I Corinthians 15:20-34

Dr. Steve Viars August 29, 1992 1 Corinthians 15:20-34

- Tonight we're going to be going back to I Corinthians 15
for our second study on the Resurrection
- we're asking the question - What are the practical results
in our own lives of a firm and growing belief in the
resurrection of Christ?

- last week we looked at the first 19 verses and we saw that
there was no question that the Corinthians believed in the
resurrection of Christ
- he went ahead in verses 1-11 and reminded them of some
reasons why we ought to have that belief, and why we
ought to be growing in that belief
- but he reminded them several times - I know you believe
this - "here's some good reasons why you should and
this should strengthen your faith in the resurrection
of Christ - but I know you believe it."

- the problem came in verse 12 - because Paul had gotten word
that there were some in the church who believed in the
Resurrection of Christ, but did not believe in the
resurrection of believers
- Paul took verses 12-19 to describe the disasterous effects
of not believing in the resurrection of people.

- we approached the verses from this perspective
- hopefully we're not like the Corinthians
- we believe in both the resurrection of Christ and the
resurrection of people
- so we turned these verses around -- and asked - "What
should be happening, both theologically and
personally, if you and I have a firm and growing
belief in the resurrection of Christ and a
resurrection of people?"

- now in the verses we're going to look at tonight - verses
20-34, Paul's going to do this:
- He's essentially saying -
- Now I'm assuming you believe in both the
resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of
- and I'm assuming you've thought through some
of the initial implications of that belief

- now it's time to add some more truth--some more
details and knowledge about the resurrection,
- so we can derive more practical benefit from
this critical doctrine

- (illus) many of you know that this summer, our family went
a week early to the June Institute out east and spent a
week with some friends on the NJ coast.
- one of my friends has a younger brother who had just bought
a new boat.
- this was a beautiful boat, designed exclusively for
fishing on the ocean.
- I thought the best ministry I could have with his younger
brother was to go fishing with him one day to help
celebrate this new purchase.
- I was very interested in the way he tied his boat to the
- I'm used to tying a boat with one or two ropes and that's
about the end of it.

- when we got down to where his boat was docked, it looked a
spider had started to spin a web there were so many ropes.

- he had ropes coming off each corner.
- he had special ropes that came around the propellers to
protect them.

- of course his reasoning is - they get some bad storms down
there--and he wanted his boat to be as protected as
- so his philosophy was - the more ropes the better.
- that way, the boat's secure -- it's stable
- it can handle a storm, regardless of which direction
it came from or how intense it was

- that's really what Paul's doing here
- he gives us some truth
- he gives us some ways that ought to apply
- he wants us to "tie that to the dock"

- now in these next verses he wants us to give us another
- and then to think about some additional
applications of those truths

- the goal- after the process is all through and all the
verses have been considered
- is that our understanding of the resurrection has
been developed.
- and our faith in the resurrection has been increased.
- and as a result are in a better position to be the
kind of people we talked about last week -- folks who
live in light of the resurrection
- not just at Easter time--but every day

- with that in mind - let's look at verses 20-23 to see the
next rope Paul gives

- Read 20-23

I. We Should Be Encouraged By The Order Of The Resurrection

- see, we talked about the fact of the resurrection--now
we're going to talk about the ORDER of the resurrection.
- Paul tells us that:

A. Our Lord's resurrection was the "first fruits."

- Before a Jew could harvest his crops, he was
required to bring a representative sample to the
priests as an offering. (Lev. 23:9-14)
- this was a very joyful offering, where the person
thanked God for the crop He had provided, and the
harvest that was yet to come.

- so the meaning was: (1. meaning)

- it always preceded the harvest - first in order

- it was always the first installment - more was
expected to follow

- the significance of that is this: (2. significance)
- HIS Resurrection requires ours - He's the first
fruits of an entire body of believers who will
be resurrected afterwards.

- Now you might say - How was He the first? Other
people had been resurrected from the dead.
- that’s true

1) Widow at Zarephath's son - I Kings 17:21
2) Shunamite woman's son - II Kings 4:34-36
3) Unnamed man - II Kings 13:21
4) Widow of Nain's son - Luke 7:15
5) Lazarus - John 11:44

- so it's true that others had been raised from the dead

- but our Lord's was still first - Because He was the first
person in all of human history who was raised from the
dead and never died again.
- POINT is - Our Lord's resurrection is a permanent
- His was the first of it's kind
- and be encouraged - because it's just like the first
fruits offering
- His resurrection guarantees yours and we ought
to do a better job of connecting those two events
in our minds
- The concept of our lord's resurrection and the
concept of our own resurrection can not, and ought
not to be separated

- he develops that in verses 21-22 by telling us:

B. It is a great privilege to be "in Christ."

- there's a contrast going on in these verses between
what it means to be born "In Adam" and to be born
"In Christ"

"In Adam"

1. born in him

2. through Him we inherit a sinful nature - Rom. 5:19
- For as by one man's disobedience, many were
made sinners.

3. progenitor (forfather) of everyone who dies
- Rom. 5:12 - Wherefore, as by one man sin entered
into the world, and death by sin, and so death
passed upon all men, for all have sinned.

4. physical death - vs. 21 - For as in Adam all die.

5. spiritual death

- Paul wants us to stop and think about the negative effects
of being a human.
- think about our creaturely weakness
- think about the weakness of the flesh

- The Corinthians needed to hear that
- there was so much pride about human wisdom and human
ways of doing things.
- In fact, I think we could say that many of the
problenms they were facing in this book is because
they were living in the flesh.
- they were relying on human wisdom and that didn't seem
to bother them.

- paul says - think for a minute on what it exactly means to
be born in Adam.
- we need to hear that too.
- its pretty easy to overemphasize what can be
accomplished by humans.
- it's pretty easy to get all anxious about getting
the right candidate in so we get all the world's
problems solved.

- It's good to be reminded that being born in Adam is
nothing to get all puffed up about.

- but the contrast of taht are those "In Christ"

1. born again "In Him"

2. through Him we receive His righteousness
- II Cor. 5:21

3. progenitor of everyone who lives - John 8:25 -
"...he that believeth in me, though he were dead,
yet shall he live."

4. physical life - vs. 21 - even so in Christ shall
all be made alive

5. spiritual life

- point is - Paul is trying to encourage us by the order of
the resurrection.
- our Lord is the "first fruits"
- because we are "in Him," His resurrection
guarantees our own.

- now let's put one more concept on top of this and then
we'll talk about some applications.
- Paul says in verse 23 - "every man in his own order"

C. Our Lord's resurrection insures that we will be raised
in "our order."

- now you understand--we're not talking about the
resurrection of the spirit.

- when a believer dies - his/her Spirit goes immediately
to heaven.

- II Cor. 5:8 - We are confident, I say, and willing
rather to be absent from the body, and to be
present with the Lord."

- unbelievers, when they die, go immediately to hell.

- when we talk about the resurrection of people--we're
talking about the resurrection of our glorified bodies.
- other passages of Scripture tell us the specific order.

1. resurrection of the church - the rapture - I Thes.
- "... the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we
who are alive and remain shall be caught up
together with them in the clouds."

2. resurrection of the Tribulation saints - Rev. 20:4 -
at the end of the tribulation.

3. resurrection of OT saints - Dan. 12:2, Isa. 26:19-20
- many Bible scholars believe that this resurrection
takes place at the end of the trib. as well

4. Resurrection of those who die in the millennial
- the Scripture doesn't spell this one out - but
there has to be some sort of ressurection for
those who die during the millennium.

- if a person is not a part of one of those four
resurrections--then they will be part of the resurrection
of the unjust
- John 5:29 speaks of this as does Rev. 20:11-15
- this is where unbelievers are resurrected for the
Great White Throne judgement at the end of the
- where they will be judged and be cast in the
lake of fire

- John reminds us in this passage that thus
terrible judgement results in the "Second
- eternal separation of God forever.

- now I realize that we just talked about a lot of ideas, but
the main point Paul wants us to come away with in these
first four verses is:
- we ought to have a closer connection in our minds
between our lord's resurrection and our own.

- one theologian said it this way - "The present age is
easter time. It begins with the resurrection of the
redeemeer, and ends with the resurrection of the redeemed.
Between lies the spiritual resurrection of those called
into life in Christ. So we live between two Easters, and
in the power of the first Easter we go to meet the last

- see, have a closer connection in our minds between our
Lord's resurrection and our own.
- I'd like to present to you tonight that I don't think we do
this very well.

- We said that week that this whole idea of growing in our
understanding of and appreciation for the resurrection
comes in stages.
1) It begins with "dejunking" the Easter holiday itself.
- putting focus on our Resurrected Savior instead of
all the worldly substitutes to divert our
2) Next step is having agrowing apprecation for the
resurrection of Christ each and every day.
- because of the resurrection, our Savior is alive
- he wants to work in us today, even though we're
seven months away from the Easter holiday.
- that ought to challenge us, encourage us,
strengthen us
- because it is easter everyday for a believer
in Christ

3) but the critical step that comes next, according to
these verses--is mentally connecting the resurrection
of Christ with our own coming resurrection....which
could be today if Christ returned for the church.
- see, we are "living between 2 resurrections."

- the believers at the church of Corinth would have
been in a much better position to get busy making
all the changes Paul has talked about in this book
if they had a better focus on that truth.
- and you and I, as well, would be in a better
position for growth and service if we did had a
better focus on this truth of the order of the
- Jesus is the first fruits - therefore we're
living between two resurrections - His that
has taken place-
and ours - that will surely take place in
the future.

- Paul's going to point out some specific applications of
this in later verses--but let me just suggest some here.

- Why is it that some believers get so upset when things
don't go their way?
1) "I deserved that promotion and I'm going to stomp
and snort till I get it."

2) "She's not going to treat me that way and and I'm
going to lash out when I'm not treated the way I
want to be treated"

- see, isn't this true - some of us can really "go off" when
things don't go our way today
- what's wrong with that?
- it's a failure to recognize that "there's more to life
than this."
- in light of eternity, some of these things we get
so upset about aren't going to matter much.
- some of us have our feet si firmly fixed on this earth
- this is the most important thing on all the earth
- if it doesn't go my way--I'm just going to lose it

- Paul would say - Be encouraged by the first fruits
- because Jesus was resurrected--you too will be raised

- (illus) - roof - Kris and I have been having some problems
with a leak in our roof
- some of you know how frustrating that would be
- I've worked on it a number of times and had some other
people out to help me.

- a couple of weeks ago, we gave it the complete overhaul
- I was sure that thing would never leak again
- the good news is - it didn't leak (for the last two
- of course it didn't rain, either (or at least not
very much)
- we went home after the monster mailing Wednesday
night - (remember that rain)

- and it had leaked again (not as bad - but it leaked)

- now I'm sure you wouldn't have any trouble with that
- but there's a side of me that would like to take a
couple of sticks of dynamite, and blow that roof accross
the cornfield
- but biblical truth needs to temper our responses when
things don't go our way.

- this isn't the only thing in life
- this isn't the most important thing in life
- our resurrected Lord can help me please Him in this
- some day I'll be resurrected myself and have to give
an account for how I handled this.

(If time - Indy BBC story)

- We should be encouraged and challenged by the order of the

- Paul adds to these ideas in verses 24-28 (READ)

- see, we ought to be encouraged by the order of the
resurrection, but:

II. We Ought To Stand In Awe Of The Climax Of The

- these are great verses to look at before beginning our new
Adult SS Series.
- you know that we'll planning to have Walk Through The Bible
Come in November and do a "Walk Through The Old Testament"
program where we can overview the whole OT.
- we're also planning to do an overview of the NT in SS this
- our goal is that every one of our adults will
faithfully be involved in each program and as a result
will have an overview of the entire Bible.

- the verses we just read cause us to think about the overall
message of Scripture....
- to think about the big picture and what will finnaly be
accomplished by our resurrected Lord

- Paul says in verse 24 that:

A. The Kingdom will be delivered

- immediately our minds ought to think back to creation

1) God created our world and all the beauty of it.

2) He then made man in his own image and likeness so men
and women could subdue their world,
- and exercise dominion in submission to his rule
and reign.

- but he also gave man a free will, because he
wanted that submission to be voluntary in response
to His goodness.

3) But man sinned and rebelled against God's authority.

4) This rebellion was so bad that God's comentary on the
condition of mankind in Genesis 6 was that "every
imagination of the thoughts of his heart were only
evil continually."

5) Even after the flood, man turned around and displayed
his pride and rebellion again by building a tower to
reach to the heaven.

6) So God in his patience began making covenants to man
(Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph).
- he promised to give them a land, and seed, and

7) But even after God's patience and love, men and women
violated their side of the covenants--and went after
other gods.

8) Finally God said - I will make a new covenant, where
I'll write my law on your inward parts.
9) Of course that's what our Lord was alluding to when He
said in the upper room - "This cup is the new
covenant in my blood"

10) Ever since the Jews formally rejected the Messiah,
Christ has been building his church.
- people who's sins have been paid for
- people, who out of love for him, want to obey, and
want to serve - and want to live under his
- people who are being remade in his image.

11) The day is coming, when the church will be raptured,
and according to Rev. 5, Jesus Christ will take the
title deed to this earth, and begin the Tribulation

12) Afterwards, he will establish His millennial kindgom
on this earth, where He will rule and reign on the
throne of David in complete fulfillment of all of the
OT prophecies of a coming kingdom.

- the subjects of that kingdom will be his glorified
saints -- you and me -- who have been resurrected,
and glorified, prepared to live for Him and serve

- at the end, that kingdom will be presented to the Father,
where our Lord turns over the restored world to His
Father, who sent Him to recover it.

- Paul wants us to stand in awe of that
- just like Peter, James, and John stood in awe at the
- after Peter "got quiet", the passage says "the disciples
fell on their face, and were very much afraid.

- Paul says - think for a moment about the climax of the
- Think about our great savior who paid the price so that
we might be redeemed.
- think about our great Lord - who has the power to judge
and destroy evil forever.
- Think about our great king - who will reign with
righteousness and justice on the throne of David.

- Think of the marvelous plan and program of God where He is
redeeming us and our world from Sin.

- With the hymnwriter our response should be - Hallelujah -
What a Savior.

- some of us desperately need that to have "that rope tied to
the dock."
- some of us need to think about this because of the
STABILITY it brings.

- things are not spinning wildly out of control

- being related to Jesus Christ is being related to the
One Who is and Who will be victorious.

- isn't this true - some of us respond to situations as if
the Lord was completly out of the picture
- or if the Lord was wringing his hands up in heaven,
wondering how all of this was going to come out.

- so we worry, and we fret, and we manipulate, and we try to
work things out our way

- the resurrection has a climax, and that should result in

- it should also result in confidence
- in Christ, we are personally related to the One who is
the Victor

- God doesn't want us to be intimidated by evil

- it doesn't matter how many degrees that professor
has behind his name who ridicules the Bible.
- it doesn't matter how loud that person can talk who
says that everyone should have the right to an
- it doesn't matter how popular if it's not popular to
be a Christian at your school or job, or even if
there's a little ridicule that goes with it.

- We ought to be growing in our understanding of and faith in
the CLIMAX of the resurrection.
- and as a result - be able to say with the apostle Paul
- Thanks be unto God who always leads us to triumph in
Jesus Christ.

- I am going to whip that sinful habit because I'm
personally related to the Victor.
- I am going to take a stand for Christ where I go to
school and where I work.
- I am going to seek to win others to Christ.

- I'm not going to be intimidated by the world, the
flesh, or the devil.
- My Savior's alive, and He will triumph.

Paul says:

B. All enemies will be subdued

- literally - he says in verse 25 - "they'll be put
under his feet"
- just like a general or a king would humiliate his
beaten enemy by putting his boot over the conquered
enemy's neck
- our Saviour will triumph and He will
deliever his kindgom to the Father.

- question is - will we live today in a way that's consistent
with that truth?
- will our belief in the climax of the resurrection result in
strength and confidence?

- See, what we're asking tonight is: - How developed is your
understanding of the resurrection?
- How robust is it? - How mature is it?

- every person who's a believer here tonight would
surely say - "I'm beyond the Easter Bunny stage."
- hopefully everyone would say - "And I'm working on
seeing the implications of Christ's resurrection

- but how about what we're talking about tonight?
- How about adding additional strands of thought
that will help your understanding of your
faith in the resurrection increase?
- how about getting as many ropes out there to
tie down the boat as possible?

- Paul says - When you think of the resurrection:
1) Be encouraged by the order - His resurrection
guaranttes our own.
2) Stand in awe of the climax.
- What a wonderful Savior.
- What a wonderful plan.
- What a wonderful priviledge to be included in that

- Paul completes this section by saying:

III. We Ought To Be Challenged By The Implications

- READ 29-34

- the implication from verse 29 is:

A. If you're not saved, trust him today!

- this verse contains a very unusual phrase "being
baptized for the dead."

- now of course the Mormons and perhaps some others
teach that a person here on earth can be baptized
in the place of a person who has already died.
- kind of like a surrogate baptism.

- we know that can't be what Paul is talking about.

1) No one is saved by being baptized, even if
they're being baptized by themselves.
2) We can't make decisions on behalf of others-
there's never an example of that anywhere in

- the writer of Hebrews said, "It is appointed
unto man once to die and then the
judgement." (Heb. 9:27)

- There's several possible interpretations of this
verse that wouldn't violate other passages of
Scripture, but probably the best one is to
understand the word "for" as "in the place of."
(that's a very natural meaning of that preposition)

- so Paul's argument would be - "If there's no
resurrection, why should we be so busy trying to
get new people saved and baptized and brought in
the church to fill the places left by those
believers who have already died?"

- that's a great question - The answer would be - there isn't
any reason.
- but just like we did last week - because we know there IS a
resurrection -- we have to turn that idea around.
- point would be this - Since the resurrection of Christ
is absolutely sure
- and since the resurrection of people is clearly
linked to the resurrection of our Lord
- if you haven't yet trusted Christ--do so today!

- do so because the Saviour's alive and in the business of
saving people.
- do so to be delivered from Spiritual death.
- do so because it's part of the Father's plan of redemption

- Be saved today!

B. Believe that any danger/hardship associated with
living for Christ is worth it.

- Paul says in verse 30 - Why should we stand in
jeopardy every hour?
- vs. 31 - Why should I die daily?
- vs. 32 - Why should I fight wild beasts...
- if there's no resurrection.

- the answer is - you shouldn't
- a person would be crazy to subject themselves to any
hardship whatsoever in the name of Christ if the
Savior's not alive.

- but the Savior is alive - and that means that any
danger/hardship associated with living for Christ is
worth it.

- Please think with me about that idea for a minute

- what hardships might you associate with being a
believer in Christ.
- any one you could name - Paul would want us
to write over it - "It's worth it - Our
Savior's alive-and one day we will be
resurrected as well."

- People at school make fun of me - It's worth it.
- It makes me go against my feelings - It's worth it.
- It makes me have to think more carefully about life - It's
worth it.
- I can't be the Big man on campus - it's worth it.
- It means I don't have as much descretionary income - it's
worth it.
- It means I can't cheat and steal and get away with things I
used to - It's worth it.

- see, whatever hardship you can possibly imagine thats
associated with being a Christian
- it's worth it - because our Savior is alive

- Paul says:

C. Believe that holiness has a purpose

- Paul quotes some of the philosophers of the day at
the end of verse 32 when he says - If there's no
resurrection, then why are we trying to grow in
- we might as well eat, drink, and be merry.

- that's exactly right.
- listen, if there was no resurrection - I'd change
some habits of behavior starting tonight

- The first thing I'd do - I'm going to Mountain Jacks
and I'm going to have about a dozen slices of mud pie.
- because if there's no resurrection, I'm going to start
treating this body the way I want to.
- no more of this stewardship business.

- then I'm going to go buy a pipe - cuz I've always liked the
smell of that stuff -- and if this is my body again--I'll
do with it what I please regardless of the effect.

- and we could go on and on and fill out that picture with
some things a lot worse than the ones I've just
mentioned. -- because Paul's exactly right -- If
there's no resurrection, there's surely no reason to try
to grow in holiness.

- but of course there is a resurrection
- and therefore we want to do what Paul said in verse 34:
- awake to righteousness and stop sinning
- holiness and growth are given purpose and meaning
because of the resurrection.

D. Guard you companions

- evil company corrupts good morals.

- we talk a lot about this verse and rightly so.

- but it's good to factor it in to the context.
- some believers choose their friends as if the
impact their friends is going to have on them
really doesn't matter.
- As if their Savior isn't alive or doesn't care.

- but the savior is alive and He does care.
- I need to be friendly to everybody but I need to make
my closest companions and friends people who love God
and can stimulate me to love and good works.
- Because I'm going to be resurrected some day - and I
want to be able to give a good account.

E. Be Appalled that some don't know about our resurrected

- Paul says, some have not the knowledge of God. I
speak this to your shame.

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and five grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video