If Only … (1 Corinthians 15:19-26)

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19If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. Today marks the annual celebration of our world’s desire to mock Christians for our faith. They make a game of taking all the hope and cheer out of Christianity. It wouldn’t be Easter without the steady flow of all the new and supposedly “creditable” discoveries as to why we are fools for believing in Jesus and especially in His resurrection. Dead people don’t come back to life after all you silly Christians!

It is a very old argument and it goes something like this … If only you would realize that the dead really do not rise, then you would understand that Christ also is still dead. If Christ is dead the Christian proclamation is empty and all our faith in Him is useless. For a dead saviour is no saviour and cannot give life in the face of death. And if the Jesus we worship is only good for this life, then He is really not much good at all and we then are to be pitied, as our hope crumbles, and we are living under a bum rap. Or to state it as Paul did: 19If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Despite the fact that Christ was raised from the dead and that many people saw Him alive after His resurrection there are always people who deny the resurrection of the dead. They try to make false and untrustworthy witnesses of those who saw Him after He was raised. They deny the fact that the resurrection of Christ and the hope of our own go hand in hand. They would prefer to leave mankind sunken in our sin and guilt.

21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. If only it is about the here and now then there can in the end be only regrets and remorse – and for good reason. Adam, the first man, became separated from God by sin, and all his descendents have been born into his sinful condition and its curse of death. Adam’s sin had far reaching consequences, for death makes a mockery of all our human endeavours. No matter how great your life is, no matter what you may achieve, it is all undone in the end. Just in the past couple of weeks we have witnessed the deaths of world famous Conductors, Magicians, Musicians, Actors, Comedians, Sports Announcers and infamous City Mayors. A plane crash in Russia killed 62, and bomb blasts killed 29 in Iraq and 34 in Brussels. In Adam all die, and if that is all there is, as some would say … then it is only foolish to think that there is any point to any of this.

But, only if this life and its bitter end is all there is. If only God had done something to give us hope beyond having all we live for wiped away in death … Oh wait, He did! 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.

If Adam’s sin had far reaching consequences, so had Christ’s resurrection. “all die” is the reality of death right now constantly occurring among men. But “made alive” is the glorious promise of what comes after that, in the final resurrection on the last day. Every time we go to a funeral, every time we hear of a death, we ought think of this verse. The solemn reminder and the wonderful comfort. Just as Adam’s sin brought untold consequences of evil, so Christ’s atoning work brought untold consequences of good, primarily the resurrection of the body, and not just His, but also yours!

First fruits consecrated the whole harvest. Moreover, first fruits implies later fruits. Christ’s actual, historical, reality changing resurrection from the dead is both the beginning and the guarantee of the full harvest of the resurrection of the dead. As certain as Christ was raised, so certainly shall we be raised. For as the first sheaf cannot be harvested and offered unless the entire harvest is ripe and ready, so Christ cannot be raised unless all of us believers are ready to be raised also.

23But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. First Christ lives for us so we can live for others. First Christ dies for us so we can live in Him. First Christ rises for us, then we rise in Him.

It began on that first glorious Easter morning when Jesus made eternal fools of those who think death is all there is, all there can be. Life has more meaning. Life is eternal. It concludes at the time of the second coming when Christ hands over the Kingdom to the God and Father, when He shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. At the consummation, Christ’s victory over every naysayer from our mocking world, to our doubting flesh, to the ever-present specter of death, will be final, total and complete.

25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. Here is the great Easter truth you won’t read in the papers. There is no “If only.” Christ conquered death but we must all still pass through it. Not until God’s children rise to life eternal will death and its sting be gone forever. But in Christ’s resurrection, the war is already over. Victory already won. Death’s sting has lost its bitter venom. Remember that as you read the headlines that shout yet again that this world is a one giant morgue. It isn’t just about this life right here and now, because the dead don’t stay dead forever. And the dead don’t stay dead, we know, because Jesus rose from the dead. And if He rose from the dead so will you!

Had Christ who once was slain, Not burst His three day prison, Our Faith had been in vain: But now has Christ arisen, arisen, arisen: But now has Christ arisen! (LSB 482)

AMEN.

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About kenmaher

When I'm not working I enjoy Astronomy, Camping, Comic Books, Epic Fantasy Novels, Games (both playing and designing), Hiking, Juggling, Sci-fi, and building strange things out of pvc pipe. I also enjoy being an honorary pre-schooler with my four great children ... much to their mother's dismay.
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