The Twenty-Eighth in a Series of Sermons on 1 Corinthians
What is the gospel? If White Horse Inn producer Shane Rosenthal walked up to you with his digital recorder and asked, “what is the gospel?” what would you say? If you can’t come up with the answer immediately, then please pay close attention. The gospel is what Jesus Christ did to save sinners. The gospel is called “good news” because the gospel is the proclamation of a certain set of historical facts–that Jesus suffered and died as a payment for our sins, and that he was raised by God from the dead on the third day as proof that his death turned aside God’s wrath toward sinners. Apart from the good news of the gospel, we have no hope of heaven because we are sinners and cannot save ourselves, not even with God’s help. This is a non-negotiable and fundamental article of the Christian faith. It is a sad commentary that so many professing Christians are so confused about such an important matter.
We come to the last major topic Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians–the bodily resurrection of believers. While I want to qualify what I am about to say by affirming that all of Scripture is God-breathed, and therefore profitable for teaching, rebuking and training in righteousness, Paul’s discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 is one of the most important chapters in all the Bible–especially in our current context. The reason for this is simple. Paul defines the gospel in verses 1-11. He speaks of the fact of the resurrection in verses 12-19, and of the relationship of the bodily resurrection of believers to the second coming of Jesus Christ in verses 20-28. Paul goes on to define the importance of the resurrection for Christian living in verses 29-34, before addressing the nature of the resurrection body in verses 35-58. All of these things matter because they deal with the very foundation of our faith.
Since the wages of sin is death, and since we are all sinners, death is an inevitability. Try as we will, we cannot escape the reality of death. Death has claimed three of our own church members, and affected virtually every family represented here this morning. Therefore, we ignore this subject to our own peril. In the face of this horrible foe, Paul anchors the Christian’s hope in the resurrection of our bodies. Just as Jesus died and was raised from the dead three days later, so too shall we be raised on that final day when Jesus comes to judge the world, raise the dead, and makes all things new. At death, our bodies and souls are torn apart. In the resurrection God reunites them. This is why Paul’s discussion of the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15 is so important, since it is in this resurrected state that we will live for all of eternity in the presence of Christ on a new heaven and earth.
The doctrine of the bodily resurrection was a serious problem for the Greeks in Corinth, who were taught that at death, the soul (which was pure spirit and therefore good) was liberated from the prison house of the body (which was material, and therefore evil). To the pagans, death was almost a good thing, since we are finally rid of our bodies which are the source of bad habits and evil desires. According to his comment in verse 12 of chapter 15–“how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”–Paul must address this matter with the Corinthians because a number of them were laboring under the mistaken and pagan assumption that the resurrection is spiritual only, and that the dead will not be raised (bodily), but exist throughout eternity as disembodied spirits.
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