First Corinthians 15, and you will remember hopefully, if you were here last week, that we looked at verses 1 through to 11 - which primarily dealt with the subject of the evidence for the resurrection. Paul gave us very very convincing evidence of why we can know that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. Now we know that he was doing that, not because the Corinthians did not believe in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, but rather they had failed to put their faith in the fact that one day, because Jesus had risen from the grave, that they would rise again. Therefore he's building up a case, and he does this by citing the fact that it is historical fact that Jesus rose from the dead. We take up our reading, maybe we'll read from verse 1 just to get the context, but our main portion for consideration tonight is verses 12 through to verse 19 - our subject: 'The Repercussions Of No Resurrection'.
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", that is Peter, "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". Here are our verses for this evening: "Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable".
There is a story, I'm not sure whether it's true or whether it is legend, of a German princess who, when she was on her deathbed, ordered that her grave be covered with a great granite slab, and that around that great granite slab be placed solid blocks of stone. She requested that the whole thing be fastened together with clamps of iron. On her tombstone should be cut these words, she said: "This burial place, purchased to all eternity, must never be opened". It just so happened that a little acorn was buried in the process of the covering up of the grave, and during the months that followed the seed sprouted, and the tender shoot found its way up through the crevice of the iron binding on the stones, and actually - eventually in its strength - pushed aside the rocks that were never to be moved.
I'm sure I'm true in saying that most of us, if not all of us, have stood by a burial place of someone very near and dear to us - a loved one. I'm also sure that perhaps we could say that we have felt the finality of the moment, that maybe we've even wondered if there is any hope left at all for us or for our loved one that seems to have gone into eternity. Maybe we have even questioned if the awful clutch of death would ever be released from their hearts. The fact of the matter is that death is a very human experience, literally, for us all. The grave threatens to sever us from our loved ones for all eternity. The tomb seems to be sealed forever to some people, never to be opened again. But the fact of the matter is, if we are Christians, we believe that the Christian hope is that those who have died in Jesus - in other words, those who have died having saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation - in their heart there has been planted a seed, if you like an acorn of hope, and when they are buried one day we believe that that acorn will blossom into the tree of a resurrection body.
If God does not leave even a little acorn or any insignificant seed in the ground, do you think He will desert a man or woman that is made in His image and, in fact, is twice His because they are redeemed by sovereign grace and precious blood? The fact of the matter is: there is for the Christian, for the child of God, even while staring into the deep and devilish eyes of death, there is a balm of comfort. That is why Paul could say that we sorrow, yes, but we sorrow not as others who are without hope - and the hope that we have as Christians is the hope of the resurrection. In fact, I would say that all we have to cling to, when death has stripped us of a loved one from our arms, is the truth of the resurrection.
One writer has said: 'It is the solace of a soon-coming spring in the bitter breeze of death's darkest winter'. As Christians, without a hope in the resurrection we are without hope at all in our lives, and at all in eternity. We have no hope if there is no resurrection of the dead! If you take away the resurrection hope from the Christian, you take away everything that he possesses. That is why Paul takes so seriously the Corinthian doubts that they, one day, would be raised from the grave. As every true preacher, what Paul does is he not only declares the truth of the gospel, that the resurrection is fact in verses 1 to 11 that we looked at last week, but he shows us the devastating results that would inevitably flow out of serious error with regards to this resurrection truth. If you like, what I have put as your title tonight: the repercussions of no resurrection.
We must realise tonight, as believers in Christ who are very privileged to have the word of God before us and meet in this fashion in a Bible study, that error with regard to fundamental truth is serious: because what we believe - and I've said it so many times, but it bears repeating constantly - what we believe affects, ultimately, the way we behave. That is what was happening in Corinth, there were serious ramifications and repercussions of their starting to believe that they would not be raised from the dead bodily one day. So Paul, in verses 12 to 19, lists the consequences, the repercussions of their denial of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
So let's look at them tonight under two headings: first of all we see there are theological repercussions if there is no resurrection. Somewhat as an offshoot of that we find Paul personalises these thoughts, and actually starts to speak to these people and says: 'Your faith is useless, you're still in your sins, your Christian dead have perished', and so on, 'Ye are of all men most miserable if there is no resurrection'. He comes right down to their individual level, and he tells them of the ramifications of personally believing that there is no resurrection for you.
So let's look first of all the theological ramifications if Christ be not raised, and if there is no future resurrection for us all. Verse 13: 'But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen' - now you might think that is self-explanatory, but his first line of argument is: if there is no resurrection for you, and I've just spent 11 verses proving it to you, but if that is true and there's no resurrection for you, you must conclude that what I have just said to you in fact is not true. Christ is not raised if you are not going to be raised one day. Now, his logic in arguing this is unanswerable. He's saying: 'Look, if there's no bodily resurrection for men and women like you and me, then Christ cannot be risen'. He almost looks them eyeball to eyeball, and says: 'Look, do you believe that? Do you really believe that Christ is not risen?' - and I can almost hear them replying: 'Of course we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is risen, we're not disputing that! But we are disputing that we will be raised one day!'.
Now let me just pause for a moment because we found ourselves in a courtroom scene last week, and it's almost reminiscent of that in this sense, that often when you're going to prove in a court of law, or just in everyday life, the possibility of any fact or the possibility of any occurrence taking place, all you have to do is demonstrate that it has already taken place at least once. Have you got that? To prove that something is possible, all that you need to do is prove that it happened once. You might have heard it as being described as a 'precedent' created - you've heard that, haven't you? A precedent has been created, a precedent for a conviction, and what we have here is Paul in verses 1 to 11, and now specifically verses 12 and 13, is saying: 'Look, you have got to believe in your own resurrection - why? Because a precedent has been created! If Christ has risen, you will rise; but if you're saying now that you're not going to rise, it means that Christ has not risen!'.
It seems strange, perhaps, to you that they could accept one part of the truth - that Jesus has risen from the grave - without the other, that they would rise from the grave one day. It is a bit confusing because the two truths are inextricably linked - we're very fond of that phrase in the province, but here is where it applies: the two come together, Christ's resurrection, and our resurrection - so how could they be confused? How could they believe that God could do it for Jesus, but He cannot do it for us? Now I think to understand this we have to look a little bit at the cause of their confusion, and you have to look to the historicity in the context of the Corinthian church. Now you remember many many weeks ago I spoke to you about the fact that the Corinthians had imbibed some Greek philosophy. Many of them in this church, whether it be because they were converted out of this philosophical background, or whether it was there were false Christian, so-called, teachers going around the church starting to espouse this false doctrine - they were looking to a doctrine of dualism within the universe. Now let me explain what that is: they were becoming spiritists in the sense that they believed that everything around them physically was evil, your body is evil, this pulpit is evil, anything around you that you can touch and feel and sense is evil; but the spiritual realm is all good. Many believers, perhaps, in this church had imbibed this philosophy - and therefore you can see what the ramification of that was: they were absolutely appalled at any suggestion that after you died that your body would be raised from the grave, because the body to them was worthless, in fact it was sinful, it was the seat of the sinful nature.
They believed that the body was like a prison for your spirit or your soul. They believed that the day that you died, that your soul, like a bird from a cage, would fly into paradise and you would realise your true self and utopia. That is why Paul, as we saw last week in Acts 17, was mocked when he preached of resurrection in the Greek city of Athens - it was foolishness to them, foolishness to the Greek! Now perhaps - it's only a suggestion, but I think it carries a great deal of weight - there were those coming into the Corinthian church and saying: 'Look, we believe that Christ rose from the dead, but He didn't rise bodily'. These type of 'forefathers of Gnostics' we could call them, were saying that Christ rose from the dead but He rose spiritually, not physically, spiritually. Therefore when you live on - they were saying that you become extinct in eternity, or you don't live on - but when you live on, you live on spiritually and you will never live on physically again, because Christ's resurrection was only spiritual therefore your resurrection was only be spiritual. It was this dualism.
Now to believe that, they had to believe that Christ was not a man - have you got it? Because if Christ was a man, He was flesh and blood like you and me, and if He was a man and inhabited a body that meant that that body was evil, and they couldn't equate in their mind that the body of Christ could be evil, therefore they decided that Christ came but he was not really a man or at least He wasn't fully man, He only appeared to be human. Consequently, when He died on the cross - I hope you're putting all this together now - when He died on the cross He only appeared to die on the cross - have you got it? Therefore, when He only appeared to die on the cross His resurrection did not need to be a bodily resurrection because He didn't have a body!
Now maybe you think that this is all intricate detail that I don't need to go into tonight, but the fact of the matter is this: this is what the Christian Science movement teaches to this very day. This is what spiritualism, the spiritist church, teaches in our city. This is what Jehovah's Witnesses believe: that the Lord Jesus did not bodily rise from the grave, but had some kind of spiritual resurrection. This is what modern theologians, Christians so-called, are teaching in our theological halls: that Christ did not bodily rise from the dead, that it doesn't really have to be the case that He needs to rise bodily from the grave, as long as He's with us in spirit and our spirits will go to Him one day.
Now let me show you how important this is - Romans chapter 1, turn to it with me - we read in verse 1 of Romans chapter 1: 'Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)' - what is the gospel of God? 'Concerning', verse 3, 'his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh' - He was a man. John says in 1 John 1: 'We saw Him', our eyes saw Him, our ears heard Him, our hands handled the Word of life - He was a real human being. Now here's verse 4: 'He was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead'. Now here's the truth of God that castigates and exposes all error, whether it was in Paul's day or our day, the resurrection of Jesus Christ evidences the humanity and the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Have you got it? That's why it's so important, that's why men want to deny it, if they're wanting to deny the deity of Christ they deny the resurrection - even those wanting to deny the humanity of Christ deny the resurrection and make it some kind of spiritual thing. But God rose Jesus from the dead in the flesh, of the seed of David, and while doing so He declared Him to be His Son by the resurrection of the dead.
Let us never imbibe the lies of the cults! Jesus said to John on the isle of Patmos in that wonderful vision in the book of the Revelation: 'I am the Alpha and Omega, I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of death and hades'. This is our Saviour, and I'll tell you this: this is the great issue, the great issue in religious debate today is not only ecumenism, or the charismatic movement, it is not about what is mortal sin, what is morality and what is not; the real issue today and what always has been the issue is this - and never forget it - what think ye of Christ?
I was talking to someone recently, and they were getting engaged in debate with a Jehovah's Witness or a Mormon, and they were starting to discuss about who Jesus was. This friend of mine said - I hope it's nobody here, it doesn't really matter - said: 'Well, I tried detour him away from the person of the Godhead, because I felt there was more important matters'. I said: 'Don't make that mistake, that is the important matter! That is the only matter!'. That is the matter upon which truth and error is divided - Jesus said to Simon Peter: 'Whom do men say that I am'. 'Some say that you are Elijah, Lord; some say that you're John the Baptist come back from the dead; some say you're Jeremiah the prophet'. 'Who do you say that I am, Simon Peter?'. 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God' - and the Lord Jesus said: 'Upon this rock I will build my church'. Now the Saviour is a Rock of course, but I believe in that passage specifically that the rock was not just the Christ, but the statement of truth of who the Christ was! The resurrection is evidencing for us that He was man, but He is and always shall be God.
Now let me show you the importance of this, turn with me to 2 John, that little epistle at the end of your New Testament. Second John - John was a man who wrote often against the Gnostics, I quoted to you from 1 John chapter 1, and now we're coming to 2 John. You do remember in the gospel of John, how did he start off his gospel? 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' - and later on, I think it's verse 14, what does he say? 'And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory'. Now here in the second epistle of John, of course there's only one chapter, and in verse 7 we read these words: 'Many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist'. You can't get much clearer than that! Anyone who says today, no matter if they call themselves Christian missionaries or not, that Jesus did not come in the flesh, that the Son of God was not made flesh by the seed of David, and took upon Himself the likeness of sinful flesh apart from sin, is antichrist and we ought to have nothing to do with them!
Now we must move on - but is that not a fundamental fact: if there is no resurrection, that means Christ is not raised Himself. Now we're going to see, like dominoes, Paul begins to pile the arguments to topple this Corinthian pagan philosophical reasoning. The second point of argument is this: if Christ is not raised, and if you do not rise again, verse 14, then is our preaching vain. The word in Greek for 'vain' there is the word 'kenos', which means 'empty' - not having substance. Now why is that such? If you're not going to be raised again from the dead, why has our preaching no substance, why is it empty, why is it vain? Well here's the first reason, we looked at this in a bit more detail last week, we don't have time tonight, but here's the fundamental factor: Jesus Himself, the Lord, promised that the third day after He was taken by wicked hands and slain He would rise again, 'Destroy this temple and in three days I will build it again'. Now that's a fundamental reasoning - if He didn't rise again, or if there is no resurrection for us, our preaching, our gospel preaching is nonsense! Jesus must have been deluded, He must have been fooled by someone or fooled Himself into thinking He was Messiah and the Son of God. He must have been deceived, or else He was a deceiver! He was a wicked man who was getting people to follow Him, and ultimately follow Him to perdition and to hell because He knew that He wasn't going to heaven, He knew He wasn't going to Calvary to die for sins, He knew He wasn't going to rise from the grave! Listen, those are the only options that you have if you have come into this meeting tonight and you think that Jesus was a good man, or a prophet, or a mighty preacher, but you don't think He's the Son of God; that is not a logical option that you can take - you must believe He's a liar, He's a lunatic, or He is Lord!
There is no other logical conclusion, and if He was deceived or a deceiver, the second point why our preaching would be in vain is because He could not be worthy of our trust. How could you ask people, whether you're an apostle or not, to trust in a Saviour who cannot be trusted, to trust in one who has lied? I'll tell you this: if He did not rise from the grave we have no way of knowing, even though we can preach it till we're blue in the face, that His death has any greater value than your death or mine! Have you got that? All the preaching in Christian history from the apostles through the reformers, to the revivalists, to our modern age - all of the missionaries - is a fabrication of historical inaccuracies and blatant lies! For if He did not rise from the dead: one, He is not God; and two, He did not work a work on Calvary to be qualified to be our Saviour.
One Christian author has said this and said it well: 'Christianity is Christ, and if He is not who He said He was, and if He did not do what He said He had come to do, the foundation is undermined and the whole superstructure will collapse. Take Christ from Christianity and you disembowel it, there is nothing left!'. What a folly it would be to preach about a man who lied and is dead rotting in a grave. Do you see it? If we're not going to rise again, that means Christ didn't rise again, and that means that our preaching is futile. The offshoot of this is the response of people to the message would also be in vain - your third sub-point: faith in Christ is empty. Look at verse 14: 'our preaching is in vain, and your faith is also vain'. What value is there in trusting in an empty message, a message that doesn't mean anything? Prince Charles says that when he takes the throne, that he will become the 'defender of faith' - do you know that although we believe that we are saved by grace through faith alone in Christ, it is not so much individual segregated faith that saves us, it is who our faith is in. That is so important: you could have faith in Buddha, and in Mohammed, and in every religious leader and organisation in existence - but the fact of the matter is that the quality of faith takes its character from the message that it believes in. Your faith is not worth anything unless your message is authentic, and if your message is vain, and your message is empty, and you're teaching that Jesus died and rose again and to trust in Him, and He didn't die for sin and He didn't rise again from the grave - your faith means nothing, it is empty!
Let's face it, as you go through the Acts of the Apostles and the rest of the New Testament the overemphasised preaching of the apostles was this: that because Jesus died and rose again He has now power to save men and women - is that not what Hebrews says? 'He has the power to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him seeing', what?, 'He ever liveth'. Faith in Christ is empty and there is no power to change lives, no point in having faith in Him, if He is dead in the grave.
Fourthly, he goes further in verse 15: 'Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not'. The apostles - 'we' he says - and the witnesses, all of them, of the resurrection were liars. Now this is the point at which Paul now knocks, I believe, the Corinthian position into the grave itself. He is hammering the final nail in the coffin of this belief, that somehow you can have an airy-fairy faith that Jesus rose again, whether bodily or spiritually, but believe that you will never rise again - it just is impossible. Here's his reason: we are the apostles that are preaching this bodily resurrection! Is our message to you empty? In fact, worse than this, we not only would be liars by preaching this to you, but watch this phrase in verse 15: 'we would have testified of God wrongly'. Now please ponder that statement for a moment, because that is terrific. The apostle here is saying that all of the apostles and the witnesses to the resurrection that we named in the evidence last week in verses 1 to 11 - Paul, Peter, the apostles, the twelve, James, the 500, and others - all of them were standing in the dock giving evidence against God! If God didn't raise Christ from the dead as they publicly state that God did raise Christ from the dead - what are they doing? They're misrepresenting God in their preaching! They make themselves to be liars, that's the apostles now, indeed they make every Christian throughout the whole of Christian history to be liars - Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John and Charles Wesley, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, D. L. Moody - you can go on and on and on, they're all made to be liars and false witnesses, and of course the one that crowns them all is the Lord Jesus Christ for He led them all astray.
God would have been misrepresented in their preaching, do you not think they had to be sure that what they were saying was certain and was accurate? May I just say in a remark of footnote, that it is very important whenever we preach from any pulpit with an open Bible that we never misrepresent God. It can be done you know, the divine character was being falsified, it was being publicly stated that God did something that He did not do. The fundamental factor is this: if the apostles could not be trusted in this so intrinsic matter to their message, how could they be trusted in other matters? How could they be trusted when Paul says: 'we preach Christ crucified'? How could He be trusted? The contemporary application of this, by the way, is this: anyone who denies the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is a witness against God - isn't that ironic? Those who come to your door and call themselves Jehovah's Witnesses, are in effect witnesses against Jehovah? For He has risen His Son from the grave!
Well, these are the theological repercussions if no resurrection: Christ is not raised, the gospel preaching is futile, faith in Christ is empty, the apostles and witnesses were liars. Now let's look at how Paul makes this personal to them in verses 17 to 19. Personally speaking he says: 'And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain' - now in verse 14, you might think: 'Well, he's already said that...our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain' - but in verse 17 this is a different word that he uses for 'vain', it means 'lacking in result', not 'empty' but 'lacking in result'. It's talking about how their faith practically and personally is futile, it is fruitless; in other words it's without effect, it doesn't figure.
Now we don't want to be too selfish as we view salvation, but the fact of the matter is surely faith is to benefit the sinner, isn't it? It's to benefit us in our sin, and in subsequent Christian life it's to benefit us day by day as we walk by faith and not by sight, as we live by faith and take the promises of God by faith - but it is impossible to have a fruitful faith, an effectual faith, if the object of our faith is dead! Do you see it? Your practical faith, personally, is useless!
Now the next statement shows us where that type of faith leaves us, in fact it leaves us where it finds us: in our sin. You are still in your sin, that's the case - in verse 17 he says: 'ye are yet in your sins'. Now let me explain this to you, because I think sometimes we misunderstand these facts about the significance of the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The Christian's salvation, your salvation, involves not only a cancellation of your sin - it's not just about having your sins cleansed away, and the penalty of your sins being taken away from over your head - but salvation is a contribution to you from God, not just a cancellation but a contribution, there is a gift to you. Now if we could simplify that like this, and it is making it a little bit too simple, but for our understanding if we could say that cancellation was done at Calvary. The cancellation of our sins was through the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, but that contribution of new life, the gift of the eternal life, was and is through the resurrection of Jesus.
Now let me show you this, because so often in our gospel preaching we leave out the resurrection of Christ. Turn with me to Romans 4, Romans 4, and mark this verse because it's very important, Romans 4 verse 25 - we'll read verse 24: 'But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences', that's Calvary, that is the cancellation of our offences through His blood - now here's the contribution in salvation: 'and was raised again for our justification'. Now listen: you see this being delivered for our offences, the cancellation of our sins - it means absolutely nothing, unless Jesus rose from the grave and contributed to us eternal life! Now get this tonight: a negative salvation that claims to do away with your sins means nothing, unless it can be justified and proved. What good is a salvation that does away with the sins of our past, but doesn't deal with our present or our future? That is the kind of salvation you and I would have if the Lord Jesus was not raised from the dead. Now mark this: the cross' significance is in the Lord Jesus' resurrection - a dead Saviour is no use to anybody!
Some of us love to sing on a Sunday evening:
'My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought,
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to His cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord O my soul'.
Rubbish, if He did not rise from the dead! Do you know why? How would we know that my sin was nailed to His cross? How was God going to tell me that He was a satisfying sacrifice for my sin? The resurrection justified us, and was God's 'Amen' to Christ who He was, the Son of God, vindicated at His resurrection, and what He did, the work that He finished and cried and said He did on Calvary - but there at His glorious coming forth from the tomb, He was vindicated - not in crucifixion, but in resurrection! God did raise Him from the grave, and that is why the Corinthians needed to believe that they would be raised themselves - because Jesus told the disciples: 'Because I live, ye shall live also'. In Acts chapter 5 the apostle preached to the Jews and said: 'The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins'.
Can you grasp this? How would we know that our sins were washed away at Calvary if Jesus had not come from the grave? Do you know the tragedy of this, and it might be hard for you to imagine - I think the longer we're saved, maybe, it is - but you would still be in your sins just where you sit. Here's a further implication of that: if you were still in your sins, that means your Christian dead would have perished - verse 18 - and you one day will perish too. 'Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished'. Now let me say first of all in qualification that this word 'perish' never ever means 'annihilation' - there are some evangelical scholars, so-called, who tell us that once you die you're done for, and that God wipes out the soul, sort of extinguishes the soul, and you're unconscious of anything - in fact you're totally and utterly destroyed, a sort of cessation of being. Vine, that great Greek scholar, says that this word 'perish': 'It is not loss of being, but rather loss of well-being'. Do you see the difference? The loss of well-being - it speaks of ruin as far as the purpose for which a person or a thing was created. But put simply and bluntly in this context to us tonight, of all the terrible implications of what would happen if Christ had never rose from the grave, what Paul is now saying is: 'Those who died that we loved in the church and in our families, who died trusting in Christ, they're in hell tonight!'.
It's almost unthinkable, but Paul says that is the repercussion of not believing in your own resurrection. They're in hell - do you know why? Because Christ has not been raised for their justification as Romans 4:25 testifies, and therefore they have no advocate before the bar of God's justice. They have been condemned standing in their own unrighteousness, rather than robed in the righteousness of Christ. Do you know what that means? All our funerals are a farce, all our committals where we talk about leaving a loved one into the ground in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, it's all hot air if Jesus has not risen from the dead! But praise God, He has! And we one day will! That's why Paul could say in 1 Thessalonians 4 that those who died in Christ, albeit described as falling asleep, they are assured of a resurrection - do you know why? For the dead in Christ shall rise first - have you got that? Is it clear enough? Here it is, this is why we believe it, but praise God we're living in the good of it - that our loved ones have gone to glory! They are absent from the body, yes, awaiting the resurrection, but they're present with the Lord and one day they'll go body, soul, and spirit to be with Him and be like Him for they shall see Him as He is.
Here's the fourth personal repercussion if there's no resurrection: we are the most pitiable people, verse 19, 'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable', or most pitiable. Do you know what this says? Living believers are as wretched as those who have died without Christ if there's no resurrection - most pitiable. I believe what Paul is thinking of here are the sorrows, and if I had time I could turn you to the sufferings of the great apostle, to the trials that he experienced, the persecution from his enemies, all that he had to undergo as afflictions for the gospel. He's saying: 'Look, if this is all a farce and a fairytale, all of this suffering and sorrow and trial and persecution and affliction - it would be for a false cause! And I would have wasted my life for it all, and that is pitiable - I think it is pathetic!', he says.
It certainly is a tragedy, but you would be wasting your life for Christ now, right now, if there is no resurrection for you and there was no resurrection for Jesus. Sometimes I hear people say, even from the pulpit: 'If I found out there was no God', imagine that, 'or that the Lord Jesus Christ was not Saviour and Lord, I would live my life all over again as a Christian' - do you think like that? I don't. I wouldn't live life as a Christian, not a bit of it! Not the suffering, not the persecution, not the trial, not the temptation - let me tell you why: Jesus says, 'Him that follows me, let him take up his cross and follow me daily. Him that loses his life for my sake will find it' - did you hear that? 'Lose your life for my sake' - what would be the point of losing the present world, and losing the world to come, because there isn't one - at least you could gain this world! But as a Christian we have given up this world, because we believe that there is hanging over our heads a greater world - what would be the point of it all if that was only pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die? I'll tell you, Hebrews chapter 11, that hall of faith, should be called the hall of the foolish - yes, Abel, and Enoch, and Noah, and Abraham, and Sarah, and Moses, Rahab, David, the prophets and all the rest - what were they faithful for? Faithful for nothing! We read in that chapter that they were mocked and scourged, and imprisoned, and stoned, and afflicted, and ill-treated, and put to death in vain!
We have given up the pleasures of this world - I hope you have - and follies of it. We have become strangers and pilgrims in this land and in this world, but if it's all a mistake we'll lose both worlds! But we are glad to give it all up, why? Because we gain life with Christ! Maybe the reason why you're not giving up this old world is because you don't really believe there's life with Christ farther on - if you really believed it, you'd be living for that world now. We then could say, with the prophet in Psalm 73: 'Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure', or with the servant of the Lord in Isaiah's prophecy: 'I have toiled in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing in vanity' - but the fact of the matter is, Peter says 'We have not followed cunningly devised fables, but with infallible proofs we have had it evidenced to us that Jesus lives!'. No longer thy portals are cheerless, Jesus lives the mighty and strong to save - Hallelujah!
Now Paul has fully demonstrated the folly of such teaching, that you can just believe that Jesus rose again but you don't have to believe that we are going to rise again as believers - such a message, I think he has laid down very clearly for us, would not be glad tidings, that would be sad tidings because the result of it would be...let's recap it: faith would be empty, preachers would be liars, practical faith would be useless - you would be unsaved, still in your sins! Your departed saints, friends and relatives, would be lost and in hell; and you would be living today in this world deceived and duped, and ultimately going into eternity lost yourself! But hallelujah, the resurrection is true, and He is alive, and because He lives we shall live also! Come on now: do we believe it? Do we really believe it? That's why the Reformers, many of whom became martyrs, because they believed it. The Covenanters, and the missionaries, that's why they didn't prize this world - because they were living for a world to come, because the resurrection is true and their resurrection is true!
'If Easter be not true,
Then all the lilies low must lie;
The Flanders poppies fade and die;
The spring must lose her fairest bloom
For Christ were still within the tomb--
If Easter be not true.
If Easter be not true,
Then faith must mount on broken wing;
Then hope no more immortal spring;
Then love must lose her mighty urge;
Life prove a phantom, death a dirge--
If Easter be not true.
If Easter be not true,
'Twere foolishness the cross to bear;
He died in vain who suffered there;
What matter though we laugh or cry,
Be good or evil, live or die,
If Easter be not true.
If Easter be not true--
But it is true, and Christ is risen!
And mortal spirit from its prison
Of sin and death with Him may rise!
Worthwhile the struggle, sure the prize,
Since Easter, aye, is true!'
Praise God, it's true! If it wasn't true, we should well take the advice of Solomon and eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die. But it is true - tomorrow we go home, and soon we will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and be rewarded. A wounded soldier, knowing he was going to die, took his little Bible out of his pocket, and he placed his finger on John chapter 11 verse 25 where Jesus said: 'I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live'. As the blood ran down his finger it caused his finger to stick to the page of the Bible at that verse when he died - it was stuck! And for us, I'll tell you, it is sure, and it is a certain hope because we stake our whole eternity on it! The declaration of not only the apostles and prophets, but the angelic messenger is true: 'Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen!'. He is risen, can you say 'He is risen indeed'? He is risen, He is risen indeed, praise His name.
Our Father, we thank Thee that we can say 'Lo He sets in blood no more, for He is risen, exalted and at Thy right-hand, the Prince and a Saviour'. Father, we thank Thee tonight that Christ is risen, and we shall rise also, and our faith is not in vain, neither is our preaching in vain. We thank Thee that we are not in our sins tonight, and we will never perish - and as Christ has told us, neither shall any man pluck you out of my hand, or my Father's hand. We thank Thee, our Father, that we are not of all men to be pitied, but of all men to be envied; for we have Christ in life and in eternity, and nothing shall the bond sever. I am His, and He is mine, and neither death nor life will separate us from His love. Glory be to His name, and may His life, His resurrection power be uplifted in our lives now and evermore. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the thirty-eighth tape in his 1 Corinthians series, titled "Repercussions Of No Resurrection" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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