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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 15:12-19

16/03/2013

The Effects of Denying the Resurrection!

1st Corinthians 15:12-19

Some of the Corinthians did not believe that there could be a literal resurrection of the dead. They did believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, but thought that that particular resurrection had no meaningful application to modern life. Paul comes quickly to the core of the issue in his analysis of the problem. He says in 1 Cor. 15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen.

He has already argued that the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is one of those non-negotiable doctrines which cannot ever be dispensed with or negotiated over, and without which there can be no basis for Christian fellowship and communion. He has said that he would doubt the very salvation of someone who did not believe in the resurrection. He has argued that the fact of the resurrection is established by the evidences of many reliable witnesses, and by the effects of the grace of God in his own radically changed life. Now, Paul sets out the devastating consequences of not believing that Jesus is Risen! He does this in three ways. Firstly by showing:-

The Corinthian Heresy in Outline!
1 Cor. 15:12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
But it has always been thus! So it was in Corinth! The Corinthian spirit is alive and well in the modern visible church. Why did the Corinthians succumb to this awful heresy?

* Because of their Greek background! You can hear the arguments of these Corinthians. DEAD MEN DON’T RISE!!! They were used to listening to the Greek philosophers who argued that the body is the tomb of the soul, and that at death the soul is finally freed from this prison of death in which it is presently enslaved. “Why,” they would argue, would that newly freed soul want to return to a body of any kind?”

* Because of their attitude to the Christian life!
i. The Corinthians were wealthy, they had the best leaders, they had all the best gifts and all the blessings of the Lord right there and then! 1 Cor. 4:8 Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you.
ii. THEY HAD THE HOLY SPIRIT! They had the ultimate blessing, they were living in the highest level of Christian experience, and, as we have already seen the evidence of that was that they had spiritual gifts! They had ‘the language’ of heaven already, 1 Cor. 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels. There was nothing to look forward to in the world to come, for they had already arrived! No need for a resurrection! No need for a future hope of glory! Paul says that if we do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, then we do have nothing to look forward too, and what pathetic creatures we are! The modern parallel might be found in the charismatic movement of today, those who claim to have achieved sinless perfection, or a higher life, or full surrender, the second blessing, or whatever term they use.

I can remember, as a teenager, 35 or more years ago listening to an old and respected preacher of that day, speaking on the glories of heaven. I well remember how he complained that’ people today (in his day) had long ceased to look forward to heaven,’ a fact which he put down to the materialism and worldliness of the age. People had so much that they didn’t have just a few short years before. They now had bathrooms and electricity in every home. They had running water on tap, they had good public transport, for the trolley buses had just given way to the new double-decker diesel buses, and the trams were just a distant memory. Many families had a car. They had jobs. Public telephones could be found on the main street junctions, and some homes were getting in shared lines, so that even the telephone would be accessible to all. The television was in most homes, and the stereogram was now playing the LP Records through two speakers instead of just one! We had everything we could need, and worldliness and materialism was besetting the church! Heaven was no longer needed!
But I wonder was his analysis really valid? I recently caught myself on making the same point! Now we have CD’s, DVD’s, Computers, two car families, foreign holidays and so on. Heaven and the future life of immortality is just as much in the back of our minds as it was 35 years ago!

It was for these reasons that the Corinthians decided that a belief that some day the body would rise from the dead, and would be clothed in a new body, like that of the Lord, with no more sickness or poverty or hunger or death, was for them, totally unnecessary! Notice that Paul does not say that they didn’t believe in eternal life! They just didn’t accept that the body would rise again!

The Corinthian Heresy in Outcome!
Paul’s answer is that when you deny one great primary tenet of Christian truth, you begin a slide, a gradual slide into apostasy and error. These people denied the resurrection of the dead at the last day, and in doing so (perhaps unwittingly) they in effect denied the literal resurrection of Christ, which they proclaimed to believe. To do so, as we see in this passage will lead to terrible error. Look at the present outcome of this acceptance of false belief:-

The Foundation of the Gospel Message is Undermined.

The Preached Foundation is Undermined! 1 Cor. 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain,. What is the point of preaching the gospel, if the very message that we preach, Christ Crucified for our salvation and Risen for our justification and soon Coming to receive His Church, is based on a false premise? We are telling people that Jesus is risen from the dead, and a whole raft of doctrine is based on that.

In the early 1980’s a man called David Jenkins, the Bishop of Durham denied the literal and physical resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He didn’t stop there. As far as Jenkins was concerned the very foundations of doctrine had crumbled, and he began to make more and more liberal and anti-biblical statements. In 1984, in an article in the church times Jenkins said, I wouldn’t put it past God to arrange a virgin birth if He wanted, but I very much doubt if He would. In an article published in the Daily Telegraph on 14th December 1993, journalist Damien Thompson reported the following views of the ‘bishop.’ The Bishop of Durham, Dr David Jenkins, has ignited a new row in the Church of England by claiming there is no such thing as eternal damnation or the Second Coming of Christ. It emerged yesterday that Dr Jenkins, speaking at a recent conference for Anglican lay readers, went further than ever before in challenging orthodox Christian doctrines. “I am clear that there can be no Hell for eternity – our God could not be so cruel,” he said. “However, I think for some people who have wasted every opportunity for redemption, there may be extinction . . . I do not think it possible to believe any longer in a literal Second Coming or the end of the world.” The Times of London’s website published an interview and an excerpt from The Calling of a Cuckoo: The interviewer wrote, “In his exceedingly frank memoirs, [Dr Jenkins] writes repeatedly that being a Church of England bishop brought him nearer to atheism than anything in his life.

If we cannot accept the fact of the literal resurrection of Christ, and, as a consequence of that, the hope of the resurrection of the body, our entire system of Christian Doctrine breaks down, and our message is destroyed. For example, we preach:-
i. The Doctrine of New Life! We tell people to repent and turn to Christ! But to whom can they turn if the resurrection is untrue! Sinners do not need to be given a set of dogmas, or presented with philosophical reasoning, they need to meet a living, risen Saviour, who will take them as Sinners, and forgive their sins and forgive them, and bring them into the family of God.
ii. The Doctrine of Christ’s Intercessory Work! As believers we need a living, risen Saviour, for a dead Christ cannot intercede for us at the throne of God’s Grace!
iii. The Doctrine of His Second Coming! And this world around us needs to hear that Christ is returning in glory! This world needs to know that time is running out, and that the material world will not last for ever, and we need to live in the light of eternity. It is the message we must preach!
Now all these are all vital beliefs, which must be clearly and consistently presented by the Gospel preacher and all depend on the resurrection! If Jesus is not risen from the dead, our preaching is totally wasted. It is vain! It amounts to nothing! A preacher who has not got a passionate belief in the literal resurrection of the dead, might as well resign from his ministry, go, and brush roads or empty bins, where at least he will be doing some practical good for the human race. 1 Cor. 15:15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

The Personal Foundation is Undermined! and your faith is also vain The Amplified Bible reads, “Your faith is devoid of truth and is fruitless – without effect, empty, imaginary, and unfounded.” If you are not convinced in your own heart and mind that you serve a risen Saviour, your Christianity is more imagination than fact. You have no right to call yourself a believer in Christ, for your conversion has not been effected, your life is still empty, you still have no real foundation in your life for Jesus is a Dead Man, who can Never Remove our Sins! 1 Cor. 15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised. There is an inseparable connection between the resurrection of the dead and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If the Corinthians believe that it is not possible for the dead to be raised, then Jesus Christ is no different than Mohammed, Buddha, Ghandi, and many other great leaders of men. No doubt they were great teachers, great influencers of society, great personalities, but they were only sinful men like each of us, and now they are dead! They can never save, for they are dead! But the difference between these men and Jesus is that Jesus is alive!

It might be pertinent to note again at this point that we live in Corinthian days! Is it not true today that the thrust of modern liberal ‘churchmanship’ is to make the gospel syncretistic, by saying that Jesus was just the leader of a great world faith, that He is just the same as the other great ‘faith leaders’ that He is just one of the many ways to God that are open us? That a Moslem’s faith is just as valid as a way to heaven as a Christian’s faith? And soon, it may actually be an offence to declare publicly that Jesus is the ONLY way! But that is exactly what He said, and His verification of those words is His resurrection!

The Corinthian Heresy in Outlook!
Not only are there present sad consequences for the Christian faith attached to the belief that ‘dead men don’t rise,’ but there are also future repercussions attached to this Corinthian unorthodoxy. Paul says, if Christ has not risen,
* Those who have Died are Lost Forever! See the sad condition then of dead believers! 1 Cor. 15:18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If what the Corinthians believe is true, then all our loved one, laid to rest in cemeteries up and down this land, and throughout the centuries, have perished! They are no more than decayed flesh and bones. They have ceased to be! What an utterly terrible consequence!
* Our Faith is Pathetic and Futile! See the shocking condemnation then of dead believers. 1 Cor. 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 1 Cor. 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. If Christ has not risen we are the most pitiful of people, for our sins are not forgiven, and we have nothing more than a false hope! We shall experience great disappointment, there will be no heavenly reward as a recompense for this world’s sufferings there will be no righting of this world’s wrongs, there will be no vindication of the stand of the faithful Christian, there will be no mansion in glory and there will be no realization of the treasure that Christian has laid up in heaven. One of the attributes of the true believer is that he will deny himself, take up his cross and sacrificially follow Jesus. If Jesus is not risen, then that sacrificial believer has simply wasted his life, his time and his money.

What happens when the ungodly man or woman who is confronted by death? They have no hope! Time and time again I get called to the bedside of a person who has willfully neglected his soul throughout life. Suddenly confronted by death, in the form of a terminal illness, their first thought is to send for a minister. Perhaps they are looking for some assurance, perhaps for some hope that God will somehow overlook their sins. Time and time again I have to give then just one message, and that is the old message of the Gospel, Mark 8:36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? But I cannot give then any false assurances, and nor can I guarantee them a place in heaven!
But what of the Christian! What a great hope they, what a wonderful outlook on eternity! Their loved ones have a great assurance, that one day they shall rise again, and they shall meet again! All that hope lies in the Risen Jesus!

As then USA Vice President, George Bush (Senior) represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband. Of course she was mistaken. The Christian hope of resurrection and eternal life is not automatically granted to mankind. It is for those who trust in the Lord and know Him as Saviour.

From → Sermon Notes

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