He is risen!
“Up from the grave He arose! With a mighty triumph o’er His foes!” This is our hope. This is our assurance that life has meaning, that death has lost its hold, and that our future is secure. Nothing else. Absolutely nothing else can give ultimate and lasting definition to your life or mine. Absolutely nothing else can give you and me hope in the midst of heartache. Nothing else can cause the light of life to shine in the dark places of your life and mine. Not our reputation. Not our financial statement. Not our pursuit of pleasure, prestige, prominence, or power. Nothing else, but the reality of Jesus’ resurrection.
This Easter morning as we gather here to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior there are many here who do not fully understand. You may admire Jesus for the good things He did while He was ministering on this earth with His disciples, but you don’t understand why His death and resurrection are the pivot point of human history. It is my prayer that this morning the Lord will enable you to understand as we study His Word.
We live in an interesting day, in an interesting period of history. You and I live in a religiously saturated environment and yet very few people can put words to their faith. They just believe. They just “feel” it in their heart. If you ask them “why” they believe what they believe they really can’t get any further than their feelings. This kind of faith is like building a house on a fault line, it’s unstable when life begins shaking.
Adding to the problem are those in our society who produce books, movies, and magazine articles that dig up tired, old, arguments that have been dealt with long ago by students of God’s Word. I’m referring to material like the old movie by Martin Scorsese, “The Last Temptation of Christ,” the book, “The DaVinci Code,” “The Gospel of Thomas,” and the latest theological heresy to come down the pipe, “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” The book was written by Reza Aslan, who since the time he was paraded across the TV channels, has been shown to have misrepresented himself and more importantly, misrepresented Jesus.
Last of all, contributing to the confusion are people who call themselves “ministers” and are teaching things which contradict Scripture. There is a growing number of pastors and theologians who believe that Jesus came to show us the Kingdom of God, to “model” the good life for us. This kind of teaching lends itself to the common belief that “being good” is good enough. I read an article this past week about Michael Bloomberg, the former Mayor of New York, who now has a new work, gun safety. He’s putting $50 million of his own money into the cause. The last few years Mr. Bloomberg has been busy with causes like obesity, stopping smoking, and now gun safety. He says of his work, “I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.” (The New York Times, April 15)
Mr. Bloomberg is probably a little more arrogant than most, but his belief that his “good works” will earn his place in heaven is not uncommon at all. There is no doubt that Jesus came to show us the Kingdom of God and to model the godly life God desires for us to live, but if you leave out Jesus’ death and resurrection then we are just as lost and hopeless as we were before Jesus ever came.
This morning I want us to take the time to try and answer the question, “Why did Jesus die for our sins?” I hear this question a lot and it is a good question. A question that needs to be studied and understood. As we begin our study let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 15 and read together.
1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: 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 Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them– yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11 Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. (1 Corinthians 15:1-11 NIV)
What we are experiencing today in the Church in regards to the confusion and lack of understanding concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus is nothing new. Over 1900 years ago there were people in the church at Corinth who were lacking in their understanding and this is why Paul set out to clarify things for them in 1 Corinthians 15. We won’t go through these eleven verses line-by-line this morning, but I do want to highlight a couple of the themes discussed by Paul.
Let’s focus on verses 1-3 for a moment. Paul reminds the folks in Corinth about the “Gospel,” the good news that he preached to them. The people received the gospel and then we read in verse 3 that this is the same gospel that Paul had received. The Greek word for “received,” is the word, “parelabete” and it means, “to take to oneself, to receive, or to inherit.” It is used often in philosophy as students receive lessons from their teacher.
I wanted to point this out for us because this is a problem for many people in our world. The stories of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were passed down from those who were witnesses. There were witnesses to everything that Jesus’ did and Jesus showed Himself to many people after His resurrection. Paul tells us this in verses 5-7. He appeared to Peter, to the Twelve, to more than 500, to James, the apostles, and last of all to Paul.
The complaint that I oftentimes hear is this: “Well, who wrote the Bible? People right? They passed down the stories and you know how stories get changed.” I can see how people think that can’t you? I mean we have all played the game where you whisper a phrase in someone’s ear and they, in turn, whisper it in someone else’s ear. By the time it gets around the circle the story is changed. The problem in all of this is that we are taking our behavior and laying it over the Bible, taking God out of the picture. Scripture says,
20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21 NIV)
God used people to write His Word, but they were moved by the Spirit of God to communicate exactly and precisely what God wanted to say to you and me. Let me show you the most convincing evidence for the authenticity and precision of the Word of God.
In March of 1947 a Bedouin shepherd boy named Mohammad was searching for a lost goat. He threw a rock into a hole in the cliff and heard the sound of shattering pottery. Mohammad climbed the rocks and went into the cave where he found several large clay jars. In the jars were leather scrolls wrapped in linen cloths. Today, we know them as the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of more than 800 manuscripts, some biblical and some non-biblical material. Included in the Dead Sea Scrolls are whole copies or parts of every Old Testament book except for Esther. Josh McDowell writes,
The oldest complete Hebrew manuscript we possessed before the Dead Sea Scrolls were from 900 A.D. One of the scrolls in the Dead Sea caves was a complete manuscript of the Hebrew text of Isaiah. It is dated by paleographers around 125 B.C. This manuscript is more than one thousand years older than any manuscript we previously possessed. (Josh McDowell, New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Pg. 78.)
How different do you think those two copies of Isaiah would be over the course of 1,000 years of copying by hand? How many people over the course of 1,000 years were entrusted with the responsibility of copying word for word each book of the Old Testament? Yet, Gleason Archer says that the scrolls found at the Dead Sea,
…Proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling. (McDowell, New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Pg. 79.)
What the shepherd boy found in the caves of Qumran proved to a doubting world that God’s Word stands tall in a world of skeptical cynics. People in our day fail to realize what King David confessed in Psalm 138:2.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word. (Psalm 138:2 NIV)
God has given us His Word, not the word of people, but His Word to communicate to us the most needed information in the history of the world. What is that information? Take a look at 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 with me.
3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: 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, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 NIV)
Here it is. Are you ready? Do you have your pen and paper so you can write it down and never forget? “Christ died for our sins…He was buried…and He was raised on the third day.” That’s it. This is the heart of God, the love of God, for you and me. Everything in history was pointing towards this one event and everything since Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection has been affected by this one event.
Not only is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the pivot point of history, but it happened, as Paul wrote, “According to the Scriptures.” Paul doesn’t just say it once, he repeats himself. “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” God had ordained it, He predestined Jesus to die for your sins and mine, and the Scriptures attest to this before His death ever took place. Let me show you just a couple of examples of what I am talking about.
First, let’s begin with Jesus Himself. After Jesus’ death two of His followers were walking to Emmaus and they were talking about everything that had happened. They were downcast and disappointed when all of a sudden a Man joined them on the road. Luke tells us,
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. (Luke 24:17-21 NIV)
They didn’t know that the man who had joined them was Jesus, resurrected from the grave. Once they stopped talking Jesus spoke and He said,
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 NIV)
Jesus didn’t tell them to “get tough,” or “keep the faith brother!” What did Jesus do? Great question! Let’s see what God’s Word says in verse 27. “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”
What was said in the Scriptures about Jesus? What was He referring to? Turn with me to Isaiah 53 and let me show you just one example. Isaiah was written almost 700 years before Jesus died on the cross. As a matter of fact, death by crucifixion wasn’t even invented when Isaiah wrote these words.
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12 NIV)
Isaiah says that “He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” The Hebrew word that is translated, “bore,” is the word, “naw-saw.” The word appears over 600 times in the Hebrew Bible and it has various meanings, but in this context it means “to carry, especially to carry the punishment or guilt.” The same word is used in Genesis 4:13 after God pronounced His punishment on Cain for killing his brother Abel. Cain said, 13 And Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!” (Genesis 4:13 NIV)
There are consequences for our sin. I’m not simply referring to “cause and effect” type consequences. I’m referring to spiritual consequences. Sinners, those who violate God’s Law, who stand in defiance of how God has called us to live, cannot have fellowship with God, our sin cuts us off from God because God is holy. This is so important to understand as we try and answer the question, “Why did Jesus die for our sins?” The great Bible teacher, A.W. Pink once wrote,
Because God is holy, acceptance with Him on the ground of creature doings is utterly impossible. A fallen creature could sooner create a world than produce that which would meet the approval of infinite Purity. Can darkness dwell with Light? Can the Immaculate One take pleasure in “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6)? The best that sinful man brings forth is defiled. A corrupt tree cannot bear good fruit. God would deny Himself, vilify His perfections, were He to account as righteous and holy that which is not so in itself; and nothing is so which has the least stain upon it contrary to the nature of God. But blessed be His name, that which His holiness demanded His grace has provided in Christ Jesus our Lord. Every poor sinner who has fled to Him for refuge stands “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6). Hallelujah! (A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God, Holiness of God.
God is holy. He is absolutely pure. There are no imperfections in His character. He is the antithesis of sin. He is perfection. You and I are not pure. We are sinners from birth. This is not my opinion. This is what God’s Word teaches us in Romans 3:23. Perfect purity and impurity cannot coexist. This poses a problem for us because it means that we are cut off from God. I recognize that this is not the popular opinion today. It’s not even something we hear consistently coming from the Church, but it is Scriptural.
Some may object and say, “But I’m a good person, better than the average guy. I try to do right.” I understand what you are talking about, but God doesn’t grade on the curve. God’s standard is absolute purity, not purity according to OSSHA code.
I remember several years ago learning about “clean rooms.” A clean room is a controlled environment where products are manufactured. It is imperative to have a clean room to manufacture computer components, pharmaceuticals, space equipment, and other items. What is clean? Is clean whatever you deem to be clean? Not on your life. There is too much money, too many lives, and too much at stake to have a sliding scale of what is clean. Authorities have set International Standard ISO 14644 to evaluate the various classes of clean rooms. The U.S. standards are M1, which is the cleanest of all of the clean rooms, up to M7, which is the least stringent and dirtiest of all clean rooms. In a M1 classified clean room limits for 0.1-micrometer particles is 350 per cubic meter and 75.7 0.2-micrometer particles per cubic meter. Now, that didn’t really mean too much to me when I read it, until I read that the typical office building that you work in contains from 500,000 to 1,000,000 particles (0.5 microns or larger) per cubic foot of air. How small is 0.5 microns? Well, a human hair is about 75-100 microns in diameter. A particle 200 times smaller (0.5 micron) than the human hair can cause major disaster in a clean room. Contamination of a clean room can be expensive and lead to disastrous consequences. In fact, the billion dollar NASA Hubble Space Telescope was damaged and did not perform as designed because of a particle smaller than 0.5 microns. Now can you see why the standards are so strict?
The cleanest of all of the clean rooms is a M1 clean room that allows no more than 350 particles 0.2 micrometers in size. The air is constantly being filtered and monitored, and any reading greater than 350 particles per cubic foot is unacceptable. The biggest threat to the clean environment is us so all of those who work in clean rooms must wear a “bunny suit.”
We shed one billion skin flakes every 24 hours. When we are just standing still we are shedding 100,000 particles per minute. If we are walking at 2 mph we shed 5,000,000 particles per minute. If you up your pace to 5 mph you create 10,000,000 particles per minute. At NASA, those who work in clean rooms must change into their “bunny suit” when they get within three feet of the door of the clean room. These are strict, strict standards.
The cleanest clean room is far cleaner than our office or our home, but it’s not absolutely pure air is it? Not unless there are zero particles of contaminants per cubic foot. God’s standard of purity is far more stringent than the Feds or the International community. God’s standard is zero particles of sin per life. That’s impossible. You may say, “That’s not fair.” That is God’s standard my friends.
If this is true then what do those of us who want to fellowship with God do? How can we overcome the great expanse between us and God? Scripture teaches that God has bridged the gap through the death of His Son, Jesus, who has taken our sin upon Himself. He paid our debt. How could He do that? Why couldn’t we do it ourselves? We couldn’t do it because we are sinners. Jesus alone could pay the debt because He lived a sinless life. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way.
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 NIV)
Throughout Scripture we read that Jesus died “for us.” He paid our debt. He did what we could never do. He is our “bunny suit” so that we can enter into the presence of our holy and perfectly pure God. We are not only “clothed” in Christ, but even more than that, He has cleansed us, not a Class 100 or 1000 cleansing, but His blood has perfectly cleansed us, and continues to cleanse us so that we might have fellowship with the Father. That is good news! John wrote,
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7-9 NIV)
It is my prayer this morning that someone who came here to celebrate Easter will now come and say, “I get it! I wondered what others meant when they said, ‘Jesus died for our sins,’ but now I get it. Jesus died for me, a sinner. He did for me what no one else could do.” I pray that you will go a step further than “getting it.” I pray that you will accept Jesus’ sacrifice and ask Him into your heart this morning so that you can begin to get to know the Father who loves you more than you can even imagine. Won’t invite Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
April 8, 2007
1 Corinthians 15:1-11