Faithlife Sermons

If Christ has not been raised, then you are still in your sins

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Introduction

The Resurrection of the Dead

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? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 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. 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 futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 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. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

At this time of the year we take time in a very purposeful way to remember, reflect upon and celebrate our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. And as we’ll see here shortly, we emphasize and remember his bodily resurrection for good reason. It’s not a doctrine, or teaching, that we ought to take lightly. It isn’t a doctrine that’s of secondary or tertiary importance, it’s absolutely central to the Christian faith - in fact, without it we have no Christian faith. Which is precisely what Paul makes clear for us here in 1 Corinthians chapter 15.

Letters to the church in Corinth

But before we walk through Paul’s word’s I want us to take a step back and consider the historical setting in which this letter was written. Of the 27 NT books that we have in our Bibles at least 13 of them were written by the Apostle Paul, and two of those 13 were written to the church in Corinth. There’s actually evidence that Paul wrote at least three letters to the church in Corinth, but only two of those letters have survived, which we call 1st and 2nd Corinthians. The third letter would have been sent before these two letters, and like it the two letters that we have preserved for us today we see Paul using them to teach, encourage, exhort and rebuke the Corinthian church, with his ultimate aim to correct them, and to strengthen them in their faith, for their good.
and in it Paul says that he exhorted the Corinthians to separate themselves from believers who were practicing sexual immorality (5:9).
In the two letters we have preserved for us today we see Paul using these opportunities to teach, encourage, exhort and rebuke the Corinthian church, with the ultimately aim to strengthen them and .
And this explains why we see these letters, especially 1 Corinthians, being very topical. What I mean is that Paul addresses a whole range of topics throughout his letters. Here in 1 Corinthians he addresses things like divisions in the church, moral and ethical problems such as incest and sexual immorality, issues on marriage and divorce, issues of foods being offered to idols, spiritual gifts, worship, and the resurrection from the dead.
Paul writes to the church in Corinth concerning these issues because they were problems that particularly plagued the church in that city. And so when we pickup here in chapter 15 we’re jumping into one of those issues that Paul is addressing. In this case chapter 15 is completely dedicated to an issue concerning our resurrection - the future resurrection of God’s people. And while we won’t cover everything that Paul says here we’re going to try to at least get at the heart of what he says.

Denying a bodily resurrection

So we read there in verse 12,

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?

So the problem that Paul is addressing is that some of those within the Corinthian church were denying the teaching that believers would be, like Christ, one day resurrected from the dead. Now it doesn’t say that these individuals were necessarily denying Jesus’ personal resurrection from the dead, but that they were, at least, denying a future resurrection of God’s people, but as we’ll see Paul still finds this incredibly problematic, that this, in fact, ultimately destroys the Gospel itself.

Historical context

But before we continue with Paul’s argument I want to have a quick look at some of the historical context to give us an understanding of the prevailing worldviews that would have been at odds with the Christian faith at that time. It’s important for us to realize that Corinth was a Greek city that had been overtaken by the Roman Empire some 2 centuries before and had only recently been rebuilt by the Romans. It had a population of approximately 100,000 making it one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. It was a port city strategically located on the southern side of Greece and was known to be a relatively wealthy city. This was a predominately Gentile city, however, we are told that there were Jewish Christians within the church as well.

Unbiblical worldviews

And the historical context gives us some insight into why the teaching of bodily resurrection, particularly within the Corinthian church, would have faced such opposition.
And the prevailing worldviews at this point, and specifically in this area, would have clashed with with Christianity. In this specific case there would have been a significant contrast between traditional beliefs of the afterlife and Christianity’s teaching on the subject of resurrection. For instance, many devalued the material reality (and by extension the physical human body) and asserted that any kind of life after death could not possibly include the mixing of the material and immaterial again. While Jesus and his followers taught that the Gospel promised not only life after death but a future resurrection. While the prevailing pagan ideas devalued the material universe the Scripture’s taught that the universe would be restored to perfection along with the bodily resurrection of Jesus’ followers.
So it’s likely that this kind of Platonic thinking would have exerted influence over those within the church of Corinth. Now, in one sense it’s no different than the church today in its varying contexts. A great deal of energy for the Christian is spent (or at least it ought to be) identifying and rejecting all of the pagan influences of the surrounding cultures and religions. In fact, it can be tremendously difficult for us to see those unbiblical influences when we grow up with them, often believing that certain ways of thinking are are normal when in fact they’re contrary to the teaching of Scripture. So in like manner the church in Corinth was plagued by the unbiblical ideologies of its own time, and Paul here is seeking to bring correction and clarity for those in Corinth. And as he does it he’s going to demonstrate to them the grave consequences of embracing an unbiblical teaching, specifically, on resurrection.

Linking Christ’s resurrection to ours

So, with that said, let’s jump back into verse 12,

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?

Now, right out of the gate, Paul is linking two things. He links the bodily resurrection of Jesus to the future bodily resurrection of the believer. This is vital to understanding the rest of this text, and to seeing the importance of Christ’s resurrection to the Gospel. Paul goes on there in verses 13-14,

13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

So here’s Paul’s logic, if Christ is risen, then we will we also will rise, if Christ is not risen, then we will not rise. Or to put it another way, if we rise, then Christ is risen, if we do not rise, then Christ has not risen. What Paul is saying is that Christ’s resurrection is the foundation for ours, and if there is no future resurrection then not even Christ has been raised.
This why Paul said back in verse 12, “if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” In other words, if these two events are linked and depend upon one another then how can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead? If you deny the one you, knowingly, or unknowingly, deny the other.

Misrepresenting God

The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
In facts, Paul goes on in verse 15 to say that,

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. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.

So Paul says that this even destroys our proclamation of the Gospel. If the dead are not raise, then Christ is not raised, and if Christ is not raised then what is it that we’re preaching? What is it that we’re proclaiming if Christ is not risen? If Christ was not risen then he was a liar. If Christ was not risen, then he did not conquer death. If Christ did not conquer death then what’s the good news?

Lest you remain in your sin

The consequences of denying our own bodily resurrection unravels the entirety of the Gospel. And so Paul demonstrates this in verses 17-19 by saying,

17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

This is why church creedal statements, for instance, have been so valuable to the church over the centuries because they distil the vital truths of the Gospel found in the Scriptures, and help us to remember what we must uphold, what we must believe, lest the Gospel come unraveled, lest our proclamation become empty, lest the good news be lost.

Apostle’s Creed

My children have recently been learning the Apostle’s Creed at home, and the men have been studying it during small group, and in that creed we read near the end,
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”
the holy catholic Church,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the forgiveness of sins,
The church, very early on realized, they understood, likely because of Paul’s very words here to Corinthian church the necessity to affirm the resurrection, and not only the resurrection of Christ but also the future resurrection of his people.

We are of all people most to be pitied

Paul also says that we are of all the people in the world most to be pitied if our hope of salvation remains only in this life. If there is no hope of a future resurrection, then what kind of hope is that? What more do we have to look forward to than the wicked who will also likewise perish?
the resurrection of the body,
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.”

How Jesus’ resurrection is connected to ours

Paul then goes on there verse 20 to show us how Jesus’ resurrection is connected to our own. Read with me there in verse 20,

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

and the life everlasting. Amen.”
and the life everlasting. Amen.”
So if we agree that Christ has been raised, bodily, from the dead then this is a sure sign to us that we also will one day be raised with him. The surety of our own salvation is found in the historical, bodily resurrection of our Lord. He is, as Paul says, the firstfruits of what is to come. Christ’s own resurrection guarantees the salvation of all those who believe in him and turn from their sin. While in this life we will have tribulation we can take comfort that on Judgement Day we will be raised with Christ, that death will be fully and finally defeated.

Adam vs. Christ

In verses 21-22 Paul also gives us a vivid picture of what salvation looks like, as he compares Adam to Christ. That because of Adam death entered the world, but by Christ comes the resurrection of the dead. While in Adam all men die, all those who are in Christ shall be made alive. If death is not overturned then what has Christ saved us from? What has Christ kept us from, if not the grave? The good news of the Gospel is that we are saved from the consequences of our sin. Christ bore the consequences and penalty of our sin and rose victoriously from the grave, that we too, one day, might also do the same.

Closing

Then we read there in verse 23,

23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

If you read Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians you’ll see him comfort the church with the promise of a future resurrection. Within Thessalonica many of the believers had become concerned with what would become of those who had died, or those who had already fallen asleep, and Paul says to them that,
Christ’s mission to save a people for himself necessitates the destruction of this last enemy - death. Oh, how important is Christ’s resurrection, that we too might be raised to new life, that death might be defeated, that the curse might be lifted. Today we rejoice in our Lord’s resurrection from the dead, and we take great comfort that on Judgement Day we also will rise with him, that our faith is not in vain, and that our sins were in fact atoned for.

Prayer

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