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It worked - Easter (2)

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Sermon Topic: Easter - It worked!

Text: 1 Cor. 15: 3-5

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

 

Romans 5:12-20

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— 13 for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.

 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,  21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Some of you may have seen the "Cotton Patch Gospel" Production on PBS (it has been presented for several years now during the Easter season). Remember the scene at the end of the play where Jesus, after having argued with his Daddy about His Plan of Salvation, submitted himself to the Father's will to die on the cross. After the scene of the suffering and death, on the third day Jesus is raised from the dead. He looks at the wounds in the palm of his hands and then with a victorious smile on his face he exclaims, "It worked!"

"God's Plan of Salvation worked."

There are many stories that testify to the truth that God's plan worked. RISEN INDEED! You probably heard about Nikolai Ivanovich Bukharin, a powerful man in Russia during the Communist rule and the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. In 1930 he traveled from Moscow to Kiew to give a speech to a crowd of 10,000 people about Atheism - the belief that there is no God. For an hour he ripped apart the Christian Faith, making insulting comments and arguments, and showing all kinds of proof against the Truth of Christianity.

When he was finished, he looked over the crowd and asked if there was anything anyone wanted to say. There was dead silence. No one from the 10,000 people in the audience came forward. Finally a teenaged boy stepped forward and worked his way to the raised platform. Bukharin warned the boy, "You must tell only the truth (meaning the Communist 'truth'). If you do not, you will be shot!  The crowd could see the soldiers, their rifles raised and pointed at the boy's head. He stepped up to the microphone. There was silence. He didn't speak for a moment. Then he shouted: "Kristos Voskres!" The rifles exploded… There was only one sound that was louder than those rifles as the boy fell to the floor in death.  That was the sound of 10,000 voices shouting:  "CHRIST HAS RISEN INDEED!"

In our meditation today we want to look at Paul's Christian thought about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Paul the Resurrection of Christ is what gives meaning to the suffering and death of Christ. It is the crowning event of God's work of Salvation for mankind. And it also is the motivation for living a life of discipleship.

To understand Paul's theology of the resurrection we have to look at a number of passages. In 1 Cor. 15 Paul talks about Resurrection: Christ's and ours. In his argument he introduces us to Adam. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.  

 

In Romans 5 he picks up the same theme: Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ (this is the passage I read earlier).

In explaining God's plan of salvation Paul asks the question, "What is humanity?", and he finds himself going back to where it all began, to the Garden of Eden with the first Adam. The first  Adam is the head of the human race. With his act of disobedience to God sin entered the world and separated us from God. Death is the consequence of disobedience and sin. Through the Sin of  Adam all of humanity has fallen under the curse of sin. The first Adam represents all of humanity. He was not only the first human, but, in him we are also part of the human predicament (condition), what we sometimes call "our sinful human nature."

But Paul goes further. He asks not only "what is mankind?", but also "what is Christ?" And he calls him the 2nd Adam. The 2nd Adam is the Head of a New Humanity. Christ did not sin, but rather lived his life in righteous obedience before God. And this gave him the new life through the resurrection from the dead. Through the grace and obedience of the 2nd Adam all can find justification. Through the obedience of Christ resurrection and eternal life is also available to all. In faith we can have a part in the newness of life.

1st Adam 2nd Adam
Head of the human race Head of New Humanity
Sin/ death Righteousness/ life
All All
Universal plight in Adam Universal salvation in Christ (Adam 2)
   

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul spends a considerable amount of space discussing the resurrection. This is the longest of all Paul's theological arguments, which gives us an idea, how important this point is for him. For Paul, life after this life is not identical with the life that we have on earth. If we really think about it, our own mortality is the greatest source of anxiety for most of us. And it doesn't really help to know that everybody has to die. The whole creation is caught in this predicament of decay. All have sinned and all have to die.

The story of the Resurrection in 1 Cor. 15 is told with the figure of Adam at the center of the story: the 1st Adam through whom all of humanity falls under the curse of sin and death, and the 2nd Adam through whom we also have the promise of eternal life.

There is something of a Cosmic exchange taking place. Through the resurrection of Christ the old humanity is made new. And so, even though the human nature remains in us - that is, we are still subject to the laws of nature, temptation, sin and death - the power of Christ's resurrection transforms our life and enables us to walk in the resurrection.

Christ, the 2nd Adam, through his act of obedience, was not only raised from the dead. He also gives life to those who believe in him. Through him we can now live in the newness of life. Through Christ's resurrection we can see beyond the present human experience to the resurrection that is yet to come.

Menno Simons understood this when he talked about "walking in the resurrection." As we walk in the resurrection we will bear the image of the resurrected Christ. Others will recognize the life of Christ in us. The resurrection of Christ not only affects our eternal life. It also affects how we live in the present with an eye on the future.

The resurrection language that Paul uses in his letters is end times language. Jesus was raised as the firstfruits to eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the first sign that after this world has finished falling to decay, something new is going to emerge. And Paul says that the whole creation is groaning in expectation of that new day, when those who die in Christ will also be raised to eternal life. And while we are waiting for that great and glorious day when the trumpet shall sound, there are already now signs and clues of new life in Christ.

The human condition in the 1st Adam made it necessary for God to would provide a solution that worked. Grace is that indescribable act of God love, that does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In his wisdom God provides not only a promise that we will rise from the dead through Jesus Christ. He also gives us the power to walk in the resurrection in the present. Romans 8 says, There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. God has done through the power of grace, what the Law could not do through human effort.

God's plan of salvation for a world that was lost in sin did work. This plan was carried out in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The old creation gives way to a new creation through the act of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

As we walk in the resurrection, the Holy Spirit gives us the power to cash in on the final outcome already now. In other words, we walk in the resurrection with the energy and life that we anticipate in the life to come. The Spirit of the risen Christ lives in us and helps us to live faithfully during the waiting period until he comes again.

As we walk in the resurrection as beneficiaries of God's plan of salvation the Church forms the community of those who journey together. In the  Christian community we cheer each other on, and we hold each other accountable to the life that is worthy of those who have tasted the resurrection and have seen the awesome deeds of our God.

As we look at our lives, we realize that so often we identify with fallen humanity. Our old sinful nature is that of the first Adam. Our temptation is always to pursue our own ideas and to rely on our own strength. This Easter season we have seen again that Sin and death do not have the last word. The Power of God's grace does!

As we meet the risen Christ today, whom the chains of death could not hold in the grave, let us put on the new nature of Christ.

 

As we celebrate Easter, God's solution to our human condition of sin and death, let us be encouraged to live towards the resurrection. Let us set our face towards the goal for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of us. Let us spread the word, as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was raised from the dead, and that he lives in every act of love and grace. Let us celebrate God's work of salvation.

For Christ is risen indeed!

 

 

Read 15:12–28. If there is no resurrection, what are the consequences for Christ, for Paul and for us (vv. 12–19)?

Paul lists the following consequences: (1) “not even Christ has been raised” (v. 13), (2) “our preaching is useless” (v. 14), “so is your faith” (v. 14), we are “false witnesses” (v. 15), “your faith is futile” (v. 17), “you are still in your sins” (v. 17), “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost” (v. 18), “we are to be pitied more than all men” (v. 19).

How will Christ's resurrection overcome the effects of Adam's sin (vv. 21–29)?

It should be said that the second all of verse 22 is not universalistic; the next verse clearly restricts the ones “made alive” to “those who belong to him.”

Read 15:29–34. How does belief or disbelief in the resurrection affect a person's lifestyle?

For those who believe in annihilation upon death, the philosophy of verse 32 is logically and psychologically consistent, as suggested by the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 2:24.

However, the rejection of the resurrection by the Corinthians was probably more subtle, arising from the feeling that they had already experienced spiritual resurrection. Therefore, anything physical—including the physical body and physical sin—was irrelevant (see 6:12; 10:23). Hence, the moral exhortation of 15:33–34 became necessary.

In contrast to the Corinthian attitude stands Paul's willingness to be endangered every hour (v. 30), even before wild beasts in Ephesus (a figurative reference to an encounter with an angry mob, such as that described in Acts 19:23–41). Such a lifestyle only makes sense in light of the resurrection.

Much ink has been spilled in an attempt to explain Paul's seeming endorsement of the questionable practice of baptism-by-proxy. Point out to the group that the intent, nature and beneficiaries of the practice are simply unknown today, so that the force of this additional argument for the resurrection has been lost to us. Don't let the group dwell on this, or you won't have time for the clearer and more important aspects of this passage!

IN HIS OWN WORDS: MENNO SIMONS ON THE NEW BIRTH

Do you suppose, dear friends, that the new birth consists of nothing but in that which the miserable world hitherto has thought that it consists in, namely, to be plunged into the water; or in the saying, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"? No, dear brother, no. The new birth consists, verily, not in water nor in words; but it is the heavenly, living, and quickening power of God in our hearts which flows forth from God, and which by the preaching of the divine Word, if we accept it by faith, quickens, renews, pierces, and converts our hearts, so that we are changed and converted from unbelief to faith, from unrighteousness to righteousness, from evil to good, from carnality to spirituality, from the earthly to the heavenly, from the wicked nature of Adam to the good nature of Jesus Christ.

 

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