Messy Church Series
  • The local church has had problems from her inception. The local church is about people from all different background trying to discover unity in Christ and enjoy an amazing fellowship with one another through the Spirit's power. But, it is not automatic nor is it easy. In many ways it is very messy. Yet, God promises that His church will overcome and even the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. In the local church is the personification of the Lord Savior Jesus Christ. He will insure that the local church will flourish into eternity.
Sermon Preparation Guide
  • Importance - What are the central ideas of this text?
    • Death entered the world through sin. – Genesis 2:16 & 17; 3:19, 22; Romans 5:12
    • Jesus defeated death by His resurrection from the grave. – Acts 2:23 & 24, 32; 3:15; 13:28-39
    • All who believe in Jesus for salvation partake in His victory over death. – Romans 8:11, 16 & 17, 38 & 39; Ephesians 2:6
  • Implications - What questions should the listener be asking?
    • How is it that you are a sinner and thus subject to death?
    • How did Jesus defeat sin and death?
    • How can you share in Jesus’ victory over sin and death?
Talk it Over Discussion Guide 
  • Interpretation - What is the text telling/showing us?
    • Why do you think some of the Corinthian believers had a problem with the resurrection
    • Why is the resurrection such an important matter?
    • Describe what Paul taught about the resurrection in this passage.
    • What happens to the earthly body of a believer on death?  
    • Why is a resurrection body not just a reconstituted human body?  What is the same about a resurrected body as compared to a human body? (read I Corinthians 15:48 & 49)
    • What will happen upon Christ’s coming and the sounding of the trumpet?
    • What is the victory we have through Jesus?
  • Implementation - What should the listeners response be?
    • Why is the truth of the resurrection important for you? 
    • What is the teaching about the resurrection? Try stating that teaching in 50 words or less. 
    • What would it mean for your life if there were no resurrection (that is, that Jesus did not rise from the dead)? In other words, what is so important about the doctrine of the resurrection? 
    • What does it mean that Jesus is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (I Corinthians 15:20)? 
    • Why is death an enemy of God? 
    • How do you share already in Christ’s victory over death? What does that mean for your daily life? 
    • What does verse 58 mean to you? How do you apply it in your life? What does the verse mean for the life of the church?
Sermon Teaching Notes (as compiled by Pastor Dick Murphy)
  • Investigation - What's generally going on in this area of scripture?
As we come to the end of the “Messy Church” series, it seems fitting that Paul turns to the matter of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as that issue is the lynchpin of the Christian faith. Apparently, there were some in the Corinthian church who denied the resurrection (cf. I Corinthians 15:12, 34). The pagan views of the day tended to look for present benefits as a result of their worship of the gods (and especially worship of the Roman emperor for whom there was a highly developed worship cult that was encouraged by the emperor and his government as a way to bind the empire together). These benefits included safety, health, social status and wealth, and they were “salvation” for the people (and especially the well-to-do, of which there were many in Corinth). This belief system led to a “now” focus in which the support of imperial Rome and the emperor provided blessings during life, particularly to those of significant social standing.

Thus, it was the “coming” of Caesar that brought present “salvation;” there was not much thought of blessing in any after-life. Nevertheless, the Romans had a great reverence for the dead, even making sacrifices for the dead and doing baptisms (called “proxy baptisms”) for the dead so as to impart salvation for them. This was especially significant for some Corinthian believers who carried this view with them when they became believers. Because the dead were most often cremated, these believers thought that even if there was a resurrection, those who had been cremated could not share in it because they were already dead, and they therefore sought to gain that state through a proxy baptism. So there was a lot of misunderstanding of the resurrection among the Corinthian believers, running from not believing in it at all, to how it might affect different believers both living and dead, to how it fit in to their past beliefs and present practices. Paul pulls no punches in his letter because of the importance of the resurrection as part of the core gospel, and because of the on-going need of the Corinthians to understand fully the centrality of Jesus Christ as the author of salvation, the need to live one’s life under Jesus' rule and reign, and the promise of fully realizing one’s salvation in the future when all things will be made new upon the coming of the true King.

Thus, Paul begins the chapter with the gospel, and reminds the Corinthians of what was preached to them, what they had believed at first and what they now hold, namely that Christ died for sins (I Corinthians 15:3), that He was buried (I Corinthians 15:4), that He was raised from the dead (I Corinthians 15:4b), and that He appeared in a resurrected, new body to many people including Paul (I Corinthians 15:5-8). From those truths, Paul hastens to ask how, if the Corinthians believed these things, can they now deny the resurrection of the dead (I Corinthians 15:12). He argues that if there is no resurrection, then Jesus did not rise from the grave, and that with no resurrected Savior there is no hope and faith is futile (I Corinthians 15:13-19). But, Paul goes on to state that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, and that He is thus the first of the resurrection harvest of all who are in Christ (I Corinthians 15:20). All will die as children of Adam; but all who are in Christ will be made alive (I Corinthians 15:21 & 22), and that will happen in a certain order of events at the end of which all will be subject to God the Father (I Corinthians 15:23-28).

It should be noted here that in Roman emperor worship, the emperor was divine but also was the “father of the fatherland” who was and is the benefactor of current blessings. Paul is thus telling the Corinthian believers that the emperor is not the ultimate benefactor, but rather that God is, and that all things are in subjection to Him including earthly powers like the emperor (I Corinthians 15:24, 28), and the only one to be worshiped is thus the Triune God, Father, Son and Spirit. Paul goes further and says that the dead in Christ will be raised, and therefore proxy baptism is unnecessary (I Corinthians 15:29). Paul says this to buttress his argument that there is a resurrection for all who are in Christ, and then adds that there is no purpose in facing the suffering that he faces if there is no resurrection (I Corinthians 15:30-32a), and that continuing in that erroneous position leads to loose living (“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Quoting from Isaiah 22:13) and a disregard for the future Kingdom (I Corinthians 15:32b-34). The Corinthian believers should know better; they need to wake up and stop sinning, and stop asserting their claims to inside “knowledge” when in fact, they lack knowledge of what is true (I Corinthians 15:34b. See also I Corinthians 3:1, 16; 4:6 & 7; 6:9a, 15a, 16a, 19a; 8:1, 10; 9:13)

Next, Paul moves on to the nature of the resurrection body, and the transformation that is to come. He covers these matters as the Corinthians who did believe in the resurrection had questions about what happens in the resurrection. But Paul also seeks to show that God’s Kingdom is not natural but supernatural, is established by God and for His glory, and will be permanent and forever, with death defeated, and victory won by the true King. Because the resurrection is miraculous and is from God, the resulting resurrection body each believer will receive is not just a reconstituted human body, but rather is an entirely new and heavenly body, indeed a “spiritual” body which bears the image of Jesus (I Corinthians 15:49).

The human body, sinful flesh and blood, cannot inherit the Kingdom (I Corinthians 15:50); there must be a transformation, and this comes about through the resurrection of all believers dead at the time the King comes, and the metamorphisis of all believers living at that time (I Corinthians 15:51- 53). When the true King comes, death will be at an end and Jesus' victory, begun on the cross and sealed by His resurrection, will be complete (I Corinthians 15:54-57). Paul concludes that in light of theses truths about the resurrection, the Corinthians are to live in the present under the rule and reign of Jesus, firm in their faith and works, knowing that their future resurrection and life in the Kingdom is certain. (I Corinthians 15:58).

They must cast off their old views of life and live for Him in their present circumstances, even as they place their hope in eternity with Him in resurrected bodies. In all the preceding teachings in the letter, Paul has told the Corinthians the same thing: your behavior as a community of faith and as individual believers matters on this earth and must reflect who you are in Christ, and that the application is to everything – to what they eat, how they treat others, how they worship, how they use their spiritual gifts, how they must detach from the social mores of the pagan world, and how they should approach the future in which “the process of salvation, sanctification, and glorification will be completed.” (Ben Witherington III, Conflict & Community in Corinth, Eerdmans, 1995, @ p. 312) What a glorious way for Paul to end his admonitions to his beloved Corinthians before he writes of his plans, and gives his special greetings and instructions concerning giving for the needs of other believers.