WEEKLY SERMON BLOG
“Why the Resurrection of Christ is Important”
I Corinthians 15
In this chapter of First Corinthians, Paul the Apostle writes to explain six ways in which the resurrection of Christ is an absolutely essential part of Christian Theology.
1. It is part of the Gospel that one must believe in order to be saved: (vs.1-4).
Paul opens this chapter by listing the basic elements of the Gospel he was called by God to preach; “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures”. In these verses Paul states that at the very core of the Gospel are three basic facts; Christ died for the sins of those He came to save; Christ was literally buried in a grave, and He rose from the dead on the third day after His death. Paul adds to this, that these things took place in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
Paul’s point was that the physical resurrection of Christ was a fundamental part of the Good News that a person must believe in order to be saved. Since it is essential for salvation, this makes His resurrection among the most important events in human history.
Elsewhere Paul elaborates on the special significance of the resurrection of Christ to the process of salvation. The first of these explains that the resurrection of Christ demonstrated the Father’s acceptance of His payment for sin:
and was raised because of our justification”
The Greek word translated “because of” can mean in light of, or as a consequence of. Jesus was delivered up by God to die in light of the fact that all had sinned; and Jesus was then raised in light of the fact that the Father counted the believing sinner justified (declared righteous) on the basis of Christ’s death for sin. The resurrection thus is understood to take place specifically because God was satisfied with the Son’s payment for sin. Therefore, if there had been no resurrection of Christ; there would have been no acceptance of the sacrifice for our sins and thus everyone would still be under condemnation.
Second, we are told that the resurrection of Christ was the means by which God grants the believer new life:
If there were no resurrection, there would be no new life in which the believer could participate in by faith. Therefore, everyone would still be in eternal death.
Third the resurrection of Christ assured that God would forever be linked to believers in a unique way. When Christ ascended back to heaven He went up as the glorified God-man; still possessing the humanity that He had taken at the incarnation. Therefore, our Divine mediator (I Tim.2:5) is forever like us and therefore joined as one with His beloved creatures. This connection would not have been true, if it were not for the physical resurrection of Christ.
The resurrection of Christ is an integral and necessary part of every aspect of the Gospel and God’s redemptive plan; there would be no Gospel without it.
2. It was indisputable evidence that Christ was sent by God to provide us with salvation: (vs.5-11).
The reality is that ours is not the first generation to have problems believing some of the supernatural things that are a part of God’s revelation to us. The reason this chapter exists is because the Gentile believers in Corinth, who were deeply influenced by Greek philosophy, had a difficult time believing in physical resurrection. This chapter exists as an apologetic for the resurrection of Christ as a fact of history. Paul writes, “He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy 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; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (vs.5-11). It has become common in our culture to suggest that faith is at odds with reason, and if you believe you do it in contradiction to or without need of reason. This is a devilish lie that is radically at odds with what the Scriptures teach. We are not to believe anything without good reason; because people lie and are frequently wrong in their assessments of things. Jesus did miracles during His life for the purpose of demonstrating that He was sent by God and that what He said was true. The miracles were so convincing that it was acknowledged by the people of the day that there was not much more that could be done to authenticate that He was the Christ (Jn.7:31). But Christ ultimately pointed to one final sign that would be evidence to all that God had sent Him; His resurrection three days after His death on the cross (Matt.12:39-40).
Paul points out why his readers should believe that this took place; it was because Peter saw Him risen from the dead, so had the other eleven apostles, James, and five hundred people on one occasion. All these testified and put their lives at risk to attest to the fact that they were witnesses of the resurrection. No religious movement rests on empirical evidence other than Biblical Christianity. If Christ had not written it would have been false; but He did rise from the dead and so it is true. It was not some conspiracy to lie; because that is nonsense. Those who witnessed the resurrection never gained anything for their story; in fact, hundreds of these saints experienced a violent death because they maintained their testimony in the resurrection. No one would willingly die an excruciating death when all they had to do to escape death was admit the lie in public. Therefore, this event is important because it roots Christianity in the realm of truth.
3. If there had been no resurrection, there would be no salvation: (vs.12-19)
Paul carefully lays out the logic that if there is no physical resurrection at all, then Christ did not rise from the dead; and if Christ did not rise from the dead, then no one has been saved from the wrath of God. Paul writes, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (vs.12-19). Paul explains in these verses that if the resurrection did not actually take place in real life, then the Gospel that the apostles were preaching (and that all Christians have preached after them) is empty. In other words, there is no substance to it at all. The same thing in regard to the faith of the saints; they have all believed in something unreal that does not actually exist. There is no Gospel, because Christ did not provide salvation. Worse yet, those who originally propagated the Gospel were simply liars of the worst kind, because they said that something happened which in fact did not happen. The result is that everyone is still in their sins; whatever they believe about Christ is meaningless in terms of eternity, and everyone who has accepted the Gospel and died is not in heaven; but simply in their graves. Paul then closes by saying that if the Gospel only gives hope for this life, it makes us pitiful because we have deceived ourselves into believing what is in the end a meaningless idea. Therefore, Christianity stands or falls on the physical resurrection of Christ.
4. It reverses the legacy of Adam: (vs.21-22)
The reality is at the Fall of Adam, he suffered spiritual death, and passed that on to all his descendants (the entire human race). Paul writes, “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (vs.21-22). The death that Adam brought into the world had to be reversed. This is accomplished in Christ who becomes the head of a new human race. As those in Adam share in his death, so those in Christ share in His defeat of death and in His eternal life. The resurrection of Christ is important because it is the only means by which a person can gain eternal life and escape death.
5. It gives spiritual purpose to our lives & difficulties: (vs.30-32)
Paul points out that the resurrection of Christ also is necessary if one intends to live a godly lifestyle in the here and now. Paul writes, “And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!’” Paul’s point is that the Christian is called to live a life of sacrifice. Paul points to his own experiences and reminds his readers that following Christ had resulted in him being in physical jeopardy all the time and that fulfilling his calling required him to die every day to his aspirations, hopes, and desires for the life he might have wanted to live in this age. How did he stay motivated? How does any believer stay motivated in light of all the hardships that must be endured by the faithful? By the certain expectation of the reward of life with God in perfect peace in eternity. But if there was no resurrection of Christ then there is no reality to that hope. In light of that there is nothing rational to sustain a life of self-denial. Therefore, if there is no resurrection of Christ we might as well live according to our passions with no concern for the outcome; because in the end everyone will be dead. So, the resurrection of Christ is important because apart from it there is nothing to sustain us and make us able to pursue holiness.
6. It gives us victory over sin and death: (vs.50-57)
The final reason the resurrection is important is because it is what gives us victory over our greatest enemies. Paul writes, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’. ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs.50-57). Paul’s point is that in order to dwell with God, we must become immortal and no longer subject to the effects of sin. Victory over the effects of the Fall are provided for us in the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection gives the believer victory over death, and because it is the culmination of Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf it secures our deliverance from sin. Therefore, the resurrection is important because apart from it no one would escape death and no one would gain entrance into God’s presence in heaven.
The idea in this chapter is that if Jesus had not risen from the dead there would be no Gospel, no salvation, and no hope. The truisms of universal sin and death would still exist; as would the truth that human righteousness, animal sacrifices, and all other religious ceremonies were insufficient to save people from their sins. The resurrection of Christ is important because apart from it is only darkness, hopelessness, and eternal damnation.