THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION
THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION
1. Corinthians 15:12-34
“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.“
Happy Easter! We are very thankful to God that in this blessed Easter time he gives us the opportunity to remember the gospel and to renew our love relationship with Jesus. Thanks be to God, who has compassion on our lostness and utter helplessness under the power of sin and has given to us Jesus as a sin offering, so that whoever believes in him receives forgiveness of sins and eternal life. Through the last lecture we were very encouraged to hold on the gospel of Jesus‘ death and resurrection in any circumstances, and to live as witnesses of the resurrection.
Today’s passage again deals about the resurrection. Having faith in the resurrection is so important, because the resurrection is the pivot of the entire Christian faith. In the first part Paul tells us in a logical manner, the necessity of the resurrection. Then he speaks about the power of the resurrection, and finally he admonishes us not to be misled. May God strengthen our resurrection faith today. May the power of the resurrection come into our hearts, so that we may empowered in order to do the great work of God in this time and can be a good influence on our generation.
1. The necessity of resurrection (12-19)
Let’s have a look at verse 12: “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” In verses 1-11 Paul pointed out that Jesus’ resurrection is a historical fact confirmed by God through the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Bible. Beyond that there are hundreds of eye witnesses who met the risen Jesus personally, who saw him, touched him with their hands, ate with him and talked with him. But there were some people in Corinth who said that there was no resurrection of the dead. What was the reason for their doubt?
On the one hand the real power of death. In a cemetery there are only dead people. Neither there are dead people who are still alive nor people who came to life again. When you read the newspapers or listen to the news, everyday you learn how people die through accidents, wars or assaults. When we or one of our relatives get sick then we ask ourselves, “Is it really true that you won’t die but live when you believe in Jesus?” Facing the real power of death even believers have a hard time believing in the resurrection. It is comforting to know that even Jesus’ disciples had difficulties believing in the resurrection because this is inconceivable for the human mind.
On the other hand there were some people in Corinth who used their doubt in the resurrection as a pretense. They came to the various church activities. They liked the Christian lifestyle and the warm fellowship. But when the time came to make a decision to participate in the work of God and take responsibility they thought, “No, thanks.” They fancied oneself as good Christians but for them believing in the resurrection didn’t seem to have any practical benefit. Their doubt was only an excuse not to devote themselves for God and his work. But this was a great mistake with extensive consequences. Paul illustrates this in the subsequent verses.
Let’s have a look at verse 13, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” The first result of denying the bodily resurrection of the dead would be not even Christ has been raised. In other words death would still triumph over every living thing and the world wouldn’t be more than a great, cold ocean people swim in for a while and then drown forever. When Christ has not been raised, nobody has hope, a future and meaning. In a world which is inevitably doomed to death it makes no sense to study and work hard or to raise children. In the end everything would be totally meaningless.
Let’s have a look at verse 14, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Denying the resurrection has further consequences. Throughout history there have been many men women of faith who devoted themselves even sacrificed their lives for preaching the gospel. When Christ has not been raised, their faith and their preaching were useless. Then all Sunday messages written all over the world wouldn’t be more worth than the paper they were written at. All our Bible studies would be a waste of time. Our prayers and our service for the students would be useless. We would be really strange, even crazy people trying to convince others about something that never actually happened. Peter Schweitzer would be nothing more than a fraud and Jeremia Kim an international fraud. Not only that. Verse 15 says, “More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.” Briefly speaking our preaching would not only be blether but we would even lie to God because we claim things in his name that he never has done.
If the dead are not raised then God’s omnipotence would have to be questioned. Peter and the other apostles preached that God who is almighty raised Jesus from the dead. Acts 2:24 says, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” Because God is almighty there is nothing impossible for him. Because God is almighty his power is not restricted by the power of death. It is our faith in the almighty God that we can overcome our limitations and do great things for God.
Let’s have a look at verse 17, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Jesus’ resurrection testifies that God accepted Jesus’ atonement for our sins. When Jesus has not been raised our sin problem would not be solved and we would have to suffer under the heavy burden of sin and our bad conscience.
Like the Bible tells us the consequence of sin is that first our relationship to God breaks and as a result will become miserable, empty and meaningless and eventually we have to die. Sin makes even young people who should be dynamic and full of vision fatalistic and powerless. Because of sin people waste their time with meaningless pleasures. Because of sin so many families break. Because of sin countless people think about suicide. Sin makes life dark and hopeless. And without Jesus we still would be in our sins and we had to die in our sins. We had to be judged and condemned by God. But thanks be to Jesus who paid for our sins dying on the cross to forgive our sins and make us free from all burden of sin. But Jesus not only died for our sins but he rose on the third day and he conquered sin and death. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we received a new life with the living hope of the kingdom of God.
Let’s have a look at verse 19, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Christians have a living hope in the kingdom of God. Therefore in spite of misunderstandings and persecutions they go on the narrow way. They carry the cross of mission and commit themselves for the salvation of others. When our hope would only lie in this world, our life would be really stupid and miserable. If the dead are not raised, Msn. Peter would be one of the most miserable people because he quit his career as a pharmacist for the mission of God. Sh. Samuel would be a foolish man because after his successful college graduation he made a decision to serve God’s work full-time. But because Jesus has been raised they are not miserable or foolish but one of the most blessed men because they devote their lives joyfully to preach the gospel. Because Jesus has been raised, our sacrifice, our commitment and our devotion is not in vain but we will receive God’s reward in heaven.
2. The power of the resurrection (20-28)
Look at verse 20:. „But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.“ After explaining the necessity of the resurrection, Paul testified in this passage, the power of the resurrection. In history all people without exception had to kneel down before the power of death. Even Alexander the Great or Napoleon Bonaparte, who had conquered so many nations, finally had to bow their knees before the power of death. But Jesus was resurrected by God as the firstfruits to eternal life. He became the seed of eternal life for all who believe in him. In John 3:16 Jesus says that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Therefore, for all believers death is no more longer an invincible dark power, but only a short sleep. We sleep for a short time, and then we will be resurrected by the power of God to eternal life. Let’s look at verse 22: „For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.“ Here Paul says that the resurrection of Christ is the power that makes us ailve. In Adam a man is spiritually dead and must physically die. But in Christ our spirit will be brought to life now and later, when Jesus will come again visibly, we will raise from the dead with a new and eternal body.
A young girl-student was suddenly confronted with several deaths in her family and her circle of friends. She was overwhelmed by the power of death. She could not find any longer a true meaning of her life more and was paralyzed. But through Bible study, she heard the voice of Jesus: „I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.“ (John 11:25-26) When she accepted these words personally, she became alive in Christ, and from that time on God used her as a joyful witness to the Gospel and as a mother of faith for thousands upon thousands. Another young woman was spiritually dead by exploiting her position as the youngest daughter in her family in order to be lazy and push away any responsibility. For this purpose she hurt others with her sharp tongue, that was like deadly poison, to justify her sin. But in Christ she also became alive and was changed into a new creature. Now she is hard working for God and not sparing her life to serve the Gospel ministry in Germany and Europe. Out of her mouth you cannot hear no longer poisonous words, but lovely, uplifting and encouraging words of faith. A young man was teased by his classmates. This hurt his pride so much, that he withdrew more and more into his own thoughts and fantasy world. Finally, his life became so dark and wicked, that he planed to commit suicide with a gun. But in Christ he also was changed to a new creature. God made him alive, and now with a shepherd-heart he takes care for the students in the dormitory “Roman camp” and the University of Rheinbach. Praise to God, who makes us alive through the power of the resurrection in Christ. Sometimes we think that the young people were unchangeable and hopeless. But that’s not true. For the power of resurrection is much stronger than the power of sin and death. In Christ everybody without exception can be made alive.
Let’s look at verses 23-25 “But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.“ The power of the resurrection not only gives all believers eternal life, but also all the evil and unjust dominions and powers of the world will be destroyed. Jesus will restore the spiritual order, which was destroyed through sin. And he will restore his kingdom, which will be a kingdom of justice and peace. There will be no more tears, disease, pain, sorrow and death. Verse 28 says: „When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.“ After the risen Christ will have accomplished the redemptive work and the court for the kingdom of God, a new heaven and a new earth will come. On that day God will be all in all. Look at verse 26: „The last enemy to destroy is death“ Death is the consequence of sin and one of the most powerful weapons of Satan. Death paralyzes people and makes them scary. But our fatih in the resurrection gives us courage and God’s power to overcome the power of death and to obey Him by preaching the gospel to every creature and establishing Jesus‘ disciples among all peoples.
3. Do not be misled (29-34)
In this passage, Paul rebukes the believers in Corinth to live by the resurrection faith in their daily lives. Let’s read verse 29: “Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?” Some of the believers were baptized for deceased persons. Although the baptism for the dead did not have any biblical foundation, Paul mentioned this in order to show the Corinthians that this ceremony would be senseless without the resurrection faith. Let’s read verses 30 and 31: “And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day – yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul testified what it meant to live by the resurrection faith.
When Paul lived with the mission of God, he had to face dangerous situations very often, which he could never bear with his human strength. In chapter 11 he reported how much harder he had worked, been flogged more severely, spent a night and a day in the open sea. He had known hunger and thirst and had been cold and naked. He had known the danger from false believers and always the concern for all the churches. Many Christians wish to bear good fruits of life and experience God’s work through them. But when it comes to concrete sacrifice, they shrink back and are not ready to deny themselves not even a tiny little bit. When Paul testified Jesus, he experienced the stubborn hearts of his own people. He experienced the spiritual weaknesses of his bible students, how fast they forgot the word of God and followed the false theories of the world. But his heart burned for Jesus and he wanted to preach the gospel at all costs unconditionally. Paul faced death every day. As he faced death every day, as he stood up with the risen Christ every day, living for him.
Let’s read verse 31 again: “I face death every day – yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord.” These words did not express Paul’s despair but testified the victorious life of a fighter and conqueror. Paul died in his egoistic, sinful nature by the resurrection faith every day. He experienced the power of resurrection and God worked mightily through him in Asia Minor, Greece, on the Balkans and up to Rome. The resurrection faith made Paul to a true victor.
Let’s read verse 32: “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”” Paul concluded that we will have to live according to our pleasures if we deny the resurrection from the death. If we ignore the risen Christ, what will remain? Only our self-centered thoughts, sinful and worldly desires will remain. But the risen Christ gives us a completely new spiritual identity. The risen Christ gives a fully new content for our lives. It is a life with the mission of God, a life for the salvation of the people.
Let’s read verses 33 and 34: “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.” Who is “bad company” according to Paul? With “bad company” Paul means those who live without resurrection faith only according to their lust and desires. They live according to their pragmatic thoughts and do not want to know anything about the mission of God. They are deadly fish which drift with the stream of the world. They take the broad way which leads to condemnation. It is very easy for us to be misled, because we have the sinful desire in us to compromise with the world. Therefore we have to take care which people we have company with and by which people we get influenced.
In school, on campus or in job we easily get in touch with godless, unbelieving people. We think that it does not harm us, if we have friendly company with them. But this is a dangerous mistake. King Salomon said: “Walk with the wise and become wise.” In reverse, you could say: “Walk with the foolish and become foolish.” People we have company with, affect us and we get influenced by them. C. H. Spurgeon once said: “For where two or three gather under the power of sin, there is the devil with them.” Who can grow in faith, as long he has company with unbelievers? Who can stay pure, as long he gets in touch with impureness? If we have company with those, who lead us into false direction, which good fruits can we bear? We have to seek good company. We have to have spiritual fellowship with believers in order to grow in faith continuously and bring good fruits by God’s time.
Through today’s passage we have learned the power of resurrection. Who believes in the risen Christ by all his heart, will be made alive in Christ and be changed into a new creature. God works through those who die in their sinful nature by the resurrection faith every day and obey the gospel. May God protect us from bad company and the compromise with the spirit of the time. May the risen Christ be always with you and give you strength to offer your lives for the salvation of the young people. May God work mightily in us by the power of resurrection and enable the spiritual renewal of Germany and Europe.