1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 104
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2009|
|There are three stages to our salvation. You get it all when you receive Christ, but there are three stages to it, kind of like a time-release vitamin. And when a man bows and receives Christ into his heart, by the very grace God even allows him to receive it, then salvation takes place, and it’s an event.|
1 Corinthians 15:1-8
The Resurrection of the Dead
John Ankerberg: Hi, this is John Ankerberg and today I want to present to you my very, very good friend, Dr. Wayne Barber. For 18 years he was pastor of the huge Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He was co-teacher with Kay Arthur for 14 years at Precept Ministries. He studied with Dr. Spiros Zodhiates and co-hosted with him the national radio and TV program “New Testament Light” for 10 years. Wayne has taught the message of living grace, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory, all around the world. He is president, founder and principle speaker of Living Grace Ministries. And in February 2011 he returned to Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as senior pastor. Wayne has authored several books. The most recent one is entitled Living Grace: Letting Jesus Be Jesus in You. And he’s also co-authored the Following God series of studies published by AMG. I hope that you’ll enjoy listening to Dr. Wayne Barber.
Dr. Wayne Barber: Turn with me this morning, hallelujah, to 1 Corinthians 15. I’m so glad to get out chapter 14. I think the apostle Paul was too, don’t you. He was just dealing with some very, very difficult things, and now we get into a little bit, it’s still difficult what he deals with in 15, but it changes gears a little bit. And we’re going to start a series today entitled “The Resurrection of the Dead.” And this is part 1 of that series which is going to take a while to complete.
A lot of things in life baffle me. I wake up in a new world every morning and that’s no shock to anybody. But time-release vitamins; now, can you get a concept of that? I see it. It says time-release vitamins. Now you’ve got everything you need in that vitamin in one shot. You take it with some water and you drink it and you swallow it. You’ve got all of that vitamin; you’ve got every bit of it; however, you don’t experience it all at the same time. Now that’s an enigma to me. Do you take it and suddenly inside your system, there’s a little something inside that vitamin that says okay, now you go. That’s enough, that’s enough; and boom, you have a burst of energy. And then maybe at noontime something inside that vitamin says, okay, a little bit more. That’s enough, that’s enough; and boom you have another surge of energy. And then that night you have another surge of energy and somehow it happens in different phases. But you’ve got it all when you took the pill. Now how’s that work? I haven’t got the slightest idea. But it baffles me how that works. How you can have it all, but not experience it all at the same time.
Well, you know it’s amazing to me that salvation is very much like a time-release vitamin. You get it all when you receive the Lord Jesus Christ. The difference is the Word of God helps us understand a little bit more about salvation than any of us will ever understand about a time-release vitamin. The gospel is the most wonderful news man could ever hear or especially ever receive.
There are three stages to our salvation. You get it all when you receive Christ, but there are three stages to it, kind of like a time-release vitamin. First of all it’s an event. Salvation is an event that takes place at a given time, once and for all. We have been saved. When? By faith Christ comes to live in our hearts and frees us from the penalty of sin. That’s comes on the revelation that only the Holy Spirit can bring to our lives that we’re lost. Man does not discover that on his own. God has to reveal that to his spirit, and also to reveal to him the way of salvation. And when a man bows and receives Christ into his heart, by the very grace God even allows him to receive it, then salvation takes place, and it’s an event.
It’s a birth. Births are not progressive. They are once and for all. It’s a birth. Act 2:21 says “And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That’s aorist tense, once and for all, at that moment. In Romans 5:1, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “justified,” aorist passive, at a specific moment in time, passive voice. You did not initiate it. God initiated it. You were justified. He justified you. You can’t justify yourself. The word “justified” means to be acquitted of the penalty of sin. And Romans 6 says that now that you’ve become a believer, by putting, placing your faith into the Lord Jesus Christ, Him coming to live in you, you are now in Christ. Romans 6:3 says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” And then Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.” No condemnation whatsoever. Salvation involves being saved from the penalty of sin. It involves being in Christ. That’s one phase of salvation. And that’s once and for all; you got it all when you received Him.
But secondly, salvation involves being saved from the power of sin, not just the penalty of sin, but the power of sin. We are being saved. We have been saved from the penalty of sin. We are being saved from the power of sin. Christ now comes to live in us in the person of His Spirit. We are in Him; He is in us. The Holy Spirit now is there to save us daily from the power of sin. Oh, there are so many verses we could go to about the being saved. We’re in the process of it right now. First Corinthians 1:18, for instance, “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved [present tense] it is the power of God.” Being saved in the present tense, daily we’re to be learning to reckon ourselves dead, not so that we can be dead, but because we are dead to sin. We reckon ourselves; we count it as a conclusion from what Paul has taught us in the book of Romans. We’re dead to sin. So therefore we can say yes to Christ. And when we say yes to Christ we can live in the victory He offers to us. Romans 5:10 says, “For is while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more having been reconciled we shall be saved by, or in His life.”
But being saved from the penalty of sin, being saved daily from the power of sin is not all of our salvation. All that we received back here involves many more things. It also involves one day being saved from the presence of sin. We’re to be saved from the awful wrath that is coming one day that’s going to deal with all the presence of sin. We are in Him, He is in us and one day we shall be like Him. In Romans 5:9, “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.” There’s a terrible day coming on this earth when God will deal with all sin and unrighteousness. Why will we escape this wrath on His coming? Because we’ve received the Lamb. The psalmist says, “Who has known the wrath of God?” Only one, that’s the Lord Jesus Christ, when His Father turned His face away from Him as He hung there on the cross for the penalty of all of our sin. The wrath fell upon the Lamb. You either receive the Lamb or receive the wrath. We’ve received the Lamb.
Thank God we escape the wrath. That’s what Paul said. And by escaping the wrath God’s going to take us out of here. He’s coming for His church some day. He will take us to be with Him. And John says when we see Him we shall be like Him. We’re going to have glorified body. We’re going to be saved from the very presence of sin. We are saved from the penalty of sin. We’re being saved from the power of sin. And one day we shall be saved from the presence of sin. Romans 8:23 says, “And not only this, but also, we ourselves having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons.” And then he says what that means, “the redemption of our body.” One day we’re going to have a glorified body.
I was thinking about this and I’ve got a quirky mind anyway, but I would love to dunk a basketball with a glorified body. I would like to do that just one time, maybe during the millennium when we have our glorified bodies. I don’t know exactly what it’ll all be like. We’ll be serving Him. Basketball probably won’t be a part of it. But I would just like to do that one time. We’re going to have a glorified body. Looking in the mirror this morning, I’m looking forward to the glorified body that’s coming one day. That’s a promise. That has not happened yet. We have been saved; we are being saved; we shall be saved.
Now it’s this third area, we shall be saved, that gives us the hope for our future of what’s coming. We know that one day we’re going to be taken out of here and given a glorified body. And the reason we are is because Jesus Christ set the pattern for us. By His bodily resurrection from the dead He led the way for us. He became the firstfruits. The “firstfruits” means He sets the pattern for the rest to come behind. One day, because His body was changed and glorified, our body will be changed and glorified. What He went through we will now go through. But He has already set the pattern for us. He’s already conquered and prepared the way. But everything that we hope for in the future, which hinges on what we already have in Christ, all of it is dependent on the fact that Jesus Christ resurrected bodily from the grave.
Now this brings us to the problem we’re dealing with in chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians. The Corinthians, many of them, were going around questioning whether or not Jesus Christ raised from the dead. Therefore without realizing it they’re questioning the very gospel that they say they believe, and they also are bringing detriment to the future hope that one day we will have resurrected and glorified bodies. Look in 15:12. This is what Paul is doing here. This is what he’s dealing with. It says in verse 12, “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Again, welcome to Corinth. The Greek mindset of the Corinthians, same way in Athens or other places in Greece, was to question everything. And of course when the flesh is dominant everything’s going to be questioned. And if they could not understand it then they did not believe it. The resurrection of Christ from the dead was something that no man’s mind will ever comprehend.
I’ve dealt with this with my son many times. He will call me and say “Daddy, I know I believe He resurrected, but somehow I can’t understand in my mind. Does that mean I don’t believe?” I said, “No, no, no! Son, we don’t comprehend how that took place. We believe it because God said it. Don’t confuse total understanding and comprehension with belief, because you believe it is because God said it. But we don’t have a full comprehension of this.” But the Corinthian mindset was they’ve got to figure it out. They’ve got to analyze it. And if they can’t understand it, then they don’t believe it. They had forgotten that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a major part of the gospel by which they had been saved. And all of chapter 15 is dealing with the future event of that glorification of the body of believers, what’s waiting for us one day because Christ raised from the dead.
The term “body” is used five times in chapter 15. The term “raised,” in the sense of raising the body from the dead, is used 15 times in chapter 15. It was definitely a question that Paul was dealing with. We will benefit much, I think, from the answers that he gives.
He reminds them of the gospel they received
Well, let’s jump in. Let’s see how far we can get this morning. I’ve got a lot to say and I doubt real seriously I’m going to get it all said, so we’ll just go as far as we can. First of all, Paul reminds them of the gospel that they had received. Isn’t it interesting? You can get saved back here and tell everybody you’re saved, and all of a sudden you start watching a person live and you wonder if he really had anything back here. You can’t walk away from salvation. The gospel of Jesus Christ never grows old. It’s not a philosophy that can be exchanged for another new philosophy. That’s not what it is. It’s the power of God, Romans 1:16 says. You see, by denying the resurrection of Jesus these Corinthians were denying the very power of their own salvation.
Look at verse 1: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand.” Now, that word “make known” has the idea of “I want to remind you of something. I want to bring to your memories. I want to make you mindful of something.” How many times the word “remind”—although this is not the exact word; it’s a synonym—is used over and over in Scripture. How we need to be reminded. I’m sure the people that do the counseling in our church, when a couple walks in and denies everything that they say that they received, they’re denying the very power of that which they say they received back here by not being willing daily to live in the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ, the power to transform their lives. All of us tend to do this. And this is why Paul is saying, “Now, wait a minute, wait a minute. You need to be reminded of something. You need to be mindful of something.”
They would not have been believers, I suppose, unless Paul himself—of course, God is sovereign; He could have done it a different way—but in the course of what we know in history they would not have been believers had Paul not gone to Corinth. That supreme desire that he had in his life to tell the gospel, he said, “the gospel which I preached you,” and he brings them back to Acts 18 when he first went there and he’s reminding them of that. You know, it’s interesting he just said in the last verse of chapter 14, that the earnest desire all of us should have it to proclaim, to share the word of God with others no matter what the language they speak. He says in verse 39, “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in languages.” Do not forbid to do that because people of all languages need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And Paul is the living witness of his own message. Again he’s talking about when he first went there. He went there and he met Priscilla and Aquila there at Corinth. Soon Timothy and Silas came and they began to witness and drop their tentmaking and started sharing the word and a church was born. Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, was one of the first ones that was saved. And Paul is reminding them of the gospel that they had heard from him. “Now I make known to you [I remind you], brethren, the gospel which I preached to you.” The word “gospel” the good news, the good news, “which I preached to you.” The word “preached” is the word “euaggelizo.” It’s the word that means to evangelize. Paul went with a heart to share the gospel with these Corinthians that had not heard it, to preach the good news of Jesus Christ.
Now, not only did they hear the gospel from Paul, but they received the gospel from Paul. The word “received” there, he said “that which you also received.” The word “received” is the word “paralambano.” It means to take to one’s self; to receive to oneself. That “para” has that idea of nearness, to bring it right home individually to your heart. It’s in the aorist active indicative. At one point in time they had, of their own choice, received the gospel message. They were not forced to in any way. It was an act of their will that they received. That word “received” is also the word meaning to welcome it.
You know, there’s an enigma that pops up here and it’s just things—I think this is something you need to jot in the back of your mind—that the phrase “you received” brings up. It’s an interesting phrase, an interesting point. You see, the election of God is in Scripture. Jesus said you didn’t choose Me, I choose you. No man seeketh after God. No man can come to Christ except the Father draw him. However, the responsibility of man to choose is also taught in Scripture. This is aorist indicative active. You, of your own volition, not being forced to initiating the action, you received the gospel. And there’s your plumb bob you have to drop: on one side the election of God; on the other side the responsibility of man. And don’t move it either way cause if you move it either way you’re out of balance. Both are taught in Scripture and here it’s very clear. I suppose that’s why Paul calls salvation a mystery in Ephesians 3. He called it a mystery; I can certainly call it a mystery. I’m just glad, God, You chose, I chose, somebody chose. Just take your shoes off and walk in on holy ground. Salvation is awesome.
But the next phrase is very important. “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received.” Now look at this: “In which also you stand.” If you’ve received it, you stand in it. The perfect tense is used. Perfect tense means something happened back here that causes me to be in the state that I’m in up here. It describes a place that cannot be altered. Now, there are some people that believe you can lose your salvation. Cut this verse out of your Bible; it doesn’t fit that kind of doctrine. If you received it, truly received it, you stand in it. You are eternally in that state.
As a matter of fact you can illustrate that from Romans 5:2. It says, “Through whom,” Christ, he’s speaking of, “also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand.” And it’s the same idea, perfect tense. We stand in that grace.
Now you’ve got to ask a question. Why does the apostle Paul begin the 15th chapter by reminding them of the gospel? Why does he do that? What is his purpose here? We know what he’s dealing with. Why does he take them back to the gospel? He’s dealing with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Well, to me he seems to be saying the salvation you were supposed to have experienced back there, this salvation continues to work in you. You can’t just walk away from the message of the gospel. The resurrection of Christ, you see, is a very key element of the gospel you said you believed back there. He says in verse 2, “By which also you are saved.”
The Greek word for “you are saved,” sozo, actually means you are being saved. I love this. I love this. Paul says, you think salvation is static? You think you can receive it back here and live like you want to down here? You think you can receive it back here and question the very tenets of the gospel over here? Now something’s wrong here, because it is continuing to save you. It’s in a present indicative form, continuous action. He speaks of the salvation that had its roots in the past, but has its effect in the future. It continues. It goes right on. You see, they’re denying the very salvation experience that they’re supposed to have had. By denying the resurrection of Christ they’re denying the very gospel they said saved them. And that gospel cannot be walked away from. The Christ presented to us in the gospels not only saved us in the past, but continues to save us now. We saw that earlier. We’re saved, we are being saved, He will ever save us, and one day He will again save us from the presence of sin.
So again, salvation’s not static. It’s dynamic. It’s ever progressing. Once it begins in us it never ends. The illustration of a child when he’s born on this earth and breathes in that air. Have you ever watched a baby when it was born? They had me in the operating room or whatever you call that room when my daughter was born. I didn’t want to be there. I was in the waiting room reading the paper. Man, I wanted to be in Houston, Texas, reading about it in the paper. But they said, “No, the doctor wants you in the room.” I saw the birth of my daughter, and I saw her when she first came out. And the first thing she did was breathe. And when she breathed, life began to be initiated in her life. But I want to tell you something. That first breath, that first breath in order for the life that it had initiated there, needed to be repeated a million times in her life for that life to be sustained. She breathed once and life was there, but she needs to breathe every day of her life, now, to sustain what came with that breathe.
The same way with salvation. You can’t say you got saved back here and then up here be living as if you need nothing of that which you said you needed back here. You see, that which sustains the life that we received at salvation, or that which it initiated, is that which sustains it even now. You see, our daily salvation from the power of sin is, Colossians 2:6, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, so walk ye in Him.” And Paul again is trying to show these Corinthians, how can you deny a major tenet of the gospel and then tell others you’re saved? What do you think you have a hold of? A philosophy, a program? The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. You don’t walk away from any part of it and claim to have any of it. You can’t do that.
Paul goes on to show to the degree that we hold on to it is to the degree that we’re affected by its power. Now, we’ve seen this over and over again. We have it all; it was received when we received Christ. But to the degree we hold on to it is to the degree we experience His power. “By which also” he says, “you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you.” It must be held fast in the manner in which it was preached to them and when they first received it. It must be held fast. The word katecho is the word for “hold fast.” Some translations say be reminded. No, no, no, no, no. The word katecho means to be possessed; and as a prize possession, it must be possessed. And so why would Paul say, “If you hold fast the word which I preached to you?” I wonder if he doesn’t have in mind that some of them may have never received it to begin with. As far as I can tell that’s exactly what he’s doing. As a matter of fact, look at the next phrase, “unless you believed in vain.” Paul is saying if you don’t possess it now, it means you exercised the wrong kind of faith back then. You can’t get it back here and lose it up here. If you don’t have it here you didn’t have it there.
You see, that’s the key. And he says unless you received it in vain or believed in vain. Perhaps it was merely an intellectual assent. I’ve known people like that. Have you known people like that? The parable of the soil, a beautiful picture; there’s only one good soil, and that’s the soil that received the Word and held on to it and therefore bore fruit from it. You see, if there’s a root there’s fruit. And what he’s saying to them, hey, maybe you didn’t have the right kind of belief. Maybe you intellectually understood it. Maybe your heart was not there to receive it, but you understood it. You knew that God died for you and you knew that Jesus died for you, but you never bowed before Him.
The apostle James describes this kind of faith when he says, “You believe that there is one God, you do well. The devils believe and tremble.” Big deal; so that you believed. Big deal; that you understand. Have you bowed to Christ? Have you truly received it? Because if you have, you’re going to find that the tenets of that gospel are that He died, He was buried, He rose again. And if you received that you’re not going to deny it down here, because that gospel in you continues to work in you and will not allow you to do this. So Corinthians be reminded, if you’re going to doubt the resurrection of Jesus you’re doubting your very salvation because it’s a tenet of the gospel you say you received.
In Paul’s second epistle he does bring another thing out. He comes very clear. He tells them in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you’re in the faith.” And I think he gives the hint of it over here in 1 Corinthians. He says, you know, maybe you received this in vain. Maybe you were coerced emotionally at a youth camp and you went forward and gave your life to a tree. I mean, you can tell an emotional dying dog story at a youth camp and people give their life to anything. Maybe that’s what happened to you. You didn’t understand what you were doing. Or maybe you came forward at a Vacation Bible School like I did when I was 9 years old and the preacher asked me did I ever sin, and I’m thinking sin, sin, I know I have. What’s sin? He said, “Have you ever lied to your mother?” I’m thinking, good grief, how do you think I lived to be 9 years old? He said, “All you have to do is be baptized and you can be a believer. You can be a member of the church.” And, hey, I joined the church, but I missed Jesus about a million miles. And when I was 32 years old one night I cried till my nose bled when God showed me you had an intellectual assent to it, but you never bowed before Me. And I bowed and was saved and I track my salvation back to 32, not back to 9 years old.
You see, you can’t have it back here and then over here begin to deny the very tenets that you said you received back there. Something’s amiss, something’s wrong. Did you believe in vain? Was it the wrong kind of faith to begin with? So Paul begins the chapter like the lawyer he is, by building his case. You’re going to deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ friend, you’re denying your very salvation. You’re denying the very gospel by which you were saved. The resurrection of Christ was a part of that gospel. You can’t walk away from one part of it and claim to have any of it. No sir! He reminds them of the gospel.
He rehearses for them what the gospel is all about
Secondly, he does something else. He rehearses for them what the gospel is. I mean, in other words, he mentions the gospel, but then he says now, let me make sure you remember what it is. Let’s rehearse it for you, okay. Paul says, since you received the gospel and put your faith into Christ it might be good for you to remember what the gospel is that you received. Verse 3: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” The word “delivered” here is the word paradidomi. It’s the word that means to give over to you. I gave over something to you; I delivered to you; I told you something for your benefit. “For I delivered to you as of first importance.” The word “first importance” there means the highest priority. I love this about Paul. The highest priority of his life was always in sharing the gospel with somebody. That was the highest priority of his life, sharing the word of God with others, that which stands above everything else in priorities in his life. That was the highest importance to him, not anything else, just the word of God.
He said, “I shared with you that which I also received.” Now, that is so important to realize. What was going on in Corinth originated with man, but what Paul shared with them did not originate with himself. It originated with God. He had to receive it himself. “It didn’t come from me,” Paul said.” It came from God.” It was according to the Scriptures. He had to receive it just like they had to receive it. So remember, Paul’s just an apostle, a mouthpiece with a message that God had given to him. Verse 3, again, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received.” And what was that? He says, “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” What a powerful statement. “Christ died for our sins.”
It is said that when Abraham Lincoln died and they were bringing his body in a processional to the cemetery and the people were standing, lining the streets, a black lady held up her small baby over the crowd and said, “Take a long look at him, child, he is the one who died for you.” Do you remember the tenets of Abraham Lincoln, of wanting freedom and abolition of slavery? He’s the one who died for you. And the apostle Paul is doing essentially the same thing. He’s saying, “What in the world are you people doing? Let me hold this back up for you one more time, one more time. Take a long look at it. Christ, the one you’re denying that He resurrected from the grave, died for your sin. Corinth, take a long hard look at this. You’re walking away from everything you say that you are and everything you say that you believe”. He’s holding it up so that all can see. Jesus Christ came to this earth to die for us.
When I was in Mississippi the Moonies came to town. You ever been around any Moonies? They stand on a corner and hand out flowers. And I’d pulled up to a stop light one day and this guy tried to start talking to me about Moon and who this guy was and about being a Moonie. And I started talking to him about Jesus and he left me and gave the flower to somebody else. But you know what they said? They said that Adam was the first man and he failed, he failed to produce a perfect race. Jesus Christ, the second Adam came, and He failed to produce a perfect race because He never had a chance to get married. He died at 33. They killed Him. By accident they killed Him. But there’s another one coming that will produce a perfect race. Guess who that is? Moon, himself.
And I want to say no, no, no! You’ve got it all wrong. It wasn’t an accident that He died. It was the very purpose for which He came. John the Baptist said that in John 1:29. He said, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and he said, ‘Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’” The very terminology of Lamb, they would have understood that immediately, the sacrificial lamb, the pure, not just innocent, but perfect Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world. The author of Hebrews writes in 10:5, “Therefore when He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, But a body You have prepared for Me.’” Why did He prepare a body? Because a body can die. He came to die.
In Hebrews 10:10 it says “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” In John 3:14 Jesus said, “Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness; even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” After the Lord drove the moneychangers from the temple He said in John 2:19, “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.’ And He spoke not of a physical temple; He spoke of the temple of His body.” In John 10:11 He says, “I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” He came to die. Matthew 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and be raised up on the third day.” No question why He came. Matthew 20:28, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
And you can go on and on and on and on. Over and over the Scripture shows us that the Lord made it crystal clear He came to die for our sins. He took upon Himself the guilt and punishment of our sins. That’s what He came for. Having borne our sins He relieves us of their burden. He died for our sins that we might not have to die in our sins. He consented to be slain by our sins that our sins might not slay us. In our text the apostle Paul says, “Christ died for our sin.” As a matter of fact, there are four tenets here, items that he mentions in verses 3-8. First of all, as we just said, Christ died for our sin according to the Scripture. Secondly, He was buried. Thirdly, He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures. And then fourthly, verses 5-8, he begins to show the witnesses that prove the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is significant that the apostle Paul does not make reference to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. He makes reference to the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, that which reconciled us and saved us from our sin. Now why does he do that? Because His life was necessary in order for His death. In other words, He had to be born of a virgin in order to die. It’s amazing at Christmas time we celebrate the birth without thinking about the fact that He had to be born in order for Easter to come around so that He might die for our sins. If it were not for the necessity of His death then what He could have done is come and worked all of His wonders and signs and miracles and then go back to be with the Father. He would not have had to die. But He had to die. He came to die.
The Lord did not have to die in the same sense that you and I must die. We die because of the curse of Adam’s sin. He died because He came and chose to die. Now that choice was not suicide, but that choice was a sacrifice for you and me. That’s why He came to die. His death was necessary for us. His life was necessary for His death. The two have to fit together. If we expect people to be saved from their sins we’ve got to continue to preach the death of the Lord Jesus; not just His life, the death of the Lord Jesus. The knowledge or even the imitation of His life cannot save anybody. There’s nobody that can die for us. He had to come. It couldn’t just be man. It couldn’t just be human blood that was shed. It had to be the God-man. It had to be divinely human blood that was shed.
But, you say, “What about Paul’s statement in Romans 5:10, ‘We shall be saved by His life’? Did you miss it, Wayne? Did Paul miss it? Did he contradict himself?” Not at all. Some say it’s a contradiction when it says Christ died for our sins, and then it says in Romans 5:10 we’re saved by His life. No, it’s talking about His resurrected life. Listen to the whole of verse 10: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more having been reconciled we shall be saved by His life.” Now, in that verse he shows you that as enemies of God the only way that we’re ever going to be reconciled is by the dying of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. But it’s by that death that brings forth life, the life of Christ. “Much more having been reconciled we shall be saved by His life.” What life? His resurrected life.
Christ did not remain dead. He rose again. He’s not a dead Christ that lives in us. He’s a powerful risen Lord that lives in us. Now, it’s this indwelling Christ in the heart of the former enemy of God who’s now been reconciled by the death of Christ. In fact, the Greek text says we shall be saved, not just by His life, in His life, His resurrection life. He’s the resurrection power. He’s the intercessor. He’s the Mediator for you and me every day. Now Paul leaves no room for anyone to believe that because we have been saved by the death of Christ our Lord is still dead. No, no, no, no. That’s not what he’s saying at all. Praise God He’s still very much alive.
So it’s this that the apostle Paul seeks to prove now in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. Paul even invites us to attend the funeral. He was buried. You know, buried it’s a pretty complete act of having died. That’s a very comprehensive word. Jesus Christ crossed the river of death alone so that we would never have to cross that river by ourselves. He conquered death. But now listen, the fact that He resurrected from the dead seals every bit of what we’ve just said. If you doubt that He resurrected then everything else is absolutely futile. All you have is the death of a good man. The fact that He resurrected brings all of this truth to us and it says, oh my goodness, this is what salvation is all about. We’re saved now because of His resurrection, not just His death. His death, His burial, His resurrection, the three have to work in tandem. And by His resurrection it vindicates who He was. And by His resurrection we’re saved now from the penalty and from the power; all of these other things are real because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What are you doing Corinth, doubting the resurrection of Jesus? You doubt the resurrection of Jesus, you’ve just doubted everything that you say you believe in. It nullifies everything that you say you’ve received at salvation.
He reveals the proof of Christ’s resurrection
So he reminds them of the gospel; then he rehearses for them what the gospel is all about. And the final thing that the apostle Paul does in this message today—he does a lot more—is that he reveals to them the proof of Christ’s resurrection. He says, “Now, you people that are doubting the resurrection of Christ, it’s all in the gospel. If you understand the gospel, it’s all there. And you know what I’m about to tell you.” You see, this was not news to these people. They already knew it. Now Paul reveals to them the proof of that resurrection, verse 4: “And that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Not according to me, Paul says, but “according to the Scriptures.” Everything agrees. It was prophesied. It was fulfilled. It’s according to the Scriptures.
Christ, after His death on the cross, was seen by credible witnesses. Now that’s the key here. With the witness of only two or three people a man could be put to death in their day, by two or three people a man could be put to death. Back in Deuteronomy 17:6, “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses he who is to die shall be put to death. He shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.” What Paul is doing here as a lawyer, he’s saying you doubt the resurrection of Jesus? You doubt this? Well, let me bring forth the witnesses that will prove that Christ raised from the dead. The master lawyer begins to call them forth.
First of all, it’s Cephas that’s first up. I’m glad he’s the first one. Cephas is Simon Peter: “And that He appeared,” in verse 5, “to Cephas.” Cephas is the Aramaic word for the word “Peter.” It meant rock or stone. And what a witness. What a story we have in Simon Peter witnessing the Lord Jesus resurrection morning. None of the disciples could have been sadder on that day. Peter was the one who said, if all others desert You, I won’t desert You. He not only deserted the Lord Jesus, he denied Him three times by a campfire. Luke records the sad event that occurred after they brought Jesus out of the High Priest’s house. Peter has denied Him three times and Jesus is brought out of the High Priest’s house and walks right by him. In Luke 22:61 Jesus knew exactly what he’d done. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Man, can you imagine? He’d already told him he was going to deny Him before the cock crowed. Three times he was going to deny Him, and exactly what Jesus said happened. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” Can you imagine Peter, Peter remembered the word of the Lord how He had told him before a cock crowed today you’ll deny Me three times. In verse 62 of Luke 22 it says, “And he went out and he wept bitterly.”
And how beautiful the story is, though, of the love that God had for Peter and how that after He had resurrected Peter’s one of the first ones He appeared to. It’s like, “Peter, I understand. I knew what you were going to do.” but He appeared to him first. The angel makes the announcement. Luke 24:34, says, “The Lord has really arisen and has appeared to Simon,” speaking of Peter. Mark also records the angels command in 7:16: “But go,” he says, “tell His disciples and Peter He’s going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him just as He said to you.” So He appeared to Cephas.
Now they understood; remember back in chapter 1 of Corinthians it says, “Some of you are of Paul, some of you are of Apollos, some of you are of Cephas.” Cephas was the unsung hero of the church in that day and he says, “Now listen, people, you’re denying the very witness of the apostle Peter. He saw Him. He witnessed His resurrection.” Well, Simon Peter later on became the rock that Jesus said he would become. It was after Pentecost.
Paul continues in verse 5, “and then He appeared to Cephas, and then to the twelve.” Now, the word for “twelve” there doesn’t actually mean 12, the number 12. But the word “twelve” became a term that was known for the disciples. It meant the group of the disciples. It didn’t have to be twelve there to be called the twelve. In fact, there are several accounts that show us that. In Luke 24:33, “and they arose that very hour and returned to Jerusalem and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them.” So when once Judas was removed, that eleven became the term. But not everybody was there because here were some coming to them. So then that was a term to describe the group, the ones that were closest to the Lord Jesus. It says, “and there were others with him,” those who were with him, eleven, and then there were others who were with him. Just to show that that’s a term.
Now why would Paul do that? Peter was the unsung leader of the whole group that closely walked with Jesus, and here comes the twelve who were the closest group to Him. He has an individual of high regard, and then He has the very group that walked and lived with Him during His earthly ministry. They witnessed Him.
But if that’s not enough and it isn’t for some people. Verse 6 says, “After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep.” Now what about 500 at one time? Some people say, “Yeah, they can say He appeared to Cephas, but who else was there? And they can say He appeared to the twelve, but who else was there? There were a few there, but they might have just concocted the story.” Well how about 500? And it says He appeared to them at one time. This appearance probably was in Galilee. In Matthew 28:10 it says, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, go and take to My, take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee and there they shall see Me.’” You know, see if this was just to be a meeting of the disciples only, it could have been anywhere. But if it’s a large crowd of 500, Galilee would be the perfect place, a hidden place to where they could secretly meet without calling attention to themselves.
Can you imagine on that appointed day when they got up ready and said, “Oh, we’re going to meet the Lord. He told us to be there.” And they all scattered over to that place and there He was and they were witnesses of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. “At one time,” he said. Not individually, 500 different appearances, but one appearance to 500 people. Paul says, “Most of whom remain until now,” he goes on and finishes that verse. He says, “Hey, ask them, ask them. You can go ask them right now. God’s kept them alive, if you don’t believe what I’m telling you.” You know, if somebody took their testimony, it is said, one at a time for six minutes, you would have 50 solid hours of eyewitness accounts of the resurrected Lord Jesus. Fifty solid hours of eyewitness accounts if only six minutes was given to those who had seen Him.
In verse 7 Paul brings even a greater witness. He says, “Then He appeared to James.” You know who James was? James was His half brother. Why would I say half brother to Jesus? Because Jesus did not have an earthly father. He was born of a virgin. But James was in that family later on. And James was a very key individual who later on became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. “And He appeared to James.” Remember, His brothers were the ones who it says in John 7:5, who were not believing Him. They didn’t believe who He was. James was one of them. And Jesus appeared to James. At the very moment He appeared to James the resurrection appearance changed his life forever.
And then Paul says, alright, “then He appeared to all the apostles.” And again he now refers to the fact that no one was left out. No one was left out that He had intended to appear to. It’s interesting that after he mentions the apostles Paul now gives an account, His own account of seeing Christ. Look at verse 8: “And last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
You know what Paul is doing here is saying, “People, people think, think. When you deny any tenet of the gospel you’ve denied it all. And you can’t deny the resurrection of Jesus and then claim to be saved by His death. You can’t do that, because His death would not have been validated had He not resurrected. So if you don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus, number one, you’re not saved, number two, you have no hope for the future because your body will not be resurrected one day.” That’s what he’s going to go on and bring out in 1 Corinthians 15.
You say, “Well, what in the world can we take home to live with this next Monday through Saturday with what you just said? I’ll tell you what you can take home. What do you believe? You say, “Well, I believe this, this, and this.” No, no, no, no. How are you living to show people around you that you believe this, this, and this? If you’re not living it you’ve already denied it. And if you’ve already denied it you better go back and ask yourself, do you have it to begin with? That’s the key. You may have it, and many of them did, but many of them didn’t. And Paul says you better check yourself, because if there’s a root there’s going to be fruit down here. You cannot have life in you and then suddenly walk away from that life. That life will chasten you and discipline you and scourge you.
And that word “scourge” in Hebrews 12 means beats the hide clean off. So when you live after the flesh, folks, just like Corinth did, you are denying the very gospel that saved you. Every time I do, every time you do, and therefore we have no message to anybody to share. But when you believe what you believe back here, then you’ll live accordingly, you have a message to share to others, and they too, can come to know the Christ that you know.
Well, we’ve got a lot of deep waters to wade in here. It’s going to get better and better and better. But this is just the beginning of chapter 15.