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Sermon Message


"The Difference the Resurrection Makes"

1 Corinthians 15
Theme: The many wonderful blessings became ours because Jesus rose from the dead.

(Delivered Resurrection Sunday, March 23, 2008 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)


One of my favorite passages from the Bible to read on this wonderful holiday is found in 1 Corinthians 15. It's Paul's great defense of the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Apparently, there were some in the midst of the Corinthian church who were denying that there can be such a thing as a resurrection. Paul said, "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" (v. 12). Paul treated this as nothing less than an attack on the gospel itself.

He argued that the resurrection was an essential part of the gospel he preached (vv. 1-11); and he went on to write;

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable (vv. 13-19).

Strong words! Paul basically says that if the resurrection of Jesus Christ didn't happen, then the whole enterprise of Christianity is nothing more than a fraud! I'll bet some of you didn't even know that such words were in the Bible!

But Paul simply couldn't stand it anymore; so in verse twenty, he bursts out with joy:

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (v. 20).

He is risen from the dead! And we, dear brother or sister, joyfully take our stand on the truth of it!

* * * * * * * * * *

It's a sad fact that, in churches today, the resurrection of Jesus isn't given much thought. We, of course, talk about it at this particular time of year. But once the holiday is over, it is rarely given much attention in our preaching and teaching.

But when you read through the New Testament, you find something fascinating. You find that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is talked about all over the place. It was consistently made a main point of apostolic preaching in the early church. In fact, it is the truth-claim in the Bible upon which a multitude of other biblical affirmations depend.

And this morning, I'd like to share some of those affirmations with you. I'm not giving you a complete list of all the passages that declare these affirmations. And I certainly don't mean that the order in which I'm sharing these things with you is the correct one. But I believe that the passages we'll look at this morning give us the key affirmations that result from Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

And one thing's for sure: when we're through, no one will ever be able to tell you that the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is a doctrine the church can live without! You'll be able to show them just how much of a difference the resurrection makes!

* * * * * * * * * *

The first thing that I'd like to point out that the resurrection of Jesus gives us is that . . .


I see this in the way that the apostle Paul begins one of his most important New Testament letters; the letter to the Romans. It's a letter in which Paul seeks to lay out—in a clear and systematic way—the gospel that he preached.

And he begins this great, magisterial letter with these words:

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name (Romans 1:1-5; emphasis added, here and for all other references).

In terms of His humanity, Jesus was born into the family-line of King David. He was born, as the Bible tells us, of the virgin Mary; and so, He was born without the taint of sin that the rest of us inherit from our first father Adam. But though He was virgin born, He was fully human—born of royal blood.

But what made it clear to the world that He was the Son of God was that He was raised bodily from the dead! There are other people in the Bible that God had miraculously raised; but they were raised in their human weakness—still weak and frail, still subject to death. They were all raised to die again. But Jesus alone was raised "with power according to the Spirit of holiness"—never again to die. He was bodily raised; and only a short while later, bodily ascended to the Father. Death no longer has power over Him.

And in this, He is clearly marked out to all of humanity—to all who seek salvation—as the Son of God.

* * * * * * * * * *

Another thing the Bible tells us about Jesus' resurrection is that . . .


When Jesus was crucified, His disciples thought that their hopes were dashed. They had walked with Him for three-and-a-half years. They had invested everything into the belief that He was the long-awaited hope of Israel. When He died, their hope seemed to die too.

But then, He rose from the dead three days later; and so did their hope! The apostle Peter wrote to a group of suffering Jewish Christians in the first of his New Testament letters; and he begins with these words of praise:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-4).

When Peter speaks here of "hope", he doesn't refer to something that he's not sure about—like when we say, "I sure hope the bus shows up on time!" Rather, he is speaking of a sure and certain expectation—that you and I have an inheritance in heaven that is kept on hold for us. And we are right to have this sure and certain expectation; because our faith is not in ourselves, but in Jesus who was raised from the dead.

If Jesus had remained dead in the tomb, we'd have no reason for hope. But now, we have a living Savior—and because He lives, we have a living hope! A living Savior means a living hope!

* * * * * * * * * *

This logically leads us to another spiritual blessing we enjoy from the fact of Jesus' resurrection . . .


There are many different philosophies and religions in the world—and they all claim to be true. But we're not left to stumble around through some subjective "fog" in order to find the truth that leads to salvation. The apostle Peter goes on in his letter to say that we have something solid to believe in—something that we know is objectively true:

. . . knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:18-21).

It's like the apostle Paul says elsewhere; "that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9). How grateful we should be that we're not left to our own to figure things out! We have solid, concrete, objective content to saving faith through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead!

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; the reason I needed to know what to believe for salvation was because I was a horrible sinner. I was lost and doomed in my sins. One day, I placed my faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of my sins.

But is it really true that my sins are now forgiven? Can I be sure of it? That that leads me to share with you another precious thing we gain from the resurrection of Jesus . . .


The apostle Paul spoke of the patriarch Abraham, of whom it was said, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (Romans 4:3; see also Genesis 15:6). It wasn't that Abraham's faith in God's promises 'earned' him righteousness. Rather it was by God's grace that he opened-up Abraham's personal 'righteousness-account', and credited complete 'righteousness' in His sight to Abraham by faith.

Paul then goes on to say that what the Bible says about Abraham—that he believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness—wasn't written just for his sake alone . . .

but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification (Romans 4:24-25).

You see; Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. He was "delivered up because of our offenses". And we are called to have faith in that sacrifice, with the promise that it will be accounted to us for righteousness.

But how can we be sure that God truly accepted His sacrifice for us? How can we be sure that God was satisfied with the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf, and now counts us righteous if we believe on Him? It's because He was not only "delivered up because of our offenses", but also "raise because of our justification".

We can know—without a doubt—that Jesus' sacrifice for us is fully accepted by God, and that our sins are truly forgiven in Him. It's because God made proof of His satisfaction by raising Him from the dead!

* * * * * * * * * *

Believing on Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins is one thing; and then going on to live for Him is another. But here's where we see another great blessing from Jesus' resurrection from the dead . . .


The apostle Paul wanted his dear believing friends to know about the power of God at work in us in everyday, daily life. And so, he wrote in his letter to the Ephesians;

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all (Ephesians 1:15-23).

Dear brother or sister in Christ; when it comes to the challenges of the Christian life, you must never give up by saying to God, "I just can't do it!" He already knows you can't. But He doesn't expect you to operate on your own power. He calls you to trust in His power at work in you.

And His power at work in you is wonderfully sufficient! The extent of that power is shown to us in this passage. Right now, you have at work in you the very same power that rose Jesus Christ from the dead, and seated Him in heavenly majesty!

And if that's true, then what is there that God cannot do in and through you?

* * * * * * * * * *

Another blessings we receive from the fact of the resurrection is that . . .


When the Bible speaks of the resurrection of Jesus, one of the things that stands out is that it is said to be "according to the Scriptures". God had made promises concerning Jesus in the Old Testament concerning His resurrection; and those promises were fulfilled.

Paul, in one of his missionary journeys, preached to some Jewish people. And he wanted them to know that, when he preached about Jesus, he wasn't declaring anything except what God had already promised. He said,

"And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm:

‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You'" (Acts 13:32-33).

Our God is a God who keeps His own word! And if we can trust Him to keep His promise to raise His own Son from the dead, we can be assured that He will keep every other promise He has made in Scripture.

* * * * * * * * * *

One of the realities we have to deal with in life is death itself. The Bible doesn't paint a romantic picture of death. It calls it an enemy.

And here's yet another blessing we receive from the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead . . .


Paul writes;

“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

Death held Him for a brief while. But it couldn't keep Him. When He rose, He defeated it. It will never again have Him. He was able to declare in the book of Revelation, "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death" (Revelation 1:18).

We still have to deal with death. It's an enemy who still takes away those we love. And should the Lord Jesus tarry His return, it will take each one of us too. But because Jesus rose from the dead, we can know that death's hold on us is only temporary. It has been conquered by Him!

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; while we live on this earth, here's another wonderful blessing we receive from the resurrection of Jesus . . .


Before I placed my faith in Jesus Christ, I was spiritually dead. I may have had biological life; but I had no life before God. I had no relationship with Him. I was separated from Him because of sin. I couldn't do anything that would have pleased Him or earned His favor. All that I could do was sin before Him. It was as if I was a lifeless corpse in His sight.

But God has united me in my sin to Jesus' death; and He died in my place and paid the death-penalty for me. And what's more, God also united me to His resurrection; and when He rose from the grave, it was as if I rose from the dead with Him.

And now, God sets me free to rise up and live a brand new life in Christ. It's as if the old things are all passed away, and everything has become new. Paul wrote;

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-4).

Because Jesus rose from the dead, I now walk around in this world—as far as God is concerned—as a man who had died and rose again with Him!

Praise God! Jesus' resurrection means new life for you and me!

* * * * * * * * * *

Not only does the resurrection of Jesus make it possible for us to walk in newness of life spiritually; but . . .


These bodies of ours are not fit for the eternal life we now possess in Christ. Because of the fall of our first father Adam, death has entered into the human family. And now, our physical bodies are subject to weakness and sickness and limitations. One day, they will break down and die.

But God makes us this promise to us through His servant Paul;

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:10-11).

Jesus Himself once assured His disciples, "Because I live, you will live also" (John 14:19). Just as He rose from the dead, He will also raise those who believe on Him.

* * * * * * * * * *

As if this all weren't enough, there are a few other things that we can briefly consider that the resurrection of Jesus has given us. For one thing . . .


Just think of how much sin and evil there is in this world. It's overwhelming! Sometimes, it feels as if evil is taking over; and as if wicked people are getting away with their wickedness. If it were up to fallen human beings like us to bring ultimate justice and good into this world, then the world would be doomed to grow darker and darker in its wickedness.

But the resurrection of Jesus assures us that evil and wickedness will have an end! Paul, when preaching the gospel to a heathen people, called them to abandon their worship of false gods, and to turn in faith to the one true God; saying,

"Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31).

Let all the world know that there will come a time when all wickedness will be judged and all evil will be brought to an end! Let the world know that a judgment day is coming! And let the world also know that God has identified the Judge to all people everywhere by raising Him from the dead!

* * * * * * * * * *

The Savior's resurrection from the dead also gives something else to us . . .


The Bible tells us that Jesus willingly humbled Himself to suffer the death of the cross for us. He died a death that was profoundly humiliating—"even the death of the cross"; the death of a despised criminal!

But the Bible goes on to describe the glory unto which God raise Him from the dead;

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

He died in humility. But He was not raised to humility. He was raised in glory, and to the destiny of having all knees bow to Him and all tongues confess Him as Lord!

We present our Lord Jesus to the world as Lord of all! And our claim about Him would have no meaning if it weren't for the fact that His Father raised Him from the dead.

* * * * * * * * * *

And as a practical application of Jesus' resurrection to all authority, we also see that . . .


Just before He ascended to the Father, all His disciples were gathered to Him;

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).

I see two wonderful things about this. First, Jesus' resurrection means that He possesses all authority in heaven and earth. And so, when He commands that we go out into the world to make disciples, we have divine warrant to do so. We're not simply spreading our preferred beliefs and religious practices illegitimately; or in wrongful violation of other people's cultural and ethical values. We are under orders from the One who possesses all authority—the risen Christ! He said to go; and that's why we go!

And the second thing I see is that, Jesus' resurrection means that He who possesses all authority goes forward in support of those He sends in His name. He doesn't simply say, "Go!" The risen Lord promises, "And lo, I am with you wherever I send you!"

* * * * * * * * * *

Please let me share one more wonderful blessing we receive from the resurrection of Jesus. It's one of the most personal and practical of them all. Let it sink into your heart and it will change everything about you . . .


I began by reading 1 Corinthians 15, and Paul's great defense of the resurrection in his first letter to the Corinthians. And he closes that great chapter by telling us,

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

If Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead, we'd have no assurance at all that all our labors and sacrifices for the Him were accomplishing anything good. In fact, we'd have no reason to be confident that there was any point to the Christian faith whatsoever. We could say—as Paul argues we then could say—"Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" (1 Corinthians 15:32).

But because Jesus has risen from the dead, you can be assured that the victory has already been secured! We can be faithful to Him no matter what! We can pay any price He calls us to pay! We can do whatever He commands us to do! We can go wherever He commands us to go! We can suffer any loss He calls us to suffer—even to the point of laying down our very lives for Him! We can do all of this, "knowing" that our labor is not "in vain" in Him. He has risen from the dead!

* * * * * * * * * *

Someone has once said, "If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then nothing in life really matters. But if He did rise from the dead, then nothing else in life really matters!" How true!!

And so, the next time someone says that it makes no difference whether we believe that Jesus was raised from the dead or not, declare these blessings to them—and show them that it makes all the difference in the world!

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