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1 Corinthians - Part 37

"The Evidence For The Resurrection"

by David Legge | Copyright © 2004 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com

I Corinthians 15:1-11

I. Their Experience Of Salvation Through The Gospel (verses 1-2)
II. The Testimony Of The Old Testament Scriptures (verses 3-4)
III. The Eyewitnesses (verses 5-10)
-
1. Peter
- 2. The Twelve
- 3. The Five Hundred
- 4. James
- 5. Paul
IV. The Conclusiveness Of The Common Message (verse 11)

'Preach The Word'First Corinthians 15, if you turn with me to it now, beginning to read at verse 1 and finishing at verse 11 tonight. Looking at the evidence for The Resurrection, and we will be looking specifically at some of the people who, like those women on that early Sunday morning, witnessed the events concerning the resurrection of our Lord Jesus.

The resurrection is central to the Christian gospel, the resurrection is central to all the facets of Christian doctrine...

Verse 1: "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed".

In Paul the apostle's day there used to be a motto that hung in the city of Athens that read like this: 'Once a man dies and the earth drinks up his blood, there is no resurrection'. That was the belief of the Greek philosophers of Paul's day. Indeed there was a Jewish sect called the Sadducees who did not believe in the bodily resurrection, either of the Lord Jesus or of human beings of any kind - as the little quip goes: 'That's why they were sad, you see'...because they didn't believe in the resurrection. If you remember, when the apostle Paul was in the Greek city of Athens, he preached on the resurrection. In that famous chapter 17 and verse 32, we read that some mocked him and others said: 'We will hear thee again of this matter', because most of the Greeks of that day believed what their philosophers taught: that the body was a prison to the human being, that the human spirit was like a bird caught up in a cage, and therefore death could only be seen as the release of that bird into a paradise. They weren't sure what that was, but one thing we do know is that when we look into the Corinthian church the influence of those Greek philosophies was beginning to be seen. There was evolving a sceptical attitude towards the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body. As we read this passage we have to read between lines a little to think that probably there were false teachers coming into the church and teaching this; that we would not rise again from the dead bodily in a day yet to be.

If Christ did not come back to life there is no salvation from sin, there is no eternal life for any of us to look forward to...

Now what I do want to say before we go on any further is that I believe that the Corinthian believers in Corinth believed that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. I do not believe that they had imbibed this false doctrine to such an extent that they thought that the Lord Jesus had never been resurrected. They were not doubting the Lord's resurrection, they were doubting their own resurrection in a day that was yet to be. That is the reason why Paul starts his argument by using the resurrection of the Lord Jesus as an example as to how and why we one day will be resurrected too. One famous Bible teacher and scholar has put the importance of the resurrection down to this fact: 'Just as the heart pumps life-giving blood to every part of the body, so the truth of the resurrection gives life to every other area of the gospel truth. The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns, and without which none of the other truths would much matter'.

The resurrection is central to the Christian gospel, the resurrection is central to all the facets of Christian doctrine, and of course we need go no further than the words we have already heard tonight, and the words we read in the gospel of our Lord Jesus, to see that His bodily resurrection was central to His own claims. It was He that claimed that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and of the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He was the one, was He not, that said at the grave of His friend: 'I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live...and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die'. We go into the Acts of the Apostles and we find out that the first two sermons after Pentecost focus solely on that subject of the resurrection of Jesus, you can read them in Acts 2 and Acts 3. It was, was it not, the truth of the resurrection that turned those dejected disciples into the courageous witnesses and martyrs of the Acts of the Apostles and of Christian history that many of us know so well?

You see, it was this intrinsic truth and doctrine, that Jesus rose again from the grave, that fired these men and women of God to spread the gospel in only a few years across almost the whole of the Roman Empire and the known world and beyond. The truth of the resurrection is intrinsic, vital and fundamental, to everything that we believe as Christians. We would have to say that our faith stands or falls upon this truth. The implications of this, because it is the cornerstone of the gospel, is that it has been Satan's target down through all the eras of Christian history. Right from Paul's day, right from the very moments after Christ rose bodily from the grave, the accusations that were floating about; right up to this very day among some of the cults, even among some of those who call themselves Christians and ministers - in the liberal sense of course. Satan attacks this doctrine, because Satan knows that this doctrine is the foundation stone of everything that Christ claimed and everything that Christians believe. If there was no resurrection there is no life-giving power; if there is no resurrection there is no power in the gospel to change a man's life; if Christ was not raised from the dead there is no divinity in His nature; if Christ did not come back to life there is no salvation from sin, there is no eternal life for any of us to look forward to.

You cannot be a Christian and not believe in the bodily resurrection of our Lord!

In fact the apostle says it himself in this chapter in verse 19: 'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable', or as another translation puts it, 'we are of all men most pitiable, most to be pitied'. Without the resurrection salvation cannot be provided, and for us practically speaking today in the age of grace, without belief in the resurrection salvation cannot either be received! Does not Paul say in Romans 10 and verse 9 that if we confess the Lord Jesus Christ with our mouth, and believe in our heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, we shall be saved? And the implication of that is, practically, that we cannot receive the salvation that was procured by the death and resurrection of Christ if we do not believe in His resurrection as well as His death - you cannot be a Christian and not believe in the bodily resurrection of our Lord!

So what Paul does for these Corinthians to convince them of the evidence of Christ's resurrection, in order to cause them to believe in their own subsequent resurrection one day, is to lay down the evidence for Jesus' resurrection and they are these: one, their experience of salvation through the gospel; two, the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures; three, the eyewitnesses, Peter, the twelve, the 500, James, and the apostle himself who is writing; and then fourthly, the conclusiveness of the common message. Jesus said, did He not, 'Because I live, ye shall live also'. Oh, they believed the first half, that Jesus lived, but they had faltered at the second half, that they would live also.

So let us look at the first piece of evidence which Paul tells us in verses 1 and 2 was their experience of salvation through the gospel. Let's read it again: 'Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain'. Paul is telling them: 'Look, when I first came and preached the gospel to you in Corinth the faith that transformed your lives, that conversion, regenerating experience that entered your heart by the new birth, that turned your lives upside down, was the gospel of the resurrection of Jesus - that was the message I preached to you'. His point in verses 1 and 2 is: 'You Corinthian believers are living evidence that this doctrine of the resurrection is true. It is the power of the resurrection in your life, procured by your individual personal faith in that message, that has caused such a transforming change in all of your experiences'.

Is that not true in our lives? I hope it's true in your life. I fear that it's getting less true in this modern age of easy-believism, that we don't see as much change in peoples lives, converts lives. In fact, we don't even seem to look for it today as we used to - that there is a transforming power, the resurrection dynamite of God that is in the gospel of God that causes the change whereby old things pass away and behold all things are made new. Now some people get perplexed by this verse 2, where he says: 'By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain'. They think to themselves: 'Well, is Paul saying here that salvation is conditional? That you're in danger of losing your salvation depending on how you go down the road?' - that is not what the apostle Paul is saying. Now this is a qualifying statement, but what he is saying is: 'If you hold fast to the word which I first preached to you, the word of the gospel about the death, the resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus - if you hold fast to that your faith will not have been in vain'. He's not talking about losing your salvation, a clearer rendering of that phrase could be like this: 'Unless you believe without effect', you would have believed without effect if you have now lost faith in the resurrection.

He's telling us that the proof of conversion is to hold fast to the fundamental truths and tenets of the gospel...

Now you might say: 'David, you're coming perilously close to being 'saved and lost'' - that's not what Paul's saying or what I'm saying at all, what he is saying here - and this is a lesson we ought to learn in our modern wishy-washy age - he's telling us that the proof of conversion is to hold fast to the fundamental truths and tenets of the gospel, that's what he's saying. In other words, if we can put it the opposite way, we ought to question those who change the gospel that they have first claimed to believe. We look around the churches today and we see that people are dulling down the gospel, people are diluting the gospel to suit the people, people are rationalising the gospel, in theological halls they're liberalising the gospel to suit minds that feel that they cannot grasp the supernatural - the fact of the matter is that when men begin to do this they apostasize, but by their apostasy they show that they were never the children of God in the first place! They had believed without effect.

Surely if we look at this piece of evidence, the experience of salvation through the gospel that they believed, we see it in the evidence of church history, don't we? That we tonight are in the church of Jesus Christ over 2000 years after He died and rose again, and I know it's subjective evidence in a sense, but does that not even point to the fact that His resurrection can be evidenced in our lives, in our existence - and the lack of extinction of those who are the church of Jesus Christ. The church historian, Kenneth Scott-Latourette, wrote in his book 'The History of the Expansion of Christianity', these words: 'But for their profound belief', the early Christians, 'that the Crucified had risen from the dead, and that they had seen Him and talked with Him, the death of Jesus, and even Jesus Himself, would probably have been all but forgotten'. Do you see what he's saying? If it wasn't for the fact that their lives have been totally and utterly transformed because they believed that they had seen the risen Christ, Jesus would have been another forgotten Messiah of history!

A very learned man once said to a little child who believed in our Lord Jesus Christ: 'My poor little girl, you don't know who you really believe in, do you? There have been many Christs, in which of them do you believe?'. The little girl replied in her simple childlike faith: 'I know which one I believe in, I believe in the Christ who rose from the dead' - there's only one of them! A follower of Buddha writes of his leader: 'When Buddha died it was with that utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains' - that is how Buddha died. Asoka, one of the emperors of India, distributed after Buddha's death his ashes in minute proportions to 84,000 shrines all over the continent of India, and Buddhism as a religion still tonight centres all its worship on the ashes of its dead founder.

Mohammed, who we hear so much about today, died in Medina on June 8th 632AD at the age of 61, and his tomb every year is visited by tens upon tens of thousands of Moslems, but what are they coming to his tomb for? They are coming to mourn the death of their leader, not to celebrate his resurrection! Yet the church of Jesus Christ, to this very year, not just every Easter Sunday, but every Lord's day morning celebrates the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ over sin, death, and the grave and hell! As one man has put it well: 'Christianity begins where all the religions of the world end, at death, and it starts with resurrection' - Hallelujah! Aren't you glad that you have tonight the evidence? I hope you have it! If you haven't, you need to know that born-again experience by the Holy Ghost in your heart that proves within you that Jesus lives!

The gospel is the first thing that we ought to proclaim, the gospel is the thing that the world ought to know us by!

Here's the second piece of evidence that Paul gives the church in verses 3 to 4, the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures. Look at verse 3: 'For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures'. Now before we look at the Scriptures that Paul is talking about, look at this statement: 'For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received'. Now 'first of all' there in the original language means 'of first importance', 'Of first importance I delivered to you this gospel that Jesus died and rose again'. Now here's a lesson if there ever was one, and it is simply that the gospel has to be the first important message that the church of Jesus Christ gives to this world today. The gospel is the first thing that we ought to proclaim, the gospel is the thing that the world ought to know us by! A paraphrase of this verse goes like this: 'I passed on to you what was most important, the gospel of the Lord Jesus'.

Now can I pause for a moment to address some of you parents and grandparents in our meeting: do we pass on to our children what is most important? We may pass on to them a trade; we may pass on to them an education; we may pass on to them a financial legacy - but do we pass on to them the gospel? I know we do do it, but do we do it first of all? Is that our priority? As a church social action is very good, charity and helping the poor, and we ought to do a little bit more of it I feel in evangelicalism today, but the fact of the matter is that the gospel of Jesus Christ must be what is central to everything that we do - and indeed the inference of the statement 'first of all' would be that the gospel must be the first thing that we do towards the unsaved. Can I ask those who preach among us, and I'm asking myself this question, in all the gospel messages that you have preached lately, how many times has the resurrection of the Lord Jesus featured? It is the central aspect of the gospel, and when I read the New Testament I find that the cross is not singled out on its own whenever the apostles preach the gospel, but whenever you find the cross you find the resurrection very close behind.

A lad once was gazing intently at a picture in an art store window, and that picture was displaying a notable portrait of the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus. The gentleman approached and stopped to stand beside the little boy and look in as well, and the boy saw the man's interest and said: 'That's Jesus'. There was no answer from the man, and the lad continued: 'Them's the Roman soldiers'. After a moment more of silence he then said: 'They killed Him'. The man could hold his peace no longer, and he said: 'Where did you learn that, lad?'. He said: 'I learnt it in the Mission Sunday School'. The man began to turn and walk away thoughtfully, and he hadn't gone far before he was hearing the voice of that young boy saying again: 'Say, mister', and quickly the little boy ran after him, 'Say, mister', he repeated, 'I wanted to tell you as well that He rose again!'.

Now here's the question: do we forget to tell them that He rose again? For without that there is no gospel! You can have all the cross and all the blood that you like, but if Jesus rots in the grave tonight we are damned and of all men to be pitied! But praise God, according to the Scriptures - in other words, in fulfilment of the Old Testament Scriptures our Lord Jesus was not only led like a lamb to the slaughter, but He rose again glorious, victorious over death and hell.

You can have all the cross and all the blood that you like, but if Jesus rots in the grave tonight we are damned and of all men to be pitied!

So the apostle appeals to the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures - now we would not have remotely time to go through them all tonight, we couldn't go through them there are too many, but if we could give you a survey of them. You will know the book of Leviticus, I'm sure - probably from not reading it because it's so complicated at times - but you'll probably have picked up this much about it: that it's about lambs that are slain, isn't it? And when we find John the Baptist, what is he doing? He's saying these words above my head: 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world'. The whole of the Old Testament sacrificial system points to the Lord Jesus Christ who would be the substitute for sinners and the Saviour of all men.

Now we could stop there, couldn't we? How, according to the Scriptures, our Lord Jesus should die. Leviticus chapter 16 specifically tells us about the Jewish Day of Atonement, we read in Isaiah 53 about the Lord Jesus Christ being the servant of Jehovah and the Lord laying on Him the iniquity of us all - all we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to our own way, it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, He made His soul an offering for sin. Now there's a lot in the Old Testament about the death of the Lord Jesus, what Paul says: that He died according to the Scriptures, even for our sins - but you might say: 'But where in the Old Testament are the prophecies concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the third day?'. I know of some Old Testament theological Bible scholars who say that there is no evidence in the Old Testament with regards to His resurrection. Listen to the words of the Lord Jesus, you could turn to them in Matthew 12 - remember the Pharisees were questioning Him about this issue of what He was going to do in His claims as Messiah, and he pointed them to the prophet Jonah, and he says that as Jonah went into the belly of the fish, and was in the depths and bowels of that fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man would be.

Paul the apostle compared the resurrection of our Lord Jesus in the New Testament to the firstfruits, which is an Old Testament type of the Lord's resurrection. The firstfruits of the crop, the best, the first fruit that was yielded in the fields was taken by the farmers and the people and was presented to God on the day following the Sabbath after the Passover. Let me go over that again: the Passover lamb was killed, and the day following that Sabbath the firstfruits were offered. Now since the Sabbath, as you would know, is the seventh day, our Saturday, the day after the Sabbath is Sunday, that is our Lord's Day - in other words, that is the day of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ when He came from the grave as the firstfruits - do you see it?

You've got it in the Old Testament alright, you've got it in the prophet Jonah that our Lord Jesus would be risen from the dead, you've got it in the type of the firstfruits. You've got it right throughout the Scriptures, I wouldn't have time to look at it, but we see the apostle in his pentecostal sermon in Acts 2 referring to Psalm 16, that God would not leave His holy One in hell, He would not leave His body to see corruption. In Hebrews chapter 2 verse 12 you get Psalm 22 quoted; in the New Testament in Acts 13 verses 32-33 Psalm 2 is quoted and verse 7, that the Lord would give unto His Son the heathen for His inheritance at His resurrection. And if you needed any more proof, and we could go over a lot of texts but we don't have time tonight, what more do you need than those two dejected disciples on the road to Emmaus that day, thinking that all their dreams had been shattered and their Lord and promised Messiah was dead, and the Saviour Himself draws near and goes with them and says to them in His tender compassions and grace: 'Oh fools, and slow of heart to believe' - what? - 'all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning' - where? - 'at Moses and all the prophets He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself'.

The first eyewitness that he cites and brings to the dock is the apostle Peter - who? The apostle Peter, yes, that one who faithlessly denied the Lord Jesus Christ three times...

Paul is telling them: 'Your experience of salvation through the gospel is proof that Jesus has risen again from the dead'. Now he's telling them that the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures, according to the Scriptures He died, according to the Scriptures He was buried, according to the Scriptures He rose again the third day - why is he telling them that? To show them that this is not some new thing, this is something that Moses and all the prophets have foretold, this is something that was in complete and utter fulfilment to God's will. He's laying down some case now, isn't he?

Here's the third piece of evidence: the eyewitnesses in verses 5 through to 10. Now before we look at them individually, you remember the words of Luke, who wrote the Acts of the Apostles, in chapter 1 and verse 3 he said that the Lord Jesus: 'shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God'. 'By many infallible proofs' - water-tight evidence is what Dr Luke is talking about. Now throughout human history in court cases, legal disputes, throughout every country and nation you could name, the testimony of honest eyewitnesses has been considered one of the most reliable forms of evidence in a court of law. The fact of the matter is, Paul now comes to use this form of evidence - personal testimony - to show that Jesus indeed has risen from the grave.

Here it is, but before I go on let me cite two experienced and qualified men on this regard of how important testimony is, and how they have found the testimony of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection as being trustworthy. The first is a lawyer, Sir Edward Clarke, he says this: 'As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the events of the first Easter day. For me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. Inference follows on evidence, and a truthful witness is always artless and disdains effect' - he doesn't put on a show, he doesn't need to - 'and the gospel evidence for the resurrection is of that class. As a lawyer I accept it unreservedly as the testimony of truthful men to facts they were able to substantiate'.

The historian Thomas Arnold, of Oxford University, writes like this from his historic profession: 'I have been used for many years to study the history of other times and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is better proved by fuller evidence than the great sign that God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead'. We don't need their verification, but does it not tell us something? Paul tells us the first eyewitness that he cites and brings to the dock is the apostle Peter - who? The apostle Peter, yes, that one who faithlessly denied the Lord Jesus Christ three times - yet Peter is the one who now, post-resurrection, is privileged to have a private, personal experience, audience, and visual appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I don't know much about legal matters, but I know this: that the value of evidence concerning witnesses is evaluated by two qualifications...

I tell you, isn't it lovely that even in the coldness of a courtroom, with all the legal evidence and theological intricacies of proving the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ that the lovely compassion of the grace of the Son of God can be seen even in that? Isn't it? Peter, tell Peter! How great is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ! Peter saw Him, and then he cites the twelve - now this has confused some because, if you know the gospel history you will know that there wasn't twelve, because Judas has gone to his own place. We know that the Acts of the Apostles hasn't transpired, where Matthias has been made that apostle to take Judas' place - so why are they call the twelve? Well, when you read through scripture you find that that is an expression for all the disciples - no matter whether there were twelve of them present or not - but the fact of the matter is Paul is saying that not only did Peter the apostle see the risen Lord Jesus, but all the disciples saw Him risen. Then he moves further, he speaks of the 500 who all saw him at one time, verse 6, 'After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep'.

He's telling them that on one occasion, and we have to say that we don't know exactly where that may be, in some field it might have been in Matthew 28 that we saw on the screen tonight, when the Lord Jesus was about to ascend to glory - we just don't know for sure, it may have been around Galilee. But the fact of the matter is: how could 500 individual personalities and intellectual brains hallucinate and be deceived about seeing the Lord Jesus Christ? This is what some sceptics say: 'The disciples were hallucinating, they were seeing the dream and the fantasy that they had' - 500 of them? I do not think so. Paul wrote that most of these men were still alive in his day - yes, some of them had fallen asleep and gone home to be with the Lord - but the point that he's making is this, 'Look: the one that's writing to you, I'm going to tell you in a minute, I've seen Him; the apostle Peter that you know and trust, he has seen Him; all of the disciples - do you believe them? - they have seen Him; and there are above 500 men who have seen Him too, and the majority of them are still alive - and if you want to substantiate what I'm saying', this is the crux, 'go and ask them!'. They're still alive, they can be cross-questioned if you doubt the trustworthiness and truthfulness of what I'm saying now.

I don't know much about legal matters, but I know this: that the value of evidence concerning witnesses is evaluated by two qualifications: one, the quantity of the evidence; and two, the quality of the evidence. Even in a witness, a defence or a prosecution will be looking for quality witnesses - someone who has a history of truthfulness - but they'll also be looking, if they can get it, for more than one man or woman who have seen this event. Now here you have it in this passage, the quality of these specific witnesses is represented by the apostles, the ones who heard the teaching of the Lord Jesus about not bearing false witness, about not lying, about not cheating, about not stealing and all the rest of the laws of our Lord Jesus Christ. All the apostles are known by name, they're quality witnesses who can be named and who can be found, and who could be easily questioned.

All the apostles are known by name, they're quality witnesses who can be named and who can be found, and who could be easily questioned...

What about the quantity of them? Well, there's only about a dozen apostles, but there's over 500 brethren who can be found and they all can be asked. Fourthly he cites James as another eyewitness, now most people believe that James here is the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. We haven't got time to look, but we're told within the Scriptures that he was one of the brothers of the Lord, half-brothers, who were sceptical about the Lord Jesus' claims, and they thought He was mad, they thought He'd lost His head thinking He was the Messiah, having all these dreams of great things about Himself - but we read that this same James, his whole life is transformed and turned upside down by what? The resurrection! If the resurrection was so hard to be believed, do you not think it would make a sceptic even more sceptical? Why is he suddenly changed? Because he saw the Lord! It would change you too, if you saw Him.

Then fifthly and finally Paul leaves himself to the last, characteristically, even though he is one of the greatest witnesses here. He says in verse 8: 'And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time' - that literally means that he was born out of season, because the apostles had already been called, the Lord Jesus had died and rose again, and most of these people that are cited as eyewitnesses saw the Lord Jesus during those 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension, but Paul is one born out of due season. The word is often used of an abortion in Greek, or of a birth that is too early, a premature birth, or of a miscarriage - but I think Paul is perhaps using it here to say that he was born again out of due time concerning the other apostles. As we read on we see this: 'For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church'. He puts himself last, he was a man who breathed out threatenings and murders towards the saints of God, he was going to round them up on the road to Damascus, maybe to feed them to the lions or the gladiators! But the fact of the matter was he had an experience with the risen, resurrected Christ. The man who was absolutely convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was dead experienced a radical change in his heart, a change that drove him to persecution and suffering that I would say is second to none to any Christian who has ever lived after him - and all because of the change that the power of the resurrection made in his life!

You can see even the change in these verses - verse 9: 'I am the least of the apostles'. I imagine Paul, before he was converted, he wasn't a very humble man - but there is a complete and utter absence of pride here, isn't there? The resurrected Christ had cast out his sin, and had entered in and was born in him, in the very depths of his personality. We read on: 'By the grace of God I am what I am', he had an appreciation of the grace of God - he wasn't labouring any more in the laws of Judaism, or any other rituals and regalia and regulations, but he knew that if he was anything it was because of the grace of God in his life through the resurrected Christ. We read on: 'His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me'.

Now if you stopped at 'more than they all', you would think maybe Paul has retrieved some of his old pride again - but the fact of the matter is what he is saying is: 'I have a humble admission of the accomplishments that I have in my life', it wasn't some kind of false humility, you know when you say to people: 'That went well tonight'...'Ach, no it didn't really'; or 'You're doing well'...'No, no, I'm not really' - false humility! That wasn't in Paul, but he was able to admit humbly that his accomplishments were not through his own strength, but were through the grace of God which was working in him. Do you know what that gave him? An honest appreciation of others in verse 11: 'Therefore whether it were I or they', whether it's me or the rest of the apostles preaching this message to you, we preach the same message that we believe. The bottom line is, it doesn't matter who's preaching it to you among the apostles - this is the truth of God's word, and it can stand up to the closest scrutiny!

The end of the story, praise God, is not sealed with a tomb, but up from the grave He arose...

Their experience of salvation through the Gospel proved it; the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures proved it; the eyewitnesses, Peter, the twelve, the 500, James, the apostle Paul proved it; and then finally in verse 11 the conclusiveness of the common message. We've already mentioned it: Paul joins himself with all the other apostles and all the other believers that believe in this glorious truth, and he states that no matter who it was who preaches it they will all be united in their testimony as to the Gospel, and particularly, peculiarly, the truth of the tenet that Jesus lives!

Now I just imagine that at this point Paul's readers would be saying to them in their minds: 'Yes, why are you trying to prove all this to us? We believe that Jesus was raised from the dead' - and then Paul would reply: 'If you believe that, then you must believe that we all will be in the resurrection of the dead, for the resurrection is not just important, it is the first importance! Because all that we believe hinges upon it!'. You may have heard of Thomas Jefferson, the great American statesman, what you may not know is that he was a religious rationalist - that means a man who explains away the supernatural because he cannot conceive of it and reason it in his mind, a bit like the Unitarians of our day, the non-subscribing Presbyterian Church who are not Christian, they're rationalists who do not believe in the blood, do not believe in the resurrection, do not believe in the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ or the afterlife. Thomas Jefferson, he wasn't a Unitarian but he was a rationalist, and he edited a Bible of his own - he decided to write his own Bible because God's Bible didn't suit his views and his reasoning. This is what he entitled his Bible: 'The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth'. He had no belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and thus he ends his Bible with these words, listen carefully: 'There laid they Jesus, and rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed'.

The end of the story, praise God, is not sealed with a tomb, but up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o'er His foes, He arose victorious o'er the dark domain and He lives forever with His saints to reign! If you were to enter life from a sealed tomb with a dying Saviour you would enter a hopeless world. When the great Christian scientist - I don't mean Christian Scientist in the cult sense, but a scientist who was a Christian - Sir Michael Faraday was dying, he was lying there on his deathbed and some journalists questioned him as to his speculations about life and death. 'Speculations?', he said, 'I know nothing about speculations, I am resting on certainties, I know that my Redeemer liveth, and because He lives I shall live also'.

Now we can criticise the Corinthians for believing that Jesus has risen again and that we will not rise again. We believe He rose again, don't we? But do we really believe that we will rise again? I'll tell you, if we did it would transform us, just like it transformed these early saints.

Our Father, we thank Thee that Thy Son was declared to be Thy Son by the resurrection from the dead. If He had laid in the grave, we would have known He was not Thy Son, but we thank Thee, our Father, that You put Your 'Well done' on Calvary by raising Him from the dead. He is at Thy right-hand tonight, and we bow and adore and praise His glorious name, and we say 'Hallelujah, Christ arose!', but we also say 'Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!'. Oh Lord, we look for that day when we will rise as He is risen, and we will be given perfect bodies, and we shall see the Lord, and we - wonder of wonders - shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Lord, we will be perfect one day, because of Christ's death and resurrection, and Lord we thank Thee, we praise and worship Thee for all that Thou hast done for us in the Lord Jesus. We praise His name, and we pray that we will go with His blessing, and any that have not had the Christ of God entering into their heart by His Spirit in salvation, we pray that the resurrection power even tonight would be unleashed in their being to know that Jesus is Lord and He is risen from the dead. To His glory we pray, Amen.

Don't miss part 38 of the 1 Corinthians Study Series: "Repercussions Of No Resurrection"Jump To Top Of Page

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Transcribed by:
Andrew Watkins
Preach The Word.
January 2004
www.preachtheword.com

This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the thirty-seventh tape in his 1 Corinthians series, titled "The Evidence For The Resurrection" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.

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