Series: 1 Corinthians
The Transforming Power of Believing in the Resurrection (1 Corinthians Sermon 62)
December 13, 2020 | Andy Davis
1 Corinthians 15:29-34
Alive in Christ, Life in the Spirit, Resurrection of Christ
Pastor Andy Davis preaches an expository sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:29-34. The main subject of the sermon is the power that comes accepting the truth of the resurrection with faith.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Well, turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians, we continue our study. We're looking this morning at verses 29-34 as we try to understand these verses. We modern people tend to be very pragmatic, very practical people, we always tend to ask, what difference will this idea or this event or thing make in my life? As a result is possible for many to minimize the importance of theology. To minimize theology as though it has no practical place, you can imagine theologians in some ivory tower of ideas debating back and forth like the old scholastics used to do on things that really aren't gonna make any difference. And some people can see theology that way, but the passage that we are looking at today actually will get directly to the concept of the practical applications of the resurrection from the dead, and it's gonna show us the impact of doctrine on our daily lives. Friends, every one of us here today, we are all theologians, we could use another word, I don't know the relationship between the two words, but we could say, we're all philosophers. The question I wanna ask you, is your theology true? Is your philosophy true? Is it based on truth? That's the question we have to ask.
And the thing that just fills me with joy, I was just filled with confidence as I was sitting in the pew getting ready to preach, I just believe in the doctrine that I'm going to teach to you today, I just believe, and I'm just giving you... Every week, I just give you the tip of the iceberg. But Christianity is sound, healthy theology from top to bottom; in it's grand great glorious themes, but also down to its detailed level. God has thought this thing out, dear friends, and he has... I don't know, included it in Scripture, he's put it there for us some things plain and easy to understand, other things more difficult. But we get to walk through it. And if you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, having come to faith in Christ, are ready and open, over years and years, God is going to be building within you a sound theology. A healthy philosophy or worldview out of which you're gonna live your life and that will end up being very practical, it's gonna end up being very pragmatic, we're gonna see that today. Now again, I wanna set the context as I try to do every week, we're in the middle of this grand, this glorious epistle, this letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that he helped plant centuries ago. And he deals with a series of difficult topics that were affecting the life of that local church, and they were messed up, I use the word again and again, dysfunctional. And in a strange sort of way, I thank God for it. Because we're able to learn from some of the mistakes they made, some of the problems they had, and it's timeless, every generation needs to walk through a lot of these same issues. And so he comes in Chapter 15 to a new issue, doesn't get to it right away but we can look down at verse 12 and see what it is.
Now in the epistle, just the way it's structured. When he says “now”, frequently translated “now” or “now brothers”, he gets to a new topic. We're gonna see that after he's done with this into chapter 16, he just does this again- again, it comes to a series of topics. And so in verse 1, he's coming to a new topic, but again, we don't find out what it is till you get to verse 12, and you know what it is now, because you've heard a number of sermons in this chapter, but there were some in the Corinthian church saying there is no resurrection from the dead, resurrection cannot happen, does not happen, probably even should not happen, verse 12. So he's addressing that throughout this chapter, and we're in a continued unfolding of that, now he begins before even saying what the issue is in verse 12, verses 1-11 reviewing the gospel, “I wanna remind you of the gospel that we preached to you when we came to Corinth.”
Now, aside from the issue that they were addressing, it is just always good for us as Christians to go back over the gospel, we can never get enough of it, we're never gonna graduate beyond the gospel. And so Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures, and he was seen by eyewitnesses, verses 1-11. Then the problem in verse 12, “some of you say, there is no resurrection from the dead.” And then in verses 13-19, he walks with it for a while, what if it's true? What if what you say is true; actually is true? What if there is no resurrection from the dead? Then what? Well, then, first of all, Christ hasn't been raised from the dead. And if Christ hasn't been raised from the dead there is no Christianity, your faith is worthless. You're still in your sins. A bunch of cataclysmic outcomes come. If there is no resurrection from the dead those who have died, Christian, dead Christians are lost, you'll never see them again. And aware of all people to be pity, he goes through all these things up through verse 19, and then he stops in the middle of that and through 20-28, he just... It's like he just can't contain himself any longer; he just breaks forth. Says in verse 20, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” And so for the next... Those nine verses 20-28, he gives us God's big picture plan of all of this. And that big picture plan, what he's saying is, “You need to understand Christ has won a triumphant final victory over death over the grave. He's won it, and he didn't just win it for himself, he's not an exception, he is the firstfruit of a vast harvest of resurrected people who will spend eternity in resurrection bodies.” And so he diverts himself for a moment to just give this grand glorious big picture plan.
And the plan is that Christ will be the first fruit, and then there's a long intervening period in which it seems like death still has ascendancy, death is still winning, but it isn't... It's temporary. And Christ is seated at the right hand of God, and he has heard from the Father, “Sit on my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” And this is a process whereby Christ and God's enemies are being subdued, and the final enemy to be destroyed is death. And then at the end of all things, Christ, having wrapped up the entire universe in one submissive package, will himself be made subject to the throne of God in his humanity, talked about that last week. So that God may be all in all in this glorious unification of the universe in which all things in heaven and Earth are brought together under one head. And we get to know about it. We Christians get to see what's going on. He's made known to us the mystery of his will to bring all things together under one head. Everything's on schedule, COVID hasn't diverted any of that, none of the things that happen in current events are diverting this plan we should be buoyant in hope, confident. That brings up 28.
I. Power for Conversion through Faith in Christ
Now, he kind of like resumes, if Christ... If there is no resurrection from the dead, what then, and so he kind of picks up that again in verse 29, so that's where we are, that's context. And we're going to see the practical implications that Paul gives us of really believing that there is a resurrection from the dead, that we ourselves will be raised. This world is not all there is. Conversely, if you don't believe that, well how should you live? And so we're gonna walk through that. Now we start with, I think, the best way to approach verse 29 with an interpretation that says that the idea of resurrection from the dead gives power for conversion through faith in Christ. So if you really believe that dead Christians will rise again, it actually kind of have an impact on you, so that you yourself will believe... I think that's the best we can do. So we come to verse 29. Now, you heard Mike read it. And those of you that were attentive to the Scripture reading, you're like, "What was that?" Alright, so look at it, 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, then why are people baptized for them?” So let me stop and ask you, why are they baptized for the dead? And you're looking at me, say, "I have no idea what you're talking about, I don't know what this is. So that's why you're up here, tell us what in the world could this mean?" So undoubtedly, this is one of the more obscure verses in the New Testament, but I just have a complete confidence in the written word of God, every week, all Scripture is God-breathed, useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Every word of Scripture is exactly how God wants it to be. But not all Scripture is equally clear. Peter says this about our dear brother Paul, in 2 Peter 3:16, “His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort to their own destruction as they do the other Scriptures.” It's actually a very important statement, Peter makes, Paul's writing is Scripture, but they're in different categories, some things easy to understand, some things harder to understand, and those harder things become vulnerable to being twisted and distorted. I think 1 Corinthians 15:29 is just such a verse, hard to understand. No one is 100% sure what this verse is teaching. And that there are hard verses in the Bible should actually encourage us. It really should. We believe that when we come to the Scriptures, we're sitting at the feet of Almighty God and listening to him speak to us, that the written word of God is in fact the Word of the living God. And that we are hearing God, the God who created heaven and Earth speak to us a timeless, unchanging word, that's what we believe about Scripture, all started on Mount Sinai when God wrote with his own finger, the Ten Commandments and the tablets, the written word of God, never to change. And then he deputized Moses to write and then we've had written Scriptures accumulating until we have the canon, the 66 books. And we believe all Scripture is from the infinite eternal mind of God.
But there is milk and there is meat in the Scripture. We have that division even within the Bible. Milk refers to things that are so easy and so basic in our Christian faith that a child can understand them. I think we could also argue that milk could be the kind of thing you have to believe in order to be a Christian, the basics of the gospel, that there is a God who created heaven and Earth. And that he made us in his image, and that he gave us laws by which we are to live our lives, but we have violated those laws, we have broken them, we have sinned. And we deserve to die; we are under the death penalty because of sin. But God sent his son, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Came into the world, lived a sinless life, died in our place on the cross and was raised from the dead on the third day. And that if we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus, we will be forgiven and will spend eternity with God in Heaven. That's milk. It's basics. You can explain it to a three-year-old. They can get it, they can understand, and there's other things that we could call milk as well, but these are the basics and there's meat. What is meat? Meat are things that are hard to understand and or hard to accept. I would say the combination of those things, there are things that are difficult to understand, or you can get it, I understand, but they're hard to accept. So there's all kinds of these kinds of topics such as the sovereignty of God as over against human responsibility frequently called free will, eternal election, sovereign election before the foundation of the world. These kinds of questions, the doctrine of the trinity, aspects of the incarnation, they are difficult doctrines, or specific Verses like 1st Corinthians 15:29 that just seems to elude clear explanation. And that's this one.
Now, I would say for myself as a pastor, I would say, if you can just easily understand everything in the Bible, wouldn't that question its divine origin? Wouldn't you question whether it really came from God? Either that or you're really quite a remarkable person, that you've got that level of intellect up there with God himself, everything God says is perfectly clear to you. Honestly, we should expect this kind of hierarchy of difficulty in the Bible. But we also need to be aware, as Peter said, that some people take statements made by Paul, ignorant and unstable people distort and twist them to their own destruction. You can get some bad theology from bad exegesis, and this is, I think, a good example, this baptism for the dead. Look again at the text: “Now, if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead are not raised at all, then why are people baptized for them?” Now, baptism for the dead may at first brush seem to imply that some people alive here on Earth, were going through water baptism to in some way benefit dead people, to improve their situation. So behind that would be a larger kind of presentation that there's things the living can do to help the dead. Now, there's a long history of that false understanding, and it starts in the Roman Catholic system with the doctrine of purgatory. And the idea of purgatory, this was alluded to by Saint Augustine and his writings toyed with it, but didn't really go there, but he thought it was possible. And what it was is a place where dead people who had been water baptized into the Roman Catholic Church, but who died in sin, un-confessed sin perhaps, went to be purged, purgatory, went to be purged of their sins by personal torment, by the fires of purgatory. And it really is only different from hell in one respect; well I guess two respects. One, it has a kind of a redemptive ultimate purpose and it's temporary. Other than that, it's bad. Frankly, I think if that's a presentation and that there's this special category of saints, and most of us aren't saints and everyone else, the best you're gonna get is to go to purgatory for some period of time, that's not too encouraging, is it? But it's not based on Scripture, what happened is historically, Gregory the Great, Pope Gregory the Great, Pope is a Bishop of Rome, who is Pope Bishop of Rome from 590 to 604, picked up on this idea of purgatory, told a story from his earlier days in a monastery. That he had himself ordered a mass, said every day for 30 days for a monk that had died, whose departed soul then appeared to another monk in that monastery, to the effect that their masses had been effective and he had been set free from purgatory and was now in heaven. Well, this became Medieval Roman Catholic policy for a thousand years, a little less than a thousand years, resulting in masses for the dead, prayers for the dead, money given, indulgences could be bought to get people out of purgatory. This led immediately to the Protestant Reformation when Luther was opposing this idea of indulgences and all this sort of stuff. All of that was going on. So basic acts of piety could be done to benefit the dead people. Now, that does not directly connect to baptism for the dead, 'cause the Roman Catholic Church never did that. They actually rejected it as a heresy because Marcion, a heretic, advocated baptism for the dead based on this text. So they declared him a heretic and they didn't do any baptism for the dead, but they did a lot of other things for the dead. So that's one way you can go off in this direction, also in our present day Mormons do baptism for the dead based on this text. It's a secret ritual.
"If you can just easily understand everything in the Bible, wouldn't that question its divine origin? Wouldn't you question whether it really came from God? "
But we need to just stop and look at it and say, okay, we can start by saying what this verse is not teaching. We do not believe based on this obscure difficult verse, that we living can do anything to benefit the dead at all. We believe that you have one life to live, you're born, you live, you die. And somewhere in that life, you must repent and believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. And that's it. No chances after death. There's nothing that can be done. Many Scriptures testify to that. Hebrews 4:7, “God has set a certain day, calling it Today, when he says, ‘Today, if you hear his voice, don't harden your heart.’” And linking up with that theology of today, that's all we ever have, dear friends, you know that. We don't have tomorrow, we'll never get to tomorrow, because when we get to tomorrow, it's got a new name called today, and you can't do anything about the past except learn from it. You got today. And so it says in 2 Corinthians 6:2, God says, "In the time of my favor, I heard you. And in the day of salvation, I helped you. I tell you now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.” It's what you have. So today, you've already heard the gospel from me this morning. You've already heard the basic facts of the gospel. I'm pleading with you to repent and believe in Jesus, if you're not a Christian. You have today. You don't know you have tomorrow. For it says in Hebrews 9:27, “It is appointed to each one of us to die once and after that to face judgment.” And we also have a Jesus parable of the rich man and Lazarus. You remember that? Rich man and Lazarus in the parable and they both die. Lazarus goes up to heaven where he's with Abraham; the rich man goes to hell, and the rich man sees Abraham from a distance and asks Lazarus if he will send Lazarus to come and dip his finger in water and cool his tongue, 'cause he's in torment in Hell. But he can't do it; Abraham can't do it. And he says this, “besides all of this between us and you, a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can any one cross over from there to us.” It, so there's nothing that can be done for the dead. This is not teaching baptism for the dead.
"We believe that you have one life to live, you're born, you live, you die. And somewhere in that life, you must repent and believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. And that's it. No chances after death."
Alright, so what is it teaching? “You're spending a lot of time, pastor, on what it didn't... What is it teaching?” First answer, ready for this? I don't know. I don't know, and I've been studying Christian theology a long time, and I'm secure enough in my theology to know when it's okay to tell you, I don't know, but that's not all I wanna say, there are some ideas, some good exegetical ideas you can walk through. The problem is whatever one you choose, you don't know for sure that that's what Paul meant or God meant through Paul, and that's where you have a certain level of uncertainty. But there are some possibilities. One answer is that Paul was speaking of the effect that godly people have while they're living on unconverted people, as those godly people then die, and the unconverted people yearn to be with them again. See what I'm saying? They want to spend eternity with a godly father, let's say, or a godly mother. And the only way they're gonna be able to do that is if they themselves become Christians, you could even see a deathbed evangelism, not deathbed conversion, but deathbed evangelism, where you've got a godly mother, let's say, who's dying and a son who's well along in his adult life coming and he loves his mother and he's is crying, and the mother says one more time, “If you wanna ever see me again, you need to repent and believe in Jesus." Water baptism then will be part of that, so that could be a baptism for the dead. In other words, a converting impact that godly people would have. As Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” “If you ever wanna see me again, become a Christian. Become a Christian.” I remember years ago, and I've told this story a number of times, but it hit me again. My son, Calvin, when he was little, had a nightmare, and Christie and I went in to see him and he was crying and wasn't fully awake, and then he woke up and saw me in particular he grabbed me and hugged me, and he had a nightmare that I had died, and he was crying, his pillow was wet, his face was wet, and he was holding on to me tight, 3:00 in the morning. So we sat there, we comforted him, prayed with him. But then I said, "Calvin, I might die. I don't ever know when I'm gonna die, but if I do die, there's three things I want you to remember. Number one, if I die, I'm going to be in heaven and I'm gonna be so happy, perfectly happy to be with God. Number two, you are going to have a hard time in my absence, but God will be faithful and he'll take care of you. And then number three we'll see each other again." Now, what I didn't add at 3:00 in the morning is that is if you're a Christian; that is if you actually repent and believe in Jesus. And that's implied here. So faith in the resurrection has converting power. As he already said in verse 18, if there is no resurrection, then those who died in Christ are lost, they're gone, you'll never see them again. And he reverts back to that, I think here in verse 29, that's his point, if there is no resurrection from the dead that whole argument falls apart. You won't see them again whether you're baptized or not, so if there is no resurrection, then why would someone be persuaded to be baptized and become a Christian if they're never gonna see anybody again? Anyway, that's his point in verse 29.
Now, if you think there's a better interpretation, I was on... A good friend of mine sent a scholarly New Testament article with 13 possible interpretations of baptism for the dead. So you can walk your way through all 13 of those and pay your money and make your choice. But I think this is probably the best for what Paul meant. In any case, it's an obscure verse. What I'm gonna say is, I think that godly living and godly dying has converting power, in those who watch it. I think that's what's going on.
II. Power to Endure Suffering for the Glory of Christ
Secondly, resurrection, belief in resurrection from the dead gives power to endure suffering for the glory of Christ. Look at verse 30-32, “And as for us, if there is no resurrection from the dead, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day- I mean that brothers- as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained?” So Paul turns to his own example of suffering for Christ, we endanger ourselves every hour for the gospel, we're in danger. And then he says, “I die every day.” Paul consistently does this: he presents himself as a model for them to follow, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ,” 1 Corinthians 11:1, and Paul has lived a life of extreme danger, extreme suffering for the gospel. In all of my study of 20 centuries of church history, I love reading accounts of martyrs, martyrology, a history of missions, a history of the church. I have never found any individual in all of 20 years of church history who suffered as much physically to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ as the Apostle Paul. Nobody can hold his shoes. 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, he catalogs some of his sufferings, “Five times I received from the Jews the 40 lashes minus one, three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea. I've been constantly on the move; I've been in danger from rivers in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, and in danger from false brothers. I have often labored and gone and have toiled and have gone without sleep, I've known hunger and thirst, and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.” Paul's saying, “Why do I do all of that if there is no resurrection from the dead?” that's what he's getting to here. “Why do I endanger myself every day? Why do I die to myself daily or even face physical death, so regularly?” Paul would say, “My courage in the face of all of that suffering comes from belief in my own resurrection from the dead, that I will someday be raised in glory, and that there is stored up for me a crown in heaven, which will be awarded to all who have suffered for the gospel that Jesus promised in the sermon on the mount. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”
For himself, he would say, “I yearned yearn to die.” He said that in Philippians 1:23, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.” He was by no means suicidal. For him to live is Christ, but to die is gain. He looked at that, so his faith in the resurrection from the dead enabled him to face even the howling winds of a hurricane that went on for two weeks, he accounts in Acts 27, and he had, it seems, absolutely no fear of death. He just took over. He told them, "You need to eat something. Keep up your strength." He’s just buoyant in hope, confident; it's a beautiful thing, because he had no fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 it says, “Jesus died so that by his death, he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is the devil. And free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” That shouldn't be you. Even in this COVID era, maybe especially, we shouldn't be enslaved to fear of death, not at all. 'Cause it's better by far, to depart and be with Christ and Paul was freed from fear of death.
I think about that storm that he went through in Acts 27, and how confident he was. There's another story, a beautiful story from church history about John Wesley, and Wesley went across the Atlantic Ocean to minister in Georgia. It was a failed mission, in many respects, he was a failure in ministry at that point, and did not really understand the gospel of God's grace, so maybe even unconverted state at that point. Was sailing back and on board on the ship were a group of Moravians and they sailed into a hurricane, and it was a terrifying time, and the Moravians were, had a prayer and a hymn sing on deck while that was going on, and they were absolutely fearless in the face of imminent death. Wesley writes in his journal, he said, "In the midst of the Psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the mainsail in pieces covered the ship, poured in between the decks as if the great deep had already swallowed us up. We were already submerged. A terrible screaming began among the sailors, but the Moravians just calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards, ‘Were you not afraid?’ he answered, ‘I thank God, no.’ ‘But were not your women and children afraid?’ he answered mildly, ‘No. Our women and children are not afraid to die.’ Well that lodged a memory inside Wesley's mind, and when he got back to London, he started pursuing Moravian prayer meetings, and he went there and eventually his heart, as he said, was strangely warmed and he was converted to the true gospel by the Moravians, but it started with absolute confidence in the face of death, imminent death, no fear of death at all.
So faith in the resurrection, unleashes courage for bold service to Christ. So in the days of the Roman persecution, our brothers and sisters in Christ were herded into the coliseum and they died with great courage and confidence, singing hymns. That's how, as Tertullian said, “The blood of martyrs was seed for the church.” That's how it was, 'cause the people watched how they died and they weren't afraid. So also missionaries in the 19th century would pack up their belongings in their own coffins and sail to the jungles, steamy jungles of Western Africa, knowing that their lifespan was probably 18 months at about 18 months to learn the language and culture and share the Gospel before they died of a fever, a tropical fever. Imagine packing your belongings in a coffin. Or missionary John Paton, who left Scotland with his wife 1858, sailed 16, almost 16000 nautical miles to get to the New Hebrides, one of the most remote places on planet Earth, where just a few years before that, the previous missionaries had been killed and cannibalized on the beach in full view of the ship that had deposited them there. But, he wants to go back to that same island, go to that same island, and when a well-meaning Christian friend heard what Paton was planning on doing, he exclaimed, "You'll be eaten by cannibals!" John Paton gave that man, a well-meaning church member, one of the greatest answers in the annals of church history. He said this, "Mr. Dixon, you are advanced in years now and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave and there, to be eaten with worms. I confess to you that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I'm eaten by cannibals or by worms. And in the great day, my resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our great Redeemer." Isn't that great answer? "Mr. Dixon, do you know where you're heading? Do you have any idea what's about to happen to your body? What difference does it make what happens to my mortal remains after I'm dead, I believe in the resurrection from the dead, and I believe I'm gonna rise glorious on that day." And it gave him boldness and confidence to go and not be afraid of cannibals.
Paul's own assertion, he says, "I fought wild beasts in Ephesus." I'm not really sure what this means, exactly, it could refer to that riot that was started by the preaching of the gospel, where they stood these fanatical pagans and chanted for two hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians," for two hours, mindlessly chanting this, remember that Paul was willing to go in and preach the gospel to them, but others said, "Yeah don't do that. They will kill you." So he was just completely fearless. Other than that, I don't know what, “I fought wild beasts in Ephesus” means. It just, I've faced a dangerous situation with full confidence in resurrection, it's what he's saying.
Paul's deepest desire, then, was not to save his own life, not to escape from harm or danger, but to learn how to die for the glory of God and the salvation of others, like Jesus did Philippians 3:10-11, he said, “I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” “I wanna learn how to die.” Paul said, “That's why what, and I wanna learn how to be raised to glory.” As Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses life for me and for the gospel will find it.”
III. Power to Live for Christ, Not Temporary Pleasures
Third, faith in resurrection gives power to live for Christ. Not for temporary pleasures. Look at verses 32-34, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.’ 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.” Paul's life of holiness, of self-denial, facing martyrdom for Christ, makes no sense if there's no resurrection from the dead. If there is no resurrection from the dead, then only a certain number of life courses make sense. One of them, he gives right here: hedonism, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” There's nothing in this world, we're not heading toward anything, so find as much pleasure as you can in this world, part of that would be diligent labor in your career, to career advancement and success, and some people do that: atheistic have no confidence in a resurrection, just seek to live the best life they can in this world. Others turn to depression and even ultimately suicide, and before that, they kind of anesthetize themselves and numb their pain with escapism. Mike was talking about David Hume, the philosopher, whose philosophy was so dark, and he believed it was true, that all he could do was kind of find escape in playing backgammon and getting drunk. You know, I wonder if COVID has stripped away some of those numbing factors and people are able to look around and say, “This is life, this is it?” They're finding that their worldview is not serving them well, and they are depressed. It's an opportunity for us. Isn't it? For us to point to Christ, to point to hope, but people do that because if there's no resurrection from the dead, this world is all there is, and you're just gonna find something, or like the British people, stiff upper lip, just daily hanging on in desperation day after day, making it through grim, joyless endurance.
Sensual indulgence, that's exactly how many unbelievers live in this world, I've seen it in hard-working people in Japan who just have materialistic goals, achievement type goals. I've seen in MIT students that I went to school with who have built successful careers in engineering and research, and who just wanna be prosperous and be as happy as they can in this world, a hedonism is everywhere, if you look for it. In America, everywhere, it's here in the Triangle, is here in a comfortable life of material prosperity, so the doctrine of the resurrection frees us from a life of sensual indulgence of hedonism, which the book of Ecclesiastes calls ultimately vanity of vanities. Emptiness, everything is vain. The book of Ecclesiastes harmonizes with this. The preacher who wrote it, did everything he could do to find me something under the sun, for which there was value, he did great building projects, intellectual achievements, great wisdom, he studied a lot, material prosperity, gold, silver jewels, accumulation a sensual indulgence: wine, women, and song in various forms. And he said it in Ecclesiastes 1:14, "I've seen all the things that are done under the sun, and all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind." So Paul seeks to warn them and even to shame them, he says, "Some of you are ignorant of God- I say this to your shame.” I think that ignorance of God comes when Jesus said to the Sadducees who say there is no resurrection from the dead. He says, "You're in error because you don't know the power of God or the Word of God, and God has the power to raise the dead. And so you're ignorant of Scripture and of the power of God,” and so he said, "I say this to your shame, you should know." Now, the gospel had come to Corinth, had turned these pagans away from meat sacrifice to idols and temple prostitutes and that whole sensual life to a life of holiness, a life of self-denial in the name of Christ, but this doctrine: there is no resurrection from the dead, has the power to undo all that and draw them back to daily paganism, so don't go there. Bad company corrupts good morals, don't hang around with people who teach falsely and live falsely. Watch out who your friends are. Those who walk with the wise grows wise, be with people who believe in the resurrection or who are living accordingly, don't hang around with people who are into sensual indulgence. He said, “I say this to your shame.” Bible's answer to the desperation and hopelessness that characterizes the book of Ecclesiastes is found in verse 58, look at it with me, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
"Bad company corrupts good morals, don't hang around with people who teach falsely and live falsely. Watch out who your friends are. Those who walk with the wise grows wise, be with people who believe in the resurrection or who are living accordingly."
So applications, we've already seen a number of them. Just see the ethical implications of believing right doctrine specifically, the resurrection from the dead, just see that. Push away in your mind, all denigration of theology or deep thinking, “Ah that's for the experts for the bookling, for the doctrinal nerds, people like that.” No, it's not true. Develop sound theology, walk through Scriptures and see a worldview form within you through the word of God. To the unconverted, I already have pled with you once so I'll plead with you again: repent and believe in Jesus, you have today. You've heard the gospel. You've heard everything you need. Christ died in your place; he rose again. If you repent and believe, you'll be forgiven not by works, but by grace. So trust in him, don't presume on a future day that you don't know you're gonna have.
And then for yourselves as Christians, evaluate your own life, I actually think this “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” theology or philosophy is one of the greatest dangers to western Christians, American Christians; it's a danger to our affluent church. Please don't imagine that you're exempt, and there's no aspect of that philosophy that's crept into the way you spend your time, your energy and your money. Evaluate yourself, “Am I living like there really is a resurrection from the dead? Am I fighting wild beasts? Are there any wild beasts I'm willing to take on?” Could be an unsaved boss. Share the gospel with your unsaved boss. Now, that's interesting. “Oh, you don't know what that guy is like.” No, I don't. Probably scary, but be willing to fight your own wild beasts for the sake of Christ, be willing to do courageous things for the sake of the gospel, live and serve Christ boldly. And pray for the persecuted church. Some of them are fighting wilder beasts than we can even imagine, governments that are crushing them and incarcerating them, taking away their freedom, their possessions, pray for the persecuted church. And be willing, as it says in verse 58, and we'll circle back to it, God willing again in the future to serve Christ, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Close with me in prayer. Lord, we thank you for the time we've had to walk through these verses, how incredible they are, we thank you, O Lord, for just sound theology, sound doctrine and how it leads to healthy living. So just strengthen each one of us. Build the theology of the Bible in our hearts and minds. Help us, O Lord, to see the truth, help us to live out the truth and to believe in it. And Lord, we just wanna thank you, I thank you with joy in my heart that Christ has been raised, that our sins are forgiven. That we're gonna go to heaven when we die. And we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.