Sermon Ideas For 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Part 4
Dwight L. Moody's sermon Good News1 sometimes appears in anthologies as an example of his best evangelistic preaching. Basing it on 1 Cor 15:1, Moody no doubt used it or parts of it in many of his preaching crusades.
Moody's style was simple, direct, emotional, and uplifting. Throughout this sermon he pleads with his listeners, inviting them to accept the almost unbelievably good news of the gospel. He asserts, "No better news ever came out of heaven than the gospel." The world is dark to the extent that people will not believe it.
Speaking out of his own experience, he proclaims that the gospel has taken out of his path his bitterest enemies: death, sin, and judgment. Can his hearers say the same? "Sinner, would you be safe tonight?"
After using a couple of gripping stories, Moody comes to a passage of lyrical power. He asks his listeners to imagine that they are in Jerusalem when Jesus is bidding farewell to his disciples. Who is Jesus thinking about? Himself? His friends? No, sinner, he is thinking about you! He is thinking about his enemies, those who shunned, despised, and killed him. His love is such that he can only think about what more he can do for these people--and for you!
Moody thanks God that he is preaching a gospel that extends to every creature. God offers a pardon to every sinner who will just take it, and the offer begins with you!
D. W. Cleverley Ford has achieved distinction as a British preacher, serving as Chaplain to the Queen, Prebendary of St. Paul's Cathedral, and Director of the College of Preachers. Some of his Easter sermons have been published under the title Preaching the Risen Christ. These sermons are focused and clearly reasoned.
In The Christian Facts Ford2 considers 1 Cor 15:3: "First and foremost, I handed on to you the facts which have been imparted to me" (NEB). He notes how important it was to Paul to make his journey to Jerusalem to visit with Peter, who personally knew Jesus, so that he might gain all the facts he could about Jesus. Paul knows that personal experience of Jesus (which he has) is not enough. If the risen Christ is to be preached, there has to be a common acceptance of certain historical facts about him. The New Testament calls this paradosis or deposit. Otherwise the Christian faith could be someone's "bright idea!"
If faith is not grounded in historical facts, then it has no roots. If it has no roots, it will have no lasting fruits; it will be powerless.
The Church is that which carries the faith. You and I have the faith because the Church has not failed to pass it on. Christians need the Church because they need a visible organization with which to identify. They need church buildings, sacraments ("visible signs of our invisible faith"), clergy, and congregations. It all rests on certain facts, several of which Paul lays out in this text. The heart of them all is the one great fact: "Christ is risen!"
Chrysostom (347-407) preached a homily on 1 Cor 15:13 in which he strongly agrees with Ford. He points out that Paul wasn't just writing this letter about morals and conduct in the church "but about the very sum of all good things." Paul was laying out the foundation of the Christian belief system.
Chrysostom refers to 2 Tim 2:17-18, showing how important it was to Paul (or whoever wrote this) that preachers stick to certain central facts of the faith and not swerve from them. The devil's work can always be seen in the distortions of truth that abound in our world.
In a companion sermon to the one discussed above, The Thirteenth Witness,4 Cleverley Ford considers 1 Cor.15:8: "In the end he appeared even to me" (NEB). It was odd that Paul, who persecuted the church and was not fit to be called an apostle, was made not only the 13th but the most prominent witness of all!
Why was there a 13th witness? Why were the 12 not sufficient? Because there was a desperate need for an educated and skillful preacher to tell the story of Jesus so that it would be believed. Paul was THE intellectual giant that was needed to propel the Christian message forward.
One of the many excellent sermons on this text from the black pulpit is that of William D. Watley.5 Several years ago he preached Jesus Keeps Hanging Around at St. James A.M.E. Church in Newark, NJ. He considers the resurrection appearances of Jesus that Paul enumerates in vv. 5-8.
The reader of the New Testament is struck by the question, Why did Jesus hang around so long after his death? Watley supplies the answer: "He hung around long enough to restore a fallen saint, to lift the spirits of a downcast friend, to forgive the denial of a trusted follower," and to redeem others who had been menaced by the Evil One.
The lesson is clear: "Jesus always hangs around for saints who stumble...Regardless of our broken promises and shattered resolves, he still claims us as his own."
Watley sees special significance in Jesus' appearance to the 500 (v. 6): "Jesus understood that it takes more than the leadership to do the work of the kingdom--it takes the whole church. In his appearance before the 500, Jesus demonstrated his lordship, ownership, care, and commitment to the whole church." It is not too radical to say that the risen Lord is as available to newcomers to the faith as he is to "church pillars!"
Sandy Wylie Shawnee, OK
1. Daniel A. Poling, ed., A Treasury of Great Sermons (New York: Greenberg Publisher, 1944), pp. 111-20. 2. D. W. Cleverley Ford, Preaching the Risen Christ (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988), pp. 45-49. 3. Philip Schaff, ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of The Christian Church (1908), Vol. 12, pp. 226-27. 4. Preaching the Risen Christ, pp. 40-44. 5. William D. Watley, Sermons on Special Days: Preaching