1 Corinthians 15:1-25
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit 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 toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
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.
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
He is risen! He is risen indeed. Hallelujah!
You probably will remember that I have often used a Latin phrase, usually while talking about Baptism. The phrase is "sine qua non". It means something that is absolutely fundamental or required. You could speak of oxygen or water as a sine qua non of human life. The list of things that we must have to maintain life is staggering, and each one of them could be called a "sine qua non" because if it (or any one of them) were absent, life would cease.
People don't usually use the phrase so widely. It fits, but if it is used too often, it loses its punch. Usually people use the term for that unique situation where just one thing, or perhaps two are absolutely required. Baptism is the sine qua non of membership in the Church. Membership in the Church is the sine qua non of salvation. Faith is the sine qua non of receiving God's grace. And our text this Easter morning speaks about the sine qua non of the Gospel, of faith, of salvation, of the Church, of all things connected to Christianity. Our theme this morning is "Sine Qua Non."
Our Easter Epistle is, appropriately, the apostle Paul's great resurrection chapter in 1 Corinthians. It isn't the whole chapter, of course, but a good hunk of it, and the most significant piece of it. First he preaches the Gospel. He doesn't get into the meaning of the Gospel - he just lays out the wonderful facts. The one thing that is so often missing today in so many churches and in so many sermons is the heart and core of it all, the death and resurrection of Jesus. Sermons will talk about the benefits of this death and resurrection, and what our response to it ought to be, without actually saying that Jesus died on the cross for our sins according to the fore-ordained plan of God, and that He rose from His grave. I suppose they mistakenly take that as already known and so unnecessary to preach.
The mistake is not that it is known, for it is, usually, by those who come to church. The mistake is that they assume it needs not be repeated. The result is often that people get confused, thinking that something else is more important, and mistaking our response or a program of moral reform for the Gospel. The truth is that the Gospel is the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins, and His resurrection from His grave, which is God's unmistakable way of telling us that the payment made was sufficient and was accepted. He is risen!
How we respond is not the Gospel . Our better behavior is not the Gospel. The generalized lessons about love and humility and caring for others is not the Gospel. Our sense of peace and comfort day by day is not the Gospel. Jess death, and His resurrection are the Gospel - and His resurrection is the sine qua non of the Christian faith, the Christian Church, of salvation, and of the Gospel itself.
His death is important too, but very few people argue whether of not Jesus has died. The meaning of His death is critical to understanding the Gospel. But the one thing we cannot do with out in this whole religion, is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul writes, 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.
The debate, back then, was whether it was possible to rise from the dead. Many people don't believe that it is possible today, but they are not generally in the Church. Back then, there was a group teaching that resurrection was impossible, and spiritualizing salvation into some great lesson, or into an unobservable event in the realm of the spirit - which really means the realm of make-believe.
There are people in the Church still teaching the same old lies - you probably saw some of them on TV if you watched the special on "Jesus and Paul" on ABC. Churches were they deny miracles and call the Bible "myths" (by which they mean religious stories that teach or illustrate some "spiritual truth") or where the facts of the Bible are called into doubt are everywhere, and in most every denomination. They are more prominent in some church bodies tan others, but such churches are home to those who teach the same faith-destroying deceits.
Anyhow, Paul was writing to those who were being confused, and who were wondering if that sort of thing was possible. Some were even saying that, "Okay, Jesus rose from His grave, but we will not and cannot!" They were saying that His resurrection was a special case, and no one else could rise like that. Who was telling the truth? Paul was explaining to them, that the Christian faith is nothing without the resurrection. Your resurrection is just as important as Christ's, because if you cannot rise from the grave, then Christ did not either, and if Christ did not actually, physically rise from His tomb, alive and whole, then the Christian faith is a meaningless fiction and you are better off sleeping in an extra hour or two on Sundays. Worse yet, if Christ did not rise, then we are guilty of bearing false witness about God, and God isn't going to like that. The modern version of that last threat would be, if Jesus didn't rise from the dead, then there probably isn't really any God at all.
This is not an argument for the unbelieving world. They do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and if they think He might have, they would not understand what it meant - they would think it was one of those cosmic oddities. This passage is for Christians who are hearing and may be troubled by the sort of reports that Peter Jennings broadcasted for us on Palm Sunday. For those who are haunted by the oh-so-reasonable sounding doctrine that Christ did not rise, or that we shall sure not rise, Paul wants everyone to clearly understand that the resurrection is the centerpiece and the keystone of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection, my preaching is empty and worthless, and so is your faith. That is what the word "vain" means - empty, worthless, without power. You are still lost in sin and doomed to eternal destruction.
But then Paul joyfully adds, "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep." He is Risen! That is the meaning of Easter. That is the heart of the Christian faith. Without that, there is nothing, the meaning of sine qua non, but He is risen! Just as sin and death came by a man - Adam - so also by a Man came righteousness and resurrection of the dead - Jesus Christ. Resurrection to life is guaranteed to all who believe. We do not see it - and that is the chief argument of the opponents - because each rises at their time and in their order. First come Christ - and then, when He comes again in glory, the rest of us who are identified here in our text and "those who are Christ's."
It is by grace through faith, that he that believes and is Baptized shall be saved. It is this truth, and the fact that the resurrection is the sine qua non of Christianity, that accounts for Sunday worship! Every Sunday is Easter among the people of God! We celebrate the one thing that makes all of this worthwhile, the resurrection. We celebrate it because the resurrection of Jesus is our resurrection. We rise in the same rising, just not at the same moment. Our rising is linked to Christ's resurrection, and actually part of the same event in eternity, so that we may say, as Christ does, because He lives, we shall live also. Our resurrection is as certain as the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that is history! It is as certain because it is linked to His and caused by His.
Here is the sine qua non. There are many things we can point to and say that, but this is THE sine qua non of the Christian faith and of the Church. And it is true, and powerful for you and for me. He is Risen! Hallelujah!
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
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