1Cor 15:14-19, 29-34   And if Messiah is not risen then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. . . .Otherwise what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all?  Why then are they baptized for the dead?. . .If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”  Do not be deceived; “evil company corrupts good habits”.

Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God.  I speak this to your shame.

Today we have been witnesses to the baptisms of E and of L.  As we read in our passage, our baptism into the death of Messiah Jesus testifies to our faith in the unique truth that Jesus was raised from among the dead, in His body, to everlasting life, and we (if we have died) will also rise from among the dead in our bodies in the day of the first resurrection.  This fact – this point of truth – is so central to the Biblical faith in YHVH God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, that without it, life is futile and there would be no reason to live in the fear of God and to do His will. If everyone who ever lived were to be saved, there would no reason for baptism; if there were no resurrection of the body, but rather some so-called ‘soul travel’ or ‘disembodied spirits’, there would be no meaning to immersion.  Baptism into the New Covenant is unique to the faith in the God who took on flesh and blood and died on the cross for our sins and rose again! 

Praise God, it is true, and we do not baptize for the dead, but for the First and the Last – who was dead and came to life!  There is a Judgment Day!

Last week I said that God uses our troubles and sufferings in this life to bring us to obey Him, to trust in the love and promises of our Father in Heaven, and to call upon the Lord Jesus Christ to come and bring God’s Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit to His people and to the world He created.  The Apostle Paul warns us as believers not to be deceived:  if we truly believe in the blood of Jesus crucified for our sin and risen from the dead for our justification before the Holy God, then our lives need to demonstrate this through real changes in our heart, our thinking, our life-style.

When we repent and believe the good news that there is forgiveness of sin and salvation in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, baptism is actually only our first act of obedience to the faith we have received.  We are born again and begin a process of sanctification to become conformed to the image of being God’s son or daughter, to come to fullness.

Paul says in v. 34 that believers who are not awake, sensible, to righteousness (i.e., believing in Jesus and doing what He says) lack the knowledge of God.  A very practical test of our relationship to the Lord is whether we maintain a high standard of right and wrong, of good and evil, of honor or dishonor to the name of our God and Lord when we are with others – whether believers or unbelievers.  If we see that certain persons or groups of persons succeed consistently to bring us down from the standard of the Holy Spirit as written in the New Testament – if that person or group will not change – then we are to look for other friends and companions!

 Next Thursday evening we will participate in the wedding of Sergei and Stella.  Just as baptism is done once by a believer in the gospel and marks the beginning of a new life with God as Father and with Jesus as Savior and Lord and with other believers as God’s family, so a wedding between a man and a woman is ideally done once, and marks the beginning of a life together which is to prepare us for the wedding and eternal marriage with Yeshua Himself.

Everyone of us here who knows he or she is a son or daughter of God through Messiah Yeshua has a goal in your life:  to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to learn to obey Him in all areas of life.  As we do this, we will

–evangelize so that others can come home to God our Father in Heaven;
–change our old ways of thinking and behavior;
–take responsibility for our decisions and actions;
–humble ourselves before God and before other people;
–see fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives;
–not stumble in the days of trouble;
–give glory to our wonderful Savior;
–love and anticipate His return to take His Bride and to bring the Kingdom of God to Israel and the rest of the world.

Do not lose hope!  The promise of good things to those who have begun their pilgrimage of faith – like Abraham – will be fulfilled by our faithful God who keeps covenant and ways of righteousness.

1Jn 3:1-3   Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!  Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.  And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure.