12 April (Easter Sunday): Christ is risen!

Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
Easter Sunday, 12 April 2020

Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.

As we will be taking communion later on please have bread and wine / juice ready before you start this service properly.

Welcome

Praise the Lord, Christ is risen and we are risen with Him. Happy Easter everyone!

Thanks, Alf, for this short testimony:

“During this time of lockdown I have been doing a lot of thinking” (If you want to hear about some of Alf’s philosophical thoughts give him a phone!) “The worst thing to hit this planet was the sin of humankind … as a result we all die. But I feel that right through my life there has been a silver thread even though I was born towards the end of the war. Regarding all the major decisions, the really important ones, regarding marriage, 50 years and no major disputes” (I think Alf said regarding this that the secret was “Yes dear, yes dear, anything you say dear” I think he said that); “and employment-I feel that these major decisions were made for me … by God. He was always there working out His purposes. God chased me until I caught Him.”

Thanks Alf and like I mentioned ring him if you want to hear more.

Worship

Thanks Diane for choosing today’s hymn:

Because He lives I can face tomorrow

Word

Reading: Acts 9:1-22

Text: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that we are found to be false witnesses ….” (1 Cor 15:14-15)

Forgive me if I preached on this last year (and the year before that)-I can’t remember. This verse always grips me at this time. In some ways it is quite a shocking statement that the apostle Paul makes. To even entertain the thought that our faith is useless. But surely Paul can say this because he is so confident that Christ has indeed been raised.

For wasn’t that the major turning point in his life? How are you going to get one of the most zealous Jews that has ever lived, who absolutely detested Jesus of Nazareth and all His followers, and regarded them all, as out and out heretics (cf. Acts 8:1; Acts 9:1-2), how are you going to get one like this to so radically change his thinking, his ways, his behaviour and become probably the most radical Christian that has ever lived? Answer-reveal to him the risen glorified Lord Jesus Christ (see Acts 9:3-5). That One whom he last saw being crucified on a Roman gibbet, then buried, is now standing before him on that road to Damascus in all His glory and questioning Paul as to why he was persecuting him. Paul may well have answered, but it’s Your Church not You that I’m persecuting. But maybe even at that early stage Paul started to realise that Christ is so bound up with His Church, He is the Head, the Church His Body, He is the Vine, the Church the branches, so that whatever you do to His Church you do to Him also, it was all starting to make sense.

There isn’t space to look at the seven consequences the apostle lists in 1 Cor 15:12-19 if there is no resurrection (can you name them?). We need to go to 1 Cor 15:20 straight to the greatest “But God ..” in the Bible, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:20) cf. Acts 2:22-24: “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

Taking all this together we discover that Christ, being the firstfruits, is a model of all resurrections,

“the first sample sheaf of the harvest that is yet to come … the firstfruits is an agricultural term for the first instalment of the harvest that pledges more of the same kind to come” (A. C. Thiselton).

Such implies later fruits. Christ’s resurrection was different from all others in that all others went on to die at a later date. Christ rose never to die again and such belongs to the Church (‘The Already’) and still awaits the Church (‘The Not Yet’), the Church that is all believers:

”When Christ rose, the Church rose from the dead” (Thornton).

“The resurrection of Christ is a pledge and proof of the resurrection of His people” (Hodge).

“Paul sees this union as so complete and real that, in spiritual terms, those in Christ have already been raised” (Prior)

cf. Eph. 2:4-7: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (see also Col 2:12-13; Col 3:1-4).

The New Testament consistently confirms the union of Christ and His Church, with Christ and all believers, with all those who follow Him, Christ is in us and we are in Christ. As a result this union extends to our solidarity with Him in His resurrection. So not only has Christ risen but we have been raised with Him. Yet we still have the limitation of our mortal physical bodies which cannot inherit the kingdom of God as we saw last week (1 Cor 15:50). But all this is included in the blessing of God for the nations. As in Adam all died, so In Christ all who believe will be raised: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed-52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ 55 ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:51-58). So rather than the Christian being pitied: “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:19), we are a people who can rejoice in the sure and certain glory to come because of this indisputable fact that Christ is indeed risen and we are risen in Him, Hallelujah, Amen! We will now celebrate the Lord’s Supper together.

Communion

Let’s spend a few moments remembering with thanksgiving what our Lord went through for us when He died on the cross and then we will take the bread and the wine together.

Please read 1 Cor 11:23-32 and then give thanks for the bread and the cup.

If we are on our own then we can say these words as we take the bread: “The body of Jesus broken for me – thank You Lord, Amen.” And as we take the cup: “The blood of Jesus shed for me – thank You Lord, Amen.”

If we are with others we can minister to one another with the words: “The body of Jesus broken for you (mentioning the person’s name).” Each should hold on to the bread until everyone has been served and then eat together with thanksgiving. Likewise with the cup: “The blood of Jesus shed for you (mentioning the person’s name)”. Hold on to the cup until everyone has been served and then drink together with thanksgiving.

Let’s Pray

Father, we rejoice in You with thanksgiving as we celebrate the resurrection of Your Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. O Lord, may numerous people find you during this Easter time and be brought into the great blessing of eternal life. Lord we again pray for all those who are suffering in various ways at this time, comfort, bless and strengthen them. Lord as we have sent out adverts again for a Children and Families Worker, bring the person of Your choosing to Bethel Baptist Church, for Your Glory. We pray for Harry as he conducts a funeral service next Friday. Give him the words to speak and comfort those who mourn in Jesus Christ, Amen