“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed”. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
How fortunate it is for anyone to be a Christian. Individuals outside the church are terribly uninformed concerning the message of Christ. The context for this reminder came in a conversation I had with a businessman in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania. In the providence of the Lord we started talking about religious matters when he volunteered this comment. “Pastor Stan, I just read that Christianity is the only major world religion that has a systematic theology.” And that is true.
All other religions are lacking a coherent body of truth that can be logically arranged, examined, and defended. As we talked, I was able to share some other points of differences. And I want to share some of those things with you today. Not because it is unfamiliar information, but that we might remember the difference that Christ makes. Each of the following points seemed to surprise this worldly wise and sophisticated gentleman.
Christianity is the only religion that is based upon the principle of salvation by grace. All other religions are rooted in good works. The religions of the world say, “Do this and live.” Christianity says, “Believe this and live.” The problem comes. “How many good works does a person have to do in order to be saved?” The Bible says, that, “The just shall live by faith.”
Christianity is the only religion that has a living Leader. The rest are all dead. People know where the buried dust of the leaders of Buddhism, and the Islamic faith can be found. There is no memorial monument to Christ. He does not need one.
Christianity is the only religion that does not deny or down play or deny the seriousness and reality of sin.
Christianity is the only religion that says God has come to be a man. Many religions say that God is man and man is God, or that nature is God, and God is nature. The followers of Jesus say that Christ is God incarnate.
Unlike many of the other religions of the world, Christianity does not make a dramatic distinction between the soul and body, or between the material and the immaterial. The body is honored as per 1 John.
Christianity is the only religion that offers a Substitute Saviour. Man must save himself.
Christianity is the only religion that invites its followers to look to an objective historical fact for validity. All others operate on a subjective philosophical basis.
There was a small party in the Corinthian assembly who had embraced the beliefs of the Sadducees, that there would never be a physical resurrection. Perhaps there might be a spiritual life beyond the grave, but there was no resurrection. This concept of there being no resurrection became a serious challenge to the centrality of the Christian faith.
If there is no resurrection, then Christ did not come forth from the tomb. And if Christ is not risen from the dead, then there is no hope for the survival of the Christian message. In fact, it is just another religious lie. But if Christ is risen from the dead, then there is good news for the world. Certainly the disciples believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, but they had not always believed. On the Friday of His execution the disciples had seen Jesus on the Cross. They had watched His pain and suffering. They had heard him cry out, “IT IS FINISHED!”
They had taken His body and prepared it for burial. The Apostles knew the face of death, as did the Roman soldiers. Never would the legions of Rome had permitted movement of the body of Jesus if they suspected it of having the slightest vestige of life left.
Disappointed, and full of despair, the disciples left the tomb for the last time. But then came Sunday, and the word of the women reached their ears.
“Peter, Jesus is alive!”
“James and John, Jesus lives again!”
Upon finding confirmation, the disciples spent the rest of their lives telling others the good-news. Peter never did go back to fishing, except that he fished for souls. All but John died a martyrs death for what they knew was true: Jesus had risen from among the dead. The disciples told anyone, and everyone, to the point that even the local Roman ruler Festus wondered at the strange superstition about “one Jesus which was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.”
Yes, Jesus is alive, and His body still bears the print of the nails. Many years after the resurrection, when he was an old man, John saw a vision of the risen Christ, as a Lamb that had been slain. For all eternity the elect angels, and the chosen children of grace, shall be able to see, and perhaps touch, the nail scared hands. Now in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 there is a re-statement of the gospel, and the witnesses of the resurrection. Several things are to be noted.
The doctrine of the resurrection is what unites Christians into a fellowship. Paul called those in the assembly “brethren.” True brothers are bonded together by a common heritage and faith. There are some things that, if embraced, will put one inside the sphere of the family of God.
The gospel is to be proclaimed without mental reservations. “I declare unto you,” says Paul. Here are strong words full of power and force.
The gospel had been heard and received into the heart. But now, some doubted. A new thought had been introduced that no-one in the congregation could challenge, and so it was easy to accept it as
Despite any lingering doubts, the sphere of the gospel remains the security of the believer. By the gospel we will stand. If we keep it, we will not have believed in vain.
Lest there be any doubt as to what the content of the gospel is in summary form, Paul states the basic teaching (15:3-4). There are three truths to notice.
First, Christ died. That is a historical fact. But then all men die, so that there is nothing unusual or remarkable about that.
Second, Christ died for our sins. In theological terms, Christ died an expiatory sacrifice which means that “He gave Himself a ransom for all.” Jesus took the sinners place. He bore the judgment that was due to others. He endured hell to give others hope and heaven. And all of this was done “according to the Scriptures.” Throughout the Old Testament, in symbols and in shadows, the story was told of a Saviour to come. Every lamb that was slaughtered symbolized that one-day the Lamb of God would arrive to take away the sins of the world. Many of the prophets, who spoke, proclaimed something about the coming suffering Messiah. They spoke of His virgin birth, His flight into Egypt, His powerful public ministry, His rejection by the people, His arrest, His trial, His execution, and, His resurrection.
It is all there according to the Scriptures. And it all happened. The Messiah came. He lived and He died according to Scripture. And on the third day,
“Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty victory over His foes.”
Confirmation for the resurrection of Christ is set forth by eyewitness accounts. “Peter, did you see Christ in His resurrected body.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Twelve Disciples of Christ. Did you see the resurrected Christ.”
“Yes, we did!”
“Five hundred brethren. Did all of you really see the resurrected Christ?”
“Yes, we did!”
“James, did you see Christ alive after Calvary?”
“Yes, I did.”
“And so did I,” said Paul.
As precious as the fact of the resurrection is, there was a divine purpose for it which can be found in Romans 4:25. [Jesus] Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.
The resurrection of Christ secured our justification. The resurrection of Christ placed the seal of the Father’s approval upon the work of His Son at Calvary. The death of deaths, in the death of Christ, settled the sin question. A perfect redemption was accomplished. And in honor of that monumental achievement God raised Christ from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the highest glory, exalted to be a King and Saviour forever.
To doubt, or deny the resurrection of Christ is to doubt and deny a historical fact. To doubt or deny the resurrection, is also to denounce the Triune God for the resurrection is ascribed to each Person of the Trinity.
The Lord Jesus said, “Destroy this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up…He spoke of the Temple of His body” (John 2:19,21). Romans 6:4 says that, Jesus was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father (Rom. 6:4; Heb. 13:20). And His resurrection is attributed to the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:11).
Belief in the resurrection of Jesus, is belief in the Trinity. Belief in the resurrection of Christ secures justification. Belief in the resurrection of Christ, gives hope of eternal life. Jesus said, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”
Christ is the first-fruits of them that sleep. The bodily resurrection of Christ, is the certainty that eventually “all that are in the grave shall hear His voice and come forth (John 5:28, 29)”, some to life eternal, and others to ever lasting sorrow and suffering.
The resurrection of Christ should thrill our hearts, and cause us to remember His bloody and violent death. It was no small sacrifice. It was horrible, and consisted of a shame that Jesus literally despised.
The Holy One who knew no sin, God made Him sin for me; The Saviour died our souls to win, Upon the shameful Cross. Yet He endured and He asks us not to forget. We will not forget, for the marks of His labor will be upon His holy body forever and forever (Rev. 5:6). We will always remember,
“Thy wounds, Thy wounds, Lord Jesus,
Those deep, dark wounds, they tell
The sacrifices that free us
From sin and death and hell.
They bound Thee once forever,
To all who own Thy grace;
No power those bonds shall sever,
No time these scars efface.”
Not only will the wounds of Christ remind the Church of His great love and work of redemption, but by them we shall recognize Him. The poet has written,
“I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
As Redeemed by His side I shall stand,
I shall know Him, I shall know Him,
By the print of the nails in His hands.”
Is any wonder that the Church loves to sing,
“Man of Sorrows, what a name
For the Son of God who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim!
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew this song we’ll sing,
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”
While we love to sing of the Saviour, others need Him. It is possible that we forget this simple fact because of some false assumption. There is the assumption that everyone we meet, or know, has heard the gospel. They haven’t. There is the assumption that everyone we meet or know understands the gospel. They do not. There is the assumption that everyone we meet, or know, has already made a decision to accept or reject the gospel. Many have yet to be asked to make a decision for Christ. There is the assumption that we have nothing more to say to people. That is not true.
This is the reality. The world is largely lost. There is still a broad road to destruction. Christ still commands us to pray for workers because the harvest is still ready. Our message is wonderful and very simple: Christ makes a difference.