strength

Christ Covenant Church
Marq Toombs
Easter Sunday Sermon
Text — 2 Cor 13:3-5

May the grace and peace of Christ be with your spirit.

We have gathered here today to contemplate and commemorate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

On Good Friday we explored weakness, and what it means for Christ to be crucified in weakness, and for us to be weak in Christ crucified. Today, on Easter Sunday, we will explore strength, and what it means for Christ to be resurrected in power, and for us to be strong in Christ resurrected.

Our sermon text for today is 2 Corinthians 13:3-5. If you are able, please stand for the reading of God’s Holy Word.

Christ is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

The word of the Lord. May God add his blessing to the reading, preaching, and hearing of his word. And the church says: Amen!

For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. 

We proclaim that Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God, yet some people say that there is no such thing as resurrection of the dead.

Resurrection contradicts the worldview of deists who think that God took a permanent vacation away from the earth and no longer cares what happens here.

Resurrection contradicts the worldview of naturalists who think that the “cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.”

Resurrection contradicts the worldview of the existentialists who think that “man is a useless passion” and “forlorn for he cannot find anything to depend on within or without himself.”

Resurrection contradicts the worldview of the pantheists who think that death is a part of the ongoing cycle of reincarnation that eventually leads to oneness with the universe.

Against the swelling tide of atheism and pantheism, of death and delusion, we proclaim that Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God.

He did not cheat death; he beat death. He conquered death at death’s own game, and at death’s own expense.

Death died a horrible death in the death of Christ. Death was ruined in the resurrection of Christ.

+ WHAT IF THERE IS NO RESURRECTION?

But what if the scientists, philosophers, and gurus are right? What if there is no such thing as resurrection from the dead? What if death is the end of all things? What if there is no life after death or beyond death? What if all we have to look forward to is extinction, annihilation, termination?

Consider the implications, the consequences of that idea:

In 1 Corinthians 15:13-20, Paul uses an “if this, then that” argument (a modus tollens formula) to show the consequences of life without the hope of the resurrection, especially Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. He paints bleak and dreary picture of life and the world if the grave/tomb is stronger than Jesus.

If there is no resurrection, then Christ was not raised. (vv 13, 16)

Paul assumes that Jesus existed in real space-time history, and he accepts as historical fact that Jesus was crucified and buried. But if there is no such thing as resurrection, then not even Jesus was raised.

The consequences of an un-resurrected Christ, rotting and decaying in a grave, are almost too terrible and horrific to imagine.

If Jesus was not raised, then all hope of salvation, and life before death, and life after death, is dead and buried—and we are just shadows and dust in the wind, food for worms, waiting in line to take the long dirt nap until we dissolve into dust and ashes and nothingness.

If Jesus was not raised, then our preaching is null and void. (v 14a)

We ministers of the word proclaim the story of the crucifixion and resurrection as the good news of saving grace for sinners. Evangelists proclaim the gospel story of Jesus to the weak and foolish, the broken and wounded. Pastors comfort flocks with the rod and staff of the cross. Teachers instruct us on the way of life. But if Jesus was crucified and not resurrected, then the gospel is not good news at all.

Our gospel preaching is regarded as absurd by those who do not believe and are perishing, but it is regarded as meaningful to those who do believe and are being saved. But if Jesus was not raised from the dead, then those who regard our gospel preaching as absurd, null, and void are dead right, while those who regard it as meaningful are dead wrong. Dead is the operative word. If Christ was not raised from the dead, all will perish without hope in the end.

If Jesus was not raised, then your faith is empty and futile. (vv 14b, 17)

Many of you profess to be Christians, and followers of Jesus. You have confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead. Your faith came by hearing the word of Christ—the gospel.

According to the gospel, Christ promises to save everyone who believes the gospel; he promises to justify by grace through faith all who trust that he was crucified to death for their sins and raised to life to make them right with God.

But if Jesus was not raised, then the gospel you heard and believed is false and no gospel at all.

If your faith came by means of a false gospel, then your faith is as null and void as that message.

If your faith is in a dead savior, your salvation is dead.

Unless Christ was raised from the dead, your faith is empty and worthless.

If Jesus was not raised, then gospel messengers are liars. (v 15)

We ministers of the word claim to represent God truly, sincerely, and accurately in our preaching and teaching. Everyone knows that we miss the mark on some finer (and stranger) points of theology. Yes, in our desire and effort to preach the truth we stumble in many ways. Sometimes we err by not telling all the truth; sometimes we err by misunderstanding a truth. But our intent is never to mislead or misinform.

But when it comes to something as central and clear as the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection there is no margin for error. We must testify to and bear witness of the saving acts of God in Christ.

So, we declare under oath that God arranged the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that God accomplished the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that God applies the benefits of the crucifixion and resurrection to all who trust him.

We stake our credibility (and our lives) on the total gospel. If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then we are not just mistaken, we are misrepresenting God. We are false witnesses of God. Everything we told you is a lie, if Jesus was not raised.

If Jesus was not raised, then you are still in your sins. (v17 b)

If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then he was crucified for nothing and died in vain. That means that even if our sins were punished at the cross, they are still being punished in the grave. They were taken down, not taken away.

So, if Christ was not raised, we are still counted as sinners under the curse of sin and death. And one day we will face God as sinners, and we will give account to God for all our sins.

If Jesus was not raised from the dead, it will do us no good at all to cry out that Jesus was crucified for our sins, for if he is dead we have no advocate, mediator, or priest before God.

If Jesus was not raised from the dead, we will die in our sins, separated from God and forsaken by God—just like Jesus.

If Jesus was not raised, then dead Christians are lost. (v 18)

If Jesus was not raised, then all our loved ones, even those who followed Jesus unto death, have perished. That includes your dearest friend, and sweetest child, and most beloved spouse. That includes all the apostles and saints, and even Jesus.

If there is no resurrection, they are dead and gone forever. If you ever see them again, it may only be in the darkness and death of hell, not in the light and life of heaven.

If Jesus was not raised, then living Christians are miserable wretches. (v 19)

Some pastors and teachers and Christians might argue that even if Jesus was not raised from the dead, the “Christian way of life” is still the best way to live. They might point to all the practical benefits of the Christian way of life for society, community, and family.

But Paul refuses to play those odds, or hedge his bets. He is far too realistic to pretend that you can have your best life now, especially if Jesus was not raised from the dead.

He states bluntly that “if we are hoping in Christ in this life only, then we are the most miserable and pitiful of all men” (BDAG). Why?

If Jesus was not raised, then we are totally wasting our lives with all this gospel, faith, hope, and love stuff.

Paul goes so far as to suggest that if Jesus was not raised, it’s better to die in true despair than live in false hope.

A world without resurrection calls for a radically different way of life than the one we are pursuing: “If the dead are not raised, let us eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.”

If Jesus is not raised, let’s make a bucket list and live like hell, and indulge ourselves in a carnival-esque way of life. If there is no resurrection, we might as well live like there are no eternal consequences.

But if you choose to live like the devil, you better be damn-sure there is no resurrection (and no life after life after death) or there will be hell to pay.

As C.S. Lewis put it: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, is of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

+ WHAT IF THERE IS RESURRECTION?

So, what if Christian theologians are right, and atheistic and agnostic scientists, philosophers, and gurus are wrong?

What if there is such thing as resurrection from the dead? What if death is not the final end of all things? What if there is life after death and life after life after death? What if all we have to look forward to resurrection and transformation and glorification?

Consider the implications and consequences of that idea:

Paul paints beautiful picture of our life and the world if Jesus is stronger than the grave/tomb.

As we just saw, if Jesus was not raised, all bets are off and anything goes. But that little “if” is about to get blown away by a big “but”.

Those hypothetical ramblings are destroyed by a redemptive-historical revelation:

Νυνὶ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.

How in the world did Paul know beyond a shadow of doubt that Christ had been raised from the dead?!

He knew it by revelation and by experience:

Christ has been raised from the dead. He knew it by the faithful witness of the Spirit, the Holy Scriptures, the church, and personal encounter with Christ.

Paul was so convinced of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that he counted his own life as worth nothing to himself; that he committed his life to proclaiming the good news that Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God.

Since Christ was raised by God’s power, our preaching is truthful, your faith is substantial and meaningful, and we are faithful messengers of God.

Since Christ was raised by God’s power, you are no longer in your sins – you are not under wrath but under grace.

Since Christ was raised by God’s power, your dead Christian loved ones are resting at peace in union with Christ; their spirits are waiting for the resurrection when they will receive their bodies and be transformed and glorified in the image and likeness of Christ.

Since Christ was raised by God’s power, living Christians (like us) walk in union with Christ—not in despair, but hope for this life and the life to come.

Yes, Christ was crucified in the weakness of the flesh. But Christ was also resurrected in the power of the Spirit.

And we who are weak in him, are also strong in him.

That’s gospel truth – even if some do not accept it, believe it, confess it, or delight in it.

For we also are weak in him, but we will live with him by the power of God.

DEATH AND LIFE AT WORK

In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul said, “Even if our gospel is veiled to some, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

The lights shines in darkness, but the darkness cannot perceive it.

Still, we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, for God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Christ is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful among you.

But, we hold this precious treasure — the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ — in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are troubled, but not forsaken; we are struck down, but not destroyed. Why?

Because we always carry in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

So death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

WEAKNESS AND STRENGTH

The more we are damaged and cracked and broken, the more the story of the gospel of the death and life of Jesus shines out of us into the world.

Like our forefathers, we believe, and so we also speak, knowing that God who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus, and he will bring us together with you into his presence.

All this is for your sake, so that as grace extends to and reaches more and more people, it may increase thanksgiving for the glory of God.

That is why we do not lose heart. Even though our body is wasting away, our soul is being renewed day by day.

We feel the burdens and discomforts of the mortal body; we see the decays of our weak and frail nature.

We groan and grieve because we know that we are ashes and dust, in the midst of life we are in death.

As we look beyond the things that are seen to the things that are un-seen, we can see clearly that all these light momentary afflictions that we experience in this life are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison in the life to come.

Therefore, we long for the day to put off the ragged garment of our mortal body and put on the radiant garment of our immortal body.

We long for the day when all that is death to us will be swallowed up by all that is life for us.

We long for the glorious day when we will be fully clothed in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

God is the one who has prepared us for all this, and he has given us the Spirit of Christ as a guarantee of the resurrection of our bodies from the dead. (2 Corinthians 4:3-5:5)

Again, Christ is not weak in dealing with us; rather he is powerful among us, within us, upon us.

Weakness is the way of the cross; and the way of the cross is for the weak.

Strength is the way of the empty tomb;
and the empty tomb is for all who are weak enough
to be strong in all the broken places.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. 

Before we end today, I must urge you with all your heart to examine yourself, to see whether you are in the faith; to see whether you are in Christ and Christ is in you.

Test yourselves with this simple test:

Do you believe that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures? (1 Cor 15:3-4)

Do you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and do you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead? (Romans 10:9)

Do you believe Jesus was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God? Do you believe that you are weak in him, but you will live with him by the power of God? (2 Cor 13:4)

If you believe these things, you are in the faith Christ is near you, in your heart, and in your mouth, and you will be saved. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But, if you do not believe these things, you are not in the faith, and you are not-yet saved. Let’s get together and talk about it as soon as possible, so that you may cross over from death to life in the Savior Jesus Christ.

Let us pray:

Adorable Redeemer,

You who was lifted up on a cross
are ascended to highest heaven.

You, who as Man of sorrows was crowned with thorns,
are now as Lord of life wreathed with glory.

Once, no shame more deep than yours, no agony more bitter, no death more cruel.
Now, no exaltation more high, no life more glorious, no advocate more effective.

What more could be done than you have done?!
Your death is our life,
Your resurrection our peace,
Your ascension our hope,
Your prayers our comfort.
For your glory, and by your grace,
Amen

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