Our future hope as a motivation for this present life

Posted on 27 May 2018, Pastor: Rev Hans Vaatstra

Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.

Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:29-34

Our future hope as a motivation for this present life

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
The Day of the Lord
5 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord [a]will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then [b]destruction [c]will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you [d]like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as [e]others do, but let us be alert and [f]sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be [g]sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. 11 Therefore [h]encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

1 Corinthians 15:29-34 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
29 Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? 30 Why are we also in danger every hour? 31 I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If [a]from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 34 Become sober-minded [b]as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.

 

Our Future hope as a motivation for this present life

Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Text: 1 Corinthians 15:29-34

The resurrection of the body is a future event which has a great deal of significance in the way we live our life now. If the resurrection is not true then why worry about the future. You may as well just live as you please. But the resurrection is true, Jesus is coming again and if we die before he comes we will be raised from our graves at his coming and stand before him in glorified bodies.

Now the point Paul is making in this section is that our resurrection is vital to our entire Christians lives from our baptism to the moment of our death.. In other words our future resurrection is vital to the restoration which Christ works in us as Christians through his Holy Spirit.

So what difference does the future resurrection make to our present life?

In verses 29-34 three things are in view

  1. First it is an encouragement to evangelism. In verse 29 Paul wrote “otherwise what will those do who are baptised for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all why then are they baptised for them? It could be that the practise of vicarious baptisms for the dead featured occasionally in the early church and that Paul mentions it here without saying anything about it other than to say why bother if there is no resurrection. That’s one possibility put forward by commentators.

Others have wrongly interpreted this verse as providing warrant for a kind of vicarious baptism over the graves of those who died as catechumens but never got to the point of publically professing their faith and being baptised. Because they died as believers but hadn’t received the sacrament of baptism they thought that a baptism of a living member of the church conducted over the grave of the deceased person would somehow do the job.

But this is really just a superstition baptism is a sign of the covenant but no more necessary for salvation than physical circumcision was under the Old Covenant. The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. So if a true believer dies before having received baptism then his or her soul is with the Lord in glory immediately. In Philippians 1:23 Paul wrote “I am hard pressed in both directions. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ for that is very much better. Yet to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.”  We understand for that and other similar passages that when we die we go to be with the Lord immediately so that means that there is no point in administering baptism for the dead,

It is also possible to see this verse as Paul referring to baptised persons who have since died as a motivation to evangelise. Their Christians example; including their own baptism, their Christians life and their dying in the Lord in the hope of the resurrection provides a strong motive for those who are still alive to believe and be baptised as well.  On the other hand if there is no resurrection of those who have died in the Lord then why bother? What is the point of baptism then? In other words what is the point of adding members to the church by way of biological growth or by way of evangelism?

Why bother to witness and win others for Christ and add them to the church through baptism if there is no resurrection of the dead? If the Christian life is a dead end street then best to get off it!

But clearly its not. Christ is risen from the grave; the evidence is overwhelming. Eye witnesses number more than 500 hundred. A world-wide movement which doesn’t serve a dead but a living God, and the fulfilment of the promises of scripture which not only predict Christ’s death and resurrection but also the giving of the Holy Spirit and the expansion of the church is further evidence of Christ’s resurrection

So the Christian life is not a dead end street but a highway that leads into heaven itself. When we are on that way then an important part of our task is the great commission. Jesus said before his ascension that all authority has been given to him. He reigns and he wants us to make disciples. Not all of God’s elect are in the kingdom yet.  Some have yet to be born others have yet to hear the good news, believe and be saved. We are the community God works through to bring others into his family; his kingdom. The prospect of heaven is therefore a great motivation to share your faith.

  1. In the second place our future hope as a motivation for this present life can be seen in whether or not we are prepared to endure any suffering at all for the sake of Christ. We see that in verse 30-32. Paul wrote, “Why are we in danger every hour? I protest brethren on account of my pride in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord I die every day” Paul is saying something about the physical dangers he faced as a servant of Christ. In 2 Corinthians 6:5 Paul described how during the course of his missionary labours he suffered beatings, imprisonments, hardships and distresses of various kinds including being shipwrecked! Why?

The wild beasts Paul encountered at Ephesus mentioned in verse 32 is most likely a reference to the riots in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19 instigated by Demetrius and others who reacted to the gospel causing a riot. The whole thing came about due to the down-turn in the sale of idol figurines due to the missionary labours of Paul and his fellow workers. Many of the Ephesians turned to Christ. The rioters acted like wild beasts. According to an older American voice of the martyrs report in Sudan the Islamic militants burned a church with dozens of Christians worshipping inside. Only one survived. In Egypt an 11 year old boy was hung upside down from an electric fan and tortured to death, young girls were raped, and mothers were forced to lay their babies on the floor of a police station and forced to watch as police beat the babies with sticks. And as we know that kind of beastly persecution against Christians is merely the tip of an iceberg.

But what motivated Paul to endure such hardship. Certainly not human or selfish motives. His motives are clearly stated in the text. One is the existence of the church in Corinth which he described as something to boast about in Jesus Christ the Lord. This can be understood in the light of chapter 1:4 where Paul wrote “I thank my God concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Jesus Christ. It was for the sake of the gospel and the church that Paul was prepared to die every day in the course of his missionary labours.

His second motive is the certainty of the resurrection. In verse 32 it says “if the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.”  Paul could just as easily have lived to please himself, not that he would have! As a Jew he was zealous for what he thought was right but when he became converted Paul’s zeal for the gospel and the cause of Christ was virtually without peer.

That motive stayed with Paul to the end of his life. To Timothy he wrote “I have fought the good fight I have finished the course I have kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge will award to me on that day and not only to me but to all who have loved his appearing.”

What motivates you in the way you live your life? We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that what we do in this life comes up for review before the judgment seat of Christ. That fact alone should be enough to motivate us to think about living to the glory of God rather than for self.

Elsewhere in 1 Peter 4 we are encouraged not to live according to the lusts of the flesh  but to live according to the will of God  to avoid pursuing a course of life that is purely sensual, and filled with fun and frivolity but instead to seek to live according to the Spirit. Peter urges readers to be faithful in prayer, fervent in our love for each other, hospitable and not complaining, serving one another as good stewards of the grace of God even to share in the sufferings of Christ joyfully. Why?  What’s the motivation? Our resurrection. So that when the chief shepherd appears you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

So it’s good that we don’t have to get up each morning and face another day merely to live to please ourselves. That, according to the writer of Ecclesiastes amounts to a vanity and a pointless life. We have a higher purpose ansd that is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever, to serve the living saviour in anticipation of seeing him in the life to come at the resurrection.

  1. So resurrection motivates us to evangelism, to suffer for the sake of Christ and in the third place to keep ourselves separate from sin. Verse 33 “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals. Become sober minded as you ought and stop sinning for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.”

Immorality was a way of life in ancient Corinth and some of the members of the church had fallen back into old bad habits in the areas of sexual sin, and other kinds of decadent behavior for example gluttony which we read about in the second half of chapter 11 concerning the so called love feasts at the Lord’s Supper.

The phrase “bad company corrupts good character” also suggests that some folk in the church were hanging onto old friendships which caused them to compromise their faith. Others had little knowledge of God according to verse 34. Their ignorance of the scriptures and lack of attention to the teaching of the church resulted in them being easily led astray and blown about by any old wind of doctrine. That according to Paul was a great shame. Ignorance is certainly no excuse for sin.

Well Paul reminds readers of the resurrection  and the life to come as a motivation not to sin but to live godly lives  This is reiterated in the supporting passage from 1 Thessalonians 5 which urges believers to be ready for Christ’s return. There we’re reminded of who we are. We are children of light rather than darkness.

As such we’re not meant to be ‘asleep’; that is oblivious to spiritual dangers, careless about sin us and simply living for the moment. Neither are we drunk, revelling in the pleasures of sin or inebriated by the false philosophies promoted by the God deniers and Christ haters. They like to pose as being open minded and rational and charge us with being woolley-headed ones who need the crutch of faith. But the Pharisee also claimed to “See” the truth and loudly justified themselves.  But according to God’s judgment they were wicked blind and would be cast out. The person who is truly open and clear minded doesn’t supress the truth about God but sees reality as God reveals it  and does all his thinking  and acting according to that reality. To use the language of 1 Thessalonians 5 the Christians is sober and alert, having put on (not the crutch) but the breastplate of faith and love and hope as a helmet of salvation.  In that way we will be ready for the imminent return of Christ and our own resurrection.

Those who are not ready who are care-free and happy enough to live in sin, for them Christ will come like a thief in the night. His sudden appearance will be terrifying for them. But for those who are motivated by the resurrection to live godly lives, that day will be salvation.   As Paul puts it we are not destined for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. So then Paul concludes let us live together for him.

In any case the believer who is compromising with sin has lost his or her witness to those outside the church. That too is a shameful thing according to Paul to be selfishly living in sin while scores of people around us are dying without Christ.

In conclusion then, the fact of Christ’s resurrection as the first fruits of a great harvest including our resurrection from the deaf provides us with the greatest motivation to live a life of service for Christ.

Much of what we do in this life only has temporal value nothing we do for Christ will ever be wasted or lost. So we can be steadfast in our service, endure suffering patiently when we have to, share our faith and joyfully minister to others because we know our labour is not in vain.

Amen