In the opening four verses of this chapter, the Apostle Paul reminds us that the doctrine of Christ’s resurrection from the dead is a vital part of the gospel. With that in mind, in verses 5-8 he then proceeds to offer proof that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead. In verses 12-19, the Holy Spirit develops for us and vigorously defends one of the great fundamental truths of Christian testimony; the bodily resurrection from the dead.
Hebrews 6.1,2 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ (elementary teachings about Christ), let us go on unto perfection (maturity); not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.
Apparently, there were some members of the church in Corinth who doubted or were confused about the biblical doctrine of the bodily resurrection from the dead. They no doubt were influenced by the pagan philosophies that were prevalent in Greco-Roman philosophies. That teaching went something like this. After death, the spirit lived on in another world, but as far as the body was concerned, it was laid away in the tomb, that was the end of it.
When Paul preached in Athens, their response to his message was:
Acts 17.18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.
In addition to this pagan philosophy, you recall that a very powerful religious sect called the Sadducees that did not believe in the resurrection of the body Acts 23.8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.
To counter these heretical views regarding the bodily resurrection, Paul goes on the offensive. In an effort to awaken the Corinthian believers to the importance of the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, Paul paints a dismal picture of what life would be like if there had been no resurrection.
In verses 12-19, Paul says there are six things that would be in shambles if Christ did not rise from the dead.
If there was no resurrection from the dead, then we have:
12-13 No Living Savior
14 No Living Faith
17 No Forgiveness of sin
18-19 No Hope
But then in verse 20, Paul drops the death defying, heresy destroying nuclear bomb of the gospel: But now is Christ risen from the dead.
So let’s look at those six things that would be the tragic reality if Jesus did not rise from the dead. And then lets see how the resurrection of Jesus Christ reverses and destroys all of those false conclusions.
– Verse 14: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain.” But since Christ has been raised, our preaching is not in vain.
– Verse 14: ” . . . and your faith is in vain.” But since Christ has been raised, our faith is not in vain.
– Verse 15: If Christ has not been raised, “we are found to be false witnesses, because we testified of God that He raised Christ.” But since Christ has been raised, the apostles are not false witnesses about the work of God.
– Verse 17: “If Christ has not been raised then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” But since Christ has been raised, we are not still in our sins.
– Verse 18: If Christ has not been raised, then “those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” But since Christ has been raised, the dead in Christ have not perished.
– Verse 19: If Christ has not been raised, then “we are of all men most to be pitied.” But since Christ has been raised, we are not to be pitied.
Let’s take a deeper look at each of these 6 points together.
15.12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
15.13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
Everywhere the apostles went, they preached Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the dead. On the day of Pentecost, Peter declared:
Acts 2.32 This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
Acts 4.33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
Our faith rests upon that. If Jesus is dead, then our system of belief is dead, our foundations have crumbled beneath us and we might as well go out and eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. We are here this morning because Jesus Christ rose from the dead!
Some religious sects today teach that our Lord Jesus Christ never came out of the grave in His material body. They admit His existence as a disembodied spirit, but deny His physical resurrection. That is pagan. That is not biblical. They are not talking about another Jesus, not the Jesus Christ of the Bible.
Despite the greatest efforts of the religious and secular opponents of Jesus Christ to put an end to all of this “Jesus nonsense”, they guarded the tomb to prevent His disciples from coming to steal the body.
But Jesus Christ came out of the tomb on the third day as a Living Savior in a resurrected and glorified body. The Risen Living Jesus defeated death!
Because Jesus has risen from the dead, He is a living Savior. Because Jesus is a living Savior, we can have living fellowship with Him today. Because Jesus is a living Savior we can trust Him with all of our cares and needs today.
15.14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain (is useless; amounts to nothing), and your faith is also vain (empty, imaginary, useless).
Our Preaching Is Vain – Paul tells us that if Jesus is still dead, then all the preachers have wasted their words and time proclaiming the message of the resurrection. But because Jesus has risen from the dead, our faith is a living faith in a Living Savior.
The two great components of the gospel are (1) Jesus Christ was delivered up to death because of our sins, and (2) He was raised again as the token of God the Father’s satisfaction in the work that His Son accomplished.
Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Jesus said in John 14.6 I am the way, the truth, and the life. And His bodily resurrection from the dead vindicates His claim that Jesus is The Way to The Father. Jesus is The True revelation of The Father. Jesus is The Life of The Father.
It is through The Risen, Living Jesus that we come to The Father for salvation.
John 1.12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe (adhere to, trust in, rely fully upon) on His name.
15.15 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.
We Are False Witnesses – Paul tells us that all those who spread the Christian message of salvation through the crucified and resurrected Jesus are liars if Jesus did not in fact rise from the dead.
But because Jesus is a risen, living Savior, my preaching this morning is not in vain—it is full, meaningful, valid, valuable, and significant.
15.16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
15.17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain (futile); ye are yet in your sins (under the control and power of sins).
As if things couldn’t get any worse, Paul now tells us that if Jesus isn’t alive, then we are still lost, hell bound and still in our sins this morning.
If Jesus is still dead and in the tomb, then we cannot be justified and we are still lost in sin this morning! If Jesus is dead today, then we are without a redeemer and we are all headed to Hell!
But the gospel of the grace of God is the proclamation that Jesus Christ left Heaven above, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and died on the cross to pay for the sins of the world. It doesn’t stop there! The Bible goes on to say that He rose again the third day for our justification.
Romans 4:25 Jesus was delivered for our offences (He paid the full price on the cross), and was raised again for our justification (God raised Jesus from the dead to validate our forgiveness and justify us).
Let me repeat that for you. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the proof that His death is sufficient to cover all our transgressions. His resurrection is the guarantee that all who come to The Father through Him will be justified in the sight of God forever.
15.18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
15.19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (we are to be pitied more than all men).
If it is true that there is no resurrection from the dead, then the very system of belief that we cherish so deeply is nothing more than just another religion that offers life and hope to no one.
Paul is saying that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then every child of God has wasted his/her life in living for Jesus. We have a believed a lie and are headed to Hell!
If the Bible lied about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, then you and I can believe nothing this Book tells us!
But because Jesus is a risen, living Savior, Who reigns as king forever, all our obedience, all our love, all our self-denial is not just not-to-be-pitied, but is positively enviable.
2 Corinthians 4.17,18 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Because Jesus is a risen, Living Savior, rather than cower in fear and doubt in living for Jesus Christ, Paul would end this chapter with the words.
1 Corinthians 15.55-58 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew 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 trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall 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 shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?– The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
Since this life is just a brief prelude to eternal life with Christ and ever-increasing joy with Him, he or she is no fool who is sold out for Jesus Christ. Your life of radical, risk-taking, self-sacrificial love is not to be pitied or in vain beloved.
Pity not them that live for Christ and will rise with Christ. Pity those people who live for and love this present world.
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.
Philippians 1.21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
15.20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
Paul saw the risen Lord Jesus and his life was never the same. This one time enemy of Jesus was now a follower of The Risen Jesus.
Because Jesus Christ IS The Resurrection and the life, His resurrection is the guarantee of our resurrection – that’s what “first fruits from the dead” means.
The first fruits were the first pickings of the harvest that showed that there is a harvest – this resurrection signifies the certainty of our resurrection.
Although our study this morning is referring to the future resurrection of our bodies, the gospel of Jesus Christ gives to us the promise of resurrection life now.
The bible talks about the resurrection of the just and the unjust.
Acts 24.15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
John 5.28,29 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
Jesus said that on judgment day, He will separate the sheep (just) from the goats (unjust).
The sheep will live with Him forever in glory. The goats will be separated from His presence forever in hell.
John 10.27-30 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.
If you hear His voice calling you this morning, that is His sovereign grace tugging on your heart.
Faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is connected with the new birth:
1 Peter 1.3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
I urge you to place your trust in Jesus Christ today.