We gathered together last week to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus—Resurrection Morning! Easter egg hunts and delicious Easter lunches. Easter baskets and Easter dresses, all to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We take one Sunday to celebrate the resurrection, and now we move on. We’ve met our obligation to celebrate the resurrection one Sunday a year.
Easter is a big deal. It’s a big, important Sunday.
But, if we understand the Resurrection, we would realize that every Sunday is Easter Sunday. He is as risen today as He was last week. He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! This is not a once-a-year celebration; this is an every-day-of-the-year reality.
Jaroslav Pelikan says this about the resurrection:
“If Christ is risen, nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen—nothing else matters.” -Jaroslav Pelikan
How true it is that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead changes absolutely everything. And if He wasn’t raised from the dead, that changes absolutely everything.
If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, if the tomb still held His bones, there would be nothing that differentiates Jesus from any of the leaders of other world religions.
Without the resurrection, there’s nothing to separate Jesus from Muhammed or the Buddha or Confucius or Mary Baker Eddy or Joseph Smith. Without the resurrection, Jesus is just another dead religious leader.
Without the resurrection, there is no Church. There’s no reason for us to be here this morning. Without the resurrection, “nothing else matters.”
Last Sunday as we celebrated Resurrection Morning, Paul made a compelling case for the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Kids, you should know that the resurrection of Jesus is among the most historically verifiable events in history. Don’t let anyone tell you that Jesus was not raised from the dead or the that Bible is inaccurate or just a bunch of made-up stories. What the Bible teaches is true, 100% accurate; it has been verified over and over again.
The Resurrection is a fact. It’s truth. Jesus was crucified, publicly. After He died, publicly, His body was taken down off the cross, publicly. He was placed in Joseph’s tomb, publicly. After three days, the tomb was empty—publicly empty. And Jesus appeared to the 12 disciples, publicly, and then to 500 of the brothers and sisters—this He did publicly, not in secret, not in hiding.
This was not mass hallucination. It’s history. It’s reality. Jesus rose from the dead. And so that means you and I have the hope of being similarly raised.
“The central, defining doctrine and claim of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, whom God brought forth from the dead. The resurrection of the dead refers to the promise based on the bodily resurrection of Jesus, that all believers will one day join Christ in the resurrection. Believers will be transformed, that is, renewed both morally and physically with “spiritual” bodies adapted for eternal life with God.”
Some of the Corinthians were denying, not that Jesus rose from the dead (remember: they believed this re: 1 Corinthians 15:11), but they were denying that the followers of Jesus would be raised.
Virtually all ancient pagans believed that there was no resurrection whatsoever. Some in Corinth were denying a general resurrection, likely because it made no sense within their surrounding worldview. There was no room for belief of resurrection in the culture they’d grown up in.
But Christians—Jesus’ followers, Jesus-people—have to believe in, not only His resurrection but a general resurrection.
To deny the resurrection of Jesus is to deny the Christian faith.
To deny the general resurrection of believers is to deny that Jesus was raised from the dead. And this is a problem that creates a bunch of other problems.
Paul wants the Corinthians (and us!) to imagine reality as if there was no resurrection from the dead. This is an “It’s a Wonderful Life” scenario, getting a glimpse of how life would be in an altered reality.
Paul gives us a picture of what would be true if the resurrection wasn’t. It’s grim. It’s dark and depressing. He poses the question: What if there was no resurrection?
If there was no resurrection:
Christ is not raised
Preaching is useless
Faith is in vain
God has been misrepresented
Faith is futile
We are still in our sins
The dead in Christ have perished forever
We are the most pitied
We have no hope
Our suffering is pointless
In fact, there’s no reason to do anything
In two sections (vv. 12-19 and vv. 29-34) Paul explores what the present and future look like without resurrection. Let’s read these one at a time.
If you have your Bible (and I hope you do) please turn with me to 1 Corinthians 15 (page 1,788 in the red pew Bible in front o you).
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
A Resurrectionless Present
A Resurrectionless Present
Some of the Corinthians have been saying “there is no resurrection of the dead.”
Paul questions, “Uh…how can you say that? Are you sure you want to say that?” And then Paul proposes a list of consequences of a resurrectionless present.
The biggest problem with asserting that there is no resurrection of the dead is that it means Jesus wouldn’t have been raised.
Paul has, as we saw last week in the first verses of 1 Corinthians 15, set forth the case for the resurrected Jesus—that He has indeed been raised from the dead and appeared to at least 512 of His followers after His resurrection.
Some have supposed that to say “Jesus was raised from the dead” was simply a fancy first-century way of saying, “God’s cause continues!” or “I still regard jesus as my leader and teacher.” But that’s not it at all; that’s not the extent of it.
If there’s no resurrection of the dead, there’s no resurrection of Jesus, and if Jesus isn’t raised, we lose everything else. It’s only the resurrection that makes the crucifixion appear anything other than a horrible end for another failed messiah.
Without a risen Christ, a resurrectionless present is grim and pointless.
If there is no resurrection, Paul says next, that both preaching and faith are useless.
Christian preaching and Christian faith are only as valid and as credible as the resurrection message on which they are founded.
Without the resurrection, as this verse highlights using the word twice, both preaching and faith are useless. This is the same word used in verse 10 translated there as without effect.
If the present is resurrectionless, preaching and faith are both without effect. They have no use. They accomplish nothing. They do nothing. They are dead.
If there is no resurrection, Paul and anyone else who has preached and/or testified are false witnesses.
If there is no resurrection, if Jesus hasn’t been raised, than anyone who preached or taught or shared that He was would be false teachers and would therefore be under God’s judgment. To give false witness is an offense against the law of God (the 9th Commandment—do not bear false witness).
5 A false witness will not go unpunished, and whoever pours out lies will not go free.
God-fearing people, like Paul and the other apostles, wouldn’t willingly give false testimony about God. It’s pretty serious: if there is no resurrection than any and all who have said Jesus was raised from the dead would be telling lies about God.
If there is no resurrection, faith is futile and [we] are still in [our] sins.
If the present is resurrectionless, God must judge and condemn us for our sins.
In verse 3, Paul says: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, but if God had not vindicated Jesus, if God had not shown Jesus’ sacrifice to be sufficient by raising Him from the dead, if Jesus’ death wasn’t enough and He wasn’t raised, there would be no reason to believe that our sins had been dealt with.
The Corinthians (and us) would be excluded from citizenship among God’s people.
If faith were futile, believers would still be in their sins—guilty of them and still standing under divine judgment for them.
If the present is resurrectionless, the dead in Christ are lost and we are to be pitied more than all others.
If there is no resurrection, those who die are just…dead. There is nothing after death or, at best, there’s merely some sort of pagan, disembodied afterlife.
Paul says simply, sadly, solemnly the dead in Christ are lost.
It’s true that those who belong to God in Christ are immediately with the Lord after their death, prior to a bodily resurrection—to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). But the believers’ eternal existence is an embodied existence.
Without the resurrection, if the Christian faith is based on an empty gospel and a fraud of a savior, “anybody is better off than the Christian”; any expectation of life beyond death evaporates
This present life without the resurrection of the dead is a sad, depressing thought. A resurrectionless future is no better. Skip down with me verse 29:
29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 34 Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.
A Resurrectionless Future
A Resurrectionless Future
Bottom line: without a resurrection, there is no future. There is nothing to hope for, no reason to live; there’s nothing beyond this life, and so what we suffer for Christ’s sake—if there is no resurrection—is just suffering for suffering’s sake. And that’s crazy.
Paul picks up the scenario of a resurrectionless existence and writes what is possibly the single-most confusing verse in all the Bible (certainly the most confusing verse in 1 Corinthians). Verse 29 is plain weird.
It seems to be referring to the practice where a person could get baptized on behalf of another person, even baptized for them if they had died (Mormons practice something like this).
Paul simply reports this without approving of it or commanding it. He absolutely doesn’t approve of it or come anywhere close to calling people to do this. In fact, this has no Biblical basis whatsoever. The Bible gives no idea that anyone can be saved apart from personal faith in Christ. No one can or will be saved apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ.
Baptism doesn’t save anyone; it never has and it never will. So you could go ahead and get baptized on behalf anyone you’d like, it just won’t do anything for them. And you’ll look kinda crazy doing it.
This verse represents a completely whack-a-doodle belief and one that Paul doesn’t even take the time to really engage.
What Paul does say is that without a resurrection, surrogate baptism, baptism by proxy is absolutely useless, pointless. If the Corinthians happened to believe something like that, they’d have to believe in a resurrection for it to make any difference.
Without the resurrection, the struggles of this life, the trouble Paul went through for Christ’s sake makes little to no sense.
Why go through all the trouble if there’s nothing beyond this life? Why suffer if there’s nothing to compensate for suffering? Why endanger oneself every hour or die every day if there’s nothing on the other side of this life?
Without the resurrection, the future is nothing. There is no future to look forward to.
We might as well shrug our shoulders and say, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
There’s nothing else to do. There’s nothing worth living for. We might as well ‘yuck it up’ and have a grand ol’ time here and now. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” And why not? What motivation do we have to behave otherwise? “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
You’ve no doubt met people who live as if there’s nothing to live for, those who “party like there’s no tomorrow”?
Some of might have in the back of your heads a similar thought…that you get to do whatever makes you feel good, just follow your heart, believe in yourself, “You do you, man.”
“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
A resurrectionless future allows for any kind of behavior.
Paul worries that those who deny the resurrection of the dead would corrupt sincere Corinthian believers. And so he quotes a well-known proverb: Bad company corrupts good character.
He wants the Corinthians to be careful who they let influence them, be careful who they’re listening to and for them to come back to their senses and stop sinning.
To believe in a resurrectionless present or future is to be ignorant of God; Paul shames the Corinthians for ever even entertaining the idea that there was no resurrection (as some of them must have believed).
In between these two sections exploring what a resurrectionless present and future would look like, Paul sticks a corrective, a reality check; here’s the Good News:
20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!”
We do not live in a resurrectionless present and there will not be a resurrectionless future. Resurrectionlessness is not our situation!
Christ is risen! Preaching and faith are useful! We are no longer in our sins; Jesus has paid the price once and for all! Because of the resurrection, the dead in Christ live! We are not to be pitied, for we have hope—hope in this life and hope of life after this life, hope that gives meaning to our suffering and meaning to this life.
Christians are not in a pitiable situation but a desirable and enviable one; they are not lost but saved; they are not in their sins but forgiven and justified; finally, they do not merely have hope for this life, but look forward to the eternal glory that will accompany their resurrection from the dead.
Because of what Christ has done and because of what God has planned, resurrectionless isn’t even a word. We live in light of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and we believe in the resurrection of the dead.
Resurrection isn’t the immediate future for those who die; it’s what happens at the moment when Jesus reappears as King. At that final moment, death itself will be conquered and the souls of those who have died will be reunited with their resurrected, restored bodies in His Kingdom.
We live because of the promise of the resurrection and we will live resurrected lives in resurrected bodies with our resurrected Lord. This is our great hope. And our great task springs from this:
15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
Live in light of Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of our own resurrection. Live in the light of it, and tell others the Good News that Jesus is raised from the dead, and in Him, so too shall we!