Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

What if the was no resurrection from death?

 

Atheists believe there is no god.  They believe we exist by chance for no reason and no purpose; we die without a purpose and without reason.  And when we die we simply stop to exist.  Our journey on earth has less purpose then our car or our clothes: at least that we bought for a purpose and it was carefully designed; though it has no soul and therefore it has no life after death.

Christians who understand that we exist by God’s will who wonderfully designed us, who placed us on this earth for a purpose and planned our steps till we die.  We also understand that we may have eternal life through Jesus Christ who took the punishment of our trespasses on Him, met God’s righteousness through his perfect life and resurrection.  He is now interceding for us at the Father’s throne, and one day He will return to judge the living and the dead.

The early church composed Creeds, which we still hold to as a true.  The Nicene Creed states:

I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. 

The Athanasian Creed state about Christ and the life to come in these words:

    At his coming all people will arise bodily and give an accounting of their own deeds.  Those who have done good will enter eternal life, and those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

The Apostle’s Creed simply states:  I believe in the resurrection of the body and I believe in life everlasting.

Is this what you believe?  Would you be happy to have these words read at your funeral:

We commit his/her body to the ground, dust to dust, in the sure hope of the general resurrection of the dead when our Lord Jesus comes again.

Would that be a true statement of the faith you now profess?  Or does it sound impossible for the body which has returned to dust to be resurrected and united with the soul again?  Do you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ to raise your earthly body when He comes again, then in glorified form, to then appear before the judgement throne of God pleading only on the righteousness of Christ to enter eternal life?

There were people in the congregation of Corinth who did not believe in the resurrection from death.  For them the life of Christ might have had some meaning  – even if was just for the moral lessons He taught or the example He set.  Some might even have gone a bit further, arguing that He paid the penalty for sins; so his and death was meaningful in some way.  But did He raise from the dead?  No.  There is no such thing.  The Sadducees also believed this.

The resurrection – it is the Gospel!

Paul uses the word “preach” more than once in this chapter.  He says this is what he and all apostles and disciples are doing all the time.  They simply took what Jesus Christ had taught them, and they continue with the teaching.

Preaching is therefore infinitely more than a Bible talk.  For some reason the idea of preaching a sermon has become old fashioned, and its place we have Bible talks.  No! Preaching is proclaiming the authoritative Word of God and calling people in the Name of God and his Son, Jesus Christ people to repentance; it equips the people of God for their task in evangelism and missions; it talks about this life and the life hereafter and how the child of God should prepare for it.

Paul states:  we preach Christ, Him crucified and Him resurrected.  He is marching victoriously before us to the end battle, and then He will come and take home those who have fallen in battle.  He will then deal with those who rebelled against Him and rejected his Lordship.

The proclamation:  Christ has been raised from death! Perfect tense, and God did it.  He is the author of life and He holds the keys to both life and death.

Yet, some said there is no resurrection from the dead.  What are the implications of such a statement?

What if there was no resurrection?

If there is no resurrection from death, Christ has not risen

The teaching of Christ, and the teaching about Him – in every part of it – would be empty; no content, futile, ineffective, in vain.  Sundays in church would be a waste of time and energy.  Spend your offering on yourself, because the ministers of the Word, and the support for evangelism and missions are a waste.

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:14, NIV)

Yet, Paul reminded the church in Corinth that they were saved by this Gospel!  They became children of God – first living in darkness of sin (as we read about the fall this morning from Genesis 3 – all just miserable curse of pain, suffering, pestilence, weeds and sickness without any purpose or plan, till death comes, and eternal hell become our home); the Corinthians understood  salvation in Christ.  The Gospel to them was no in vain.  To the Thessalonians Paul writes: …

our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. (1 Thessalonians 1:5, NIV)

O, how do we pray for this to happen in this church.  Lord, do your work of conviction and save those who still have not responded to receive the new life in Christ!  With all my heart I preach this Gospel because Christ rose again as conqueror over death and hell and satan.  With Paul I know this:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16–17, NIV)

 If there was no resurrection from death, our faith is empty

The preaching of the Gospel leads to faith. and this faith is in Jesus Christ who died and was resurrected. You you believe this?  Well if Christ was not resurrected, faith in all its manifestations would be hollow and futile.  Every promise which are a part of the gospel, would be a mere sound of words without reality.  If the preaching is a lie,  then those who believe would be trusting in a lie.  Ministers then become phoney salesmen selling goods which do not exist.

Gospel teachers would lie against God

More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. (1 Corinthians 15:15, NIV)

Preachers would be caught out (“found” in our text above) lying against (another translation for “about”) God, as if God did not raise his Son.  They can maintain their denial only by making all of the witnesses who saw the risen Saviour (from Peter downward to Paul) liars. They also make the ancient prophets liars, who bore a witness that God Himself had told them, namely, that he would raise up the Messiah whom He never intended to raise up.

Paul, as we saw last week, saw the risen Lord who instructed him and who sent him out.  If this Christ was not resurrected, then Paul would be telling a massive lie.  For what gain?  Why the torture, the hunger, the sleepless nights, the days in jail, the shipwrecks?  Wouldn’t it just be easier to then not tell a lie and carry on with a peaceful existence.  Why bother preaching the Good News if there is not risen Christ in it?

Our faith would be useless

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17, NIV)

There is a slight difference between this verse and verse 14.  The idea is that of futility in verse 14 – faith is hollow, without body; the idea here is that someone does believe, and acts on what he thinks he believes – only to find out that what was his driving force all his life was in fact “just a pie in the sky when you die”.  You live you life for Christ, you support the work of the church, you gave of your time and energy because you really believe what you are taught about Christ – but than when it all comes to an end, you discover is was all for nothing!

What drives you to be a Christian, to be part of a congregation, and to participate in Gospel work, if you were not sure that it is worth the while because Christ is alive and with you?  Or are you perhaps just an onlooker, not sure, skeptical and cautious to fully commit your life to Christ?  If you perhaps have doubts about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, you could be justified to be skeptical.  But, we preach the wonderful news of Jesus:  He rose to save you from eternal destruction, and He has gone to prepare an eternal home for those who love Him.  Of this you can be sure; you can put all your energy, love and effort in the work of the Gospel – it’s worth the while!

We would be living in sins

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17, NIV)

Despite all our good intentions and facades of being smart and good – even calling ourselves Christians – would be nothing more than just that, because if Christ was not raised from death, we would still be dead in our sins.  No difference between the church and the world.  We try to be good, but in the end the result will be just the same:  eternal death, because the wages of sin is death.  One commentator (CH Lenksi) puts it like this:

Make the Saviour what you please, if he failed to rise from the dead he is useless, for he cannot free us from our sin, the one thing for which we need a Saviour. If there is no resurrection, there is also no redemption, no reconciliation with God, no justification, no life and salvation.

How horrible: a church with a false Gospel, a hollow testimony, misleading people into meaningless lives, only to die a meaningless death.

One final word of warning

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19, NIV)

If calling myself a Christian is only aimed at what I may receive from Him here and now, like the multitude who followed Him for the bread and the fish – of all people I am most to be pitied.

After all, it is about life eternal:  it is about the living Christ who rose from the dead to save me and you from sins, who calls us to be soldiers in his army, and how we are going to stand before his judgment throne.

Amen.

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 17 April 2016

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