You cannot rise, if you have not died

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 Easter 2024

Sunday 03/31/24

Title: You cannot rise, if you have not died

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You cannot rise, if you have not died

Happy Easter which is to say Happy Resurrection day, because that is what Easter means is resurrection and it will be no surprise to you that resurrections will be the focus of our teaching this morning.

Now those who attend here remember that the resurrection of Jesus and that of all who call Him Lord is taught A LOT in scripture

Without the resurrection of Jesus our faith has no relevance or power whatsoever, and so it is of primary importance and Paul says so in our opening passage this morning.

Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 15.

Now resurrections mean nothing unless there is first a death

You cannot rise, if you have not died

…and that is the pivotal point of the message today.

If Jesus’ resurrection is to have Any power for you whatsoever, you are going to have to suffer death as well. 

Good News this morning! I’m sure that news made you all the more glad to be here!

Now there are three resurrections promised to those who call Jesus Lord and live it.

The first is of our spirit – that immortal and eternal part of us that is our true self. 

The resurrection of our spirit is a rebirth where we move from a place of only knowing ABOUT God and a place of existing under the weight of an impossible debt to Him due to our rebellion against Him, to a place of forgiveness, reconciliation and intimacy. 

That is what the Bible means by life and death in most cases. 

It means to be alive to God in terms of intimately knowing Him and being in communion with Him. 

The Bible uses many metaphors for this. It says… 

  • We once were darkness but now we are light in the Lord. 
  • We once were blind but now we see. 
  • We once were dead but now we are alive to God.

This spiritual rebirth is the most important resurrection we experience. Without this NEW BIRTH which actually changes WHO WE ARE, we cannot participate in any of the other resurrections.

The second resurrection is that of our character – our souls. That part of us by which we think, feel, desire and make choices. 

It is a day-by-day resurrection into His likeness and image. 

This is why the New Testament talks about salvation in three tenses. 

  1. We ARE saved
  2. we are Being saved (a phrase we will read in a 1Cor. 15) and 
  3. we will be finally saved.

Through communion with God the Father and submission to Jesus our Lord we change little by little into Their likeness. 

This is often called the salvation of the SOUL – which Peter tells us is the goal of our faith – the reward of our ongoing relational trust in Jesus.

The third and final resurrection is that of the body

After Creation, due to our freewill rebellion against God – every part of us fell under the power of death. 

This fall was due to Adam’s sin which we will read about just before we close out today’s message.

Those who have come to Jesus in faith have passed from death to life, but death is still at work in our bodies. 

But the promise is that those who are His – will also experience a rebirth of the body as well. 

  • From being mortal to immortal. 
  • From weakness to strength. 
  • From susceptibility to sickness, pain and death to one that is immune to these and exists beyond their reach.

It is regarding these last two resurrections – that of the soul and body which the New Testament is largely focused on.

Now if you have reached 1 Corinthians 15 we will begin reading and I will try to be diligent to point out which type of resurrection is being addressed as we read.

But keep in your minds what I told you – the pivotal point of Easter  – is that you cannot rise if you have not died!

1 Corinthians 15

“(1)  Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, [NOT FALL] (2)  and by which you are being saved, IF you hold firmly to the message I preached to you – unless you believed in to no purpose.” 

So three things here. 

  1. These people received the gospel Paul preached to them and their faith in it resulted in salvation
  2. It also made them strong to stand firm in their faith so that this salvation can continue to do its maturing work in their hearts – unless, they believed to no purpose.
  3. THAT purpose was that they would be transformed through their union with Christ into His likeness.

This purpose is a major point of the message of the resurrection BMW or is the place where we suffer a death. 

Will see that this is what Paul meant by believing “in vain” or “to no purpose” later.

Verses 3-4

“(3)  For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4  and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures,”

Paul tells us that faith in the reality and knowledge of the physical death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is Of FIRST IMPORTANCE!

It isn’t a secondary point of the Gospel – it is its primary point

Paul says this death, burial and resurrection all happened according to the scriptures by which Paul was speaking of the Old Testament which foretold of the coming Messiah

Now the scriptures are not the ONLY reason we believe this, but they are a primary one. 

Far from what the modern world tries to say – literary scholars and historians know that the Old and New Testament of the Bible are the single most reliable historical documents the world has ever seen. Literally nothing even approaches a close second.

The scriptures themselves have largely set the plum line by which other documents of antiquity are judged for authenticity and reliability. That however, is another teaching all together!

Peter, who preached the first recorded message of salvation, drew heavily upon the Old Testament to prove that Jesus was the Messiah and that He had to die and rise from the dead to pardon our sins and to bring us to the place of justification before the Father

Turn with me to Acts 2:22-33 so we can see Peter’s testimony of the truth and necessity of Jesus’ resurrection. 

“(22) Men of Israel, hear these words: 

Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, AS YOU YOURSELVES ALSO KNOW— (23) 

 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;  (24)  Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”  

Now he begins to draw from the scriptures of the Old Testament to prove Jesus was the Messiah and to illustrate the necessity of His death and resurrection.

“(25)  For David says concerning Him: 



(29)  “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.  

(30)  Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,  (31)  he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in the grave, nor did His flesh see decay.  

(32)  This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.  

(33)  Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.”

As you can see. Primary in Peter’s testimony was the resurrection of Jesus!

Without the resurrection our faith means nothing and Jesus will not profit us in any way! 

This is why the resurrection of Jesus is pivotal to the message of the entire Bible and to the Christian faith specifically!

So let’s re-read verses 3 & 4 and move on…

“3  For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4  and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures,”

5  and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  

6  Then He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 

7  Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles

Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, He appeared to me also

9  For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 

10  Nevertheless it is by the grace of God that I am what I am, and His grace to me has not been in To NO PURPOSE. In fact, I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”

This is what I told you earlier. Paul’s definition of believing to no purpose– was to fail to live your life in union with and surrendered to God. 

The way this was evidenced in Paul was the way he worked harder in the faith than any of the other Apostles

Now it’s important to realize that it was not Paul’s work that justified him before God. It wasn’t Paul’s life lived to honor God that turned the doctrine he taught into genuine belief – to think that would be to misunderstand the gospel entirely. 

No, Paul’s changed life and devotion to God were the RESULT of having believed!

It was due to his ever growing relationship with God through Christ that he was inwardly driven to live his life for, through and by Christ.

Paul said as much in his letters, Galatians 2:20-21 being just one example and it clearly shows the need to die to who you were in order to live for and with Him.

“(20) I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.  (21)  I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

Going on to verse 11 Paul says, 

“11  Whether then it was I or they, this is the way we preach and this is the way you believed.”

He says – This is the WAY you believed.

The way they believed was by the testimony of those who knew and witnessed Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection as well as the evidence of how their lives had changed since they entered into relationship with God the Father through faith in Jesus.

Now this is just as important for someone who is already born again as it is for those who need to come to a place of faith.

These people in Corinth believed in Jesus – though many of them had not met Him. 

Their faith however was not blind faith – it was based upon evidence which is where our journey to faith begins even today.

Biblical history, church history as well as secular history ALL bear out that Jesus existed. 

Furthermore, hundreds of Old Testament prophecies, dozens of which were MAJOR prophecies regarding the Messiah, were fulfilled by Jesus specifically! 

Things like where and when He was born, a great many details of His life, His ministry and teachings and so on are fantastically testified to on a monumental scale both from the Old Testament hundreds of years before Jesus came as well as in the lives of those who were eye-witnesses of Him.

All of these testimonies take our wonderings about Who Jesus was into the realm of knowing Who He was – it is where faith begins and that might be important for some of you this morning.

The education of the general populace about these truths is not only wanting, it is deliberately steered in the opposite direction in popular media, books and movies but it is the truth none-the-less!  

The Old Testament predictions of Messiah form a type of fingerprint that only the true Messiah would be able to match. 

This way, the Israelites could rule out any impostors and validate the credentials of the authentic Messiah when He came… and so can we. 

Against astronomical odds Jesus, and only Jesus throughout history matched this prophetic fingerprint! 

That alone is sufficient to confirm Jesus’ identity to an incredible degree of certainty. When I say astronomical I am being very serious!

Scholars have gone on record as saying that there are more than 300 prophecies regarding just the initial advent of the Messiah, all of which were fulfilled precisely.

The virgin birth being mentioned first in Genesis and then Isaiah is an obvious first example.

He was predicted to be the descendant of Abraham in Genesis & Numbers.

The family Messiah was to come from was narrowed down to the descendants of the tribe of Judah in Genesis 49 and even further still that He would be of the house of David, Jesse’s son (Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5-6). Both of which were predicted 6 and 700 years before Jesus’ birth.

Isaiah offers an almost CLinical description of crucifixion as practiced by the Romans as the means by which the Messiah would die over 600 years before Rome perfected the method.

Micah foretold that Messiah would be born in Bethlehem 700 years before Jesus’ birth. 

A decree from Caesar for a census arranged for Mary and Joseph to travel from their hometown of Nazareth to be in Bethlehem when Jesus was born thus fulfilling Micah’s prophecy.

Jeremiah foretold that Messiah’s birth would precipitate a horrible event of the slaughter of many children which was fulfilled when King Herod ordered the murder of all Jewish boys 2 years old and younger.

Jesus escaped that tragedy – Joseph being warned in a dream to go to Egypt which was predicted by Hosea 700 years beforehand.

A chronological roadmap for Messiah’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem which we celebrated last week on Palm Sunday was given by the prophet Daniel 600 years before Jesus was born.

That prophecy said that Messiah would come and appear as Prince but in one week would die, but that His rule and kingdom would be forever – indicating that the Messiah would rise from the dead. 

Daniel foresaw that all of this was to happen 173,880 days from the time the decree was given by Artaxerxes I to rebuild the temple after the Babylonian captivity. 

That decree was given on March 5, 444B.C.. 

173,880 days later on April 6, 32A.D. Jesus came through the city gates of Jerusalem on a donkey being recognized as Messiah the prince. Within that week He died and rose again to establish His kingdom in the hearts of mankind just as Daniel had predicted 600 years prior

On and on and on the Old Testament prophecies go – proving that Jesus was in fact the promised Messiah Who would die and rise from the dead!

Peter Stone who is a mathematician calculated the chances of any human being in history fulfilling JUST 8 of those prophecies. 

The chance wound up being one in 1017 (10 to the 17th power). Do you realize how HUGE that number is? That is a chance factor of one in 100 quadrillion for just of 8 if the Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled by anyone in history.

There are only speculated to be 1021 stars in the whole of the known universe!  

I’ve told you many times and I will continue to as long as I am able – the word of God is as near bulletproof as anything can get. It is time tested and contrary to the claims of the popular media, it has passed every reasonable and many unreasonable tests of authenticity applied to written works of antiquity. 

As great as all of this is, they do not represent the greatest nor most convincing proofs of Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection. 

Just so you know why I’m focusing on the need for proof remember that Paul was pointing out the bases for the faith of the Corinthian believers regarding the death barrel and resurrection of Jesus.

The strongest proof is what Paul offered to  these Corinthians

1st hand, eye-witness testimony of hundreds of people. 

Paul offered specific names of people who had been eye-witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection -the greatest number of which were still alive. 

What was that but a clear invitation to corroborate the claims?!

Now Christianity does not have a corner on the market for those willing to die for their beliefs. Countless people have been and are willing to die for their beliefs. One only needs to look at the middle east to see that!

The difference between them however and this list of names given by Paul are that those of other faiths are willing to die for something they only believe to be true. 

These people Paul named were in a position to know if it was a lie or not! 

Many people are willing to die for a belief but no one is willing to die for something that they know to be a lie. And all but one of the NewTestament Apostles died rather terrible and gruesome deaths for teaching this Gospel. WHY would they do that for something they KNEW was not true!

All of this invites us to go to the written testimony God has offered the world regarding His Son Jesus. To read the scriptures with confidence knowing that in them is the truth and then place our trust in Jesus, surrender to His Lordship and commit ourselves to Him

So having established the trustworthiness of his claims Paul goes on to reason that if Christ rose from the dead then it has very real implications for every human being and it demands a response from us. 

He reasons that those who place their faith in Jesus enter not only into His death with Him, but also will be participants in His resurrection as well!

1Corinthains 15:20-26, “(20) But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  

(21)  For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also came through a man.  

(22)  For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.  

(23)  But each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits; then when Christ comes, those who belong to Him.  (24)  Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He has brought to an end all rule and all authority and power.  (25)  For Jesus must reign until He has put all his enemies under His feet.  (26)  The last enemy to be eliminated is death.”

Non-believers who are also thinking persons will find themselves asking… 

If Jesus did die and rise – as miraculous as that is, what significance could it possibly have for me? That was 2000 years ago! 

For the unbeliever… it represents the power to forsake the rebellion against God which began in Adam. To believe in and surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and so join those I mentioned earlier who were 

  • once were blind, but now see
  • once in darkness but now are light in the Lord
  • who once were spiritually dead to God, but are now alive to Him in Christ
  • To receive the forgiveness of sins and enter into a life of knowing God and being known by Him. 

For the believer… it represents the call to no longer live for themselves but for the One Who lived them and have His life for them.

If you will indulge me in a few passages which speak of these things we will close out our teaching on the resurrection of Jesus and what it means to us as individuals.

Romans 5:17-21, “(17) For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)  

(18)  Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.  

(19)  For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.  

(20)  Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,  (21)  so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness TO ETERNAL LIFE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD.”

Romans 6:1-23, “(1) What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?  (2)  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

(3) Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?  

(4)  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.  

(5)  For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be united in the likeness of His resurrection.  

(6)  We know that our old nature was crucified with Him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  

(7)  (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.)  

(8)  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  

(9)  We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, He is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over Him.  

(10)  For the death He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life He lives, he lives to God.  

(11)  So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  

(12)  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires,  (13)  and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness.  

(14)  For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.”

Even right now the Holy Spirit of God is bearing witness to every heart right here – right now. He is wooing each of us to respond in faith.

Know of a certainty that coming to Christ in Faith – either as His child for greater maturity or initially for forgiveness of sins and a new birth – it will cost you everything! You will suffer the death of who you have been. 

But in the end, it will never cost you more than NOT responding in faith is costing you now. 

What you will give up is only what is killing you anyway!

I have been careful to not get worked up. To keep this from being an emotional appeal though without question I am filled with emotion and joy at the resurrection of Jesus Christ and my raising with Him. But I wanted to present this with as much detachment as possible, even though I myself am also a witness to Who He is!

To quote Martin Luther, “There are two days in my calendar –  THIS day and THAT day.”

Those of us who have truly come to the Father in love and life through ongoing faith in Christ understand this. 

We LIVE every moment of every day before Him. 

Not in fear of His disapproval, but in Joyful anticipation of living another day in the Victory Jesus’ death and resurrection provided. Of bringing God deep and abiding Joy. 

I KNOW this morning that I please God. I know that I bring a smile to His face! 

I didn’t always know that but in my faith journey I came to that realization over a decade ago. 

I am perfectly confident that even as I find joy in His presence He also finds Joy and rejoicing in mine as His child.

The scriptures tell me that He shouts over me with singing and dancing. 

This is what a resurrected life is like! 

If you have never known Him, I invite you to do so! 

If you do know Him, but have never known Him like that I invite you to do so!

God is not holding out on anyone. Not due to their sin, not due to their failures, not due to anything.

The Spirit of the risen Lord is inviting you today to know Him and be known by Him. Day by day, moment by moment being made more and more like Him and knowing the Joy of His pleasure in you!

Don’t let anything stand in your way!

Php 3:3-12, “(3) For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh…what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  (8)  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ  (9)  and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;  (10)  that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,  (11)  if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  (12)  Not that I have already attained, or am already fully mature; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.”



Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keeps authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provide teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!