Resurrection: First Importance

For what I received I passed on to you as of 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 Scriptures.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)

Why do we believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead? And what difference does it make, really? Those are the questions Paul will answer for us as we listen in on parts of 1 Corinthians 15.

clouds350What we call the gospel is built on three essential legs, Paul writes in today’s verses. The most important parts of the Good News are these: Jesus died for our sins; he was buried; he was raised the third day — all as had been predicted in God’s Word long before hand.

If you’re a Christian, your relationship with God started with saying “yes” to the truthfulness of all three. But wouldn’t it be easier to convince people to join us if we could just leave that last one out?

Sure, Jesus died for our sins. But came back to life? That’s where it gets to be a hard sell. Why make a big deal about that one? Stay tuned.

Think: Before we dive into Paul’s answers this week, why do you think the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is an essential part of what we believe as Christians?

Pray: Thank God for helping you to believe in the Good News about Jesus: that he died for your sins, was buried, and then made alive again on the first Easter morning.

Do: Notice in your world who emphasizes the resurrection and who avoids mentioning it.

Resurrection: They All Saw Him

“. . . and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:5-6)

He’d been burned too badly to believe in Jesus any more. He was done. He’d put all his hope — willingly risked his own life — to follow Christ. And then Jesus just died up there on that cross. Thomas was scared and angry because a dead Messiah wasn’t what he’d signed up for.

clouds350Paul tells his readers in Corinth that the Gospel is not complete without Easter. The story could not end with the cross and still have any meaning. The resurrection is so important, he said, that if they wanted evidence — as Thomas demanded when the other disciples came and told him they’d seen Jesus alive — they could go and ask some of the other firsthand witnesses. Paul wanted them to know that believing in Easter was reasonable.

We don’t have even that option available, beyond reading the 2,000-year-old testimony of a few of those men. Thomas got his proof, but we must take it on faith that Jesus walked out of that tomb. It’s still a reasonable faith, but it’s also an act of trust, one for which God blesses us with the promise of an escape from our own tombs.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

Think: Can you blame Thomas for wanting proof? Can you explain to someone why you believe in the resurrection without firsthand evidence of your own?

Pray: Thank God for giving you the faith to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Ask him to help your everyday choices to reflect your belief that Jesus is alive-again Son of God.

Do: Read Thomas’s exchange with Jesus in John 29:24-31.

Resurrection: Why Do Religion Without It?

“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-13)

It’s easier for me to understand atheists than to get people who want to practice at religion without believing in anything supernatural. Atheists, naturalists, just refuse to buy anything that can’t be seen, touched, smelled, or satisfyingly deduced. At least, that’s their claim. And I can respect the intent if not the conclusion.

clouds350Followers of Jesus, on the other hand, believe in what can’t be seen. Based on the testimony of transformed lives, the reasonableness of biblical truth, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we put all of our confidence in what is hoped for, what is promised in God’s Word. That’s faith, according to Hebrews 11:1.

But “religious unbelievers” want to go to church and try to be good and talk to a God that is not so embarrassing as to claim to have done anything that can’t be explained in human experience. Why not just sleep in on Sunday?

Apparently, some of these folks were trying to tell the believers in Corinth not to expect to be resurrected after they died. Paul worked the logic of their unbelief, concluding that if nobody is resurrected, then neither was Jesus. And then what is the point of this faith, again?

Think: Do you see any value to a religion that denies the existence of the supernatural, specifically the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus? Do you think Christ-less religions are better than no religion at all? Why or why not?

Pray: Continue to thank and praise God that Jesus lives.

Do: Think about inviting an unbelieving friend to go with you to your church service on Sunday.

Resurrection: No Easter No Point

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.” (1 Corinthians 15:14-15)

If you don’t believe Jesus was resurrected — or that those who follow him will be resurrected — just turn around and walk away. That’s what Paul said.

clouds350He had already written 14-and-a-half chapters of teaching to these Corinthians. And now he said that if you can’t get behind the idea of a physical resurrection from the dead for believers, then just wad the whole thing up and toss it in the outhouse.

If we don’t rise again, and if Jesus didn’t, Paul said his whole ministry would be a useless lie. Anyone who believed him was wasting their time.

How crucial is the resurrection to what Christians believe? Without it, we’ve got nothing but pews and preachers and pot lucks (if you’re lucky). But because of it, we’ve got everything. It is the evidence that God’s goodness, power, and love are all real — that all this stuff we do together in response to him has a point.

Think: In difficult times, do you ever wonder if the Christian life is really worth it, if it really means anything? Does the reality of Jesus’ resurrection help to convince you that it is?

Pray: Thank God that our faith is not useless because Jesus really was raised from the dead and we will be, too.

Do: Have you invited any unbelievers to go to church with you on Sunday? There’s still time.

Resurrection: Good Friday Fools?

“For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” (1 Corinthians 15:16-18)

We call the Friday before Easter good because it’s the day we remember Jesus’ terrible sacrifice to pay for every last one of our sins on that terrible cross. We earned his torture. We deserved his agony. He took it for us, instead, so we could be pardoned.

clouds350But without the resurrection, that Friday would have been just another day, another execution of a Roman prisoner, another slaughter in a Middle Eastern religious dispute. And our faith in Jesus would not bring forgiveness. We would still be awaiting the eternal torture, the endless agony.

Without Easter, Jesus was a liar. The ancient prophesy and his own prediction said he, the Messiah, would rise again. If he didn’t, it was all pointless. And those who died believing died as fools.

The disciples probably felt like fools by the end of Good Friday as the stone was rolled into place over the mouth of the tomb. But Sunday would change everything.

Think: After 3 years of following Jesus, believing he was the Messiah, how do you think the disciples felt on Friday night and all day Saturday? Do you think any of them felt like Friday was a victory before they saw Him again?

Pray: Thank God for Jesus’ sacrifice in your place on the cross on that terrible Good Friday. Thank him for loving you so much he gave his Son’s life for yours. Then thank him for raising Jesus from the dead.

Do: Take the time to remember the cross today.

Resurrection: Not Good Enough

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Corinthians 15:19)

Nobody should become a Christian to give themselves a better life on Earth. Why? Because our lives on this side of heaven are still painful and awkward, especially when compared with what we were built for.

clouds350Too harsh? Listen to what Paul wrote in another letter: “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for . . . the redemption of our bodies.”

He’s talking about our resurrection. And then he writes, “For in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:22-24)

Yes, being a Christian gives power, purpose to our lives, hopefulness in hard times, joy, gladness, and great connectedness with other believers. But none of that is possible – or good enough in this pain-soaked vapor life – to make faith in Jesus worth it if there is no sinless resurrection life and body waiting for us on the other side.

Think: Do you think it’s possible to put too much hope in what God might do for us in this life and not enough hope in what he’ll definitely give to us in the resurrection?

Pray: Thank God that we do not have hope in Christ only for this life, that nobody needs to pity us because Jesus is alive.

Do: Make two quick lists: five good gifts God gives to us as his children on this side of our resurrection and five good gifts he will give to us on the other side.