Easter Sunday April 16, 2006
1 Corinthians 15:20-28,50-57
188, 199, 198, 200
Jesus died upon the cross but you will not find Him there.
Nor will you see Him in His tomb, for today,
Jesus has been raised to Life!
So away with all sorrows, worry, tears, and gloom!
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
In Christ Jesus, our risen and victorious Savior, dear fellow-winners:
There is a definite thrill to winning. The bigger the contest is, the more thrilling the victory. With every victory there also come some kind of spoils or reward. The spoils of victory may not be anything more than being able to say, “we won,” but even that is a product of victory.
In earthly contests, winning isn’t everything. Its fun to win, but in the bigger picture of things, winning a contest has very little lasting value. There are times when the greatest of defeats take place while winning the game, and the greatest victories come in the face in defeat.
In our spiritual contest with the powers of sin, Hell, and death winning is everything! We are engaged in something more than a game or a contest for some earthly reward and honor. We are in a battle—a war—for our lives, now and eternally. In this battle, the difference between defeat and victory is the difference between a never-ending death in the fire of hell and a never-ending life in the presence of God.
In this battle we are already winners! The resurrection of Jesus assures us of victory. Jesus’ death on the cross is necessary for our victory and He was buried in a tomb, but we ought not think of Him remaining on the cross or in the tomb. We ought not seek the living among the dead. The empty cross and empty tomb mean victory! In other words, JESUS’ RESURRECTION MEANS VICTORY. In our meditation on this Easter, we will consider the I. Certainty of Victory and II. The Spoils of Victory.
If we want to rejoice in the benefits of victory we had better first be sure that we have indeed won the victory. In God’s plan of salvation, 1) the righteous requirements of the Law had to be fulfilled for all sinners; 2) the punishment of sin had to be paid for all sinners; and 3) death had to be conquered for all sinners. Jesus kept the law perfectly and He endured the punishment for all sins on the cross. We know that the debt was completely paid because of Jesus’ cry before He died: “It is finished” (John 19:30). At that point, two out of the three needs for victory were accomplished, but death had not yet been conquered. Jesus’ dead body hung on the cross and was laid in a tomb.
Victory was completed when on Easter morning Jesus rose back to life just as He said He would do. Jesus had said all-along that He would rise on the third day. Had He not risen, His words of promise would not be true and we would have no assurances.
When Jesus was suffering on the cross He was forsaken by God because of our sins which had taken to the cross. If God had not raised Jesus up and exalted Him in glory, we would have no reason to believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was accepted by God as a ransom for our sins. If our Savior from sin remained dead and His body decayed, then He would not have truly conquered sin because death is the product of sin. Paul wrote the Corinthians, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty…if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:14,17), and that would be defeat!
Jesus’ Resurrection is the guarantee of victory. We need not doubt that Jesus is truly alive because there is insurmountable proof that He did rise from the dead. During the 40 days between Easter and His ascension to Heaven, Jesus appeared alive to disciples no fewer than eleven times, five of which were on Easter Sunday alone!
The Guards at Jesus’ tomb were the first eyewitnesses of His resurrection. Recall that on Saturday, the Jewish leaders had approached Pontius Pilate to request a sealing of the tomb and a guard. They told Pilate, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first” (Matthew 27:63-64).
So the guards were there Sunday morning when the earthquake came and the angel descended to roll away the stone and reveal the empty tomb where Jesus’ body had been. The guards saw the empty tomb, they saw the events firsthand, they knew what they saw, they knew they had become like dead men from fright, they knew the facts! They went to the chief priests and leaders of the people, told them the facts, and then accepted a bribe to tell the lie that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body during the night. It is the one sad part of the Easter story, that the money of Jesus’ enemies purchased the soldiers’ silence. But their paid lies cannot change the truth that they were eyewitnesses to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection to life.
Peter and John were also witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection. When the women told the disciples what they had seen, Peter and John ran to the tomb and looked inside. There they found Jesus’ grave clothes neatly laid where His body once had been. The body cloths were lying in one spot and the head cloth was folded and lying separately. It was not scene of a grave robbery in which the cloths would be twisted and strewn about the tomb. It was not the scene of a completely empty tomb as we might expect if the disciples had stolen the body. It was the scene of a resurrection to life in which the body had raised to life and left behind the clothing of death.
Jesus appeared to the women as they went on their way to tell the disciples about the empty tomb. Later, He appeared to Mary Magdalene. Easter night, Jesus appeared to the disciples behind locked doors. They too had their own theory about the resurrection—they thought Jesus was a ghost. They thought Jesus was a ghost until He ate and they touched Him and talked to Him and found that He was the same Jesus they had always known. One week later, Jesus again appeared to the disciples, this time with Thomas also present. Without even having to put his fingers into the nail prints on Jesus hands or to stick his hand into Jesus’ pierced side, Thomas took one look and exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” (John 19:27).
It is not only these who are witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. The angels are also reliable witnesses. Angels are God’s messengers. The Easter angels were sent by God to pronounce: “He is Risen!” Messengers from God who are sent to bear God’s Word to the earth are completely reliable, their word cannot be false.
There is much irrefutable evidence to testify that the same Jesus did indeed bodily rise from the grave—He rose as true God and true man just as He had lived. Luke writes in Acts, “He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).
It is not theory, it is a certain truth that Jesus lives and has gained the victory!
What are the spoils of our victory with Christ? The short answer is that “God is for us, so who can be against us?” [v.31]. If we dig a little deeper, we learn that the benefits of this victory are that Christ died, rose again, sits at the right hand of God, and intercedes for us. [v.34] When we go deeper still and consider all that comes to us through the work of Christ, it is here that the vastness of the spoils of victory can be seen.
In Isaiah 53, after God prophetically showed all the suffering and death which His Son would endure, He also spoke of victory and its reward, “…He shall divide the spoil with the strong” (Isaiah 53:12).
The biggest and all-encompassing gift that comes from our victory in Christ Jesus is the forgiveness of sins. Paul told the Romans earlier in his letter, “[Righteousness] shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead who was delivered up because of our offenses (His death paid the price for our sins) and raised again because of our justification (His resurrection is the guarantee that God declares us, “Not Guilty!” because of what Jesus has done) (Romans 4:24-25).
God assures us that through faith in Christ Jesus we receive the forgiveness of sins. That forgiveness is effective because Jesus rose from the dead and lives. Since the guilt of our sins is taken completely away from us we can look forward to a life of glory forever in heaven. Sin is what brought death in the first place and sin is what blocks our way from entering heaven, so if our sins are forgiven then we (just like Jesus) will be raised up from earthly death to live in glory and never die again. Recall Jesus’ words to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die (on earth), he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (eternally)” (John 11:25-26).
Knowing that our sins are forgiven and that we will be raised to live eternally in heaven gives the confidence that Paul shows when he says in our text: “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns?” [vv.33-34a] Confidence in salvation is another “spoil” of victory. Who in the whole world or in all of Hell can charge you or any other believer with a sin and suggest that it excludes you from the family of God? No one! God Himself vindicates you of your sins. He has declared you, “Not guilty,” and has given you the proof of that vindication by raising Christ from the dead. If God has said you are set free, there is none who can say otherwise. If God is for us, who can be against us?
This doesn’t mean that there won’t be those who will try to bring a charge against you and other believers. The Devil and all of his servants—his evil angels and his instruments in the world—will continually accuse you. Satan will do everything in his power to lead you to despair by reminding you of your sins and suggesting that you are not worthy of eternal life. He’s right, you do sin daily. He’s right, you aren’t worthy of eternal life, but if the Devil then tries to convince you that you can’t have eternal life he is dead-wrong! God says you already have it through Christ Jesus. The Devil and anyone else who may try to accuse you is defeated! With God on our side and Christ’s victory ours we are equipped to say to enemies, “take counsel together…but it will come to nothing; Speak the word…but it will not stand, for God is with us!” (Isaiah 8:10).
Paul also writes, “He who did not even spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” [v.32] God so wants you to have the victory and all of its blessings that He spared no expense to accomplish that victory. For us sinners, God gave His own Son. The Son of God has redeemed us out of His love for us. God showed that amazing love to us while we were unlovable, unredeemed sinners. Now that He has made us His own through faith in Christ that love continues to be poured out in abundance (cf: Romans 5:6ff).
If your God has that kind of love for you, is there anything He will withhold from you that would be beneficial to you? Not a thing! If God is for us, what need won’t be supplied? What problem can’t be solved? What grief can’t be comforted? What challenge can’t be met? What danger can’t we escape? We are victors in every way and are given every needful blessing. Jesus is at the right hand of God ruling over heaven and earth for your and all believers’ benefit.
Jesus did not move on to bigger and better things after He won the victory. Jesus lives and day by day He gives you countless blessings which all flow out of the victory—a victory which He sealed for you when He rose back to life!
THANKS BE TO GOD
WHO GIVES US THE VICTORY
THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST!
(1 Corinthians 15:57)
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