I Corintians 15
8 Dec 2008
A memorial homily given on the death of Patricia Sanseri
©2008, Gary Sanseri
Died December 3, 2008; Service conducted December 8, 2008
Delivered by her son, Gary Sanseri
During his second missionary journey the Apostle Paul stopped at Athens where “his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). They even had an altar erected “to an unknown god” just in case they had forgotten any deity in their pantheon of gods. Taking advantage of the situation, Paul debated in the synagogue with certain Jews and then in the market place every day with those who happened to be there. Well eventually there arrived some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who also took up discussion with Paul saying, “What would this babbler say?”
So they brought Paul to the Areopagus, the place where new things were told and heard, where he proclaimed to them the one, true God. At the end of his discourse Paul declared to these Athenian idolaters, “we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:29-31).
Well, upon hearing these words “the resurrection of the dead,” these vain philosophers mocked Paul and others said, “We will hear you again about this.” Many, if not most, never did. However, all was not lost. Some men did join the Apostle and believed. One was named Dionysius and one woman named Damaris also believed with many others.
The Significance of the Resurrection
The significance and importance of the resurrection cannot be overstated. It is an essential part of the gospel of Christ. Here is how Paul summarized the gospel in his first letter to the church at Corinth. “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, 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 Corinthians 15:3-4).
As you know that according to the Church calendar we are now in the Advent Season. Why did God send his only begotten Son into the world and why have Christians celebrated this unique event for centuries? It is because, as Matthew put it, “he (Jesus) will save his people from their sins.” Later, Paul stated in a letter to Timothy that the saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” was sure and worthy of full acceptance adding that he was the foremost of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Sinners do not save themselves from their sins. Christ saves them by his death and resurrection. Sinners must simply put their faith and trust in him in order to be saved and become what the Bible calls, “a new creature or creation; the old things have passed away and new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Now if Christ is preached as crucified, buried and raised from the dead how can some, like the Epicureans and Stoics, say that there is no resurrection of the dead? Stop and think about it! If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching (and that of the apostles) is in vain and our faith in Christ is also vain. If Christ has not been raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. You see how important this is? Without Christ’s resurrection we have no hope of salvation and no hope of eternal life.
Furthermore, if Christ has not been raised then those who have fallen asleep (i.e. died) in Christ have perished. They would have simply slipped into oblivion and we would follow them. And it would then follow that if for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
The Truth of the Resurrection
But be encouraged! Why? Because Christ in fact has been raised from the dead and he is the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep (i.e. died). Now the first fruits means he is the first of many to follow. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. This is a glorious truth that the apostle Paul would have all believers understand. We should not grieve concerning those who are asleep (i.e. dead), as others do who have no hope.
“For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep (i.e. died)…we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep (i.e. died). For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The Glory of the Resurrection
So then one might ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” We might answer these questions with illustrations from nature. What we sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what we sow is not the body which is to be, but a bare kernel (maybe wheat, corn, or something else). So it is with the resurrection of the dead. When one dies his or her body is not the body which is to be. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. These earthly bodies are sown in dishonor but are raised in glory. They are sown in weakness but raised in power. They are sown physical bodies but raised spiritual bodies.
Let us reiterate this glorious mystery in the words of the apostle Paul. “We shall not all sleep (i.e. die), but we shall all (those who are in Christ) be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead (in Christ) will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.) This perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?”
Death is the last enemy to be destroyed. It shall have no part in the resurrected life. Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (over all our enemies and finally over death) through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, let those of us who are in Christ be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labor is not in vain. We shall all be raised from the dead and changed. We shall inherit the kingdom promised to us by Christ himself. We shall forever be with the Lord. Let us not be like the Athenians who mocked the gospel and said, “We will hear you again about this.” Instead let us follow the early Christian believers who confessed, “I believe… in the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and life everlasting. Amen.