Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today’s reading is taken from Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. In this passage, Paul enumerates the mystery of the resurrection and its significance to us, in this life and the life which we know is to come.
Reading: 1 Corinthians 15
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
We have received the same Gospel, passed down from the Apostles through our brethren (most of whom are now sleeping) into our keeping. This is the Good News of Christ crucified and resurrected and ascended back into Heaven, whence he will come to judge the world in the Last Day. By this same gospel which saved the Apostles we are saveed.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
This is what we celebrated last Sunday – the crucifixion and resurrection of the Most High God, the Son of Man who has come into the world. All these things were foretold, and all these things have come to pass.
5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
At the time this was written, many walked the earth who had seen Jesus crucified, and many walked the earth who had seen him Risen from the dead. If it was a lie, there were MANY liars willing to die for it, and many able to refute the claim of Christ’s resurrection.
7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
Paul was perhaps the last of his era to see the resurrected Christ (and perhaps the last overall). This visitation occurred on the road to Damascus, as recorded in the book of Acts.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Saul of Tarsus was a zealot and a Pharisee. He knew the law, and he punished those who followed Jesus most severely. He was on his way to punish the Church at Damascus when Christ himself stopped him. This echoes to Paul’s personal shame, for he has come to know what it was that he did.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Paul became a tireless witness because the weight of his (forgiven) sins was so heavy on him. God made great use of this drive.
11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.
12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
If Christ is not risen from the dead, then all of Christianity is without meaning. If He is not risen, there is no resurrection, and no atonement for our sins. The God whom we seek to serve would not be the true God, and the prophecies would not have been fulfilled.
All of our faith rests on our belief in the Risen Christ, Jesus. Without this, there is no Christianity.
15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
Without a risen Christ, we are all liars and deluded. We cannot know one who is dead before our birth, and we cannot claim salvation.
18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
We have no hope of the Resurrection without Christ, and those who have fallen asleep are not merely asleep, but are completely dead in their transgressions and sins.
19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
It is sadder to watch the deluded live in their delusions than to watch the miserable live without delusion, for the deluded have hope in a falsehood. All is then meaningless, and the Nihilists are right to claim that all that remains for us to contemplate is suicide.
20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
We do not live in delusion, or as those who have no hope, because our hope is in the Risen Lord and the promises which he has made to us.
By Adam’s sin, death entered the world and man began to waste away. But in Christ, Only Begotten Son of God and the promised descendent of Adam (Genesis 3:15-16), we are made alive again. We now suffer only the first death (that of the body), and in the end we will live forever in the perfected bodies which God will bestow on us.
23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.
26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Verse 26 is extremely important to our faith. We know that death is the eternal enemy of man, and until all is fulfilled men will continue to die. But when Christ comes again in glory, death will be defeated forever, and we will live with Him in the New Jerusalem.
27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.
28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
Christ reigns over all of creation. He is submissive only to the will of the Father. For this reason he humbled himself to be born a man, to suffer, and to die the death, that the Will of the Father might be fulfilled.
29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?
30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.
32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
Hedonism is the natural and logical conclusion of a life without Christ. If this life is all that we have, we have only to live the most we can, and have no hope for the future. Therefore, if Christ be dead, abandon the Faith and live as the atheists and agnostics do.
33 Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.
34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.
Because Christ is risen and reigns in Heaven, we must not live and speak as those who are dead.
35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?
36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:
37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:
38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.
This is an interesting passage. It might be said that, in this life, we are but seeds. We are an incomplete and fallen form, which is destined for death and damnation. But thanks be to God that this is not the end for us – for we have been promised perfected bodies and purified spirits, which will live forever in the presence of God Himself in His glory.
Thus, this body is given to us because it pleases God to work in this way.
39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.
40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.
42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:
43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
There are many forms in this universe that God has created. All are different, and each has a particular purpose in this grand mechanism.
We are not the same as the beasts, or the birds, or the fish, or the stars. All of these things have been given forms that pleased God, to perform functions that were designated by God Himself in the process of creation. To use an analogy, if the universe is a grand clock, there are some things which are springs, and some which are batteries, and some which are cogs, and some which are indicators. Each part is machined in its own way – for a spring is not made in the same way as a clock hand, nor a cog as a watch band.
The human form is particular in that we possess a spirit which is unique in creation. The beasts and birds lack this spirit, as do the celestial bodies and the trees. The “divine spark”, as some would call it, is not in all things, but only in man.
Man is designed to live and to die, and to be reborn. That is a crucial component of our design.
45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.
48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
This is the “dualistic” philosophy of self. We are creatures of the flesh, yet we contain the breath of God. We are flesh and spirit intertwined, with neither being complete (at least in this life) without the other. A human body without a spirit is dead, and so too it might be said that a human spirit without a body is dead.
This stands in contrast to those who say that we are pure flesh and those who say we are pure spirit. Neither the naturalists (atheists) nor the spiritualists (Hindus, etc.) possess the full truth of our existence, and so they struggle to explain many things that are observed in men.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
These bodies which we possess cannot be in the presence of God. When he showed himself to Moses, it was merely his shadow which Moses could see, for to see His face meant certain death.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
We do not know what this final form shall look like, for we are fallen creatures that have not the ability to perceive that which is incorruptible. Anyone who claims otherwise is either a liar or a fool.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
We shall live forever in victory over death and sin, for Christ has made all this possible in his death and resurrection. This is the hope we possess – not of heaven, but of the incorruptible and undying life which we will be given.
56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Let us Pray
God, Lord and Father of all, we thank you that you have not left us to die in our sins and transgressions. We are fallen and corrupted creatures, but You are incorruptible and without death.
Teach us to understand these teachings in our minds and in our hearts, so that we may continue to work boldly in the hope which you have given to us.
As Christ has died and been resurrected in incorruptible form, so we know that we shall be made incorruptible. Praise be to the Father, and to the Son who Died and Rose Again, and to the Holy Spirit.
HE IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED. Let us live and preach boldly these truths until He comes again.
Go in His peace. Amen.