NEW PROVIDENCE BAPTIST CHURCH

WHERE GOD IS CALLING YOU OUT OF DARKNESS INTO HIS MARVELOUS LIGHT

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sunday School Lesson

April 5

Lesson 6

Believe in the Resurrection

Devotional Reading: John 11:20-27

Background Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:1-22

1 Corinthians 15:1-11, 20-22

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

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 laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Key Verse

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. —1 Corinthians 15:22

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. List the evidence Paul cites for the resurrection of Christ.

2. Tell the significance of Christ’s being the firstfruits of the resurrection.

3. Sing a hymn or song of praise for the resurrected Christ.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. What Did He See?

B. Lesson Background

I. Vital Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

A. Why Paul Preaches (vv. 1, 2)

B. What Paul Preaches (vv. 3, 4)

Tradition, Good and Bad

II. Dramatic Evidence (1 Corinthians 15:5-11)

A. Christ Appears to Many (vv. 5-7)

B. Christ Appears to Paul (vv. 8-11)

III. Living Hope (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

A. Christ Conquers Death (v. 20)

God in Control

B. Christ Makes Us Alive (vv. 21, 22)

Conclusion

A. Death Is Not the End

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember

Introduction

A. What Did He See?

Some Christians claim having had visions of angels, the risen Christ, etc. One of the more spectacular of these was that of a well-known televangelist in the 1970s who claimed to have had a vision of Jesus unlike any previously reported. It was not a vision of the humble carpenter with nail prints in His hands, but of a 900-foot colossus!

The televangelist reported that this giant Jesus had given him a task: to found a faith-based medical center. This the man did, but the medical facility ended up financially unviable and closed within eight years of its completion. Examining all this in hindsight makes one wonder what the televangelist really saw. Did he fabricate the whole thing? Did he see Satan masquerading as Jesus? Did he hallucinate? We simply don’t know.

Paul records in today’s lesson that many in his day had seen the risen Christ. These appearances were to individuals, small groups, and at least one group of over 500. What was the nature of Jesus’ appearance? Did He look like the human He was of some 33 years? the Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2, 3)? as He appeared on the first resurrection Sunday (John 20:19-23, last week’s lesson)? as He appeared to John on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:13-16)? Paul’s account in today’s lesson is not long on details, but his purpose is clear: Christ appeared to show His followers that He was risen from the dead.

B. Lesson Background

Paul had a long and lively relationship with the church in the city of Corinth. He began his work there in a synagogue, but moved to the home of a nearby Gentile when many Jews rejected his message (Acts 18:1-7). Some Jews believed Paul’s claim that Jesus was their promised Messiah, and the church in Corinth was thereby composed of both Jews and Gentiles (18:8). All this happened during Paul’s second missionary journey, when he spent 18 months in Corinth during the early AD 50s.

Corinth was a nexus of commerce between the eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire. This was because of its diolkos, an ingenious system of cranes, stone tracks, and carriage carts that allowed small boats to be lifted from the Aegean Sea to the east, hauled across the Corinthian isthmus (about 5 miles), and deposited in the calm waters of the Gulf of Corinth in the west (or the reverse from west to east). This process allowed shipping to avoid the dangerous voyage around the rocky coastline of the Peloponnese. The tolls charged were the economic engine of Corinth.

The many nationalities represented in this Greek city made it a melting pot of ideas. The issue of life after death was widely debated in the ancient world, and the various theories of immortality (or the lack of such) would have been represented in Corinth. The theories boiled down to three options, although there were many variations.

First, some believed there was no life of any kind after death. A second viewpoint held that the life force or soul of a person was immortal, surviving death of the body. Some holding this view believed the soul of a dead person would be implanted into a new body, whether human or animal (what we call reincarnation today), thus creating a cycle of lives. The third viewpoint was that the human body would be reconstituted at some point after death to be rejoined with the soul to enter a new type of existence. This is the doctrine of resurrection, a view held by most Jews of Paul’s day (Acts 23:8).

In the end, these three views are mutually exclusive and incompatible—they cannot all be true. Today’s study considers one of the most important sections of Scripture that points in the right direction. Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians in about AD 56, while he was in Ephesus.

I. Vital Gospel

                                                                              (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

A. Why Paul Preaches (vv. 1, 2)

1. Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand.

By the time we reach chapter 15, Paul has addressed many problems in the Corinthian church, including factionalism, abuses at the Lord’s Supper, and misuse of speaking in tongues. He reserves the most important topic for chapter 15, a doctrine so central that to deny it is to make the church a fraud. This is the doctrine of the resurrection.

Paul begins his reminder on this subject by reviewing the gospel message that he had proclaimed while in Corinth a few years earlier. He emphasizes the vital importance of the gospel message in four ways. First, it was preached. Christian action and lifestyle are important (see 1 Peter 2:12), but attempts to spread the gospel through those alone will not suffice. There is no substitute for the bold, public proclamation of the gospel.

Second, the gospel message was received. There was an audience that heard and believed (contrast Acts 28:27; Romans 11:8). Third, the gospel is where the Corinthians have taken their stand. The gospel is the basis of everything in the church. Without it, the church has no sure foundation.

2. By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

Fourth, the gospel is the message whereby the Corinthians are saved. The whole of the church’s ministry is represented here: saving people from the judgmental wrath of God that is to come (see Luke 3:7). We are to care compassionately for the physical needs of the suffering; but if we do not care about their eternal souls, then we have missed Paul’s central claims in these two verses.

Paul touches on the problem of believing in vain. This sets the table for this chapter, for if the resurrection of Christ is a fiction, then the gospel and the church are houses of cards that will collapse. Absolutely everything is at stake here regarding the truth of Christianity!

What Do You Think?

What are some ways to resist worldly forces that challenge your stand in Christ?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In the face of ridicule

In the face of discrimination

In the face of overt persecution

Other

B. What Paul Preaches (vv. 3, 4)

3. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.

Paul is careful to remind the Corinthians that the gospel message did not originate with him; he received it from someone else. Galatians 1:12 clarifies that that someone was Jesus Christ himself.

Paul’s gospel preaching at Corinth had stressed the reason and importance of Christ’s death. We can learn from reading the Gospels that this was a cruel and unjust death. But what separates it from the millions of cruel and unjust deaths in history?

Paul’s answer is twofold. First, the death of Jesus was for our sins. This is the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement, the process that allows our sins to be forgiven as the result of the sacrifice of another being (compare Leviticus 4:20). In the Jewish system of sacrifices, such beings were animals: bulls, goats, lambs, birds. Jesus was the true Lamb of God, by whose death the sins of the world can be atoned (see John 1:29; 1 John 2:2).

The second way Jesus’ death was uniquely significant concerns its fulfillment according to the scriptures (Isaiah 53:8, 9, etc.). This fact gives Paul and the other apostles a way of convincing their fellow Jews that Jesus was and is the prophesied Messiah of their own sacred Scriptures (see Acts 17:1-4, 11; 28:17-23). The prophets of old had painted a composite picture of the coming Savior, and Jesus fits that portrait in detail.

Tradition, Good and Bad

The word tradition in a religious sense often carries a rather negative connotation. The reasons for this are varied, but I suppose most of us think in terms of traditions that have come down through medieval Catholicism. In that context, skepticism is wise. The word tradition and its plural are often used in a very negative sense in the pages of the New Testament (example: Mark 7:9).

In a neutral sense, the word means “something that is handed down, passed on from one person to another.” This can refer to doctrinal teaching in religious contexts. It is not the “handing down” in and of itself that makes tradition either positive or negative, but rather what is handed down or passed along that is either beneficial or detrimental.

We see the positive aspect in 1 Corinthians 11:2, where Paul wants his readers to “keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” Here the word translated ordinances is the same one translated traditions in negative contexts elsewhere.

We further see this positive handing-down aspect in the vital teaching about the resurrection of Christ that Paul had “received” and subsequently “delivered unto” the Corinthian believers. This is something that must be handed down to every generation!—J. B. N.

4a. And that he was buried.

Christ’s burial is a valuable historical detail, for it demonstrates that His followers knew He was really dead (Matthew 27:57-61; Mark 15:42-47; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42). The enemies of Jesus confirmed this fact by placing a guard at the tomb to ensure that the body could not be stolen for a pretend resurrection (Matthew 27:62-66).

We note that Paul sees no need to cite eyewitness accounts of Christ’s death as he does for Christ’s resurrection in verses 5-8, below. The death of Christ is “a given” by both friend and foe of the gospel in Paul’s day.

4b. And that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

This is another element of Paul’s core gospel message. The resurrection of Jesus on the third day counts each full and partial day He spent in the tomb to be a day. He was placed there on Friday before sundown (Luke 23:53, 54; John 19:41, 42), remained there all day Saturday (the Sabbath), and rose on Sunday morning (the first day of the week: Matthew 28:1; Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1; John 20:1). Even though this totaled less than 72 hours, it was nonetheless three days by the reckoning of Paul’s culture.

Paul notes both the resurrection and the detail of the third day as being according to the scriptures, but we are unsure of his specific reference. A likely way to understand this is to see the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the fish (Jonah 1:17) as a prophetic foreshadowing of Jesus’ three days in the tomb, following that application by Jesus himself (Matthew 12:40). Hosea 6:2 may also be in view: “In the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.”

What Do You Think?

How does the reality of Christ’s resurrection aid you in daily living? How could it?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

With regard to finances

With regard to priorities

With regard to family life

With regard to vocation

Other

II. Dramatic Evidence

                                                                            (1 Corinthians 15:5-11)

A. Christ Appears to Many (vv. 5-7)

5. And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve.

Paul now sets forth a historical basis for preaching that Jesus rose from the dead. He notes first an appearance to Cephas, better known to us as Simon Peter (Luke 24:34; John 1:42). This apostle is seen as a leader among the original band of disciples and a pillar of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:18; 2:9; 1 Corinthians 1:12; 3:22; 9:5). If the risen Christ had not been seen by Peter, the claim of Jesus’ resurrection would be highly suspect.

Paul’s mention of the twelve is shorthand for the group of apostles initially chosen by Jesus, even though their actual number was 11 at the time of Jesus’ resurrection, Judas Iscariot having committed suicide (Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:15-20). Paul may intend to include Matthias, Judas’ replacement, in the enumeration even before that man’s selection because he too is a witness to the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21-26).

6. After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

We do not know what precise event is in view when the risen Jesus appeared to more than five hundred brethren at once. Some speculate that this appearance is recorded in Matthew 28:10, 16, 17, although that account mentions only “the eleven disciples.” Paul’s point, though, is that an appearance to so many sweeps aside any claim of a hoax.

This appearance would have been about 25 years earlier, thus many of those eyewitnesses are still living. Perhaps some have even visited the Corinthian church. The statement some are fallen asleep refers to the fact that a minority of that large group have died (compare Acts 7:60; 13:36).

7. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

This particular James is the half-brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55). This James became a leader of the Jerusalem church (see Acts 15:13; Galatians 1:19; 2:9). The specifics of this appearance of Jesus are unknown, but it does help explain the remarkable shift from unbelief (John 7:5) to belief (Acts 1:14).

The distinction, if any, between “the twelve” (v. 5, above) and all the apostles here may be that the latter grouping includes Barnabas (Acts 14:14) and others (Romans 16:7; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6). A broader category that includes the leaders of the Jerusalem church in general is possible (Acts 15:4).

What Do You Think?

Why is it that some who come to Christ later in life (perhaps after strongly opposing the gospel) end up being so much on fire for Him?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

The role of guilt

The role of gratitude

The role of urgency

Other

B. Christ Appears to Paul (vv. 8-11)

8. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

The final appearance of the risen Christ in the listing was to Paul himself. This is certainly a reference to Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus. This account is related three times in Acts (see 9:3-6; 22:6-10; 26:12-18) and surely retold many times by Paul himself to groups like the believers in Corinth. In describing his situation of one born out of due time, Paul uses language of the premature arrival of a baby. This is both an expression of Paul’s deep humility at being chosen to see the risen Christ and affirmation that he is the most unlikely of candidates to have been chosen to be an apostle (compare 1 Corinthians 9:1).

9. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

Paul expands on the unlikely nature of his apostolic commission given that he had persecuted the church of God (compare Ephesians 3:8; 1 Timothy 1:15). Paul (as Saul) had been a ruthless and zealous opponent of the Christians (see Acts 8:3; 9:1, 2; Galatians 1:13). What changed him was the appearance of the risen Christ. This makes the discussion of the resurrection deeply personal to Paul. To deny the resurrection, as some false teachers in Corinth are doing (1 Corinthians 15:12, not in today’s text), is to make Paul out to be a liar and his entire apostolic work a sham and a scam (15:15).

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 laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Paul does not wear well the potential charge of being a fraud. His ministry is not in vain (compare 2 Corinthians 6:1). Hundreds, maybe thousands, have believed his testimony about Jesus. Paul does not want the prize for being thought of as the greatest apostle, but he does want to be included in the discussion of who works the hardest (compare 2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Even so, Paul does not attribute his work ethic to himself but to the grace of God. God, through Christ, has both called him to ministry and given him the power to persevere (see 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10).

11. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.

Paul closes this line of thought by affirming that he is not interested in statistics for who has won the most converts. He doesn’t care who does the preaching, only that the gospel is preached and that hearers believe. While Paul will defend the validity and integrity of his ministry, he does not see his efforts in terms of rivalry. In the end, God alone deserves credit because preachers like Paul are working as His servants (see 1 Corinthians 3:6-9).

Visual for Lesson 6. Start a discussion by pointing to this visual as you ask, “How will this fact influence the way you live this week?”

What Do You Think?

What role, if any, should the use of statistics play in evaluating a church’s effectiveness? Why?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

Acts 2:41 vis-à-vis 1 Corinthians 1:16

Numbers 1:1, 2 vis-à-vis 2 Samuel 24:1-17

“It’s not that we’re counting numbers, but that numbers count”

Other

III. Living Hope

                                                                         (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

A. Christ Conquers Death (v. 20)

20a. But now is Christ risen from the dead.

Paul describes in verses 12-19 (not in today’s text) the dire effects of a Christianity where Christ has not been resurrected. But none of these effects prevail because now is Christ risen from the dead. The facts of history establish this. Most of the apostles will die as martyrs, and rational people are not willing to die for a lie that they know to be a lie!

God in Control

I have been trained as a historian. As such, I have looked at the evidence for the resurrection, and I find the evidence compelling. The only conclusion that can explain all the evidence is that Christ did indeed rise from the dead. That is the rock core of my faith as it is of Christianity in general.

Times of doubt and uncertainty still come occasionally. I sometimes ask “Why?” about life’s experiences. I can’t always come up with a good explanation. But one thing I know: Jesus rose from the dead. As a result, His teachings have credibility. And if God raised Jesus from the dead, then it is obvious that God has the power to do anything He desires.

God is in control, no matter what. The apostle John saw God still on His throne (Revelation 4:2), and with Him was the living Lamb that had been slain (5:6). Christ is risen, and all else will happen as God wills or allows it. When life becomes confused, remember the resurrection!—J. B. N.

20b. And become the firstfruits of them that slept.

Paul moves from fact to result by drawing on Old Testament imagery of firstfruits (Leviticus 23:17, 20; etc.). The idea of Jesus’ being a pioneer in the matter of life after death is found in many places in the New Testament (Acts 26:23; Revelation 1:5; etc.). The appearance of firstfruits indicates that the remainder of the harvest is on the way; since Christ has conquered death, His followers will too (see Philippians 3:10, 11).

B. Christ Makes Us Alive (vv. 21, 22)

21, 22. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

The resurrection of Christ creates a new reality. The sin in the Garden of Eden brought death to all (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 5:12) despite the serpent’s lying assurance to the contrary (Genesis 3:4). But sin’s consequence of death, introduced by “the first man Adam” has been cancelled by Jesus, “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45). The resurrection of the dead that is to come will not be temporary, such as that of Lazarus (John 11:38-44), but permanent (11:24-26). The resurrection to come will be for everyone since shall all be made alive. This does not mean that all will be saved but that all will be raised (compare Daniel 12:2).

What Do You Think?

What are some ways to celebrate Christ’s victory over death?

Talking Points for Your Discussion

In corporate worship

In personal devotional life

In seemingly mundane daily events

Other

Conclusion

A. Death Is Not the End

Having died, Jesus’ body was placed in a nearby tomb, a cave carved out of rock (John 19:38-42). This cave-tomb featured a rock carved so as to be rolled in front of the entrance to close it (Matthew 27:60; Mark 15:46; Luke 23:53; John 19:41). The chief priests and Pharisees sealed the tomb and stationed soldiers to guard it (Matthew 27:66). Jesus was dead; and as far as anyone knew, that was the end of the story.

But something beyond dramatic happened on Sunday morning. There was an earthquake, the stone was rolled away from the entrance to the tomb (Matthew 28:2), and Jesus walked out of the tomb, alive! God had raised Him from the dead. In so doing, God showed us that He had accepted Jesus’ death as the sacrifice for our sins.

We can be forgiven and not have to pay God’s penalty for our sins because Jesus has already done so. We can know that death is not the end of the story. Beyond death is life eternal.

B. Prayer

Father, Your Son is risen indeed! Because of Him, we trust in You to give us resurrection on that great day. In the name of the resurrected Jesus, amen.

C. Thought to Remember

Christ’s triumph over death is ours as well.

How to Say It

Aegean A-jee-un.

Cephas See-fus.

Corinth Kor-inth.

Corinthians Ko-rin-thee-unz (th as in thin).

diolkos (Greek) dih-all-kos (o as in cost).

Ephesus Ef-uh-sus.

Matthias Muh-thigh-us (th as in thin).

Patmos Pat-muss.

Peloponnese Pell-uh-puh-neez.


April 12

Lesson 7

Love One Another

Devotional Reading: John 13:31-35

Background Scripture: 1 John 3:11-24

1 John 3:11-24

11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

12 Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.

13 Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.

14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

15 Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

16 Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.

19 And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him.

20 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.

22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

Key Verse

This is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. —1 John 3:1

Lesson Aims

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Summarize John’s message about loving one another.

2. Explain the connection between Christ’s love for us and our love for others.

3. Perform one act of Christian love to another believer in the week ahead.

Lesson Outline

Introduction

A. Giving Love Away

B. Lesson Background

I. Love as Action (1 John 3:11-18)

A. Imperative (v. 11)

B. Challenges (vv. 12, 13)

C. Status (vv. 14, 15)

What Love for Others Does

D. Model (vv. 16-18)

II. Love as Truth (1 John 3:19-24)

A. Confident Assurance (vv. 19-21)

B. Clear Command (vv. 22-24)

Doing What Pleases Him

Conclusion

A. Of Sculptures and Action

B. Prayer

C. Thought to Remember


Standard Lesson Commentary 2014-2015 (KJV).

"Suggestions for families are taken from Standardlesson.com,

Standard Publishing Group, LLC. Used with permission. More resources for families are available at Standardpub.com.


God Bless