Celebration of Life for T.S. - 1 Corinthians 15
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy 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 was not 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. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
When my wife and I were young we traveled to Colorado for a wedding. I had never really traveled far from Oklahoma so I was excited to see a new state with mountains. We traveled all night to get there and arrived at 4:00 in the morning.
When we arrived we pulled into a church parking lot and slept there till morning. I will never forget what I witnessed that morning when I opened up my eyes and saw the mountains for the very first time. Pikes Peak was directly in front of us. I got out of the car and celebrated God’s creation. In that moment I realized that the mountains were bigger, better and more beautiful than I had ever imagined.
In the time that I have known Tom Shippy he faithfully pointed my attention to two tall mountains of the Christian faith: God’s Sovereignty and the Gospel.
The first mountain of the Christian faith that Tom pointed me to was God’s Sovereignty. If I ever used the word ‘luck’ around Tom he would call me out and remind me that there is no such thing as luck. He would remind me that God is behind everything and He is ruling and reigning over all of His creation. He would remind me that God is always carrying out His purposes and plans. He constantly reminded me that we can see God’s sovereignty in the big things and in the small things; in the good times and in the bad; in the easy times and in the difficult times; in life and in death.
The second mountain that Tom faithfully pointed me to was the Good News concerning Jesus Christ and the salvation that we have in Him. I remember one time when he challenged me to make my sermons more evangelistic. He challenged me to call people to repent and to believe the Good News with every sermon that I would preach.
The gospel was so important to Tom that he designed tracts and handed them out whenever he had an opportunity. In fact, when I went to visit him in the hospital one time he was pretty excited because Carol had brought him more tracts that he could hand out. Tom believed that his sickness was an opportunity to minister to people. His ministry was fruitful because on one visitation with him he mentioned that one of the nurses had received the gospel and prayed to receive Jesus and eternal life!
My friends, these two Christian doctrines, the sovereignty of God and the Gospel, proved to be unshakable, immovable and solid doctrines for Tom in his life, during his sickness and in his death. His faith never wavered, his hope never despaired, his heart never failed, his love never grew cold, his faithful confession never ceased, his his joy was never extinguished, his peace was not lost through it all. He never complained but rejoiced and thanked the LORD in all things.
1 Corinthians 15 is an entire chapter about these two great Christian doctrines: the sovereignty of God and the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15: 3-11 Paul reminds us that the Gospel is of ‘first importance’. The gospel is not something that Paul and the other apostles made-up. No, it was spoken of in the Old Testament and it was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. The Gospel speaks about how Jesus lived and died to deal with our sins. It speaks about how Jesus was buried and raised from the dead on the third day for our justification.
Th e Good News is not about our works or about our own righteousness. It is about Jesus and His life and death. The gospel is not earned, but it is to be received by faith for our justification and lived out daily for our sanctification. Jesus came to seek and to save sinners. Paul is a great example of how the grace of God can save a horrible sinner who persecuted Christians and tried to destroy the church (1 Cor. 15:9). Not only does the grace of God save sinners, it transforms and empowers a believer to do God’s will (10-11).
1 Corinthians 15 is also very much about the sovereignty of God. Consider these words in verses 20-28, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.”
This chapter begins with exhortations to remember these doctrines and to ground our hearts and minds upon them. Paul says, “Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.” (15:1-2) For the next fifty-five verses Paul speaks of the Gospel and God’s Sovereignty over sin and death. Then he ends the chapter with the same exhortation, saying, “Therefore my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Tom’s life displayed the grace of God and showed us how being steadfast and immovable concerning the gospel and the sovereignty of God is profitable for all of us in every situation. Our hope in the Gospel and in the sovereignty of God will never be in vain!
Pastor Joel Beeke wrote a book called “Dying and Death – Getting Prepared For The Inevitable”. In this book he gives us a picture of what Tom must have experienced when he died in Christ and experienced heaven for the very first time. His current joy far exceeds the joy I experienced when I looked at God’s creation in Colorado. He writes,
“Oh, how blessed is a believers translation from the church on earth to the church in heaven! Goodness and mercy have followed him throughout life, and now goodness and mercy surround him on every side. Who shall describe the unspeakable joy of his soul as he enters into glory? How satisfied he will be with all he sees and hears! With grateful adoration he will worship his faithful God who has fulfilled all His promises and surpassed even the believers highest expectations. Who can conceive of the joy and gratitude with which he will join in the song of his redeemed brethren: ‘Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen’ (Revelation 1:5-6)”
Joel Beeke asks the question, ‘Who shall describe the unspeakable joy of his soul as he enters into glory?’
In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul speaks authoritatively, as one who had learned from Christ, about the hope that a believer has concerning the resurrection and eternal life when he boldly declares, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” (20-21)
Even though Tom has died in the flesh he is alive unto God in his spirit. And one day his body will be raised again. We read in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
Paul speaks of this beautifully in 1 Corinthians 15:42-59 when he says,
“...What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
My friends, Tom has faithfully displayed God's grace and power in his life. And Tom was faithful to speak of the Gospel and the Sovereignty of God to all those he met. From the time he was saved until the day that he fell asleep in Christ Tom looked at those two doctrines which filled the skyline of his view and marveled, rejoiced, and thanked God.
Today, at this Celebration of Life for Tom Shippy, we all have an opportunity to be reminded that every day we need to trust in the Sovereignty of God and the Gospel. We need to hear the words of Paul when he says, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” And these words, “Therefore my beloved brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Can you honestly say that you have received these words by the apostle Paul? Do you look to the Gospel and a Sovereign God for your salvation? Have you received the gospel like Paul did (15:3), like the Corinthians had (1-2), like Tom did? Has your heart been caught up in rapturous love for the LORD whose grace has saved you? Today, if you have not had such an experience then admit that you are a sinner in need of a Sovereign Savior. Confess that it is only in Jesus Christ that you can be saved. Then make sure that you find a good scripture teaching church to grow in your faith. May Joel Beeke’s words be true of all of us one day, “Oh, how blessed is a believers translation from the church on earth to the church in heaven!”