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with Becky Brown
1 Corinthians 15:20-28
This coming Sunday, we interrupt our newly-begun unit of lessons on “Hope” to bring you a lesson on “Victory.” After all, Sunday, April 20th will be our 2,014th year to celebrate THE (as in one and only, biblically-certified, God-ordained, original and official) Resurrection Morning. Please be assured that this victory celebration lesson U-turns us right back to Hope Boulevard, making sure that we don’t miss any turns along the way. Victory over death because of the work of Jesus is the reason we have Hope!
The words of this familiar pastoral prayer are written into the front page of my Bible: “…and Father, today as I give this message, please let me decrease and let You increase…don’t let these people see Fred…let ‘em see Jesus…to the end that The Savior would be glorified…The Saints would be edified…and Ol’Satan would be terrified…for it is in the name of Jesus I pray…Amen and Amen.”
Dr. Fred Luter, Jr. is pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana and the current President of our Southern Baptist Convention. During my years as a student and staff member at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Luter would be invited to preach during week one of our chapel services each fall semester. You had to get there early to grab a seat. My advice? Bring your own seat belt.
I have heard Brother Fred say that prayer in one breath, right after his scripture reading/sermon introduction. Then, with his sweat rag (handkerchief) in one hand and his Bible in the other, he would commence to deliver his message. He would wave those come-to-Jesus arms until his suit coat sleeves would ride all the way up to his elbows, leaving his pressed shirt sleeves and cuff-links grinning at you. I think even his cuff-links were saying “Amen” by the end of every sermon.
Brother Fred loves Jesus and he wants YOU to know Jesus and love Him, too. From glory to gory, Jesus came willingly from Heaven to Earth. He lived a perfect, sinless life. He died a gruesome, sacrificial death on a cruel cross. He was raised to life in final and total victory over death so that we could be saved and live with Him forever in Heaven.
Our lesson comes from a sermon Dr. Luter preached from 1 Corinthians 15, Paul’s treatise on the resurrection of Jesus. There are three points to his outline. (1)We are all dead because of Adam. (2)We are all alive because of Christ. (3)Because of the resurrection, we are victorious. Friends, in profoundly simple terms, there is the gospel.
Thank goodness for the difficult church folks in first century Corinth. We have so much to learn from them because we are just like them. Paul’s desire was for his own beloved nation of Israel to be saved. When Israel turned a deaf heart to Jesus, Paul was sent to the Gentiles (non-Israelites…you and me!) with the gospel. Jesus died to save everyone. God raised Him from the grave to prove it to the whole wide world then, now and forever.
Adam and Evil: that’s what my favorite five-year-old theologian appropriately dubbed Mr. and Mrs. Adam. As their teeth broke the skin of the piece of fruit plucked from that one forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, our spiritual condition was sealed. From that moment, mankind has been BORN in need of a Savior. God sent His Son to deal a fatal blow to death and breathe resurrection victory into the lives of all those who would believe in Jesus.
Christians serve a risen Savior, not some dead (still buried) peddler of false teaching. No other “faith” or “belief” system can make that claim. The truth of the gospel is confirmed by the fact of the resurrection. In the first nineteen verses of 1Corinthians 15, Paul nails down his argument neatly, without equivocation. I would outline that chapter with two bullet points that shoot down any opposition: No Resurrection? No Savior!
Victory over death was the target. Resurrection was the ammunition. Salvation assured was the bull’s-eye. The arrow of the life of Jesus was launched. The silence of the grave was deafening. Jesus arose as the first fruits of all believers who sleep in death. Adam and Evil ate the fruit. Like a fruit seed, Jesus fell to Earth and DIED so that He might bring forth LIFE! Tune in next week for “hope” lesson two…
Brown is staff evangelist at First Church, Richland