In 15:1-58 Paul deals with the matter of resurrection. In this message we shall consider 15:1-11.
The resurrection of Christ is the vitality of the gospel. There are many philosophies and religions on earth. But none of these philosophies or religions is vital. On the contrary, every one of them is devoid of life. In a philosophy or religion there may be many teachings and doctrines, but there is no life. Religions are altogether devoid of life. None of them has any vitality. But the Lord’s gospel contains life, even resurrection life.
Resurrection life is a life that has conquered death, a life that entered into death, remained in death for a period of time, and then came out of death. Hence, this life is a death-conquering and death-subduing life. Therefore, it is called resurrection life.
The gospel of Christ not only has life; it also has the life power to subdue death, to conquer death, and to annul death. This life, the life that has subdued, conquered, and nullified death, is resurrection. Do you know what resurrection life is? Resurrection is a life that is victorious over death.
We have pointed out that the book of 1 Corinthians may be divided into two large sections, with chapters one through ten forming the first section and chapters eleven through sixteen, the second section. In the first section Paul deals with the daily life of a Christian. For this, Christ is needed. Christ is the unique factor to solve all the problems in a Christian’s daily life. This Christ, the solution to all the problems in the daily life of a Christian, is God’s wisdom and power. He is the One who was incarnated, who lived on earth as a man, who died on the cross, and who was raised from the dead.
Some religions have teachings about Jesus, but they are not according to the Bible. The religion of Islam, for example, claims that although Jesus was put on the cross, He did not die there, but was taken away by angels. According to the Moslems and the Koran, this Jesus, the greatest prophet, is in the heavens. The Moslems certainly do not believe in the crucified and resurrected Christ. But according to the Bible, we believe that Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected. Therefore, our Christ is the Christ of resurrection. Furthermore, He Himself actually is resurrection (John 11:25). He is the life that conquers death and subdues it. Hallelujah, our Christ is a death-conquering life! He is resurrection!
In order to be God’s wisdom and power to us for the solving of our problems in our daily living, Christ must be the resurrected Christ. Today we have Him in resurrection. The very Christ who is living in us as our life is the resurrected Christ.
As we have pointed out, in the second section of this book, chapters eleven through sixteen, Paul deals with five problems in the realm of God’s administration. If we would know the divine administration, we need to realize that a rebellion has taken place in the universe. Under the leadership of Satan, the archangel, many angels rebelled against God. This was a matter in the realm of God’s creation. In God’s original creation there was a rebellion. Therefore, later God had a second creation, which mainly involved the creation of man. In Genesis 1 the creation is primarily the creation of man, not of the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (lit.). The rest of this chapter speaks of the restoration of the heavens and the earth with the creation of the human race. After the creation of man, Satan, the rebellious one, seduced man to follow him. As a result, man also rebelled against God. Therefore, there has been a rebellion among the angelic race and another rebellion among the human race. In creation God was not able to carry out His administration, due to the rebellions of the angels and of man.
One day, God Himself came in the Son as a man. According to Isaiah 9:6, His name was called wonderful. He is so wonderful that no one can understand Him thoroughly. He is both God and man at the same time. Isaiah 9:6 also tells us that though He was a child, He was called the mighty God, and that though He was a Son, yet His name was called the everlasting Father. This wonderful God-man lived on earth for thirty-three and a half years. Most of His life was spent in a carpenter’s home in the small town of Nazareth. Imagine, the very One who was called the mighty God and the everlasting Father lived in such a situation for more than thirty years! Eventually, He came forth to minister. He carried on His ministry for three and a half years. At the end of this time, He was brought to the cross. Actually, it is not altogether accurate to say that Christ was brought to the cross, for in John 10 He tells us that He was willing to give up His life. This means that He willingly walked to Golgotha, to Calvary. He was willing to be put on the cross.
The Lord was crucified definitely and physically. With nails in His hands and His feet, He hung on a wooden cross probably for six hours, from nine o’clock in the morning until three o’clock in the afternoon. During the first three hours, man did everything possible to mock Him. Then in the last three hours God came in to judge Him as our substitute. As God was judging Him, Christ shed His blood to redeem us. Out of His side came blood and water: blood for redemption and water for the release of life. Therefore, by His crucifixion, Christ accomplished redemption and released the divine life.
Immediately after He died, Christ was given a proper burial in a tomb belonging to a rich man. Then on the third day He was resurrected. The Bible clearly says that Christ was resurrected. On the other hand, the Bible also says that Christ rose up, that He did not need anyone to resurrect Him. How was it possible for Christ to rise from the dead? It was possible because He Himself is resurrection.
Christ was willing to be buried, to enter into death, the tomb, and Hades. While He was in Hades, He tested death, put death to shame, and conquered and subdued death. He went into the realm of death to tour this region and see what it was able to do. Eventually He discovered that death could do nothing to Him. It did not have the power to hold Him, to retain Him (Acts 2:24). When it was time for Him to rise up, He said farewell to death and walked away. Thus, Christ conquered death, subdued death, and came out of death. This is resurrection.
We are not able to comprehend fully the Trinity, the incarnation, the crucifixion, or the resurrection. In fact, we cannot even fully understand our own physical life. Can you explain what your life is? Furthermore, do you completely understand your spirit and your psychological heart? It is a fact that we have a spirit and a psychological heart, but we cannot fully understand these things. It certainly would be foolish to refuse to believe in them because we cannot adequately understand them. The same is true with respect to the Trinity, the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection.
The Word of God is trustworthy. In the Word we are told that God is triune, that God is the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. One day this God became a man. That was the incarnation. Then this incarnate One, the embodiment of the Triune God, lived on earth and was crucified. This is a mystery. The One who died on the cross was not only a man, but also God. But how could God die? This is a mystery. In one of his hymns Charles Wesley says, “How can it be that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” Another line of this hymn (Hymns, #296) reads, “’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!” This is indeed a mystery, and we cannot understand it thoroughly. After Christ died, He was buried and resurrected. We may also say that He rose up. Not only was He raised up—He rose up. All these—the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection—are facts.
My burden in this message, however, is not simply to speak these facts; it is to consider the spiritual significance and reality of these facts. What is the significance of incarnation? The significance of Christ’s incarnation is that the very God entered into humanity and became one with humanity. But according to the superficial understanding of many Christians today, the significance of the incarnation is simply the bringing forth of a Savior. Of course, the Gospel of Luke says that a Savior was born to us in Bethlehem (2:11). But, revealing something much deeper, the Gospel of John speaks of the incarnation in this way: the Word, which was with God and was God from the beginning, became flesh (1:1, 14). This is not merely to bring forth the Savior; it is to bring God into man and make God one with man. It is even to make God one with the flesh, for John 1:14 declares, “The Word became flesh.” Here the Word denotes God, and the flesh denotes man. With the Word who became flesh there were grace and truth. As John 1:17 says, “Grace and reality came through Jesus Christ.” Therefore, incarnation is to bring God into man and to make God and man one. What a great wonder this is! It is a greater wonder than God’s creation of the universe, man, and millions of items. How wonderful, how mysterious, that through incarnation God came to be one with man!
When Christ, the God-man, died on the cross, He was the Lamb of God (John 1:29). Through His death on the cross, He accomplished redemption. The significance of the crucifixion, however, includes more than redemption. Redemption certainly is a crucial part of the crucifixion. But Christ died not only to accomplish redemption for us; He died to terminate the entire old creation. Do you know what is the all-inclusive significance of Christ’s crucifixion? It is that the cross of Christ brings the entire old creation, including the angelic race, the restored and fallen heaven and earth, and the human race, to an end. When Christ was on the cross, He did not hang there alone. The old creation was on Him and was crucified with Him. On the cross, therefore, Christ terminated the angelic race, the heavens and the earth, the human race, and every item of the old creation. Although this is revealed in the Bible, no such word of righteousness is preached among Christians today. Nevertheless, this is the significance of the death of Christ. This is the reason we speak of Christ’s death as the all-inclusive death.
In Hebrews 10 the veil in the temple is a type of the all-inclusive death of Christ. Hebrews 10:19 and 20 say that the veil typifies Christ’s flesh: “Having therefore, brothers, boldness for entering the Holy of Holies by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He dedicated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh.” On the veil in the temple, cherubim were embroidered. These cherubim signify God’s creatures. Thus, when the veil in the temple was rent, the creatures embroidered on the veil were also torn. This indicates that when Christ was crucified, we, along with the whole creation, were crucified also. Hallelujah for this all-inclusive death!
To repeat, when Christ died, He brought every item of the old creation to the cross. Everything has been crossed out! Do you believe this? I believe it because the Bible tells me so. Furthermore, not only have we been crossed out—we have also been buried in Jesus’ tomb. Although this tomb was small, the whole universe was buried in it.
Resurrection means that Christ died, was buried, and rose up again. This resurrection is the vitality of the gospel. In this vital resurrection it is possible for God to have an administration.
Now we can understand why chapter fifteen covers the matter of resurrection. In chapters eleven through fourteen we have the Head, the Body, and all the gifts with the functions for the operations to carry out God’s administration. All this, however, must be in resurrection. In creation God does not have a way to carry out His administration, for both the angels and mankind rebelled against Him. But in resurrection God has a way to carry out His administration. As Christians we must be a resurrected people, and the church must be in resurrection. Only in resurrection can we realize God’s headship, discern the Body, and be members of the Body. Christ cannot have the Body except in resurrection. If there is no resurrection, there can be no church. The church is in resurrection, and we also are in resurrection.
In this resurrection God’s administration is carried out. First Corinthians 15:27 and 28 indicate this: “For He has subjected all things under His feet. But when He says that all things have been subjected, it is evident that He is excepted Who has subjected all things to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then shall the Son also Himself be subjected to Him Who has subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.” According to verse 27, God has subjected all things under Christ’s feet. Eventually, when all things are subjected to Christ, God will be all in all. This is the carrying out of God’s administration. We need to be impressed with the fact that these verses are found in a chapter dealing with resurrection. It is certainly nonsense to claim that there is no resurrection.
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