Easter Sunday

April 21, 2019

I Corinthians 15:1-11

Celebrate The Easter Gospel!

 

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.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:  that 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, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  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.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.  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.  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.  Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear fellow worshipers of our Living Lord and Savior,

 

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

 

What is Easter all about?  If you asked that question at work or at school you would undoubtedly get a variety of answers.  For some people Easter is all about the bunny, the colorful eggs and the basket of candy.  For others Easter is all about fancy new clothes, time off from school and work and a nice dinner with family and friends.  Is that really what Easter is all about?  Is that what you and I have spent the last six weeks getting ready for?  Absolutely not!

 

Today as we gather together to celebrate the most glorious day of the year our goal is to focus on the “heart” of what Easter is all about by focusing on— The Easter Gospel!  Using this portion of I Corinthians 15 let’s celebrate three things this morning.  First, let’s celebrate the fact that the Easter Gospel is the basis of your salvation.  Then let’s celebrate the fact that the Easter Gospel is the basis of the Christian faith.  Finally, let’s celebrate the fact that the Easter Gospel is the basis of who you are!

 

First Corinthians chapter fifteen has long been known as the “Great Resurrection Chapter” of the Bible.  From verse one to verse fifty-eight this entire chapter of Scripture focuses our attention on what Easter is all about!  Yet, did you notice, my friends, that Paul never once mentions the Easter bunny or a basket filled with candy and eggs?  Did you notice that Paul doesn’t even talk about the Easter breakfast that we enjoy year after year here at church or the delicious Easter dinner we enjoy with our family and our friends?  Paul begins the “Great Resurrection Chapter” of the Bible by immediately focusing our attention on the “heart” of Easter— the Easter Gospel!  Look at verses 1 & 2.  Paul writes, “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you have received and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

 

“By this gospel you are saved…” That’s what the apostle Paul proclaims to us on this glorious Easter morning!  But what is the “gospel” that Paul is referring to here?  I’ll give you a hint!  The Greek word that is translated here as “gospel” very literally means “good news”!  What “good news” does Easter proclaim to us?  What “good news” is the basis of our salvation?  The “good news” that Paul is talking about here in our text, the “good news” that Easter proclaims to us, the “good news” that is the basis of your salvation is the “good news” that the Easter angel announced to the faithful women on that first Easter Sunday: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.  He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:5-6).  The “good news” that Paul is talking about here in our text, the “good news” that Easter proclaims to us, the “good news” that is the basis of your salvation is the “good news” that the risen Christ Himself proclaimed to His fear-filled disciples there in that locked room somewhere in Jerusalem.  The apostle John tells us, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side” (John 20:19-20).

 

The Easter Gospel, my friends, the “Good News” which serves as the very basis of your salvation is that Jesus, the true Son of God, died to completely pay for all of your sins and then physically rose from the dead to guarantee your eternal salvation!  If it were not for both the innocent suffering and death of God’s only begotten Son (pointing to the cross) and the physical resurrection of Jesus the Christ on Easter Sunday your salvation would be completely impossible!  With His death and with His physical resurrection as the basis of your salvation now your salvation is secure!  Now that’s “Good News”!

 

Since the Easter Gospel is indeed the basis of your salvation it follows that the Easter Gospel is also the basis of the entire Christian faith.  Look at verses 3-8 or our text.  Paul writes, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:  that 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, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  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.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

 

Does this portion of Scripture sound somewhat familiar to you? Doesn’t it remind you of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed— the Creed that has expressed the truths of the Christian faith for approximately 2,000 years?  The true Christian faith teaches that God has two “requirements” for anyone to live in His heavenly home.  First, God requires that you must be holy and perfect, just as He is holy and perfect.  Secondly, God requires that you must have absolutely no sin whatsoever.  On our own that’s impossible! On our own we have no holiness, no perfection at all!  On our own we have nothing but sin.  That’s why the true Christian faith teaches that Jesus died to take away your sins.  That’s why the true Christian faith teaches that by trusting in what Jesus has done for you (pointing to the cross) you are given— absolutely free of charge— you are given the gift of holiness, the gift of righteousness, the gift of perfection that you need to live in the very presence of God forever!

 

At the same time, the true Christian faith teaches that Jesus physically rose from the dead on the third day to prove— to prove that Jesus is who He claims to be, the true Son of the one and only living God, to prove that Jesus has defeated sin, death and the devil and to prove that Jesus can and will fulfill all of His promises— including His promise to raise us from the dead.  And just so that there can be no doubt whatsoever that Jesus did indeed physically rise from the dead Paul lists six different occasions on which the risen Christ appeared to His disciples during the forty days between His resurrection and His ascension into heaven.  So yes, my friends, the Easter Gospel is indeed the basis of the entire Christian faith for the Easter Gospel clearly proclaims that Jesus died to take away your sins and then physically rose from the dead to guarantee that one day He will take you to live with Him forever in heaven!  Now that’s “Good News”!

 

The final point that we want to glean from this text is found in verses 9 & 10.  Here in these verses Paul both expresses and confesses a truth that applies to each and every one of us:  the Easter Gospel is the basis of who we are.  Paul writes, “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.  But by the grace of God I am what I am.”

 

The Easter Gospel reminds us that we are who we are purely by the grace of God alone, my friends.  Scripture very clearly teaches that by nature we were born spiritually blind, spiritually dead and spiritually the enemies of God and there is absolutely nothing we can do to change that spiritual condition.  But when God’s Holy Spirit shined the message of the Easter Gospel into our hearts and brought us to saving faith He changed us!  The Easter Gospel proclaims to us that by the grace of God we are a Christian.  The Easter Gospel proclaims to us that by the grace of God we were adopted to be God’s dearly beloved child.  The Easter Gospel proclaims to us that by the grace of God we are forgiven of all of our sins!  The Easter Gospel proclaims to us that by the grace of God we are saved!  So yes, my friends, the Easter Gospel is most certainly the basis of who we are!  The Easter Gospel enables us to joyfully say along with the apostle Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”  Now that’s “Good News”!

 

What is Easter all about?  Without the Easter Gospel there is really no Easter at all, is there.  Without the Easter Gospel there is just eggs and candy and the bunny.  Without the Easter Gospel there is just a dinner with our family and friends and maybe even some time off from work and school.  Ah, but with the Easter Gospel there is comfort and confidence!  With the Easter Gospel there is a joy and a celebration that literally lasts into eternity!  My prayer then on this glorious Easter Sunday is that you will indeed stay focused on the very “heart” of Easter.  Stay focused on the Easter Gospel and celebrate!  Celebrate the fact that the Easter Gospel is the basis of your salvation.  Celebrate the fact that the Easter Gospel is the basis of your faith.  Celebrate the fact that the Easter Gospel is the basis of who you are!

 

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen