1st Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 106

By: Dr. Wayne Barber
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By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2009
The hope of every believer is to one day see the Lord Jesus Christ.

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1 Corinthians 15:11-19

Introduction

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.

Christ the Solid Rock

Dr. Wayne Barber: Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 15. We’re going to pick up in verse 11, go down through verse 19, cover a little bit more territory today. I’ve struggled with a title. I gave another title at the first service, but I’m going to change this to “Christ, the Solid Rock.” I enjoy so much that hymn, “On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” And when you hear the message this morning perhaps you’ll even understand that maybe a little bit more.

The hope of every believer is to one day see the Lord Jesus Christ. He is coming again. And I’ve said many times, your eschatology, I’m not going to fight you over it. I believe we’re going to go before the 70th week of Daniel. He’s going to come and rapture His church to be with Him. But if you disagree with that, that’s alright, stay if you want to. Send me a postcard, but we’re going to see Him one day. We’re going to see. And John says in his epistle that when we see Him we shall be what? Like Him. Now that does not mean we’re going to be God. Oh, there’s some crazy theology going around today that we become gods. No! But we’ll be like Him. We’ll have a glorified body like His. He has set the pattern for us in the bodily resurrection of the dead.

Verse 20, we’re not going to get there today, we’ll just touch on it. Next time we’ll cover it. It says, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” The word “first fruits” there, as we’ll see later on, is a very important term. It has basically the idea of sets the pattern for the rest of the harvest. In other words, the first fruits could not be harvested until the rest of the harvest was ready to be harvested. So when the first fruits were taken, that set the pattern for what was going to happen to the rest of the harvest. In God’s eyes, He sees us in Christ, ready at this moment to be glorified. And time is of no essence to Him; because of what has happened through Christ and in Christ we will one day be glorified. The very fact that the Holy Spirit lives in us, that is the earnest of our inheritance. He’s the down payment for the full payment that’s coming later on.

Now this fact, that one day if, for instance, we die before the Lord comes—Paul has some other things to say in this chapter even about if we’re living when Christ comes, we’ll still be glorified—but the fact that dead bodies will raise from the dead was a problem to the Corinthian believers. They were the intellectuals. You know in Corinth, that was Greece, and they loved to argue about anything. And so they couldn’t understand how a dead body could raise up, and they could not get it. So since they could not figure it out in their intellectual debates, they came up with the conclusion that there must not be a resurrection of the dead. But what they did not realize was, if you say that the dead will not raise, you’re saying also that Jesus did not raise bodily from the grave. They didn’t realize that they were pulling out one of the major facets of the gospel itself. If there’s no resurrection of Christ there’d be no more gospel. You see the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus are the tenets of the gospel, but the major pivot of all of that is the resurrection of Jesus. Without it there is no gospel. Without it there is no hope for mankind.

Now in verse 11 of chapter 15 Paul says, “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” By using the word “they” he refers to the apostles, the prophets, other preachers, the 500, those that had witnessed His resurrection. He just refers to, that this was the common message of all the preaching of that day. And he says, regardless if it was me preaching it, or maybe you heard it from them, he says, you believed it, and believing it you believed the death, burial and resurrection of Christ and you received it. And earlier on he says by that you were saved unless you believed in vain.

Now, New Testament Christianity knows nothing of a gospel without a resurrected Lord. You have no good news without a resurrected Lord. Paul has laid out the facts of the witnesses of the resurrection. He mentions it as a tenet of the gospel, then in verses 5-10, he talks about all the people that He appeared to. If you were going to have a court case on something, you’d call forth witnesses; and Paul calls them forth. And even at one particular point he said there were 500 at one time that saw Him and most of these people are living today. Go ask them yourself. And then he says, “I saw Him. I’m a witness of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ.”

But Paul knows something that we know even today. I mean, studying Corinthians, hasn’t it been like reading the newspaper? Like Ecclesiastes says, there’s nothing new under the sun. There’s some people who are going to believe only what they want to believe. They believe this part of it, but they don’t believe that part of it, as if to say, don’t bother me with the facts. You know, we’re living in that kind of day even today. People are saying, “Oh, doctrine’s not that important, friend. We just need to love each other.” That’s absolutely stupid. That’s just stupid. Doctrine is important. We saw in chapter 13 that when you love, it rejoices in the truth. If you truly love somebody with the love that God has produced in your life, you care about what the Word of God has to say.

And there are many people who take this and go away from that, and take this and don’t take that, and it’s what was going on in Corinth. And they said, “We can’t figure it out. We can’t understand how a body could resurrect; therefore we don’t believe it.” And that’s the point that Paul is attacking. He says in verse 12, “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead.” By the way, it’s not from the dead, it’s ek, out from among the dead, because He was a part of them. It says in verse 12, “Now if Christ is preached, that He’s been raised out from among the dead, how do some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?”

Now the word “say” there is the verb form of the word logos. Logos means to speak intelligently, rationally, logically. And you see what he’s saying: “How can you intelligently say as if it’s logical that there’s no resurrection of the dead?” Now, this just really draws a picture for me, because I’ve been to seminary in the days seminaries weren’t the place to be. Thank God for what He’s doing in the Southern Baptist Convention right now, and I hear in other seminaries, as well. But He’s turned it around and made it much more solid. But in the days that I went to seminary it was the JDE and P theory. “Our mother which art in heaven,” and that Browning’s works in the Old Testament were probably more inspired than most of the Old Testament. That’ll bless you.

But we had a teacher there that the Southern Baptists paid for, by the way, during those days. You want to know what liberalism can do to schools. And this particular professor there had a tremendous intellect. In fact, his vocabulary was one that I almost had to carry a dictionary to class. He was one who taught that Jesus did not bodily raise from the dead. It was a spiritual resurrection, which Paul is refuting that very thing right here in 1 Corinthians 15. Well, we had a fellow that went to school with me and also went to seminary with me and his first name was Sonny. He invented the word “redneck.” Sonny was from a hollow somewhere in the mountains over here, I don’t know where it was. I mean, I don’t think he ever got out of it till he went to school. And he was the funniest human being I think I’ve ever been around, loved him to death.

He was sharp as a tack. He didn’t have all the vocabulary, but, buddy, he had a quick mind. And we’d be in class and this particular professor would walk around, and if you asked him a question he would make you feel like a fool if you asked him because he was such of an academic mindset that he couldn’t be even challenged in certain things, so he’d just make you feel like a fool. So therefore nobody asked any questions. Old Sonny, at the end of every class period we would be leaving and Sonny would raise his hand. He’d raise his hand and the professor would look over. And it started off thinking he had an honest question, and, well he did, but the professor didn’t like it.

He’d say, “Doctor ____, let me ask you a question.” And you hear that twangy voice from up in the mountains of North Carolina. He said, “Let me ask you a question.” He’d say, “Okay, brother, ask me.” He said, “Is what you said today in class, is that theory or is it fact?” Son, it was great! And he had this big learned man standing up against the wall, friend, and he’d, “Well, I guess if you ask it that way it’s theory.” And he’d turn around and walk out. The next class, “Is it theory?” Every day. It got to where he wouldn’t even look at him and started walking out of the class and Sonny would say, “Hey, that must be theory,” as he’d walk out of the door.

And this is exactly the picture I get of the Corinthian church. They just loved to sit around and argue about stuff that the mind will never ever figure out, rather than receiving it by faith. Since they couldn’t come up with the understanding of how the dead could raise that therefore they just simply said it cannot happen. But by doing that they were undermining the very gospel itself.

Now the apostle Paul is a lawyer. I’ve told you this over and over again. I mean, he builds a case, and when he finishes the case today, I mean it, the case is over, pool’s closed, everybody out of the water. I mean, there’s nothing else to be said. He knows how to build a case. He starts with the facts and makes his conclusions based on the facts. He doesn’t talk about hearsay or anything else. He makes it based on the facts. Now, Paul is going to tell them in the passage we’re going to study today that by saying that there’s no resurrection of the dead is to totally wipe out the very gospel itself. In other words, he’s saying, “What are you people doing? Did you receive the gospel in vain or something? How can you even question this, because when you question this, you’ve got to take that argument a little further and question this over here?”

But you see when you get into an intellectual discussion you’ve got to carry it all the way out. Don’t just stop there. Hey, so you can’t figure out the resurrection of the dead; so what? Can you figure out how Jesus was born of a virgin? Can you figure out how He raised from the dead? And what you’re doing, by discounting this you’re discounting all the rest. This was the futility of this kind of vain arguing that they were going through.

If there’s no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised

Well, in verses 13-19 he’s going to show us now the importance of the resurrection of the dead, particularly the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. And there’s six things that I want you to see and that’ll be our message this morning. First of all, if there’s no bodily resurrection, then Christ was not resurrected. Verse 13: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised.” Oops! Now who are the people that he’s arguing with here? Who’s he debating with here? They could not have been converts from Judaism to Christianity. Even though the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, the Pharisees and the orthodox Jews believed in it to the point that history records many of them were martyred over that very fact. So you’re not going to have to deal much with a converted Jewish person.

However, the Greek mindset, the pagan Greece, oh, this is what he’s dealing with. Corinth is in Greece. This is where it’s coming from. The idea of resurrection from the dead was not only new, but it was very unwelcomed. In secular Greek literature you may find an occasional reference to immortality of the soul. But the idea of the body resurrection from the dead was not only unheard of, but totally unwelcomed amongst their thinking. When Paul began to preach, for instance, the resurrection in Athens, his hearers missed the point of the resurrection to the place that they thought the resurrection referred to a god. They didn’t even know what it was. Acts 17:18, “And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, ‘What would this idle babbler wish to say?’ Others, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities.’“ Now why? “Because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.” They thought the resurrection was another deity. They didn’t even understand it from the word go.

When converts from Greek paganism entered into the church many times they would drag with them these deep prejudices that they had. Now as a result of that they brought in that kind of thinking, as a result of that, you know what system developed as a result of that? It was Gnosticism, and Gnosticism has all kinds of form. Paul dealt with it in Colossians. John dealt with this Corinthian heresy in writing his epistles of 1 John. And the Sethian heresy, all this was a gnostic idea, this dualism that Jesus, Oh no, He couldn’t have even had a body, much less been killed physically and much less bodily resurrection.

Ten years after writing to the Corinthians the apostle Paul wrote in the pastoral epistles to Timothy something that’s very key. He said watch out for these false teachers. Among them are Hermogenes and Phygelus. He said men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place and they upset the faith of some. You see this mindset got into Christianity and this is some of the early heresies that were being dealt with and it was coming up in Corinth. Now what did they mean about the resurrection had already taken place? Well, these people at that time, the Greek mindset, believed that when a person got saved, when he turned away from sin, then he figuratively went through a resurrection. It was a spiritual resurrection. When he repented, when he received Christ this was like a spiritual resurrection.

Then secondly, in keeping with the Greek idea of the supremacy of the spirit, they believed as we believe that when the body dies the spirit goes on to be with Christ. And they looked at that as the resurrection. But to think of the body resurrecting from the dead, they couldn’t fathom it and they did not welcome it into their thinking. So they went around preaching the resurrection’s already taken place. You got saved, didn’t you. You were resurrected from your old self into your new self, and when you die your spirit resurrects from the body. But the body, no, no, no, that’s not what he’s talking about, they would say. And so therefore that became their argument. The Corinthian doubter felt that to believe in a resurrection from the grave was to debase all the other truths that they had come up with through their intellectualism.

Well, when it came to their belief about the resurrection of Christ, now they had to come up with an answer. If you say that we’re not going to bodily resurrect, then you’re going to have to come back and deal with this over here if you still call yourself a believer. Well they had their answers that they came up with. They believed, many wrongly thought, that since He was divine He couldn’t have had a physical body. No way a divine person of God, deity, would invade a human body. They wrongly believed that He was like a ghost, an apparition. He appeared to be human, but He really wasn’t. He appeared to die, but He really did not. And that’s the way they answered that question. But Paul is saying, whatever their wrong thinking is—and that wrong thinking is going on in Corinth—it doesn’t square with the gospel preaching of the New Testament. It doesn’t square with the tenets of the gospel.

Listen to Peter, after Pentecost now. This is the revived Simon Peter; the Spirit of God has come to live in him. And he says in Acts 2:22, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man” a man, not an apparition, not a ghost, “attested to you by God with miracles, wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst just as you yourselves know—this Man delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross.” You nailed that physical man to a cross. “By the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” He physically, bodily died on the cross. Now in verse 31 of Acts chapter 2, “he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, which we are all witnesses.” In other words, He physically died and He physically was raised from the dead.

Now listen, human logic will never figure out the resurrection from the dead, not in a million years. It must be received like all the gospel by faith. Some people say, “Well, if I could understand I would believe.” No, no, no; you believe and then God in His time will give you understanding. It doesn’t work the other way around. And many of us go through that since we can’t understand it, we think we don’t believe it. No sir. When you receive it by faith, then you stand on it even though your mind cannot fully comprehend it. Like I said earlier, how do you comprehend the Trinity, the virgin birth? You can’t comprehend these things. You receive it by faith because we stand upon the solid rock of the Word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, what sounds good to the logical ear in an argument, in a classroom many times won’t hold water with what the Word of God has to say. So in other words, back off the argument and bow down and receive what God says by faith.

If Christ was not raised then our faith is vain

So point number 1: if there’s no resurrection of the dead then Christ did not resurrect from the grave. Now that leads to the second one. If Christ did not resurrect from the dead then our faith is vain. Whoa! There’s no gospel without the resurrection. There is no gospel. There is no hope. We’re all doomed. We’re going to be in hell forever, separated from God if Jesus did not resurrect from the dead. He says, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain.” The word “our preaching is vain,” who’s “our”? He refers to himself as an apostle, all the other apostles, the prophets, and the preachers of that day. He said it’s vain. The word “vain” is kenos, and it means empty. It means totally devoid of truth. It means of no useful purpose. It means nothing in it that benefits anyone.

But not only is our preaching in vain, Paul says, he says, “your faith is in vain.” By faith you have received; he refers here to the act of receiving Christ and all that comes along, all the benefits that comes along with it. And he said every bit of it’s empty. Every bit of it, it’s a joke. It’s nothing to it if Christ did not resurrect from the grave. All the mission efforts to preach the word; all the evangelistic efforts to preach the word; all the teaching and preaching; all of it period is in vain if Christ did not resurrect from the grave. Hell has not been conquered. Sin has not been conquered. The devil has not been conquered. We’re all doomed. There is no good news. The light at the end of the tunnel is another train. There is no hope for any of us if Christ did not resurrect from the grave.

Those who were mocked and scourged and imprisoned and stoned and afflicted and ill treated in the Scriptures were done so in vain. In Hebrews 11, instead of calling it the hall of faith, you’d call it the hall of the foolish if Jesus has not resurrected from the grave. All believers of all age have believed for nothing, lived for nothing and died for nothing if there’s no resurrection from the dead by the Lord Jesus Christ we’re all doomed to hell forever.

So now, Corinthians, what else would you like to talk about? Now, to me he could stop right there and go home, but he doesn’t. I mean, he just nails it right to the wall. You flippantly say through your intellectual pursuit that you can’t understand the resurrection of the dead. Well, okay, fine. If you conclude that it cannot happen, you have just undermined the gospel. You have no hope. Go home. You’re doomed. Shoot yourself; you’d be better off.

If Christ was not raised, all witnessed of the resurrection are liars

Well, thirdly: if Christ did not resurrect from the dead bodily, then all witnesses of the resurrection of Christ are liars. I’m telling you what. I love the way Paul just minces his words. Don’t you like that? He’s just so inhibited; he just can’t seem to say what he thinks. Verse 15: “Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses.” We are even found to be false witnesses “of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.”

Now he says there, we are even found. The word “found” there means to discover something. Uh oh, you found us out. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, you have discovered now that we’re liars. We’ve told a lie. Now this has to be referring to those who have literally witnessed the resurrected body of Christ. And the interesting thing, Paul includes himself. He says, “We are found to be false witnesses of God.” It’s almost as if he’s saying, “And you’ve attached yourself to me and I’m a liar? Well, if that’s the case then you’re a fool. Because 1 Corinthians 1:12 says some of you are of Paul, some of you are of Apollos, some of you are of Cephas. What are you doing following us? If you believe there’s no resurrection of Christ bodily, then you’re a fool for attaching yourself to us because we’re nothing more than liars and you’re going to have to reckon with. Not only us but the 500 at one time. What are you going to do with that?”

You see, he’s saying, what are you doing with this argument? It won’t go anywhere. First Corinthians 15:15: “Moreover we are found to be false witnesses, because we’ve witnessed against God that He raised Christ.” They’d said they’d seen Him when actually they didn’t. “Whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.” You see, to deny the resurrection of the dead is to deny the resurrection of Christ is to call every apostle—the only way you could be an apostle was to witness the resurrected Lord Jesus—and you’re calling every one of them a liar. You’re calling James and Peter and John and Paul and all of them, calling them liars. As a matter of fact, they must be absolutely foolish liars because almost every one of them were martyred for their faith in the one that they said they had seen.

And he says, come on, man, this doesn’t hold water. If Christ was not raised from the dead they were not only not sent by God with a message, but they were liars and they had to conspire together to make it harmonious in the gospel. How are they going to do that? They even, some of them lived at different times and different places. If the apostles and prophets of the New Testament lied about the resurrection of Christ then they cannot be believed in anything else that they said, anything else that they said. All the New Testament truths that stand upon the authority that God gave to the apostles you cannot believe anymore. There are no promises whatsoever. So stop talking about provision, and stop talking about healing, and stop talking about hope, because they’re not there. Because if they lied about one area they lied about it all and you cannot convince them. So therefore if the resurrection of the dead can’t take place Christ was not resurrected from the dead, and if that’s the case all the apostles are liars and you can’t depend upon the Word of God.

Now, although Paul doesn’t mention it, but it’s implied, Christ Himself lied if He did not raise from the dead. Did He not say I’ll see you in three days? He said you tear this temple down and in three days I will raise it up and I’ll meet you. He kept His appointment. So this whole argument smells with an odor because it undermines everything that the gospel has to say from Genesis to Revelation, not just in the New Testament, all the prophesies, everything is a sham if He did not raise from the dead. And obviously He wasn’t the Son of God if He didn’t raise from the dead. So, intelligent Corinthians, what were you saying? What is it you want to talk about today?

If Christ was not raise, we remain in our sin

If there’s no resurrection from the dead, number 1, then Christ did not resurrect; number 2, if Christ did not resurrect our faith is in vain; number 3, all witnesses of the resurrection are liars, all the apostles, and therefore if they lied in one area everything’s a sham. Fourthly, if Christ did not bodily resurrect from the dead then we would remain in our sin. He says in verse 16, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.” Now in other words, He’d be only a dead good man. That’s all He was. He came and did a lot of good things, but He died on the cross and didn’t quite make it. He says in verse 17, “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

Man, I’ll tell you what, how in the world they could allow themselves even to question the resurrection of the dead with all of this at stake, and yet, that’s the Greek mindset. They’ll find something to argue about. He condemned, but basically he’s saying that if you’re right in what you’re saying—and you’re wrong, but if you would be right—then there is nothing. There is absolutely nothing and no hope for mankind whatsoever. In verse 14 he’s already said “if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is vain and your faith is vain, empty.” Now he tells them, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless,” same idea. He says, “you are still in your sins.”

Oh man, can you imagine, can you imagine a person coming forward and bowing and receiving Christ in their heart at least by faith, and then finding out that the whole thing’s a sham, that he’s still in his sins, he’s still condemned? All he has to do is look around the world around him and he sees the corruption everywhere. He knows the world is under the curse of corruption and he sees what’s happening, and then he realizes he’s still in his own sin. The very reason we received Christ was because of the sin that was in our life, the exposure and the revelation the Holy Spirit made that we’re sinners, and that He came to pay the price of all sin, and we receive Him and ask Him to forgive us and cleanse us of that sin.

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It was for our sin that He died. But if He didn’t resurrect then His death meant nothing. His death meant nothing. We’re still in our sins. But Christ did raise from the dead. In 15:3 he says, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scripture and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day,” how? “according to the Scriptures.” The Scripture says He was raised. Now who are you going to believe, the Scriptures or some argumentative intellect? Who are we going to believe? Romans 4:24 says “But for our sake also to whom it will be reckoned as those who believed in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered up because of our transgressions, crucified, and was raised up because of our justification.”

And so he says hey, this is what the Scriptures teach. To deny that Jesus bodily resurrected from the dead denies everything that Christians have believed since the very birth and inception of Christianity. You see, the futility of the Corinthian error is they don’t understand how far that thing’s going to go. If you could doubt that the human body cannot be raised from the dead, as God said it will be, then you’re doubting that Christ’s human body did not raise from the dead, and it did and He was glorified and we are also one day going to be glorified.

If Christ was not raised, then all are eternally damned

So if dead bodies don’t resurrect then Christ did not resurrect. If Christ did not resurrect, our faith is vain. All witnesses of the resurrection are liars, all the apostles. We are dead in our sins and unforgiven. Fifthly, if Christ did not resurrect from the dead then all are eternally damned. All the dead are eternally damned. Verse 18: “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” Now we must learn the phrase, “fallen asleep.” That doesn’t mean soul sleep. Have you heard that doctrine that when you die you go into a soul sleep and you just sort of float off? Isn’t that dumb? That’s not what happens to us. Second Corinthians 5:8 says “to be absent from the body is to be” what? “present with the Lord.” And that doesn’t mean taking a nap on the back porch of heaven. We’re in His presence, more vibrantly alive than we’ve ever been before.

But the word “fallen asleep” has to do with the body, not the spirit or the soul, but the body. What happens when you get tired? You lay down. And when you lay down for a period of time what happens? You get back up. It’s a prophecy of what’s going to happen to the body. You put the body in the ground. I was with a pastor one time. I said, “Red, where are you going”? He said, “I’m going to plant a body.” He had sort of a crude sense of humor. And I said, “Don’t tell the family that.” And then I studied 1 Corinthians 15 that said that’s exactly what he’s doing. You plant something, what do you expect it to do? You expect it come up.

And so when you put a body in that grave, the next time you go to the cemetery of a loved one and you see that body go down in the grave, hey, that’s body is coming out of that grave one day. Jesus said the dead will be raised imperishable and that imperishable body will clothe their immortal spirit and thus we shall be with the Lord forever. So we know that’s going to happen. That’s what God says. So when he says fallen asleep he speaks of the body. He speaks of death. He said those who have died have been destroyed really. I’ll get to that in a minute.

But in John 11:11, you know, Jesus had been, they sent a note by Mary and Martha and they said, “Lord, he whom You loved is sick.” They didn’t ask Him to come. I’ve always thought that was sort of interesting and sort of implied it. And were they royally upset when He didn’t. You see, when He got the message He waited two more days. “Thanks, God. We really appreciate Your promptness here.” He gets over it. Why? Because He knows what He’s doing. The theme of the gospel of John is “the hour has not yet come that the Son of Man be glorified.” He knows that this is going to be the plot that’s going to pull the trigger on Him being crucified which is what He came to do, the hour that He’ll be glorified. He knows that. So He waits two more days.

After four days—Lazarus has been in the tomb four days—He gets there, and Martha looks at Him and says, “Well, if You had been here he wouldn’t have died. You can’t do anything now.” Sweet little Mary said the same thing. Boy, they’re royally upset. And Jesus said before He got there, though, He told His disciples who had already made up their mind, they weren’t going. They said, “Are You going to Judea again?” In other words, “We’re not going with You.” The disciples said, “Are You going?” And He says in verse 11, of John 11, “This He said and after that He said to them, our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. But I go that I may awaken him out of sleep.” Now you can’t; you can go with Me, but I’m the only One that can bring him out of that sleep, resurrect him from the dead.

In verse 12 these lunkheads, they don’t have a brain in their head, couldn’t get a job in the 20th century. “The disciples therefore said to Him, ‘Lord, if he’s fallen asleep He’ll recover.’” “Oh, hot dog! He’s not sick. We get to stay here. We don’t have to go back to Judea.” It says, “Now Jesus has spoken of his death, but they thought He was speaking of literal sleep.” We’ve got to understand, the term “falling asleep” means to die. So the apostle Paul said, “Then those also who have fallen asleep, those who have died in Christ, have perished.” Now the word for “perished” means destroyed, apollumi. But it’s also the word that means, by destroyed, it means the eternal death. They are eternally destroyed, never any hope for them, always, forever separated from God with eternal death, totally excluded from Christ and from the Messiah’s kingdom, totally excluded from any of that, those that are dead have no hope whatsoever, if Jesus did not resurrect from the dead. Their faith was vain, their sins unforgiven, and they face eternal separation from God.

Now, Corinthians how far do you want to carry this argument? You see if there’s no resurrection from the dead, then Christ did not resurrect. If Christ did not resurrect our faith is in vain. All witnesses and preachers of the resurrection are liars. All the dead are dead in their sins. They are eternally dead. They are separated from God, no hope for them—and that’s forever; and we’re unforgiven in all of our sins. Obviously this would mean that all who continue to die even, not just had died, but continue to die will face the same thing.

If Christ was not raised, all Christians are fools and to be pitied

Well finally, if Christ did not resurrect from the dead, all Christians are fools and are to be pitied. “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” You know, pity the poor man who has had a rich man promise him a large inheritance when the rich man would die. And that poor man lives all of his life with nothing, hoping in what the man has told him. And then the man finally dies one day and they read the will and there’s not one penny for that poor man. He has hoped in this life and has hoped in vain. He needs to be pitied, he’s a fool and that’s what Paul says of believers.

Now he’s not talking about the fact that, hey, we know He’s alive and every day is joyful, even though we still look forward to the coming of the Lord. But what he’s saying is you can’t divorce the hope that is in every believer that one day Jesus is coming again for His own. You cannot divorce yourself of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. To wake up one day and realize that all that you have watched to die, your mother, your father maybe, or your grandparents or whatever, you’ve watched them die and you’ve watched them cling to the truths and the promises of God’s word, and then suddenly to wake up one day and realize that all that was in vain, that everything we’re doing today is in vain because Jesus has not resurrected from the dead.

We live, can you imagine to live with that hope everyday of your heart and then someday just to be so just famished because it’s all a lie? He didn’t raise from the dead? He says “if you have hoped in this life only you of all men need to be pitied.” You don’t just hope in this life. Although we live in Him who is the hope of glory, but we look forward to the day that He comes for us. We have the earnest of His inheritance now. Just think of all the victories we have in Jesus Christ every day. They’re nothing. They’re just earnest money, cannot be even compared to what’s coming for us one day, the full payment. But to recognize that if this truth is right Corinthian intellects, that there’s no resurrection from the dead, then you’ve just annihilated every bit of it. If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then believers have put their hopes into an illusion.

There is no hope. All thoughts of heaven are wiped away because Christ did not bodily raise from the dead. If there’s no resurrection of the dead then Christ did not resurrect. If Christ did not resurrect our faith is in vain. All witnesses and preachers of the resurrection are liars. All are dead in their sins, unforgiven. All the dead are separated from God forever. And we’re fools for calling ourselves believers.

But let me say this to you. He did raise from the dead. I love what Paul does in verse 19 to verse 20. All this other, it bothers me, but I see his argument and I see what he’s doing. And he’s trying to show them, don’t you ever get into this foolish debate over stuff that you can’t understand with your mind. Because you receive it by faith and when God wants you to understand it He’ll give you a revelation of it. But what he does, he builds a bridge from verse 19 to verse 20.

I went up to Alaska several years ago and the pilot said I’m going to take you up to Prudhoe Bay. I think I’ve probably told you about that. But maybe one part of the story I didn’t tell you. I am sitting behind the pilot. I was just crammed in this little bitty seat. But it was so much fun. It’s so much better to watch from the cockpit than it is where you ride. And that thing going down the runway. He was getting faster and faster and faster, when all of a sudden he said, okay, you’ve got your speed, the co-pilot did, and he pulls that thing back and that big old nose lifts up. Oh, the awesome power you feel behind you, and the plane just gets up higher and higher and higher. We got up above the clouds, I don’t know how many thousands of feet, and he said look right over there. And I said, “Whoa, what’s that?” He said, “That’s Mount McKinley. If I had a little more time I’d fly around it. There’s some climbers up there right now.” He said, “In fact, there’s an emergency crew up there right now trying to rescue. They’ve already lost 11 this week on that mountain. And they’re trying to rescue some others that have been caught in a freak snowstorm up on top of that great big mountain.” Boy it’s an awesome sight to see it from up above the clouds.

But I got to thinking about this and verse 19 to verse 20. After verse 19 if you start back in verse 11 it’s kind of like you’re climbing and you’re over a precipice and you’re looking down into eternal hell, a long way down. And all of a sudden the ground underneath you starts crumbling because there’s no resurrection of Jesus Christ and you don’t have anything to stand on anymore. And you get to the corner and you’re thinking, oh man, if Jesus has not raised from the dead there’s no hope, there’s no promise. There’s nothing. And you turn the corner and all of a sudden the pathway gets solid and it gets wide and Paul bridges it and says, “Hey man, jump over here. And you jump over there and your feet now are back on solid ground. That’s verse 20.

And he says there in verse 20, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.” He’s the solid rock. And we can stand on the fact that Jesus did raise from the dead, therefore all the promises of God are in Christ and they are yes and amen to His people! I want to tell you something, buddy, if you don’t have that bridge from verse 19 to verse 20 what would you have when you walked out of here this morning? Why don’t we all just go shoot ourselves? There’s nothing.

So don’t for one second think that because you can’t understand how something happened, that it must not have happened. What you have just done by that kind of Greek rationalization is you have rationalized yourself right out of the whole gospel message which goes all the way back to the creation of this world. We’ve got solid ground that Christ is the solid rock that we stand on this morning. And boy, I’ll tell you, when he keeps on going now you’re going to be excited one day to face death, because he lets you see what’s on the other side. And all of a sudden you conquer the fear of death.

It’s just a beautiful, beautiful chapter. It just comforts you, right to the core, right to the core to know that since He resurrected bodily, not spiritually, as an apparition, no sir, bodily from the grave our bodies one day will changed and glorified and made to be like Him. And we will live and reign with Him forever. You take that aspect out of it, you have no gospel, you have nothing but doom in front of you. You put it back in, all of it is yes and amen in Christ Jesus, the solid rock on which we stand.

Dr. Wayne Barber

Dr. Wayne Barber

Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.
Dr. Wayne Barber

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