The truth never loses its power. People, however, often lose their grip on truth. The struggles in the Corinthian church made it clear to Paul that they needed to refocus their attention on the gospel.
The resurrection of Christ is not just a matter of fact, which can be taken lightly–it is literally a matter of eternal life or death. The resurrection is not simply a fact to be believed or rejected, it is a fact to which our response will determine our eternal destiny.
Unlike most of 1 Corinthians, chapter 15 is devoted entirely to doctrine, and to a single doctrine at that. In these 58 verses Paul gives the most extensive treatment of the resurrection in all of Scripture.
Just as the heart pumps life-giving blood to every part of the body, so the truth of the resurrection gives life to every other area of gospel truth. The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns and without which none of the other truths would much matter.
It is of great importance to remember that the Corinthians were denying not the Resurrection of Jesus Christ but the resurrection of the body.
Without the resurrection, Christianity would be so much wishful thinking, taking its place alongside all other human philosophy and religious speculation.
The resurrection was the focal point of every other truth Christ taught. He taught His disciples that “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:31).
He said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies” (John 11:25).
The first two sermons preached after Pentecost focused on the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:14–36; 3:12–26).
Because of that truth the heart-broken followers of the crucified Rabbi were turned into the courageous witnesses and martyrs who, in a few years, spread the gospel across the Roman empire and beyond. Belief in the resurrection, the truth that this life is only a prelude to the life to come for those who trust in Jesus Christ and are baptized into Christ, could not be obliterated by ridicule, prison, torture, or even death. No fear or dread in this life can quench the hope and joy of an assured life to come.
True New Testament Christianity is a religion of the resurrection. John Locke, the 18th-century British philosopher, said, “Our Savior’s resurrection is truly of great importance in Christianity, so great that His being or not being the Messiah stands or falls with it.”
Because it is the cornerstone of the gospel, the resurrection has been the target of Satan’s greatest attacks against the church. If the resurrection is eliminated, the life-giving power of the gospel is eliminated, the deity of Christ is eliminated, salvation from sin is eliminated, and eternal life is eliminated.
“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). If Christ did not live past the grave, those who trust in Him surely cannot hope to do so.
Without the resurrection salvation could not have been provided, and without belief in the resurrection salvation cannot be received. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved” (Rom. 10:9). It is not possible, therefore, to be a Christian and not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Proof #1—their salvation (vv. 1-2).
Proof #2—the Old Testament Scriptures (vv. 3-4).
Proof #3—Christ was seen by witnesses (vv. 5-11).
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
When your leader dies, what do you do? When Jesus died the hopes of eleven men were shattered. The disciples like many others had hoped for a kingdom. The disciples expected Jesus to establish that kingdom.
They had argued over who would have the highest station in the kingdom (Matthew 18:1). Asked “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” The mother of two of the disciples had tried to influence Jesus to give her sons places of preference in the coming kingdom (Mark 10:37 and Matthew 20:21).
The disciples of Jesus, like their fellow Jews, were looking for an earthly kingdom. That kingdom would be brought about by a messiah. The disciples and many others thought that that Jesus was that messiah.
The disciples’ hope for a kingdom was shattered. Jesus, the man they thought was the messiah, was dead. Jesus had been crucified as a criminal. Peter followed at a distance to see what would happen to Jesus (Luke 22:54f).
Jesus had told the disciples about his death. The apostle Paul later wrote, “…but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews….” (I Corinthians 1:23)
In a little over a month a great change took place. The disciples began to declare a new message in Jerusalem. The disciples, who had given up hope and hid in fear, now boldly proclaimed that Jesus was indeed the messiah (Acts 2:36). “Therefore let all the house of Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
They proclaimed that the death of Jesus had been in the will and plan of God even though it was an inexcusable murder (Acts 2:23).
Their conduct and their attitude toward Jesus had been radically changed. Was it the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost? Important to the birth of the church – very important. Not the only changing element in the disciples.
The disciples were changed from a terrified, hopeless band of men to the bold preachers of Jesus the messiah and savior.
- In the Gospels we read of the event that transformed the disciples: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
- The dead teacher had become the risen, living savior.
THE STORY OF THE RESURRECTION
Jesus was buried just before the Sabbath began. The women go to the tomb on the first day of the week. Mary Magdalene
Mary, mother of James and Salome. They brought spices to anoint the body. They wondered who would move the stone for them. Luke says, “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” (24:2)
Matthew states that a great earthquake had occurred. An angel of the Lord rolled the stone away. The guards were frightened.
The women found the tomb empty. The angels told them that Jesus had arisen from the dead. The women brought the news of what they had seen to the eleven disciples. The disciples did not believe the women.
Peter and John go to the tomb (John 20:1-9) John outran Peter, stopped at the tomb’s entrance, and looked inside, seeing the linen cloths. Peter entered the tomb. The linens were neatly arranged.
Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene. Jesus asked her why she was crying (20:15). She thought he was the gardener. Wanted to know where the body of Jesus had been taken Jesus called her by name: “Mary” (20:16). Mary recognized Jesus and said, “teacher”. Mary told the disciples what had happened.
Jesus appears to ten of the disciples.
- Jesus appeared to his disciples, except for Thomas. At first, they were frightened. The disciples were glad when they realized that Jesus was alive. “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). Jesus appears to Thomas and the other disciples. Thomas was not about to believe that Jesus was alive. Jesus appeared again when Thomas was present.
- Jesus made other appearances. John 21:1-24 – to seven disciples by the Sea of Galilee
- Jesus appeared to the eleven on a mountain in Galilee. Jesus made a final appearance to his disciples and then ascended into heaven. This event would change the world.
THE CERTAINTY OF THE RESURRECTION
Many find the idea of the resurrection hard to accept. The disciples were hard to convince. Many modern people, including some Bible scholars, consider the resurrection of Christ to be impossible.
The resurrection had to occur. God, the creator, made the “laws of nature”. He can also break them. If the resurrection did not occur the rest of the story does not make sense. Just because we have not seen a man raised from the dead does not mean it could not happen. We are confronted with an empty tomb. How can we explain it?
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RESURRECTION
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the central event in Christianity. Early preaching centered on the fact of the resurrection. Jesus had been raised. Jesus was exalted to God’s right hand in heaven. If Jesus was not raised our faith is worthless, we are in sin, and the dead have perished. Jesus must have arisen from the dead or we are without hope
Leon Barnes – “As powerful as the cross of Christ is, it would have no power had Jesus remained in the tomb. The act which validated His death was the resurrection (Romans 1:4). The resurrection of Christ is central to the gospel itself. There would be no good news without the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).”
- F. Bruce – “The crucifixion and the resurrection are necessary to each other. There can be no gospel without both, for neither is meaningful without the other.”
- J. Hoover has well written: The Resurrection isn’t just a pretty optional extra of Christian theology, invented by some Pollyanna theologian to give a happy ending to the tragic death of Jesus. No! The Resurrection is the linchpin of our complete system. Remove it and the whole structure of Christianity collapses. . .. If the cross was the last thing we knew about Jesus we would judge him a failure. His death would have justified the Sanhedrin in executing him for blasphemy.” (A. J. Hoover, The Case for Christian Theism (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1976), 227.)
Professor C. E. M. Joad, the noted philosopher of London University, was asked which one of all the figures of history he would most like to meet, and what he would most like to ask that person. He replied that he would most like to meet Jesus. The question he would most like to ask was what he described as “the most important question in the world”: “Did You or did You not rise from the dead?” (Quoted in Michael Green, The Day Death Died (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1982), 15. – Tommy South)
CONCLUSION. I Corinthians 15:20 – “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
“Jesus is well and alive today. He makes his home in my heart. Nevermore, will I be alone, since he promised me that we never would part.”
Jesus lived and died. Jesus arose from the dead to die no more. Paul Harvey – “And that’s the rest of the story.”