Today on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. First Corinthians 15, Paul says the whole point of Christ's saving work was to redeem the physical body and usher in God's kingdom on earth, which is a physical, tangible kingdom that's actually similar to the one we're in now, just a lot more glorious and without the curse. Welcome to Summit Life with pastor, author, and theologian J.D.
Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Today, Pastor J.D. takes a look at how Paul responds to some of the Corinthians who are saying that there's no resurrection of the dead. And in his answer, he shows them that belief in our bodily resurrection is as core of a Christian concept as you can get.
It's not a secondary or a peripheral belief. It's at the very center of Christian hope. Now, if you missed any of the messages in this study called Cutting Through the Noise, be sure to catch up right away at jdgreer.com. But right now, let's join Pastor J.D. for this message from First Corinthians chapter 15 titled, Is Life Over For Me? All right, First Corinthians chapter 15, if you have your Bibles with you, and I hope that you do, First Corinthians 15, this is another one of the most significant chapters in the entire Bible. First Corinthians 15, as you turn there, let me acknowledge, let me say that I love, love, love how we are a church who celebrates and gets excited about what God is doing.
We love worshiping together loudly with smiles on our faces filled with joy. But I'm also very acutely aware that every single week here at the Summit Church, there are a number of you who are hurting. Some of you are struggling with chronic pain or incurable diseases. You are somebody that you love, cancer.
COVID was devastating for some of you and your families. Some we have that are struggling with emotional and mental health issues, anxiety, depression, PTSD, the effects of trauma. And you've seen the therapists and you've taken the medicines and you've memorized the verses, but it never really seems to fully go away. Some of you, some of you this morning, you feel trapped in a bad marriage and you've prayed and you've gone to see the counselors and you've tried to make things better, but your situation is just not changing. And you're trying to get your mind around, trying to prepare yourself for the reality that it may never change. Some of you are frustrated that you're still single.
I know not every single person is in this category, of course, but some of you want to be married and you're wondering if that door is ever going to open. Some of you are pretty sure that door has been decisively closed. We have others who feel like they're suffering because of dumb decisions that they made years ago. And you've asked forgiveness for those decisions and you feel assured that God has given you that forgiveness, but bottom line, you can't rewrite the past. And that decision costs you your career or your marriage or your family.
Maybe that decision landed you in jail. And so right now you feel like there's a cloud of despair that hangs over your life. And you're asking yourself questions like, is this as good as it's ever going to get for me?
Or maybe you say, is life over for me? 1 Corinthians 15 is written for you. Now, as we've seen, Paul writes the letter of 1 Corinthians to answer questions that the Corinthians have asked of him or to address problems that he has heard that the Corinthians are having. Here is a question that Paul is dealing with in chapter 15. It's articulated in verse 12 if you want to look there. How can some of you say that there's no resurrection of the dead? Paul wants to show them that belief in our bodily resurrection is as core a Christian concept as you can get. This is not a secondary or peripheral belief, something that is a cool part of our eschatology beliefs for the future. This is foundational to the Christian hope. Evidently you see there were some in Corinth who were denying the physical resurrection of the body.
Here's why. The religious environment in Corinth had been shaped by philosophers like Plato and Plutarch who taught that all of us consist of body and soul, but the body was bad and your soul was good. When your body died, your good soul left this old piece of trash behind and went on up to heaven where it would enter into a blessed experience, a spiritual experience. Most Greek and Roman philosophers believed in an afterlife. It just wasn't a physical afterlife. That was because the spirit is good and material things, the body, those things are secondary, lesser, and even bad. Now you say, well, that's an interesting piece of philosophical trivia from 2000 years ago.
Why are you sharing that with us? Do people still think this way today? Yeah. Ask yourself, have you ever thought of heaven as some far away disembodied place, a celestial shore that your spirit flies away to? That makes for really good bluegrass music, but really bad theology. Have you ever thought about heaven as a colorless world where we sit around on clouds wearing loin cloths strumming our harps and shooting nerf bows and arrows at each other all day and wondered like, what in the world are we going to do all day long? Just waiting for choir practice every day at four o'clock. How are we going to, how are we not going to be bored out of our minds in heaven? Right?
You thought that? First Corinthians 15, Paul says the whole point of Christ's saving work was to redeem the physical body and usher in God's kingdom on earth, which is a physical, tangible kingdom. That's actually similar to the one we're in now, just a lot more glorious and without the curse. Here's what Paul does in this chapter. First, he's going to ask, did the resurrection of Jesus actually happen? Then he's going to answer, how does physical resurrection even work? All the just feels complex. And what are you talking about? And then finally, he's going to answer how important is the resurrection and what difference does it make for how we see life today?
That's a lot of cover, right? So we've got to get right to work. Verse three, Paul says, for I delivered unto you first of all, as of first importance, what I also received. And that is that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised in the third day in accordance with the scriptures.
Now you can't see it because in English, it doesn't rhyme. But the way that Paul writes this indicates that this was either a confession or a creed, or most say probably a hymn. That was sung in the early church. He's quoting it like something they all know, like the lyrics to a song. Like if I stood up here and was like, when we've been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun, you all know I was quoting a song. When Paul goes through those lines there, it's obvious he's quoting that kind of song or confession. He continues verse five. We also know that he appeared to Cephas, by the way, who is Cephas?
That's right. Another name for Peter. Peter had a lot of nicknames.
I have no idea why, but they all use all of them in the Bible. Then he appeared after that to the 12. Verse six, then he appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have already fallen asleep. Verse seven, then he appeared to James, the half brother of Jesus, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me, Paul says. In these verses, Paul basically says two things about the resurrection.
Number one, it happened. And number two, it's foundational to everything else we believe. In establishing that it happened, Paul points to crucial pieces of evidence that were fundamental to early Christian testimony. And that was the empty tomb. Secondly, the living eye witnesses. Several hundred of us, Paul says, who saw Jesus alive after the resurrection in different times and at different places, including more than 500 of us at one time.
N.T. Wright, who is an Oxford scholar, says that both of those things, the empty tomb and the eyewitnesses, both are crucial parts of the testimony. If we had only the empty tomb, N.T. Wright says, but no eyewitnesses, then critics would have concluded that the body was stolen. But if we had only eyewitnesses and no empty tomb, they would have concluded that the witnesses were deluded or hallucinating. But the two together make for convincing evidence. Now, a lot of times people today especially will say, well, well, no, this belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus, that was a legend that grew up over time.
It wasn't part of the original message. But over the years, as Christians felt the need to beef up their authority, beef up their message, they added in this miraculous stuff about Jesus resurrecting. The idea is that Jesus started out as just a regular old Jewish holy man. He was a little radical. But he taught some insightful and revolutionary things that unfortunately got him killed. But after he died, his disciples wanted to keep his body of teaching alive. And so these legends started to grow up about his miracles and eventually about his resurrection. And as things got repeated from generation to generation, they got exaggerated as often happens. For example, what started out as his teachings live on in us, well, that just turned into he lives in our hearts, which then turned into he was raised from the dead and his disciples saw the empty tomb.
Here's the problem with that theory that this was just a legend that grew up. Paul's letter to the Corinthians that we are studying was written in 53 AD, that's less than 20 years after Jesus has died. By the way, nobody really disputes that. This is one of the few facts about the New Testament that both liberal and conservative New Testament scholars agree on. And already, Paul in this letter, written less than 20 years after Jesus died and resurrected, already he's pointing to a hymn sung commonly in the early church that celebrated Christ's resurrection.
Even the uber liberal New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann, who's basically an atheist, which is an odd thing to choose to study if you're an atheist, the New Testament. But Ludemann says that the hymn that Paul was quoting there in verse three, Christ died, was buried, raised on the third day according to the scriptures. He says that dates to within two years after the crucifixion. That is way too early for some spurious legend to grow up.
Think of it like this. Many of you remember when Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died at the Daytona 500 a few years ago. That was 20 years ago. Some of you were watching it when it happened. Even me saying this makes you just want to salute. You saw that in Hunger Games, thought, are they saluting Dale?
No, they were not. The point is that if somebody today started to say, oh no, Dale resurrected right there on the track. He got out of the car. He walked a few laps around the Daytona 500.
He shook hands with a bunch of his fans and then he drove the number three straight on up into heaven. There's a bunch of people that would say, no, I mean, I love Dale too, but that didn't happen. Even if we couldn't go back and review the video footage, some of you would say either I was there or I knew so-and-so was there watching it live and that did not happen. Paul's like, look, if you doubt my claim, ask all these people who saw him alive, all these people that are still alive who could validate this claim. Now maybe you're like, well, maybe they were just hallucinating.
Maybe it was wishful thinking. Paul says, look, it was 500 people at once. 500 people don't typically hallucinate altogether seeing the same thing at the same time. And if it was just a hallucination, Jesus's enemies, the Romans or the Jews would have just produced the body and nipped this fantasy in the bud, right? Now you've got another alternative explanation that says the apostles were lying and they knew they were lying. The problem with that is that I can't think of a plausible motivation for them to lie. When you propagate something you know was a lie, and that's happened in history, but when somebody propagates something they know to be a lie, it's almost always to gain some monetary or political power. But like Paul acknowledges in this chapter, the apostles' confession that they'd seen the risen Jesus, that brought them none of those things. In fact, the opposite. It brought them persecution and poverty and death, and yet they kept right on claiming they had seen him anyway. All this to say I agree with N.T.
Wright, who says that all the other explanations for how Christianity got started and the explanations for the absolutely remarkable and miraculous birth of the church and its incredibly rapid spread throughout the earth against all odds, every other alternative theory is far less compelling than the one that the early Christians themselves provided, and that is Jesus actually rose from the dead. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Just a quick reminder before we get back to today's teaching. If you've ever had real questions about theology, the Bible, money, relationships, parenthood, leadership, or a whole lot of other topics, we've got a fantastic free resource available to you. It's Pastor JD's Ask Me Anything podcast. On Ask Me Anything, Pastor JD answers your hard questions with quick answers, perfect for a drive to work or for your evening walk.
And as always, his goal is to share biblical wisdom and practical advice. So if you enjoy the teaching here on Summit Life, you won't want to miss this podcast. You can access Ask Me Anything with J.D. Greer by visiting jdgreer.com slash podcast or by searching on your favorite podcast platform.
So go ahead, download and subscribe to the Ask Me Anything podcast today. Now let's get back to today's teaching here on Summit Life. Once again, here's Pastor JD. I love what the German historian theologian Wolfhard Pannenberg, I think he hits the nail on the head with this, the evidence for Jesus' resurrection is so strong, watch this, that nobody would really question it if not for two things. First, it is a very unusual event. It's miraculous and people that just don't like to acknowledge miracles. And second, if you believe that it happened, you would have to change the way that you live.
In other words, just historically speaking, it's pretty verifiable. The only reason people wouldn't do it is because it's kind of miraculous and a lot of times historians don't want to engage in the miraculous. And secondly, it demands, if it's true, it demands a radical change in the way you live. Paul's like, it may be unusual, it may be miraculous, but that didn't mean it didn't happen. Paul says it did happen and it changed my life. I went, verse nine, from a career as a persecutor of the church and a rising star in Jewish government, I went from that to being a poor persecuted proclaimer of the gospel.
There's only one thing that did that to me and that was seeing the resurrected Jesus. And then he says, far from being a secondary Christian truth, this truth is the foundation of just about everything else in the Christian life. In verse three, he says that the truth of the resurrection is of first importance. First importance implies that there are other genuinely important things also, but only this is of first importance. Everything rises or falls on this. This is everything.
Without this, we have nothing. Paul says, he goes through a little list here. Verse 15, if you say that Christ didn't rise from the dead, you got a number of problems. First, if Christ didn't rise from the dead, let's just be honest, that makes us apostles, a bunch of liars. This was not a tangential part of our message.
It was not a footnote. Paul's like, it's the core. Verse 15, look at this. We are even found to be misrepresenting lying on behalf of God because we testify. This was the core thing we were saying, that God had raised Christ. If Christ didn't rise, we're not just a few, off on a few details. We're not just misguided religious zealots.
We're frauds, we're phonies because we have staked everything on this claim. Second, he says, verse 17, and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you're still in your sins. You see, the resurrection was the validation that God had accomplished our salvation on the cross. So if Christ didn't rise, Jesus's death didn't really accomplish anything.
It was just the random martyr of another good man. And so your faith in Christ, Paul says, your faith in Christ as savior has been misplaced. Thirdly, verse 18, he says, if Christ is not raised, then those who have fallen asleep in Christ, they have perished. If Christ didn't rise from the dead, all those saints in the Bible who died believing the promises of God, they're not any better off than those who paid no attention. Faithful believers in the Old Testament always look forward to some future earthly hope. Job, for example, I know that my Redeemer lives and in the end, he's going to stand on the earth and I'm going to stand with him. Christ didn't rise from the dead, then old Job was wrong.
There's no earthly future for Job or Abraham or David or anybody else who hoped in it. Fourthly, verse 19, if in Christ, Paul says, we have hope in this life only. In other words, if the only advantage of being a Christian is that you get peace, love, and groovy vibes with each other and good families, we are of all people most to be pitied. If the benefits of Christianity are only what comes in this life, listen, let's just go and acknowledge it.
It kind of stinks. I mean, I realize there's a lot of great things about being a Christian. We're all friends and that creates an amazing community, but Christianity is hard. It involves a lot of difficult decisions, a lot of personal sacrifice, a lot of dying to yourself. Let's just acknowledge this right up here.
Okay. You've never heard a pastor acknowledge this. I'll go ahead and say it. Church is kind of a difficult hobby, is it not? I mean, you got to get up on a perfectly good Sunday morning.
Right? You got to get dressed. You're like, why am I not sleeping in? You got to do battle with your kids.
Parents, am I telling the truth? You got to do battle with your kids. Then you got to come try to find a parking space where the parking guy makes you park in this far away parking spot. When you can see, you can see a much closer one right up there. But he won't let you get there.
You got to park back here in the back. Then you got to sit in a room with a bunch of random people. Some of them are, let's just be honest, weird. A lot of them care around huge Bibles and say things like, bless you, brother, and just weird phrases. Sometimes the service leaders make you pray out loud, and that feels completely weird since you don't even know the people beside you. Church is a terrible hobby if Jesus didn't rise from the dead. If he didn't rise from the dead, why aren't we all sleeping today? That's not even to mention all those people who have sacrificed their fortunes or gave up their lives to take the message of Jesus' death and resurrection to others.
We've got a group of missionaries listening to me right now who would vastly prefer to be here with their family and friends, but they're somewhere overseas because they're doing this because Jesus raised from the dead. If he didn't raise from the dead, all those sacrifices we're making for the gospel, all this persecution, Paul says, it's all wasted, and we are most to be pitied. Fifth, verse 24, if Christ did not rise from the dead, the whole point of salvation, which was to bring all of creation back underneath the rule of Jesus, that's all failed. From the very beginning, God's purpose has been to redeem what sin cursed. When God created the heavens and the earth, what did he say?
It's good, right? Contrary to Plato, God did not look at creation and say, nah, that's all right. No, Paul's like, it's good, and it's still good, even though it is temporarily under the curse of sin, and Jesus wants it back. He didn't go through all he went through just so he could throw away creation in the garbage can and take our spirits up to a cloudless existence somewhere. He died to redeem creation, to cleanse it, to remove the curse from it. Finally, verse 29, if Christ didn't rise from the dead, saying that you stand in the faith of your fathers is useless. Verse 29, Paul says something very, very confusing that has caused a lot of people a lot of difficulty. And some of you saw it in the chapter getting ready for this weekend and you thought, is he going to skip that? And the answer is yes, I was going to skip it.
And then one of our teams said, you can't skip that. So here we go. If Christ is not raised, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead were not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? Baptized for the dead. What's that all about?
Well, let's just start off. It cannot mean what the Mormons say that it means. Where you get baptized on behalf of an ancient relative, you digging through your family history, you look up 23 and me and you're like, oh, here we go. I got somebody who I know was not saved. I'm going to get baptized on their behalf. You know, Uncle Peter who came over on the Mayflower in 1620, he was a hellion. So I'm going to get baptized this morning on his behalf and try to get him out of hell and into heaven.
That would make our baptismal services a lot more interesting, I admit, and a lot longer. But nowhere does the Bible teach that we can get saved or baptized on behalf of anybody else. That part is very clear in the Bible.
The only way any of us can be saved is by putting our own faith in Christ, right? So it can't mean that. We always interpret hard verses by easy ones, so we know we can't mean that.
What does this phrase mean then? Well, there are a variety of options. And if you get a good study Bible, which I hope that you have one, get a good study Bible, it will lay out those options for you.
But personally, the one that I find most compelling is to translate the phrase on behalf of, translate that as in regards to, which is one of the ways that Greek phrase could be translated. So the verse would actually reads like this. If Christ is not raised, what do people mean by being baptized with regards to the dead? In other words, with regards to those former saints whose faith you are aligning yourself when you got baptized. When we get baptized, we're joining ourselves to the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, right? And all the saints who've gone before us. And we're saying their hope is our hope. But if they're all dead and gone, why be baptized into their faith?
It didn't do them any good. The whole point of saying, I'm joining in the hope of Abraham, David, and Isaiah is that you'll get to experience that hope together with them one day. Now you're like, well, I got more questions about this. Buy a study Bible, okay?
That's all I can say about it for right now. But we got to keep moving forward. After establishing the fact of the resurrection, I love this about Paul. Paul hears in his head the objection for a lot of people he's writing to, particularly the disciples of Plato, right?
So he articulates, he verbalizes that objection verse 35. But someone will ask, how are the dead even raised? With what kind of body do they come? I mean, you know, we got these bodies and they got all these problems. Amen.
Who wants to live with this thing forever? And what about people who got cremated or died in a nuclear reactor meltdown? There's nothing even left of their bodies. How are they going to get resurrected? And be honest, how many of you have had these kinds of questions?
How does this even work? Now, in the following verses, Paul does not fully answer every question, but he does give you the basic parameters for how to think about this. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D.
Greer. We hope you've enjoyed today's teaching. And as a reminder, you can listen to previous messages in this series or download the transcript for today's sermon when you visit us online at jdgreer.com. I'd like to introduce you to a brand new premium resource that we are offering this month called the Gospel Flip Book. J.D., this is a resource that's unlike anything we've ever created before. So can you tell us just a little bit about it?
Yeah. You know, we recommend a lot of books here. I'm a big bibliophile.
I love to read. But there's a lot of people that, while they enjoy reading, they need a tool that will help them keep the gospel in front of them. And sometimes we get them to memorize scripture, but we produce something that is like a daily...
Think of it almost like a little flip calendar that's going to have on it. It's going to have a scripture passage. It's also going to have like a kind of a major thought, a gospel thought.
For example, God doesn't need anything from you. And it's going to, you know, something that will get your attention, something that will arrest the way that you're thinking and give you something to meditate on throughout the day. It's going to have little insights into what you're reading and in the gospels and these chapters that you go to. We would love to give you one of those. It's our gift for you becoming a gospel partner or just supporting us. If you'll reach out to us at jdgrier.com, we'd love to start a conversation with you and we'd love to have you as a part of the team.
Thanks, JD. We'd love to send you a copy of this brand new resource called The Gospel Flipbook today as our thanks for your financial support. Everything we do, including putting this program on the radio, is made possible because of the generosity of listeners like you. We'd be so honored if you would consider partnering with us in our mission to make the gospel known around the world. You can give today by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220. Or you can donate online at jdgrier.com. I'm Molly Vidovitch inviting you to join us again Wednesday as we continue our teaching series, Cutting Through the Noise. See you right here on Summit Life with J.D. Greer.
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