It’s so refreshing to focus all of our thoughts, all of our hymns, all of our Scripture reading, and now our look at the Word of God on this marvelous reality of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ because this is the cornerstone of the Christian gospel. Just as the heart pumps life-giving blood through the body, so the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart that pumps life-giving truth through the soul. It is the resurrection that is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
In fact the apostle Paul says, “If you believe in your heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead, and can confess him as Lord with your mouth, you will be saved,” Romans 10:9 and 10. Christians through the centuries have staked their eternal destiny on the reality of the resurrection. And this indicates that we look forward to the life that is to come. We live realizing that this world is not all there is. In fact it’s not even the most important part. In fact in many ways it’s unimportant, except that it can be lived to the Glory of God. We live for our blessed hope. We set our affections on things above, and not on things on the earth. We live in light of the life which is to come in the presence of God in the Glory of eternal heaven.
It was the resurrection of Jesus Christ that established our hope. Because He lives, we live also. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me shall never die.” In the real sense, those who believe in Christ never really die. Oh yes, there’s a moment in the physical life when we cease to be, only to awaken instantaneously in the glory of the life that God has prepared for His own. Everything in Christianity hinges on the issue of the resurrection. Because He lives, we will live forever. If He does not rise, neither do we, and we have no hope.
For Christians, life is not really about this world. We live here because the Lord has put us here for really one purpose, and that is to glorify His name, to draw others into His kingdom until such a time as He calls us to that very kingdom. The resurrection is so critical to us that there is no Christianity without it. There is no gospel without it. There is no hope without it. That is why throughout history the resurrection has been attacked and assaulted, even down to the very present time. It is also why Christians have been imprisoned and embattled and persecuted and assaulted and beaten and executed, but the world has never been able to cause the church to give up its confidence in the resurrection. It has always been and always will be the foundation of our faith, and thus it is the point of attack.
Scripture anticipates that. It anticipates that those who hate God and hate Christ and hate the gospel, Satan and all his minions, as well as all those who are his earthly children, are going to assault the resurrection or minimize the resurrection or treat it with indifference. But in one way or another, the resurrection is going to be attacked. That’s why the New Testament marshals its forces to give testimony to the resurrection. In the earliest of the writings of the New Testament, Matthew and Mark, there is clear evidence of the resurrection. In the earliest if the epistles, 1 Corinthians, there is an entire chapter on the resurrection. And I want you to turn to that chapter this morning, 1 Corinthians 15. Fifty-eight verses, thee only doctrinal issue really dealt with in this entire epistle, the resurrection.
By the way, 1 Corinthians was written before the account I read you this morning in John. Luke wrote his account after 1 Corinthians. First Corinthians was written about 20years after the resurrection, at least 40years before the gospel of John. So John’s gospel is written maybe 50 or more years after the resurrection. When you come to 1 Corinthians, you come to a very early defense of the resurrection, before Luke, before John, maybe before Matthew and Mark. But certainly around the very same time that Matthew and Mark were written, 1 Corinthians was written. Matthew and Mark, Luke and John all give testimony to the resurrection and so does 1 Corinthians. All of these know the assault are going to come against this great truth because it is the cornerstone of our faith.
This great chapter in 1 Corinthians 15 opens up with Paul’s defense on what we would call direct grounds. There is in the court of law categoric placing of evidence. There is circumstantial evidence and there is what is called direct evidence. This is primarily direct evidence, the most formidable evidence eyewitness testimony, personal testimony of those who have encountered the power and presence of the risen Christ. This is irrefutable testimony. It comes a long five lines. And I just want to expose you to the five areas of testimony that come in the opening 11verses. Let me read them to you.
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, 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, that He appeared to Cephas” – or Peter – “then to the twelve. And after that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, the last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain, but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
Paul is acting here like an attorney for the defense of the resurrection. This is powerful, substantial, firm, convincing, irrefutable testimony to its validity. And if Christ rose, then He is my Lord and my God. And if He rose, He is the Messiah and He is the Savior and the death conqueror and the sin bearer. And so the testimony of these witnesses comes against any denials of this resurrection.
Let’s look at the first category of testimony, the testimony of the church, the testimony of the saved. Verse 1, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preach to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the Word which I preach to you, unless you believed in vain.” Paul starts out with an emphatic introduction, “I make known to you, brethren.” I am affirming the gospel to you. I am declaring the gospel which I preached to you, when he was with them. The gospel which they heard, which they believed, by which they were saved, and in which they continue to stand and persevere. And what he is saying here is, my message is what you have already believed. My message is what you have already experienced. My message is what has made you what you are, the living church. You received it. You stand it in. That’s a perfect tense, by the way. Perfect tense in the Greek means something that happens in past time with ongoing effect. You took your stand on the validity of the gospel. I’m not going to tell you anything different than I told you in the past. And when I told you the gospel, which is the gospel of Christ, which is His death and burial and resurrection, you received it and you believed it. And you took your stand on it and you are still standing there. You entered into the realm of faith and you’re still there.
That is to say, the permanent condition, the permanent experience, the permanent state of the Corinthian church is evidence of a risen Christ. You have been transformed by faith in that gospel by that living Christ. And the verb, you are saved, is present tense. You are continually saved and it emphasizes perseverance. You received it and now you continue to stand in it and to continue to be saved by it. Salvation is not just something that happens in the past. Justification happened in the past. Sanctification is an ongoing reality. We are being saved. We are constantly being delivered from the power of sin, someday to be delivered from even the presence of sin. You are, he says, living testimony to the power of the resurrection of Christ, because you have believed and you are experiencing the salvation that Christ provided in His death and resurrection. This, by the way, is an essential element to the gospel. How else can you explain the church? How else can you explain the ongoing power of the church? How else can you explain conversion, salvation, sanctification, our experience with the living Christ? You are, even today, testimony to the truth of the resurrection. “Unless” – there’s a caveat. See it in verse 2? “Unless you have believed in vain.” There are people who believe with no effect. That’s what it means, to believe with no impact, who believe uselessly. It is a superficial faith that only qualifies you to be a demon, because the demons believe too.
And so always the New Testament points this out. It’s almost as if the writers of the New Testament are in a hurry to throw this caveat in out of the fear that people are going to believe in a superficial and shallow way. Paul says, Colossians 1:22, “He has reconciled you through death to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach, if indeed you continue in the faith.” If you continue. Is that something we have to do? No. Continuing is evidence of a real conversion – continuing is evidence of a real conversion. If you are persevering, you’re the real thing. John 8, Jesus said, “If you continue in My Word, then you’re My real disciple.” So Paul is just simply saying if your faith is saving faith, as evidenced by holding fast the Word, never denying the Word, never rejecting the Word of the gospel, the truth that saves. If you are holding fast to that and persevering in that faith, then you are the living testimony to the truth of the resurrection. That’s the first place you go. You look at the church and you see the living Christ alive in His people.
If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. We experience that. We experience the power of Christ in our lives. We experience the providential work. We experience the ministry of the Spirit of God. We experience an answered prayer, power for service, spiritual joy. We experience brokenness, penitence, the work of the Spirit convicting us of sin. All of that is the evidence of the Spirit of God at work. We experience love for Christ. The Spirit of God is showing us the things of Christ and making us love the things of Christ. We are living proof of the resurrection. Had the crucifixion of Jesus ended the story, had there been no resurrection, there would be no Christian church. The disciples who scattered would have stayed scattered never to gather again. They would have gone back into some level of obscurity from which they came, disappointed at the waste of three years, except for some ethical lessons they may have learned, but that being way overwhelmed and overpowered by disappointment. A crucified Messiah would be no Messiah at all. The Messiah rejected by Judaism and executed, never to be seen again, would be in everyone’s judgment verified as a fraud and not at all the true Messiah. That’s why Romans 1:4 says that God declared Him to be the Christ by raising Him from the dead.
Kenneth Scott Latourette, the great historian who wrote The History of the Expansion of Christianity, said, “It was the conviction of the resurrection of Jesus which lifted His followers out of the despair into which His death had cast them and led to the perpetuation of the movement begun by Him. But for their profound belief that the crucified had risen from the dead, and that they had seen Him and talked with Him, the death of Jesus and even Jesus Himself would probably have been all but forgotten.” You wouldn’t be here. There wouldn’t be any Christianity. But here we are. And the church has been alive since the day of the resurrection really. And believers have been holding fast all through their lives to this great truth, living proof that Christ is alive, the corporate church alive and well in the world, the experience of every believer testimony to the living Christ.
There’s a second line of evidence when you think about the resurrection, and that is in verses 3 and 4. The testimony of Scripture – the testimony of Scripture. “For I delivered to you,” verse 3, “as of first importance what also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” If anybody would say to me, what is the gospel? what is the gospel? This is the passage I would go to because verse 1 says, “I make known to you, brethren, the gospel.” The gospel, the good news – “which I preached to you.” And then as an aside, “Which you received, in which you stand, by which you’re saved,” if your faith is the real thing. Then he goes back to the beginning, “For I delivered to you,” which is another way of saying I make known to you the gospel which I preach to you. And here again, “I delivered to you as of first importance” – that is the principal thing. Here’s the principal thing – “what I received.” In other words, this is what God gave me. I received this from the Lord.
Now remember, Paul wasn’t around when Jesus died. Paul wasn’t there. That’s why he says in Galatians 1:11, “I would have you know, brethren, the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. I neither received it from man nor was I taught it. But I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” I received this gospel directly and it is this – “that Christ died for our sins.” That is substitutionary death on behalf of sinners. Paying the penalty for our sins – “according to the Scriptures, and that He” – implied being genuinely dead – “was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” That is the gospel. That is the gospel. That’s the principal thing. Christ died, historical fact; He died for our sins, spiritual meaning; substitutionary atonement, took our place, took the wrath of God; that He was buried, proof of the reality of His death, famous running a spear into his side and having blood and water pour out, indicating the heart was pierced; and that He was raised bodily from the grave. And He made, you remember, many post-resurrection appearances to doubting apostles. In fact about a dozen post-resurrection appearances, all of them to people who had no particular motivation to fabricate a resurrection. That’s the gospel. That’s the good news. Why is it good news? Because it means your sins are paid for. Your justification is purchased and eternal life is granted. It’s all wrapped up in that. No presentation of the gospel can leave any of this out.
But He said – look at the end of verse 3 and the end of verse 4 – it all happened according to the Scriptures. And I read you from John chapter 20 where the comment of John is about Peter and John when they went to the tomb. He’s talking about himself years back and saying, at that time, we didn’t know what the Scripture said. But it was all according to Scripture. Says it twice. What does He mean by that? He simply means that His death was prophesied in the Old Testament. And it was prophesied in numerous ways. There are some veiled indicators of it, such as God killing the first animal in the garden to clothe the sinful Adam and Eve. God makes the first sacrifice to cover sin. Such as Genesis 22, Abraham and Isaac go to the mountain. Abraham lifts the knife to plunge it into Isaac’s heart to offer him as a sacrifice; God stops him, provides a substitute animal to be a sacrifice. And God is indicating that He will provide the lamb to sacrifice. The entire sacrificial system laid out to Moses with all of the animals that were being slaughtered, none of which could take away anybody’s sin, picture a final sacrifice.
In fact the whole idea of the sacrificial system was to create massive frustration. It was relentless because sin is relentless. Even among those who repented and believed, even among the true Israel of God, even among those who were true believers who received the salvation of God in the Old Testament, sacrifices were constantly needed by sin was constantly present. And it was a relentless system – relentless. It took time. It took money. It was bloody. The priests, on the great event times in the temple, when they offered sacrifices, were like butchers massacring animals by the tens of thousands, knee-deep in blood. It was a horrific system. But never, ever was there a sacrifice that ended it all until Christ. Every one of those sacrifices pictured the One who would come. And Isaiah laid it out in very clear terms. There will come One, the suffering Servant. He’ll have no beauty that we should desire Him. He’ll be a root out of Jesse. He’ll come down the line of David, the messianic one, and He will bear our sins and He will bear our transgressions. And He will die for us to make peace and reconciliation with God. He will be wounded for us. But that same Isaiah 53 chapter also says that He will be given a place with the great and He will be elevated and exalted. When you come down to verses 10 to 12 of Isaiah 53, you see that that’s not the end of the story. Even though He bears our inequities and bears our sins, He’s going to have a place with the great. Why? Because He’s coming out the other side of the grave. The Old Testament made that clear as well.
You go back to Psalm 16 and Psalm 16 is the testimony to the Messiah’s resurrection that stands above all the rest in the Old Testament. Listen to what David says, and it doesn’t refer to him. We’ll show you that in a minute. Psalm 16, “I have set the Lord continually before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, my glory rejoices. My flesh also will dwell securely.” This is the Messiah talking. “Thou wilt not abandon My soul to Sheol” - or the grave – “neither wilt though allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. Thou wilt make known to Me the path of life. In Thy presence is fullness of joy. In Thy right hand, there are pleasures for evermore.” The Psalmist says there is a resurrection. The Messiah is going to go through the grave and out the other side without ever being corrupted.
When Peter stood up to preach – look at Acts chapter 2. It was the day of Pentecost. He stood up and he gave this great message. Verse 22, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus, the Nazarene, the man attested to you by God with miracles, wonders, signs, which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know – this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan” – that’s the primary cause – “and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross” – that’s the secondary cause – “by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in power. For” – and here he quotes Psalm 16 – “David says of Him, ‘I was always beholding the Lord in my presence. He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore, my heart was glad, my tongue exalts. Moreover my flesh also will abide in hope, because Thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades” – or Sheol – “nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay. Thou hadst made known to me the way of life. Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.”
Now Peter pulls that prophesy, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, applies it to the Messiah. Then verse 29 says, “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died, was buried, and his tomb is with us today.” Can’t be David in view; he’s still dead physically, bodily. We’re not talking about David. Verse 31 – what was David writing about? “He looked ahead, spoke of the resurrection of the Christ that He was neither abandoned to Hades nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again to which we are all witnesses.” Psalm 16 wasn’t about David. It was about Messiah. And so the Old Testament is witness to the fact that the Messiah would come. He would be the final sacrifice, the substitute for sin after which there would be no more sacrifices. We saw that on Friday night. God ended the sacrificial system when Jesus had finished His sin bearing. You remember he started bearing sin at nine in the morning. At noon it’s three hours into his sin-bearing and everything goes dark. God turns out the sun, pitch black for three hours of darkness until three o’clock. And then there is an earthquake, and the graves are opened to symbolize what Christ has wrought even in His death.
And at that moment, God Himself rips the curtain in the Holy of Holies from top to bottom and throws open the Holy of Holies for the first time in history to the masses of Jews collected in the temple ground on the Passover and says the sacrificial system is over. Access is open. No more sacrifices. Within a few years after that, Jerusalem is sacked. The whole system crashes. The priesthood has ended, and it’s never been revived. It was done. He was the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophesies. And history validated it and verified it, as did God, in miraculous ways. So when we look at the resurrection, what evidence do we find? The testimony of the living church, the testimony of the Scriptures.
Thirdly, the testimony of eyewitnesses. You cannot underestimate the power of prophesy. Powerful testimony that God said it would happen and it happened centuries later. Nor can you discount the testimony of eyewitnesses. Verse 5, “After that He appeared to Cephas” – or Peter, Simon Peter – “and to the twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now.” Now remember, this would be about 30 A.D. John writes in the 90s. So actually 60 years later when John writes his account and Paul’s writing in about 50 to 55. So we’re 20 years, at least, later, maybe 25 years later. These eyewitnesses are still around.
Then verse 7, “He appeared to James and then to all the apostles.” Now let’s stop there for a moment. Human courts always base their adjudications, if they can, on eyewitness accounts. Circumstantial testimony is secondary. It is fraught with problems, as we all know. The testimony of eyewitnesses is vital especially if there are two or three eyewitnesses by which things can be confirmed, especially if they’re intelligent, competent, sound in mind, ethical, maintain integrity. And that’s why Paul appeals to this.
Thomas Arnold, who was the chair of modern history at Oxford in England, wrote a famous three-volume work called The History of Rome. And in that work there’s an interesting paragraph. This is what he wrote. He said, “The evidence for our Lord’s life and death and resurrection may be and often has been shown to be satisfactory. It is good, according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece as carefully as every judge, summing up on a most important cause. I have myself done it many times over, not to persuade others but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times and examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them. And I know of no one fact in the history of mankind, which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort to the understanding of a fair enquirer, than the great sign which God has given that Christ died and rose again from the dead.” And primarily this is due to eyewitness account, direct evidence, as we said. And Scripture is direct evidence. And the living church is direct evidence, and so are these accounts by eyewitnesses.
Let’s go to verse 5. He appeared to Cephas. He appeared to Peter. Now Peter wouldn’t be a good candidate to make up a resurrection. He wouldn’t be. Peter was really having a hard time. The last encounter he had with Jesus, he was confronted by Jesus because he had just denied him on three different occasions, well as many as six different times on those three occasions. Now you would think that having sort of ended his life with Jesus in that tragic way, our Lord might have found somebody else to appear to. How amazing that He appeared first to Peter – Peter who denied Him, denied him with an oath, denied him angrily. And yet He appeared to Peter. And there, in that appearance to Peter, we can see the beauty of forgiving love and forgiving grace. And I think also we not only see that, but I think He picked Peter because Peter would be the least likely to assert himself as a preacher of the resurrection because he was so shamed, he was so broken. He was weeping bitterly the last time he saw Jesus. He has so little confidence that even when Jesus told him to go to Galilee and wait for Him to come, he went back to fishing because he felt himself so inadequate as a preacher. And the only thing he thought he knew how to do was to fish and he had proven himself unfaithful so many times. And in the great moment, at the end, he was a disaster and he went back to fishing.
And the Lord had to go pick him up in that again and pull him back and say, “Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs,” and restore him to ministry. Peter wasn’t any kind of candidate to go out and start bombastically preaching the resurrection, show up on the day of Pentecost, and elevate himself as if he were some great hero, when he was nothing but a coward and a sniveling one at that. But the fact that Peter could give evidence to the risen Christ is clear indication that he did in fact see the risen Christ. Jesus came to him. He came to him certainly there in Galilee when He confronted him around the breakfast and said, “Do you love Me? Do you love Me? Do you love Me?” And Peter kept trying to convince Him he did. And finally, he appealed to His omniscience and said, “You know everything. You know I love You.” Then serve Me. No, there is an awful lot of objectivity in the testimony of Peter. Peter’s not about to trump up a resurrection, nor is he about to go live a life that ends up with him being crucified upside down for a lie that he fabricated.
And then it says in verse 5, “He appeared to the twelve.” Actually, if you take Peter out and Judas out and Thomas out, there’s nine. But Peter was there, so there were actually 11 on that night – 10 rather. The only one legitimately missing was Judas, and he, of course, had disastrously responded to all of this with suicide. But the others were there, with the exception of Thomas. No reason is given as to his absence. But it served the purposes of God very well. He appeared to them that night minus Judas, minus Thomas. Then days later, as we read, He appears again. This time Thomas is there and he affirms, “My Lord and my God,” John 20:28. To be an apostle, you had to have an experience as an eyewitness of the resurrection. When they went to replace Judas with Matthias in Acts chapter 1, it had to be somebody who had been an eyewitness to the resurrection. So you had Peter and then you had the rest of the apostles as eyewitnesses to the resurrection.
And he says, in verse 6, “Add to that more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now” – as I said, 20 to 25 years later – “some have fallen asleep.” Kind of a Biblical way of saying died. Because for the believer, it’s only a temporary thing, not a permanent one. The majority are still alive for 20-25 years. A quarter of a century, they’ve been telling about this experience. They had spread it far and wide. Believe me, they had said to everyone, “I saw the risen Christ.” Five hundred eyewitnesses. And then in verse 7, he appeared to James. Now that’s another interesting choice. Probably not James son of Zebede, or James the son of Alpheus, the two in the apostolic band. Probably James, the Lord’s brother, because he’s distinguished from all the apostles here rather than being one of them. James, the brother of our Lord, who according to John 7:5, along with his other brothers, didn’t believe in Him. They were the children of Joseph and Mary. They didn’t believe in Him. In fact, Mark 3 says they tried to restrain Him from doing the things He was doing because they thought He was crazy. Now James wouldn’t haven’t have been a very likely candidate to fabricate a resurrection.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? Peter was a denier of Christ and so was James. And those are the only two names there. The Lord picks people who are so objective in their testimony because there was no predisposition to create this. It may have well been that the last days of Jesus’ life generated some wonder on the part of James. But when James saw Christ alive, he believed, and he became the leader of the Jerusalem church. Two unlikely eyewitnesses. And then all the apostles. And there were repeated appearances, according to Acts 1. For 40 days, He kept appearing to them and teaching them things concerning His kingdom.
And then one other name. The name is not given but we know it. Last of all as it were to one untimely born, he appeared to me also,” Paul. There’s another unlikely person. If you wanted somebody to fabricate the resurrection, you wouldn’t pick Paul. He didn’t believe anything about Jesus. He’s the least likely. I mean absolutely the least likely. But let’s call him the special witness, number four. You have the eyewitnesses in verses 5 through 7. You have the special witness in verse 8 through 10. He says, “I am the least of the apostles,” which ties into what he said in verse 8, “as one untimely born” – I’ll explain that – “who am not fit to be called apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. By the grace of God, I am what I am. And His grace toward me didn’t prove vain. I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” He says, look, Peter, the denier. Peter the vacillating. Peter the coward. James the unbeliever. And Paul, the untimely born.
Incredible statement really. In the Greek tō ektrōmati – tō ektrōmati. Ektrōma means a premature birth. Okay? A premature birth. Ektromati is an aborted fetus. The abortion. Paul the abortion. Paul the dead fetus. This is a way of referring to himself in the lowest of terms and not even alive. I’m nothing but a miscarriage. I’m nothing but a dead fetus, a piece of flesh with no life, the lowest level of humanity, unformed, unborn. This is amazing. He picks a coward and an unbeliever and the lowest of the low, a persecutor of the church and appears to him, Paul the abortion. He was a dead, vile, worthless piece of human flesh, in his own eyes, a persecutor of the church, and marveled that on the road to Damascus one day, the Lord, in his risen and ascended glory, stopped him in his tracks and appeared to him and saved him and made him an apostle. And I’m the least. I wasn’t even around like the rest. I’m the least. I persecuted the church. I’m worse than Peter, the denier. I’m worse than James, the unbeliever. I’m the enemy. But we all have seen the risen Christ. An unlikely trio of witnesses who would never fabricate a resurrection.
And then finally, and this is powerful, there is the testimony of the common message. Testimony of the church, the Old Testament Scriptures, the eyewitnesses, the special witness Paul, and the testimony of the common message. This is very powerful. It’s amazing to me, again, the economy of words with which the Bible says so much. Verse 11, “Whether then it was I or they” – that is the apostles and the rest of the eyewitnesses, the five hundred and everybody else – “so we preach.” What do we preach? Back to verse 1, “I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preach to you.” Whether it’s me or whether it’s any of them, we all preach and you believe. This is powerful stuff. What are you saying? I’m saying this; they all only preached one thing. There wasn’t a debate. There weren’t some preachers who said He rose and some who said He didn’t. There weren’t some who said, well we wanted Him to rise so much that we got this sort of – we worked ourselves up until we really believed it because we wanted it so badly. There weren’t some who said, well there was an aberration that appeared. It was actually an aberration it wasn’t a resurrection. Others said it was a resurrection. No, it really wasn’t. He just appeared to be there and it was a figment of our imagination. It was a sort of a hallucination. It was mass hysterical. And there were others who said, no, it was just really His spirit who rose, just the good feelings we had about Jesus made Him live like somebody we loved who dies and they stay alive in our memory and blah, blah, blah.
Every one of those things that I’m talking to you about, you can read in modern liberal theology. There’s no common message today. Pick up Time Magazine. Read the article in Time – or Newsweek Magazine rather – read the article about the resurrection and how befuddled the article is with so many potential options as to whether or not this happened or didn’t happen. This is the modern era. But in the era of the New Testament there was one message. He rose. We preached it. And you believed it. There was no diversity within Christianity. There was no diverse message, and there was no diverse faith. The testimony of a common message. We all believed it because it was true. We all preached it, whoever we were, wherever we were, and you all believed it. It is that commonality that is so powerful. And it went on and on.
It’s now 20 years, 25 years and Paul is still preaching it. And it goes on another decade and another, into the 60s and in the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, and then John pens the Gospel and concludes with that great chapter I read. And it’s still the same message and they all believed it, and they all preached it and they all believed it. And it’s the same today. The gospel is that Christ died for our sins. He was buried and He was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures. That is the gospel. If you believe and confess Jesus as Lord, you will be saved. Join me in prayer.
Father, so much to say and so little time to say it all. We thank you for the reality of the resurrection, the power of the testimony, the Scripture to it. We thank you that our Lord lives, that He died for our sins, that He paid in full the penalty for our sins, so that salvation is all by grace and not works, all through faith and not self-effort, that all You have asked us to do turn from our sin and believe, nothing more, and embrace the work of Christ.
I pray, Lord, today, that there might be some who would turned from their sin, who would trust the One who died for them, and based on His sacrifice, His death, and His resurrection would come to you, oh God, and ask for the forgiveness of sins and salvation that only You can grant those who put their trust in Your son. Help us to know that it’s not about religion. It’s not about being good. It’s not about being moral. That’ll send people to hell faster than anything else. It’s simply about saying, “It’s nothing in me. It’s nothing I can do. Nothing I have done. No religious activity, no morality can save me. I have to put my trust completely in Christ, confess Him as my Lord, and embrace Him as my Savior who died and paid the price for my sins and rose again to give me eternal life.” Father, make that vivid and clear in all our hearts, for rejoicing and for salvation, we pray. Amen.
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