1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Good morning.  My name is Granger and my wife is Amber Smith.  Start there.  We have four kids, London, who is twelve, Lincoln, who is nine.  He’s actually with me today.  Uh River, who we lost when he was 3-years old.  And then we have a caboose, little crazy two-year-old Maverick at home.  We’re members at Emmaus Church in Georgetown, Texas.  And such an honor.  I’ve only been here 45 minutes or so but what a great church and honored to be here.  Thank you for having me.  Uh before we start, I’d I’d like to pray.

Lord there is no one like You.  Humble me on this stage this morning.  Let me be Your servant.  Speak through me.  Delete anything I say that’s that’s not from You.  Destroy any kind of pride that might well up inside me to be on a stage.  Lord, we want to worship You this morning.  I want to praise You this morning.  Let Your word be delivered sharper than any two-edged sword.  In Christ’s name, amen.

Many times, the Lord will save a Christian.  Meaning bring them from spiritual death to life by means of tragedy.  In some cases, maybe with more stubborn people, people that have a strong inclination to trust in themselves.  The Lord, for those people, will will use occasionally extreme tragedy.  There may be people in this morning that are here in this room that have that have this and I’m one of them.  Uh on June 4th, 2019, I joined the fraternity that no one wants to join.  And that was qualified when I ,when I held my my little three-year-old son lifeless in my arms and in futility, I tried to perform CPR on his little body.  But you know, I not only lost my son but, on that day, I too began to die.  Everything that I was, everything I had, and learned and built and created and cherished and idolized and trusted, all of it began to crumble until God finally broke the last shred of my self-reliance.  And it’s not necessary this morning for for me to give you every point of every detail of the breaking down and the darkest days of my spiritual death.  But I can tell you that I believe like 2 Corinthians 1:9, that was to make me not rely on myself but on God who raises the dead.  Of course, I didn’t see that back then.  I could see it now.  In my garden at home, little vibrant sunflowers burst up from the soil in my, in my flowerbeds.  But they do that after an older flower has died and dropped its seed.  In John 12, Jesus says,

            24Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

In order for us to bear much fruit, there must be a death.  Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5,

            17If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away, it has died.  Behold, the new has come.

And then in Galatians 2, he says this,

            19I died to the law, so that I might live to God.  20I’ve been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

And you know, because of this fraternity I’m in that no one wants to be in, because of the loss of our son, my wife and I are often asked by people who are grieving or hurting in some way.  They’re they they often ask me, where they could read in the Bible, Granger, where could I read in the Bible about how to overcome suffering?  Or some sort of PTSD?  Others want to know about how the Bible could save a broken marriage.  Or they ask me, hey, where in the Bible does it show me how to be a better parent or a better friend?  Or they ask, what section of the Bible, Granger, talks about guilt or shame, or fear, or worry, or addiction?  Where can you show me that?  And it’s true that the Bible discusses all of these things in depth.  And it’s true that they matter and they’re important and our society is plagued by them.  But none of these issues are what the Bible calls of the first importance.  They’re all secondary.  Because if you’re going to experience the true peace of God through any of these problems, just like the sunflower, first, you have to die.  My greatest hope in my preaching is that everyone in this room will die and be born again if you haven’t already.  Why?  Why?  Why would I say something like that?  Sounds abrasive.  Because Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  But here’s the thing.  You can’t create a spiritual rebirth on your own.  You didn’t contribute to your first birth, and you don’t contribute to your second.  In the conversation with Jesus in John chapter 3, Nicodemus was so confused by this.  Jesus said, “Do not marvel.”  He’s talking to Nicodemus.  “Do not marvel that I say to you.  You must be born again.  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the spirit.”  So, you you must be born again, and you do not know how this comes or how it goes.  But Scripture does tell us the mechanism that God uses to create it.  That’s helpful.  It is this specific mechanism that Christians preach to the world to plant the seed.  So that perhaps God will give that seed growth and a new birth.  It’s this mechanism that I want to tell you about this morning.  It’s more important for this to take root in your heart than any other piece of message.  Any kind of information I could give you.  It is, as the Bible says, first importance.  It is the Gospel.

And so, I gave you this elaborate introduction for this.  Because I’m assuming, almost everyone in this room has heard that word before, Gospel.  The word itself means good news.  It’s translated in our English language from an older version, an old English word called Godspell, which means good news or glad tidings.  Today, I want to look at a specific way that that word is used by a certain biblical author named Paul.  In fact, in several places, Paul refers to this as, my Gospel.  That’s not because he invented it or because it’s about him.  It’s not it’s not what it is.  Paul is just emphasizing his unique role in proclaiming the Gospel and how it aligns with God’s plan and purpose for God’s people.  It is this Gospel, this one, that Paul calls in Romans 1:1, the Gospel of God.  And in verse 16 of Romans 1, he says, that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.  Paul says that this Gospel is the mechanism to bring us to God.  Can you imagine?  Paul says in Romans 10 that this mechanism of the Gospel which contains within it the power of God for salvation is activated, you activate that mechanism, you get it going through hearing it.  He says, faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.  That’s the Gospel.  But he also says, how are they to hear it without someone preaching?  So, naturally, here I stand, to preach to you the Gospel of God just like so many Christians before me.  Before I tell you what it is, this Gospel, perhaps, it might be helpful to tell you what it is not.  It is not, be a good person.  It is not, don’t lie or steal or commit adultery.  This Gospel that Paul’s talking about is not merely the teachings of Jesus’s earthly ministry.  It’s much more than that.  It’s not, love your neighbor as yourself or turn the other cheek or blessed are the peacemakers.  These are, hey, these are great moral teachings, and you’ll do well by following them.  But the teachings themselves will not save you.  That’s not the mechanism.  These teachings are best experienced through ears of those people with hearts rooted in the Gospel, the one that Paul calls of the first importance.  In other words, all that Jesus said is important.  But all that He said is irrelevant without first knowing what He did.  And what He did is the Gospel.  Look, let me qualify this by saying, I want you to use your Bibles to learn how to suffer well.  In fact, I preached that message a couple weeks ago in Mississippi.  I want you to use your Bibles to let it guide you through heartache and grief and guilt and shame and anxiety and idolatry.  But this Gospel, the one that Paul dedicated his life to declaring, is the message above all other messages.  And not because I say so.  It’s what the Bible says.  It’s the message you’re going to want to know when the doctor says, it’s dementia and there’s nothing more they could do for your dad.  Soon, he won’t even remember you.  You’re going to want to tell him this.  It’s the message you’re going to want to know when your kid is a teenager and he struggles with identity and he’s been talking strange.  He says he’s thinking about hurting himself.  You’re going to want to remind him of this.  It’s the message you are going to want to know when the tests come back and it’s cancer and you don’t have much longer to live.  You’re going to want to preach this to yourself and believe it with all that remains of your feeble heart.  It’s the Gospel of God.  So, let’s listen as I tell you what it is.  Hey, there’s many places in the New Testament that articulate the Gospel.  And this morning, I’m going to focus on one, one place.  If you have your Bibles, I’m going to read out of the ESV.  If you have your phone, you can just Google it.  And it’ll pull it right up.  But I’m going to read 1 Corinthians 15:1 through 11 in the ESV.  1 Corinthians 15:1 through 11.  If you don’t have a Bible, you could Google that and it’ll it’ll put it up.  And it I think it it will be helpful to just read along with me because I’m going to live in this for a little bit this morning.  It’d be helpful if we just all kind of look at it together.  So, you know, this is not me.  This is not my words, okay?  1 Corinthians 15:1 through 11.  Paul writes this,

            1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received:  that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  6Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  8Last of all, as to one untimely born, he also appeared also to me.  9For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.  10But by the grace of God I am what I am, his grace toward me was not in vain.  On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.  11Whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

If the apostle Paul is saying that this message is of first importance then we don’t want to miss any of these words, right?  This is the mechanism that God uses to cause your rebirth.  1 Peter 1:3 says, according to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  You see that?  See how he used that?  Let’s look at these words from Paul together, 1 Corinthians.  He starts by saying,

            1Now I would remind you, brothers, of the Gospel I preach to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2by which you are being saved, if you hold fast the word I preach to you – unless you believed in vain.

So, as we begin this, to those that have heard this before, Paul is saying, I’m reminding you of the Gospel that was preached to you.  Maybe by your pastor, maybe by your momma.  For me, it was my mom.  She’s actually here this morning.  He’s saying, I’m reminding you the Gospel is not just information that you get saved by and then you leave it.  We are strengthened by God through the Gospel every day until we die.  We never outgrow the need to preach the Gospel to ourselves or to hear the Gospel preached to us.  We never outgrow that.  He says, the one you received by hearing by which you stand, by standing.  By standing, he means, this is the strength by which you stand in a broken world.  It’s not in your own strength.  In Romans 16, Paul says, not to him who is able to strengthen you according to my Gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.  This is a supernatural strength that you are given through the power of hearing this message.  Earlier in this letter, Paul writes, the word of the cross, this Gospel, is folly to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.  Verse 2 says, by which you are being saved.  That doesn’t mean that your salvation is insecure.  So, what it means is there’s there’s, we understand three aspects to our salvation as Christians.  We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and Christ alone; justified.  And then we are being saved as we’re transformed into the image of Christ, sanctified.  And we will be saved totally after we draw our final breath and meet our Lord in heaven, glorified.  If, he says, you hold fast to the word I preach to you unless you believed in vain.  This is not about you earning this but instead, he’s talking about those who never really believed in the first place.  Maybe you could include the cultural Christians like I was for so long where my faith was just more of a heritage as opposed to a complete surrender to Jesus.

So, in Paul’s message that we’re looking at this morning, that’s the introduction.  It’s, that’s the appetizer.  Now, we can get into the meat of the message starting in verse 4 where Paul begins to lay out the details of this Gospel itself.  Here in 1 Corinthians, he gives four parts to it and I believe that all four parts should matter immensely to us.  Number one, Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures.  Number two, He was buried.  Number three, He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.  And number four, Jesus, shortly after He was raised in His physical resurrected body was seen personally by many.  Number one, that’s the primary function of our faith.  That’s what makes us Christians.  He died for our sins.  I’m assuming everyone in this room, because you’re an American, you’ve heard that before.  Yeah, Jesus died for my sins.  I know, I know.  But what does that mean?  Why did He do that?  Luke Bryan, country music artist, he has a song that says, I believe most people are good.  If that were true, Jesus would not have to die for most people’s sins, but He did.  Unlike Luke Bryan, the Bible says that all people are corrupt.  Romans 3:12 says, there is no one who does what is good, not even one.  That’s a huge problem for me and you.  Because people are unrighteous and ungodly, living distracted lives, making idols for ourselves and of ourselves, not loving God with all of our heart.  We deserve the wrath of God like it says in Romans 1:18.  It’s a huge problem because we can’t fix that.  The Bible says that by the works of the law, no human being will be justified in His sight.  And then, like an old western movie, when the corruption in the town has reached the point of no hope of redemption, my horse and lone rider appear and make their approach silhouetted on the horizon.  The sheriff of justice is coming.  Now, you might, brother or sister, you might shutter at the thought of telling your unbelieving neighbor about God’s wrathful judgment.  And that our sin has made us deserving of hell.  But if people don’t think they need a Savior, they’ll be happy with an example or a self-help guru or a life coach.  Jesus didn’t come to do that.  Because God is just, someone had to be punished for sin.  Jesus took upon Himself, Himself, the punishment on the cross as our substitute.  Our Savior crucified.  God’s wrath, satisfied; hopeless sinner, justified.  That’s what it means that Jesus died for our sins.  Number two, He was buried.  Hey, you don’t bury someone unless they’re dead.  Paul is emphasizing a human finality to the death of Jesus.  There were theories going around in the first century.  Lot of whispering, a lot of talking that maybe, maybe Jesus didn’t totally die.  Maybe the disciples just took Him and patched up His wounds and kind of nursed him back to health.  No.  No, the Romans were professional killers.  There is no way they could have committed the public atrocity of failing an execution.  Jesus died.  They took Him down off the cross and He was buried.  And then number three, He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.  Death is defeated.  He is risen.  Jesus proves after all the teachings and healings in His earthly ministry that by defeating death, oh yeah, He truly is the Son of God.  It’s interesting in verse four, just like in verse three, Paul ends by writing, according to the Scriptures.  It’s important that he said that.  The death and resurrection, it was a fulfillment of prophecy.  On the road to Emmaus, remember that?  After the resurrection, Jesus is walking with the disciples.  And He’s walking with these guys and it says, the Bible says, Jesus interpreted to the disciples in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself.  As we read the Old Testament Scriptures, in the light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, they will speak to us about Him.  The Gospel is a continuation of God’s fulfillment and His dealings with His people.  I love this.  I love this.  Listen, as I tell you a few verses from Isaiah 53, some 700 years before Christ was even born.  Isaiah writes this, he’s prophesizing, he doesn’t really even know what he’s getting from God, but he writes this.  He was pierced for our rebellion.  He was crushed for our sins.  Upon Him was to chastisement that brought us peace and with His wounds, we are healed.  We like sheep have gone astray.  We have turned everyone to his own way and the Lord has laid on Him, Jesus, the sins of us all.  He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the rebels, yet He bore the sins of many and interceded for the rebels.  I use the NIV for that because I like rebels instead of transgressors.  The Gospel was not a last minute decision by God.  It was not a Plan B.  It was always, always from the beginning of time, the way for our salvation according to the Scriptures.  And then finally, to complete this Gospel idea, number four, Jesus, shortly after He was raised in His physical, resurrected body was seen by many.  Look at verse 5.  He appeared to Cephas.  Then, to the twelve.  Then, He appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time.  Most of whom are still alive though some have fallen asleep.  Paul is supporting this claim that the Gospel is a real event in history.  This wasn’t a dream or a vision or an angel talking to someone under a tree somewhere.  He’s saying, Paul’s saying, “Hey, you want proof?  Hey, over 500 people walked with Him and talked with Him after He was raised from the dead.  Hey, go ask them.  Most of them are alive.”  And I love the specific names that Paul writes here.  He appeared to Cephas, that’s Peter.  Jesus proving to Peter that although you left me in the garden, I have not left you.  You denied me in the courtyard, but I won’t deny you.  Then he appeared to James his brother, same brother that never believed any of this was even real.  I think about this this this conversation so much.  We’ll never know on this side of heaven.  We’ll never know what this was like.  But Paul writes specifically that He went to James.  Can you imagine?  Brother, it’s me.  Look at the holes in my hands.  Do you believe me now?  James went off to be a leader in the early church, as did Peter.  Both ended up happily dying as martyrs for our Lord.  And last of all in verse eight, he appeared to the author of this letter, Paul, who’s now adding his name to land the claim of the truth of the Gospel.  Last of all, when he said that, last of all, that’s important because that means that this is the last time Jesus appeared in this resurrected nature.  This was not, once again, this was not a visionary experience by Paul.  He met Jesus.  In verse 9, he says, Paul says, for I’m the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God.  You know, before this experience, he was a great enemy of the church.  He was a murderer of Christians, unworthy of being saved.  None of us are worthy on our own merit.  By God’s grace, the power of the Gospel saves the unworthy like Paul.  Like me.  Like you.  Paul ends this by saying, and so we preach and so you believed.  And that’s it.  And maybe maybe some of you are thinking right now.  Well, Granger, that’s it?  I listened and I heard.  I heard just like you told me, but I don’t feel this death, this rebirth.  I don’t feel anything different, Granger.  To that I say, the seed’s been planted.  I pray that  day the seed will come alive when you least expect it.  Maybe in a great moment of joy, maybe in a great moment of grief.  Maybe you’ll go to your Bible, knock the dust off, find the Gospel written page after page.  And then maybe like me, all at once when you’ve been strangled by something sinister, like guilt, and you’re grasping for a breath of air.  A seed will take root in your heart.  The seed planted on this day November 12th, with the good news message that breathes life.  This message, for whatever reason, this message, God says, breathes life into dry bones, binds up the brokenhearted, proclaims freedom to the captives, and declares to those who are burdened with guilt, yes, you are guilty, but I have covered your guilt.  I have washed you clean.  Your sins are forgiven.  You are healed.  You are mine.  A holy God, a holy God demands from you, a sinner, He demands perfect righteousness.  But we’ve all gone so far, too far, that we can’t give it.  So, then in mercy, He devises a way at the cost of His only Son’s life, to give to you the righteousness that He demands from you.  And with it brings you to Himself.  That is good news.  1 Thessalonians 5:9 to 10 says, for God has not destined us for wrath but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we might live with him.

I’m going to close with this.  A song that I love, and I’ll be finished.  I want to read you the lyrics so you could hear the Gospel in it.  It says, in Christ alone, who took on flesh fullness of God in helpless babe.  The gift of love and righteousness, scorned by the ones He came to save.  So, on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.  For every sin on Him was laid here in the death of Christ, I live.  There in the ground His body lay.  Light of the world by darkness slain.  Then bursting forth in glorious day.  Up from the grave, He rose again.  And as He stands in victory, sins curse has lost its grip on me.  For I am His and He is mine bought with the precious blood of Christ.  No guilt in life, no fear in death.  This is the power of Christ in me.  For life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.  No power of hell, no scheme of man could ever pluck me from his hand.  Till he returns or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.  That’s the Gospel.  And when that takes root in you it will begin to disintegrate your addiction.  Wash clean your shame.  And from the gratitude overflowing in your heart, you’ll surely become a better spouse and a better friend.  It’ll ease your anxiety.  It’ll give you strength to have that hard conversation with your teenage son or to grieve the one you lost.  It’ll give you courage at the end of your own dying days until you walk into paradise.  That’s the power of the Gospel.

Let’s pray.

Gracious Father, thank You for the Gospel.  You chase down fallen humanity in all of our ungodliness.  Your desire to pursue us goes to such an extent that You have given the whole world the gift of Your only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but will have eternal life.  Lord, please, in this room this morning, grow this seed of good news in every single heart here.  Accomplish Your purpose in us and through us.  In Christ’s name.  Amen.

We’re going to stand together as we respond.  This is a great time.  If the Lord has been stirring in your heart in this moment.  If you have questions, if you need prayer, if you want to know what it’s like to be a part of our church, we’ll have people down front.  They want to talk with you.  They want to pray for you.  They want to pray with you.  We’re going to use this moment to continue in our worship this morning.