Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58
Thought: Paul spent this whole chapter talking about the sure and certain hope that because Christ was raised from the dead we too have this steadfast belief that we shall be raised from the dead. Paul saw this as a vital element of the faith. Therefore he adds in this scripture all that what we do for the master, will not be in vain. Even if and when we suffer it’s all worth it compared to the glory that awaits.
Speaking last week about unity and the big picture. In church history there many times they sought to resolve conflicts around the doctrine of their beliefs. Certain doctrines were considered orthodox while others heresy. Much had to be sorted, but one thing they all agreed upon is the death and resurrection of Christ.
Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 among other places insists upon believers holding steadfastly to faith in the resurrection body of Christ. Without Christ being raised from the dead, there is no resurrection for believers who die, therefore death wins.
During this time in history, Rome ruled with an iron fist, and conquered whole countries, these ‘powers’ as Paul referred to them, had as their chief weapon torture and ultimately death.
Paul teaches that Christ disarmed these powers and triumphed over them in his resurrection saying in one place Christ, making a public spectacle of them as he rose from the dead. Furthermore, He is now seated (steadfast immovable) as ruler overall and now Christ is waiting for all the rest of the enemies to be subdued under his feet.
Rome was a big threat to these early Christians and their beliefs rejected what was considered normal, going against the idea that Caesar was lord and master. Rome saw these Christians as ones who followed a dead man and their belief was superstition and they were themselves, atheists.
As we spoke last week, Paul strived for unity and despite the divisions within the Church that have happened then and continued over the centuries Christianity thrived. Some say this was because of the love they showed for all the outcasts and the downtrodden and they had a genuine love for people.
In the 4th century, Christianity was recognised as embraced by Rome, yet there were still many things to work out. As we still acknowledge today.
In the council of niacia the church leaders were tasked to come up with a statement and creed, (meaning belief) and even today all the major Christian traditions continue to acknowledge the words of the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed in their worship and teaching.
Every time we come to say the creeds it is vital to reflect and remember how it is that we come to believe them. It is by the grace and mercy of God that we have come to faith and can say and explore these words. It is not through human cleverness or ingenuity. God has revealed himself through the Scriptures. God has revealed himself most clearly through the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. God makes himself known personally to each believer through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Let's take a moment to read this together, to affirm our belief and reiterate our commitment to our faith and the basis of our unity.
The Apostles' Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
There is so much that we can look at here but for this mornings topic I want to discuss why Paul had this steadfast hope. And answer the question of why should we have this hope too. He asks in verse 30 of the same chapter “And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour?”
1 Corinthians 15:30
The answer is of course resurrection. Paul stakes the claim that without the resurrection of Christ body there is no faith at all.
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.
1 Corinthians 15:17
So what about the evidence? those who have done the Alpha course have heard some of this but it's worth repeating for our encouragement.
The physical resurrection from the dead of Jesus is the cornerstone of Christianity.
The New Testament theologian and former Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, said this — and this is so important.
`The Christian claim is not that Jesus is to be understood in terms of a God about whom we already know; it is this: the resurrection of Jesus strongly suggests that the world has a Creator, and that that Creator is to be seen in terms of, through the lens of, Jesus.'
- First of all, his absence from the tomb. The locus of the tomb is well-known. Many theories have been put forward to explain the fact that Jesus’ body was absent from the tomb on the first Easter Day, but none of them is very convincing.
Ian Walker, who’s a scientist at Cambridge. He became a Christian because he said he could not believe that the disciples would have been willing to be tortured and die for something that they would have known if they’d taken the body, which was not true.
2) Secondly, his presence with the disciples — he was seen.
Jesus appeared on eleven separate occasions, on one occasion to more than 500 people at one time. 500 people could not have the same hallucination. And then look at the nature of the appearances. Hallucinations are subjective; they have no objective reality. It’s kind of like seeing a ghost. But look at these appearances:
‘While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking that they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he’d said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and he ate it in their presence (Luke 24:36- 43).
3) And then the third piece of evidence is the immediate impact. Here were a group of disciples who were discouraged, depressed, fearful, hiding — and something occurred that changed them so that they went around telling everybody, `We’ve seen Jesus! Jesus is alive!’
And then you get this historical phenomenon we know about which is the birth and growth of the Christian church. And it’s an extraordinary phenomenon because beginning with a group of basically fishermen and tax collectors there is this explosion in 300 years right across the whole known world. It’s a story of a peaceful revolution with no parallel, really, in the history of the world.
4) The fourth piece of evidence is Christian experience down the ages. Countless millions of people down the ages have experienced the risen Jesus Christ. And it’s people of every ethnicity, continent, nationality, every economic, social, intellectual background, from all walks of life: they unite in this common experience of the risen Jesus — millions of Christians all around the world today experiencing this relationship
Paul’s understanding of the end of the age when Christ appears, (I read that word appear as Him being revealed as in revelation). There is a real sense that Christ is here in the spirit and his kingdom is here and now, but it is also not yet.
So what does this resurrection of Christ mean to us?
We have to go one step beyond Christ's resurrection to our end of the age belief
Just as we are all human, and just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.
1 Corinthians 15:49
We are waiting for Christ to be revealed to all nations, when he appears those who are his are changed, Paul says not all will die and be resurrected some will be transformed at his appearing. However, we shall all be changed.
Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, 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.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52