The Gift that Overcomes Death

Steve Viars December 22, 2007 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

 

- well, it’s two days before Christmas – maybe this is an appropriate time for me to ask – what do you think you’re going to get this year?...

- have you been checking the packages?

- this is the time of year where advertisers put special emphasis on their commercials and some of them have been pretty funny...

- during Monday Night Football this week, Best Buy ran one—perhaps you’ve seen it...

- where a guy comes up to his friend next to a Christmas tree and starts to hand him his gift...and his friend said...I thought we weren’t exchanging gifts this year...

- then he sees that the box is from Best Buy...and so he grabs it from him but the man says...that’s OK, I’ll just keep it...so they start fighting over the package...

- and the second guy says – no, I bought you something, really...

- so he doesn’t want to let go of the package so he just slides one from under the tree with his foot over to his friend and says---here, here’s what I bought you..

- and the man says – that’s not even my name...so they end up on the floor fighting over the gift from Best Buy...

- hopefully you won’t have any of those experiences at your home this year...

- another cute one is from a jewelry store where a husband and the kids wake up early on Christmas morning....and they’re standing at the top of the stairs after turning on the lights...and guess who’s down at the tree peeking in her gift?...its mom, who couldn’t wait to get that new piece of jewelry...

- I hope everybody here receives some very nice presents...since the deacons wouldn’t take us to Bermuda---we really deserve something especially nice this year...

- but what about this---what if Christmas this year wasn’t your loved one giving you something you wanted, but taking away something you didn’t want?...

- maybe you owe money on your car or your house...so you have a payment book that sometimes becomes a little inconvenient...

- what if somebody took that from you and paid it off?...you don’t have to be concerned about that payment book any more...that would be pretty good, wouldn’t it...your gift was having something removed that you don’t want...

- or maybe your house has a leaky roof...and it seems like whatever you do or whoever you call, it still leaks...

- what if your gift was...no more leaks...that will be taken care of...you’ll never have to worry about that again...your gift was something being taken away...

- or maybe its something even more significant...maybe you’ve been facing job insecurity...and so you have to be concerned every day about whether the boss is going to call you in and inform you that you’re part of the next round of layoffs...and under the tree someone had the ability to say to you---you will never face job insecurity again...

- or maybe you or a loved one have an illness...we could think about this in dozens of ways...

- in fact most of us would say...I would happily return everything I’m going to receive this year if somebody had the power to remove ______ from my life.

- that would be some Christmas present...

- well, what about this?...what if someone had the ability to remove the fear of death?...

There is a preacher of the old school but he speaks as boldly as ever.

He is not very popular, though the world is his parish and he travels every part of the globe and speaks in every language.

He visits the poor, calls upon the rich, preaches to people of every religion and no religion, and the subject of his sermon is always the same.

He is a very eloquent preacher, often stirring feelings which no other preacher could, and bringing tears to eyes that never weep.

His arguments none are able to refute, nor is there any heart that has remained unmoved by the force of his appeals.

He shatters life with his message.  Most people hate him, everyone fears him.

His name? Death.  Every tombstone is his pulpit, every newspaper prints his text, and someday every one of you will be his sermon.

- those words are hard, but they are true...even on a holiday weekend.

- but what if there was a gift that could remove the fear of death from your heart, and from your life?...

- would that be a Christmas gift that you would greatly treasure?

- with that in mind, would you open your Bible to I Corinthians chapter 15?...[p. 138 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you]...

- this Christmas season we’re talking about Reaching the Ultimate Height...

- all year we’ve been talking about that guy on the bulletin cover, signifying us individually and as a church...trying to get to a better place in our relationship with the Lord and our service for Him...

- what we’ve been investigating this Christmas is...where does that road ultimately lead?...what does the Bible tell us about...heaven...

- and the answer is...a lot...the word is mentioned over 500 times in Scripture...

- so far we’ve studied II Corinthians chapter 5 and Revelation chapter 21---two core passages on this subject...

- this morning finds us in another of the primary texts on heaven...it’s the great resurrection chapter in the Bible...I Corinthians 15...

- here we learn about The Gift That Overcomes Death.

- read I Corinthians 15:50-58...

- now, one of the question is...how does that happen?...the perishable inheriting the imperishable?...

- and what about the person who doesn’t even believe in the concept of resurrection?...

- is this really that important?...

- and what will we be like in heaven?...will we know each other?...

- will married people still be married?...will we eat?...

- will we look the same or different?...will we still have friends?...will we remember things that happened on earth?...those are all good questions...

- please look back now at the beginning of the chapter to find a context through which to evaluate all of that...

- read I Corinthians 15:1-49

- with the time we have remaining, let’s study these verses to find Four truths about the resurrection of the believer to help put death in its proper perspective.

I. The Witnesses of the Resurrection.

- I understand that there may be folks here today who would say – PV, in this sophisticated age in which we live, I’m not sure I really believe that anyone or anything could be resurrected from the dead...is that a big thing, or a little thing...

- well, the answer from Scripture would be...that’s a big thing...but there are also reasons to believe it...

- this isn’t a fable...or a fairy tale...something that people talk about with their fingers crossed behind their backs...did you notice the reasons enumerated in this text?...

A. The testimony of the Scripture – vv. 3-4.

- Paul says in verses 3-4...this is the core of the Christian faith...

- the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ...that’s the gospel...that’s the good news we proclaim...

- in fact, some persons refer to these two verses as “the gospel in a nutshell”...

- but notice what he said twice in these verses...

- v 3. – according to the Scriptures..., - v. 4 – according to the Scriptures...

- sometimes skeptics say things like---you pastors, you just expect people to check their brains at the doors and believe whatever you say...

- nothing could be further from the truth...in fact Paul especially commended people in the books of Acts for listening to what he said...and then carefully evaluating his words in light of Scripture...

- often the apostles would be speaking to people who knew the Old Testament very, very well...

- and that is one of the aspects of Christianity that is so breathtaking---it’s the way Scripture fits together...

- the Bible predicts in exact detail, hundreds of years before the first Christmas...exactly where Jesus was going to be born, though Bethlehem was just a small obscure place...

- and predicts that Jesus would be born of a virgin...again seven hundred years before it occurred...though such an event was unheard of...

- it predicts that because Herod wanted to kill the baby Jesus that Mary and Joseph would have to flee to Egypt...

- dozens and dozens of specific details about his birth, his death, his resurrection were predicted hundreds and in some cases thousands of years before they occurred...Paul’s point is – its not that these things are hard to believe---they’re hard not to believe...what answer could the skeptic possibly give to the issue of the testimony of the fulfilled Scripture...

- if you are still considering these things, I would encourage you to do 2 things this Christmas season...

- I would encourage you to read Isaiah 53 and honestly ask who/what that is talking about – the suffering Messiah is the crucified and risen Jesus...

- I would also encourage you to read the early chapters of the books of Acts, because there you will find a series of sermons given to people who often knew their Bibles well, and so the sermons connected the historical facts of Jesus Christ to various places in the Old Testament...helping the hearers connect the dots...

- now, Paul didn’t stop there...because there is also...

B. The testimony of the apostles – v. 5

- these men risked, and in many cases gave their lives to proclaim this message...

- what did they possibly have to gain by proclaiming a message that they did not believe to be true?...only a lunatic will suffer, and in many cases, die for a lie...

C. The testimony of the eyewitnesses – v. 6-7.

- remember, the book of I Corinthians was written in approximately AD 55...

- and the Bible is clear, Jesus appeared to hundreds of people after He was resurrected...

- how many people’s testimony is required in court to demonstrate the truthfulness of their word?...1, 2, 3...

- seldom would you have a court case of any kind were there were this many living eyewitnesses...

- and Paul acknowledges...some of them have now died...but what does verse 6 say?...

- v. 6 - most of whom remain until now

- in other words, go ask them...they saw and in some cases interacted with the resurrected Christ...go ask them...

- what does the skeptic do with that kind of evidence?...

D. The testimony of Paul – v. 8-11

- the apostle goes on to say...and I’ve seen him too...

- and what Paul especially points to in his case is...look at the way I’ve changed...

- I used to be a persecutor of the church...I did everything I could to discredit His message and kill his followers...

- but Jesus Christ and His gospel has dramatically changed me...

- and that would have tugged at the hearts of a lot of the Corinthians...

- remember back in chapter 6...Paul made this whole list of people who would not enter heaven...fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, etc...

- but what did he say at the end of that list?...

- I Corinthians 6:11 – 1 Corinthians 6:11 - Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

- they knew that the resurrected Christ had dramatically changed their lives in ways that could only be described as supernatural...

- the point is this – our faith is not based on a nice story, or a fable, or make believe...

- this is why Peter would later say...2 Peter 1:16 - For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.

- our hope of heaven isn’t wishing on a star, it’s not pitching a penny in the well...

- it’s examining the historical facts about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and then choosing to place our faith in Him...in our view it is easier to believe the evidence than to ignore it...

- now, let me ask you this question...did Paul think people in the Corinthian church, for the most part, believed this?...

- I think you would have to conclude yes, based on the way he described them in verses 1-2...

- verse 12 explains it – there were some among them who said there was no such thing...

- which is why Paul launches into an extended discussion of...

II. The Significance of the Resurrection.

- I’ll just buzz down these quickly for sake of time...but they are all important...

A. Our preaching is in vain – v. 14a.

B. Your faith is in vain – v. 14b.

C. Your witness is false – v. 15.

D. Christ has not been raised – v. 16.

E. You are still in your sins – v. 17.

F. Those who have died in Christ are eternally lost – v. 18.

G. We are of all men most to be pitied – v. 19.

H. We are all still just in Adam – v. 21-22.

I. Christ is not reigning – v. 23-24

J. Christ’s mission has failed – vv. 25-28.

K. Leading others to Christ and baptizing them to take the place of those who have died is worthless – v. 29.

L. Our sacrificial service is vain – vv. 30-32a.

M. We may as well live for today – v. 32b

- Paul summarizes that whole argument in verses 33-34 –

- 1 Corinthians 15:33 - Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

- and that verse is used to teach all sorts of things, but in its context, the point is...

- if you make your closest companions the kind of people who don’t believe in, or understand the significance of the resurrection, they will draw you away from Christ, and the kind of life that is based on these truths...

- then he says...I Corinthians 15:34 Become sober-minded as you ought [in other words, think carefully about these things...], and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

- stop sinning in what way?....failing to proclaim these ideas because in your heart you really don’t believe them...

- some have no knowledge of a God powerful enough to raise someone from the dead...[and you understand---that is the key issue---is your God powerful enough to do supernatural things?...]

- some have no knowledge of this kind of God...Paul says to the Corinthians, some of whom were very weak in their faith...I speak this to your shame...

- now, I’ve organized this outline to follow the text but you can plow all of this equally well in the opposite direction...

- when people choose to believe what the Scripture teaches about this matter...when they choose to be sober minded...

- they naturally want to share this knowledge of God with others...and instead of experiencing shame, they can experience joy in their faithfulness to proclaim the message...

- now, in verse 35, Paul takes the discussion one step further...read v. 35 – 36 [stop at “fool”]...

- that is obviously a very strong rebuke in the Bible...not because someone had a legitimate question...but apparently because Paul was aware of people in the church who weren’t asking honest questions to learn, but were presenting undermining ideas to discredit the message...

- Paul just appeals to their logic by giving them a series of...

III. The Illustrations of the Resurrection.

A. A grain of wheat – vv. 36-38

- before a plant can grow, the seed has to die...

- the fermentation process is what leads to new life...

- that’s why he says in verse 36 – that which you sow does not come to life unless it dies.

- please keep that in mind because it is going to become a key point in how God wants us to think about death...

B. Different kinds of flesh – 39-40.

- the argument was...we can’t go to heaven with this flesh...

- Paul says, wait a minute, there’s even different kinds of flesh on earth...

- the flesh of men, the flesh of birds, of fish...everybody knows that...

- you will one day have a body, but it will be different than what you have now...

- if God can pull that off on earth between His different creatures today, He can certainly do that in heaven among His people later...

- he also says...there are...

C. Different kinds of glory – vv. 40-41.

- the sun is glorious for one reason, the moon for a different one...

- but if you know Christ, some day you will have a heavenly body, and it will be glorious...

- that’s why Paul says at the beginning of verse 42...that is the way it is with the resurrection of the dead...

D. Conclusions.

1. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable one – v. 42.

- we all know this...our bodies are perishing...we can do all kinds of things to try to slow that process down, but we all know its happening---

- think about this---the resurrected Christ will some day give you an existence that will be imperishable...

- I don’t know if we’ll ask the question in heaven – how are you doing, but the answer will always be “marvelous”...and that answer will always be true...

2. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory – v. 43.

- we do the best we can to honor the bodies of those who have died...but at the end, that body is buried, or handled in some other fashion...all of which result in a condition that is dishonorable...

- when that body is raised...it will be glorious...

3. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power – v. 43.

- we feel that weakness, even here and now, don’t we?...[cf. tearing down the Living Nativity...]

4. It is natural body, it is raised a supernatural one – v. 44

E. Light from other passages.

1. Will we know one another in heaven?

- absolutely...

- you remember when Jesus met with several OT prophets on the Mount of Transfiguration – Jesus wanted to give His followers just a glimpse of his glory in heaven...

- and even though these men had been dead for many years, Jesus recognized them as Moses and Elijah...

- we retain our identities...

- for those of you who have lost unborn children or children in infancy...please think of this...

- that happened to King David...and one of the things that gave him hope and the ability to endure that tremendous trial was the knowledge that he would one day see his son...[cf. II Samuel 12:23 – He cannot come to me, but I will go to him.]

- and he wasn’t speaking about some faceless, nameless entity...he knew that one day he would see his son...cf. Psalm 23 – I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever]

- another question that often comes up is...

2. Will I still be married to my spouse in heaven?

- often that is asked from the perspective of, my wife/husband was the closest friend I ever had...I can’t imagine not being with them in heaven...

- others whose spouse has died and has chosen to remarry might wonder...how will that work?...

- the Bible is clear about that...Matthew 22:30 - For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.

- you might say – I have trouble picturing that....

- please keep in mind that there will no longer be any sin – so you will have delightful relationships that are not marred with sin with many, many people...

- if you have a good marriage now, thank God for that...

- in heaven it is not that you will be losing something, you’ll be gaining much more in ways we can’t even imagine...

3. Will we eat in heaven?

- absolutely...its heaven...

- in fact, perhaps this will help...your body will be very similar to Jesus’ after the resurrection...1 John 3:2 - ...We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

- He ate with His disciples after the resurrection...

- but his body was not limited to time and space after the resurrection...

4. Will I be disappointed in heaven?

- John MacArthur summarized this part of the study by reminding us that in heaven, we will enjoy...

a. Perfect pleasure

Psalm 16:11 - ...In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

b. Perfect knowledge.

1 Corinthians 13:12 - ...but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

c. Perfect comfort

Luke 16:25 - But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.

d. Perfect love

1 Corinthians 13:13 - But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

e. Perfect joy.

Matthew 25:23 - His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.

- and we can have a firm assurance of all of that and more because Jesus was resurrected first...

- now, what do we do with all of this?

IV. The Implications of the Resurrection

A. Remember that you can’t get to heaven with your body – vv. 50 - 53

- listen, these bodies are useful...we ought to take good care of them...we ought to use them wisely...

- but unless you among those who are alive when Christ returns...you can’t get to heaven with this one...

- some of you might say – you know PV, that’s what you said when my honey died...

- [if time, cf. the illustration of a guy who was working all day outside in a dirty job with his work clothes on...looking forward to a great supper with his friends, a perfectly grilled steak, a huge baked potato, banana cream pie...but at the end of the day he came home and sat in the corner refusing to change his clothes – at some point you’d say, those clothes served you well while you were working, but now its time to change them and get to the party...

- that’s also why we would read in Scripture --Psalm 116:15 - Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones.

B. For the believer in Christ, His resurrection guarantees yours – vv. 54-57

- that’s why Paul can proclaim that death is swallowed up in victory...

- that doesn’t mean that we’re stoics...sure there’s the fear of the unknown in certain senses...

- but I have watched people die with a smile on their face...

- 1 Corinthians 15:57 - but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

- all of this is only possible because of God’s willingness to send His own Son...and please keep in mind, while the manger is a beautiful story...it is also an incomplete one...the manger must be understood in connection to the cross and the empty tomb...develop the gospel]

C. Abound in the work of the Lord while you have the opportunity to do so – v. 58

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

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