We Confess: Christ Is Risen from the Dead
The Lord is Risen!
HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
Our text for today is written in 1 Corinthians 15. It was written some 20 years or so after the resurrection, but in it Paul passes on a creed or confession of faith that was even earlier. The format is obviously not Paul’s way of writing, but rather a repetition of a form adopted by the very eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:1–8 (CSB)
15 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6 Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.
Dear fellow redeemed: Very early after the resurrection, within just a few years and before the gospels were written down, there came into being this creed or declaration of faith. It is pure gospel. It is the good news of what God did to save you.
In these days of uncertainly as to what will come, it is the ultimate certainty of what has come to pass, according to the Scriptures. The gospel is not just a religious idea, you know, it is fact. Meaningful above all other knowledge, but a meaningful reality. Here is what happened, what was confessed by the eyewitnesses, what has been passed down to us, and the means by which God the Holy Spirit Himself works spiritual life and faith:
First, Christ died. Not every death is news. It makes the obituaries, it’s important to the family and friends, but it doesn’t make the front page.
Christ died, and it IS important. He died for our sins; He died according to the Scriptures, in just the way the Old Testament Scriptures said He would.
He was lifted up, crucified, as David prophesied in Psalm 22. It’s all there about the mocking, the nails in the hands and feet, the dehydration, the nakedness and the division of the closes.
Psalm 22:6–18 (CSB)
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by people.
7 Everyone who sees me mocks me;
they sneer and shake their heads:
8 “He relies on the Lord;
let him save him;
let the Lord rescue him,
since he takes pleasure in him.”
9 It was you who brought me out of the womb,
making me secure at my mother’s breast.
10 I was given over to you at birth;
you have been my God from my mother’s womb.
11 Don’t be far from me, because distress is near
and there’s no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
strong ones of Bashan encircle me.
13 They open their mouths against me—
lions, mauling and roaring.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.
>18 They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.
He died for our sins, as pictured by the Passover Lamb, and the scapegoat, and the lamb that replaced Isaac on the altar, and as explicitly described by Isaiah:
Isaiah 53:4–6 (CSB)
4 Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
6 We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for the iniquity of us all.
Next, Christ was buried. The death of Jesus was affirmed by His final gasp, by John who gave sworn testimony, by the centurion who reported to Pilate, by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who wrapped him tightly in strips of cloth, by the women who saw Him buried, and by the Roman soldiers who sealed the tomb. Oh, and let’s not forget, by the spear and by the blood and water. The spear went up into His side, pierced his chest, and confirmed His death in blood and water. Jesus died and was buried in the rich man’s tomb, all, again, according to the Scriptures:
Isaiah 53:8–9 (CSB)
8 He was taken away because of oppression and judgment;
and who considered his fate?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
he was struck because of my people’s rebellion.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
but he was with a rich man at his death,
because he had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.
Next, He rose again the third day. – And once again, yes, according to the Scriptures. Jesus Himself had pointed to the sign by which the truth of His teaching would be known: Matthew 12:40 (CSB) 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish, three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.
He had been completely clear, as the angels reminded the first witnesses to the empty tomb, Luke 24:7 (CSB) 7 saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’”
The resurrection was sung about by David: Psalm 16:10 (CSB)
10 For you will not abandon me to Sheol;
you will not allow your faithful one to see decay.
It was trusted in by Job: Job 19:25 (NKJV) 25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;
Next, good news, He showed Himself to the disciples, to those who would know who He is, whose lives were completely transformed, and who would die gruesome deaths themselves rather than deny it: that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6 Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.
These are the certainties, observed by eyewitnesses. They are important, formulated into declarations of faith. They are important because over thousands of years they had been prophesied in Scripture. They are important because this good news gives forgiveness and creates faith: 15 Now I declare to you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
These are certainties.
According to the Lord’s providence, this Easter is celebrated in an atmosphere of uncertainty and the fear of death. Whatever the numbers may actually say, people see death as near at hand, and can imagine themselves taking that last, labored breath.
But when our time comes, we will do so in the certainty of the hope given by the Christ who is our righteousness. He bore the punishment for your sins, into death, and destroyed death by His resurrection, the first to rise, as, yes, you too wil rise to immortality.
So I declare to you the gospel which I have received, which is your declaration of faith, and by which you are being saved:
THE LORD IS RISEN!
HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!