************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 17 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 3, 2017
Lord's Day 17
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
I The Resurrection Under Attack
A "The Lord has risen! He has risen indeed!" This is the message of the angels on Easter Sunday. And, it was met with historical revision, fear, skepticism, and disbelief. We all know what the chief priests did: They paid the soldiers a large sum of money to say the disciples stole the body of Jesus. The first reaction of all the women was fear. The disciples thought the news of the women was nonsense. Mary thought someone mislaid His body. Thomas refused to believe unless he could see the nail marks in Jesus' hands. Since the very beginning of the church the doctrine of the resurrection has come under attack -- even on the part of those closest to Him.
To us this may all seem strange. After all, Jesus had publicly said at least three times that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again. However, keep in mind that if all you see is the cross, then there is only the darkness of disbelief and skepticism and fear and historical revision. Standing in the darkness of the cross the disciples see nothing else.
B What a difference forty days later. At that time the disciples chose a replacement for Judas. Do you have any idea what the qualifications were? The replacement for Judas had to be able to preach about the resurrection of Jesus. They had to be able to say, "Christ is risen indeed!"
What happened? What changed? What happened, what changed, was that according to our Bible reading Jesus made at least twelve appearances as the resurrected Lord. It was obvious it was Him. It was obvious His was a glorified body. It was obvious He had been raised from the dead.
C When we go back in the Catechism we see different questions and answers about the how of our Savior's sufferings. We are told about Pontius Pilate. We are told about the crucifixion. We are told about His death and burial. We are told about His descent into hell. The Catechism charts the suffering of Christ as it is laid out for us in the four gospels. But when it comes to the actual resurrection the Catechism is silent. In this way the Catechism is like the Bible. The Bible has very little to say about the how of the resurrection. Matthew says the most when he mentions the earthquake. But that's all that Scripture says. The how of the resurrection is left untouched. The line is broken for a moment. It ends with the grave and starts again with the risen Lord. We are told nothing about the time between.
The Catechism is also silent about any of the persons in the resurrection stories. We aren't told about the angel who rolled away the stone. We aren't told about the soldiers. We aren't told about the women. We aren't told about Peter and John racing each other to the tomb. We aren't told about the disciples from Emmaus. We aren't told about Peter jumping out of the boat when he saw the Lord. We aren't told about Thomas. The Catechism, I say, is silent. However, the church does not need any more details because she lives by faith. And neither does the world need more details; for it wouldn't accept them anyway.
D Today we continue our study of sound doctrine. That is, we continue our study of doctrine that is reliable, true, trustworthy because it is doctrine based upon the Bible. Sound doctrine professes the resurrection of Christ.
II A Risen Savior
A Do you know what is unique about the Christian faith? That we serve a risen Savior. That ours is a living Lord. With the church of all ages, sound doctrine declares "I believe ... the third day he rose again from the dead." This makes our faith unique.
It isn't the teachings or example of Christ that make the Christian faith unique. If Jesus is simply a great teacher or good example, there is no reason for Him to be alive; there is no need for His resurrection. If this is all Jesus is, then the Christian faith is no different from and no better than the Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Confucius, or Jewish faith. The Christian faith is unique in that we serve a risen Savior.
Look at it this way: Jesus has an empty grave. But Mohammed's tomb -- occupied. Confucius' tomb -- occupied. Buddha's tomb -- occupied. Moses' tomb -- occupied. Jesus' tomb -- empty! Mohammed, Confucius, Buddha, and Moses are all dead and in their coffins. But Christ is alive and in heaven and all power has been given to Him!This, my brothers and sisters, is what makes Christianity unique and different from all other religions. We serve a risen Savior!
We must have a risen Savior. If Christ has not been raised, there can be no preaching, no salvation, no faith, no hope, no eternal life. This is what Paul writes to the Corinthians church.
We must have a risen Savior. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Not, He was. He is. Meaning He is alive. Meaning He has risen.
B We serve a risen Savior. He actually arose. He physically arose. He is alive. "I believe ... the third day he rose again from the dead." I emphasize this because there are those who say He didn't actually die; rather, He was unconscious, and the cool air of the tomb revived Him. NO, Jesus died and Jesus arose.
We serve a risen Savior. He actually arose. He physically arose. He is alive. "I believe ... the third day he rose again from the dead." I emphasize this because there are those who say He didn't actually arise from the death; rather, the disciples only thought He arose.
C We serve a risen Savior. Yet, don't make the mistake of thinking He is exactly the same as us. He is the risen Lord! Yes, He has our flesh and blood. Yes, He ate fish in the upper room and on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. But Mary was warned not to touch Him, not to hold on to Him. We serve a risen Savior Whose resurrection was but step one in His glorification. He was also going to ascend into heaven. And, then He was going to be seated at the Father's right hand. There He is head of the church and there the Father rules all things through Him. So, no, He is not exactly the same as you and me. His is a glorified body, a perfect body, that no longer experiences the ravages of sin. His is a soul that no longer experiences the suffering that is part of life.
III A Shared Righteousness
A We serve a risen Savior. We all know Psalm 23:1 and what it says: "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want." Let me paraphrase this text in light of the resurrection: "The Lord has risen; I have everything I need."
What is man's greatest and biggest need? Man's greatest and biggest need is forgiveness, justification, salvation. Man's greatest and biggest need is for righteousness. Man's greatest and biggest need is to be counted as righteous in God's sight. Man's greatest and biggest need is to have a right relationship with God.
B Let's back up for a moment and consider why this is our biggest need. To be in the presence of God we need to be righteous. God is so holy, so perfect, so righteous, so pure, that no sin is tolerated in His presence, no evil is permitted by His throne, no depravity is allowed in His Kingdom, no wickedness can exist anywhere close to Him. Mixing any of this with God is like mixing water with oil, light with darkness, matter with anti-matter. It just doesn't happen.
To be in the presence of God we need to be righteous. We need to be like God: that is, we need to be holy, perfect, righteous, pure. Surely you recognize this creates a big problem, a huge problem, for us. Because righteous is something we aren't. Righteous is something we can't be. Righteous is something beyond us sinners. When Adam fell into sin -- and all of mankind in him and with him -- we lost the true knowledge of God and things spiritual, we lost the righteousness of our will and heart, we lost the purity of our emotions. When Adam fell in to sin -- and all of mankind in him and with him -- man was no longer altogether holy.
Every man and woman and child has been born with the same nature as was Adam's after the fall into sin. That is to say, corrupt parents have given birth to corrupt children. This corruption spread from Adam to all his descendants -- except for Christ alone. Therefore, all people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin.
This is the truth about you and me and every other person of the human race. I hope you hear what I am saying, what Scripture declares, what sound doctrine professes: None of us are righteous. None of us are worthy to be in the presence of God -- either now or for eternity.
Do you need any proof of this? Open the newspaper, watch the news on TV, observe your kids and grandkids; and, while you are at it, take a close look at yourself. What do you see? Sin. Sin. Sin. So much sin. And sadness because of sin. And brokenness. And heartache. And tears and pain.
C Back to the resurrection of Christ. "The Lord has risen; I have everything I need." What I need is righteousness. What the resurrected Christ gives me is righteousness.
"By His resurrection," says the Catechism, "He has overcome death, so that He might make us share in the righteousness He won for us by His death."Romans 4:25 is one of my favorite Bible verses. Based upon this verse the Catechism says what it does:
(Rom 4:25) He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.This is God's gracious arithmetic. Something bad is subtracted or taken away. Something good is added or put in its place. At the cross something is taken away. At the grave something is added. Gracious arithmetic.
Because Jesus was delivered over to death, God does some gracious arithmetic: He takes away our sin. Because Jesus was delivered over to death the sins of those who believe are forgiven.
To be righteous in God's sight it is not good enough to merely have our sins forgiven or covered or removed. All that forgiveness does is remove our debt of sin but it still leaves us with no credit or standing before God. The cup of God's wrath has been emptied, but it is still an empty cup. Of what use is an empty cup? It is no good unless it is full. It is not enough that Christ "was delivered over to death for our sins." Something more is needed. That something more is that Christ "was raised to life for our justification."
So what does God do? God not only takes away our sin, but He also adds in its place an alien righteousness. Because Jesus was raised from the grave His righteousness is added to us, if we believe!
What is this righteousness of Jesus? Let me describe it for you. Jesus loved His friends and treated them perfectly. He spent time and energy on unpopular people: like tax-collectors, prostitutes, lepers, and the disabled (today, we would say prostitutes, alcoholics, drug addicts, AIDS patients, and the homeless). He firmly resisted temptation. He criticized self-righteous people but accepted unrighteous people. He was willing to die rather than go against the will of God.
Because of Christ's resurrection all this righteousness of Jesus is mysteriously transferred to us -- as if we had acted in just the same way. Jesus' holiness is added, or granted, or credited to our account.
So I repeat what I said before: "The Lord has risen; I have everything I need."
IV A Resurrected Life
A "The Lord has risen! He has risen indeed!" The Lord's resurrection means new life. It means new life now. It means new life in the future.
I said last week that the old man of sin within us must die. But we can't kill it. From a human point-of-view, it is unkillable and unstoppable. It only dies in Christ and because of Christ. It is Christ Who puts the old man of sin to death. Similarly, it is only in Christ that the new man of righteousness lives. It is not something we can do. It is not something to which we can give birth. It only comes by way of Christ. Another of my favorite Bible passages is Colossians 3.
(Col 3:1) Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. [DID YOU HEAR THAT? WE ARE RAISED WITH CHRIST.]With Christ we died and with Christ we arose. With Christ we were crucified and with Christ we were resurrected. With Christ. Ours right now is new life. Ours right now is a new life of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. In Christ. Because of Christ.
B "The Lord has risen! He has risen indeed!" The Lord's resurrection also means new life in the future. I like how this is summed up in the song we will be singing:
Because He lives I can face tomorrow;
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living just because He lives.
When I visited with Geri I kept telling her about our glorious future because Jesus lives. I told her about the resurrection of the body. I told her about the new heaven and new earth. I told her about the future glory. All because He lives.
Sound doctrine. That's what we have before us today. What does sound doctrine tells us? "The Lord has risen; I have everything I need." That is, I am righteous in God's sight. And, I have new life now and in the future.
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