Monday, March 26, 2012

1 Corinthians 15:12-28 : What if Christ wasn’t Resurrected from the Dead ?

TEXT : 1 Corinthians  15 :12- 28
TITLE:   What if  Christ wasn’t  resurrected  from the dead?
Date :  25/03/2012

Chapter 15  was penned by Paul against the background  of   the issue  mentioned  in 15:12: “Now if  Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can  some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”  As if this  church had not had enough problems … and now  some in the church are  beginning to  assault the very person  and work of Christ. 
In this 15th  chapter the apostle  has to deal  with  something far more sinister  and dangerous  than  the awful behavior that we have seen in the church.  Here he  has to deal with false teaching  which strikes  at the  very heart of the gospel!  It is in fact  this  false thinking about the gospel  which produces this  false  “un- Christ- like “  living !  May I remind you once again ,  that   ungodliness  such as was manifested in the Corinthian church,  arises  essentially  from   false thinking about the gospel . You cannot trivialize, you cannot  take away  from the person and work of  Jesus Christ without this having far reaching effects. If we refuse to embrace  the person  and work  of Christ   as He had revealed Himself,  and as  He was preached  by the apostles  (see 1 Cor 15:1-6), then  we  cannot say  that we are His disciples. We must stand on  upon the full gospel  of Christ (15:1)  -  unreservedly ! Unashamedly! Unapologetically !  
It is the gospel  which saves us, if we hold fast to the word that is preached  to us: Christ died for our sins; He was buried; He was raised on the third day  and He appeared to many  (15:3-5). If we do not live with this  full revelation of Christ, we serve an imaginary Christ , and our lives are not lived  under His Lordship , and therefore there will be no power for godly living – and the outcome  must  therefore of necessity  be an exposure of eventually being  called  a false disciple ( cf.  Matthew 7:21-23). A biblical  Christian trusts  in  Christ  and His work ; a biblical Christian is an imitator of Christ ; a biblical Christian   loves and seeks holiness  in life , because their Christ is a holy Christ!  A biblical Christian grieves and repents  when he / she  discovers that they have sinned  against God and men, for they know that Christ died  because of sin; A biblical  Christian knows that  through Christ’s imputed righteousness alone they shall reach  their  heavenly rest .

And now  we must consider   Paul ‘s  response  to those who are in this precarious situation  - who  say  that there is  no resurrection of the dead.   In verse 12-19 , he   firstly  lists the logical consequences  of  this  denial    and in verses 20-28  he  reasserts the certainty of Christ’s  resurrection  and thereby he is able to  ensure that  the believer’s  hope in a future  resurrection remains intact ! 
    ( Vv 12-19)  

Verse 13 : “ But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.”  Paul’s first argument is this :  If  there is no resurrection , then all  talk about Christ’s  resurrection is also  meaningless.

Verse 14 :   And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. Paul’s second argument is this : “  If Christ has not been raised then  the apostle’s testimony about Christ  is  wrong . The gospel  upon which the Corinthians  had taken their stand   and  according to which they were living their lives and in which  they placed  their future hopes is meaningless . Their faith  is  in vain !  What a waste of time !

Verse 15 :  We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.  Paul’s third argument is this  : If Christ has not been raised from the dead  ( as we have preached)  then we are liars, and we are misrepresenting God !  Do you see what is at stake?

Verses 16 ,17 : For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. [17] And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Paul’s fourth argument is essentially a repletion of that which he has said before  , but with this sting in the tail: …  if Christ has not been raised  , your faith in Christ’s person and work is futile, and therefore  there can be no talk of salvation: you are still in your sins!  You are still guilty before God !   We shall see  a little later  in v.20  that  Christ’s resurrection is the guarantee  of our resurrection – and  presently  Paul  says  that  “no resurrection”  means “no salvation“ .  If you do away with the  resurrection of Christ  , then the whole work of Christ becomes futile  , and the worst is that  “we are lost in our sins” .  This is the implication of verse 18.

Verse  18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished ( Gr. apōlonto) .   The Greek “ aorist  tense” [ past punctiliar tense ]    translates  “they have perished “ – “ they are lost forever” – “they are destroyed ”  is quite final ! They are  now in eternal misery.    The doctrine of salvation  stands and falls  with the resurrection .

Verse 19 : If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. If our  life  is only about this life , then  the heart of the gospel is ripped out , for according to the promise of Christ ( e.g. John 14:1-3)  the best of our  life  is yet to be ! We were  promised  a bodily future existence  with Christ  ,  free from sin   and  in eternal fellowship  in the  wonderful  presence of God . If that all falls away ( because there is no resurrection)  , then nothing is essentially left of what we call ‘hope ‘ and ‘faith’   . Then  also we have  suffered for nothing ;  we have denied ourselves  in  many  cases  of nothing . If there is no resurrection   then the Epicurean philosophers were  right . This is the point that Paul makes  in v.32   as he quotes one of their favourite sayings  : “ Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die!” If  there is no resurrection  the best  we can do   is  to live the Epicurean motto!   And many do  this today !  They live  as if there were no tomorrow … no  resurrection … no appearing before the judgment throne of Christ…no eternal  heaven and hell . 
2.      BUT CHRIST HAS BEEN RAISED ( Vv 20 -28) 

Verse 20 : “ But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Please note that Paul here focusses on the resurrection  of the righteous. He is not focusing on the resurrection of the wicked dead  ( although the Bible speaks of this often enough).  He  is focusing on the gospel – the good news , and there   is no good news for the wicked  in eternity.  
Paul says that  Christ  is  “ the  first fruits of those that have fallen asleep”. The ‘first fruits’ of a harvest  (those that ripen first)  guarantee that the rest of the harvest is on its way. This analogy  makes the  relationship between Christ's resurrection  from the dead and our own resurrection from  the dead . Because Christ ( the first fruit)  rose  from the dead we too  shall  rise ! He is the   deposit , the down payment , the guarantee of this event  .

Verses  21 - 23:  “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.23 But each in  his own order : Christ the firstfruits , then at His coming  those who belong to Christ.”  Here comes  Paul’s profound application . He  connects  the works of Adam and of Christ respectively  ( see also Romans 5). The  representative roles for Adam and Christ are central to the Bible's understanding of  the history of the fall of mankind , and also for  our redemption.  The death of mankind  and our alienation from our Creator  began with the disobedience of  Adam. It continues  as one generation succeeds another.  In the same  way  our restoration  ( being made alive to God)  is  accomplished through   the man  Christ Jesus   ( who is called  the  last Adam in 15:45) . This  process continues  for all  those who come to Christ ( or into Christ)  and who are saved – who receive eternal life  and a future  in heaven . 

Verses 24 - 28  :Then comes the end  , when He delivers the kingdom  to  God the Father  after destroying every rule and every authority  and power…”  The  work of Christ  in the salvation of His people  will be functionally completed  at the second coming.  The work  of making  atonement for sinners was,  of course,  actually finished on the cross ; the  burial tells us that  Christ  had  truly died  ; the resurrection  tells us  that  Life is greater than death  ;  and  the resurrection of Christ is , as we have seen , the guarantee of  our resurrection . BUT WHEN SHALL THIS RESURRECTION BE   OURS ?  Paul says – at the end, when Christ  delivers the kingdom to God the Father  , and when  all his enemies  ( including death)  lie crushed beneath Christ’s feet and God will  experienced by us as  “ all in all”. This is the complete gospel – the complete Good News!


Do you understand  Paul’s teaching?   In response to  the skepticism of some  who do not believe in a resurrection,   Paul  uses  his  theology which  he  and the apostles  had  received from Christ    to show  these people  what is at stake if the resurrection  should  be a myth  !  In a nutshell, he is saying  to them :  “If the resurrection isn’t real , then you are wasting your time!  I am wasting my time “; “ Your faith is futile “ (v.17) ; “ we are of all people to be most pitied” ( v.19); If the dead are not raised , let us  eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (v.32) . Those are the implications !  Do you see what is at stake  if the resurrection is denied ? 
There are of course people who deny that  there  will  be a  future  resurrection .
We have them in the Bible: The Saducees  (Lk 20:27) ;  Hymenaeus and  Philetus who   had swerved from the truth in this regard and had upset the faith of some   (2 Tim 2:17,18) .  

We have them in history: Aristotle  (unlike his teacher Plato)  disagreed entirely with the concept of life after death. He believed that humans do have a soul,  but that it dies along with the body at death.

We have many modern  exponents of this view . Most famous of these  is  Richard Dawkins  the atheist .  He does not believe that the universe was created by God. He is also a materialist. That is, he believes there is no evidence for anything immaterial or non-physical. So, not only is there no God, there are no souls, there is no life after death. You are your body, nothing more. Professor William Provine, distinguished Professor  at Cornell University (USA )  said, “…There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.”

These are intellectual  atheists  and their views  on the resurrection are clear. What concerns us however  are not   the  intellectual atheists ,   but   the practical atheists among us .  They are  not  denying  Christ  and his  work  by writing  articles and by  delivering  speeches  against Christ  and His work.  They  simply  live without much thought . They live  as if they were   no life after death; no judgment (Hebr. 9:27); they could not care  about  heaven or hell,  or whether  there  will be a resurrection from the dead.    These are the people  who   Paul describes in  Philippians  3:18-21 : [18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. [19] Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. [20] But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, [21] who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. ( Note,  how Paul fits the resurrection  in here ).

Paul is speaking here  to a church community.  But sadly, in church communities we  find many  who effectively   hide  their unbelief   and who are never questioned by any, simply because they are ‘there’. 
Are you clear  on the gospel?   
Have you embraced Christ in His revealed totality? 

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