April 23, 2017 | David Crosby
Passage: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Lee Strobel wrote The Case for Christ, which I understand is a really good movie. He wraps up that book by surveying the supporting facts that point toward the resurrection.
First, the disciples were in a unique position to know whether the resurrection happened, and went to their deaths proclaiming it was true. Nobody knowingly and willingly dies for a lie.
Second, apart from the resurrection there is no good reason why such skeptics as Paul and James would have been converted and would have died for their faith.
Third, within weeks of the crucifixion, thousands of Jews became convinced Jesus was the Son of God and began following him, abandoning key social practices that had critical sociological and religious importance for centuries. They believed they risked damnation if they were wrong.
Fourth, the early sacraments of communion and baptism affirmed Jesus’ resurrection and deity.
Fifth, the miraculous emergence of the church in the face of brutal Roman persecution “rips a great hole in history, a hole the size and shape of Resurrection,” as C.F.D. Moule put it.
This is it. This is what you believed. This is how you believed. The death and resurrection of Christ is the core.
An avocado has an enormous seed. Janet pokes toothpicks into the seeds and suspends them half-buried in a cup of water until they root. She has not successfully grown an avocado tree, but she keeps trying.
The seed of the avocado is really large compared to the fruit itself. The pear-sized fruit is often half seed with a layer of the good stuff all around it.
The gospel has this huge seed in it. There’s lots of good stuff that goes with the gospel. But you can never forget the seed that is its core.
The core teaching of our faith is all about Jesus of Nazareth. We are the people who believe in him. The core is not a moral code. It is not a liturgy. It is not a philosophy or theology. The core is a person—Jesus himself—and what he did for us.
Hold It Firmly:
"By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you." — 1 Corinthians 15:2
The visible, actual resurrection of Jesus from the dead was the linchpin of faith for the eyewitness—the apostles and the women those who saw him alive after the crucifixion. They held this truth firmly in their minds everywhere they went, in everything they did.
- They believed that the crucified Savior was divine. He was God in the flesh. He was “declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4).
We must hold firmly to the gospel just as they did.
- We are not eyewitnesses of the risen Christ. So we stand upon the testimony of those who were.
- We are eyewitnesses of what the living Christ has done in our lives and in those around us. In other words, we can see the activity of God in our own transformation through believing in Jesus. We witness to the truth that Christ rescues us from our sins and gives us a new heart and life.
We encourage others to hold firmly to the gospel as Paul encourages his flock.
- We need to do more encouraging of one another. Barnabas was popular in the early church as a leader and a mentor because he was the “son of encouragement,” which his names means. Everywhere we are instructed to encourage one another.
- As we gather in this place each Sunday and during the week in other meetings and sessions, we must deliberately and consistently be people of encouragement.
The church was created by the Lord Jesus so that we could encourage one another, journey together as brothers and sisters in Christ, and find the strength together that we need for each day.
Pass It On:
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance." — 1 Corinthians 15:3
Jesus told the disciples that they would be witnesses of these world-shaping events – his death and resurrection. He also told them that they would receive power to do this witnesses through the promise of the Father—the blessed Holy Spirit.
The disciples did what Jesus said.
- They waited in Jerusaelm for the coming of the Spirit.
- They received the promised Holy Spirit.
- They immediately began to proclaim that gospel—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Paul reminds the church in Corinth that he came to them and passed on to them the gospel as of first importance.
- Nothing Paul did in his life was more important than this task of passing on the gospel. He was consumed by it. He dreamed of the day that he would preach the gospel in the nerve center of the ancient world—the city of Rome. And though he went as a prisoner to Rome, he fulfilled that dream and helped start a church among the Roman soldiers who were his guards. The whole palace was abuzz with the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
We must follow the example of Jesus and the apostles. We must pass it on. The gospel is give not only so that we will be saved from death and hell and find forgiveness and heaven as our eternal home. The gospel is also given so that we will share it with those around us.
- We talked about the tic-tac-toe grid of your neighborhood with your house in the center and the houses around you in the adjoining squares. We asked that you get to know the people in your grid so that you can pray for them and love on them and be a neighbor to them. Ultimately, we want to share the good news that God has given us. We want to pass it on to those around us.
The Great Commission of Jesus is given to his church—to go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone—every tribe, every nation, every language.
Enjoy the Grace:
"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect." — 1 Corinthians 15:10
Paul enjoyed the grace of God.
- He knew that he did not deserve salvation. He did not deserve to be forgiven. He had murdered Christians simply for following Jesus. He went into their houses and dragged them to jail. He mentions this dark chapter in his life repeatedly as he gives his own story to the kings and rulers of his day.
- Yet God gave him the grace to become a new creation in Christ. And this grace, he notes, has a tremendous fruitfulness in his life. He labored more than any of the other apostles in the spreading of the gospel.
- Paul felt unworthy, sometimes discouraged, because of his own failings and weaknesses and those of the people around him. So his sins were not only his past. They were also in his present. He chronicles this struggle in Romans 7. He has this inner conflict, the inner struggle that all of us know.
- Yet he also felt privileged, chosen, and loved.
You and I must enjoy the grace that God extends to us through Christ.
- We too must confess that “by the grace of God I am what I am.” We have this popular phrase now, “It is what it is.” This is Paul’s version of his own experience. Who he is—this is a product of the grace of God.
- Who you are—that is a product of God’s grace.
The church of the living God is part of God’s grace to you. It is his provision on your behalf. You become who he made you to be as you fellowship with the family of faith into which he brings us.
Never discount the role of the church either in your own life or in the lives of those whom you touch. God is mightily at work to bring about what he has purposed in each of us, and much of that is through his church.