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Nov 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 7, 2021

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve
1 Corinthians 15:1-5

Intro: The Corinthians wrote to Paul to get his help

They were dealing with a few issues they had not been able to resolve
– so far, their concerns were mostly practical
• but now we come to a new sort of problem
• it is theological – and Paul takes it very seriously
– Paul takes them all the way back to the beginning
• when he first came to Corinth with a message he calls “the gospel”
◦ they received it, stayed with it, and were being saved by it
• notice, it’s a process – that’s because it’s a lifetime project
◦ it is not merely a free pass to heaven, it is bringing our broken lives to spiritual wholeness
◦ and progress in it is conditional — if you hold fast to word I preached to you

When Paul outlines the gospel message, it is all about Jesus

Imagine you had to write an essay on what it means to be a Christian
– there are lots of things you could put down
• our sins are forgiven, we are made better people than we were, we have a Savior and Lord,
◦ we have specific beliefs about God, the world, and life, and so on
• is there one defining characteristic?
– the Christian is a person who knows Jesus Christ and is known by him
• through Jesus we know God and he knows us as his own
• Jesus Christ is the beginning and end of our faith; the alpha and omega

Paul zeroes in on one of the points he makes about Jesus
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 1 Corinthians 15:12
– this is one of the main tenets of our faith
• so it surprises us to learn, some people can believe in our same God, but not believe in the resurrection
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit . . . (Acts 23:8)
• I think the Sadducees’ and Corinthians’ beliefs had been influenced by intellectualism
◦ before Corinth, Paul had addressed philosophers in Athens, where we read,
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked – then the meeting broke up and Paul went out of their midst (Acts 17:32-33)
◦ intellectuals assume it is human emotion that makes people feel they need to believe in resurrection
– recently a few Christian theologians and leaders have abandoned the resurrection–or diminished it
• for some, there is no continuation of an individual self after death
◦ we cease to exist and are somehow amalgamated into God,
◦ ultimately, we are told, God will be one undifferentiated, universal Self
• but Paul’s long discussion of resurrection points us to a different future

Remember, our purpose has been to observe Paul as a spiritual guide

Christian mentors move at the pace of the disciple
– they listen, observe, and discern the student’s need
• they offer suggestions and perhaps recommend the practice of a spiritual discipline
◦ the purpose is to lead the student to the next door
◦ which is a door to deepened awareness – of God, one’s self, others, the world–everything
• there are basic truths every student needs to integrate into into his or her faith
◦ at first, the disciple may not appreciate value of each truth
◦ but as awareness develops, the truth becomes radiant
– the Corinthians were ready for a fuller awareness of resurrection
• so that is where Paul takes them

Wake up from your drunken stupor as is right and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame 1 Corinthians 15:34
All of us are aware of moving between two mental states:
– our normal “waking consciousness” and our dream state
• in reality, in waking consciousness we’re not fully awake
Arthur Deikman refers to this as “The Trance of Ordinary Life”
• much of our daily actions and reactions are automatic
◦ because we have specific notions of what needs to be done,
◦ our awareness is constricted to a narrow field
Deikman, “When we suddenly shift from such preoccupations to a full, vivid awareness of the world, the contrast is so great we may describe ourselves as ‘coming to’ or ‘waking up.’”
– resurrection awakens us to a reality larger than the lives we’re living
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 raided 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 1 Corinthians 15:43-44
• we have come across these words before, natural (soulish, psychikos) and spiritual (pneumatikos) 1 Cor. 2:14-15
◦ Paul provided the Corinthians an analogy of a seed and then the plant it becomes
◦ similarly, our (current) natural body is like a seed and our (future) spiritual body is the plant
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 the 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 born the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven 1 Corinthians 15:45-49
• our physical life, this mortal existence was not designed to last forever
◦ it is fragile, susceptible to injury and disease, perishable
◦ but we are more than these temporary bodies
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling . . . . He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee (2 Cor. 5:1-5)
– here is how I understand this (and what I suggest may be only an analogy or perhaps nothing)
• we were given these four dimensional bodies to exist in a four dimensional universe
◦ but the universe includes a dimension that is hidden from us
• our resurrection bodies will not be merely 4-D, but that and more
◦ Paul refers to this as the “spiritual body”
◦ it is not perishable, but eternal

If possible, our awareness must develop to include resurrection

We have beliefs that are no more than ideas
– that’s because we have no experience of them and can’t imagine them
• but there’s a place in our minds where beliefs are more than ideas
◦ let’s call it the “Reality Central Department”
◦ in it there’s all the stuff we bump into every day
• I think we need to get the resurrection into Reality Central
◦ in fact, I believe that’s why Paul spends so much time on defending and describing the resurrection
William James, “. . . in the distinctively religious sphere of experience, many persons . . . possess the objects of their belief, not in the form of mere conceptions which their intellect accepts as true, but rather in the form of quasi-sensible realities directly apprehended. As his sense of the real presence of these objects fluctuates, so the believer alternates between warmth and coldness in his faith.”
– if we let go of the resurrection, we lose our connection with the spiritual dimension
• the dimension we will one day fully enter in our spiritual bodies
• we do not live for the moment, our orientation is toward the future – to eternity

Who are you? What determines who you are?
– identity is a combination of history and destiny
Jesus, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going . . .” (John 8:14)
• he could faithfully represent himself, because he knew who he was
◦ and he knew who he was, because he knew where he was from and where he was going
• if we let go of the res, we lose our destiny and our identity
– resurrection is hope
• hope of a fullness unattainable in this life
• hope of completing a long, difficult, and exhausting journey
• hope of arriving home and seeing our heavenly Father “face to face”

Last Monday I was reading in Mark 12

The Sadducees brought a resurrection riddle to Jesus that they assumed could not be solved, but he answered them,
Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? (Mk. 12:24-27)
– Jesus gave them two examples:
• one example illustrated how they did not know scripture
(how God identified himself to Moses from the burning bush)
• the other example illustrated how they did not know power of God — look at this:
For when they rise they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven
◦ this bothered me because I assumed what Jesus meant by “power” was the magnitude of God’s might
◦ but how is that revealed in his description of those who are resurrected?
◦ what Jesus was saying about God’s power was more like this:
You do not even know what God’s power is; you do not know its nature. It is not like the forces you know in the 4-D universe; it belongs to another realm–the realm of angels in heaven
– I realized that Jesus was explaining their ignorance
• they had no awareness of the realm of the spirit
◦ so they were unable to read the Scriptures with awareness-insight
◦ and they were unable to imagine or believe in the resurrection
• those belonged to a spiritual dimension of which they had no awareness
◦ it is the dimension Paul was trying to open the Corinthians to all through his letters

Whatever problems we may have with the resurrection and life after death,
– it stems from our unawareness
– and Paul is telling us, “Wake up!”

Conclusion: In verse 2, Paul made that unsettling statement,
. . . unless you believed in vain

The Greek word translated “vain” means “without purpose,” “without having any effect”
– in v. 10, the grace God had showered on Paul was not in vain
• the Greek word there means futile or useless
• that word appears two more times in verse 14
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain
– but when the same word appears in verse 58, it is full of hope
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

Resurrection to life with God himself makes every instance of
good deeds,
and worship,
to be meaningful,
and worthwhile
One day we’ll see
none of these hardships and heartaches,
none of the hard work and backaches
that we live through in this world
will have been in vain

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