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 !
1. THE LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES OF DENYING THE RESURRECTION
( 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.  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 18: Then 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!
SUMMARY AND APPLICATION
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 :  For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  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?