This morning we conclude our series entitled, “A Place to Stand.” Over the past seven weeks we have been looking a core values of our faith. We have been looking at those values through The Apostle’s Creed. This creed was put in place to combat false teaching in the early church. It can also help us combat false teachings now.
Two weeks ago, Pam was listening to K-LOVE radio. Each day they usually present some kind of fact related to Christianity. This day they presented information from a recent Scripps Howard/Ohio University poll. Here was their finding: That most Americans don’t believe they will experience a resurrection of their bodies when they die. The Nicene Creed adopted in 325 at the First Council of Nicea concludes with the famous words: “We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.” The Apostle’s Creed ends similarly with a belief in “the resurrection of the body.”
Only 36% answered yes to this question: “Do you believe that, after you die, your physical body will be resurrected someday?” 54% said they do not believe and 10 percent were undecided. It doesn’t get much better when it comes to regular church attenders. Only half of them answered the question, “yes.” If we take a look at those who profess a “born-again” faith, only 59% said they believed in a bodily resurrection.
If this doctrine was falling to the wayside enough that it is mentioned in the creeds, I wonder what to think in our culture today. It appears that many don’t believe in a bodily resurrection today. Even 41% of believers don’t make much of it. This puts us on very dangerous ground. Let’s take a look why. I want us to go to Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth; Corinthians 15:12-19.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 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. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.
Wow! Let’s take a few steps back though to the beginning of this passage; 1 Corinthians 15:1 and onward.
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I have preached to you. Otherwise you believe in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living…Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”
This morning we need to declare that we believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
We could frame it around the question we’ve asked over the past few weeks. We believe in God, so what? We believe that Jesus is the Son of God, so what? We could ask the question of each of the statements we have made, so this morning we ask, “We believe in the resurrection of the body, what difference does it make?”
It appears from these few short scriptures that the resurrection of the body is of utmost importance to us as believers. If we don’t believe in the resurrection of the body, Paul tells us then we don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To put it quite bluntly this morning, if we don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, then we might as well stop the service, leave, turn off the lights, lock the doors and sell the building and just go on living life. If we don’t believe in Jesus Christ, then all we do is useless. There’s no need for a church building. There’s no need for us to gather here. There’s no need to sing songs of worship and praise. There’s no need of me preaching.
Paul declares that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. As we’ve been reading through our Bibles this year, we have discovered that in order for a testimony to be valid, it has to have two witnesses. Many men and women witnessed Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Now I know many are trying to refute much of the biblical narrative lately. A few examples that come to mind are The DaVinci Code and the new article on “The Gospel of Judas” in National Geographic, which has also been broadcast recently on the National Geographic Channel.
I hear all kinds of stories that the “church” has this grand conspiracy thing going; that Constantine was responsible for making the Bible what it is today, to preserve it the way they wanted the story to be told. Really now! As we’ve seen before during this series all of the apostles except Judas (who hung himself) and John (who died of old age exiled on the isle of Patmos) and including Paul died a martyrs death. All of them were executed for their faith in Jesus Christ. Would you put your life on the line for a conspiracy? Think about this, 12 men put their life on the line to preach the gospel Paul tells us about this morning; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures…” The resurrection of Jesus is a critical point of the gospel, because no other religious figure is still alive. Muhammad isn’t’. Buddha isn’t. Jesus Christ is alive and that makes all the difference. The empty tomb gives us hope this morning. Paul tells us in verse 20, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead…for since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive.
Paul makes a strong case for the resurrection of the physical body. But let’s take an even closer look. What kind of body will be raised? Paul deals with this in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58. I like the question he raises. How are the dead raised? Paul replies, “How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed…But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body…There are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies.” Let’s skip to verse 42. “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable. It is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body…and just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” In taking a look at this, Paul says that in the case of the resurrection of the dead, God will take a perishable, dishonorable, weak (and sinful) body-“a natural body” and in the resurrection make it imperishable, glorious, powerful. This is a bit of a difficult concept, so in looking at my study notes, I found this. “’Spiritual body’ does not mean a nonmaterial body but, from the analogies, a physical one similar to the present natural body organizationally, but radically different in that it will be imperishable, glorious and powerful, fit to live eternally with God.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to a day when I can exchange this mortal, perishable body, for one that is imperishable. I understand that the older I get. So if we believe in the resurrection of Jesus, we must also believe in the resurrection of the body. One more time let me ask, so what? What difference does it make?
Let’s finish the apostle’s thought. This is a wonderful thought as we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection this morning. Listen, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with immortality then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor is not in vain.
What a wonderful promise those who are in Christ have this morning. For those who are in Christ, you have hope not just while on this earth, but you have hope for eternity. You will live forever. Because of that the apostle tells us that we need not worry, we can stand firm. We have a place to stand. We have a solid rock and His name is Jesus Christ. He is coming again to take his children home to glory and we will be changed. I love the aria from Handel’s Messiah. The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised. We will have new bodies, bodies that are not prone to sickness and disease; bodied that are not prone to sin. We will be with him. If you are in Christ, you don’t have to worry. You know your work won’t be useless. I encourage those who are believers to work hard for the kingdom. The hour is getting late and we need to be about the work of bringing people into the kingdom of heaven.
This morning, perhaps, you’re not a believer. That doesn’t have to be the way it is. You can be in Christ and have this magnificent hope as well; the hope that Christ will return for you and eternal life with him in heaven. There is another choice that that is eternal life separated from God. We call that hell and I believe and others will agree with me that it will be a terrible place separated forever from the presence of God. Imagine a place where there is no love. God is a God of love and he is a God of justice. Justice demands the price be paid. Each one of us are sinners and the wages of sin is death. We can’t work our way to heaven. The only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ; repent of your sins, confess them to God; believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and receive him into your heart. He will make a change, not only when you go to heaven with Him, but he can make a change in your life right now. Will you let him?