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Of First Importance

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3 April, 2005 AM

Tree Of Life Wesleyan Church

Billings MT.

Of First Importance

1 Cor. 15:1-11

            A Sunday School teacher asked her class on the Sunday before Easter if they knew what happened on Easter and why it was so important. One little girl spoke up saying: "Easter is when the whole family gets together, and you eat turkey and sing about the pilgrims and all that." "No, that’s not it," said the teacher.  "I know what Easter is," a second student responded. "Easter is when you get a tree and decorate it and give gifts to everybody and sing lots of songs." "Nope, that’s not it either," replied the teacher.  Finally a third student spoke up, "Easter is when Jesus was killed, and put in a tomb and left for three days." "Ah, thank goodness somebody knows" the teacher thought to herself.  But then the student went on: "Then everybody gathers at the tomb and waits to see if Jesus comes out, and if he sees his shadow he has to go back inside and we have six more weeks of winter."


            The mother of a nine-year-old boy named Mark received a phone call in the middle of the afternoon.  It was the teacher from her son’s school.  “Mrs. Smith, something unusual happened today in your son’s third grade class. Your son did something that surprised me so much that I thought you should know about it immediately.”  The mother began to grow worried.  The teacher continued, “Nothing like this has happened in all my years of teaching.  This morning I was teaching a lesson on creative writing.  And as I always do, I tell the story of the ant and the grasshopper:  “The ant works hard all summer and stores up plenty of food.  But the grasshopper plays all summer and does no work.  Then winter comes.  The grasshopper begins to starve because he has no food.  So he begins to beg, ‘Please Mr. Ant, you have much food.  Please let me eat too.’”  Then I said, “Boys and girls, your job is to write the ending to the story.”  “Your son, Mark, raised his hand.  ‘Teacher, may I draw a picture?’”  “Well, yes, Mark, if you like, you may draw a picture.  But first you must write the ending to the story.”  “As in all the years past, most of the students said the ant shared his food through the winter, and both the ant and the grasshopper lived.  A few children wrote, “No, Mr. Grasshopper.  You should have worked in the summer.  Now, I have just enough food for myself.”  So the ant lived and the grasshopper died.  “But your son ended the story in a way different from any other child, ever.  He wrote, “So the ant gave all of the food to the grasshopper; the grasshopper lived through the winter.  But the ant died.”  “And the picture?  At the bottom of the page, Mark had drawn three crosses.”  This story was told by Mark’s grandfather.

            Easter is the greatest holiday!!  Of course when I was younger I thought that Christmas was, because of all the presents.  As I grew older, Christmas took on a whole new meaning to me as I thought about how God sent His one and only Son to earth in human form just like you and me.  Then as I continued to grow in my Christian walk the Holy Spirit press upon me that Christmas was good, but the Easter weekend was even better!  You see, for a long time it was hard for me to think about Good Friday and being good!  That made no sense to me – but then when you think about Jesus being the perfect sacrifice, the sacrifice that takes away all our sins and allows us to come into the presence of God Himself – then I guess it truly was a Good Friday.  But Easter Sunday!!  WOW!!  Jesus rose from the dead – not as some ghost but as a living being.  Dead could not hold Him in the grave!  And because it could not hold our Savior, it has no hold on us either!!  That’s great news!!!

            There were many people in Paul’s day who were confused about this resurrection and there are still many people confused about it today, maybe this morning there are some here who are confused about it.  So, let’s look at what Paul says to the Corinthians about the resurrection.  (1 Cor. 15:1-11)

            In this passage he starts out by telling the Corinthians the importance of the gospel, and just what does gospel mean?  It means, Good News.  So Paul tells them the importance of the Good News.  Look at what he says: SLIDE  Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.   Many of the people were in danger of not continuing in the faith.  Some had even denied the very hope of personally living in the presence of God.  They desperately needed the importance of the gospel proclaimed to them again, as if it were the first time – some of you here this morning may be in the same boat – you need to hear the gospel proclaimed to you again as if it were the very first time! 

            You need to grab hold of it firmly and take a stand for the word of God, because if you don’t, then you have believed in vain.  We are a culture that deals in facts!  So, what are the facts about the gospel?

            Well, verse 3 says; SLIDE  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,”.  The very first thing that Paul preached to them was the fact that Jesus died.  The death of Jesus is so important that it must be the first thing preached.  It is the foundation of a person’s salvation, and apart from the death of Jesus there is no salvation.  He says that Jesus died for our sins – that means for our benefit, for our sake, in our behalf, in our place as our substitute.  In the book of Hebrews we have these words: SLIDE  26 Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. (Hebrews 7:26-27; NIV).  Jesus Christ died for our sins!!  And that is fact number 1: Jesus died for our sins. 

            Paul goes on to say:      SLIDE  Verse 4: that he (Jesus) was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,.  The second fact of the gospel is that Jesus was buried and arose from the dead!  The burial of Jesus is important because no one should be buried unless they are dead – it just kind of goes without saying – and since He was dead and buried it also proves the resurrection.  The tomb where they laid the dead body of Jesus was found to be empty, evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.

            This assures the believer that we too will be raised from the dead!  The resurrection of Jesus proves that our God exists: that He does care for us.  There is no power on earth that can raise a man from the dead – it might happen for a while, people are brought back from death – not after three days.  Only a Supreme, eternal power and Person can do that.  Only God can give life to dead matter and to the dust of the earth.  The resurrection also proves Jesus was who He said He was, the Son of God.

            The first two facts are great, --  that Jesus died for our sins, and that He was buried and rose again, but they would mean nothing if it were not for what Paul points out as the 3rd fact:  which is that there were eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In verses 5-7 Paul says: SLIDE  and that he (Jesus) 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.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, .  This is important!!  Remember Peter?  He was the one who had denied knowing Jesus after He was arrested – and yet Jesus appeared to Him – the twelve was a term used for the apostles and Paul says that Jesus appeared to them – most of these would die because of their faith and their belief in Jesus Christ, that He rose from the dead. (Peter was crucified upside down, Paul was beheaded, some say that Matthew was stabbed to death, James was stoned and clubbed to death, Matthias was burned to death --  Who in their right mind would face death for something that was false – who in their right mind would face death, unless they knew that it was a temporary thing because of the resurrection?  It’s safe to say, that with over 500 sightings of Jesus, there was truth in the resurrection.  I don’t know of anyone who would be willing to die because they saw Elvis at the Krispy Kream doughnut shop.  But the twelve were willing to die for their beliefs – they saw the risen Lord.

            Paul himself was an eyewitness, SLIDE  and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.  9 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. 10 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.  Paul saw Jesus after the Lord’s ascension.  The phrase “one abnormally born” means a miscarriage, an abortion, an unnatural birth, a child born out of time.  Paul was simply saying that he did not know and follow the Lord when He walked on this earth, but he saw the Lord after He had left the earth and ascended into heaven. 

            Paul was radically changed!!  Because of the way Paul used to be, he felt that he was so unworthy of what Christ had done on the cross.  After all, he had persecuted the church, had people thrown in jail because of their belief and yet, here he was, a child of God, redeemed by the same grace that the other apostles had been given.  The same grace that each and every one of us have been given.  No matter what you’ve done in your life, Jesus paid the price!  Look at Paul.  I venture to say, that none of us were as bad as what Paul was and yet, see what happened to him – God used him as the greatest missionary – to spread the gospel to the world, the same gospel that he had tried to stomp out.

            In verse 11 Paul says; SLIDE  Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.  Another fact of the gospel is that it is desperately needed by the world: there is only one gospel that is preached and that has to be believed.  The facts of the gospel are the same facts preached by all true believers and believed by all true believers.  There is no other gospel other than the gospel of the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The fact of the Lord’s resurrection is the only truth that gives us the victory over death!  And it assures us that God loves and cares for us!  SLIDE 

20 April 2003

Miles City Wesleyan Church

Miles City, MT

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