Easter Sunday, April 4th, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament: [Psa 16:1-11 ESV] 1 A Miktam of David. Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. 4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
New Testament: [1Co 15:1-11 ESV] 1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Gospel: [Mat 28:1-10 ESV] 1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
[1Co 15:12-34 ESV] 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
There is no Christianity apart from the resurrection.
The resurrection is absolutely crucial and central to our faith.
From our fairly long New Testament reading, I’m going to be focusing on just 3 verses that make this point – all is in vain if not for the resurrection. The three verses we’re looking at will be verse 14, verse 19, and verse 32.
This is that same chapter that I have preached on previously, regarding the definition of the Gospel. In the first passage of chapter 15 we find Paul explaining the Gospel in the most direct terms:
[1Co 15:3-8 ESV] 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
Paul now continues in a passage all about the resurrection.
The historical account of the resurrection we just read in the Gospel reading from Matthew. Jesus’s tomb was found empty and the angel proclaimed “He has risen.” But the disciples don’t need to take the angel’s word for it, for very long. The disciples soon see Jesus. They see him, they hear him, they touch him, in numerous post-resurrection appearances fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament. His body will not see corruption. He is risen. He is risen indeed.
Paul then challenges those who deny the resurrection with a series of hypothetical statements, saying “if the resurrection of Christ had not occurred” or “if there is no resurrection for us” then (dot, dot, dot).
Without the resurrection …
I. Faith would be in vain.
II. We would deserve pity and be without hope.
III. We would have no gain.
First, without the resurrection
I. Faith would be in vain.
[1Co 15:14 ESV] 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.
Paul has opted to spend his life preaching the good news of the Gospel in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has resolved to know nothing but Christ and him crucified. If Christ had not truly been raised, Paul admits, then all his work would be in vain. He would be preaching a lie to the salvation of no one.
And if Christ had not truly been raised, the our faith would be in vain. It would serve no purpose. If Christ had not truly been raised, if there was no resurrection, then there would be no way of salvation, for man cannot resurrect himself. A dead man cannot rise of his own accord.
But, to extend this further, if not for Christ and the resurrection, then everything is in vain. [REPEAT: everything is in vain] If we are not resurrected to eternal life, then everything ends and all life is meaningless. Why build if all will be torn down? Why plant crops if all will go up in flames? Why live if death is the inevitable and final conclusion?
But with the truth of the resurrection and eternal life all has purpose. The grand purpose of God is that He shows his glory in the salvation of sinner. All things are ordained in God’s plan for his glory. And we shall one day see the Lord’s glory and know the Lord forevermore, all because of Christ and the resurrection.
Paul, then, in another if statement, says:
[1Co 15:19 ESV] 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
And without the resurrection
II. We would deserve pity and be without hope.
Without the resurrection we would deserve pity and be without hope. The world sees us as foolish for trusting in the hope of Jesus Christ. Their hope is just in this world. They seem to forget that it is fleeting. The world hopes for the work week to end so they can party and get drunk. The world seeks wealth and power, though these can be suddenly lost. And they look at us and say “it is a pity that they do not spend their lives in such pursuits.”
Without the resurrection we would have no hope for the next life. Without the resurrection we have no evidence that man can have life after death. Year and year people around us—even loved ones —die and are no more. Never have we seen one come back from the dead! The scientists of the world—denying miracles—tell us therefore that it is impossible for someone to come back from the dead.
But we know that it is not impossible. We know that it has happened. Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
We should stop and consider the enormous importance of this. In real historical time, on this earth, among our human ancestors, the 2nd person of the Triune God, took upon himself human flesh, lived on this earth, died for the sins of His people, and rose again.
Saying “He is risen” gives us great hope. For if it is possible for him to rise from the dead, then it is possible for us to rise from the dead. But not by our own power. The resurrection comes only by the power of God.
Paul continues with another if statement.
[1Co 15:32 ESV] 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
III. We would have no gain.
Without the resurrection we would have no gain.
Why does Paul fight? Why did all of the Apostle (except for John) die as martyrs for the faith? If not for the resurrection, they would have fought and died for no gain. They would be risking their lives for a lie if Christ had not risen.
If life is short. If tomorrow we die, then why not “party it up?” Why not do whatever sinful thing we want? If the dead are not raised, they say, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow (or soon in the grand scheme of time) we die.”
This presents the view of the atheists. Those who say “God is dead” tell us that there is no morality. So if one thing is just as non-moral as another, then there is no guide for life. We can just do whatever we want.
This mentality has only expanded the world of chaos and sin, because man has ignored the law of God.
If there were no resurrection:
Faith would be in vain.
We would deserve pity and be without hope.
We would have no gain.
IV. The Resurrection
But Christ has been raised. [REPEAT: But Christ has been raised]
So our faith is not in vain.
And we do have hope for the eternal life.
And we do gain tremendously.
So we are not to just say “Let us eat and drink.”
And we can make long term plans.
And our lives have meaning,
And our work has meaning.
It is the non-Christian who is to be pitied, for the non-Christian lacks meaning in his life. The non-Christian lacks purpose.
We who believe, on the other hand, are greatly blessed for we are united to Christ through faith. And so, even though we die, we share with him in the resurrection. Jesus was the first-fruits. His resurrection proves that resurrection in general is possible. And united to him, we are promised to be resurrected just as he is resurrected.
Because of the resurrection, we have hope.
Because of the resurrection, our faith is not in vain.
Because of the resurrection of Christ, we who believe will share in the resurrection.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.”
The promise is that on the last day, all will rise from their graves.
Our confession of faith, Chapter 32, is the best explanation I know of regarding “The State of Men after Death, and of the Resurrection of the Dead.”
It is in 3 points:
1. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption: but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them: the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Besides these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.
2. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be changed: and all the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities), which shall be united again to their souls forever.
3. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to dishonor: the bodies of the just, by his Spirit, unto honor; and be made conformable to his own glorious body.
Jesus Christ is risen. And because of his resurrection, we will rise. And with the Lord we shall live eternally praising Him with great joy. He is risen indeed. Let us pray.