In April 2016 I was in Kenya so that I could experience the different types of ministry within that area. That meant driving around different families to see their homes, hear about their lives and share in their faith through prayer and preaching and as my first day came to an end we visited a mother and two sons. The house was like most others I had been to basic with a massive Flat Screen TV and full of life. It was home to a mother who had been unwell for months but seemed to be on the mend and two beautiful boys who sat quietly amusing themselves in the corner. We were there with a house full of close family to give thanks for what God was doing in their Mums life and because of her sudden change, the house was full of the family giving thanks to God. In a few days, the test results came back, they were not good and our friend had been diagnosed with HIV. The different in her appearance from the first time I laid eyes on her when you could see her tiredness but you could also see her hope for a better future every time she glanced over at her children: Now she looked hopeless, broken and lost. A few days later after a round of visits, Martin – who was looking after me – said that we were going to and visit our friend again on the journey I realised that we were heading in a completely different direction, eventually I realised that our friend had since moved from her house back to the hospital and we were going to see her there. It was a place full of hopelessness and something that will forever remain with me. It wasn’t the smell, the lack of empathy from the doctors and nurses, or that cows hovering just outside that hit me: it was the hopelessness. Everywhere I looked: as families tended their loved ones as best as they could. Then, as I looked upon the women that I had known for less than a week as she lay static on that bed with her sister tending to her and loving her as best as she could. In that situation, all I could ask myself was where was God in this? Within a few days, I was back at the family home as we mourned the passing of our sister in Christ whom only a week ago we had been praising God and giving thanks for the work that He was doing in her life. The house that had been full of praise was now silent with mourning; the children who been be playing in the corner, now sat motionless and distant.
When I think of Easter and the feelings that the disciples and those who were close to Christ must have felt before the resurrection it brings my mind back to those days where in a few short days I went from a place of triumph and thankfulness to hopeless, doubt and fear. Holy Saturday a day when the memories of Good Friday were ripe in their memories; they had abandoned and denied Jesus and then witnessed as he was beaten and crucified. A Day when hopelessness reigned, when what the disciples had given the last three years of their life to would have seemed worthless, pointless; A day when memories of miracles and awe at the things Jesus had said and done would have been overpowered by anger, hurt, doubt and hopelessness. Yet, Hopelessness reigned only because they did not understand, they were yet unaware of what Sunday would bring, that Jesus had not been defeated but achieved the greatest victory of all. They were yet to know the hope found in the Resurrection and hope because of the resurrection.
1st Corinthians 15: 1-19: Hope because of the Resurrection
Christians are resurrection people. Every major doctrine within orthodoxy depends on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It was not some story made up by his followers in an attempt to cover up the failings of some revolution: Nor is it some immature part of the Christian faith taught to children to paint a nice picture of God, then as they age they determine its truth in relatively to them. It was a one-time historical event that is both foundational and essential to the Christian faith: It gives meaning to Good Friday and hope on Good Saturday; It destroyed death; shattered the power of Darkness on this earth; It was God most glorious act as he displayed to all that he was and always will be in control and It was an event that turned the world upside down.
Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection at the core of the Gospel are the only hope for humanity. Wherever you go, ask God for wisdom on how to get that Gospel in, even in the toughest situations of life.
Tonight, we are jumping straight to 1st Corinthians 15. It is at the end of a letter where Paul has shown how the Gospel should be impacting their lives as he seeks to deal with: Sexual Immorality; Marriage and singleness; Factions in the Church; Disorder when taking Holy Communion; Spiritual Gifts and how they should be practiced in church; Orderly Worship and Christian Love. Now he brings all the different strands together at the foot of the Cross, he centres all his teachings and ethics at the cross. Everything Paul about is centred in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ because Gods salvation plan goes far beyond any concern or experience of man. Furthermore, the resurrection gives meaning to everything because through the Resurrection of Jesus death will be abolished, grace is given and the King shall reign. Paul uses the resurrection to speak to all of those who he has been writing to and bring them out of their petty out of their small and insignificant concerns and remind them of what brought them together, unites them and changes them. Jesus.
Hope: Because it is Everything (15:1-3)
The first few verses of this passage remind us that resurrection is the Gospel. It the cornerstone of the message that Christians both believe and preach. After working through a long list of things Paul begins this section of the letter as if everything depends on the next few verses. The resurrection is the event that as Disciples we stand in, have been saved by and are being made new through. The Resurrection of Jesus gives us hope because it is central to everything we believe.
Hope: Because God was and is Always in Control (3-4)
In the next part of the passage, Paul reminds the Church in Corinth and us that the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ were always part of God’s Plan. Paul points back so they can look forward with confidence. He reminds them that if they study the Holy Scriptures they have they will see it revealed. Paul points the church back so they can stand firm Now. On Good Friday God was not sitting somewhere in the stars with his omnipotent head in his hands, confused because his plan had not worked and trying to figure out how we were going to respond to the Cross. The Cross was his response. From the beginning of time, God planned and shaped every inch of human history towards that moment and from this moment so that he would be Glorified and we could be free from the curse of Sin and death. The Resurrection of Jesus destroys hopelessness because it reminds us that even in the darkest of situations when darkness seems to reign: God is always in control and working everything to his Purpose and Glory.
Hope: Because it Happened (5-8)
Paul reminds everyone that they can have hope because the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a literal historical event. It happened. Jesus died a bodily death and rose in the same body and in doing so defeated death and destroyed the curse of Sin over human’s life. Paul says, “It happened and you can ask these people:” Peter (Cephas); The 500 (perhaps Matthew 28:16-20); and then lastly James the brother of Christ and the rest of the Apostles. Paul is reminding the church that the death of Jesus was a historical event and many could testify to the reality of it. Such was Pauls confidence in the truth and reality of the Resurrection that he presents a witness list to a church with hundreds of people who would testify to the same thing.
“The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is one of the best-attested facts on record. There were so many witnesses to behold it, that if we do in the least degree receive the credibility of men’s testimonies, we cannot and we dare not doubt that Jesus rose from the dead.” “The resurrection is a fact better attested than any event recorded in any history, whether ancient or modern.” Charles Spurgeon
They had seen the Risen Christ. It can be hard for the modern mind to assume that just because we have a list of some people in a 2000-year-old letter that any event should be true. Yet, what we are reminded by the inclusion of this list is that Paul believed in the historicity of the event and expected those who he wrote to throughout all his letters to believe in the same way. It requires faith, but if it happened then it is everything. Thus, we have hope because Jesus did die and was resurrected by God on the third day. Literally, not in some vague spiritual sense but literally in body and in doing so defeated the final weapon of the enemy and paid the price for our sin.
Hope: Because without the resurrection there is no hope. (15:12-19)
“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” Tim Keller
In this next section, Paul infers the positives of the resurrection through negative hypotheticals. Meaning; if the resurrection is not true, then none of these things have any value. Hence, he is stating because it is true, and because I believe it to be true in the fullest sense of what truth is then I believe these things that we have because of the cross to have infinite value and worth in the light of eternity. In doing so he shows us a few more areas where we find hope because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Firstly, if there will be no bodily resurrection of the dead then what would be the point of Christ Bodily Resurrection, if there has been nor ever will be resurrection of the dead then Christ has not been raised. Secondly, Paul points out that if Christ did not rise again then any preaching or faith that has resulted from that preaching is utterly pointless. Thirdly, such is the strength of his belief in the Resurrection that he says if it is not true they are guilty of the gravest sin – Slandering God. Furthermore, such is the strength and force of his argument that in verse 17 and 18 he repeats himself: If there is no resurrection of the dead then Christ has not been raised and any faith is pointless. Then he goes further by saying that if there is no resurrection then everyone is still in their sin and those who have ‘died in Christ’ are lost. Finally, Paul points to the reality that if Christ has not been raised, then Christians who are still alive are deserving of pity because what they have given their life to is worthless. Any suffering or sacrifice they have had to face or make is worthless. Paul reminds us that Christianity is not a philosophy of life that can be applied. It is grounded in history and if that history is not true if God did not become incarnate – live, die and rise again – then any faith in Christ is worthless and dangerous considering eternity. Thus, we as Christian can have hope because we believe it to be true, we believe that Christ died and rose again meaning he gives hope in death and meaning to the toils and sufferings of Life. Faith found in him does not just give some quantity of value. It is of infinite value in light of eternity. In the Negatives of this section then we find hope because the resurrection is true and it grants meaning to the Gospel, Preaching, faith, The toils of life and even death. Because there is something more. Because Christ has been raised our faith in Christ and trust is the Gospel is secure.
Hope: Because the Resurrection Changes Lives (8-11)
Finally, I want us to consider something we find in the middle of the passage. It is so simple and obvious that we often miss it. The effects that the resurrection has on people, the fact that we have evidence in the body of the church. Historical evidence for the rising of Christ is the change and impact the Gospel still has today. Paul points to the change in his own life and reminds the church of Corinth that the Resurrection leads to the transformation of people.
When I think of my own life, it is people of faith who have had the most impact on me. People who embody the truth of Scripture; People who live out the Struggle of the Gospel in the Everyday. Every day, I see people who bear the image of Christ and are slowly being made more in him image. Every day I see evidence for the Resurrection in the people I see the Holy Spirit working in. Paul Declares to the church “I am what I am by the Grace of God and this Grace of God is what drives me and compels me forward” so we Have hope in the resurrection because it Changes Lives. It changed Paul from a Terrorist to a man who would shape the course of human history through his teaching and ministry work. We have hope in the resurrection because we see it in the lives of believers, we have hope because that hope belief allows the Holy Spirit to enter and change Lives.
The best news of the Christian gospel is that the supremely glorious Creator of the universe has acted in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection to remove every obstacle between us and himself so that we may find everlasting joy in seeing and savouring his infinite beauty.” “The Bible says he was raised not just after the blood-shedding, but by it. This means that what the death of Christ accomplished was so full and so peefect that the resurrection was the reward and vindication of Christ's achievement in death.” “The best news of the Christian gospel is that the supremely glorious Creator of the universe has acted in Jesus Christ's death and resurrection to remove every obstacle between us and himself so that we may find everlasting joy in seeing and savouring his infinite beauty.” John Piper
As people, we all place our hope in something. We form our identity, our reason for being out of something: Whether it is our family, friends, career, relationships, material goods. We all place our trust in something that will eventually faith us, hurt us, betray us or let us down. Even Christians put their trust in things other than God every day. That something will give them a sense of worth or purpose more than God could or will. It may be true for a second, but a second is nothing in light of eternity and God calls us to put our truth in Christ and find hope in the resurrection because that is the only thing that will never fail us or hurt us. It is the only thing that does not give worth and then loses value. It is a worth that gives meaning to the temporal in light of the eternal. The Question is then: Are you willing to find hope in and through the resurrection?