Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus! It’s a day of rejoicing and celebrating new life! However, maybe life for you in general right now is rather confusing. Maybe life right now doesn’t seem to make sense. Today is a day to put things into the right perspective.
This passage today gets to the very core of our lives: the resurrection of Jesus. All the things we say, do and think, mean nothing without this event. Without the resurrection, all we do and believe is worthless and meaningless. That is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” But it is true! Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia! This morning we want to look at the specific benefits that are ours because of Jesus’ resurrection. Let’s read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58.
I. Let’s look first at the sting of death as Paul describes it in verse 55.
Now there is no doubt that we feel the sting of death. We see parents and grandparents die and tragically we even see children die. And that death, that sting, affects us tremendously. Moreover, the older we get, the more we have to come to terms with our own death. Neal Plantinga writes that by our forties most have tried on their burial shroud. This is the time that parents start to die and when our own parents die, we move to the head of the line; we are next! And that is very true, for as my father was dying, I remember lying in my bed picturing what it would look like with me lying in that casket. I was trying on my burial shroud knowing very much that I was standing at the front of the line. Death is a fact, an appointment that we must all keep sooner or later.
Moreover, the New Testament clearly teaches that the root of death is sin. Verse 56 says that “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” Death is the logical result of sin in the world. If there was never any sin, then there would never have been death. But because Adam and Eve did sin in the beginning the whole world faces death as its punishment for sin.
How do we know this? The law, Paul says in verse 56, is the power behind this. We continually break the law; we can’t obey perfectly as the law demands. Moreover, the law continually points out our sin and tells us that we are all born to die eternally. And so sin as revealed in the law is what puts the sting in death. This sting is not just painful; this sting is fatal! A person dies when death stings and the death he or she dies is eternal death, eternal separation from God. But there is victory over all this because of Christ’s resurrection.
II. Christ’s victory is described in verses 54-56.
First, in verses 50-54, Paul describes the resurrection of our bodies as believers. Paul says there is a need for us to change in order to inherit the kingdom of God. The perishable will become imperishable. The dead will rise to have bodies that won’t decay and perish. And mortal will become immortal. Those who are alive now, but facing death, will become immortal. Paul also assures us that this will indeed happen; we all will be changed.
Why? Verse 54 proclaims that death now has been swallowed up. This was a promise made to Isaiah some 800 years before in Isaiah 25:7-8. This prophecy refers to the end of time when God establishes his rule forever. “On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Lord has spoken.” Paul says this has now happened and death is finished, swallowed up, gone!
That is why Paul shouts out in verse 57: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We didn’t win the victory over death; God gave it to us when Jesus rose from the dead! Moreover, note that Paul doesn’t say that someday God will give you the victory. Victory over death is something we have now! When Jesus rose from the dead, he removed sin altogether and so death no longer has any power over those who believe. Now we can say, “Thanks be to God!”
III. How does that victory affect us? First, it means that we have victory over sin.
Jesus’ resurrection means we are now righteous. In Romans 4:25, in speaking of Jesus, Paul writes, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” When Jesus died on the cross, the punishment for our sins was taken away.
But even more than that, we gained the righteousness of Christ; we gained his perfect obedience, which means we get credit for all that Jesus did while on earth. When Jesus died on the cross, sin was defeated. God demands that sin be punished with death. Jesus took that punishment for the whole world on him and now the punishment has been paid; God’s justice has been satisfied.
As a result, we can stand before God as though we were completely innocent. Even those sins that we have trouble forgiving ourselves for, God forgives. We are free from the threat of death. We now share in Jesus’ righteousness; we are declared innocent before God.
And so now we should act like we are righteous. That is what Colossians 3:1-2 refers to. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” We have now been raised with Christ and so we must rise above earthly things.
We have to admit that we are often enthralled with earthly things. We lust after power and possessions and even after other people. We become angry and embittered, lashing out at others we don’t agree with. We can put others down or neglect them without any thought at all. There are many ways we are tempted to still crawl around in earthly things. However, we are righteous in Christ and we should act like it! HOW?
Through the Holy Spirit in us. When we believe and accept Christ’s forgiveness, the Holy Spirit enables us to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Things like kindness and patience instead of anger and bitterness. Things like compassion and humility instead of neglecting or abusing others. But these things do not come automatically or quickly. But as we pray for these things, slowly they will come if we yield to God’s power.
It may seem impossible for us to change, but through the Spirit’s power, we are slowly being changed; all because of Jesus’ resurrection. The victory over sin that so easily entangles us is ours because of Jesus’ resurrection. But we must sincerely desire it and we must earnestly pray for it.
IV. Finally, our victory over death is the final benefit.
Romans 8:11 says, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” There certainly still is pain in death but while the pain is there, the sting is gone. When those who believe in Jesus Christ die, and if they believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection was for them, then death no longer means eternal death. Death is still scary like a bee buzzing around our head, but the sting is gone.
There is pain in death, but for those who believe there is a genuine hope because Jesus is alive! That is comforting as we think of loved ones who have died. And that is comforting as we consider our own deaths as well. We can face our own death with joy and confidence for it is truly going home to be with our Lord. And that should radically change and shape our lives right now.
Michael still stood there sobbing and soon Pierce started weeping as well for he saw his son crushed under the weight of shame and guilt. Pierce got on his knees and said to him, “What you did was wrong. But you said you were sorry and you were forgiven. It’s over. We don’t ever have to talk about this again. That’s what being forgiven means.” Immediately Michael’s pain turned to joy. As they left, he was skipping across the parking lot. He got it. He was guilty but he had been forgiven and now it’s over and done with. He was filled with gratitude and joy.
And that is the heart of the gospel message. Jesus died and rose again so we no longer have to cringe in the face of sin and death. Death is a homecoming, even though it is a painful one. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory over both sin and death. Can you confidently express that? If not, seek Jesus! If you can confidently express that hope, then express your love in daily service.