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We Know What Lies Ahead

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Text:  1 Corinthians 15


            Every time Marcus Aralias was about to go into battle, or fight as a gladiator, he knelt on the ground, scooped up some dirt in his hands, smelled it, and worked it through his fingers.  The next scene in his mind was that of walking through waist high fields of grain, feeling the full heads as he walked by, and his son running to greet him, with his wife off in the distance, smiling and waving to him.  Hollywood led you to think that he believed that if he died in battle, he would be reunited with his beloved family in the afterlife.  Thus he fought with all his might and careful strategy, knowing that even in the end, he won.  Such was the Roman worldview.

            The Apostle Paul put it this way, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain” and later he wrote, “There is laid up for me a righteous crown which the Lord will grant, not to me only, but to all those who long for His appearing.”  Thus Paul lived fearlessly, preaching the gospel and witnessing with great boldness, even when it was a risk of his life to do so.  Such is the Christian worldview.

            The resurrection is the cornerstone of the Gospel.  Just as the heart pumps life-giving blood to the body, so the truth of the resurrection gives life to every believer that stands with Christ.  The resurrection is the pivot on which all Christianity turns and without it, none of the other truths would matter. 

Our study of chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians is one of the most doctrinal chapters in this letter.  Paul spends 58 verses addressing it because of its importance to our faith.  So in the first 11 verses, he establishes the resurrection as a historic fact.  Then he stresses that it is the center of the Christian faith in verses 12-18, and linking it to the culmination of God’s plan as He establishes Christ’s rule over all things in verses 19-29.  Then in verses 30-34 he concludes that if there were no resurrection there would be no reason for believers to make choices that lead to suffering now.  Let’s take a closer look.

1.      15:1-2  In these two verses Paul states what the testimony is to be of the church.  Put it in a few short words.
(The Gospel preached, received and stood upon, saves…and that’s why we hold fast.)

2.      Can you believe the Gospel message and not hold firmly to the belief of Christ’s resurrection?

3.      15:3-4  Nowhere in Scripture is the Gospel better defined than in these two verses.  Twice in these verses Paul states, “according to the Scriptures.”  Why is that important to note?
Insight: That the Messiah should die, be buried and resurrected should be not surprise to the Jew, for the O.T. prophesied it numerous times.  Thus what Paul wrote was not original, but authored by God by His design long before it happened.  Fulfilled prophesy is a sure sign that the Bible is God-breathed and is Holy Scripture for the believer to believe in.  

4.      15:5-11  Among the resurrection appearances, are there any surprises?  (Yes, James, Jesus’ half-brother; who, prior to the resurrection, thought Jesus was a skeptic; the resurrection changed everything…it proved Christ’s claims; he is the author of the Book of James.  // And Paul – he tried to stamp out Christianity, murdering Christians, until he was confronted by the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus, which turned him around completely.)

5.      Is there anything in these verses that would persuade you to believe that there isn’t anything too bad that the grace of God cannot cover?  (V. 9-10)

6.      By listing the resurrection appearances, how is Paul strengthening his argument for the resurrection?  (They are all eye witnesses of the resurrected Christ.)

7.      15:12-19  In these verses Paul argues the importance of the resurrection.  So let’s follow his argument.  If there were no resurrection of Christ, then what?  (All our preaching stands on emptiness; we would be false witnesses because God said He resurrected His Son; our faith is worthless and we still stand in our sins; and those who died for Christ died for nothing.)

8.      15:20-28  In these verses Paul lays out the order of the resurrection by comparing Adam and Christ.  List all the things that came through Adam; then list all the things that came through Christ.  (Adam – sin, death, slavery.  Christ – we are made alive, resurrection, enemies are put in subjection under His feet.)
Insight: Praise God, that through Christ, this present age is Easter time…we’ve been in it since the resurrection of Jesus and we will remain in it until the resurrection of the redeemed.  Between the two is the spiritual resurrection of each soul as they are called into life through Christ.

9.      What’s the whole point of using the phrase “the first fruits”?  (Christ is the first fruit of the harvest of the resurrection; His resurrection guarantees ours, which is the rest of the crop to follow.)

10.  15:29-34  Now Paul lists the moral implications of the resurrection.  First, let’s address the opening question of this section.  Does this question support the Mormon view of baptism for the dead?  (No. Context: 15:12, 16.) 
Insight:  Paul was combating a false Greek teaching of an ancient mystery religion lauded by Homer that taught if you did not wash a loved one’s dead body in the sea, they could not hope to experience the bliss of the afterlife.  Paul is also removing the thought here that if you can be baptized for a dead person in order to give them eternal life, then you take away the redemptive value of the resurrection of Christ.  Nowhere else in Scripture is there any other mention of being baptized for the dead.

11.  What moral implication is raised in verse 32?  (If we do not face the judgment in resurrection, then we might as well be a party animal because there is nothing after this life.  Paul reprimands this thought with verse 34.)

12.  15:35-50  Next Paul takes 16 verses explaining the bodies of the resurrected dead, and to do so, he uses the metaphor of sowing a seed.  We put into the ground a dead seed, but after time, it comes to life and bears fruit.  What are the contrasts Paul uses in this section?  (Earthly body – spiritual/heavenly body, perishable – imperishable, dishonor – glory, weak – power, natural – spiritual.)      After listing all these contrasts, why would someone choose to stay without Christ?

13.  What are you looking forward to concerning your resurrected body?      Why do you think Paul ends this section the way he does in verse 50?  (To stress the importance that by yourself, without the transformation via belief in Christ, you cannot inherit the kingdom of God…flesh & blood will not be able to just walk in the door of heaven.)

14.  15:51-58  Paul concludes this chapter with a final contrast of the bodies of the saved versus those who are not saved.  Verse 51 should be on a plaque above the door of every church nursery as their motto.
Verse 52 speaks of the moment when we are translated from earth to heaven.  What is another name for that event?  (The rapture.  1 Thes. 4:13-18)      What are you looking forward to leaving behind on that day?      Is there anything about death that you fear in light of verses 54-57?

Conclusion:  Having explained the contrasts of the early vs. the resurrected body, Paul concludes this chapter with a challenge to go for all you’ve got in living for Christ.  15:58 

            Because the resurrection is the cornerstone of the Gospel, it has been the target of Satan’s greatest attacks against the church.  If the resurrection is eliminated, the life-giving power of the gospel is eliminated, the deity of Christ is eliminated, salvation from sin is eliminated, and eternal life is eliminated.  If Christ did not live past the grave, those who trust in Him surely cannot hope to do so.  Without the resurrection salvation could not have been provided, and without belief in the resurrection salvation cannot be received.  Rom. 10:9  Paul was not trying to convince them that Christ rose from the dead, but that one day they too would be raised with Him to eternal life.

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