The Resurrection and God’s Promises

May 2, 2021 in Bible - NT - Romans, Church Calendar, Easter, Meditations, Resurrection

Romans 8:31–35, 37

31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… 37Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

 We have been emphasizing in our worship that the celebration of Easter continues in this period known as Eastertide. We continue giving the liturgical greeting, Christ is Risen! And I have devoted some of our exhortations to this topic of the resurrection. Why did Christ rise from the dead and what does this mean for us?

As we continue on this theme, let me remind you that it is the hope of the resurrection that has invigorated Christian witness throughout the ages. In the verses just prior to the ones we have read, Paul reminds us that all those whom God has predestined to life, He will call to faith in Himself; and all those whom He calls to faith, He will justify; and all those whom He justifies, He will glorify. The culmination of God’s work, in other words, is glorification: God will raise us from the dead and present us before Himself spotless and blameless. He “will transform our lowly body so that it may be conformed to Christ’s glorious body” (Phil 3:21).

It is in response to this promise, this promise of glorification and resurrection, that the words of our text are written. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

The promise of the resurrection assures us that all the promises that God has ever issued to His people will be fulfilled. God commands children “honor your father and mother that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth” (Eph 6:2). So what are we to think when a child loves and serves the Lord by honoring his parents and then suddenly dies? Will God’s promise fail? No – for in the flesh that child will serve God and with his own eyes and not those of another he shall see his Redeemer and worship Him.

Jesus promised, “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this age…” (Mk 10:29-30). What are we to think of this promise and its application to the martyrs who lost life in the service of God? Will Jesus’ promise fail? No – for in the flesh those martyrs will serve God and with their own eyes and not those of another they shall see their Redeemer and worship Him.

The resurrection assures us that all the promises of God are yes and amen in Jesus. Because Jesus has risen and by His resurrection has overcome sin and death, because through Him and the power of His Spirit all creation will one day be renewed and resurrected, therefore, all the promises of God will reach their fulfillment. Not one promise will fall to the ground. So we can cry out with confidence: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? …Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

This is our privilege and right as children of God – to live in hope of the resurrection. Too often, however, we live in fear – pressed down by the cares of this world, overwhelmed with the needs of the moment, forgetful of the promise of resurrection. We stand in need of the mercy of God and the empowering grace of God’s Spirit to enable us to live resurrection lives in the here and now. So, as you are able, let us kneel and let us confess our sins to the Lord, seeking His mercy. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Resurrection and Thanksgiving

April 25, 2021 in Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Church Calendar, Easter, Resurrection, Thankfulness

2 Corinthians 4:14–15
14… He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. 15For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

 As we continue celebrating the season of Eastertide, it is fitting to meditate deeply on the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. In our passage today, Paul repeats one of his frequent maxims: He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus… The resurrection of the dead is our hope – not that we will die and be spirits in the sky; not that we will perish and lose all consciousness; but that even as Jesus rose from the dead, we too shall rise. In Paul’s words to the Philippians, Jesus will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body… (Phil 3:21). This mortal body shall become immortal; this corruptible body shall become incorruptible; this weak body shall become strong. Glory be to God!

What this means is that the resurrection is the consummation of all world history. History is inexorably moving to the day when Christ shall return again in glory to judge the living and the dead; inexorably moving to the day when the dead shall arise from their graves – those who have done good through faith in Jesus Christ to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil by ignoring or rebelling against God to the resurrection of death (Jn 5). Creation itself is awaiting this same day. For when we rise from the dead, when our bodies are made new, all creation will share in our glorification. Even as all creation was plunged into death and decay through the rebellion of our first father Adam, so all creation will be renewed into life and glory through the obedience of the last Adam, Jesus the Christ (Rom 8).

And what this means, therefore, for all those in Christ, is that all creation is ours. This is our Father’s world. He has given it to His Son. And He has made us joint-heirs with Christ. We shall inherit all things. The sun, moon, stars, and planets are ours; the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers, and streams are ours; the mountains and plains are ours; the forests, grasslands, and deserts are ours; all creation is ours. Blessed are the meek,” our Lord Jesus declares, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5). We are heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17). All things are ours since Christ has risen from the dead, we too shall rise, and all creation with us. It is this hope that lies behind Paul’s words in our text today. Listen again:

… He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.

All things are for your sakes – all things: birds, beasts, fruit trees and all cedars, the honey bee and the crocus, the lily and the rose. All things.

Now if this is true – and through Christ’s resurrection it is – what kind of people ought we to be? A thankful people. For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.” God has made us heir of all things. So need we envy the gifts that God has given to others? Need we grasp or steal the things that others possess? No. In God’s time and in God’s way, all things shall be ours. Therefore, we can be content, content to trust God and His promises, content to wait upon the Lord. And because His promises are reliable, we can be thankful while we wait. We may not have much now, but God will provide abundantly more than we can ask or think. In other words, Jesus rose from the dead in order that we might escape envy and abound in thanksgiving to the glory of God.

So reminded that, through the resurrection of Jesus, God has made us heirs of all things and that we ought to be the most thankful of people, let us confess that we are often unthankful and envious. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Habituated to the Contempt of Death

April 12, 2021 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Church Calendar, Church History, Easter, Meditations, Quotations, Resurrection, Trials

1 Corinthians 15:51–57
51Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Last week we celebrated Easter. But lest we think we can exhaust the glory of Easter with one day of worship, the Church has historically celebrated this period of time as Eastertide – so today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Jesus’ resurrection inaugurates a season for rejoicing! Jesus has risen from the dead! And this means that for all those who believe in Him our bodies likewise will be raised.

It is this theme upon which Paul dwells in our text today. This corruptible body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised incorruptible; this mortal body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised immortal. And when this has happened, when at the Last Day Christ has returned in glory and raised us from the dead and transformed us into His own image – righteous, incorruptible, immortal – then shall come to pass the promise of Scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

So what does this mean? It means that we can have immense hope and confidence in the face of death itself and in the face of all death’s minions – sickness, pain, torture, persecution, hardship, trial. None of these things have the last word – the last word belongs to Jesus and to life. As horrible as death is, as devastating as it is, death is a conquered foe. Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus dealt death a death blow. We now live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead; because Christ has risen, we too shall rise. As Paul declares, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

It is this confidence in the face of death that enables us to fulfill the twofold task that Jesus has entrusted to us as His disciples. On the one hand, Christ calls us to lead lives of godly sincerity and purity no matter what opposition we may face, no matter what others may think or say. On the other hand, while living this way, Christ does not permit us to retreat into a little hovel but calls us to engage all the nations of the earth with the message of the Gospel, to be the light of the world. He calls us to stand against the world on behalf of the world. So how can we accomplish such a task? The early church historian Eusebius writes:

[To accomplish this twofold task] the strongest conviction of a future life was necessary, that [we] might be able with fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the conflict with… error: a conflict the dangers of which [we] would never have been prepared to meet, except as habituated to the contempt of death.

We are called to maintain the truth of God against all opposition with fearless and unshrinking zeal. We can only accomplish this when habituated to the contempt of death. And what is it that habituates us to such contempt? Deep meditation on the resurrection of our Lord. Jesus has died and risen again “that He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb 2:14-15). Jesus has risen from the dead to free us from the fear of death. Hence, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7). So what should characterize our lives? “A fearless and unshrinking zeal” to maintain the truth of God against all opposition – whether from our own flesh or from the world or from the devil himself. Congregation of the Lord, Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed!)

So reminded this morning of the power of Christ’s resurrection but no doubt reminded also that we frequently are fearful and shrinking rather than fearless and unshrinking, let us kneel and confess our lack of faith to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin.

What is the Meaning of the Resurrection?

April 4, 2021 in Authority, Bible - NT - John, Church Calendar, Creeds, Easter, Faith, Holy Spirit, Judgment, King Jesus, Meditations, Resurrection

John 20:19–23 (NKJV)
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

For nearly two millennia now our fathers and mothers have been celebrating the feast of Easter – the celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. On this day, the first day of the week, nearly two millennia ago our Lord Jesus rose bodily from the grave to conquer sin and death.

So what is the meaning of the resurrection? Is the resurrection just a nice story about the tenacity of life over death? Is it like the fairy tales of old, a tale that’s obviously not true but meant to teach us some moral lesson? Certainly not! The Scriptures declare that the resurrection is, first of all, historical. Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. It is God’s proof to the world of the reality of His existence, the certainty of coming judgment, and the promise of forgiveness for those who believe in the Risen Christ. It is then, second, theological. Because Jesus rose from the dead, He has conquered death and now reigns as the Messiah, the Ruler over all the earth. As I said in our greeting this morning, Jesus Christ is “the firstborn from the dead, the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

John records the significance of Jesus’ Lordship in his Gospel. In the evening of this day, Jesus appeared to the disicples and pronounced His blessing upon them and commissioned them to be His emissaries to the world. “Peace be to you!” he said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” Even as the Father sent Jesus into the world to seek and to save that which was lost, to reconcile us as human beings to Himself, so Jesus has sent the Church to proclaim His death and resurrection to all nations. He has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation. We petition the world, on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor 5:20)

To accomplish this task, our Risen Lord has poured out His Spirit upon us and given us the immense privilege of proclaiming forgiveness in His Name. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” We have the privilege of declaring to all those who put their faith in Christ, “You are forgiven. Jesus really has conquered sin and death. He is our great High Priest who reconciles us to God.” And because the forgiveness of sins is such great good news, the elders have decided to supplement our liturgy with a congregational response to the pronouncement of pardon. Henceforth, after I declare, “Your sins are forgiven!”, you get to respond, “Alleluia! Praise the Lord!”

Alongside this joyful task, the Church has the solemn duty of warning the nations that apart from faith in Christ, there is no forgiveness or reconciliation with God. “If you retain the sins of any,” Jesus declares, “they are retained.” If human individuals and societies would prosper, then they must seek God’s blessing through Christ alone. As Jesus declared to the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jewish nation, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. All other paths end in judgment.

So listen – where have you placed your confidence for acceptance by God? Jesus is the Risen Lord, the Ruler of the kings of the earth. On the last day, we shall all rise from our graves and stand before this King as our judge and give an account of how we have served Him. If we remain in rebellion against Him, refusing to find in Him the One who reconciles us to God, then we shall be judged. So turn from your sin and turn to Christ; rely on Him and Him alone for forgiveness. Only in and through Jesus can we be reconciled to God.

Reminded that we can only be reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Jesus, let us confess our sin and seek His forgiveness in Christ. And, as you are able, let us kneel together as we confession. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession that is found in your bulletin. Our confession for Eastertide acknowledges the ways we have transgressed each of the Ten Commandments.

The Son of God with Power

April 12, 2020 in Bible - NT - Romans, Church Calendar, Easter, Eschatology, Glorification, King Jesus, Meditations, Politics, Postmillennialism, Resurrection, Sovereignty of God, Worship

Romans 1:1-4 (NKJV)
1
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Today is Easter – the most significant of the various holy days in the Church calendar. More pivotal than Christmas, more central than Pentecost, more crucial than Epiphany – Easter celebrates the most world transforming event in all human history. Because of the resurrection, we have the Gospel. Because of the resurrection, we have cathedrals. Because of the resurrection, we have new life, forgiveness, and peace with God – all because of the resurrection.

It is this world transformation that Paul highlights in the introduction to his letter to the Romans. After assuring us that Christ’s coming was proclaimed beforehand by the prophets and that he came as was foretold a son of David, Paul goes on to declare that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead.

As we have been learning in our series on the Biblical Hope, Paul is telling us that Jesus not only had a claim to the throne of His father David but that He has now been installed as King in fact. He was born of the seed of David – in other words, he had the natural right to rule as God’s King. But simply having the natural right to rule does not establish that one does in fact rule. Bonnie Prince Charlie may have had a rightful claim to the throne of England; but a mere claim does not make one king and Charlie never had the power. But not only was Jesus born to be King – not only did he have a rightful claim to the throne – by the resurrection from the dead He was declared to be the Son of God, the King of Israel, with power. He is now seated upon His throne, ruling as God’s King, and will continue to rule until all His enemies are subdued beneath His feet.

So what is the significance of Easter? On this day we celebrate the coronation of our King. Nearly two thousand years ago Jesus was crowned King of the Universe, the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. Jesus is Lord; Jesus reigns.

And so as we come to this Easter on which we are worshiping together virtually, unable to gather together as we would wish, unable to breakfast together as is our wont, unable to commune together at the Table of the Lord, let us remember that this hard providence comes to us from the hand of our Risen and Exalted King. Not one hair falls from our head apart from His will; how much more does this inability to gather together on Easter come from Him?

So what does He intend? First, He intends to remind us what our sin deserves. While we often take sin lightly and don’t suppose the evil great, our exalted King Jesus uses such hard providences to teach us to measure its nature rightly. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and death in all its forms – death which is separation, isolation – is the just consequence of our sin. Let us embrace it; let us acknowledge it.

Second, He intends to remind us of the greatness of His mercy toward us His people. Jesus endured separation from His Father, from the Father who had never turned His face away from Him throughout His life, in order that we no longer have to be separated from God. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are reconciled to God and assured that if God is for us, nothing can be against us. Can this virus separate us from one another for a time? Yes. Can it separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord? Never.

So as we enter into the presence of our Risen and Exalted King, Jesus, let us not harden ourselves in our sin; let us bow the knee and acknowledge our guilt, seeking His forgiveness. And having received the forgiving grace of God through faith in Christ, let us rejoice in His mercy. Reminded that Jesus is Lord, let us kneel as we are able and confess our sins to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confessions followed by the corporate confession in your order of service. (Our confession this morning is an acknowledgement of the ways we have broken each of the Ten Commandments.)

Two Humanities

May 26, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Easter, Faith, Glorification, Meditations, Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:20–26 (NKJV)

20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.

Today we continue to meditate on 1 Corinthians 15 in celebration of Eastertide, the time of year when we are invited to give special focus to the significance of Easter, the significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

In our text Paul reveals the indissoluble connection between the resurrection of Jesus and our resurrection. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, we shall rise from our graves. Jesus came, Paul tells us, as a Second Adam, the head of a new and renewed humanity. While the sin of the First Adam plunged himself and all humanity into death and judgment, the resurrection of the Second Adam, Jesus, brings new life not only to Himself but to all those who are in Him.

What this means is that throughout history there are two humanities: those who have the First Adam as their representative before God and who will, therefore, face death and judgment; and those who have the Second Adam as their representative before God and who will, therefore, inherit eternal life and salvation. These two humanities are called elsewhere the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, the circumcised and the uncircumcised, the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares, etc.

When Jesus returns in glory, every human being shall be made to appear before our Creator – and when we appear before Him, there will be but two fundamental groups of men and two spokesmen. There will be those who stand with the First Adam and who say to God through their representative, “I have ruled my life by my own standards; I have been my own authority; I have lived for my glory not yours.” Then there shall be those who stand with the Second Adam and who say to God through their representative, “All glory be to You, O Lord; for you have created and redeemed me so I have lived for your glory not my own.”

So in which group will you be found? Will you stand with the First Adam? Will you stand in rebellion against God, choosing your own way and ignoring the commandments of God? Or will you stand with the Second? Will you stand in submission to God, believing in Jesus for forgiveness and, like Him, treasuring God’s commandments? These are our two options; these are the two spokesmen. One will speak for you; there is no third option.

Of course, there are those who try to fool God; those who unite themselves with the Second Adam, Jesus, in baptism but who really embrace the life of the First. But on the final day there will be no fooling God or others. He knows the Adam with whom you identify.

So today as we confess our sins, let me remind you to confess them in the Name of Jesus, trusting in Him as your representative. Only in this way shall we rise unto life on the Last Day. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Centrality of the Resurrection

May 19, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Church History, Easter, Ecclesiology, Glorification, Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (NKJV)

12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

As part of our celebration of Eastertide, I’ve selected these words from 1 Corinthians 15 to help us meditate on the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. As we approach Paul’s words, we must beware lest we drift into auto-pilot and simply assume that we know what Paul is saying. We might be tempted to assume, for example, that Paul is defending the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. “Paul’s point is that Jesus really rose from the dead and that this is what guarantees our forgiveness.” If we assumed this, however, we would be wrong. While Jesus’ resurrection is central to Paul’s whole argument, it is not Paul’s point in these verses.

So what is his point? Paul’s point is not that Jesus rose from the dead but that all other human beings are going to rise from the dead. You see the Corinthians weren’t denying that Jesus had risen from the dead; they were denying that the rest of us would rise from our graves. Listen to Paul again: Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead [generally, at the end of history]? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.

Notice that Paul is endeavoring to highlight the inconsistency of the Corinthians’ beliefs. If there is no resurrection at the end of history; if the dead will not be raised when Christ returns again in glory, then neither did Jesus rise from the dead. Why? Because Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee that every human being will rise from his tomb and stand before God. Jesus is, as Paul says elsewhere, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. His resurrection is God’s pledge of the resurrection of all men. So note Paul’s argument: if we deny the general resurrection then we must, of necessity, deny Jesus’ resurrection. And if we deny Jesus’ resurrection, then we are still in our sins and without hope. But Jesus has risen from the dead; therefore, there will be a general resurrection.

In the modern American church we stand in dire need of re-reading these verses. We have gone on auto-pilot. We imagine that we can teach that Jesus rose from the dead and simultaneously teach that our ultimate destiny as human beings is to go to heaven when we die. But this is not the Gospel; this is not the Christian hope for the future; this is not the meaning of Easter. Our hope is that we shall emerge from our graves just like Jesus. So our confidence is that the bodies of those who have fallen asleep in Christ have not perished but that they do rest in their graves until the resurrection. We are not to be pitied; for we have not only in this life placed our hope in Jesus; there shall be a resurrection of the just and the unjust – Jesus’ resurrection is proof.

Paul’s words today remind us that it is not only our actions that are sinful; sometimes our ideas are sinful as well. We can embrace ideas that are erroneous and dangerous. The Corinthians were tempted to do so. So when God in His grace and mercy shines the light of truth on our error and corrects us, corrects our thinking, what ought we to do? We ought to confess our error, ask God’s forgiveness for our folly, and rely upon the sacrifice of Jesus to make us right with God despite our erroneous ideas. Jesus is the sacrifice for our sinful ideas even as he is the sacrifice for our sinful actions. Praise God this is so.

And so reminded that our ideas are often sinful and dishonoring to our Creator, let us confess our sin to the Lord, seeking His forgiveness through Christ. And, as you are able, let us kneel as we confess. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Death, thou shalt die!

April 28, 2019 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Church Calendar, Easter, Evangelism, Meditations, Resurrection

1 Corinthians 15:51–57 (NKJV)

51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Last week we celebrated Easter. But lest we think we can exhaust the glory of Easter with one day of worship, the Church has historically celebrated this period of time as Eastertide – today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Jesus’ resurrection is far too significant an event to be celebrated only one day – it inaugurates a season for rejoicing! Jesus has risen from the dead! And this means that for all those who believe in Him our bodies likewise will be raised.

It is this theme upon which Paul dwells in our text today. This corruptible body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised incorruptible; this mortal body shall pass through the furnace of death and be raised immortal. And when this has happened, when at the Last Day Christ has returned in glory and raised us from the dead and transformed us into His own image – righteous, incorruptible, immortal – then shall come to pass the promise of Scripture, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Or, in the 17th century English poet John Donne’s famous words, “Death thou shalt die.”

In other words, brothers and sisters, we have immense hope. Death is not the final word. As horrible as death is, as devastating as it is, death is a conquered foe. Jesus rose from the dead; Jesus dealt death a death blow. We now live in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead; because Christ has risen we too shall rise.

So what does this mean? It means that we can have immense confidence in the face of death itself and in the face of all death’s minions – sickness, pain, torture, persecution, hardship, trial. None of these things have the last word – the last word belongs to Jesus and to life. As Paul declares, “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We stand in great need of such confidence given the twofold task that has been entrusted to us as Christ’s disciples. On the one hand, Christ calls us to lead lives of godly sincerity and purity no matter what others may think or say. On the other hand, while living this way, Christ calls us to engage all the nations of the earth with the message of the Gospel not retreat into a little hovel. We have to stand against the sinfulness of the world for the life of the world. What could possibly enable us to accomplish such a task? Listen to the father of church history, the 4th century church historian Eusebius:

[To accomplish this twofold task] the strongest conviction of a future life was necessary, that [we] might be able with fearless and unshrinking zeal to maintain the conflict with Gentile and polytheistic error: a conflict the dangers of which [we] would never have been prepared to meet, except as habituated to the contempt of death.

The only way we can accomplish our twofold task is as habituated to the contempt of death. And how can we be so habituated? By meditating on the glory of Christ’s resurrection. Even as Christ rose from the dead, we too shall rise. The power of death has been broken. So what should characterize our lives? A fearless and unwavering zeal to maintain the truth of God against all opposition – whether from our own flesh or from the world or from the devil himself. Congregation of the Lord, Christ is Risen! (He is Risen indeed!)

So reminded of the power of Christ’s resurrection but no doubt reminded also that we frequently are fearful and wavering rather than fearless and unwavering, let us kneel and confess our lack of faith to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.