The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio
In this section of I Corinthians, we have two chapters that are among Paul’s most well-remembered and treasured words. I Corinthians 13 has for obvious reasons been called the Love Chapter. I Corinthians 15, though lesser known to some people, has been called the Resurrection Chapter. Here is an excerpt from a sermon I have preached more than once on I Corinthians 15 entitled, Three Reasons to Anticipate a Great Future….
Finally, reason #3 that this passage gives us for anticipating a great future is that God’s grace can change our lives.
For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
What is grace? I like author Anne Lamott’s definition: “Grace means you’re in a different universe from where you had been stuck, when you had absolutely no way to get there on your own.”
Paul puts it this way in Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”
God’s grace changes the lives of everyone it touches. It changed Peter’s life. How can we forget? Peter was the one who denied even knowing Jesus on the night Jesus was arrested and brought to trial. Yet, Jesus appeared first to Peter so that their relationship could be restored. That is grace.
James was Jesus’ half-brother. He did not believe that Jesus really was the Son of God before his resurrection. (If you have brothers, you will understand how this works.) However, Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to James, apparently to give him a second chance to believe. James did become a believer and one of the leaders of the early Church.
Then there was Paul himself. He had persecuted the followers of Christ. Yet, Jesus met Paul on the road to Damascus and gave Paul another chance to follow him. Paul’s life was changed by that encounter. God’s grace led Paul to work as hard as he could to spread the good news about Jesus. In short, grace is God doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Actor Kevin Bacon tells this story about when his 6-year-old son saw his movie Footloose for the first time:
He said, “Hey, Dad, you know that thing in the movie where you swing from the rafters of that building? That’s really cool, how did you do that?”
I said, “Well, I didn’t do that part—it was a stunt man.”
“What’s a stunt man?” he asked.
“That’s someone who dresses like me and does things I can’t do.”
“Oh,” he replied and walked out of the room looking a little confused.
A little later he said, “Hey, Dad, you know that thing in the movie where you spin around on that gym bar and land on your feet? How did you do that?”
I said, “Well, I didn’t do that. It was a gymnastics double.”
“What’s a gymnastics double?” he asked.
“That’s a guy who dresses in my clothes and does things I can’t do.”
There was silence from my son, then he asked in a concerned voice, “Dad, what did you do?”
“I got all the glory,” I sheepishly replied.
Joel Sarrault writes, “That’s the grace of God in our lives. Jesus took our sin upon himself and did what we couldn’t do. We stand forgiven and bask sheepishly triumphant in Jesus’ glory.”
Thus, God has given us three reasons in this passage to shout. We can anticipate a great future because Christ died for our sins, because he has been raised from the dead, and because God’s grace can change our lives.
If you would like to listen to the entire message, of which this is an excerpt, click here: Three Reasons to Anticipate a Great Future.