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New life for all

1 Corinthians 15:20-26

Pastor David Ernst

Easter Sunday
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

Play MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Apr 21, 2019 

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

Our text for this Sunday of the resurrection is the epistle, 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26. I would like to read the previous verses for the context.

"I also declare to you, brothers, the gospel that I have preached to you, which you also received, in which you stand firm; by which you also are saved, if you keep the word that I have preached to you, if you have not believed in vain. For first I have delivered to you what I also received: That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures; and that he was seen by Cephas, and then by the twelve. And afterwards, he was seen by more than five hundred brothers at the same time; of which many still live, and others already sleep. Later he was seen by James; then by all the apostles. And last of all, as if born at the wrong time, He was also seen by me. Because I am the least of the apostles, that I am not worthy 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 has not been in vain with me; because I worked more than all of them; but not me, but the grace of God that has been with me. So, whether it's me or them, that's how we preach, and that's how you've believed. And if it is preached that Christ was raised from the dead, how do some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? Because if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been resurrected. And if Christ did not rise again, then our preaching is vain, your faith is also vain. And we are also found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God, that He raised Christ; whom he did not raise, if indeed the dead do not rise. Because if the dead do not rise, neither did Christ rise again. And if Christ did not rise again, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then also those who fell asleep in Christ perished. If only in this life do we hope in Christ, we are the most miserable of all men. "

Apparently, there were false apostles or very ignorant members in Corinth, men who claimed that there was no resurrection of the dead, other than the resurrection of Jesus. Here we find an example of the cunning of false teachers. They did not attack in the beginning the doctrines that everyone recognizes, but in a subtle way, something that seems minor. However, the goal of all false teaching is to destroy saving faith.

The doubt that the apostle fights here is the one that attacks the root of Christianity, which concerns the fundamental fact of the truth of the Gospel. Notice that Paul here, as in other places, does not refer his readers to human feelings or opinions, but to a fixed fund of Christian knowledge. The belief in the resurrection of Jesus was still in the congregation at Corinth, otherwise the apostle could not have built his great argument on this historical fact.

But the Corinthians needed a warning. The first and most important articles of faith are that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures. The vicarious death of Christ, his burial and his glorious resurrection were the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy, as Christ himself pointed out to the written Scriptures that speak of his suffering, death and resurrection. By his death, Christ paid the debt of sin and transgression completely, his burial put the certainty of his death beyond doubt, and his resurrection on the third day demonstrated the integrity of his redemptive labors. If a sin had not been paid as much as a transgression had not been atoned for, the resurrection of Christ would not have taken place, the justice of God would not have allowed the return to the life of the One who had failed in death. But his resurrection is a fact, and therefore also our salvation is a fact.

And for this fact, the apostle brings the testimony of the eyewitnesses, of the men who had seen the risen Lord, since he had been seen by St. Peter, sometime on Easter Sunday, probably in the evening. Then all the eleven apostles had seen him. That truth, as our gospel says (Mark 16: 1-8), three women found the tomb empty, and according to the following verses, Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the risen Christ.

But, San Pablo is not a male chauvinist. At this time, he wants to emphasize the authority and teaching of the apostles. According to Matthew 28, the apostles received their commission to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them everything that the Lord commanded them, directly from Jesus after his resurrection. Also, Paul received his commission as an apostle of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus.

Some time later, Christ was seen by more than five hundred brothers at once, on one occasion, in a large meeting, probably in Galilee. Of those five hundred lucky eyewitnesses to whom Paul refers, most still lived when he wrote this letter , about twenty-five years after the event that is highlighted here.

There was a perfect agreement among all the apostles as to the necessity of presenting first of all the great facts of the redemption of man, of first presenting the fundamental doctrines. And the Corinthians themselves, by accepting the doctrine preached by Paul and by the other apostles, gave testimony of their solidity by their faith. All the Corinthians had to admit that in the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ (as in all other doctrines of the Christian faith) the apostles taught in perfect harmony. It was preached that Christ was resurrected from the dead, and that historical fact they accepted as the truth.

At the same time, however, there were some among them who held that there was no such thing as a resurrection of dead men. It was a very peculiar contradiction, but one that had not entered his consciousness as such. The Jews before Christ believed in the resurrection of the body on the final day. For them, physical death divides the unity of body and soul for a while; but, God restores it. Among the Greeks and Romans, there was an antipathy to this idea. They believed that the body is only a shell for an immortal spirit. After physical death, the spirit leaves for another plane of existence, or perhaps it will be incarnated in another body.

If the bodily resurrection of the dead is an impossibility, neither has Christ been resurrected; The idea of a resurrected and living Christ is then absurd, since the denial of a bodily resurrection must strike Christ as well as all the other dead, since He died as a true man. Another result: if Christ, nevertheless, did not rise, then our proclamation is in vain, and faith also vanishes. This would be the second consequence of the denial: if the fact of the resurrection of Christ were to be abandoned, in line with the first argument, then the testimony of the resurrection must also be discredited; and since the message is not true, it follows that the faith that is based on a false representation has no basis.

If Christ did not rise again, faith in him is useless, vain, without beneficial results, a deception. And since that faith is essentially trust in the forgiveness of sins made possible by the work of Christ and sealed by his resurrection, it follows that you are still in your sins; Atonement is a mockery. And as for those who fell asleep in Jesus, trusting in their perfect redemption, they died with vain hope. Paul's argument is even more effective, since it practically forced all true Christians in the Corinthian congregation to make the inference: I know that my faith is not a useless trust; Christian doctrine is not based on deceit; I am sure of the forgiveness of my sins as I was assured in the Gospel; The apostles must be true witnesses; Christ has risen from the dead; There must be a resurrection of the body.

Christ was the first dead person to put aside all mortality and assume a spiritual body that would not be subject to death in all eternity. And so, those who fell asleep in Christ with the hope of eternal life will also rise from the dead; the first harvest of the sheaf will be followed by all the other sheaves; The bodies of all believers will put aside mortality.

The apostle explains how this result has taken place: Because since through a man it is death, also through a man it is the resurrection of the dead. A man, Adam, was the means, the instrument by which death entered the world. He ate the forbidden fruit and therefore made the curse of God take effect; He subjected humanity to physical death. On the other hand, through man it is also the resurrection of the dead; Jesus, true man, by his resurrection has broken the prohibition of death, he has become the first of a new humanity over which death has no more power. For just as in the Adam, in that man who represents the whole world of men, all men die, so also in the Christ, in the promised Messiah, all will be vivified. Since death in all cases is based on Adam, life in all cases is based on Christ. As in Adam all those who belong to Adam, who are sinful human beings, die, in Christ all will be quickened, who are of Christ by faith in Him.

Christ has assumed immortality in his human nature, an incorruptible body. And those who belong to Christ by faith will enter that same glorious state when they return on the last great day.

Because of Adam's disobedience, for every human being his birth begins the march until death. But we have received a new life that grows while the old nature dies.

Christ is now the King in the kingdom of power and in the kingdom of grace. And he is continually performing the duties of this office; He is adding more souls to his kingdom of grace, he is interceding for those who have been admitted under his rule by faith. This work of mercy continues until the last day, when the history of this present world will come to an end, when the last one chosen will be added to the number fixed by the Lord. At that time he will also abolish all evil forces that oppose his work of grace, no matter how firmly their government has set, no matter how extensive their authority is, no matter how great their power appears to be in the present moment.

The last enemy that will be absolutely impotent, whose rule will be taken away, is death. When the resurrection is completed on the last day, there will be no more death. In this hope we live now and forever.

May you have the peace that surpasses all understanding. Amen.

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