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LESSON 12 - THE REALITY OF THE RESURRECTION (1 CORINTHIANS 15)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: I wish we had more time!  We could take a week to
study 1 Corinthians 15, but we have a little less than an hour, so
let's get moving on the topic of our eternal destiny!

I. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING.

     A.  Did you forget something important this week?  What do you
     use to help you to remember things?

          1. Are you more likely to forget little things than big
          things?  Or are you an "equal opportunity" "forgetter?"

          2. What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you
          because you forgot something?

     B. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. Have the Corinthians
     forgotten something? (Paul says he wants "to remind" them.)

          1. What have they forgotten?

     C. Paul says it is the "gospel" that may have slipped their
     mind.  Of the things that can slip your mind, where does the
     gospel rank as to importance? (Verse 3: "first importance."
     Nothing is more important to remember than the gospel.)

          1. Why? (It is a matter of life and death (v.2 "you are
          saved"). Otherwise all of your "Christian" beliefs are
          held "in vain." (v.2))

     D. If the Corinthians forgot something, they needed to be
     reminded. Remind me what Paul says constitutes the gospel of
     "first importance?"

          (1. Christ died for our sins (v.3);

           2. He was buried (v.4); and,

           3. He was raised on the third day (v.4).)

     E. Do you really think the Corinthians "forgot" this, like you
     might forget to buy ketchup? (Think this is more like you
     might say to your children, "Have you forgotten the rule about
     picking up your clothes?")
          1. Staying with the analogy to children for just a
          minute, sometimes you "remind" your children of a rule
          that they never agreed they would follow. Is this a
          situation in which the Corinthians at one time had
          "bought into" the gospel? (Yes. v.1 "on which you have
          taken your stand." Paul is saying, "You heard it, you
          accepted it, and now you seem to be forgetting it!)

     F. Did you notice that Paul ties the "events" of the gospel to
     "as the Scriptures said" (v.3) and "as the prophets foretold"
     (v.4). He also tells us in vv. 5-8 (which I will not read) all
     the people who saw Jesus after He arose from the grave.

          1. Why does Paul do that? (Paul approaches this like a
          lawyer.  In any litigation you have to deal with the
          "facts" and the "law." You lose unless you are "right" on
          both of them.  In Paul's "argument" he first tells us
          that the topic is of first importance, and then he
          explains why his view of the "facts" is absolutely
          accurate.  It was not only foretold, it has literally
          hundreds of eye witnesses -- including him!  These people
          once accepted this truth, but now Paul feels the need to
          "reconvince" them of the point. What we really want to
          look at is his "law argument," so let's move on to that
          now.)

II. THE LOGIC OF THE RESURRECTION

     A. Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.  After reading this, what do
     you think caused Paul to suggest that the Corinthians had
     forgotten the gospel? (Belief in the resurrection is a central
     point of the gospel.)

     B. What does Paul say (v.12) is the argument made by "the
     other side" on this issue? (There is (v.12) no "resurrection
     from the dead."  Apparently some were concluding, as a
     theological matter, there was no resurrection.)

     C. Paul says this "no resurrection" theological/legal argument
     has enormous practical consequences for the gospel and our
     faith.  What are the logical consequences that Paul describes
     in these verses? Let's set this up as a series of "If/then"
     statements.  Identify, so I can put them on the blackboard,
     all the "If/then" statements made by Paul in these verses:

          (IF there is no resurrection of the dead,

               THEN Christ was not raised from the dead.

          IF Christ was not raised from the dead,

               THEN your witness and your faith are worthless.

          IF Christ was not raised from the dead,

               THEN we are a bunch of false witnesses.

          IF Christ was not raised from the dead,

               THEN your sins are not forgiven!
 
          IF Christ was not raised from the dead,

               THEN your friends who have died are lost (and, come
               to think of it, so are you!))

     D. As you look over these "If/Then" statements made by Paul,
     do you agree with the logic of each?  Does each one logically
     follow?
 
          1. Have you ever said that the Christian life is
          worthwhile even if it turns out we are wrong about who
          Jesus is?

               a. Would Paul agree? (No. When Paul says (vv.14&17)
               your faith is "futile" or "useless," he means your
               faith in what Jesus has and will do for you.  That
               does not undercut the superior lifestyle argument.
               However, when he says (v.19) that if we are wrong
               we are to be "pitied," he is saying much more.
               Perhaps we do not see the "downside" of false faith
               because we have not completely given up the world.
               Perhaps we are doing what we would do anyway, and
               we just slap the label "Christian" on ourselves to
               make us feel better. Notice v.32. Fighting wild
               beasts (Christians thrown to the lions) is the
               ultimate in being unselfish: giving up your life.
               Living for the moment and ignoring others ("Let us
               each and drink, for tomorrow we die") is the
               ultimate selfishness.  The more unselfish you are,
               the more pitiful your life if your faith is a false
               hope.)

     E. Read 1 Corinthians 15:20-26.

          1. What does Adam have to do with this?

               a. Does your answer have anything to do with calling
               Jesus (v.20) a "firstfruit?" (A "firstfruit"
               conveys the idea of more coming. Because of the sin
               of Adam and Eve, they were the first of many
               sinners.  Jesus is the first of many who are
               saved.)

               b. Because all became sinners "automatically"
               became sinful through Adam, are all "automatically"
               saved through Jesus? (Note v.23 says that the group
               of those Jesus saves are "those who belong to
               Him.")
                    (1) Do you belong because of what He did or
                    because of what you did? (You are eligible to
                    belong because of what He did. But I think the
                    parallel (plus the reference to (v.25)
                    "enemies") infers that we must chose Him to be
                    saved. It is not "automatic" and not all men
                    will be saved.)

               c. Is there more than one "firstfruit?"

     F. Notice the timing of what is described in v.23. How does
     this impact on those who suggest that we go to heaven before
     the resurrection? (It sets up a clear order. First Jesus arose
     and went to heaven, then the rest of the "firstfruits," then
     "when He comes" the rest.)

          1. Does v.23 create a problem for those who suggest that
          no one goes to heaven until a final general resurrection?
          (This tells us that there are "firstfruits" in addition
          to Christ.)

               a. Do you know of any? (Moses, Jude 1:9, Matthew
               17:3-4; Those raised at Jesus' resurrection,
               Matthew 27:52-53)
 

III. SO HOW DOES THIS WORK?

     A. Read 1 Corinthians 15:35. I have a general rule to never
     watch horror movies, but some movie comes on the various TV
     channels from time to time that has dead people walking
     around. I think, but am not certain, it is a "cult" film
     called "Night of the Living Dead." Am I right about that? In
     any event, that film creates the picture that is at the heart
     of this verse. What question do the Corinthians ask Paul about
     this "resurrection idea?" (Part of the attack on the
     "resurrection idea" was apparently the argument that the
     person resurrected would come out of the ground in his same
     old worn out body. Sort of stagger about like "the living
     dead.")

     B. Read 1 Corinthians 15:36-44. What illustration does Paul
     use to teach us what kind of a "resurrection body" we will
     have? (Seed.(v.37))

          1. Does the seed process make any sense? Can you explain
          how part of a dead plant becomes a new, healthy plant?
          (Maybe somebody can, but I think I'm in the same boat as
          the Corinthians!  We have no clue how this happens.  But
          the fact that this improbable miracle happens all the
          time is Paul's strongest practical argument that
          something like this (the resurrection) will happen to
          those who believe.)

          2. Why does Paul talk about the sun, moon and stars and
          their "bodies" (v.40-41)

               a. Do you understand his point?  What relevance do
               the stars have to our bodies? (This is a very
               exciting idea. Paul seems to say that we now have a
               "perishable body" (v.42), but the body that is
               raised will be a body like the sun, moon and stars!
               (vv. 41-42) We go from a perishable body of flesh,
               to a "splendid" body like the stars!  We will have
               "star-power!"  How do you like that idea?)

     C. Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-57. When will we be changed?
     (v.52 -- "the last trump."  Can the idea that we have a
     conscious "spirit" that goes to heaven at our death be squared
     with this text?  If I suddenly transformed into a spirit, that
     would be a very big change for me.  If you agree this is a big
     change for you too, the idea of becoming a spirit at death
     means the change takes place before the "last trump." This
     says the change is at the "last trump" -- the second coming.)

          1. Is the "spirit" perishable or imperishable? (An
          immortal spirit is obviously imperishable.)

          2. Is your body perishable or imperishable? (Mine seems
          very perishable lately.  I drive one of the world's
          biggest, heaviest cars (in part) for safety's sake, yet
          this week I was nearly run over by an impatient driver
          while I was walking across my street!  Dying that way
          would be ironic!)

               a. What does v.53 tell us takes on imperishability
               and immortality? (The perishable and the mortal!
               This does not "fit" the idea that an immortal
               spirit takes on (a formerly) perishable body.
               Instead, Paul seems to teach that our mortal body
               takes on immortality at the second coming.)

               b.  The great majority of Christians believe that an
               immortal spirit (soul) leaves the body at death and
               goes to heaven (or somewhere a little warmer).
               Nelson's Bible Dictionary (see, "resurrection")
               affirms that this "spirit/body" dichotomy is an
               idea out of Greek philosophy and not the Old
               Testament.  The evidence of the Bible is that
               Christ had a bodily resurrection without His
               "spirit" going to heaven. (John 20:17 ("I have not
               yet returned to the Father.")) Since those grieving
               are comforted by the idea that a loved one has gone
               to heaven, and since the Bible give us evidence
               that God has resurrected "first fruits" prior to
               the general resurrection, I refrain from arrogantly
               suggesting a specific location for a "departed"
               loved one.  Maybe they are one of the few heroes of
               faith (like Moses) who get "collected" (body and
               all) by God prior to the general resurrection.)

     D. For those of us not in the "Moses" class, what gives us
     comfort about our future after death? (v.57 -- Praise God, He
     has defeated death and will give us everlasting life.  Whether
     my everlasting life starts shortly after death or at the
     second coming, the "sting" of death is gone. Whatever the
     timing friend, Jesus offers you and me the opportunity to live
     forever: as immortal stars!  Will you accept His offer?)

IV. NEXT WEEK: Praise and Promises.  We wrap up our study of 1
Corinthians! nbsp; Whether
     my everlasting life starts shortly after death or at the
     second coming, the "sting" of death is gone. Whatever the
     timing friend, Jesus offers you and me the opportunity to live
     forever: as immortal stars!  Will you accept His offer?)

IV. NEXT WEEK: Praise and Promises.  We wrap up our study of 1
Corinthians!