The story of Jesus and his glory

The congregation in Corinth was in many respects a problem church.  It caused a lot of pain and heart-ache for the apostle.

Paul went to Corinth in A.D. 51 after a very unfruitful evangelistic effort at Athens.

Corinth was a seaman’s paradise and a moral cesspool. Divorce was rampant. Prostitution plagued the streets, and the moral air was polluted with the luring aroma of sin. The moral depravity of this city most vividly reflects the spiritual need of Corinth. The vile character of the old city carried over into the city of New Testament times. The “to act the Corinthian”, got the meaning, “to commit fornication”, almost in the same way as we use the term sodomy to refer to homosexual acts, as it was practiced in Sodom and Gomorra.

The city contained nothing less than 12 temples.  The most famous was the one dedicated to the goddess of love, Aphrodite, whose worshippers practiced religious prostitution.  Some of the practices of these heathen temples and religions were carried into the worship of the Christian Church.  This is what caused Paul to be so heartbroken for the church in Corinth.

Amongst other things, some in the Corinthian church did not believe in the resurrection. Chapter 15 of the first letter deals with this problem.

In the first few verses of this chapter Paul deals with the fact of the resurrection. He sums his teaching about the resurrection up in verse 11:

… this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. (1 Corinthians 15:11)

Some liberal scholars cunningly deduce from this chapter in the Bible that Paul did not know anything about the bodily resurrection of Christ because He does not mention the empty grave!  It is only with very crafty arguments that they then say the reference to Christ appearing to all the people mentioned in verses 5-8 is what people believed about the resurrection of Christ which was then at a later stage added to the text.

But such argument is plainly absurd:  If someone would want to believe that Christ died, and that He had as spiritual resurrection, one would at least take some of what the Bible says as the truth.  The question is, Why?  If you reject one fact mentioned in the Scripture you have to be honest in rejecting all of it.  Who determines what is the truth and what was added?

Paul deals with the argument of some that there is no resurrection from the dead and concludes:  We preach that Christ has been raised from the dead, but what it the point of Him being raised from the dead if this momentous event has no effect on us who believe in Him.  He therefore closes the argument with this statement:  no resurrection of the dead, no living Christ.  Period! End of the story.

Christ died for our sins

We’ll sing the old hymn “Tell me the old, old story” as our concluding hymn this morning. Some in the congregation in Corinth started to doubt the story of the good news in Jesus Christ.  They either argued that Christ did not die literally die, or they took the line that He did not literally (or bodily) rise from the dead.

Paul now takes them back to the beginning of their walk in the Lord.  He says:

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. (1 Corinthians 15:1, NIV)

This Gospel was the beginning of their faith.  Listen:

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:2, NIV)

Do you want to know what the church is on about?  the message the church must proclaim is the message of Christ and his resurrection.  This is what saves people from sin.  the Corinthians knew that very well:  out of the cesspool of sin and debauchery they were saved.  How?  The Gospel of Jesus Christ came to them.  Paul sums it up in another letter he wrote, the letter to the Romans.  Let’s go to chapter 10:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:14–17, NIV)

So Paul takes the Corinthians back to the basics; he preached to them what they needed to hear over and over again.  Not only did they need to hear that message, but they had to hold on to it:

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:2, NIV)

We need to hear this message over and over again.  We will never reach a point that we are so filled up with it that we would not want to hear it again.  They say one never gets sick of the aroma of coffee; that might be true.  But you might eventually get sick of that aroma, because you are not a coffee lover.  If the sound of the Gospel becomes old hat and boring, it probably points to the fact that you are not saved by the Gospel.

The essence of the Gospel of Christ, apart from all the other wonderful doctrines contained in t he Scripture, is this:

  • Christ died for our sins
  • Christ was truly dead and buried
  • Christ was raised from the dead
  • We know this is true because He appeared to many

Paul’s message was nothing new to what they already heard, and still he repeats it – because it is important to hear and to hold on to.  Paul makes it also very clear that what he is preaching to them is what he received.  He states it in his letter to the Galatians:

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:11–12, NIV)

Just a bit further down in our chapter in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul refers to himself as the untimely born.  This expression usually refers to a baby which was still-born.  Some commentators think Paul is referring to a baby born with disfigured bodies, which were sometimes in antiquity referred to as monsters.  Whatever the case, Paul sees himself as unworthy of the Gospel, but he also connects himself to a time when he acted like a monster.  He says,

 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:12–16, NIV)

God turned the monster into a useful tool for ministry; He turned the blasphemer into a messenger of the truth; He turned the murderer into the preacher of life.  This man, once hear the Gospel and was saved; he now preaches that Gospel as he heard it from Christ Himself.

Christ died for our sins – the whole testimony of the Scriptures bears witness to his mission. Listen:  He died for our sins!  What separated us from God He took upon Him.  He had to die so that we would not die.  The implication is this:  If I don’t believe that He died for me, I am still guilty before God and eternal death will be my only destiny.  The fact that He died makes Him my saviour, because I cannot die for my own sin; I can surely die because of my sin, if He did not take it upon Him and I reject his offer of grace.

Christ was buried because He truly died

We looked at the evidence last week.  the Scriptures were fulfilled.  He had to enter the grave, because that’s the place where He conquered death for sinners.  Someone made this remark:  God did not one Friday morning ask Jesus to go to Jerusalem and shed a few tears so redeem people from their sin.  No, He demanded of his Son to be born as a human being, to tread this word and experience it sorrows.  Thus He became our true Mediator.  He knows death, so that those who believe in Him can enter eternal life with Him when they walk the road of all human flesh.

He rose again

he Bible predicted it, it truely happened and so He opened paradise for those who believe in Him.  He had to rise bodily, so that we will one day rise when He returns – and we will taste eternity where death and sin and corruption will have no hold on us – forever!

He rose again because He destroyed death.  But above all other things, He rose because He destroyed the enemy of life: satan cringes before Him because he lost his power over the final destruction of those who are called to Christ by the Gospel.

He appeared to many people after his resurrection over a period of 40 days before He ascended to his Father.  the witnessed to the fact that it is all true and verifiable.  Peter was restored after his denial of his Master, Thomas received confirmation of his faith in the Saviour and became a disciple to the lost and according to history eventually died in India.  His own brother, James, who initially did not believe, became a follower and worshipper of Christ and served as a stalwart in Jerusalem.  Paul, as we heard received grace and became an apostle of Jesus.  What did they have in common? All believed that Jesus

  • died for our sins according to the Scriptures
  • died and was buried
  • rose again from the dead

They believed that this Jesus and his Gospel saves, forgives sin, gives new life, restores us to the Father – and He will come back one day.

This is the story of Jesus and his glory.

Sermon preached by Rev. D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 10 April 2016

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