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photo credit: Silver Season via photopin cc
photo credit: Silver Season via photopin cc

I am sure you have heard that old saying, “There are only 2 things that are guaranteed in life…”

Let’s take a look at that idea today as we poke around in 1 Corinthians 15

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:21-22

Now this is one of those passages I have actually read hundreds of times. I at least verse 21, since it is part of the text of Handel’s Messiah, which is a large part of my life.

But as the Lord loves to do, He pulled out His highlighter as I was studying this recently.

Look with me for just a minute at the structure of these two verses. Let’s focus on the second. He poses that which we know, and then links it to what will be. As if the part we know is a clear indication of how sure the second part is.

In Adam all die. You can trace the fact that you are going to die back to Adam’s sin. By Adam, sin entered the world, and through sin death. Paul goes into much more detail on this idea in Romans 5.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned ~ Romans 5:12

It would be worth reading Romans 5-8 to see this full progression of death to life.

But my point today is simply that just as sure as you were born with a sin nature, so sure is it that if you are in Christ, you will be raised from the dead.

Your resurrection is just as sure as your death.

I say again: Hallelujah!

So here is my re-write of the old adage.

There are only 2 things that are guaranteed in life…

Death and Resurrection!

Ben NelsonGlad you stopped by today.

Hope to see you again soon,

Ben

Thanks to my friend Pastor J. at Lilly Put for this great Church photo!
http://http://josephelonlillie.com/

Part two of a study of 1 Corinthians 15:12-34

We are looking at how Paul answers the heresy that had cropped up in the Church of Corinth.

Today we look at 5 problems he poses that would militate against a Christianity without the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and by extension the bodily resurrection of His followers.

Difficulty # 1

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:13

It seems that this heresy simply stated was that Christ had been raised from the dead, but we will not be. That our future was in spirit only, so physical appetites would never be experienced once we pass into eternity.

It seems to me that Paul is saying, if Christ can be raised, clearly God could manage to raise us as well. It is not as if God does not have the power to raise us, and clearly He has demonstrated this by raising Christ.

The verse that jumps to mind is Romans 8:11

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.

 Difficulty #2

…and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:14

I talked about this a bit last Friday, so I am going to let you peak back there for a discussion of vain faith.

Difficulty #3

More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:15

Speaking to a mostly Jewish community of believers, the next part of his argument is that if all this is a lie, then he, Paul, and all who preach the Gospel, Peter, Apollos, they are all liars, which in a culture where you are preaching about a man called Truth – could not be worse. There is just about nothing worse in Hebrew culture than a liar.

That culture of Truth is even stronger (or should be) in a Christian culture. After all we call our selves by the name of Christ, and He called himself The Truth. He is the Word made flesh, and David said “Thy Word is truth.” The Word of God is the ultimate source of Truth, and Jesus is the express image of that very Word from the mouth of God.

Difficulty #4

For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:16-17

There was a real eye opener for me.

These Christians who had come out of the Jewish religion, knew all about the Messianic prophecies. Hundreds of them. I am told there are over 300 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled during His life among us.

Can you see how clearly fulfilling 300 specific detailed prophecies would identify a person.

For example, to prove I am who I am to a bank web site, I need to specify my SS#, and answer a few specific questions that only I would know the answer to.

Perhaps a better example would be that if I want to get a piece of mail to my daughter across the country, I only need a few specific details to get it directly into her hands, and there will be no doubt if she is the right recipient either.

With a name and address made up of a few details like street, city, state, country, zip, etc, I can ID almost anyone in the world.

Ok – so these Corinthian Christians know that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, and was the sacrifice that God supplied for their sins.

If He did not rise from the dead, not only are they still in their sins, because they have abandoned their Jewish ways (perhaps) but even the Jews, who are looking for a Messiah are out of luck.

You see if Christ did not rise, then the hopes of every Jew were done. There was no other Messiah forthcoming. Jesus was it, and if it did not work, every lamb sacrificed for thousands of years was for naught.

Difficulty #5

Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:18

Clearly there is no hope for those who have died with their trust in a dead Christ.

Paul sums it up pretty well here with this final statement.

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:19

But don’t despair! Come back tomorrow for some really (I mean REALLY) good news.

Ben NelsonSee you then

Ben

Thanks to my friend Pastor J. at Lilly Put for this great Church photo!
http://http://josephelonlillie.com/

Part one of a study of 1 Corinthians 15:12-34

As we look at 1 Corinthians 15, it will come as no surprise that Paul is about to deal with an issue. Can you imagine a church with issues? But Corinth was rife with them.

There were divisions and factions. I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Tim Keller, I am of Bill Johnson. Perhaps your church has factions too.

There were issues of order, of sin, of dress, of how to take communion, how to express gifts, and how to love one another.

But today we come to a serious issue – one of heresy.

Apparently, as you can see in verse 1, those in the Church of Corinth had received the gospel and believed that Christ had risen from the dead.

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1

Yet there were some preaching or teaching that believers would see no such resurrection. Rather Christians would experience some ethereal future of harp playing and haunting.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? ~ 1 Corinthians 15:12

It may be that some of the Sadducees or their followers had come to Christ, and since they had a strong knowledge of scriptures, and had been steeped in traditions without resurrection theology that it was beginning to take hold with the flock.

The Antidote to Heresy

The good news is that there is an antidote to heresy, an educated Church. Perhaps a better way of putting it would be a church made up of disciples.

Christianity was never meant to be a religion at all, and much less one with clergy and laity. We may have paid folks who work in our midst, who are in fact worthy of double honor, but we – the common folk – are not supposed to be blind sheep being led about by the ruling class.

We, the people, are responsible to

 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. ~ 2 Timothy 2:15

We are to be like the Bereans who left Church, went home, and – well here is what is said about them.

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. ~ Acts 17:11

They studied it out on our own to see if what we were being told lined up with scripture. I am not suggesting we live in a vacuum and make our own doctrines, but we need to test all things and hold to what is true.

We follow a Man who is called the Word of God, let’s get to know His Word, and see how He reveals Himself to us here!

Ben NelsonThanks for stopping by today.

Come back soon!

Ben

Last Sunday, August 4th 2013, I had the privilege of preaching at Pascack Bible Church, in Hillsdale, NJ. We have been working our way through the book of 1 Corinthians and I was asked to cover verses 1 – 34.

I blogged through the first 11 verses which talk about the gospel, but have been silent about the rest. I thought I would share some of my notes on the next portion of the passage over the next couple days.

As I prepared, there were a number of wonderful ‘ah ha’s that came my way – God is so merciful and always willing to teach if we are willing to dig in and listen. He provides food for the hungry – Hallelujah!

The first sermon, called “The Gospel According to Paul” can be heard or downloaded here. I will post this weeks as soon as it is available for any of you who prefer audio. But the content will not be the same, since these are more or less notes and ponderings some of which got left beside my big comfy writing chair and did not make it into the sermon.

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by

See you soon.

Ben

Many Waters - SoS header

My beloved is mine, and I am his; ~ Song of Songs 2:16

Back near the end of the first chapter of the Song the maiden began to speak in these terms:

My beloved is to me,

and we noticed that she had begun her relationship with the Shepherd King on the same footing that David expressed in Psalm 103, by noting all His benefits.

At that time we noted the progression from self centered Christianity to Christ centered Christianity.

Here is how this progression plays out in this most wonderful Song:

My Beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms In the vineyards of Engedi. ~ Song of Songs 1:14

My Beloved is mine, and I am his; He pastures his flock among the lilies. ~ 2:16

I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine, He who pastures his flock among the lilies. ~ 6:3

I am my Beloved’s, And his desire is for me. ~ 7:10

Here is the progression

  • My Beloved is to me
  • My Beloved is mine, and I am His
  • I am my Beloved’s and my beloved is mine
  • I am my Beloved’s and His desire is for me

As we arrive at the end of the Second Chapter of the song, we also find ourselves at the second step in this progression.

No longer is the maiden’s view of Jesus simply look what He has done for me, now she claims Him as her own. He is mine.

When she first began to consider Christ, He seemed far off, and she wondered if He would ever consider her, if He could ever be her lover. It seemed, at first, like a pipe dream, like a fairytale. How would this most wonderful King ever notice her, let alone give her the time of day.

But today we see that she has found Him with open arms and open heart. He has embraced her, and assured her that He belongs to her.

Not only does she see that He has given Himself to her, but now she is ready to commit herself to Him. “I am His.”

We must see, not only all His benefits toward us, His open arms, and His willingness to be in our lives. We must see that He wants to “own” us.

Paul captures this reality in 1 Corinthians 3 – check this out:

So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God. ~ 1 Corinthians 3:21-23

Do you see that you belong to Christ? You were purchased on the cross those many years ago, and He wants to own you. Surely you should not forget His many benefits, but today, will you be counted as His?

Ben NelsonThanks for coming by.

Come on back next week, will you?

Ben

A couple weeks ago, I posed a questions about what "vain faith" was, and i wanted to come back to it and bring some resolution.

I wanted to circle back and touch it one more time. I was not happy with where it all landed last time, and have a bit more light on it now. It was one of those - Oh - that makes sense moments for me, and i just thought i would share it with you.

Here is the main verse I was puzzling over:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

What I had missed was this verse a bit farther down the page.:

 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:13-14

Now in my study, I have found many who want to make the first reference one of working hard so your faith is not ignored in the grand scheme of things, but when i read this second part, i see that the "unless you believed in vain" in verse 2 is a foreshadowing of his argument in vs 14 where he comes right out and says: If Christ is not raised from the dead then your faith is vain.

Vain faith is faith that is placed in something that is worthless. Vain faith is misplaced faith or misplaced trust.

Faith in Christ is a gift of God - every man is dealt a measure of faith by God, as we are told in Romans 12:3

So how could faith that God has given in the first place, when it is place in Christ, the most secure foundations, ever be vain?

It could not.

If your life shows no fruit after a period of time, the question is not whether you have vain faith, but rather, do you have faith in Christ at all.

So - there you go.

What do you think?

Ben NelsonSee you again soon. I should be back to the pen (well - keys) next week. Thanks to you all for coming by and checking out my parade of favorites this week.

Ben

 

 

Pascack Bible Church PascackBible.org

As I said last week, I preached last Sunday and will preach again next Sunday, August 4th, at Pascack Bible Church, 181 Piermont Ave, Hillsdale NJ.

If you would like to listen to, or download the sermon from July 28 entitled "The Gospel According to Paul" taken from 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. You can find it here.

If you can make it this week, I would love to see you there, and meet you in person. I will be preaching on the Resurection from 1 Corinthians 15:12-34.

For info about the Church including directions, you can go to the Church Web Site - PascackBible.org.

Ben NelsonHave a great weekend.

Ben

 

We have been poking about the edges of 1 Corinthians 15, gleaning some wonderful gospel truth.

Today I want to do a quick rescan of the passage and notice the “proof” Paul offers for the gospel, and specifically for the resurrection, since that is where he is planning on spending the rest of what we call Chapter 15.

Proof #1 ~ The transformation in the lives of the Corinthian believers:

the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

We have looked in-depth at these effects of the gospel already, but they also act as proof, a validation of the veracity of the Word. The gospel was received, and now the Corinthian believers stand, they are saved, and they hold fast.

They have been transformed, and this is the first proof, the power to change man’s life. I am not the man I was, and by this I know that Jesus lives.

There is a schmultzy old hymn we used to sing when I was a kid called “He Lives.” Though I never much like the music, I love the words. Here is the chorus.

He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and He talks with me
Along life's narrow way.
He lives, He live, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart. ~ Alfred H. Ackley

I know Christ is alive because – well – He lives!

Proof #2 ~ Hundreds of fulfilled prophecies:

...according to the Scriptures ~ 1 Corinthians 15:3 & 4

We looked at a few yesterday, but I would refer you to a couple of my Christmas posts if you want to dig a little deeper.

My post “One more Christmas Gift” list more than 25 Old Testament prophecies that are fulfilled in the Life of Jesus.

My post “GF Handel’s Messiah – Lyrics” has the entire libretto for Handel’s “Messiah”  the text of which is 100% scriptures, and I have tagged it with references for easy access.

Proof #3 ~ Eye witnesses:

and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:5-8

1)    Cephas (a.k.a. Peter) ~ I love that Peter is listed first. He says, "first Peter," and clearly this is talking about after Christ met Mary in the garden and went to the Father to present His blood, but the fact that Peter is touched, since Peter was left hurting after the last week’s events.

I suppose it may be that Paul was not counting women at all, since in courts of the day, women were likely not considered. (sad)

2)    The 12 ~ Well – I would assume the name “The 12” was more of a moniker than an actual count, since Peter we already know about, and Judas was dead.

3)    Greater than 500 at one time. Hard to deny this testimony. And Paul points out that many of these are still alive at the writing of this letter.

4)    James ~ This was referring to His half-brother, not the son of Zebedee. This James always interested me. We know that Jesus’ half brothers didn't follow Him during His ministry, but now, risen from the dead, these are guys who could not be moved. James and Jude were both New Testament contributors, and we learn in the book of  Acts that James became the main leader of the early Church.

5)    Apostles ~ It interests me that Paul gives us Apostles in addition to “the 12.” Pretty clearly (to me anyway) demonstrates that Apostleship was not dependent on being a disciple.

6)    Paul ~ Finally talks about His own meeting with Jesus. The story of His meeting on the road to Damascus is told and retold (3 times total) in the book of Acts, but I believe those 1,000 days in the wilderness of Arabia, Paul was receiving from the Lord the gospel that he never did stop preaching.

Proof #4 ~ The Graces or gifts given to Paul:

For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit 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 did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 1 Corinthians 15:9-10

In particular we see Paul’s transformation from Christian killer to in his own assessment (which was sponsored by the Holy Spirit) the hardest working apostle to walk the earth.

Pretty compelling proof! Any lawyer would love to defend a case like this.

Christians, I hope this stirs up your confidence. The gospel stands incontestable.

Do not fear

Go and preach it today.

Ben NelsonSee you again soon.

Ben

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

1)    The gospel was preached
2)    The gospel was received
3)    Those who receive stand
4)    Those who receive are saved
5)    Those who receive hold fast

The past 2 days we have looked at the first three implications of the gospel in the Church of Corinth. Today we will finish up with the last two.

Those who receive are saved

I grew up in and around Church all my life. This word “saved” has always been part of my vocabulary. At a very young age I asked Jesus to save me

When I was a kid and even into my twenties, the meaning of the word “saved” was pretty simply rescued from a future burning in hell.

I grew up in a generation of evangelism that focused heavily on the punishment of unbelievers. They for sure understood what Jude was talking about when he said,

 save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. ~ Jude:23

Then I started to study this word “saved” and found it to be one of the most fascinating and compelling words in scripture.

The Greek word here is ‘sozo’ and its meaning are very similar to that of the Hebrew word ‘shalom.’ I know when you hear the word shalom, you may be thinking peace – especially since it is used as a day to day greeting, it can lose its meaning pretty quickly. But the simplest and most profound definition I have heard for shalom is ‘whole – complete – nothing broken and nothing missing.’ I love that!

Sozo is like that. It is not simply that when you enter a covenant relationship with Jesus that He saves you from hell (and He does) but He also makes you whole.

In the gospels this word, sozo, is translated, saved, healed, delivered, and made whole.

I love the phrase the writer to the Hebrews uses:

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. ~ Hebrews 7:25

So then – those who receive Him, who come to Him, He saves to the uttermost! Hallelujah!

Those who receive hold fast

So what does it mean to hold fast? Is this some kind of work of the flesh Paul is foisting on us? I don’t think so. No deed of the flesh can hold us or attach us to that which was given to us supernaturally.

Picture this:

There is an jumbo jet  - let’s call it a concord jet – one of those supersonic babies from the 90’s. It is flying across the pond headed to France. God has a plan to get you to France for a meeting He wants you to attend. So He reaches out of heaven (picture a giant Mickey Mouse glove) delicately picks you up by the collar and places you on the jet – not in but on. Then He tells you, “Ok, it is My will that you go to Paris and preach at Notre Dame. I have gotten you on the plane, all you have to do is hold on till you land in Paris. It should only be 3 hours.”

Hold On, We're almost there!

Yeah – no – I am pretty sure that in this strictly supernatural journey we are on there is no amount of our own holding on that will keep up on the plane. Jesus holds us!

So what are we holding fast?

He is talking about holding on to the truth - to the gospel – contending for the faith – holding what is true, and letting everything else go.

When I say holding the truth – there is an element of protecting it, but I believe the bigger job is protecting ourselves from the lies. Even lies like – you have to hold on to Jesus or you’ll end up in hell.

If we could hold on, we would not have needed Jesus to die and rise and present His precious blood to the Father.

Next we will look at the gospel in its simplest form.

Ben NelsonCome back Monday

See you then.

Tomorrow there are some great questions to toss around – don’t miss it.

Ben

The Preacher

I have been pondering 1 Corinthians 15 for a while, and would love to work through some of it here in this wonderful forum. So I am taking a break from Matthew and going to poke around here in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15 for a bit. Here goes:

Paul is going to define the gospel for us in this passage. This is actually to my knowledge the only place in the Bible where it comes right out and says, “This is the gospel.” For me, that is cause to sit up and take notice.

Before we get to the gospel itself, let’s look at the delivery method:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

1)    The gospel was preached
2)    The gospel was received
3)    Those who receive stand
4)    Those who receive are saved
5)    Those who receive hold fast

Let’s take each of these one by one.

The gospel preached

There are those who quote Francis of Assisi as having said:

Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words. ~ Francis of Assisi

We love this. Friendship evangelism. And you know what? As groundwork, to earn the right to speak into people’s lives, it is often the right choice. We like to quote Jesus’ own words for this one:

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. ~ John 13:35

Please notice here, however, Jesus did not say, “by this all will become my disciples,” but that they will know where you stand.

Our love for one another, and for the lost are integral parts of our Christian walk and testimony, but they do not replace the preaching of the gospel.

Consider Paul’s words in Romans 10.

“WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed?
And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how shall they hear without a preacher? ~ Romans 10:13-15

Check this out:

it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:21

And of course from our passage today:

The gospel which I preached to you, ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1

This is what Jesus did, and what the taught the disciples to do.

And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give. ~ Matthew 10:7-8

God has chosen preaching as the vehicle to deliver this wonderful commodity. It can not actually be caught rather than taught. As we will see in the next day or so, there are words involved in the gospel, so it cannot be passed on wordlessly.

What is Preaching?

There are actually two words for preach in the New Testament. The more common is the word “kēryssō,” which means to proclaim with authority. This is the word used when we are commissioned by Jesus at the end of Him ministry to:

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. ~ Mark 16:15

But that is not the word used here in 1 Corinthians 15. The funny thing is that the word for preach here, is virtually the same word as gospel.

The word for gospel or good news in the Greek is “euaggelion,” while the word for preached is “euaggelizō.” It is as though Paul good-newsed them with the gospel, if you get what I mean.

It is not unlike the way we use “evangelize” today.

The evangelicals evangelized those who had never heard the “eveangel” (gospel/good news)

Here this: None of the love and good deeds, kind words, smiles and random kindnesses are wasted, or go unrewarded. They are just not the gospel.

So here is the question for the day:

Have you good-newsed anyone lately?

[Please don't take this word as a condemnation of where you have been. I only ask that you open your spiritual antennae to the Holy Spirit today and look for divine appointments. Listen for the words which He will give you. That is the only basis on which we can preach - the words He puts in our mouth - deal?]

Ben NelsonMore tomorrow

See you then,

Ben

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