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Christ's Resurrection, A Foundation of Our Faith - 1 Corinthians 15a

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1 Corinthians 15:1-23

Stephen Caswell © 2000

"He's Dead Now, but He'll Be Back." -- Robert Russell

A Church held their annual Easter pageant. A 5 year-old boy was enthralled with the drama. When the crucifixion scene took place, he got real quiet. But then Jesus came back from the grave and there was a song of celebration and his eyes lit up. He looked at his mother and said, "He's alive, Mom. He's alive!" and began to clap. And he hugged her around the neck. It was fun to see somebody understand the resurrection for the first time. A youth minister from a near by church heard of this and related his own experience. He said, I want to tell you what happened in our church. We showed an animated video of the crucifixion and resurrection to our kindergarten students. When Jesus was buried, one little boy who knew the story pretty well turned to his buddy and said, He's dead now, but he'll be back.


The Old Testament prophets foretold Christ's resurrection. Jesus Himself said that He would rise the third day. The resurrection was God crowning His Son for His work of salvation. In the Christian Church today great emphasis is made upon the crucifixion of Christ, yet little is said of His resurrection. But to separate the resurrection from the crucifixion is to deny the cross it's victory and power. The Corinthian Church was saved out of Greek philosophy and mysticism. The Greeks didn't believe in the resurrection of the body. This error had crept into the Church at Corinth. So Paul wrote to the Corinthians more on this subject than to any other Church. Tonight's passage on the resurrection can be divided into 3 main parts.     

I.  The Proof   II. The Problem  III. The Promise

I.  The Proof - We Preach Christ's Resurrection 

a. God's Word


1. New Testament Proclaimed

1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.


Paul reminded them of the Gospel that he had previously preached to them. What was the outcome of the message? They were gloriously saved. They heard the good news, received  it and believed it. In fact they had come to stand on the foundation of Christ's completed work. The words by which also you are saved are in the present tense showing God's ongoing work of sanctification in their lives. The Gospel or good news reveals how Jesus Christ died for our sins. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

2. Old Testament Prophecy

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,


In verses 3 and 4 Paul tells them that he is passing on the same message that he himself had heard and received. Where did his message come from? The Scriptures. What Scriptures is Paul referring to? Is it the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark Luke and John? No they hadn't been written yet. Paul was referring to the Old Testament that foretold of Christ's death and resurrection. Peter continually used the Old Testament to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. Christ had taught them this way after His resurrection. Luke 24:25-27, 44-46


Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Then He said to them, These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,

b. God's Witnesses

1 Corinthians 15:5-8 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

Christ's death was openly displayed and therefore seen by many. This fact cannot be denied. He was buried in the tomb and remained there till the third day. But what about his resurrection? Did anyone see Christ after His resurrection? Yes there were many witnesses. The guards at the tomb were the first to see Christ's resurrection and the empty tomb. They told the chief priests who paid them to lie and say the disciples stole His body while they slept. What a crazy story. Does anyone know what happens to them when they sleep. Then Christ appeared at least ten times over the next 40 days. Five of those appearances are recorded here. Then, afterward Jesus Christ appeared unto Paul on the Damascus Road.

There were more than 500 witnesses who saw Christ after the resurrection. Why didn't Christ appear to Israel again? We don't know why. They probably wouldn't have believed anyhow. God has His reasons. Acts 10:39-41 “And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. “Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, “not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.

c. God's Work

1 Corinthians 15:11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.


The result of the apostles witness was that many believed in Christ and were saved. They were convinced and shared this with others. The faith of millions gives further proof to the veracity of the message. Millions of people believed the message risking their lives for their new faith. People don't risk their lives for lies. Church history reveals how millions have boldly stood firm upon the sure resurrection of Jesus Christ. They have overcome every trial through Christ's victory. Christ's resurrection guarantees their resurrection!


Christ's Resurrection the Wings of Eternity

In the midst of a storm, a little bird was clinging to the limb of a tree, seemingly calm and unafraid. As the wind tore at the limbs of the tree, the bird continued to look the storm in the face, as if to say, "Shake me off; I still have wings." Because of Christ's resurrection, each Christian can look the experience of death in the face and confidently say, "Shake me off; I still have wings. I'll live anyway."  -- Wayne A. Lamb


What is your response to the Gospel? Jesus Christ fulfilled every prophecy made about the Messiah. God's Word says He is the Savior of the world! Over 500 witnesses saw the risen Christ. His tomb is empty. Millions have trusted in Jesus Christ and been saved from their sin. Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ? Can you face death with confidence?

II. The Problem - You Say There Is No Resurrection!

1 Corinthians 15:12-13 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? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.

If the dead do not rise, then Christ didn't rise either. If Christ didn't rise from the dead there are logical conclusions that we must face. There are 6 consequences that arise from this.

a. Empty Gospel  


1 Corinthians 15:14a And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty

The Gospel is empty. The word empty keno" means vain, useless, devoid of truth. The early Church preached Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Acts chapters 2, 3, 4, 5 & 7 and many others refer to Christ's resurrection. People believed this message trusting Christ who conquered death. Romans 10:8-9 shows the importance of the resurrection. But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. But if Christ didn't rise, how can He help us? A dead Savior can't save anyone. If Jesus Christ didn't rise from the dead, he is no better than Mohammed, Buddha or Krishna. The Gospel isn't the good news it claims to be. In fact the Gospel is simply a lot of empty words, devoid of truth and power.

b. Empty Faith

1 Corinthians 15:14b and your faith is also empty.

The second conclusion is an empty faith. To place your faith in something that is not true is a waste of time and effort. People who build their lives upon lies are heading for trouble. It is a false sense of security. If Jesus Christ didn't rise from the dead, people who trust in Him are deceiving themselves. Their faith is meaningless since it's directed at a dead man. An empty Gospel only produces empty faith. Faith that can't save.

c. False Witnesses

1 Corinthians 15:15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise.

If the message is empty and full of lies then the messengers are liars too. Their witness cannot be trusted. If they lie concerning this most important fact how can you trust anything they say? The book of Acts uses the word witness more than any other book in the Bible. But what good is the Gospel if the witness of the resurrected Christ is a lie.

d. Sin Remains

1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!


Paul now brings out the full results of an empty Gospel. Your faith is futile. The word futile means unprofitable, devoid of force, fruitless, ineffective. If Jesus Christ didn't rise from the dead then God didn't accept His sacrifice for our sins. If Jesus Christ didn't rise from the dead sin still reigns over mankind because the sting of death is sin. Through sin death entered the world. If sin has been overcome won't death be overcome? If Christ didn't rise from the dead we are still in our sins. The Father has not accepted Jesus' work. Romans 4:23-25 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. Christ's resurrection proves that God has accepted His work. If he didn't rise we are still alienated from God.

e. Departed Saints Lost

1 Corinthians 15:18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

The fifth conclusion is that the departed saints have perished. If Jesus the sinless Son of God didn't conquer sin and death then neither will His followers. In fact they have perished. They are still separated from God because of sin. The word perish a*pollumi means to be lost or ruined.  It is the opposite of salvation. The departed saints haven't entered rest but perdition. The same word is used in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

f. There Is No Hope


1 Cor 15:19: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.


If Christ didn't rise from the dead there is nothing for us to look forward to. In fact the cross of Christ is foolishness like the pagans claimed. The cross of Christ was His greatest defeat not His final victory. We have no hope for the future. Why should we live godly lives? Why should we risk our lives for Christ if there is nothing to be gained by it; no reward? Paul picks up on this same idea in 1 Corinthians 15:30, 32. And why do we stand in jeopardy every hour? If, in the manner of men, I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantage is it to me? If the dead do not rise, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”


If believers only have hope while we live what's the point of being godly?  This is the final conclusion to Paul's arguments. Without the resurrection, the Gospel offers no hope for our deepest needs. The Gospel can't deal with our sin problem, our separation from God, the problem of death and eternal destruction. Only a risen Savior can deliver us from all of these. Yes, the resurrection is crucial to the Christian faith.

Resurrection - Christianity Isn't Finished

Many think the Christian religion has run its course, and that the gloom of Good Friday is now settling over the long history of the church. But they are wrong. The reality of the resurrection cannot so easily be undone. In truth, it is the world of unbelievers that remains on notice of judgment. -- Carl F. H. Henry


Do you believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? Only faith in the risen Christ can save you. If Christ didn't rise let's all go home and eat drink and be merry! How can a dead man help us? A dead man offers no good news to sinners. They are still bound by sin, separated from God and await punishment in hell. There is no hope. But Christ did rise from the dead. Our faith rests on the sure foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ's death and resurrection.

III. The Promise - All Will Be Made Alive

1 Corinthians 15:20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.


a. The First fruits

Paul now states the certain facts once more. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Paul says that he has become the first fruits of those that have fallen asleep. What did he mean by that? Paul is referring to the feast of first fruits that followed on the third day after Passover. Jesus Christ rose on the third day after the Passover. He was the first fruits from the dead. Leviticus 23:10-14 describes how Israel brought their first fruits to God. A sheath of their first harvest was presented to God by the priest. The Lord would then bless them and the rest of their harvest. Jesus Christ is the first fruits from the dead.

But He is only one stalk of grain, a sheath was made up of many stalks. But Jesus Christ didn't rise alone. Matthew 27:50-53 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.


Jesus Christ raised up other believers with Himself. They appeared to many in Jerusalem after Jesus Himself rose. When He ascended into heaven He took these raised saints with Him. He then presents the first fruits to the Father. They are proof of a greater harvest that will be gathered later. Some people teach that these saints died again as Lazarus did. This is possible but not very likely. I will share my reasons for discounting this view.

1. Lazarus and others who were raised to life received resuscitated bodies. God raised them this way because decay hadn't destroyed their flesh. They were dead for less than 4 days. It is not likely that these Old Testament saints had all died within 4 days of Christ's death. Therefore they could not be resuscitated. Because of decay a resurrection body was required.

2. They were raised at the time of Christ's death and resurrection. The price of redemption had been paid. Jesus Christ had conquered sin, hell and death. This points to eternal life.

3. The feast of first fruits required a sheath to be waved before God not a stalk of grain. They along with Jesus Christ made up this sheath. They proved the resurrection.

4. John 5:25 seems to point to the saints in Matthew 27 that were raised with Christ. John 5:28-29 points to the two resurrections that will take place when Christ comes again.

b. The Full Harvest


1 Corinthians 15:21-23 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.


D.L. Moody said this: As I go into a cemetery I like to think of the time when the dead shall rise from their graves. ... Thank God, our friends are not buried; they are only sown!


Paul now applies Christ's resurrection to all believers. He shares how Adam brought death upon the whole race. He did this when he and Eve sinned. However Jesus Christ obedience to God has provided new life for all who believe in Him. If any man be in Christ he is a new creation. The first creation in Adam died. The new creation in Christ will live. All shall be made alive in Christ. The full harvest will be brought in. Christ and the first fruits prove that their will be a greater harvest. But each one in their own order. God has an appointed time for all that He does. John 5:28-29 and Daniel 2:2 tell us that there are two resurrections. The resurrection of the saved and the resurrection of the damned. The first resurrection, the resurrection of the saved has at least 4 parts to it.

1. Christ among the First fruits [Old Testament Saints] raised in Matthew 27:52-53.

2. The New Testament Saints [Church] raised at Christ's return. 1 Corinthians 15:51-54

3. The Two Witnesses in the great tribulation. Revelation 11:1-12

4. The Tribulation Saints spoken of in Revelation 20:4-6

Faith in the Coming Resurrection

An American Pastor Don McCullough flew to Austin, Texas, to visit a close friend Alan Lewis. At the time, they thought he wouldn't live more than a day or two. His first words to Don when I entered the hospital room were "Don, I'm not afraid. For underneath is the solid rock of the resurrection.   -- Don McCullough


Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. He has overcome death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel. Christ and many of the Old Testament saints are first fruits to God. They prove that their will be a greater harvest. Our faith rests upon a solid foundation. 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Let us stand firm on these wonderful truths. Let us labor for our Lord knowing our future is secure in Christ.


Today we have looked at Christ's resurrection. We saw:

I.  The Proof  - We Preach The Resurrection

a. God's Word foretold and recorded Christ's resurrection.

b. God's Witnesses saw the risen Christ. The tomb is empty.

c. God's Work in millions of lives also proves the resurrection. 2000 years of Christianity.

Have you considered the Gospel? Only Jesus can save you. Only Christ has conquered sin, death and hell. He is the only way to the Father. Have you believed in Christ and received His salvation?

II. The Problem - You Say There Is No Resurrection!

a. A dead savior can't save us from sin, death or hell. There is no hope and the Gospel is not the good news it claims to be. If Christ didn't rise from death Christians are to be pitied most.

III. The Promise - All Will Be Made Alive

a. Christ is the first fruits from the dead. He has conquered death and has taken others with Him to prove it can be done.

b. Because of Christ's finished work God will bring in an even greater harvest. All men will be made alive by Christ. He is the resurrection and the life!

Is your hope resting in Christ's finished work? Are you saved? Are you laboring for Him?


Hebrews 13:20-21: Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen

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