Two weeks ago we met together and celebrated the resurrection of Jesus together. We want to continue in that theme as you can tell by the songs that we sang. Today is also our Local Church Conference. For those who are new to our church, once a year the church body meets to elect the leadership for the coming year. In the Wesleyan Church the Local Church Conference is the highest governing body at the local level. The next level is the Local Board of Administration. These are elected to one-year terms. We will be doing that following lunch. While those who are allowed to vote must be members of Preston Wesleyan Church, anyone is allowed to observe. With all that in mind, I want us to take a look at the mission of the church in light of the resurrection. Probably one of the better passages of scripture that relates to that is in the 15th chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth. We will start with verse one.
1 Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. 2 It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you-unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place.
3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. 9 For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church.
10 But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me-and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace. 11 So it makes no difference whether I preach or they preach, for we all preach the same message you have already believed.
What is the good news? Some would say that it is Jesus dying on the cross — hat His blood paid the penalty for our sins — that His life was traded for ours. And while I like that idea, to present it that way is only presenting part of the gospel. Too often I believe, we forget that that Jesus dying on the cross is only part of the story. The rest of the story as Paul Harvey would have put it is in the resurrection. Paul says the gospel, or the good news (which mean the same thing) is that Jesus died on the cross for our sins – that he was buried – and on the third day he rose up from the grave. Paul reminds us that Jesus was seen by all the apostles except Judas and was seen by at least 500 at one time. This is important because in Jewish culture, a testimony was valid as soon as two witnesses agreed. Paul reminds us that good news needs to be preached by all. He says it doesn’t matter whether I preach or they preach – for we all preach the same message. I’ve said this before – yes, I am a Wesleyan and I believe strongly in our message and in our theology – I believe it lines up with scripture and yet I allow that maybe we don’t have it completely right. I do believe in the great cloud of witnesses. The church is much bigger than the Wesleyan Church. I pray for all my brothers and sisters in Christ as we preach the good news. There are so many people that need to hear the good news, why should anyone try to monopolize it. If you are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ – go for it and you have my blessing, no matter what church label you may wear.
As we continue, it appears that there was a controversy within the Corinthian church.
12 But tell me this-since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? 13 For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God-for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.
Here is why I say that if we only preach the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross we are missing the big picture. Some in the Corinthian church were saying there was no resurrection – it was a contradiction. But look at what Paul says, “If there is no resurrection of the dead and Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead, then lock the doors, stop all your preaching, your faith is dead.” If Christ is not raised then are sins are still upon us – they have not been forgiven – we have no power over sin at all. I believe some Christians are living as if Christ was still in the tomb. Their lives have no power. If Christ was not raised, we are lost. I like what Paul writes, “if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied and anyone in the world.” If the resurrection of Christ did not happen and we believe it – we are sad souls indeed. But Paul writes: 20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.
21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back…
So Christ is raised – that makes all the difference. And it makes a difference in more than one way. It gives us a reason for living. It gives us reason for hope. It gives us reason to tell the Good News. Paul reminds us there is something beyond the grave – a beautiful hope.
51 But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! 52 It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. 53 For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.
54 Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.
The resurrection makes all the difference in our lives. The resurrection makes all the difference in the life of the church. Because of the resurrection, we can preach the good news with confidence. Because of the resurrection, Paul tells us to “be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the for the Lord, for nothing know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.”
This morning we are going to celebrate communion. Yes, celebrate is the word, because today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ as we take communion. Yes, Jesus blood was shed for our sins – Jesus body was broken for us. We remember that in communion. But we also remember that Jesus rose again from the dead for us – to break the bonds of sin. Not only that we celebrate communion to remember that Jesus is coming back for all of those who have placed their trust in him. When you go through the good times – it’s not in vain. When you go through the bad times – it’s not in vain. Let’s prepare are hearts for partaking in the Lord’s Table.