Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 3 * PART 1 * BOOK 67
BUT NOW! (Christ is risen!) – Part 1
I Corinthians 15:20
Again, we want to thank every one of you out there for your prayers and your letters. As I’ve said over and over on this program, our mail time is just an afternoon of one thrill after another. We want to also thank everyone for their financial help.
Okay, we’re still on the “But God’s and the But Now’s.” Let’s turn to I Corinthians chapter 15 verse 20, and its “But now.” I guess the main reason I’m doing this the way I am is because I hope this will give you an inkling of how you can study on your own. Just go through the Scriptures and find one of these. Find a But now or a But then or a But God, and you can just open up a Bible study all your own.
All right, I Corinthians 15, it’s the great resurrection chapter. There’s probably more taught on resurrection in this one chapter than all the rest of the Bible put together. Now, we came through the earlier verses in this chapter that we always use for the Gospel of Salvation, “How that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day.” Then, the chapter continues on more or less proving the resurrection of Christ. Now, for those of you under my teaching, the resurrection is so commonplace that you don’t think anything different. That just as sure as He died, He rose from the dead. But that’s not true even across Christendom and certainly not across the rest of the world.
Even in Israel – you want to remember that there was only a small portion of Jews who believed in the resurrection. You go back in the Old Testament and there’s very little mention of resurrection. Job speaks of it, definitely. But where it really comes to the surface is when Paul got in trouble, you remember, with the Jewish multitude, and he had to find a quick way out of his dilemma. So, he said, “I’m a Pharisee of the Pharisees and hope for the resurrection!” And wow! He had a religious fight, not between them and him, but between them and them!
Why? Because you see, the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. The Pharisees did. So Paul was pretty cool on that one, as we’d say today. It just sort of gave him an escape. So you see, when we say the resurrection has to be emphasized, don’t think that everybody believes in the resurrection. No, they don’t. A lot of even modern theologians don’t believe in a visible, physical resurrection. They just believe that Christ resurrected spiritually. But you see, our Bible makes it so plain that He was raised from the dead bodily. Bodily! And that becomes our hope for life after death.
All right, now as he comes through the 15th chapter of Corinthians, I’m going to work toward verse 20. Now, remember what we’ve been talking about the last several tapings. We’re going to look at who wrote it. To whom was it written? What are the circumstances? What went before? What goes after? Remember? All right, now it is obvious Paul wrote it. And who’s he writing to? The Gentile believers at Corinth.
Consequently, it becomes appropriate for us today. He is again making a point, as I’ve already said, that Christ indeed arose from the dead.
All right, now again, to this group of Corinthians, Paul is going to make sure that they understand that Christ literally, physically, and visibly arose from the dead. All right, we’re at verse 5.
I Corinthians 15:5
“And that he was seen of Cephas, (That’s the other name for Peter.) then of the twelve:” In other words, after He came back from his ascent, you remember, He appeared unto all of them. Even ol’ doubting Thomas put his hand in the wounds in Christ’s hands and said, “I believe.”
I Corinthians 15:6
“After that, (after the Twelve had witnessed) he was seen of over five hundred brethren at once; (Now, that means it was believing Jews who had witnessed His resurrection body.) of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some have fallen asleep.”
Lately, in my Oklahoma classes, I’ve been stressing the literal time of Scripture. Too often, I think people read the Bible without realizing, well…when was this all written?
Well, you see, Paul began his ministry to the Gentiles in about 40 AD. Then from 40 AD to 58 AD, his work had to be progressed by fellow gifted men. There were no printed letters from the Apostle until about 58 AD. For eighteen years he was establishing churches throughout the Gentile world, which was for them was predominately Turkey and Greece and so forth, but without the benefit of anything written.
That’s why I Corinthians 12 and 14 emphasize the gift of prophesying. It didn’t mean the gift of telling the future like Isaiah and Daniel did, but it was speaking forth the Word of God, because they had no written letters of Paul. So, always get the setting. Here, now, in about 58 or 59 AD, Paul’s letters are beginning to circulate throughout his churches. But forever so long, they didn’t have that privilege. So here again, the timing is exact as he said. They are still close enough to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection that many of those witnesses were still living, naturally. We’re only about 30 years after the fact, so younger people in their 20’s and 30’s could very well still be alive at the time that Paul is writing.
I Corinthians 15:6b-8a
“…some have fallen asleep. (Naturally. A lot of the 500 people that witnessed the resurrection had already gone through physical death. All right, now verse 7, after the 500 have witnessed His resurrection–) 7. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8. And last of all he was seen of me also,…” Now, that should raise a question. Shouldn’t it?
Because after all, we’re quite sure that Paul had nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth in His earthly ministry. He was probably on the perimeter. I’m sure that he was frothing at the mouth, because he hated everything that Jesus of Nazareth said and did. But he certainly was not around for the appearance of Christ after His resurrection.
But at the onset of Paul’s ministry, you see, the Lord appeared to him – first, outside the gate of Damascus and then those three years in Arabia. Now, it isn’t often I read things that are almost identical to what I teach. But I got a short, whatever you want to call it, article or whatever, from a gentleman who is certainly in accord with me on everything as far as I know, and he sends out a monthly newsletter. One of the last ones he sent out he specifically made this statement, and I’m going to put it in my next newsletter if I get permission, and if it isn’t copyrighted. He’s still living. He put it this way, that when “Paul had eye-to-eye contact (or whatever) with Christ for three years on Mt. Sinai.”
Well, you know that’s exactly the way I’ve always taught it. That Paul went down into Sinai and the next chapter in Galatians says “Sinai was in Arabia.” So, from that I gathered that, yes, Paul had three years with the Lord – eyeball to eyeball, face to face, and then went back and began his ministry. Okay, so now we have the record here that he was seen of Paul as well as Peter and the rest.
I Corinthians 15:8b
“…as of one born out of due time.” In other words, Paul’s conversion was a picture of the nation’s conversion, now coming close we think, at Christ’s return. But it was like one that was born preemie. All right, now verse 9. I’m going to take these all the way until we get to “But Now.”
I Corinthians 15:9a
“For I am the least of the apostles,…” Now, that’s where Paul’s humility comes in, and that’s why the hair stands up on the back of my neck when people accuse Paul of having been proud and arrogant and puffed up. No, he was not! He understood his authority. Absolutely he did. But he was never proud. Because whenever the Spirit prompted him to say something that he thought would indicate pride, he’d put in a little parenthesis, “I say this humbly” or “I say this as a man.” But here again, he wasn’t the least of the apostles. He was the greatest! But in his own humility he claims to be the least.
I Corinthians 15:9b
“…and I am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church (or the assembly) of God. (Going back to his days before his conversion) 10. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”
Now that always reminds me of his account to the Corinthians of how much he suffered for the sake of the Gospel. Again, I’m going to use it. I just never apologize for repeating these things. Turn with me to II Corinthians chapter 11 verse 22. This is what he’s alluding to up here in I Corinthians that “he labored more abundantly than the Twelve.” Yet it wasn’t Paul, it was God’s grace.
II Corinthians chapter 11 verse 22. Remember what I just said, the Corinthians were always downplaying his authority. Way back in I Corinthians, about chapter 1, I think, it says, some say, we follow Apollos. In another place it says we follow Peter. Another place it says we follow Jesus, but who are you? All right, now to confront that then, this is what he is writing in II Corinthians, probably just a year or two later.
II Corinthians 11:22-23a
“Are they (the Twelve, Apollos, and some of these others) Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23. Are they ministers of Christ? (Now, look at the parenthesis.) (I speak as a fool) (He was afraid they would catch him in what they thought was bragging. So he says…) (I speak as a fool) I am (What’s the word?) more;…”
Now, that’s what the Holy Spirit inspired the man to write. He was more than all the rest of them put together. And stop and think. After Pentecost, Peter and the Eleven hold forth for a few years, and then they just about disappear from the pages of this Book. Don’t they? Hardly anything more is spoken of the Twelve. All we know of them really, is from secular or ancient church history. So, they didn’t really have much of a ministry once the first six or seven years have passed. This man goes for 25 years non-stop! Twenty-five years. All right, over that 25 year period of time then, look what he went through for the sake of the Gospel of the Grace of God.
II Corinthians 11:23b
“…in labors more abundant, (Now remember what he’s comparing to, the other apostles.) in stripes (beatings) above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Now, that’s a plural, so it must mean near-deaths. When he was at the very precipice of leaving the scene, but God would always permit him to come back.
II Corinthians 11:24
“Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.” That’s 39 whacks with a cat of nine tails. That was enough to kill a good man, and he went through five of them.
II Corinthians 11:25a
“Three times I was beaten with rods, (Now you know, you almost have to think he hadn’t even healed from the scourging, and then they would beat him with rods. Imagine! And yet he never slowed down.) once was I stoned,…” You know the account in the Book of Acts. They dragged him out of the city like, I always say, like a dead horse. They just literally tied a rope to his feet and dragged him out of the city and left him for dead.
II Corinthians 11:25b-26a
“…thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep. (And then, of course, the rest is routine.) 26. In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers,…” and so on and so forth. Well, all of that was what the Apostle Paul suffered for the sake of the Gospel of Salvation, whereas the other Twelve pretty much passed off the scene. All right, back to I Corinthians chapter 15 and verse 11.
I Corinthians 15:11
“Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye (Now, remember who’s he writing to? Gentiles here at Corinth) and so ye believed. 12. Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” See, even in Paul’s ministry there would be people saying, “Well, I can believe that He died on that cross. I can believe that He died for the sins of the world, but I can’t believe that He was raised from the dead.” Now again, there’s enough in Scripture to tell us that this whole idea of being raised from the dead was only for a few capable to believe. I’m going to take you back with Paul to Mars Hill, in Athens, when he was confronted by the intellectual elite of the day. What was it that caused their scorn of Paul’s preaching? Resurrection from the dead! They’d never heard that before! So, they accused him of almost being a nut. They said what else has this “babbler” got to talk about? But resurrection from the dead? That was an unknown thing amongst the ancients and even among the Gentiles. But here he comes now just hammering away at the fact that Christ was raised from the dead.
I Corinthians 15:13-14
“But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14. And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching (What?) vain, and your faith is also vain.” He might as well have stayed home! He went through all the beatings and the sufferings for nothing, because at the core of our Gospel of salvation is the whole basis of our hope for eternity – it is resurrection power. Granted, He had to die for the sins of the world. He had to shed His blood. But that would have all been for nothing had He not capped it with the resurrection from the dead. At which time, as I’ve said so often, there was probably more power exerted overcoming the satanic forces, overcoming death and sin itself, than it took to create the universe. I really believe that. We never want to put down the power that is associated with the resurrection.
A verse is coming to mind. I didn’t intend to use it, but I think maybe we should. Go back to Romans chapter 1. We’ll start at verse 1.
“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2. (Which he had promised before by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) 3. Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; (In other words, how that Christ was born of Mary and in the lineage of King David. Now verse 4 – This is the verse I want you to see.) 4. And declared (that is Jesus the Christ) to be the Son of God with (What?) power, (And what established that power?) according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:” Unheard of! Yet He did it! Never lose sight of the power of our Christian experience. Starting with our salvation and on through our whole Christian walk, it would be utterly impossible without this resurrection power. All right, back to chapter 15 and verse 15.
I Corinthians 15:15
“Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; (If there is no resurrection from the dead.) because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.” Now, that’s a little complicated way of saying that if there is no such thing as a resurrection, then Paul couldn’t preach that Christ rose from the dead. But, there IS resurrection power.
I Corinthians 15:16
“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:” In other words, we’re just hammering it home – with God nothing is impossible! Nothing! And especially raising Christ from the dead. That was all part of the eternal purposes beginning with Genesis chapter 3, when there had to be a remedy for man’s sin. All right, next verse–
I Corinthians 15:17
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” Now stop and think. Since you do believe in the resurrection of Christ, and you do believe in the finished work of the cross, do you sit here feeling like you’re hell bound sinners? No, you don’t! You know you’re not. You know you’ve got eternal bliss out in front of you. Why? Because Christ arose from the dead and we can believe it with all our heart.
In fact, driving up I got to thinking that once in a while, not often, but once in a while someone will accuse me of teaching an “easy-believism.” Just believe and you’re all right. No, that’s never the intent. When I say – believe – faith plus nothing, I’m talking about such a concerted trust that when you lay your head on the pillow at night, and if you should happen to have a heart attack before morning, you know where you’re going. It’s not just that you’ve assented and agreed – yes, historically, I guess He died and rose. No. If you’re a true believer today, you know without a shadow of a doubt that this is what makes your salvation possible. And you are trusting in it. And when you trusted it, you expected a change in lifestyle.
See, that’s too much the case with easy believism. Yes, they believe that Christ died, but they go right on and live the same way they lived last week and the week before? No, that’s not salvation. Salvation is going to bring about a change in attitude, a change in lifestyle. We’re going to love, as we’re going to see later this afternoon, if I get that far, we’re going to love the things we thought we hated. We’re going to hate the things we thought we loved. You’d better expect it if you’re going to become a believer.
I Corinthians 15:18
“Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” Those believers who have died, physically, believing in Christ – our loved ones who we are sure left this life as believers – if Christ didn’t rise from the dead, they’re lost. They’re doomed. No matter what we think. But we don’t have to feel that way. Why? Because we know that Christ arose from the dead!
I Corinthians 15:19
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most (What?) miserable.” Because we’re hanging onto something that has no substance if Christ didn’t rise from the dead. You know, that brings me right back to my tree and the shadow. Instead of grasping the tree, you’re trying to hold the shadow. But, oh, beloved, He HAS risen from the dead!
All right, one more verse before our time runs out. I want you to go ahead to Galatians with me. Galatians, chapter 2, verse 20. I think this should be the testimony of every true believer. Now, this is Paul’s personal testimony as he writes to the Gentiles up in Galatia.
“I am crucified with Christ:…” How have I always put it? When He died, I died. When He was buried, I was buried. When He arose in power, I arose and you and every believer with us.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; (You don’t die physically when you become a believer.) yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:…” Now see, you won’t find language like that anywhere else in your Bible except Paul. Even the Lord Jesus didn’t put that kind of language in the mouth of His followers. This took the work of the cross and resurrection.
“…and the life which I now live in the flesh (day to day) I live by the faith (Or I like to say by the faithfulness.) of the Son of God, who loved me, and (What?) gave himself for me.”