“Ain’t No Grave Can Hold Me Down”

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I CORIN. 15:12-34

“Ain’t No Grave Can Hold Me Down”

           I. The resurrection has personal implications.

              A.  Serious Personal Implications For Our Preaching

              B.  Serious Personal Implications For Our Believing

              C.  Serious Personal Implications For Our Witnessing

              D.  Serious Personal Implications For Our Dying

          II. The resurrection has historical implications.

                      A.  Concerning The Past

                      B.  Concerning The Future

         III. The resurrection has ethical implications.

          That may be poor grammer but it great theology. Its a wonderful divine truth and a soon coming reality. If Jesus Christ rose again from the dead we will, if we don’t then Jesus Christ did not, they both hang together. If Jesus rose again from the dead that is the assurance that every believer is going to have a resurrection, but if dead men do not come back from the dead then the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cruelest hoax ever perpetrated on the human race. That is the substance of the argument that Paul gives in these verses. He is saying to us that the two go together: the resurrection of Jesus and our resurrection. The foundation of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus. The cornerstone of what we believe as children of God is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

     Now this is a subject that is very important and it is of vital interest to every one of us. All of us know we’re going to have to die unless Jesus Christ comes again, so it becomes extremely important whether or not the resurrection is true. Admit the resurrection of Christ and you admit the other, deny the resurrection of the believer and you deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ; they both go together. Now there are certain implications that are to be made as a result of what we believe about this. If you do not believe that people come back from the dead that has certain implications. If you believe, according to the scriptures, that dead men do come back from the dead that has certain implications. So I want us to consider the implications of what we believe about the resurrection from these verses.

     First of all, what you believe about the resurrection has PERSONAL IMPLICATIONS. There are certain deeply personal implications that are made on the basis of what you believe about this entire matter. For instance it has implications concerning our preaching. Paul gives a series of “ifs” in the opening verses that I have read. Several times he says “if” and he raises the unthinkable alternative, the possibility that maybe Jesus Christ did not rise again from the dead, the possibility that Jesus Christ may still be buried somewhere in a forgotten tomb in Jerusalem. So in this series of “ifs” he raises the personal implications and the first of these is an implication concerning our preaching. He says in verse 14, If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain. Now the Bible says that it pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. If you will study the preaching of the early apostles for instance, as given to us in the book of Acts, you will find that the theme of the early preachers was without fail the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostles proclaimed that as they keynote of every message that they delivered. You see, the resurrection is the keystone of all of the preaching of the believers and it is that which makes the content of the Christian gospel altogether unique. Now other religions have messages of ethical content, they have messages that have to do with personal behavior and personal morals and values, but there is something unique about the preaching of the Christian faith because we believe that we have a Savior who not only died on a cross to pay the penalty for our sin but also that He rose again in order to give us the dynamic to overcome sin and to live the victorious life. But Paul says all of that goes out the window if there is no resurrection.

          If the resurrection of Jesus is not true, and if you and I are not going to be raised from the dead one of these days, I’ve wasted twenty-three years of my life. I would be just as well to be on a street corner somewhere hawking newspapers as to preach the gospel if it is not true. In fact, ladies and gentlemen, if it’s not true you’re wasting your time, there is no point in coming to church, there is no reason for you to come and listen to men proclaim the Bible, the gospel, if the resurrection of Jesus is not true. There’s no need to give money to the causes of Jesus Christ. The whole thing washes out if the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not true. But if it is not true then our preaching is vain, it is meaningless.

     But here’s a second thing; it has a personal implication in that if the resurrection is not true then your believing is in vain. He says in verse 14 your faith is also vain. Down in verse 17, if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain and you are yet in your sins. Faith is only as legitimate as its object. It is the object of the faith that is essential. Romans 10:9 And again in Romans 4:25, He was raised again for our justification. You and I have put our trust in that truth, you and I have committed ourselves to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ but, friend, if Jesus Christ is not alive then we are believing in a fairy tale, if Christ did not literally come from that grave on the third day then our faith is useless, it is vain. Well what does that mean, Preacher? Well it just simply means we’ve been believing in something that has no substance, like people believe in the Easter bunny. it means we’ve put our trust in something that cannot help us, it means, according to Paul, that we are still in our sins.

     John 8:21 (NKJV) “Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come."”

What a serious statement that is from the lips of our Lord. Sin, the great tragedy of man’s existence; sin, the great horror of the soul of man; sin, the chain that binds us; sin, the cover that blinds us; sin, the shackles that hold us down; sin, the great tragedy; sin, the great problem in the hearts and the lives of individuals. Well, you see, ladies and gentlemen, if Jesus did not come back from the dead we have no message that deals with the problem of sin in the human heart. That’s why it is a serious matter. Our preaching is vain if Jesus is still dead. Our faith is vain if Jesus Christ is still dead.

     And then number three I want you to notice he says also that our witnessing is false if Jesus is still dead. Did you notice that in verse 15? Paul says we are found false witnesses of God. He says, We’ve been testifying of God that He raised up Christ from the dead. He said, Whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. In other words all the apostles were false witnesses, all of the apostles were liars. In fact Jesus himself was a liar if He didn’t come back from the dead. He consistently said to His apostles, They’ll kill me, they’ll put me in the ground, and the third day I will rise again from the dead. Now you can’t have it both ways. You cannot say that Jesus Christ was a sincere man on the one hand and deny the resurrection on the other hand, because if Jesus did not come back from the dead as He said He would He was a liar and He was not a good man. So, ladies and gentlemen, our witnessing today is a waste of time if Jesus is not alive.

Auka Indians. And it was the story of how the sister of Nate Saint, Rachel Saint, went back and for these 32 years has buried her life as a witness for Jesus Christ among the very tribes that took the life of her own brother. And I thought about that dear saint of God and I thought about how that many of God’s people have faithfully, under dangerous situations, borne witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But you see, folks, if Jesus is still dead all of that goes down the tube, it’s all a mockery, it’s all a fake, and you and I are fakes when we tell people that if they repent of their sin and believe in the living Lord Jesus their lives will be changed, their sins will be forgiven and they’ll go to heaven when they die. Oh, friends, what a serious matter it would be to deny the resurrection of Jesus.

     But I want you to notice something else. It also has serious personal implications for our dying. Look at verse 18. That means those who are dead in the Lord, those who have already died in the Lord. Now that gets very close to the hearts of most of you who are sitting in this building .  I would suppose that most of you have had the experience of losing a loved one. Some of you have lost a dad and he’s already gone on, others of you have lost a precious mother and she has gone on, some of you have had the heartache and the sorrow of seeing one of your own sons or daughters die, be snatched away, and they’ve already gone on. Now the question is, Will you ever see them again? Will you ever seen them now that they have died? Well, friends, if Jesus Christ didn’t come back from the dead Paul says those who are asleep in Jesus are perished, and he’s simply saying you’ll never see them again. If Jesus came out of that tomb, then you will see them again.

     And I want to tell you what, friends, that’s what gives believers hope, that’s what keeps you going in the heartache and when the tears go coursing down your cheeks as you face the loss of your own loved ones. It is the truth that one of these days we’re going to see them again. Many of us preachers have known what it is to walk into services and hear some little choir, some group of singers, sing, I’ll meet you in the morning. But, friend, you’re not going to meet them in the morning if Jesus Christ is still dead. There’s not going to be any “in the morning” if there’s no reality to the resurrection. In fact, friends, it has everything to do with our own dying. He says in verse 19, If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable, to be pitied. You see, you and I have made an exchange, we have believed in the resurrection and we have believed that this life is not the only life there, that there is another life and a better life out there in the future. But if that’s not true then we have exchanged this life for a life that does not exist and it is a poor exchange. That’s why Paul, later on in this chapter, says, Let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die. In other words friends, if there’s no hereafter, if there is nothing beyond this life then what’s the point of it all? what’s the purpose of it all? But, oh, I’ve got good news for you , I’ve got a message to proclaim that takes you beyond the grave : it is the message that because Jesus Christ rose again we are not of all men most to be pitied but we are of all men to be congratulated because we have a hope beyond the grave. So the resurrection, the whole truth of the resurrection has deeply personal implications.

     But now there’s a second implication to this whole theme. It not only has personal implications but it also, secondly, has HISTORICAL IMPLICATIONS. In verse 20 he comes now from the uncertain to the certain, he moves from the hypothetical to the real, he moves now into the realm of historical reality, so he says in verse 20, But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. You see, the whole subject of resurrection has historical implications concerning the past. Now notice what he deals with in past history beginning in verse 21. He says, For since by man ((he’s talking about Adam) came death, by man (he is talking about Christ) came also the resurrection of the dead. In other words, in past history there was a man who brought sin and death into the world, it was Adam. The story is given to us in Genesis chapter 3, it is the account of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and God came in that garden and said to Adam, He said, You can eat of all of the trees but one, you’re not to eat of that tree. And in the day you eat thereof you will surely die. Now we know what the record reveals; the record reveals that they disobeyed the clear command of God and the Bible says by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin. And, friends, from that time until this time sin and death have been a reality in the human race. So, you see, the man Adam started a parade, it was the parade of sin and death, moving in the direction of sin and death.

     But one day Jesus Christ came and when Christ came the Bible says by Him came resurrection of the dead. So, you see, now life is moving in two directions: there are some people who are moving in the direction of sin and death, but there are others who are moving in the direction of resurrection and life, a new parade has been begun. You see, the true Easter parade is not what takes place on Fifth Avenue in New York City once a year, the true Easter parade is the parade that is made up of all of God’s children who have received Jesus Christ as their Savior, they are now spiritually located in Jesus Christ, and we are on the Easter march, we are on the way to resurrection and we are on the way to life. You see, friends, it’s just the interposing of a superior law. You go out here to the airport and you get on a plane. Now you know and I know that the law of gravity is working pulling things downward, so we know that from the viewpoint of the law of gravity it is impossible to put 150-200 people in an airplane and that thing take off, the law of gravity says that it cannot occur. But, you see, there is another law that comes into play, it is the law of aerodynamics, and so the law of aerodynamics supersedes the law of gravity and that old plane lifts off. Well that is exactly what Jesus Christ has done for you and for me. Born of Adam we are born into sin, born of Adam we are born to die, but the Bible says in verse 22, as in Adam all die, even so in Christ (You see, it’s the interposing of a superior law: in Christ) shall all be made alive. So you see, friends, there are just two groups of people in the world, there are those who are in Adam by means of their physical birth, but there are also those who are in Christ by means of their spiritual birth. When you receive Christ as your Savior you receive life. Jesus said in John 14:19, He said, Because I live you shall live also. So the resurrection has historical implications concerning the past.

     But it also has historical implications concerning the FUTURE. Now look at verse 23. He says, But every man in his own order. And the word there really is a word that was used of military groups of soldiers in divisions, every one in his own order, every one in his own group, every one in his own division. And then he just sketches out for us the future of the resurrection. He says, for instance, Christ the firstfruits. In other words Jesus Christ was the first in the line of resurrection. Now firstfruits that is a reference to an Old Testament festival. In Texas the first bail of cotton to be gined. Now what that simply meant was is the presence of that cotton bloom was the assurance and the guarantee that the rest of the crop was going to come in. Well in the Old Testament they had what was known as the feast of the firstfruits and so when the first sheaf came in they would take that sheaf of grain, they would cut it down, they would carry it into the temple, and they would wave that sheaf before the Lord in the temple. And what it was was a guarantee, it was a pledge, it was a promise that the rest of the harvest was on the way. It was the firstfruits.

     Well that’s what the resurrection of Jesus was; the resurrection of Jesus Christ was the guarantee that all of those who are saved, all of those who are in Jesus Christ are also going to be raised. You say, Preacher, are you coming up out of that grave? I certainly am. Preacher, you mean you’re going to be raised again from the dead? Yes, sir; if I’m not here, if I’ve already died, if I’m not here when Jesus comes, if I’ve already died, I’m coming up. I used t think about that. I really haven’t decided yet which I want to be. I think at times I really had rather be alive when the Lord comes. Now I don’t know about you but, as this passage will teach you later on, death is not the most pleasant prospect in all the world. So I get to thinking about that and I think maybe I’d rather be alive when the Lord comes, just get caught up and changed. But then at other times, if you get to thinking about it, can you imagine how it would be as a believer and you’ve died and your body is buried there in that grave, and the Lord himself descends from heaven...with a shout...with the voice of the archangel...and the trump of God, and then it says the dead in Christ shall be raised first. Man, can you imagine the kick you’re going to feel as you come out of that grave. I’ll tell you what, now that would be exciting. I’m still not sure about that but it will be exciting. Listen, friend, if you die before Jesus Christ comes you’re going to be raised because Christ, the firstfruits, has already been raised from the dead; that means the rest of the harvest is going to come up one of these days.

     That’s what he means in verse 23, they that are Christ’s at His coming; that is, every born-again believer who has died when Jesus Christ comes, they’re coming out. Brother, you talk about a chaos in the graveyard, you talk about tombstones flying everywhere and dirt going everywhere: they that are Christ’s at His coming. Verse 24: Then cometh the end, when He shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father (that is, Christ the Son), when He shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. Now, you see, when the end comes there will be the great tribulation, there’ll be the millennial reign of Jesus Christ, there’ll be the resurrection of the doomed and all of that. But now look at verse 25: For He must reign, till He has put all enemies under His feet. Look at verse 26: The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. In other words, when the Lord Jesus consummates it all there is an enemy that is still to be vanquished and it is the old enemy of death. And, friend, I want to tell you any way you want to look at it death is still an enemy, death is still an enemy. It’s like a poisonous gas, death is like a poisonous gas that seeps unhindered into the room of that precious little girl, and all of the doctor’s skills are not able to keep that poisonous gas from seeping in, and all of the advances of medical expertise and skill are not able to keep that gas from seeping in, all of the prayers of loved ones are not able to keep that gas from seeping in, and that old Grim Reaper Death reaches and takes the most precious, and takes the sweetest, and takes the dearest thing in the heart of an individual. Oh, friends, death is an enemy, it is an enemy.

     But I’ve got news for you. One of these days the Lord Jesus is going to take old death and the Lord Jesus is going to put old death in His victory train. Revelation 20:14 it says, And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And you come on down to chapter 21 and verse 4 and it says, and there shall be no more death. And, friends, that’s good news. I don’t know how you feel about that, that’s good news to me. Friends, we’re going to a land where there will be no more death, there’ll be no more funeral homes, there will be no more undertakers, there’ll be no more floral offerings on caskets in heaven, no more death. I’ll tell you that’s good news for me. So the resurrection has historical implications.

     ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS. Now you come to verse 29 which is one of the most difficult verses in the whole Bible to interpret. It says, Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? I read somewhere that there are about forty different interpretations about what that verse means. Would you like for me to explain all forty? Well we don’t have time for that and I couldn’t do it anyhow. But there are about three main interpretations. Now some people teach that this means proxy baptism. In other words that living people can be baptized in order to save people who are already dead. One religious group has built its whole doctrine around this very concept right here, that a living person can be baptized for a dead person and thereby insure the salvation of that dead person. That’s why they get very interested in genealogies and they try to find all of the people in their genealogy and they get baptized for all of these people, because they’re trying to get all their loved ones saved that way. Well, friends, I want to tell you what, that violates virtually every basic truth of the whole Word of God. Friends, the scriptures make it very plain that when a man dies in his sins, having rejected the Lord Jesus Christ, there’s no second chance for him out there somewhere. And I’ll tell you something else, the Bible doesn’t teach baptismal regeneration either. Friend, it’s not getting baptized that gets you saved, it’s not getting in the water that gets you saved it’s getting in Christ, you’ve got to be born again. So getting baptized is not going to get you saved, and you getting baptized for somebody else is not going to get them saved. So that’s wrong.

     Then the second major interpretation is that this means being baptized for or identifying with Jesus Christ who was dead. Well that’s a little better interpretation but let me give you one that appeals to me. And I’m not dogmatic on this, the truth of the matter is we really don’t know exactly what it means, there’s no real solid ground to be on, but here’s the one that makes the most sense to me. When Paul talks about being baptized for the dead what he’s talking about here is is about new believers filling up the ranks for veterans who’ve already gone on before. Now let me explain what I’m talking about. I read in a commentary of H. A. Ironside a few years ago his explanation of this and it made more sense to me than anything I ever read. He said that there was a great saint of God in the church where he was pastor who had lived for the Lord and served the Lord and he died, and at the funeral the grandson of that marvelous Christian man was present who was unsaved. Dr. Ironside said that he preached the funeral of this dear saint of God and what a faithful man he’d been, how true to the Lord he had been, and he appealed in the funeral message for those who were still there, those who remained, to take his place, to take his place and to live for Jesus in his place, and to serve in the place that he had filled, and God got hold of the heart of that grandson and that grandson was saved and came to know Jesus as his Savior because his heart had been touched by the testimony of his own grandfather. So having received Jesus as his Savior Dr. Ironside said that Sunday night I baptized him for the dead. In other words the grandboy was going to fill the place of the grandfather that had gone on.

     That appeals to me because, you see, that’s exactly what has to happen. There’s some of you new believers who are going to have to step in, you’re being baptized for the dead so to speak.   Preacher, I’m getting so close to the shore I feel like I could walk on in. Boy, isn’t that a way to go? I just feel like I could walk in. Great soul winner. But one of these days he’ll be in heaven, somebody needs to be baptized for the dead, somebody needs to take his place. And then I think of other wonderful saints of God in our fellowship, they’re going to be gone one of these days and we need faithful believers to take their place. Wonderful Sunday School teachers, wonderful deacons, we need people to take their place.

     So, you see, friends, this whole business of the resurrection has ethical implications, it has something to do with our living for the Lord Jesus Christ right now and taking our place, filling our responsibilities. Look at what he says in verse 30: why stand we in jeopardy every hour? In other words what’s the whole point of serving Jesus Christ if there’s no resurrection? Verse 31: I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. What’s the point of suffering if there is no resurrection? If I have after the manner of men fought with the beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die. It’s all over. What’s the point of it if there is no resurrection of the dead? Why serve Jesus? Why pray? Why give? Why visit? Why come? Why do anything if Jesus Christ did not rise again from the dead. Ethical implications.

     Look at verse 33: Be not deceived: evil communications (that is, evil companions) corrupt good manners (corrupt good ethics). This has an implication for backslidden believers. Believers who are backslidden have never thought through the implications of the resurrection because if you and I believe there’s a resurrection then that means that you and I are going to stand before Jesus Christ one of these days. So it’s very important the kind of company we keep, and it’s very important what we think, and it’s very important how we behave. So that’s why he says in verse 34, Awake to righteousness, sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame. What he’s saying is Jesus Christ did rise again from the dead, therefore the Christian life has meaning and purpose, Christian service is important, so let’s get busy, let’s serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Now what you believe about Jesus at the tomb is all-important. Now it really doesn’t matter what you believe about other people in history but it matters about Jesus. What you believe about Caesar at the Rubicon really doesn’t make any difference. What you believe about Napoleon at Waterloo really doesn’t make any difference. But what you believe about Jesus at the tomb makes all the difference in the world. Deny it and you have no hope and all you have is misery. Believe it and the Bible says you can have forgiveness of your sins and you can have a joyful life. Apply it and it will change your daily life. If Jesus Christ is still in that tomb, nothing else matters, if He came out, nothing but that matters.

     You say, Well, Preacher, I believe Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. Are you willing to commit yourself to Him? I go back to Nate Saint again and those four missionaries. Jim Eliot who made this statement He said, He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to get, or to have, to gain, what he cannot lose. He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. Ladies and gentlemen, what you believe you’ll commit yourself to and the rest is just religious talk.

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