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Author:Rev. Mark Chen
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Congregation:First Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore
Preached At:
Title:The Promises from Christ’s Resurrection
Text:LD 17 1 Corinthians 15:1-28 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Death Defeated

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Trinity Hymnal Revised 1990, The Psalter 1912

TH 267 - The Day of Resurrection!
Psalter 350 - Devotion to the Church
TH 695 - By Grace I Am an Heir of Heaven

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

We’ve been studying what we must believe in order to be saved. The Apostles’ Creed is a summary of that which we must believe. If we reject any of these points, it is impossible to be saved. We must believe in God the Father almighty, the creator of heaven and earth. We must believe in Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son, our Lord. We must believe that the was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried. We must believe that he remained in the grave and on the third day, he rose from the dead. If at any point we reject any of these, we cannot be saved. Salvation is very simple - believe the good news that God has sent his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world; repent of your sins, and you will be saved. And these essential truths are found the Apostles’ Creed. 

This evening we are in Lord’s Day 17. We’re told here what we must believe about Christ’s resurrection - especially its benefits to us. First, we are to believe that Jesus overcame death. He didn’t stay dead. He arose physically. By sin, death entered into the world. So when he resurrected, death itself is conquered. He couldn’t remain dead - he had no sin. So what does that mean for us? Firstly, he shares his sinlessness with us. We’re sinful - but he shares his righteousness with us. So in God’s eyes, he sees righteous people. Secondly, if we are are forgiven of our sins, and sin has no more power over us, then when we die physically, we will not remain physically dead forever. One day, our bodies will rise again. Sounds like science fiction - but our physical bodies are important to God because he created them. Thirdly, Christ’s resurrection is a pledge that it will really happen one day. Some people may ask - won’t happen will it? Sounds so strange. Are you sure we will rise physically? Well, it happened to Christ. And if it happened to Christ, it’s a pledge that it will happen to believers.

This last point is what we want to focus on in our message this evening. The promises from Christ’s resurrection. What does it mean for us? And we will explore this quantifiably, qualitatively, negatively and positively. Quantifiably, the certain evidence of his resurrection. Qualitatively, the character change because of his resurrection. Negatively, the grief we would have if Christ did not resurrect. Positively, the joy we should have because Christ is resurrected.

Quantifiably, the certain evidence of his resurrection. In verses 1-3, Paul said that he declared the gospel. This good news was not something he invented. He taught what he had received. And he received it from Christ. What did he receive? Verses 3-4 - Christ died for sins, he was buried, and he was resurrected, according to the Scriptures. Now, we can say whatever we want to. The proof of the resurrection is in the evidence.

And in verses 5-8, he said that Christ appeared to different people – Cephas, the other twelve, over 500 people, James, all the apostles, and Paul himself.  So the message wasn’t original to Paul – all these people would’ve said the same thing.

There was eye-witness testimony. Not by 1 or 2, but here, by over 500 people at one time. Most were still living at the time of Paul’s writing. Paul was saying - if you don’t believe me, ask these 500 people. Now, it’s easy to get 1 or 2 or even 10 people to lie and to fabricate something; but how do you get 500 people to do it - no, it was true. And particularly when Christians were persecuted. Why would you risk your life for a lie? Unless it’s not a lie. Don’t ask me, ask those who saw for themselves – they know that Jesus resurrected. And many of them were not fans of Jesus at first. He appeared to his half-brothers - they mocked him when he was alive. But now they were his disciples. How do you go from unbeliever to believer, just like that? Paul himself was a persecutor of Christians. He hated Jesus. How do you go from persecutor to supporter overnight? Jesus appeared to Paul.

And you have the physical evidence. Jesus died. He could never have survived the crucifixion. He was beaten 39 times with a heavy whip; nailed to a cross; hung in the sun for 6 hours; run through the heart with a spear; embalmed; and stuffed in an airless tomb for 36 hours. If he didn’t die at the cross, the spear and the embalming would’ve killed him. 

And it was also according to the Scriptures. This is mentioned twice in verses 3-4. What happened to Jesus was recorded 100s of years before his birth. Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 speak about his death - even describing how his hands and feet would be pierced. Psalm 16:10 speaks about his resurrection. Jesus himself said that he would rise again. This is certain quantifiable evidence - that he would fulfill prophecy, that he was certainly dead, that he appeared alive to 500 people at once - many of them were not his friends - but became believers.

But qualitatively, we see the character change because of his resurrection. We mentioned that among those who saw him resurrected, were those who weren’t his followers at first. They were very much against him. James, the brother of Jesus, together with the rest of the half-siblings, mocked Jesus. But after the resurrection, he called himself a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Paul was the number one enemy of Christians. Out of zeal, he would travel long distances to capture Christians, and drag them back to Jerusalem to be tried in court. But Jesus’ resurrection caused a change in Paul. When Paul came face to face with the resurrected Christ, he switched from being a hater of Christians and Christ to a promoter of Christ. He became an apostle.

But listen to what he said of himself in verse 9. He said that he was the least of the apostles.  Paul believed he was not worthy to be called an apostle. Why? It was because he had persecuted the church. Paul remembered how he sinned against Jesus. In another passage, 1 Timothy 1:15, he calls himself the chief of sinners.  In 1 Timothy 1:12-14 he admits that he used to be a “blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did [it] ignorantly in unbelief.”

What did Paul do?  He began life as a Pharisee.  And when Christians were preaching the gospel in Damascus, Paul sought to get letters from the high priest in order to bring them to Jerusalem to stand trial as heretics. Paul was also present at the stoning of Stephen - he approved of Stephen’s execution.  In Acts 26:11, Paul explained what might be considered his worst sin – “And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled [them] to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted [them] even unto strange cities.” Paul was so cruel in his persecution that he succeeded in causing the Christians to blaspheme. His torture was so horrific that some poor Christians in their weaknesses publicly denounced Christ.

But yet, when the risen Christ appeared to Paul, his life changed. What kind of change? Not just admission of sin, but a total transformation of character. From being the chief persecutor to chief promoter. Because of God’s mercy and grace Paul became a great missionary, preacher, and theologian.

In fact, in verse 10 we learn that he worked harder than the others. He said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.” He was changed by God’s grace to be a loving and forgiven man. With all this evidence - both quantitative and qualitative - a certain and undeniable evidence - with eyewitness testimony - and testimony of changed lives; if Christ did not resurrected, what would our reaction be? 

Here we see negatively, the grief we would have if Christ did not resurrect. Now, the issue of the resurrection is vital to Christianity. In all other religions, their religious leaders are dead. When one visits Medina, in Saudi Arabia, you’ll find Muhammad’s Mosque, where his body is laid. If you go to Shandong in the city of Q?fù, you’ll find the tomb of Confucius. If you visit Hebron, in Palestine, there you have the cave of the Patriarchs, where Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are buried. And of course, the body parts of Buddha are all over Asia, in Stupas. This is fact. But Christianity claims that Jesus resurrected.

But what if it didn’t happen? This is what Paul was addressing. There were some who were affected by false teaching called Dualism, which said that the body is bad while the spirit is good. So since the body is bad, Jesus couldn’t have resurrected. Just listen to the incredulous tone in his writing in verse 12 – “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?”  Because by implication, if there isn’t a bodily resurrection then Christ must still be dead. That’s what verse 13 says – “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen.”  

The grief is this – if there’s no resurrection, and if Christ is not resurrected, then the very foundation of our faith is swiped out from under us. Christianity stands and falls on the basis of the resurrection. It is the most important aspect, along with his death and burial. That’s what it says in verse 3 – “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received.”  This means – I delivered unto you as first importance. Without the resurrection of Christ, there’s nothing. We might as well just pack up and go home.

Furthermore, if Christ didn’t rise, then our preaching and faith are futile.  Verse 14 says, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”  Imagine, if Christ had not been risen, all those who proclaim his resurrection have done so in vain.  The first witness was Mary Magdalene in John 20. There were several hundred mentioned in verses 5-8.  Then there are others. Great men down the ages and missionaries – Polycarp, Chrysostoam Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Lombard, John Wycliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, William Carey, Hudson Taylor, Charles Spurgeon, Gresham Machen, Martin Lloyd Jones, and a million other fools if Christ did not resurrect.  Paul himself would have been a fool – he was rich, educated, and influential – but he gave all that up to be beaten, imprisoned, assaulted, stoned, left for dead, all for preaching. Why preach if it wasn’t true? And if it is preached, then those who preach it are liars, as verse 15 says. All these missionaries are liars then.

Furthermore, those who believe are foolish. Why worship Christ? Might as well worship something else. If he didn’t resurrect, then our faith, our belief, all our church attendance, praying, serving, singing, etc, have been a waste of time. That’s what vain means. The Greek word is kenos – it means empty.  Everything we have done would’ve amounted to nothing.   

Another grievous implication is that there is no forgiveness.  The main message of the gospel is that Christ died to pay for our sins. He resurrected to show that not only is there a payment, but there is victory over sin. If he didn’t resurrect, we are lost in our sins. Romans 5:10 says that we are reconciled to God by his death and saved by his life. So if Christ didn’t resurrect, we are not reconciled to God or saved. We’re still the enemies of God.

And the implication is that we’re miserable – verse 19 says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Without the resurrection of Christ, the ugly implication is this – we have no foundation for our faith, our preaching and faith are futile, there’s no forgiveness, there’s no future, and we are all fools in our misery.

But thank God he resurrected. There were 500 witnesses. He definitely died. No one could’ve come back from that death unless it was miraculous. And many people saw him. So positively, we want to see the joy we should have. This is a pledge of the resurrection. 

Verse 20 says – “But now is Christ risen from the dead.”  Or it can be translated as “but indeed” or “but in fact is Christ risen from the dead.”  This is the message of first importance. It happened. And there are implications. The resurrection is a promise of things to come. Firstly, it implies that we ourselves will be resurrected. It says in verse 20 – “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”  Paul uses the word “first-fruits.” In Exodus 23, during a festival, the Israelites were instructed to bring an offering of the first-fruits from their harvest. The first-fruits was a promise of more to come, that God would bless his people with a full harvest. 

So if Christ was the first-fruit, then it is a promise of more to come. That those in Christ will also be resurrected. We see this in verses 21-23.  Since death came because of Adam’s fall, life and resurrection will come because of Christ’s resurrection. Because of Adam’s sin, the earth is cursed with sin, sickness, relationship problems, etc. But because of the resurrection, all these things will be conquered. In heaven, we will no longer suffer from sin, sickness, disabilities, diminished mental capacities, or have accidents or painful relationship problems. 

And this gives joy - or at least the anticipation of relief. Whatever is broken in your life due to sin, will be completely restored. There will be the resolution of all things. We learn in Ephesians 1:10 that God’s purpose in history is that he might resolve all things in Christ – “in fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”

Currently, things are in tension. There will finally come a time when things are resolved. The world is in turmoil. There’s sin. There’s chaos. There’s death. There’s war. There’s evil. But this shall all end. Verse 24 reads, “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” God has allowed men and Satan to have some power now – but there will come a time, when Christ will remove that power –“he shall have put down all rule and all authority, and power.” And what does he do? Verse 25 – “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” He will reign, and he will totally conquer - put under his feet - everything. That’s the final day of his victory. And the resurrection foreshadows that time when Christ will take his rightful place as the king of kings and lord of lords.  And the last enemy to be conquered is death. When couples get their ballot chosen for their BTO flat. It is a promise that it will be completed one day. But Christ’s resurrection is more certain than BTO. He resurrected - it’s a promise that all things will be solved. You may die, but you will not die forever.

That’s why the Christian does not need to fear death.  The Bible speaks about the death of a Christian in a most peaceful way.  Paul says it the best in 2 Timothy 4:6 – “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.”  The word “departure” is used metaphorically in a nautical way as when a ship lifts its anchor to set sail, or in a military way when an army breaks camp to move on. In the ancient Greek world this term spoke of freeing someone from chains. This is how death is as described in the Bible. And what’s more is that there is resurrection.

In this life, we are anchored to hardship. We are chained to the effects of sin. But when we die, that anchor is lifted, those chains are forever broken. In death, we break camp here to start for heaven. Christ’s resurrection is a promise of that. It’s a promise of better things. It has the power to change you now. And its certainty can give you confidence that our faith is real.

Sermon Outline:

1. Quantifiably, the Certain Evidence of His Resurrection

    A. There were eyewitnesses

    B. It fulfills prophecy

2. Qualitatively, the Character Change Because of His Resurrection. 

    A. Admission of sin

    B. Transformation of character

3. The Grief If Christ Did Not Resurrect

    A. Our faith has no foundation

    B. Our preaching is in vain

    C. Christians are foolish

    D. We are not forgiven nor saved

4. The Joy Since Christ Resurrected

    A. We will be glorified!

    B. Everything will be resolved!

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mark Chen, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Mark Chen

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