesus at work. Paul, like us, came after Jesus - although not very long after. He was roughly contemporary with Jesus, but he never met Jesus before the crucifixion, resurrection, or the ascension. He is one of those that taught us about the return - the coming again - of Jesus, and so our theme this evening is, Paul: He Tells Us About Jesus Coming Again.
The first thing you probably noticed about our text is its length. It is quite long for a modern sermon text. To be honest, there is so much to preach on in the chosen verses that I could never do justice to the entire thing in one sermon. I just could not choose where to stop - or which words to skip over to get to the nugget I wanted to preach on. I like the reading, and I think that it needs to be heard now and then as a single continuous reading. So I indulged that sense about the text.
The second thing you might have noticed is that the text isn't really about Jesus coming again - at least not directly. On the face of it, the chosen verses speak about the truth of the resurrection, the meaning and value of the resurrection, the importance and the power of fellowship - both fellowship in the Church and fellowship with those who are not of the church (the power of which is not for good), the nature of the resurrection, and the joy of the resurrection. In other words, the text is about the coming resurrection of all flesh, primarily. Jesus' resurrection is only brought in to answer the charge that there is no resurrection to come because resurrection isn't really possible. If resurrection is not possible, says Paul, then Christ has not been raised from the dead either, and the Christian faith is a hoax, and we stand before God not only as condemned sinners and lost forever - but we also stand as guilty of lying about God because we said that He raised Jesus from the dead - which He did not do if there is no possibility of physical resurrection.
In our day, when so-called scholars are busy telling us how Jesus was just a man, and did no miracles, and died for His politics - and that the God-stuff and the resurrection are merely myths invented by the earliest Christians to give Jesus a little more "star-power", the arguments of Paul in our text are still needed - and absolutely to the point. Take away the resurrection - or the Incarnation - and the Christian faith dissolves into fable and story, and there is no real salvation, and all men are lost in sin. The so-called scholars who claim to be Christians and teaching the faith while denying the only parts of it that make it work are either lying to us about who they are, or lying to themselves. Why bother with religion at all? When they confess to being Christians, in the context of their teachings, they deliberately claim to be persuaded by a lie, and desire to hold to a religion they know to be false and meaningless - and powerless. But Paul answers them by saying, "But now Christ has been raised from the dead". It is true, there is power and meaning, and the resurrection has happened - and so it will happen on the last day, as well.
It is this last day resurrection that forms the hope of the Christian faith, and speaks to us from this text about Jesus coming again. Paul writes of the resurrection, "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power." There is a lot in these words, but I want you to notice that they speak of Jesus coming again, and then they tell us that the resurrection of Jesus from the grave is not a unique, one-time, separate event. His resurrection is also our resurrection.
Did you notice how Jesus is referred to as "the first fruits"? "First fruits" is the name given to the first things harvested - or the best of the harvest. It is not a separate harvest, but the earliest part of that one harvest. The "first fruits" of the resurrection are not a separate resurrection, but merely the first to rise from the grave - and the best, as well. Since Christ is "first fruits" and we are to follow, the whole resurrection is the one that includes us. The one resurrection, Christ's resurrection, is our resurrection, distinguished only by order in time, and who it is that rises in each specific case. That is why the resurrection of Christ clearly proves that we shall rise again from our graves, because the reality and truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is history - and it is just a part of our resurrection.
This is what Paul saw, and taught with such clarity and passion. This resurrection is what our Advent celebrations are about. We celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem precisely because we anticipate the resurrection - our own resurrection - along with Him. Joy to the world, the Lord is come - and with Him has come the hope of our own resurrection to eternal life through Him and in connection with Him.
All that we await, now, is Jesus coming back, the second coming, the parousia. That is the focus of our Advent observance. We look back at the Old Testament promises to see how faithfully God has kept every single one. It is this faithfulness to His promises that brings us confidence and cheer in the face of the long-delayed promises of the coming end of the world. We celebrate the birth of Jesus for what it reveals about God, and about His will for us and His love for us. It is the festival of the Incarnation, Immanuel, God among us in form and nature human, and yet still completely and utterly powerful God. What we see in Jesus - the compassion, the love, the power and the will to heal and save and rescue - reveals the heart and nature of God, and His attitude toward us, because Jesus is God. But the heart of Advent is looking forward to the return of the Savior to take us home.
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. O GRAVE, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Clinging to these truths shapes our lives and our values and our attitudes toward one another. It shapes our celebration of Christmas. It colors everything we do and makes the difference between us and those who only know Santa Claus. Paul knew that, and that is why he was always telling about Jesus coming again - and what a difference it makes in the lives of those that believe. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
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