Easter March 27, 2005
1 Corinthians 15:1-23,35-38,42-44,50-58
191, 210, 200, 189
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy 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 toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming….
But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain-perhaps wheat or some other grain. But God gives it a body as He pleases….
So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body….
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord”
Dear fellow believers in our risen Savior!
We are celebrating an event today which took place nearly 2000 years ago, and yet it is as fresh and new as when the women first made their way to the tomb. Still, we do not live in the past. The past is over and done. We cannot go back to it. Our lives are in the present, and we use them to prepare for the future.
For example, you may have an IRA, an Individual Retirement Account, to which you contribute so that hopefully you will have a degree of financial security in the years to come. But then what? What about the future beyond time and this earthly life? The message of Easter is that God has already taken care of it. He has given us another kind of IRA. This is our very own Individual Resurrection Account.
We desperately need this account, because by nature we are totally bankrupt. Sin has left us with nothing but hopelessness and death. The wages of sin is death: the physical death of the body and the eternal death of both body and soul in Hell. Sin hangs like a black cloud over our future. We have nothing in our account to draw on for life.
But “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus came and fully funded our resurrection account for each of us. He could do it, because He is the Son of God, as well as true man. Easter proves it, for only God can conquer death and rise again.
We need perfect holiness in our account. Jesus put it there with His own sinless life on earth. But there was still the problem of our sin. We were guilty. Sin must be punished. That is God’s perfect justice. Jesus took the guilt on Himself and suffered the death and punishment of Hell. He died and was buried. He paid the penalty in full! Easter proves it, for if He had failed, He would still be in the grave.
Our God-given IRA is paid up, safe and secure. It is underwritten by Jesus’ own resurrection. He truly died, but then truly rose again. The angel’s message: “He is not here! He is risen!” echoes through the centuries. It is the greatest news ever! And yet so few people, even today, really understand and appreciate it. Imagine how people would react if a doctor and his trauma team restored someone to life who had been dead for three days. The world would be in an uproar. There would be nonstop publicity and everyone would want to know the secret. Mankind can never accomplish it, but it did happen. It’s no secret. God did it! Jesus rose bodily from the grave. He appeared to the disciples that evening and told them, “Look…touch Me and see!” (cf. Luke 24:36ff).
It was not a publicity stunt. He did it for each of us. He promised, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19). We too will rise from our graves. It is just as sure as Jesus’ own resurrection. Just as the first bushel of corn from the field means that the rest of the crop will follow, so Easter means that our own Easter will come in due time.
What an event that will be! Look at yourself. The same body you now have will be raised. Except, as Paul says, we will be changed for the better. Our frail mortality which shows in sickness, exhaustion after a long day, and the gradual wearing out of our bodies over the years will be replaced with immortality. Our bodies will be perfect and last forever. Then in every way, the Scripture will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory!”
Christ’s resurrection happened in the past, but it has made our future secure. That gives us cause to celebrate in the present, not just today, but when tomorrow becomes the present, and life slips back into its normal routine. We rejoice because sin and death have been defeated—Jesus is risen! He lives! We have confidence, no matter what we may face, for the living Lord is with us—Jesus is risen! He lives! We can look ahead and anticipate our glorious goal—Jesus is risen! He lives! He has given us our very own Individual Resurrection Account! Hallelujah! Amen.
On March 22, the Lord called the soul of Pastor Paul F. Nolting home to eternal rest. Pastor Nolting was the first editor of Ministry by Mail. In the early days of the young Church of the Lutheran Confession, Pastor Nolting saw a need to serve Christians who lived at a distance and did not have a local orthodox congregation in which they could be active.
The world of publishing has changed significantly since this ministry was begun. Computers have replaced the manual typewriter and hand-corrected copies. High speed duplicators have replaced the mimeographs which were cutting edge technology in their day. Email and web sites have taken their place in addition to the U.S. Postal service. Through the last forty-plus years the tools for this ministry have changed, but the glorious message of the Gospel has remained unchanged, bringing the precious news of our Savior to the hearts of sinners!
This ministry was not the only way in which the Lord used Pastor Nolting in the work of His Kingdom. Pastor Nolting was a student of God’s Word who served as a parish pastor, who wrote and preached and taught in various capacities, and also served in leadership roles in the Church of the Lutheran Confession. As one considers the ways in which the Lord used His servant, we can rejoice and thank the Lord of the Church who gives, “…some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
The knowledge of Jesus’ resurrection which we celebrate this week is what comforts us and gives us a living hope (cf. 1 Peter 1:3ff) whenever a child of God dies. The words of Paul’s resurrection chapter (cf. 1 Corinthians 15—this sermon’s text) hold so much confidence, so much victory, so much comfort! Thanks be to God for the victory which Pastor Nolting is now enjoying, and to which we look forward in faith. “…there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).
Our prayers of thanksgiving ascend to the Lord for giving Pastor Nolting the crown of life as promised by our Savior (cf. Revelation 2:10) and for the blessings God gave to His Church through Pastor Nolting. We also pray for the Lord’s gracious comfort to the hearts of his family.
I know that my Redeemer lives….
He lives to silence all my fears,
He lives to wipe away my tears,
He lives to calm my troubled heart,
He lives all blessings to impart.
He lives and grants me daily breath;
He lives, and I shall conquer death;
He lives my mansion to prepare;
He lives to bring me safely there.
Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives,
I know that my Redeemer lives!"
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.