Reading: 1 Corinthians 15
(Paul deals with a serious error that is being taught in the church of Corinth, if such a concept were to be endorsed there, it would become a heretical church. The heresy was saying that resurrection is not possible.)
Paul defends the truth of the resurrection in the famed 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, and I would like to take a look at it.
In fact, this past weekend I was invited as a speaker to a Regional Conference for Easter in a small country town. I gave 5 messages on Isaiah 53, looking in great detail at the Messiah’s Divinity and Perfection, His humility and lowly beginnings, His condemnation by the Jewish leaders, His rejection and death on the cross, and finally His resurrection and proofs for it. It is amazing that Isaiah describes each of these steps in great detail, 700 years before their fulfillment! It truly leaves me speechless.
On Easter Sunday I then shared on 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (NET):
Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?
Here is the original problem. It was likely a heresy induced by the Sadducees to teach against the resurrection. Perhaps they were converts to Christianity, yet they had real problems with this miraculous and mysterious event. Perhaps they argued that you could still see Christ as a Savior, yet reject the resurrection. Some liberal churches in America currently take this stance. Paul, though, will not be flattered with any distortion of this central doctrine, no matter how “cute” his opposition gets in explaining away the resurrection. Let us look at the consequences of there not being resurrection from the dead:
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
The first and primary problem in rejecting the resurrection is based on the resurrection of Christ. The entire Christian faith hinges on the reality of a literal, historical resurrection.
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile
What is the first consequence of Christ not resurrecting? Paul is wasting his life, and throwing his time away. His preaching is based on a salvation that can only be attained through a resurrected Christ. If Jesus did not resurrect, then He should simply be remembered as a “good teacher” who was cruelly and unjustly killed by envious Jewish leaders. He was just another martyr.
To preach that a dead man is God, would be to claim that God is now dead (as Nietzsche famously declared). To preach that a dead man is the world’s savior would be a myth, like teaching children that babies are brought in by swallows at midnight. Paul might as well be your local crazy man.
and your faith is empty.
Paul shows them their foolishness. Why are you even attending church or pretending to be Christians? If there is no resurrected Christ, you risking your life to be part of a social club.
Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised.
We are liars. The Corinthians, were they to believe in these false teachers, would be rejecting Paul’s message. Perhaps they would say: no, Paul, we like you a lot, we aren’t rejecting you! When you reject the resurrection, you reject the centerpiece of the Gospel. If the life of Christ is an orchestra, the cross is the cello’s solo, and the resurrection its climax. With a dead Christ, the Gospel is dead.
For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins.
Here Paul repeats himself, for this is the central point. The Sadducees perhaps wanted to speak about resurrection as a miraculous and ludicrous concept. They wanted to look at it as an ideological concept, downplaying it’s importance. Paul though, centers the focus on the only resurrection that really matters. He wants to stop them from changing the topic on him.
This leads to another consequence. If Jesus is in fact just another dead man, there is no forgiveness of sins. A dead man cannot be God, and if Jesus was just a man he was therefore a sinner, and cannot possibly forgive another’s sins, let alone his own (for the sake of argument, I take away the capital pronouns)!
Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished.
The personal consequence of having a dead Messiah, and remaining a sinner before God, is the ultimate one. The dead cannot be redeemed. The dead, therefore inclusive of all men in the past, present, and future, are damned to hell.
For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.
Millions of Christians have rejected the pleasures of sin in this life for a promise of a better life in the future, for glory, for honor, and for immortality. Hundreds of thousands have died as martyrs for their faith. Thousands and thousands have arduously preached the Gospel in harsh conditions and in difficult places.
Worthless. Useless. Wasteful.
Our hope and promise is resurrection after this life (through the Rapture). Our faith is based on this, and our salvation hinges on the resurrected Christ. Our faith is a trust in what is not seen for now, and our salvation is not yet visible nor palpable until we see it and experience it. This is why it is called faith, though not a blind faith.
If Jesus did not resurrect, we are a pitiful, worthless people, throwing our miserable little lives away, in even worse fashion than our fellow atheist, polytheistic, or religious humans.
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
The crescendo, the climax, the elated finish–HE IS RISEN!
He is risen indeed!
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness”, and the stamp of approval that I am truly not hopeless and lost is based on a living, resurrected Christ. Thank You Jesus–the Risen Savior and King of Kings.