"RESURRECTIONíS POWER"

First Corinthians 15.51-58

INTRODUCTION:

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 through 19.

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 29-50.

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 friends.

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 bodies).

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 to heaven.

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 Corinthians were.

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 ensues.

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. Amen?

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 death."

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 law."

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, what goes?

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 Lord.

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 of time.

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."

CONCLUSION:

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 parents.

7. Only makes sense, if the resurrection is in your future.

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