Read: 1 Corinthians 15:1-28
In part one of this sermon, I began with the question, “Why should I or anyone believe the Bible?”
The answer I posited was “We should believe the Bible because Jesus told us to believe it (Luke 24:25-27), and we should believe what Jesus says because His bodily resurrection from the dead proves He is who He claims to be.” He is, as He claimed to be, “the way, the truth, and the life” and no one comes to the Father except by Him (John 14:6). Indeed, Jesus is the Son of God, God of very God. We have already spent time reviewing the historical facts that irrefutably establish Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead.
In this second part of the sermon, we will examine the logical conclusions that follow if one refuses to believe that a bodily resurrection after death is possible. The Apostle Paul addresses this subject because some of the Christians in the Corinthian church were denying the possibility of a physical resurrection after death.
The Logical and Theological Consequences of Denying Jesus’ Bodily Resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-19)
Paul asks a rhetorical question of those in the Corinthian church who denied the possibility of a physical resurrection after death: “Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Cor. 15:12). Paul then lists seven logical and theological consequences of such denial.
If bodily resurrection after death is impossible, Christ could not have risen from the dead
“But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen” (1 Cor. 15:13).
This first conclusion is based upon the biblical revelation that Jesus, although the Son of God and truly divine, was also fully human and as a human was crucified and died. At Pentecost, after the resurrection of Jesus, Peter proclaimed that “Jesus of Nazareth” was “a man” (Acts 2:22-23), and as a man was delivered up “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,” and was put to death. The historical records of the Gospels document that Jesus was born to a human mother, ate, drank, slept, and grew in wisdom and the knowledge of God as a true human (not a super human). Peter tells us that it was this human Jesus that God raised up from the dead (Acts 2:31-32).
If Christ did not rise from the dead, the gospel message the Apostles preached was meaningless and spiritually worthless
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14a).
Paul taught that the heart of the gospel was Jesus’ death and resurrection. He wrote, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (15:3-4). Apart from Jesus’ physical resurrection, Jesus could not have conquered sin, death, or hell. But the resurrected Jesus testified to John, “…I am the first and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev. 1:17-18).
If the gospel message of the Apostles was meaningless and spiritually worthless, those who placed their faith in Jesus Christ believed a lie and their faith was worthless
“…And your faith is also vain” (1 Cor. 15:14b).
The word “vain” (kenos) carries the sense of “empty, fruitless, void of effect, to no purpose.” As John MacArthur so aptly noted in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, “If there were no resurrection, the hall of the faithful in Hebrews 11 would instead be the hall of the foolish. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, David, the prophets, and all the others would have been faithful for nothing. They would have been mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, afflicted, ill–treated, and put to death completely in vain. All believers of all ages would have believed for nothing, lived for nothing, and died for nothing.”
If there was no resurrection from the dead, all of the people who claimed to be witnesses of His resurrection and all those who preached His resurrection were liars
“Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not” (1 Cor. 15:15).
Some people who reject the historical record suggest that the people who claimed they saw the resurrected Jesus were either hallucinating, dreaming, or sadly mistaken. However, when one examines the historical testimonies of the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection, one finds that the accounts are too consistent for such testimony to be naive or mistaken. Rather, such corroboration would suggest that if a resurrection from the dead is impossible, the Apostles and other witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection must have conspired together in order for their testimonies to be so consistent. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then death won the victory over Christ and He was wrong when He predicted His own physical resurrection. If Jesus remained dead, then we do not have forgiveness of sins through Christ. The person who denies the possibility of a resurrection from the dead should understand the charge they bring against the Gospel writers and indeed the whole New Testament.
For if the Apostles, the prophets, and the New Testament writers lied about the heart of the gospel, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, why should they be believed about anything else? It would be foolish to speak about the lofty moral teachings of the New Testament if the writers of the New Testament so blatantly falsified their teaching about Jesus’ resurrection.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, all living humans are still in their sins and without hope of salvation
“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:16-17).
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, those who died trusting in Christ as their Savior have died in their sins and are eternally damned
“Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished” (1 Cor. 15:18).
The fifth and sixth logical conclusions, if there is no resurrection of the dead, are obvious. If Christ did not rise from the dead, then death, which is the consequence of sin, won the victory over Christ and establishes that Jesus was wrong when He predicted His own physical resurrection. If Jesus remained dead, then we do not have forgiveness of sins through Christ, and be cause the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), and because all have sinned (Rom. 3:23), death and eternal punishment are the only prospects of believer and unbeliever alike. However, if Jesus did rise from the dead, all who put their faith in Him are granted forgiveness of sins and are reconciled with God (Acts 5:30-31).
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christians are the most pitiable people on earth
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable [most to be pitied]” (1 Cor. 15:19).
To have hope in Christ “in this life only” means that Christians preach, suffer, sacrifice, and are persecuted for their faith to no purpose. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, where would be our source of joy or peace or lasting satisfaction? Paul asserts that apart from Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, the Christian life which calls for separation from the sinful pursuits of this world, would be a mockery. We would deserve nothing but the pity or compassion reserved for fools. But Christians are not to be pitied, for Paul triumphantly declares, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (1 Cor. 15:20).
The resurrection is not just important, it is of utmost importance because all that Christians believe and teach hinge on it. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the centerpiece of Christianity and the foundational truth of the gospel. It is because of the historical facts that establish the truth of Jesus’ resurrection, that one can believe what Jesus says, and Jesus says that people should believe the Scriptures (Luke 24:25-27).
Originally published in God’s Revivalist. Used by permission.