First Corinthians 15.51-58
1. Iím at a bit of a loss as to how to begin this eveningís
message. Those of you who have followed along in our study of First
Corinthians realize that we are now dealing with the last paragraph of
Paulís teaching on the resurrection.
2. I suppose if I were to try and relate what I personally thought
was Paulís emotional tone as he wrote First Corinthians chapter 15,
leading up to our text for today, it would be something like this:
3. The Corinthians were basically a group of people who were
spiritually asleep. Therefore, in verses 1 through 4, as he writes about
the resurrectionís prominence, he has the tone of someone trying to
wake a person out of a deep slumber. "Hey, wake up! You folks need
to remember how important the resurrection is to your Christian walk!
Stop being so casual about that empty tomb!"
4. Having awakened them, Paul then calms them down a little bit so he
can instruct them concerning things they have already been taught once.
I would imagine his attitude to have been one of patience.
"Remember the proofs we have, folks." This is in verses 5
5. "First, we have objective evidence. That is, we have the
eyewitness testimony of over 500 people, most of whom are still alive,
who saw our Lord after He was raised from the dead. And among those
witnesses, my friends, are some very famous people, including Simon
Peter, James the brother of our Lord, and me. I saw him, too."
6. "And donít forget our logical evidence of His resurrection.
Without the resurrection Christianity crumbles. And I surely wouldn't
risk beatings and imprisonment and the ever-present possibility of death
for something I didnít think was a reality, would I?"
7. Having brought them back to spiritual reality, Paul livened them
up with resurrectionís parade, a point by point review of the actual
sequence of the various resurrections. Christ first, followed by Church
Age Christians, then Old Testament and Tribulation period saints who
have died prior to the second coming of Christ. Thatís verses 20-28.
8. With his beloved but spiritually lethargic Corinthians now fully
awake, Paul sharply rebukes them for allowing false teachers to
influence them and for their lack of evangelistic zeal, as well, which
resulted from listening to and being otherwise influenced by the wrong
kind of crowd.
9. Then Paul rebukes those who have taught wrong. To be sure, he
tries to win them . . . but not until he has made sure that they have
been firmly told that their teaching was wrong. Thatís in verses
10. Paul has now fulfilled all of his obligations. He has aroused the
believers and pulled them back on the right doctrinal track, and he has
done his best to retrieve those responsible for the derailing. But I
canít help but think that as he wrote these words something was
building up inside him.
11. Folks, remember, this man had been caught up to the third heaven.
He had seen things that no other man has ever seen. He knew the glory of
the resurrection from personal observation. And I believe it had such an
effect on him that as he penned these words concerning our future
resurrection, which he had probably already seen in the Spirit, it
welled up inside him to the point that he thought he was going to pop.
12. But instead of pop, he wrote verses 51-58. Letís stand and read
what gushes forth from this man as he winds up his discourse on the
doctrine of the resurrection:
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall
not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an
eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead
shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on
incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have
put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality,
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is
swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave,
where is thy victory?
56 The sting of death is sin; and
the strength of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God, which
giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye
stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,
forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
13. Do you see that? What Paul is busting to tell his
readers before he moves on to another subject is that the reality of the
resurrection ought to result in a renewed determination to serve God, my
14. Eight points conclusively show this.
1A. FIRST POINT . . . THE MYSTERY
51 Behold, I shew you a
mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed
Two simple words to examine that will help us to
understand this "mystery."
1B. First, there is the word "mystery." It
translates a Greek word that refers to something which is known only
by those who are initiated, those who are on the inside, kinda like
the secrets of the Knights of Columbus or the secrets of the Masonic
Lodge, or the secrets of some other pagan religious organization. But
the great thing about this "mystery" of which Paul speaks is
that he initiates us. He actually takes that secret which was unknown
to us and tells us what it is. So, itís a "mystery" which was
concealed, but is now revealed.
2B. Second, the word "changed." This comes from
a word which means "to change to another, to transform."
What basically happens in this mysterious thing called the
resurrection, then, is that the believer is actually transformed into
something, someone, which he was not before. Praise God!
2A. POINT NUMBER TWO . . . THE MOMENT
52 In a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound,
and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
1B. Again we have that word "changed." Paul
wants to drive home the fact that someday, when we are resurrected, we
will be changed into that which we are not, at present.
2B. And when will that precise moment be? Paul tells us
that there will be a definite signal from heaven. When that signal
comes, and it will come, in the form of a trumpet blast from old
Gabrielís horn, we shall be instantly glorified and made ready for
an eternity in heaven.
3B. So, what Paul gives us in verse 52 is the time
(instantly, it will take no time at all), the timing (when the trump
sounds), and the testimony (we shall be raised and changed into
something which is incorruptible and cannot decay like our present
3A. THIRD POINT . . . THE MUST
53 For this corruptible must
put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
Two things here, really.
1B. "Corruption must put on incorruption." This
means that that which can and does decay must be
transformed into that which will not and cannot decay.
2B. Second, "mortal must put on immortality."
That means that that which is temporary must become that
which is permanent, that which does not endure must
become that which endures, that which is eternal.
3B. How does God accomplish this? By giving us a new
glorified body. It has to happen for us to be able to permanently go
4A. FOURTH, THE MEANING
54 So when this corruptible
shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on
immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written,
Death is swallowed up in victory.
1B. Paul is referring to Isaiah 25.8 here. Letís turn
there and read:
8 He will swallow up death in
victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces;
and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the
earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.
2B. Think about it for a moment and youíll see that
Paul has given us the meaning of this verse in Isaiah, written so long
ago. When you ask, "How can death be swallowed up in
victory?" the answer is this:
3B. When something is swallowed up it is totally
overwhelmed. There is no contesting the fact. A giant wave swallows up
the surfer who falls off his board. An avalanche swallows up the trees
and everything else that lies in its thunderous path.
4B. In like fashion, Paul is saying that Godís program
of the resurrection is so powerful, is so effective, is so complete
and overwhelming, that it totally defeats something which at one time
totally defeated us all . . . death. Thatís what he means when he
says that "Death is swallowed up in victory."
5A. POINT NUMBER FIVE . . . THE MOCKING
55 O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
1B. Do you see what Paul is doing in this verse? Heís
poking fun at a former enemy, a defeated adversary. Think about the
picture Paul is trying to paint in the minds of people used to seeing
fighting gladiators and olympic wrestlers and boxers, like the
2B. Folks, when you have an enemy that you have just done
battle with you always treat that defeated foe with respect. Why?
Because, even though you can whip him, just fighting him is an
unpleasant affair. Notice this next time a boxing match is on
television. They ridicule each other before the fight but embrace each
other afterwards. And they do that because during the course of the
fight each wins the otherís respect through the struggle that
3B. But Paulís mocking and derision of our vanquished
foe, death, is testimony to the fact that death has been beaten so
badly, through the resurrection, that it doesn't even deserve the
respect normally afforded a defeated opponent.
4B. Mock death. Ridicule death. Scorn death. Thatís
what Paul did. Why? Because he knew the reality and the power of the
resurrection, friends. What kind of life would you live if you had
that attitude toward death? A life like Paulís, I would suspect.
6A. SIXTH MAIN POINT . . . THE MAXIMS
56 The sting of death is
sin; and the strength of sin is the law.
What is a maxim? A maxim is a principle or a rule of
life. Letís examine the maxims Paul states here.
1B. "The sting of death is sin."
1C. Paul is talking about the sting that causes death.
What causes death? The Bible says that "the wages of sin is
2C. But how can a sting cause death when you have the
antidote? Folks, if you liken sin to a bee sting, the salvation
which we have in Christ is like the baking soda and water which
removes both the stinger and the poison.
3C. Only with the Gospel, weíre actually much better
off than before we were stung by sin. Our position in Christ after
we get saved is far superior to Adam's position before the Fall.
2B. Second maxim, "The strength of sin is the
1C. Sin refers to trespassing, like going on land that
youíre not supposed to be on. Law is like the owner's fence and
"No Trespassing" sign.
2C. Now, if there were no fence and no sign posted,
youíre not trespassing.
3C. Bottom line? As violators of Godís Law we are
overwhelmed by sin, because we are in territory that has been marked
"Out Of Bounds." The result of that is death. For that
reason, every human being born into this world is overwhelmingly
under the dominion of sin and death.
4C. Folks, that means verse 56 is very bad for us . . .
were it not for verse 57.
7A. THE SEVENTH MAIN POINT IS THE MERIT
57 But thanks be to God,
which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1B. Paul mocked death for being swallowed up in the
victory of the resurrection. But in the next verse, verse 56, he
points out that we ought to be losers because of sin. Sinners die. So,
2B. Jesus Christ, thatís what goes. His merit. Does sin
produce death to the sinner? Yes, it most certainly does. But Jesus
died in our place. Is the strength of sin the Law? Yes, it is. But He
fulfilled the Law for us.
3B. And what does all of this mean? It means that we have
total victory in Christ because of His merit. We get our victory, not
because we deserve it, but because He does. GLORY TO GOD!
8A. NOW FOR THE FINAL POINT . . . MOTIVATION
58 Therefore, my beloved
brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of
the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the
1B. "Well," You Say, "What Are We Supposed
To Be Motivated To Do?"
1C. First, we are supposed to be motivated to be "stedfast."
"Stedfast" comes from a word that means to be seated.
Itís Paulís way of saying, "Stay where you are. Donít
budge one bit. Donít allow people to come in here and move you
from those Biblical truths you have been taught." Folks, we are
to be motivated to be stable in our Christian life and in our
beliefs. A person who can be tossed about by every wind of doctrine
is not "stedfast." We are to know what we believe and why
we believe it.
2C. But even more fundamental than this application to
be doctrinally stable is Paulís exhortation to be geographically
stable. Itís like Paul is saying to these sometimes discouraged
believers, "Donít go anywhere. Donít leave the
Church." A stedfast Christian is a Christian who will not leave
his local Church.
3C. Second, we are supposed to be motivated to be
"unmoveable." Very similar to being "stedfast,"
except that this would refer to someone who is trying to move you.
"Stedfast" is donít you move and "unmoveable"
is donít let anyone move you. This is a sanctified stubbornness
when it comes to refusing to stop doing or being or believing what
you know is right.
4C. Third, we are to be motivated to be "always
abounding in the work of the Lord." This word
"abounding" means "to excel." What are you to
excel at, Christian? Many of us strive to excel at one thing or
another, whether it be business or sports or hobbies. Paul,
suggests, however, that we excel at being Christians, at bringing
the lost to Christ, and at putting Christ first. This is what we
should be motivated to do and to be . . . great Christians!
2B. But Why Should We Be Motivated To Be And To Do This?
1C. Very simply, because you know that youíre not
wasting your time by serving the Lord. We know that our "labour
is not in vain in the Lord."
2C. Spend your lifetime building a vast financial
empire and youíll do it all in vain. Why? Because youíre going
to die someday and itís going to burn someday. The only thing you
can possibly devote your lifetime to that will not be a vain
expenditure of effort and time is serving the Lord.
3C. Thatís why Solomon, after doing everything in the
world there was to do, without the slightest concern for financial
constraints, said that there was only one thing in this world worth
doing, only one thing in this world that wasnít a complete waste
4C. Ecclesiastes 12.13 & 14 records his thoughts:
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and
keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God
shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing,
whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
1. Though Solomon came to the same conclusion that Paul did about
living for God and serving God, his motivation for doing so was
completely different than Paulís.
2. Solomon discovered by personal experience, too late to do himself
much good, the futility of not serving God, of not remaining "stedfast,"
of not remaining "unmoveable," of not "abounding in the
work of the Lord."
3. We, on the other hand, have a motivation that Solomon did not
have. Whereas he knew comparatively little about the resurrection, we
know a great deal. We know, for example, that great things are going to
happen to Godís children and that no thing and no one can stand in the
way of it.
4. Further, we understand, from Paulís straightforward explanation
of the facts, that no Christian can possibly waste his or her time by
serving God, since God will handsomely reward those who serve Him. So,
what can you possibly lose by serving God? Nothing!
5. Think about it. If, because of the resurrection, you cannot
possibly win by committing sin, and you canít possibly lose by doing
right . . . why not just serve God with all your might? Amen?
6. Why not make up your mind to never move from where God wants you
to stand. Be stedfast. And never allow others to move you from where God
wants you to stand. Be unmoveable. And while youíre at it, excel at
serving God, winning souls, teaching Sunday School, working your bus
route, submitting to one another in the fear of God, honoring your
7. Only makes sense, if the resurrection is in your future.