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Resurrection Hope (Pt. 2)

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew
The Truth Network Radio
May 15, 2023 2:00 am

Resurrection Hope (Pt. 2)

The Voice of Sovereign Grace / Doug Agnew

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May 15, 2023 2:00 am

Join us as we worship our Triune God- For more information about Grace Church, please visit www.graceharrisburg.org.

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Well tonight we're in part two of a section in this letter to the Corinthian church that all deals with the theme of the resurrection. If you would turn with me again to 1st Corinthians 15 and tonight we'll be looking at verses 35 through 58.

Begin at 35 and run down through the end of the chapter. Hear the word of the Lord. But someone will ask, how are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come, you foolish person? What you sow does not come to life unless it dies, and what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind and the glory of the earthly is of another.

There is one glory of the sun and another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars, for stars differ from star in glory. So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable. What is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor. It is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness.

It is raised in power. It is sown a natural body. It is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, the first man, Adam, became a living being. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the natural and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust. The second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust. And as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers, flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory. Oh death, where is your victory?

Oh death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. This is the word of the Lord.

Let's go to him in prayer. Father, we come again to your word asking that you would open our eyes to behold beautiful treasures, beautiful things. Where we doubt that word, would you strengthen our faith? Where we misunderstand your word, would you illuminate our minds? Lord, where we ignore your word, would you give us the grace to repent and return to your table where our souls can be nourished and fed and conformed to the image of your son? I believe in the Holy Spirit, so please, Holy Spirit, do your illuminating and convicting work in your people now.

I pray in Jesus' name, amen. Deal with your unbelief or you will always be plagued with the temptation to give up on the Christian life when the going gets tough. That thought has kind of been the the behind-the-scenes theme of chapter 15. Doubting foundational tenets of the gospel, like the resurrection, does not have merely intellectual implications. It has moral implications. It has eternal implications. Another way to put it is this, what we believe affects how we behave. What we believe affects how we behave. Paul knew this and he knew that the church at Corinth was toying with some very destructive beliefs.

Beliefs that would eventually lead to apathy and eventually apostasy if left unchecked. At Corinth, the destructive beliefs centered around the denial of the bodily resurrection of Christians when Christ returns. The resurrection of the dead on the last day is a central tenet to the Christian faith and so to deny it brought with it several horrific faith-destroying implications and Paul listed some of those implications in the in the previous chapter, previous section of chapter 15 that we looked at last time. In tonight's text Paul then goes on to address various objections to the doctrine of resurrection. Objections that were coming from some skeptics at Corinth and his intent is to point out the foolishness of those skeptics so as to strengthen the faith of the genuine believers who were there in the Corinthian church.

First he answers the skeptics but then he spends time just contemplating his answer and hopes that his reflection on the glory of the resurrection will spur sincere believers out of their lethargy, out of their unbelief and on to perseverance and hope as they await the return of the Lord. Well let's see first how Paul answers these foolish questions from foolish skeptics. It has been said that there are no stupid questions.

Well it turns out that there are some. In fact Paul anticipates two such questions from skeptics from the skeptics at Corinth and what makes these questions so foolish is the spirit in which they're asked, the attitude behind the question. These are not the questions of genuinely interested seekers but of cynics. Now on the face of it perhaps these sound like legitimate sincere questions and given the right motives in the heart of the one asking they could be legitimate sincere questions. Verse 35, how are the dead raised?

And the second question with what kind of body do they come? You know I would like to know the answer to these questions but I want to know the answer because I believe in the resurrection not because I want to besmirch or ridicule a doctrine that I think is false. When these skeptics at Corinth asked how are the dead raised they weren't asking about the mechanics of resurrection. They were asking a question about its feasibility and likelihood. They weren't asking how it works. They were asking how is it possible.

It was a question of doubt. If a husband and wife get into a spat with each other and the husband says something that's that's cutting and and hurtful towards his wife we can imagine her yelling back at him how can you say that? Now if the husband were to answer her question with something like well I use my tongue and I've formed shapes and and I expel air over my vocal cords to say the words not only would he be even more in the proverbial doghouse than he already is he would also be misunderstanding the question completely right?

You see she's not asking how is he physically forming the words she's asking how is he able in good conscience to say such hurtful things to his wife. The motive behind the question both for the offended wife and the Corinthian skeptic is not curiosity but incredulity, unbelief. We know this because of the tone of Paul's answer in verse 36. His answer starts with you foolish person and a very emphatic arrangement of the words there.

That's a dumb question you're a fool to have even asked it Paul says. But the skeptic is not asking how does the resurrection work but rather how is it even possible? A question of unbelief. The second question is even more cynical what kind of body do these resurrected Christians come in asks the skeptic. Again it's not a question of sincere curiosity but of ridicule like asking a crazy person who claims to have been abducted by aliens oh really you were abducted by aliens what what color was the spaceship?

You're not really interested in the in the color of the spaceship it's just mockery it's ridicule it's unbelief and that's the tone of these questions. But Paul for the sake of the genuine believers at Corinth who believers who might easily have been swayed by these deriding skeptics actually takes up the foolish questions and answers them in such a way as to expose their foolishness to expose the foolishness of those asking the questions. You know I think when we meet skeptics who object to our Christian faith their objections are often grounded in naturalistic materialistic assumptions. In other words people who doubt certain doctrinal claims of Scripture often object to those claims because they can't be proven through observable repeatable experiments in the natural world or because they require rational arguments that reach outside of the material world. And so a proposition like a person coming back to life after death is preposterous to them simply because the skeptic has never observed a resurrection. The notion of an eternal being like God who is personal and all-powerful is absurd to them because they can't see him. These objections assume that the natural material world is all there is. Of course the Achilles heel of this materialistic worldview is that it can't even prove its own overarching assumption by simply following materialistic arguments, right?

But nevertheless Paul plays their game for a while. He answers their objections on their own terms. He goes to the natural world and points out how perfectly consistent and even common certain Christian realities like resurrection after death really are not only in the Christians worldview but also within the materialists worldview within the natural world. Paul is gonna say if you don't believe in the possibility of resurrection, Mr. Naturalist, I can tell you where to go to observe it happening in the natural world today with your very own eyes. If you can't comprehend how a human body could exist in an eternal heavenly state, Mr. Materialist, I can point you to observable realities in the material world that attest to the fact that God is quite able to design and create and animate a vast variety of bodies suited for existence in a vast variety of environments and with a vast diversity of splendor.

If these realities are observable in the natural world, and they are, then one must be a fool to insist that these laws of nature have no function or parallel beyond this little speck of dirt that we call planet Earth. So Paul answers the skeptics foolish questions on their own terms, naturalistic terms, first by going to the world of botany, then zoology, and finally astronomy. First he directs our attention to botany, to plant life, specifically to the law of harvest. Verse 36, what you sow does not come to life unless it dies, and what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel. There's no question resurrection is certainly miraculous, but it is not irrational.

It is observable and repeatable every time a garden is planted. We see something go into the ground and die only to resurrect and produce more than it ever could as a mere seed. And so the idea that life could come from death literally is not some metaphysical stretch we have to make in order to explain the Christian view of the afterlife. God has given us demonstrations of the miracle of resurrection all around us every day. So a foolish person asking how is it possible that the dead are raised, well it's easy. God resurrects dead things. It's miraculous, yes. It's unexpected, yes, but it's rational, and it's true, and it's observable.

So don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise. Well from the world of plants, Paul then moves to the animal kingdom in verse 39. He says, for not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. The point Paul is highlighting here is the fact that there exists in the animal kingdom a great variety of bodies, and those bodies are each suited to the environment in which any given creature lives. Wings and feathers don't work very well underwater.

Scales and gills don't function well in the woods. Eyeballs and lungs would be unhelpful in carrying out the vocation of an earthworm. If God has created this much variety in a single world and a variety such that everything He has made is perfectly suited for the purpose for which He's made it, what's to prevent Him from being able to create a body suitable for eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth? You simply cannot look at this world and conclude that its creator is limited in his ability to fit form and function together. One theologian put it this way, he said, the God who made these myriads of differences in one in the same universe can be credited with inexhaustible power. He has found a body fit for fish, fowl, cattle, and mortal man. Why not for raised man, resurrected man?

Experience, Mr. Empiricist, experience cannot teach that there is a type of life for which no suitable body can be found. Well next Paul leaves the confines of this planet and moves out into the vast world of astronomy, of outer space. Verse 40 says, there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the Sun and another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars, for star differs from star in glory. Glory in these verses is a word that's repeated frequently. It refers to weightiness, splendor, brightness, luminosity, and Paul would have us look up at the sky and take note of the diversity and the varying degrees of glory.

Doug alluded to a lot of this in his sermon this morning. The moon is a glorious work for all to see, but the splendor of the Sun dwarfs the splendor of the moon. The Sun's glory in turn is dwarfed by other stars that are even bigger and more glorious. Stars like the one we call Sirius.

Sirius I'm told is the brightest visible star in our night sky and at twice the size and 25 times the luminosity of our Sun, it dwarfs the splendor even of the Sun. And as our satellites and telescopes reach further and further out into the vast expanse of the universe, it just keeps getting larger and more glorious, more overwhelming. Just because we can't see how truly grand it all is from our little vantage point at the corner of Rocky River and Stallings Road doesn't mean there aren't marvelous glories even in the natural world that are yet to be seen. So we conclude the God who made all of these heavenly bodies is not limited in how much splendor or glory he can bestow on whatever he wants. So why would it be surprising to us that he would promise to increase our glory after death? If he can create this world with its mind-blowing vastness and grandeur, can he create another one that's even more glorious? One in which bodies don't decay or experience the limitations and the vulnerabilities and the moral corruptions that they do now. Of course he can.

Of course he can. So Paul goes to the familiar natural world to expose the foolishness of the skeptics questions and in so doing he shows us that God can and does resurrect dead things all the time and that God can and does make a vast variety of bodies that are each perfectly suited to their purpose and that God can and does bestow glory and splendor in seemingly limitless lavish amounts on things he creates. Botany, you'll notice, answers the first question. How are the dead raised? Well in the same way that seeds are raised.

Zoology and astronomy answer the second question. With what kind of body do they come? They come with bodies that are suitable for eternal existence and whose glory and splendor match the glory and splendor of the new heavens and the new earth. The cynical questions are foolish precisely because God has already demonstrated his ability to do everything that is necessary to raise the redeemed to a glorious and eternal life after death. So John Calvin rightly comments that when we doubt the resurrection we are beyond measure spiteful and ungrateful in estimating the power of God if we take away from him what is already manifest before our eyes. Foolish questions meant to demean and deride the resurrection of those who are in Christ are answered with profound and glorious realities that assure us of a future and a hope in Christ. Well having exposed the foolish questions of foolish skeptics Paul then throws off the limitations of the natural world with its naturalistic explanations and begins to contemplate the extraordinary realities that await sincere believers. First he explains a profound contrast between life as it is now and life for the believer as it will be then after the resurrection. In fact he mentioned several aspects of this contrast aspects which incidentally parallel and demonstrate the very realities he's just mentioned from the natural world. First he explains that our mortal decaying life now will be transformed into an immortal non decaying imperishable life then verse 42 what is sown is perishable what is raised is imperishable just like the seed that's put into the ground to die but springs to life so the bodies of the redeemed will die only to be brought back to life on the last day. And it's interesting to note that the contrasting words of perishable and imperishable don't merely refer to length of duration but to quality of duration what is now physically and and aesthetically and morally decaying will then flourish physically and aesthetically and morally it's not just that life will then will will be never-ending but it will thrive it will flourish as it never ends. The next aspect of this profound contrast between life now and life then is unrestrained splendor unrestrained splendor you think our galaxy is full of splendor just wait until you see a glorified saint after the return of Christ. Verse 43 dishonor becomes glory weakness becomes power now dishonor is the state of being held in low esteem glory is a state of immense honor and commanding respect this contrasting glory corresponds to the varying degrees of splendor among the heavenly bodies we see in the sky the brightness of the moon compared to the Sun is analogous to the difference in glory between Saints now in our fallen but redeemed state and Saints then in our glorified sinless state. The third aspect in Paul's list corresponds to what we saw back in verse 39 within the animal kingdom regarding the suitability of bodies that God designs for his creatures Paul says in verse 44 it is sown a natural body it is raised a spiritual body now it may appear that Paul is contrasting physical with spiritual that's not the case that's not the contrast he's making in the verses that follow he's gonna explain the distinction between natural and spiritual not physical and spiritual and he's gonna explain it in terms of the difference between Adam and Christ the first out of the last Adam it wasn't that Adam had a physical body while Christ had a spiritual body both Adam and Christ had both spiritual and physical bodies both Adam and Christ are both physical and spiritual beings so the term spiritual as contrasted with natural here refers to a body that is exceptionally filled with and governed by the Holy Spirit this kind of body is certainly not less than physical Jesus after his resurrection had this kind of body and he wasn't non physical he was very physical but it's it was much more than merely physical wasn't it in in the sense in which we think of physicality that's why we read of Jesus appearing and then disappearing and reappearing and being unrecognizable one minute and recognizable the next and and walking around on the ground subject to the laws of gravity for 40 days only to ascend with the clouds on his last day on earth the resurrected body is physical but infused by the Holy Spirit with far more abilities than our natural weak dishonorable and perishable bodies could ever be fish have been given bodies suitable for water birds have been given bodies suitable for the air beasts have been given bodies suitable for the land and Saints will be given bodies spiritual bodies suitable for the glories of heaven well this profound contrast between what we are and what we shall be is intended I think to to create in us a longing for that day when these things will be so the question we must all answer then is this how do we get from this world the world that is to that world the world that is to come and Paul tells us how to get there and it involves a mystery but a mystery that is absolutely certain Alistair Begg tells of a time when he was young and was inappropriately dressed for some formal event and so his mother looked at him and said you can't go looking like that you've got to change you can't go looking like that we are sons and daughters of the first Adam which means we are perishable and weak and corrupt and dishonorable our clothes are soiled and torn and inappropriate for the glories of a place like heaven insufficient for the splendor of a place like God's throne room we can't go there looking like we look we need another wardrobe a different body a new heart a renewed mind a regenerated spirit we need what Christ has listen to this verse 45 thus it is written the first man Adam became a living being the last Adam became a life-giving spirit but it is not the spiritual that is chronologically first but the natural and then the spiritual the first man was from the earth a man of dust the second man is from heaven as was the man of dust so also are those who are of the dust and as is the man of heaven so also are those who by faith in him are of heaven just as we have borne the image of the man of dust we the ones who will one day be resurrected by the power of Christ in us shall also bear the image of the man of heaven I tell you this brothers flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God nor is the perishable inherit the imperishable so an answer to the skeptics question what kind of body must the resurrected saint have well not the one you have now sinner you can't go looking like that you must be changed you must be clothed with the wardrobe that Christ provides you must put off the old kernel of sin and become a stalk of righteousness and listen to the confidence with which Paul asserts this great mystery verse 51 behold I tell you a mystery we shall not all die we shall not all sleep we shall not all die before Christ returns but we shall 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 without decay without an expiration date with a shelf life that lasts for eternity and he says it again for good measure we shall be changed we shall be changed for this perishable body must put on the imperishable and this mortal body must put on immortality we need to change in wardrobe we need what Christ provides and you know the certainty of this mysterious transformation that's going to take place this this resurrection from death to eternal life is not contingent upon the skeptics believing it or the physicists being able to explain it or even Christians being able to understand it the certainty of this miraculous mystery rests upon the unchanging irreversible already been there done that resurrection of Jesus Christ look at the victorious promise with which Paul concludes verse 54 when the perishable puts on the imperishable and the mortal puts on immortality then shall come to pass the saying that is written and then Paul just begins to quote Old Testament prophets showing that this was God's plan all along death is swallowed up in victory old death where is your sting Oh death where is your victory you know it's it's not a good practice to make light of misery it's not a good practice to laugh at grim realities to trivialize suffering and sorrow and agony and if there is a worst misery a sorrow that is more grim and painful than any other agony it's got to be death how in the world then can Paul be so carefree and dismissive of this inescapable reality that has grieved nations and destroyed generations and enslave the entire human race to an inevitable horrific fear inducing despair for all of its history how can he say death ha where is your victory where is your sting almost as if he's taunting this arch enemy of the human race it all reminds me of a character in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings his name is Tom Bombadil Tom Bombadil is an elusive mysterious character that we simply don't know much about what we do know is that he is in no way threatened or fearful of the power of the ring now if you don't know the story the ring in the story holds unique power over anyone who possesses it it corrupts it destroys anyone who comes in contact with it now the Lord of the Rings is not properly an allegory but if it were the ring would represent sin and all of its destructive killing power everything that comes remotely close to this ring becomes first enthralled with it and then eventually begins to be destroyed by it everyone that is except Tom Bombadil when Tom demands to see the ring he mockingly calls it precious and looks through it like a like a monocle like the the monopoly guy then he puts it on his little finger now that's amazing you see because anyone who put the ring on their finger would themselves disappear but Tom Bombadil doesn't disappear in fact an incredible thing happens Tom takes it off throws the ring up in the air and makes the ring disappear laughing while he does it before finally returning the ring back to Frodo this ring that is going to destroy lives and and start wars and corrupt the hearts of all who touch it is not a threat at all to Tom Bombadil in fact it makes him laugh how can he laugh at such a grim reality folks he can laugh because it holds no sway over him it holds no sway over him God makes Sarah laugh in the face of her infertility Genesis 21 6 because God overcomes her infertility by giving her a child God makes the righteous laugh at the evil man who plots destruction against him Psalm 52 6 because God will eventually destroy the evil man God himself laughs Psalm 59 8 at wicked bloodthirsty men who think they can carry out their evil plans with impunity because God is going to confuse them and stop their scheming and he laughs at their pathetic attempts to do harm and here in 1st Corinthians 15 55 God invites all of his Saints to join Paul in recognizing that one day we will laugh in the face of death why because it holds no sway over God or over his children he is the God of the living not of the dead and so verse 56 the sting of death is sin the power of sin is the law but church thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ man woman boy or girl if you are clothed in the imperishable unblemished garments of Jesus Christ if you will but admit that in you dwells no good thing and instead rely upon all the good that Christ has done then death is simply a door to eternal life and unspeakable joy and this victorious promise is yours that God gives you the victory over sin and over the law and over death itself through Jesus Christ our Lord well all that's left then for Paul to say is to issue a command to Christians to live in the light of their future resurrection and so he concludes with just a single verse of application verse 58 if all these things are true then we who are recipients of these most precious promises ought to be steadfast in the face of difficulty we ought to be immovable in the face of ridicule we ought to be always abounding always motivated and joyful in the work of the Lord because we know that our labor in the Lord is not wasted or goes unnoticed or is unrewarded stay the course Paul says because it ends with eternal bliss so stay the course it's interesting isn't it that the end result of finding hope in the reality of resurrection is joyful service in the here and now meaningful work in the here and now coming to a place of assurance and anticipation about what's next for the Christian does not leave us so heavenly-minded that we're of no earthly good it actually leaves us so heavenly minded that we are of immense earthly good how are the dead raised by the same power that turns dead seeds into food that fills our pantries with what kind of body do resurrected Christians enter eternity with bodies suited for a place that is so wonderful we cannot even imagine what it will be like with bodies so glorious that the Sun and the moon and stars get envious with bodies that bear the image of Christ's glorious body and how do we attain that kind of body in that kind of place by being clothed in the righteous garments of Jesus Christ Philippians 3 20 and 21 says our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior the Lord Jesus Christ who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself and our confident hope and expectation of that day enables us to persevere and be profitable servants in this day so church keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ who is the author and the finisher of your faith let's pray God of heaven we long to be with you for all eternity and we long to be profitable servants in your vineyard even now and in your wisdom Lord you have tied those two desires to each other so that the degree to which we long for and rest in our future hope is the degree to which we will persevere and labor effectively in this present life so would you guard us from the lies of this world guard us from the fear of death in order that we might abound in the work you've called us to when I pray this in the name of Jesus your son and the one who conquered death and gives us his victory amen
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-14 20:15:21 / 2023-05-14 20:27:15 / 12

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