Sermon for the Watford church of Christ
Early church certainly thought he was alive: Acts references to resurrection/Jesus raised: Acts 1.3, 22; 2.24, 31, 32; 3.15, 26; 4.2, 10, 33; 5.30; 10.40; 13.30, 34, 37; 17.18; 23.6; 24.21; 25.19
Central message of early church. Jesus is alive and victorious Victorious because alive Because God vindicated his sacrifice
Christianity stands or falls on the fact of the physical resurrection: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:13–14 NIV11).
Without the resurrection we cannot explain the existence of the early church: “If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”” (1 Corinthians 15:32 NIV11).
When a conspiracy is formed, three motivating factors are behinds such a move—power, greed, and/or lust. Disciples achieved none of those.
What would motivate those early Christians to not only be persecuted for their faith, but to do it asserting that they were confident of a belief in the resurrection which they claimed to have witnessed. Why would anyone die for something they knew was a lie?
How could Paul write to these words if he knew they could be contradicted? “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Corinthians 15:3–8 NIV11)
We are left with no other option than that the early Christians truly believed that Jesus was resurrected.
Not a fairy tale but a fact; Paul does not give us the option of allowing it to be metaphorical. The likelihood of them being mistaken about this is beyond fanciful.
What are we to make of this?
The Apostle Paul: Acts 26.1-32
“they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” (Acts 25:19 NIV11)
Question: “What impact has seeing the living, risen Jesus had on Paul?”
He is: humble, bold, clear, urgent, obedient, courageous, faithful, risk-taking, change belief system, change religion, risk life, risk future, risk livelihood
We’ve seen what the experience of the resurrected Jesus did for Paul. What does the Resurrection do for us?
a. In Jesus – he predicted this “He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.”” (Mark 9:31 NIV11) Therefore we trust him for other things he promised and predicted
b. In God hearing our prayers “…because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:24–25 NIV11)
c. In our eternal destiny. It is why we do not fear death. “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 NIV11)
a. Following – Motivation for a life of discipleship. “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” (Romans 6:3–10 NIV11)
b. Persuading – Motivation for trying to persuade people. “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Corinthians 5:11–15 NIV11)
It is why we do not live for what we have here, and why we do not fret over what we do not have here.
Confidence in Jesus, prayer and our eternal destiny. Motivation to follow Jesus and persuade people to follow him.
“This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:23–24 NIV11)
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God bless, Malcolm
PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John