1 Corinthians 15:3-8; 12-19; 20-24; 50-58
Easter Morning 3/27/05
Matthew 28:1-10 1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. 2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. 3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; 4 and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. 6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. 7 “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” 8 And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus *said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me.” NASB
Even though the Resurrection is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, there has always been much mystery and confusion surrounding this most crucial event. This morning we will look at this essential doctrine in order to remind ourselves of the meaning, reality and significance of the Resurrection of Christ.
The validity of the Gospel – all that we believe about Jesus – lies in the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the resurrection that validates who Jesus was and that what he claimed about Himself was true. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is the pivot point on which the whole of the Gospel of Christ stands or falls.
Without the resurrection there is no Messiah, no salvation and no point to Christianity. Without the resurrection Christianity is nothing more than another human fabrication and can not be distinguished from Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism or any other philosophy of human origin. All religions and philosophies have their dead heroes and martyrs, but only Christianity has a proven risen Lord.
Praise God, there was a bodily resurrection of Christ. And it validates all of Christ’s claims and provides the basis for our hope, and is why we are here today celebrating and commemorating the most significant of all the events of redemptive history—the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As we consider the Resurrection of Christ we will be looking at 1 Corinthians 15 which provides the most extensive and detailed treatment of the resurrection found in Scripture.
Chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians is the classic Scriptural treatment of the resurrection and is the single greatest exposition and explanation of the meaning and implications of the Bodily Resurrection of Christ.
As we discuss Paul’s treatment of the resurrection, I want us to note 3 things: The Historical Certainty of the Resurrection; The Heresy Paul Confronted concerning the Resurrection; and the glorious Hope Confirmed by the Resurrection. Note first the Historical Certainty of the Resurrection in verses 3-8 of 1 Corinthians 15.
The Historical Certainty
1 Corinthians 15:3-8 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
In these verses Paul establishes the historical certainty of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. He first declares this certainty, and then demonstrates it. First note:
The Declaration (vv. 3-4)
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Notice first that Paul states that the gospel did not originate with him but was received by him. He says, “I delivered to you what I also received.” Paul’s gospel was not of human origin but carried divine authorship and authority as he put it in Galatians 1:11-12, “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but [I received it] through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” Paul’s gospel was the gospel he received by direct revelation from the risen Christ.
And then note that Paul states that with regard to this gospel, which he had received and then delivered and preached to the Corinthians, that preeminent to everything else is the fact that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose on the third day. This is the Gospel in a nutshell. Note:
That Christ died for our sins is the doctrinal summary of the substitutionary atonement of Christ for believers. (Expound — he died for our sins – and note that the atonement was completed on the cross).
That He was buried, and rose on the third day, validates the atonement in that it speaks of a true death – a body went into the grave – and a true physical resurrection – a body came out of the grave – there was no disensouled body in the grave, the tomb was empty. The resurrection validated the atonement and secured and proved Christ’s victory over death.
So Paul, in these verses, declares that the resurrection is a certainty and is central to the Gospel. And then note how he demonstrates the historical certainty of the resurrection in verses 5-8.
The Demonstration (vv. 5-8)
1 Corinthians 15:5-8 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.
The most reliable testimony in any court case is eyewitness testimony. In these verses Paul appeals to eyewitnesses as evidence of the historical certainty and reality of the resurrection of Christ.
Paul says that Jesus appeared in His resurrected state to over 500 different people. The Lord has used the compelling nature of this evidence to change the mind and lives of many skeptics. One such skeptic was Dr. Frank Morrison.
Dr. Frank Morrison was an English journalist and rationalist. As a rationalist he had come to the opinion that the resurrection was nothing more than a fairy tale with a happy ending. He felt that he owed it to himself and others to write a book that would present the truth about Jesus and dispel the myth of the resurrection. Upon thoroughly researching the matter, however, he was forced by reason to a different conclusion. The sheer weight of the evidence compelled him to conclude that Jesus actually did rise from the dead. Morrison wrote his book, but not the one he planned. It is titled, Who Moved the Stone. Significantly, the first chapter of the book is titled, “The Book Which Refused to be Written.”
This is just one of many such skeptics who, upon researching the historical evidence, has come to the conclusion that the resurrection of Christ was indeed a reality.
Paul marshals this kind of conclusive evidence here in these verses by appealing to eye witness accounts of the resurrection. Note these occurrences.
He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve — Expound — these men gave their lives for their belief, doubtful they would have done this for a farce.
After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep — Expound — again, many of these people gave their lives or suffered persecution for their belief.
then He appeared to James (the brother of Jesus) [a skeptic] — Expound — James was a skeptic until the resurrection. John 7:5 For not even His brothers were believing in Him. But after the resurrection James believed. He wouldn’t have changed his mind if the resurrection was a farce.
then to all the apostles – Expound –this refers to His last appearance at the ascension.
and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me [Expound-Paul the enemy] also – Expound (this marked the last of all Jesus’ resurrection appearances. It was to these eyewitnesses that God entrusted with the revelation of Scripture).
The evidence concerning the historical certainty of the resurrection is absolutely compelling. Yet even in the face of all the evidence there is still skepticism and false teaching concerning the resurrection.
An example in our day are the liberal theologians, such as the “Jesus Seminar”, which tout outright heresy by denying the miracles of the Bible including the resurrection. (Explain).
But even in Paul’s day, so close to the historical event and evidence, there was heretical teaching concerning the resurrection. Note the Heresy Confronted by Paul in verses 12-19.
The Heresy Confronted
1 Corinthians 15:12-19 12 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? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found [to be] false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
In these verses Paul confronts, and logically destroys, a false teaching that was running through the Corinthian church which denied the bodily resurrection of Christ and of the dead. We will note Paul’s Indictment, and then the Implications of this dangerous heresy. First note:
The Indictment (vv. 12-13)
1 Corinthians 15:12-13 12 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? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised;
In these verses Paul indicts the Corinthian false teachers for the heresy they are teaching. In verse 12 the error is identified and in verse 13 the implications of the error are exposed.
Verse 12 shows us the nature of the Corinthian error. Namely, that they denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. 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? – Expound – they did not deny the resurrection totally, but believed in a spiritual rather than a bodily resurrection. (Note roots in Greek dualism).
This dualistic view is a truncated or incomplete view of the resurrection, for God created Adam with body and soul as a complete unified human being. In Christ, both soul and body are resurrected. At our resurrection our bodies will be changed, but our bodies will be resurrected. Christ rose physically from the dead, as Paul demonstrated in verses 5-8 with his list of eyewitnesses, and, it is also demonstrated by virtue of the fact that the tomb was empty. There was not a soulless body laying there, the tomb was empty.
Verse 13 then goes on to expose the full implication of the Corinthian error. That is, if there is no bodily resurrection of the dead then Christ also did not rise. But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; – If God raises the soul only and not the body, then, Paul argues, Christ also has not been raised, that is, His body is still in the grave. And if we do not have a risen savior we do not have any savior. Death has not been defeated, the victory has not been won.
Any notion that separates the human from the divine in Jesus Christ, either at His death or at His resurrection, destroys Christ as savior. To be savior, to effect our redemption, Christ had to be both human and divine.
With Regard to: Christ’s death, He had to be human because a man had sinned so a man had to die for that sin. He had to be divine because only in the power and holiness of the divine could the perfect life demanded for our justification be lived and surrendered in our behalf.
With Regard to: Christ’s resurrection, He had to be human because man was sentenced to death and a man needed to defeat death. He had to be divine because only in the power of the divine was such victory possible.
The Resurrection is the proof of the deity of Christ and gives validity to everything that Jesus the man claimed about Himself. This is why the resurrection is the pivotal point on which all of Christianity stands or falls.
If there is no bodily resurrection of Christ, then there is no God-man who died for us, and thus the gospel is pointless. This fact is brought out fully as Paul discusses the Implications of the Corinthian heresy in verses 14-19.
The Implications (vv. 14-19)
In verses 14-19, Paul uses indisputable, divinely inspired logic to show the full implications of the error which claims that there is no bodily resurrection from the dead.
In short, Paul says, if there is no bodily resurrection then Christ did not rise, if Christ did not rise then the gospel is a sham and our faith is worthless. Note Paul’s argument:
14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found [to be] false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.
Paul here shows that the first implication if Christ has not been raised, is that our faith and preaching are vain, false and worthless. And, we even prove ourselves to be ministers of wickedness in that we are false witnesses of God claiming God did and said things which never really occurred. Paul continues his argument in:
16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;
If there is no resurrection, not only are we shown to be vain and false, but Christ also is a false savior. If He didn’t rise from the dead then He was not who He said He was and He did not do what He said He would do. He is just another dead prophet who offers nothing more than any other dead prophet who is still in his tomb. Paul continues in:
17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
Here is the saddest implication of all. If there is no resurrection then we have a completely false hope and are to be pitied rather than admired. As Paul states it in verse 32 of this chapter, “If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
We must understand that the resurrection is the whole basis and foundation of our hope. Without it, there is no hope and we truly are of all men most to be pitied because we have foregone many of the temporal pleasures of this life for a heavenly reward which will never be realized if indeed there is no resurrection. (Expound – any philosophy which denies life after death can only inspire hopelessness).
But praise be to God there is a bodily resurrection, Christ did physically rise from the grave, and so our faith and hope and preaching are not in vain which is the whole point Paul is making in this chapter. In this chapter Paul shows us that our:
Hope [is indeed] Confirmed
In the remainder of chapter 15 Paul describes, defines and confirms the reality of the bodily resurrection of the dead. He confirms that our hope is justified because indeed Christ did rise physically from the dead and this is the surety that we also will have a bodily resurrection. Note Paul’s Proclamation of the fact of the resurrection in verses 20-24.
The Proclamation (vv. 20-24)
1 Corinthians 15:20-24 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man [came] death, by a man also [came] the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, 24 then [comes] the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
(Expound verses—Bodily resurrection of Christ [the man], basis for our hope and reverses what we lost in Adam's fall).
After asserting the fact of the resurrection here in verses 20-24, Paul then provides details concerning the nature of the resurrection in verses 25-49 which we won’t have time to cover. But I do want us to note the Explanation of the Resurrection which Paul provides in verses 50-53.
The Explanation (vv. 50-53)
1 Corinthians 15:50-53 50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
In these verses Paul explains that to inherit the kingdom of God we must all be changed. That is, the perishable must put on the imperishable. That is what takes place at the resurrection – we get new bodies – immortal bodies. (Expound – our bodies like Christ’s are raised but they are changed).
Paul then moves in verses 54-57 to show us the ramification of the resurrection.
The Ramification (vv. 54-57)
1 Corinthians 15:54-57 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is the Hallelujah chorus of the gospel. This is our victory song. The hope of our salvation is eternal life. These verses show that this is indeed the outcome of our faith. Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
So the outcome of our faith is eternal life. The hope of our salvation is a new body living eternally in a new heaven and a new earth. And based on the exceeding greatness of this hope, Paul closes this great chapter with the Exhortation we see in v.58.
The Exhortation (v. 58)
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not [in] vain in the Lord.
What should our response be to the great truth of the resurrection? In this verse Paul tells us — be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not [in] vain in the Lord.
Those in the faith are challenged to remain faithful, committed and encouraged. Our eternal hope should motivate us to righteousness and Christian ministry. (Expound).
Those outside the faith are invited by the hope of the resurrection to trust Christ as savior and partake in the blessings of eternal salvation. (Expound). John 6:40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."