Truth Or Consequences
I Corinthians 15:12-20
There is a town in New Mexico called Truth or
Consequences. Being a western history buff, I imagined an old
fashioned shootout at the OK corral as the background for this
moniker. However, a quick search on the Internet revealed the truth.
It was not a western-style gunfight at all. Rather, the origin of the
name goes back to 1950. A popular radio program hosted by Ralph
Edwards was called “Truth or Consequences.” In honor of the show’s
tenth anniversary, Edwards offered to broadcast the show from any
city that would change its name to Truth or Consequences. Some
residents in Hot Springs, New Mexico thought it was a good idea, so
they held a special election and residents voted in favour of the
name change. True to his word, Ralph Edwards hosted his radio show from
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico on April 1, 1950. No fooling.
Addressing the church in Corinth, Greece 2,000
years ago, the apostle Paul confronted the gospel’s own “truth or
consequences.” What if the gospel is not true? Some Christians in
Corinth questioned a future bodily resurrection of believers. Ancient
Greek understanding of death and the afterlife viewed the body as the
prison of the soul. The reasoning went something like this: “When the
earth has drunk up a person’s blood, once he is dead, there is no
resurrection.” This belief struck at the heart of the gospel. Paul
argued that if the dead are not raised then the truth of the gospel
is in jeopardy.
What if the gospel is not true? What is at stake?
Both then and now the gospel has its own “truth or consequences.” We
need to face up to this. What is lost if the gospel is not true? Our
text today points out the stark consequences.
I. The facts of the gospel are not reliable. (v.14)
In Paul’s summary of the facts of the gospel (vv.
3-4), Christ’s death and resurrection is foundational. If the gospel
is not true, then the preaching of Christ’s death and resurrection is
empty. The word “empty” means to be without content, without any
basis, without truth, without power. In the case of the gospel,
Jesus’ death on the cross was just one more crucified Jew who ran
afoul of Roman law. In the first century there were hundreds of Jews
crucified by the Romans.
Not only was Jesus’ death empty but his
resurrection as well. His dead body could have been stolen by his
enemies, relocated by his friends, or simply decomposed in an
unmarked grave. It really didn’t matter since dead men don’t rise.
II. The fruits of the gospel are meaningless. (vv. 14, 17)
If the gospel is not true, then not only is the
foundation of the gospel empty, but its effects are worthless (v.17
NASB). The word “worthless” means to be idle, empty, fruitless,
useless, powerless, lacking truth. The twin effects of the gospel,
faith and forgiveness, are meaningless.
Even being personally related to God by faith is
nothing more than an idle fantasy. Prayer is only self-talk. There is
no such thing as companionship with God. We are simply taking a long
walk by ourselves. As far as forgiveness is concerned, there are
psychiatrists and crisis counsellors available for those troubled by
III. The future of the gospel is a mirage. (v. 18-19)
A final consequence involves the future.
Christians have hope of seeing their dead loved ones again. If the
gospel is not true, this hope is pitiful indeed. One, because there
will be no glad reunion. And two, because one’s present existence is
a mirage instead of real. Better to get and experience everything
that this life has to offer because the future is unknown.
I saw a bumper sticker recently that said: “Since
I gave up hope I feel much better.” The philosophy behind this
statement sums up Paul’s words in verse nineteen. It is better not to
have high expectations of the future so as not to suffer
psychological let down in the here and now.
The gospel must confront its own “truth or
consequences.” What if the gospel is not true? The consequences are
stark indeed. But wait a minute. Paul does not end his argument here.
He strongly rejects the premise that the gospel is empty,
meaningless, and a mirage. It is as if he lifts a trumpet and declares
that “Now” Christ has been raised from the dead (v. 20)! The gospel
is true. The scriptures declare it. The apostles declare it. Over five
hundred eyewitnesses declare it. Paul himself declares it (vv. 3-11).
Believers for 2,000 years have been declaring it. What about you?
Sermon brief provided by
Mike McGough, Director of Student Affairs and Professor of Preaching
& Pastoral Ministries, Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary,
Cochrane, Alberta, Canada.