Easter: Of First Importance

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Easter: Of First Importance

Notes:

For Christians, the message of Easter is foundational. Without the message that is proclaimed at Easter, there would not be a Christian faith. Paul, an apostle of Christ, said that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we of all people should be pitied because we believe in vain (1 Corinthians 15:12-18). Without the resurrection, there would be no foundation to the claims of Biblical Christianity.

What a person believes about God (and specifically what a person believes about the resurrection) affects all other areas of their life. For instance, if a person does not believe that Jesus died, buried, and rose from the grave, then all the other words of Jesus are meaningless. Jesus centered His life, His ministry, and His teaching around His resurrection. He predicted His own death and resurrection, and claimed to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy recorded hundreds of years before.

If we don’t believe in His resurrection, then we can’t believe anything else He said. If the centerpiece of His teaching is not true, then nothing else is worth believing. But if Jesus did rise from the dead, then His words are true and should be seriously considered. If what Jesus said is true, then what we do in this life matters in the next life. If His words are true, then what we do today will impact eternity – what we believe about the resurrection is foundational to our lives.

As we all know, California is prone to earthquakes. Past earthquakes have resulted in substantial damage, but as technology and understanding increases, so does our ability to limit the damage of earthquakes. One major effort in California is to retrofit foundations of older buildings and employ new technologies in new buildings, especially high-rise buildings, to limit the impact of an earthquake. This is an expensive effort, but worth the cost because these updated foundations hold everything together. In poor countries like Nepal, we see great devastation from earthquakes because they do not have the technology or finances to build earthquake responsive-foundations. Wouldn’t it be silly to have the technology and understanding, and not use it, even if it saves lives?

The same idea is true in our own lives. Some people can weather storms because they have a deep foundational belief system that has been tested and is true, while others are devastated by a similar life storm because of a weak or inadequate life foundation. What we believe matters! A belief is something that dictates our actions and something we act on – if we believe in God, our actions will reflect it. Our belief in God should impact our lives.

The truth of the resurrection is the foundation of Biblical Christianity. Our hope is built on the power and authority of Jesus over death. Jesus is a living God, and He is a God of the living. Today’s passage is found in 1 Corinthians 15, from a letter written by the apostle Paul to followers of Jesus who lived in Corinth. Corinth was a wild place, and while the Corinthian church was a little different from the general population, it still had a faulty thinking system. The church at Corinth did not believe in the resurrection, and the church itself was filled with drama.

Within the Corinthian church, there was drunkenness, financial issues, adultery, law suits… if reality TV existed at that time, the Corinthian church would have been a show. So why all the drama? The Christians in Corinth believed in Jesus and believed He died for them, but they had a hard time believing in the resurrection (specifically in the resurrection of the saints). Paul spends the first 14 chapters addressing the drama, and then he gets to the bottom line in Chapter 15. The Corinthians were missing their foundation:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 1 Corinthians 15:3-7

In the middle of all these issues, the most important message Paul delivered was this: Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised on the third day! Why was this the most important message for the Corinthian church? Because the resurrection of Jesus changes everything – the resurrection validates His life and His teachings. More than 500 eyewitnesses saw the resurrected Christ, which is why the religious leaders of the day paid the Roman guards at the tomb large sums of money to lie and say that the body of Jesus was stolen.

Jesus had to die, be buried and rise to:

1. Pay for the penalty of sin – The Bible teaches us that all have sinned. We’ve all offended God in various ways (Romans 3:23). Sin is an issue between each one of us and God – God does not grade us on a scale against one another. This is not like the game of horseshoes, where you score points for how close you get. Instead, it is hitting the bullseye of a target or nothing, and we have all missed the bullseye.

The Bible also teaches that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). God created us to live, but then sin entered the world and brought death. Sin brings both physical death and spiritual death, which separates us from God. The good news is that Jesus willingly died for us to pay the penalty for our sin:

and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24

2. Free us from the power of sin – Followers of Jesus are no longer bound to sin, and we are released from the grip of sin. The cross sets us free to love, forgive, give grace, and be generous because of all this and more that we receive from Jesus (Revelation 1:5-6; Hebrews 13:12; Romans 6:18).

3. Demonstrate His love toward us – Paul prayed for the Ephesians to understand God’s love. The cross is not about keeping you out of hell, but about God’s love for you. God created you because He wants a relationship with you! He knows absolutely everything about you, and yet He still loves you.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us… Ephesians 5:1-2

4. Forgive us our sins – Not only did Jesus pay the penalty of our sins but He forgave us for our sins:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7

5. Take away any condemnation – There is no condemnation for past, present, or future sins (Romans 8:1). In Christ, fear, guilt, and shame are rendered powerless.

6. Make us holy and blameless – Not only did Jesus pay the price, forgive us, and take away condemnation, but He made us holy and blameless in Him. God sees us through the person and work of Jesus, and when He looks upon us, He sees Christ’s righteousness.

And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach– Colossians 1:21-22

7. Give us eternal life – Jesus died that we might have everlasting life! (John 3:16)

8. Reconcile us or make us right with God – God created us for relationship, and He has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus:

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:10

No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve said or done, God wants a relationship with you. He knows everything about you, and He still wants you. God loves you perfectly – you are fully known and fully loved by God! He showed you this through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

The truth that Paul delivered as first importance — that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day – is called the Gospel. The Gospel means good news, and the gospel is a proclamation of good news!

We either believe and receive the Gospel, or we reject it. There is no qualification or anything you must do — Jesus died for you and me on the cross. The Bible tells us that if we confess ours sins and believe on Him, we will be saved. This Easter, choose to believe and receive the Gospel as good news and begin your amazing journey with Jesus.

that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation…for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” Romans 10:9-10, 13