1 Corinthians 15:1-20
THESIS: You are either in sin or in Christ.
Welcome to River City! My name is Rodney if we haven’t had the chance to meet yet. We want to say hello to all those watching online this morning – we look forward to the day when you’re able to join us again.
If you’re new to River City, we want you to know you are welcome here. If you came here today, first time or not, and you are lonely and looking for a friend; if you are wounded and looking for a healer; if you are anxious and looking for security; if you are tired and looking for rest; if you are weak and looking for strength; if you are lost and looking to be found; if you are beaten down and looking for hope; we invite you today to run to the arms of a Savior who welcome sinners.
I like that story the worship team read this morning, because it reminds us the world wasn’t always the way it is. Loneliness, woundedness, fear, weariness, corruption – those things haven’t always been here in the world. It’s hard for us to imagine a world without those things, though isn’t it? The closest we can get to it is thinking back to when we were kids and didn’t have a care in the world. When the worst thing the world could give you is homework. Now, I’m not trying to sidestep the fact that some of us grew up in homes where there was abusive behavior, and there were a lot worse things than homework. But when you’re a kid on your bike or playing in your room, you’re not thinking about politics or religion or providing for your family or that someone you love might die.
So what happened? The first two chapters of scripture describe a world that was beautiful and good. It was flourishing, well cared-for, and had the kind of potential to grow into something that would cover the whole earth. Those chapters describe a very personal God who walked and talked with his creation daily, like a mother or father with their kids in a park. There was joy! There was peacefulness. There was rest and work and pleasure and fun, without any selfishness or worry in any of it.
Nowadays when we turn on the news or pick up a newspaper (if any of you still do that) or read the news online, it’s anger and hatred, it’s corruption and violence, division and arrogance.
And on the surface it might look like we’ve come a long way from Genesis 1 and 2, where it seemed like heaven on earth. But as you read the rest of Genesis, by the time you get to chapter 4, anger and hatred, corruption and violence, division and arrogance are there too! And the more you read of scripture, the more you see that what we’re seeing in our world today really isn’t new. It’s more of the same! Chapter 3 and 4 of Genesis just rinse and repeat over and over and over throughout the centuries.
Cancel culture? Genesis 4
Blaming someone else for your problems? Genesis 3.
Rejecting God’s design for humanity? Genesis 3
Hatred and violence? Genesis 4
Sexual abuse and misconduct? Genesis 6
Arrogance and pride? Genesis 4
Corruption? Genesis 6
Sexual confusion? Genesis 19
Death? Genesis 4
The news really isn’t new. It’s just more of the same, but again, it wasn’t always that way. Something happened in Genesis 3 that was the pivot point for human history. I’m sure most of you know the story, so I’ll summarize:
- God had given the humans he’d created full authority over the Garden of Eden. They were to rule the creatures, cultivate, and maintain this beautiful paradise.
- To remind them that while he made them in his image, he was not making them Him, God gave them one law. If there were no laws in place, that would mean the humans could rule and govern themselves however they pleased and they would, in effect, be gods on earth. But that wasn’t God’s intent. He gave them two unique trees in the middle of the garden – both beautiful to look at, both bursting with delicious fruit. And God gave the one rule that cemented the truth that he was God and they were not.
“Don’t eat from this tree, or you’ll bring death on yourselves and the world.”
But this wasn’t about the trees. It was about who was truly God. It was about whose wisdom would produce the flourishing and advancing and furthering of this garden, until one day the garden would fill the whole earth. It was about who defined Life and what it meant to truly live.
Faced with the choice to let the God who created heaven and earth rule the world, the humans agreed that they were wise enough to make their own decisions. That God’s boundaries were stifling. That true freedom had no rules. That true wisdom was born from experience rather than faith. That their lives would be complete when there was nothing holding them back.
River City – that’s what we’re still doing! We’re still eating the fruit of choosing our own wisdom over God’s; true freedom comes when there are no rules. We’re seeing it in “cancel” culture. We’re seeing it in the sexual revolution, cohabitation, pornography, sex trafficking. We’re seeing it in abortion. We’re seeing it in the transgender movement. We’re seeing it in racism, nationalism. We’re still seeing that humans agree God’s boundaries are stifling, we are wise enough to make our own rules, and that true freedom is when nothing is holding me back.
And what do we have to show for it? Hatred, anger, division, disease, anxiety, fear, death, violence. Humans were never designed to be in control of their own lives, and ever since Genesis 3 we’ve proved it.
So if someone ran in the back door of the building this morning, and interrupted the service and said, “Hey everyone – I’ve got great news for you today!” What would you want them to say? What would be great news today?
- Hey, we finally got that ship out the Suez canal!
- Hey, the Coronavirus is gone!
- Hey, there’s another stimulus check coming this summer!
What would be the best news you could hear this morning?
According to a recent Barna poll, over ½ of Americans would say “If I wanted to hear good news, I wouldn’t go to church.”
And yet the word “gospel,” the foundation the church is built on means “good news!” If you were to open your Bibles to the book of Acts, where the church began, you would see that the foundation of the church is not a set of rules that need to be followed. The foundation of the church isn’t a geographical location or a certain style of living. The foundation of the church is not even a set of beliefs that everyone agrees on.
The foundation of the church is news! A message that is designed to be shared. Look at this in 1 Corinthians 15:1,2. Now I want to make it clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you (the news I told you about),
- which you received
- On which you have taken your stand
- And by which you are being saved,
- If you hold the message I preached.
You received. This kind of news isn’t just information. To receive it means to believe it to be true, and then act on it. This news changes everything.
In fact, Paul writes, this message is so good, so glorious, so wonderful that if you believe it and live as if it’s true, the result is your salvation! This news isn’t just good enough that you can change the way you live – this news is powerful enough to change you at a heart level, so that you are saved!
In 1 Corinthians 15:3, Paul says, “I’m passing it this good news to you, and here it is – the best news, the most important thing I can tell you – this is the gospel: V3 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 Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over 500 brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep.”
So what the apostle Paul is telling us in 1 Corinthians 15 is that the greatest news someone could ever proclaim is to run through that door and say, “Jesus is Risen! He’s alive! He died, just like the scriptures said he would. He was buried” – it wasn’t some body double, Jesus wasn’t passed out and faking his death, He was dead. Buried. In a sealed tomb. But “He was raised on the 3rd day, just like the scriptures predicted.”
But let’s be honest here today: There’s a tension that we all live in: If it’s true that Jesus rising from the dead is the best news the world could ever receive, 2000 years later most of the time our world looks like Jesus’ resurrection hasn’t accomplished anything. You would think that if the whole plan of God was to save the world through Jesus’ dying and coming back to life, that it didn’t really get the job done. If the story the worship team read at the beginning was true about the curtain being torn so we can be back in God’s presence, it sure seems like there is still a lot of sadness in the world.
- We still murder unborn babies by the 100’s of thousands every year.
- Racism, human trafficking, political posturing all still happens on a daily basis.
- The nicest people you know still get sick or die
So is the news good or not? Does the fact that Jesus died on a Roman cross, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and raised to life a few days later have any bearing on life 2000 years later? Or do we put this story in the category of things like Robin Hood, that sound good, we want to be true, but it’s more the stuff of folklore than reality?
According to the apostle Paul here in 1 Cor, it had better be true! 1 Corinthians 15:17 says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”
It means that if the story isn’t true, that it’s just a Robin Hood story, then the thought of you or anyone you love going to heaven when they die is a joke, and instead of being saved from your sins, you die in them.
We tend to think of sin as something we “do”, which they are, but it’s more than that – sin is something we are “in.” What does that mean?
When you say to someone that you are “in love”, what are you talking about? Love isn’t a car you climb into, or a room you walk into, or a pit you fall into. But you are “in” it. What we mean by saying we are “in love” is that we are receiving the things that love can do for us. We get the butterflies and the nervousness when that person is around. We get the physical affection; the joys of companionship and having someone who laughs at your dumb jokes. We say we are in love when we are experiencing the things love can do for us.
To be “in your sins” is to say you are experiencing all the things that sin can do for you, which are namely condemnation and death.1 According to Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:, sin doesn’t make you bad; it makes you dead. And if Christ has not been raised from the dead, you stay dead. Condemnation and death is what you continue to receive eternally! Jesus may have died for your sins, but if he isn’t raised from the dead, like him, you still die.
And unless something is done FOR us by someone else, that’s how we stay.
That’s what’s at stake if you refuse to believe the good news.
That’s what could happen if Jesus isn’t raised.
But that’s not what happened.
1 Cor 15:20 – But as it is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man (Adam), the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man (Jesus). For just as in Adam all die (receiving everything Adam could do for us: passing onto us a sinful nature where our default is spiritually dead) so also in Christ all will be made alive!
Do you see that transformation there? This good news, this gospel, when we receive it in faith and act on it, transfers us from being “in Adam” to “in Christ!”
When we anchor our lives on the resurrection of Jesus, we move from receiving everything Adam could do for us to receiving everything Christ can do for us – forgiveness of sin, eternal life!
So why does the resurrection matter? If on the cross Jesus wrote the check for our sins, the resurrection means the check cleared! That God accepted the payment of his Son’s life in the place of sinners. That when Jesus hung on the cross, he was taking on himself every single lustful thought, every fear, every manipulation, every time I gossiped or talked behind someone’s back, every time I held onto bitterness instead of offering forgiveness, every time I used a good gift from him to further myself.
And on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead to say to Jesus – ”Great work, Son! You were perfectly obedient and trusted me the whole time – welcome back to glory!” And God raised Jesus from the dead to say to anyone who believes in him:, “Your sins are paid for! You can come past the Do Not Enter sign! Not because of anything you did, but because of what Jesus did!”
The cross of Jesus doesn’t take you from bad to good; it takes you from dead to alive! There is no middle ground. You are either “in your sin” or “in Christ.” In sin or in Christ. And the resurrection of Jesus Christ makes all the difference.
Which means, the best news I can give you today is not that COVID is over, or that you are cancer free or that you won lots of money. Your life will still have sorrow and hardship and pain. You will still experience the sting of sin until Jesus returns.
But the best news I can give you today is that Jesus Christ died for your sins, just like scripture predicted. That he was buried. And that he rose again just like the scriptures predicted. And if you’ll believe that and act on it, you’ll find that this life is as bad as it gets and there is hope for even the worst sinner of all. That the hardships and pain and sorrow we experience here on earth aren’t the whole story.
The Garden of Eden life you read about in Genesis is still available, and one day Jesus will return to remove all the evil that has corrupted his good world and restore things back to the peace, the rest, the joyful world he created.
The end of 1 Cor 15 says, “Thanks be to God , who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast and immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
PRAYER: If you have been at River City for a while, or if you come back in the coming weeks, you’ll see that we take a section of our time together to spend time praying. Sometimes we circle up in groups, and other times like today, I’ll just ask you to bow your heads and pray right where you are.
But here’s what we’re going to do this morning: We’re going to pray based on 1 Corinthians 15:57 –
The first thing to pray is to praise God for who he is. Pray whatever comes to mind about who God is. God you are good. You are Father. You are a Rock. You are the Creator of heaven and earth. Take a minute and praise God for who he is.
Next is to confess that we are sinners. That we have eaten the fruit of “I'll do it myself”. We’ve lived as if God doesn’t exist. We’ve treated God like he owes us something. Confess.
Thank God for sending Jesus! Thank him for not treating us as our sins deserve, but showing us mercy and forgiveness and grace.
Ask for the courage to stand firm, help us be steadfast and immovable, and that we would excel in what God has called us to do as individuals and as a church.
- John Piper, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/but-christ-has-been-raised-you-are-not-still-in-your-sins (April 3, 1994), accessed April 1, 2020.