Two Journeys Ministry
In-Depth Biblical Content by Pastor Andy Davis

The Unchanging Facts of the Gospel (1 Corinthians Sermon 58)

Series: 1 Corinthians

The Unchanging Facts of the Gospel (1 Corinthians Sermon 58)

August 09, 2020 | Andy Davis
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
The Gospel, Walk by Faith, Resurrection of Christ

Pastor Andy Davis preaches an expository sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. The main subject of the sermon is the unchanging nature of the truths of the Gospel.



Well, this morning, I have the joy and the privilege of preaching the gospel to you. I am so excited to talk to you about the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and so I was sharing that with Christie this morning. And I said those words, she said, "But Andy, you do that every week." And I really do, I desire always to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ right into every sermon. It's a commitment I've made years ago. But sometimes the text itself openly, clearly proclaims the gospel and facts of the gospel, and that's our situation today. Paul said, "Of the gospel, I'm not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." This gospel has the power to transform hearts and lives, and so it has been doing for 20 centuries.

The gospel specifically has the power to transform hostile skeptics and enemies into ardent worshippers of Jesus Christ. There's a long track record of the gospel doing this. I think about Lee Strobel, for example, who's an atheist, he was an investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune, he had a law degree, has a law degree from Yale, and he was an award-winning journalist, but an atheist, his wife was converted to faith in Christ, and his initial reaction was to think about divorce. He did not want to be married to a Christian wife, but instead what he decided to do is try to debunk Christianity. So he started to investigate it like you would any other topic as an investigative journalist, and the more he got into it, the more he investigated the evidence, specifically of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, he was more and more convinced that it was true and he was converted. Lee Strobel wrote a book called Case for Christ.

I think about earlier in my Christian life, I was ministered to by Josh McDowell through Campus Crusade for Christ, same kind of story. He was writing a term paper as a college student, he was an atheist, agnostic I guess, and he decided he was going to examine the historical evidence for the resurrection in particular. And as he investigated more and more the historical evidence for whether Christ's raised from the dead he also was converted. He wrote one of the most significant books in our lifetime: Evidence that Demands a Verdict. I think also about Nabeel Qureshi, who was a Pakistani American, grew up in a loving Muslim home, loved to debate and had a Christian friend as a fellow student, and he wanted to defeat this guy in a debate by proving that Christianity was false. And it's the same story, he investigated the claims of the historical religion of Christianity, of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, he also did the same for Islam, looked at the origins of Islam, what happened to Muhammad in the cave and all that, and the more he got into this investigation, the more convinced he became that Christianity was true, historically true. That Christ actually rose from the dead. He wrote a book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. It's an amazing story.

Now listen, God doesn't always do this, he doesn't always take the academic route, he does in some famous case, C.S. Lewis was like that, C.S. Lewis was an academic conversion through book study, in philosophical study and through debates with J. R. R. Tolkien and other friends, he was trying to refute and was won over by a very logical process of investigation, and C.S. Lewis said, "I was the most reluctant convert in all England," I mean, if ever a guy you would say was dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom it was him, but he just could not resist the arguments of Christianity. But Richard Baxter back in the 16th century, the 17th century, he's a Puritan, he said, "God breaketh not all men alike." And by the word breaketh, he means breaking to his will like the breaking of a wild bronco to faith in Christ, it means to convert... God doesn't convert everyone in the same way, there's different ways that God uses; there are different persuasions that God uses. And one of the joys we're gonna have in heaven, I believe, with all my heart, is to find out how the countless multitude from every tribe, language, people, and nation were individually converted. And you may say to me, "Now pastor, that's gonna take a while." Well, we've got a while. When we've been there 10,000 years bright and shining as the sun, we've no less days to find out other people's testimonies than when we first began, I know that's not what “Amazing Grace” is, but we've got plenty of time. And you will have limitless interest in finding out how this brother or this sister from centuries before you were born was converted.

You'll find out, for example, a Viking raider named Oleg Tryggvason, was won to faith in Christ, and from his raiding Viking ways by a prophecy made by a hermit, a monk on an island that came true, circle back, found out more about Christianity and he came to faith in Christ. Augustine of Hippo was, didn't need any more philosophical arguments, didn't need any more argumentation, he just was battling lust, he was batting sexual temptation, and he didn't wanna give up that lifestyle until he heard a child singing, a little child's song, “Take up and read, take up and read,” and there was Romans 13 open for him, ready for him to read, he reads it and was converted by a moral injunction, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh to satisfy its lust.” it converted him, Augustine of Hippo. Then there's Constantine, who was battling for the empire, control of the empire, before a key battle he had a vision of the cross in the heavens, the cross of Jesus Christ. He was well familiar with the Christian gospel by now, that's the progress that Christianity had made from the upper room in Jerusalem. Over three scant centuries it had made that level of progress to where a man who would soon become the emperor of Rome, the most powerful man on earth, considered whether to become a Christian. The vision convinced him, whether he was genuinely converted at that moment or not, I don't know. I do know this, he was eventually baptized toward the end of his life as the Roman Emperor, and his baptismal robe, his white robe, he took off his purple robe as the emperor and put on his white robe to be baptized and never took it off again. And in that faith, he died, raised his kids as a Christian.

So God doesn't always convert people by means of intellectual study at the historical facts concerning the resurrection, but let me tell you something, Christianity will bear the close scrutiny, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the accounts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ has converting power. And we're gonna look at that over the next number of weeks in 1 Corinthians 15. This entire chapter is dedicated to the bodily resurrection, not just of Jesus Christ from the dead, but of all the followers of Christ. That Jesus is actually the first fruit of a vast harvest of resurrected people. That's what this chapter is about. And as we do, we're looking at an ancient writing, an Epistle that was written to the Corinthian church centuries and centuries ago, but God's word never changes, it's an unchanging word, and so the facts of the gospel are unchanging.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, "Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." And as we look at 1 Corinthians, there is a central concept here, a central idea that dominates the whole chapter, and it's in Verse 20, it says, "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." The bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead is a historical fact, and it's not just a historical fact, it is a pattern for all of us who follow that we also will be raised from the dead. That is the central dominating theological fact of this chapter. Along with it is an application for all of us. And it's at the very end of the chapter. We're gonna see it again and again. Look at Verse 58, it says, "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." So knowing that Christ has been raised from the dead, and that all of the elect chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, will most certainly some day be in resurrection bodies, and nothing will stop that. What that means is that everything we do for the gospel, everything we do for the church of Jesus Christ has eternal consequence, eternal value. Does not matter what your spiritual gifts are, it doesn't matter how little the work may seem, your labor in the Lord is not in vain, so let's be abounding in that work. So that's the central idea of 1 Corinthians 15, and the central application.

"Everything we do for the gospel, everything we do for the church of Jesus Christ has eternal consequence, eternal value."

I. The Gospel is Our Top Priority

 The gospel (this is my first point in the outline) the gospel is our top priority. The gospel is our top priority. Now, the apostle Paul is writing to the church in Corinth and, let's try to understand their context, we're at a new section now in 1 Corinthians, we have began a new portion of this incredible epistle, the entire epistle has been the apostle Paul addressing significant problems in a local church there in Corinth, a church that he helped plant by the preaching of the gospel, significant problems there. This is, and it's not an overstatement to say: this is- was a dysfunctional church. They were messed up. They had a lot of problems, and so Paul addresses. So in chapters 1-3, by way of review, he's addressing the factions and divisions there are in the Corinthian church: “I follow Paul,” “I follow Paul,” “I follow Cephas,” factions and divisions. And their reason for following them are worldly, they're following them because of worldly reasons, they're following human beings and they don't understand Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God. Chapters 1-3, and then chapter 4, he addresses the fact that the Corinthian church yearn to be loved and esteemed and honored by their pagan neighbors who are pagans, who are going after pagan things, and they want to be esteemed and loved and honored by pagan neighbors when the apostles are like scum of the earth, the refuse of the world; they are men condemned to die in the arena, they are hated as they're faithful to Christ, and so it's almost like one of those old multi-level department stores like Macy's in New York, where the Corinthians were on the up escalator going up to the top floor and the apostles were on the down escalator, going down to the basement, and they're passing each other, and Paul's saying, "You're on the wrong escalator, you're going the wrong direction, you shouldn't yearn to be loved in this world and esteemed and wealthy and comfortable and held in honor. You should yearn to follow Christ wherever he leads. And Christ was crucified in this world, so you have to be willing,” that's Chapter four.

Then chapters 5-6, he addresses moral problems in the Corinthian church. Chapter 5, there's a man there that's committing egregious sexual immorality, and the church should have disciplined him, kicked him out of the fellowship, chapter 5. Chapter 6, he addresses lawsuits among the believers, the fact that some of the believers were visiting temple prostitutes, sexual immorality, chapter 5-6. Chapter 7, he has to address marriage issues, divorce and remarriage, singleness just the whole view of marriage, and he has to address that in chapter 7. Chapters 8-10, three chapters on meat sacrificed to idols. They'd come out recently out of paganism, there was a new religion, Christianity, there are new approaches, but others were struggling with aspects of that religion with meat sacrificed to idols, and Paul has to address the community and how they're going to have a community approach to meat sacrificed to idols, three chapters on that. Chapter 11, he has to address problems with the Lord's Supper, as some of them were gorging themselves in Lord's Supper bread, others were getting drunk on Lord's Supper wine and there's major problems as a result of their misunderstanding of the Lord's Supper. Then in chapters 12-14, a section we just finished last week, Chapter 12-14, he's addressing spiritual gifts in the church, what they are special abilities, and the fact that they're messed up in that too.

So now we come to a new section, and in that we come to a new problem, a new difficulty in the life of the church, look at verse 12, and Paul says, “If Christ actually is preached, that he is raised” and then, “how can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead?” that's the problem he's addressing. There were some Corinthians who believed that bodily resurrection from the dead was impossible, they didn't believe in it. Didn't mean that all of them thought that way, but some of them did, and as he said, a little leaven leavens a whole lump, a little bit of bad doctrine can spread, so he's got to nip this thing in the bud. That's the problem. Now, almost certainly this was coming from their Greek pre-commitments to philosophy, they were committed to Greek systems of philosophy, and many of those systems, like the Epicureans, for example, or Plato, they looked at the body as basically a prison house for the pure spirit the pure soul, it was the seat of all problems, of all the difficulties. The Epicureans, for example, denied the immortality of the soul. They said, "This life is all there is, so grab all the gusto you can in this world," they also believe that the soul was made up of atoms like the body, and so when your body went into the ground and was disintegrated, your soul was gone too. You know, honestly, that doesn't sound much different than what British atheist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking said, before he died, he said this, "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers, that is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark." Well, I think it's amazing, John Lennox, Christian mathematician, answered that statement: “Heaven is a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark.” he said, "Atheism is a fairy tale for people afraid of the light." I thought that was a helpful re-joinder. As Jesus himself said, “Everyone who hates the light will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” But anyway, it's the same idea: your dreams, your thoughts are biochemical reactions that are deceiving you, material stuff is all there is in the universe, when that breaks apart, the dreams are ended. That's the philosophy, the Epicureans taught, that kind of thing, and Paul had to face the Epicureans and stoic philosophers in Athens, which was not far at all from Corinth, and those same ideas, it seems, we're filtering in when Paul preached the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead some of them sneered. Acts 17:32, “When they heard about the resurrection of the dead some of them sneered,” it was not well received. So this philosophy evidently had affected- infected the minds of some Corinthian Christians.

Well, that's their context. What's our context? Well, some things are new and some things are not new, some things will never change. New things in our settings, the year 2020 has been a year that none of us, I think, will ever forget. It's been a very difficult year, a very challenging year. Obviously, the pandemic COVID-19 has reminded people of the fragility of life, the change-ability and fragility of our lifestyle, not just of our physical lives, but the key elements of our lifestyle are very fragile and can be broken apart, actually pretty easily. The death totals that are tallied every day that we can see worldwide, remind us of the danger of the disease itself, but frankly, it should cause us- our minds to lift up beyond this one disease to all disease and realize we are all mortal, we're going to die, that never changes. Beyond that, of course, with the death of George Floyd and with all the demonstrations that followed, and all of the anguish and anger, just focused attention on human sinfulness and it has forced people to ask ultimate questions, but these questions are current, they're new, they weren't around a couple of years ago, but the basic issues have never changed, they are the same. Job put it very plainly in Job 14:14, "If a man dies, will he live again?" Is this all there is? Or is there life after death? And again, beyond that, there's the constant fear of death itself, Hebrews 2:15 speaks of people who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. We are surrounded by people who, if they were honest, would say they're afraid to die; the author to Hebrews calls it a slavery and bondage to this fear. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that, “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” So everyone's aware of eternity, it's there in our hearts, these things never change, but we see the reality of death around us, all the time people die, and we never see them again in this world.

Paul, therefore, felt the need with these unchanging realities to go back to the basics, go back to the first principles, to reassert the top priority of the gospel, what he says as of first importance. Look at verses 3-4, "For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance [top priority]: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” This should be the top priority for every Christian church in the world, for every single individual as well, top priority, there are so many fascinating doctrines that could engage our attention. Christianity is a fascinating set of doctrines. We could spend a lot of time on the millennium, the bodily reign of Jesus Christ on Earth, and of the rapture, we could spend a lot of time talking about the rapture, it'd be endlessly fascinating. We could talk about the complexities of theology, like predestination and free will and how those things harmonize, we could talk about questions of the Jewish nation, the nation of Israel, their heritage, their future, all of those hot topics. Beyond that, there are hot topics of current events, many of which I've already mentioned in this sermon today, we could spend a lot of time talking about the pandemic, the best way to respond, churches staying opened or shutting down different… There are all kinds of debates we could get into. We could talk about social justice and issues of that, but this is the top priority. Every single church should focus on the gospel, and Christ crucified and resurrected, as a first importance, the top priority. That's why Paul used this language early in 1st Corinthians Chapter 2:2, "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you, except Jesus Christ and him crucified." That's a clear overstatement. Paul talked about all kinds of things. I've already listed all the topics he goes through. But what he's saying is, “This is home base for me, this is the center of my theology, Jesus Christ and Him Crucified, this is first importance, this is top priority for me,” Paul says. The gospel is of first importance, and why? Because of the infinite worth of the eternal human soul, as Jesus said plainly in Matthew 16:26, "What would it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul?" That means your soul is worth more than the whole world, all its possessions, all its powers, all its pleasures, your soul, which will last for all eternity, is worth more than all of the world, and it would profit you nothing to gain the whole world, if you would, in the end, lose your soul. “What would you give,” Jesus asks, “in exchange for your soul?” What, of all the world, would you give? Or conversely, what would you retain or hold on? “Well, I'll give you that for my soul, but not this.” The world is nothing compared to the value of the soul, so the gospel is of top priority because of the worth and value of the eternal human soul. Also, because death is inevitable, the wages of sin is death. We are going to die, all of us, if we're not part of the mysterious final generation, which will be alive when Jesus returns, we will most certainly die. As it says in Hebrews 9:27, "It is appointed to each one of us to die once, and after that, to face judgment." And what does that mean, “to face judgment?” Well, it's plain, the Bible teaches, again and again, every one of us will appear before the judgment seat of God. We will give an account for everything done in the body, whether good or bad. We're going to give an account for every careless word we've ever spoken. Revelation 20:11-15 describes it, "Then I saw a great white throne, and him who was seated on it, Earth and sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life, and the dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. And if anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." The lake of fire is the second death. That's hell. Now, we Christians believe that when we die, that's not all there is. There's eternity in heaven or eternity in hell. Those are the two options. That's biblical truth. That's why the gospel is of first importance. That's why Paul said: "I'm not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile." And so that's why the Gospel must be of first importance for me as a preacher and for our church, for First Baptist Church.

"Every single church should focus on the gospel, and Christ crucified and resurrected, as a first importance, the top priority."

So therefore, Paul reminds the Corinthians of the Gospel. Look at verse 1. "Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preach to you, which you received, and on which you have taken your stand." I wanna remind you of the gospel. Now, actually, the Greek doesn't say remind, it just says, "I want to make known to you, the gospel." But he says, number one, he already preached it to them. And number two, this is the gospel on which they have taken their stand or built their lives, so therefore, the idea really is of a reminder of the gospel, remind. The gospel is basic, you've heard it before and you will hear it again. And as a matter of fact, you need to hear it, you'll never graduate beyond the gospel, you're never gonna get to the point where, "Yeah, yeah, I got that. I don't need that anymore." Why is that? Well, because our salvation is a work in progress, and the basic truth of Christ crucified and buried and resurrected, will be useful and necessary to our faith until we die. And so, we're gonna forever go through this, this process, until at last, we lay down our faith and we don't need our faith anymore, and we see God face-to-face. And so, all faithful pastors, all faithful churches must continue to remind people of the facts of the gospel. This is the ground every Christian is standing on. This is the rock that Jesus likens it, not sand, but the rock on which you have built your life; that will never move. Heaven and earth will pass away, but this gospel will still be here. It is a solid foundation for your lives, and you, oh Corinthians, and you Christians, you have built your lives on this unshakable gospel. But Paul says every Christian has to continue to hold firmly to this Gospel message. Look at verse two, "By this Gospel, you are saved if you hold firmly to the word I preach to you, otherwise, you have believed in vain." You believed in vain. So the faith that we had at the first moment of our conversion, when we were born again, that faith, we must continue to have until we die. We have to continue to hold firmly to this gospel message. Paul's effectively warning the Corinthian Christians that they have to keep holding firmly to the gospel they believed at first. You don't need a new gospel, you don't need different articulations of the gospel; you need to hold firmly to the gospel you believed in at first. Jesus said plainly, "He who stands firm to the end will be saved." he who stands firm to the end. So you have to continue to hold firmly to this gospel message by faith. Otherwise, he says, you have believed in vain. What does that mean, to believe in vain? Well, James chapter 2 talks about that. There are different kinds of faith, there's demon faith and dead faith, and deluded faith, delusional faith. There are different kinds of faith. If your faith is genuine, you will continue to believe and you'll continue to produce good works, James says in James Chapter Two. So this true faith must persevere to the end of your life.

Now, I, as a Calvinist, as a believer in sovereignty of God and salvation, once saved, always saved, I believe that whatever you need to keep believing in Jesus, you will receive. He's going to keep feeding your faith, secretly feeding it, until at last you don't need it anymore, and faith is exchanged for sight. He's going to sustain you. But you need to know that you need to keep believing. You need to be warned to keep believing, there's many such warnings in the Bible, and this is one of them. So Paul goes back over the basic facts of the gospel message, verse 3-4, "For what I received, I passed on to you as a first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, according to the scripture." 

II. The Gospel is founded on Scripture’s Testimony of Christ

 So this is a second point of my outline, the gospel is founded on Scripture's testimony of Christ. The gospel is founded on Scripture's testimony of Christ. Notice that Paul says he received this gospel message. He makes it very plain in many places, this gospel message is heaven sent. It's not anything we concocted. So in Galatians 1:11-12, Paul says, "I want you to know, brothers, that the Gospel I preach is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it. Rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." A number of years ago, when I was about ready to go on my first mission trip back in 1986, I had a good friend, a Christian friend, whose mother was not a Christian. And she was a sweet lady, we had dinner together, and she was very offended that I was going as a missionary to try to persuade people to believe in my views. She thought it was arrogant. I said, "Well, actually, I understand that it would be arrogant if the gospel were something I concocted in my own basement, my- like my secret brew, and I was saying it was the best in the world. But it's not anything I made up, it's something I have come to believe is true." And so it is, Paul says, "I didn't make up the gospel. I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ." God revealed Jesus Christ to Paul on the road to Damascus, and then he taught him the gospel doctrine directly by revelation. It's revealed, it's not anything we made up, no one could write Jesus like a fiction writer could come up with this, ever. This is something that was revealed from heaven, Paul says.

Now, this revelation though, had been going on for centuries before Paul was born. The foundation was laid in the revelation of Scripture. Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture. Christ was buried. Paul could have added, "According to the scripture," there are scriptures about the burial of Jesus, how he's buried in a rich man's tomb, etcetera, but he doesn't. At any rate, Christ then was raised from the dead, according to Scripture. All of this had been laid out ahead of time in the Scriptures. This is vital because it shows us how the facts of the gospel are tied irrevocably to the Bible, to the written word of God. We know nothing about Jesus apart from scripture, nothing. As I've said before, there is such a thing as natural revelation, we can learn things about God the Creator; we can learn invisible attributes and the existence of God, things like that, from looking at sunrises and sunsets. But you can't learn anything about the Trinity or the second person of the Trinity, or the story of the incarnation, the sinless life of Jesus, his miracles, his atoning death, His bodily resurrection, all of that must come from the pages of Scripture. It's forever tied to the written word of God, that's why John wrote, "In the beginning was the Word." There's a link between Jesus and the written word of God, and so Paul makes that link.

This link, Jesus established in his ministry. He was debating with his enemies in John Chapter 5, after he healed a paralyzed man on the Sabbath and they start engaging him in debate. And Jesus said many things in John chapter 5, but one of the things he said to his enemies, the Pharisees and chief priests, he said, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them, you possess eternal life. These are the scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life." He said a few verses later, "Moses wrote about me." So the ancient scriptures contain prophecies testifying to who Jesus was and what he would do. And so he did that before he was killed. After his resurrection, as he appeared to his disciples, he clearly established the text that they were going to take out and preach, that they were going to use those texts, those prophecies, as part of their evangelism and their missions. You remember the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? The ones who were so depressed, so downcast, it was such a sad day. Remember what a sad day. Remember Mary weeping before the empty tomb, thinking that Jesus was the gardener. Remember all that? All these tears, and then there's the depressed disciples on the road to Emmaus, the two disciples so downcast, "We had hoped that he was going to be the one, and now we don't know what to think because our women have come and have said the tomb is empty. We don't know... We can't make heads or tails of it." You can't figure out what's going on? So Jesus said to those two disciples, “‘How foolish you are and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken? Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the scriptures concerning himself.” Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried; he was raised from the dead, according to the Scriptures. These scriptural arguments of Jesus's status as the messiah were the basis of Stephen's defense of Jesus that he debated; I think Paul was there. I don't think Paul lost many debates in his life, but he lost that one that day. As Stephen was debating and showing the evidence that Christ was the Messiah, as he was debating with members of the synagogue or the Freedmen, as it was called, Jews from Tarsus, Cilicia, etcetera; that was Paul. Paul couldn't refute it. And then, once he was converted, once Paul was converted, right away, he began preaching in the synagogue from those same scriptures, that Jesus is the Christ.

Now, what are these prophecies, what are some of the most important prophecies about Christ's life, death, and resurrection? I think they're five in particular that you need to memorize, you don't have to memorize the words, but these are the five you want to go to, these are the key prophecies. For example, who is Jesus? The identity of Jesus. Jesus circled Psalm 110. He began the discussion with his opponents, he said, "What do you think about the Christ, whose son is he?" "Son of David," they answered, that was the rote answer. "Well, how is it then, that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him Lord? For he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ If then David calls him Lord, how can he be his son?" Psalm 110. So this has to do with the supernatural identity of the God-man. He is descended from David, but David calls him Lord, and so he is God. Psalm 110. Then there is Christ's substitutionary atonement; his death on the cross was a substitution. You could argue all of the animal sacrifices were prophecies of Jesus, they really were. But it was articulated- it was described in Isaiah 53. Isaiah 53:4-6 is the most substitutionary atonement passage in the entire Bible, including the New Testament. This is what the prophet wrote six centuries before Jesus. "Surely, he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him, the iniquity of us all." That's substitutionary atonement. That's why Jesus died. He died in our place. Isaiah 53, written six plus centuries before Jesus was born. Psalm 22:14-18 describes the actual mechanics of crucifixion, written by David a thousand years before Jesus was born. And Psalm 22:14-18, He says, "I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. You lay me in the dust of death, dogs have surrounded me, a band of evil men has encircled me. They have pierced my hands and my feet." Wait, what? "They have pierced my hands and my feet?" When did that happen to David? There's no record of that ever happening to David. "They have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones, people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." Those are the actual details of crucifixion, predicted a thousand years before Jesus was born and predicted four centuries before the Assyrians invented crucifixion. Then there's Christ's bodily resurrection from the dead. He was raised from the dead according to the scriptures. Psalm 16 is the central text. Peter preached it on the day of Pentecost, because Jesus taught it to him. And there, in Psalm 16, it says, "You will not abandon me to the grave nor will you let your holy one see decay," Psalm 16:10. Then Peter makes the point, "Look, David could not have been writing about himself. He died, he was buried, his body decayed. But he was writing about the Christ, that he would be buried, but not see decay, and God would raise him from the dead."

And then, the most, perhaps, in some overarching sense, the most significant prophecy of all, is the Daniel 7 prophecy of the Son of Man. This is why Jesus consistently called himself the Son of Man. And there in that vision, you have Almighty God on his throne, ruling over planet Earth. And into his presence, riding on the clouds, comes one like the Son of Man, and he receives from Almighty God, sovereign power and glory and the right to be worshipped by all the peoples, nations and people of every language. Who is worshipped but God alone? And there is clear picture of a human being, the Son of Man, who receives worship, and that is Jesus, Daniel 7. Those five. Like, "Pastor, I'll never remember all that." So write down on a little piece of paper or put it on your note section of your smartphone and say, "Okay, it's a witnessing chance, let's go through these five prophecies." These have converting power, because they were written centuries before Jesus was even born. Well, they're unchangeable. And these fulfillments- the fulfillment of prophecy, was the foundation of the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Again and again, they use the word, "fulfilled." They cite actual prophecies. That's how we preach Christ. 

III. Christ’s Resurrection is Vital to the Gospel

 Thirdly, Christ's resurrection is vital to the gospel. We can't take the resurrection out and still have a gospel. This is Paul's main point. You can't argue that there is no resurrection from the dead, and as time allows in the future, not today, we will see in later verses, how Paul says, if Christ has not been raised, we have no gospel, we have no faith, we have nothing. And so, not only are the Scriptures clearly testifying that Christ would rise from the dead, but also, we have eye witness accounts. Look at verses 5-8, "he appeared to Peter, then to the 12. After that, he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles. And last of all, he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." Now, eyewitnesses are the key to establishing a historical event, something in the past. It's the basis of our court system, we have to establish what happened and then we can make a judgment on that event, and eyewitnesses are essential to that. Now, in Jewish law, two or three witnesses was what was needed to establish any historical fact. Deuteronomy 19:15, "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." So it is for any historical event, it will never happen again. How do we know the Battle of Waterloo occurred? Well, there were soldiers there that gave eyewitness accounts. And so it is for any historical event, we can never... We can't re-enact it in a laboratory, that's the uniqueness of history, the way you get it is primarily eyewitnesses.

Now, two or three is all that's needed, but there's a river of eyewitnesses that Paul brings forward here. He lists people who saw him and who testify to him by name, Peter (Cephas), Peter and James, and the 12. The apostles in particular, the 12, had as a central job description, being eyewitnesses of Christ's life, his death and his resurrection. After Judas betrayed and went to his death, they were trying to replace Judas to be one of the 12, and one of the requirements was, there had to be one of the disciples who had been with us the whole time Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism, for one of these must be a witness with us of his resurrection. Eyewitness accounts, that's what the apostles did. James, in particular, is fascinating. Brother of Jesus, we talked about it when we went through the book of James. Seemingly, it seemed, an unbeliever while Jesus was doing his public ministry. John chapter 7 says even his own brothers did not believe in Him. But something radically changed him. He was in the upper room waiting for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He became a pillar in the church in Jerusalem. What happened? Jesus appeared to him, personally, and James fell down and worshiped him. And so he appeared to James, and, it says, to 500 witnesses. Imagine how long it would take to get their testimony one after the other. “I have seen the risen Christ.” 500 eyewitnesses, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. So that is clearly establishing the fact. Now, here's the thing, we don't get any of that, friends, we don't get to talk to eyewitnesses, what do we get? Well, you get this: you get the Bible. You get John saying, "That which we have seen with our eyes, what we have handled, this we proclaim to you." We get the Scripture. And frankly, if you don't believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the basis of Scripture, you will never believe. There's no other source of information. Old Testament prophecies, New Testament fulfillment. That's what we get.

Now, William Lane Craig, who's an apologist, said that there are basically four facts that everyone agrees on that debates concerning the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. First, the entombment of Christ, an honorable burial, we know in Joseph of Arimathea's specific tomb. Secondly, that tomb was empty on the third day, the tomb is empty, or else his enemies would have produced a body. Thirdly, Jesus appeared to people after he was alive who gave eyewitness testimony that they had seen him. And fourthly, all of the early disciples believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, wasn't some mythology that came in centuries later, these basic facts. Now, William Lane Craig has gone around debating, he's an apologist, defending the faith, and has debated people all around. He debated this professor from the University of California, and he said these four facts kinda put you in a box. He said, "Well, I have a solution. Jesus had a twin brother, and they were separated at birth, and he came in just around the time of the crucifixion, no one knew he even existed, and he went and moved the stone, buried Jesus's dead body and presented himself as Jesus- as Jesus resurrected from the dead." Do you see the lengths you have to go to try to argue away the resurrection? Let me tell you the simplest way to argue it away. This is how it happens. I shared the gospel, these kinds of things, with a nominal, kind of lapsed Roman Catholic up in Massachusetts, a co-worker named Larry. I went through all the historical things, all the prophetic evidence, I did all this, later I said, "What do you think?" He said, "I guess Jesus rose from the dead." That was it. "I guess Jesus rose from the dead; let's eat." It didn't move the needle for him at all; it just didn't mean anything. It was a scent but it wasn't belief, it wasn't faith. Other people, just like Napoleon, he said, "I don't even think Jesus ever lived." Well, he clearly wasn't much of a historian. So you could say there was no Jesus, therefore there was no Joseph of Arimathea, there was no tomb, etcetera. Those are the kind of things you have to start doing. But let me ask you a question, why then within three centuries did Constantine think it was at least politically expedient to paint the cross on the shields of thousands of Roman soldiers? Some progress had been made. There are just some basic facts we have to deal with. It wasn't some later mythology. The tomb was empty. The tomb was empty. 

IV. The Gospel of Grace Saved and Commissioned Paul

Fourth point, the Gospel of Grace saved and commissioned the Apostle Paul, look at verses 8-10, "Last of all, he appeared to me also as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles, and I do not even deserve to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am. And his grace to me was not without effect. Now, I worked harder than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me." The resurrection of Jesus Christ transformed the apostle Paul. Story is well told. Paul was a ladder-climbing, zealous Jewish man who was trained in Jewish theology at the feet of one of the great teachers of his time, Gamaliel. He was advancing, he says, in Judaism beyond any one of his age. He was zealous for the traditions of his fathers. He debated with Stephen and lost. That started what one preacher called a ticking time bomb in his mind. He watched the way Stephen died so filled with grace, “Lord, don't lay this sin at their charge.” But he, Saul of Tarsus, began to destroy the church. He went from house to house and dragged off men and women, threw them in prison. He even went to the council, the Sanhedrin, and obtained letters that gave him the authority to go to Damascus and arrest any Jews there that were following this cult. And as he was en route on the road to Damascus, suddenly a bright light, blinding light, "brighter than the sun", he said, filled the road. And he heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" And he asked one of the most remarkable questions there's ever been in church history. "Who are you, Lord?" Just ponder that one for a while. "Well, I know you're Lord, but who are you?" But in some sense, it's a fair question. We're all still learning Jesus, aren't we? We'll be learning him forever. In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. "Who are you, Lord?" "I am Jesus." Those words changed Paul's life and changed the history of the world. "I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. Now, get up and go into the city and you'll be told what you must do." And that was the conversion of Saul, Acts 9, two other accounts in the Book of Acts.

Saul's mission, he was told what he must do, was to begin preaching Christ from the Scriptures, and he did preach him immediately in the synagogue in Damascus and began an amazing career of preaching. He's the very one who's writing this epistle, and he ascribes his salvation directly to the grace of God. "For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God, but by the grace of God I am what I am. And His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God that was with me." God's grace in Christ covered all of Paul's sins. God's grace in Christ was powerfully effective in transforming his mind and heart. God's grace in Christ commissioned him to be the apostle to the Gentiles. God's grace in Christ gave him a relentless energy to preach Christ where he had never been named.

Paul said he worked harder than anyone, and it's true. If you study his life, there was a three-legged stool to his approach. He would reason every day in the marketplace with pagans who happened to be there, trying to persuade them to come to Christ. In the evenings, he would train Christian disciples in theology. Late at night, he would make tents and supply, with his own hands, his own needs and the needs of his companions, and then on the Sabbath he would go into the synagogue every week and reason with the Jews from the Scriptures that Christ was the Messiah. That was his life. He said, "I worked harder than all of them." So he produced that energy, he produced that work, but then he says, "Yet not I, but the grace of God that was in me." That was Paul's life and Paul's commitment to the unchanging message, look at verse 11, “Whether then it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed,” centered on the resurrection. Next verse, verse 12, “How then can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead?” God willing, we'll get to that.

V. Applications

Applications, first and foremost: is there anyone listening to me, either live here or by live stream, who doesn't believe that Christ was raised from the dead. I'm begging you. Come to Christ. I'm pleading with you: find forgiveness of your sins through faith in Christ. I say it every time I preach. Say it again. Christ has been raised from the dead; he is the first fruit. Do you know for certain that you're going to go to heaven when you die? This is what the gospel is for. It is the power of God for your salvation. Trust in Christ. Secondly, if you're already a Christian, rejoice in the resurrection more than you do. Rejoice every single day that Christ defeated death. Later in this chapter, he's going to call death the final enemy; it's going to be with us, we're going to have grievous times. But understand this, Christ has defeated death. He holds the keys of death in his hand. Rejoice. We need that, don't we? In this age of the pandemic and all that, we need people that are just transcendently filled with hope. Transcendently. Be that way.

"Christ has defeated death. He holds the keys of death in his hand. Rejoice. "

And then as you have opportunity, as people ask you to give a reason for the hope that you have, evangelize. And even if they don't ask, initiate with them. Be bold as lions. Go out and share your faith. Initiate with people, start conversations. Learn the key texts or just one of them. Do Psalm 22, "They pierced my hands and my feet." Written a thousand years before Jesus. Talk about that, say, "What do you think about that? How could this happen, written so many centuries before Jesus?" Have a conversation. If you should attend a Christian funeral, a funeral for a Christian, even if it's someone very, very near and dear to you, do not grieve like those who have no hope. Christ has been raised from the dead, and this loved one who died in Christ, you'll see them again and they'll spend eternity in a resurrection body, glorious and radiant. Rejoice.

Therefore, prepare to die well, as a Christian. You're going to die. If you're not part of the mysterious final generation, you're going to die. Prepare to die well. Say, "Well, Pastor, how do I do that?" Well be courageous in your little trials, day by day. Don't complain. Don't murmur against God. Stand firm in those trials. Know that someday a greater trial is going to come. You're gonna get your final exam at the end of your life. Prepare to die well by dying to yourself day by day, putting sin to death by the Spirit day by day. Prepare to die well. And then finally, verse 58, read it, “Be energetic in your service to Christ, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” Close with me in prayer.

Lord, we thank you for this incredible chapter. We thank you for the clear testimony that Christ has been raised from the dead. We thank you for how clearly it's based on Scripture. Father, I pray that you would fill us with your Holy Spirit, give us joy in our salvation, give us energy in our ministry toward one another, in our mission toward lost people. Help us, O Lord, to stand firm in the Gospel, to remind ourselves of it regularly, to speak the words of the Gospel to our family members and to our friends and co-workers. Give us that boldness, O Lord, that is our birthright as Christians. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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