I’ve entitled this section “The Disaster of Denying Bodily Resurrection.” Now, you will remember that the theme of the chapter is the physical, literal, bodily resurrection of men from the grave. That’s the major theme.
Paul is reminding the Corinthians that dead men do and shall rise from the dead. This is not a new truth. It is a cardinal truth in Christianity; it is also a key truth in Judaism. It is both in the Old and the New Testament. As far back as the ancient book of Job, in chapter 19 and verse 26, job said, “Though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and not another, though my reins be consumed within me.”
In other words, Job said, “Though my body rots in the grave, somehow, in some way, yet in my flesh I’ll see God.” That is the believe in a bodily resurrection. When you come into the New Testament, Jesus begins early in his ministry to promise a literal, physical, bodily resurrection.
For example, in John chapter 5 and verse 28, “Marvel not at his, for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth.”
“All that are in the grave,” said Jesus, “shall hear His voice and come forth.”
In John 6, verse 44, Jesus said, “No man can come to me except the Father who hath sent me draw him, and I will rise him up at the last day.”
In John 11:25, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whosoever believes in Me shall really never die, but have life that is eternal and everlasting. So, Jesus promised physical resurrection.
Additionally, to the Old Testament hope and the promise of Jesus, the New Testament apostles also preached the resurrection of the dead. In fact, it got them into trouble in Acts 4, and as they spoke unto the people, the priests and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came on them, being grieved that they taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from death or from the grave. They were preaching physical resurrection. This was the message of the apostle Paul.
In 2 Corinthians, for example, chapter 4 and verse 14, “Knowing that he who raised up the Lord Jesus will raise up us also.” And Paul preached this repeatedly. In Colossians 3:4, he said, “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him.” In 1 Thessalonians, he said that the dead would come out of the graves and be united with Christ, and that we who were alive and remained should be united with Him.
In Philippians chapter 3, he said, “Our citizenship is in heaven,” in verse 20; and in verse 21, he said, “The Lord will change our vile bodies into glorious bodies like unto His body.”
Jesus said in John 14 that He was going away to prepare a place for us, and that He would come again and receive us unto Himself. In John 17, He prayed that we would be with Him in the presence of the Father. So, there is the statement of the Old Testament, the word of Jesus, the word of the apostles, the word of Paul to the fact that there is resurrection, bodily from the grave, to be with the Lord for those who are believers. This is basic to our faith.
And I think it’s important to note that in that resurrection form, we will still be ourselves. For example, in Revelation 20 and verse 12, it says that God called them to Him, and out of the graves they came. And John says, “I saw, standing before the Lord, the dead, both small and great.” What’s interesting about that is that there was still a difference in the people when they were there in the vision of the future judgment as when they were here on earth. Some were smaller or insignificant, and some were greater. That is they maintained a personality and a personhood somewhat like that which they had in life. We’ll be ourselves in a real way.
But in spite of the clear word of the Old Testament, in spite of the clear word of Jesus, in spite of the clear word of apostolic preaching, in spite of the clear word of the apostle Paul, the Corinthians had come to the place where they were denying bodily resurrection. They had bought the bag of the Greek philosophers, and you’ll remember the Greek philosophers taught that the soul was immortal, but the body was not. That the soul would go on forever, but the body rotted in the grave, and it was goodbye forever so that immortality had only to bear on the spiritual. He would live spiritually forever, not in any kind of corporeal sense.
In fact, verse 12 of 1 Corinthians has basically the statement these critics were making, “Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” In other words, they were flatly saying, “Dead men don’t rise again.” That was the statement of Greek philosophy, and that was being parroted by the Corinthian church – at least a few in the church.
Now remember, Paul has already told them, in the first 11 verses, that that’s an impossible view for them to have. And the reason it’s impossible is because they already believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Right? In other words, if you go back to chapter 15, in the first view verses, Paul says, “Remember the Gospel, folks. The Gospel you received, and on which you stand, and by which you are saved.” And what is the Gospel? It’s verse 3, “That Christ died, according to the Scriptures” – verse 4 – “That He was buried, and that He rose again.”
In other words, he’s saying, “Look, you already believe in resurrection; you already believe in bodily resurrection, because you’ve already accepted it, received it, stand on it, and are being saved by it.” And it’s the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Now verse 12, “If Christ is already being preached that He rose from the dead, and you’re already believing that, then how could some among you say that there’s no such thing as resurrection from the dead?” You already believe it. You’re already committed to it. You’ve already been saved by that confidence and that faith.
So, Paul, as is his wonderful ability as a logician, as well as being inspired by the Holy Spirit, establishes a common ground. They both believe this, and because they already believe this, he can go ahead and build his argument against the error that’s encroached upon them.
Now, I want you to notice verse 12, because it’s kind of the kickoff to the section. He says, “Look, this is the Gospel that all of us have preached” – verse 11 – “whether it were I or they” – that is whether it’s myself or the other apostles – “so we preach, and so you believed.”
In other words, this resurrection of Jesus Christ is not some Johnny-come-lately, some addendum, something stuck on the end like an appendix. This is something you’ve already committed yourself to; you’ve already believed; you’ve already accepted. It’s already been preached. And if this is the case, how come you’re denying resurrection?
Now, you’ll notice that in verse 12 there are a couple of technical points that might help you to see the picture here. The last phrase of verse 12 is resurrection of the dead. In the Greek there is no article; there is no “the.” And the text literally would read this way, “How say some among you that there is no resurrection of corpses?” They’re talking about the physical. “How say some among you that there is no resurrection of dead men? ‘Dead men don’t rise,’ you say. Oh? Then how is it you believe Jesus rose if dead men don’t rise? And you do believe that, because you were saved by believing that.” That’s his point. So, he’s already got them in a corner they’re never going to get out of just to start with.
Now, Paul says further, from 13 to 19, “I want you to understand what happens to the Gospel and what happens to you if you don’t believe in resurrection.” And, people, this is one of the most devastating passages you’ll ever see. It – by the time we’re done, it literally covers every base. You can’t just come along and say, “Well, I believe it all except the part about bodily resurrection.” Like the Corinthians, “Oh, I believe in the resurrection of Christ. Oh, I believe in heaven and immortality for the soul and the spirit, and we’ll be floating around up there,” you know, and all that. “I buy all that. It’s just the bodily part I don’t buy.”
And Paul says, “Oh, yeah? Well, watch what you’ve done. You have just given a death blow to the total of Christianity.” And so, I want to give you seven disastrous results of denying bodily resurrection. Seven disastrous results of denying bodily resurrection.
Now remember this; now keep this in your mind. The key to remember is that Paul connects the bodily resurrection of men with the bodily resurrection of whom? Christ. Those are inseparable. And those two things are both sides of the same coin, as it were, all the way through his thought.
Now, there are seven devastating, disastrous results in denying bodily resurrection. This would, incidentally, deal seriously with any philosophy that says the soul is immortal and denies that the body is. This would certainly deal a death blow to reincarnation, or as I call it, recycling, where you just keep coming back in a different can. You are a person, and you will be that person forever in a form somehow physically, though in a glorious physical form, a glorified form.
All right, let’s look at reason number one, or result number one better, of denying the resurrection. The first thing that happens, if you deny bodily resurrection, is one, Christ is not risen, verse 13, “But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen.” In other words, while you’re sort of gingerly and glibly going along saying, “We don’t believe in bodily resurrection, what about Christ? If dead men don’t rise, then guess what? Christ didn’t rise because you just said, ‘Dead men don’t rise.’” And that’s a logical deduction.
Paul uses a contrary-to-fact statement, and he says, “If that statement is true that dead mean don’t rise, then Christ didn’t rise. And if Christ didn’t rise,” etcetera.
Now you say, “Well, He’s different.”
“Well, you see, dead men don’t rise, but Christ really isn’t a man.”
Oh? Christ is a man. Yes, he is a man.
You say, “Half man.”
No. A hundred percent a man.
You say, “Do you believe that?”
Absolutely. Christ was 100 percent man. He was also 100 percent God. And He’s the only entity to ever existed who was 200 percent of something. He was totally man, and He was totally God, and He still is.
Listen, Paul assumes the full incarnation here. That’s the basis of His argument. If you say dead men don’t rise, what have you don’t to Christ? He’s a man. If you make that the postulate, then you’ve eliminated His resurrection.
You say, “Well, are you sure He was a man?”
Oh, yes. The Bible’s very clear on it; let me show you. Act chapter 2, verse 22, the first thing ever said about Jesus in terms of apostolic preaching is said in Acts 2:22, and these are the words of Peter, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God” – Peter says “a man.”
You’re in 1 Corinthians 15, or you were, verse 21 says, “For since by man came death” – and who would that man be? Adam – “so by man came the resurrection from the dead.” And that man is Christ. He’s a man. Galatians 4:4 says, “That in the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” He was born humanly. He was a man. In 1 Timothy 2:5, it says, “For there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
In Hebrews 2:17 comes the greatest statement, “Wherefore, in all things it behooved Him to be made like His brethren.” He was in all things made a man like the rest of us. No lacking. And when the world looked at Him, they observed that He was a man. They didn’t see Him as a floating phantom or some kind of mystical being. He was a man. In fact, in Mark 6, they looked at Him, verse 3, and they said, “Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and Judas, and Simon? And aren’t these His sisters here?” This is just a guy like any other guy. He’s got a job; he’s a carpenter. He’s got some sisters. He’s got some brothers. He comes from this little town. Big deal. He’s a man like everybody else.
In John 19:5, after the excruciation of all of that thing that Pilate put Jesus through, he brought Him out before the crowd and said what in the Latin is ecce homo, and in the English is, “Behold” – what? – “the man.” The man. In 1 John 1:1 and 2, John says, “Concerning this man, our hands have handled Him.” In 2 John and verse 7, the very important statement of the Word of God is this, it says, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ comes in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” You cannot deny the humanity of Jesus Christ without being a deceiver and an antichrist. He’s a man. He’s every whit a man, every way a man. In all things, He’s a man. And if dead men don’t rise, then He didn’t rise, because He’s a man, and He was a dead man on the cross.
The details of His life indicate He was a man. Matthew 1:18 says He was conceived in a woman’s womb. Matthew 1:25 says He was born in a human manner. Luke 2:21 says He was circumcised. Matthew 26:38 says He possessed a human soul. John 1:14 says He had a human body. Luke 2:52 says He grew in stature, and wisdom, and favor with God and man. John 11:35 says He cried. Matthew 4:2 says He was hungry. John 19:28 says He was thirsty. Matthew 8:24 says He was sleepy.
In John 4:6, He grew weary. In John 11:33, He felt sorrow and grief and pain. In Luke 22:64, His face was beaten with fists. In Matthew 27:26, He was whipped. In Luke 23:33, He was nailed to a cross. In John 19:30, He died. In John 19:34, He had his side pierced. And in Matthew 27:59, He was buried, just like any other man.
He was a man. And even after He came out of the grave, He was still a man. Look at Luke 24, verse 33, it says, “And they rose the same hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven. They were gathered together, and those who were with them. And they said” – this is the ones who came from Emmaus – “‘The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon.’
“And they told them the things that were done along the way, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread. And as they thus spoke, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them and said to them, ‘Peace be unto you.’ They were terrified and frightened and supposed they had seen a spirit.” Maybe they were good prospects for Greek philosophy, believing in the spiritual resurrection.
“And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do these thoughts arise in your hearts? Look at My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me and see. For a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see Me have.’” He still had some flesh and bones. He still was a man – oh, a glorified one, but nonetheless a man. And He was still the same man that He was before, and so shall we be, because when we shall see Him, we shall be – what? – like Him.
And Just in order to prove it, He had them touch Him and feel Him. “And when He had spoken that, He showed His hands and His feet, and while they yet believed not for joy and wondered, He said, ‘You want more proof? You got something to eat?’ And they brought him a piece of fish and a honeycomb, and He took it and ate it.” He was a man.
And listen, Paul’s point is this, if you philosophers say, “Dead men don’t rise,” then Jesus was a dead man, and He didn’t rise. You sure you want to say that? You just predicated your entire faith on His resurrection.
Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in thine heart” – what? – “that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Salvation was predicated on His resurrection, and He was a man.
So, the first devastating impact of not believing in bodily resurrection is that Christ didn’t rise. That leads to a second result. Point two, all Gospel preaching is useless. Look at verse 14, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching useless” – stop right there. All preaching is useless. There’s no Gospel. If the Gospel is Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose the third day, and all He did was die and didn’t rise, there’s no Gospel. And all Gospel preaching is empty, useless, jabber. If Christ is dead forever, the guts have just been torn out of the apostolic message. There’s nothing to say. Preaching is lost. The Gospel is subverted.
You see, people, you have to remember this. Now watch; the whole validation of everything Jesus said and did was predicated on His coming out of the grave. You understand that? If He doesn’t rise, then everything is lost; if He does, everything is gained.
You see, in Romans chapter 1, verse 3, it says that the Gospel of God, in verse 1, then there’s a parenthesis in verse 2, but verse 1, “The Gospel of God” – what is it? It’s this – “concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.” In other words, verse 3 proves His humanity. He was a man. He was born in the family of David according to the flesh. He was made of the seed of a woman of the line of David, and a man of the line of David. That’s His humanness.
But verse 4, “He was declared to be the Son of God” – that’s his deity – with power according to the Spirit of holiness” – how? – “by the resurrection from the dead.” In other words, the humanness is obvious from his Davidic lineage. His deity is predicated on the resurrection. If He doesn’t rise, He isn’t God. And if He isn’t God, then all Gospel preaching is worthless, empty vanity.
In Revelation 1:18, He is saying there in effect, “I have right to rule the Church. I have a right to lead the Church. I have the right to call the Church to accountability. Why? Because I am He that liveth and was dead and am alive forevermore, Amen; and that’s why I have the keys of Hades and death.” In other words, His right to reign in His own Church, His right to rule in the Church, His right to promise life after death is predicated on His own resurrection.
In Romans 14:9, He says He is not only the Lord of the dead, but the Lord of the living. And He wouldn’t be if He didn’t rise. You see, the lordship of Christ over the Church, the deity of Christ is predicated on His resurrection. If He doesn’t rise, the whole of the Gospel, which is all about the resurrection, and all about the lordship of Christ, and all about the deity of Christ – the Gospel is gone. It’s empty. There’s no good news. He news, folks, is bad news. And the angels who said, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy,” lied. There’s no good news if Jesus didn’t rise, because He isn’t God, and there’s no good news. Gospel preaching is a sham; it’s a hoax; it’s a fake; it’s a phony. He didn’t conquer death, and He didn’t conquer sin, and He didn’t conquer hell. Bad news.
So, Paul says if you don’t believe in bodily resurrection, if dead men don’t rise, one, Christ didn’t rise; two, all Gospel preaching is useless.
Three, faith is empty. Verse 14, the rest of the verse – the end of the verse says, “And your faith is also useless.” Same word: empty, useless, vain. Verse 17, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain” – empty, useless, same phrase repeated again.
Now, the point is that if the Gospel is a lie, and the Gospel is useless, then putting your faith in it is equally useless. Right? We’ve reached out our hand to grasp a God who isn’t there. We’ve tried to touch a Savior who isn’t alive. We’ve believed in a Gospel that didn’t happen. This is an inevitable consequence, people.
The apostles preached a risen Christ. The Bible teaches a risen Christ. If dead men don’t rise, then he didn’t rise. And if He didn’t rise, they’ve been telling us lies. And if they’ve been telling us lies, we’ve been believing them, our faith is useless. I mean we might as well say with the psalmist in Psalm 73:13, “I have cleansed my heart in vain.” We might as well say with Isaiah in 49:4, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing.” Abel, who believed God, was a fool. Enoch was a myth. Noah was a fool beyond any fool, 120 years building a dumb boat for a God who couldn’t pull off the sacrifice to save him from his own sins.
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Gideon, Samson, Barak, Jephthah, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and all the rest – all had an empty faith and a God who couldn’t pull off the salvation He planned, because He couldn’t get His Son out of the grave, if dead men don’t rise.
And all those precious people in the eleventh of Hebrews, those people who had trials of mockings and scourgings, and bonds and imprisonments, and were stoned, and sawn in half, and tested, and slain with the sword, and wandered in sheepskins and goatskins, and destitute, and afflicted, and tormented – those of whom the world wasn’t worthy, who wandered in deserts and mountains and dens and caves of the earth – all of those people who through faith held onto God were stupid. Their faith was useless if the dead don’t rise.
Incredible, incredible emptiness if the dead don’t rise. And all the martyrs of the New Testament and all the saints of the new age are examples of useless faith, and so is yours, and so I mine if there’s no resurrection, because then Christ didn’t rise. And if He didn’t rise, the Gospel is useless, and so is our faith.
Fourth, Paul says, the apostles were liars verse 15, “Yes, 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 don’t rise. If the dead don’t rise, then God didn’t raise Jesus. And if God didn’t raise Jesus, we’re liars, because we’ve been telling everybody that He did.”
So, you know what? We’ve not only lost our faith, but we’ve lost the ability to believe the apostles. They’re liars. Now, do you see, people, what happens when you just pick one little thing in the Bible that you want to discard? You’ve got the apostles all liars.
You say, “Whoa-whoa-whoa wait a minute; I don’t – I may want to deny the resurrection” – this is what liberals do – “Well, we want to deny the resurrection; we certainly don’t believe that, but they’re wonderful men.”
Listen, they’re all a bunch of liars if you do that. Do you realize that in Acts 1:22, they all said, “We are witness of His resurrection,” and that that was the bottom line on their entire ministry? That the whole thing is predicated on a lie. They’re a bunch of phonies.
You say, “Well, they’re well-meaning fellows who were somewhat misguided.”
It doesn’t say that. It says they were false witnesses, and the term means they were outright deceiving liars. They were charlatans; they were phonies; they were frauds giving false testimony about God, claiming God raised Jesus when God didn’t. This is not just a small detail. You have just, in effect, devastated the entire Gospel and all the people who ever preached it. They’re not just honest men with sincerity giving bad advice. They said, “Jesus arose.” They said they saw Him. But if dead men don’t rise, then Jesus didn’t rise, and they didn’t see Him. And if they said they did, they’re – what? – they’re liars.
Now, you can see there’s a circle of reasoning here, isn’t there? All the way from verse 13. You see, the resurrection of dead men, the resurrection of Christ, the preaching of the apostles, the faith of the Corinthians and everybody else, and the testimony of the apostles form a unit. You either believe all of it or none of it. Did you get that?
Now, listen to this. You either believe all of it or none of it. You don’t come along and say, “Well, I believe in the resurrection of Jesus, but not the resurrection of the rest.”
Paul says, “No deal.”
Or you don’t come along, like liberals, and say, “Well, I believe maybe in the resurrection of us, but not of Christ.”
“Well, I don’t believe in those two things, but I certainly believe the apostles were wonderful men.”
No deal; they were liars.
“Well, even though there wasn’t a resurrection, and even though there won’t be one, we certainly have to put our faith in God.”
No deal. Nothing or everything. It’s a closed case, folks; you can’t cut it anywhere and let anything leak out. If the dead don’t rise, Christ didn’t rise. And if He didn’t rise, the Gospel isn’t true. And if the Gospel isn’t true, your faith is stupid and everybody who ever preached it’s a liar.
Now, besides this, this also is a death blow to the Old Testament saints who prophesied the resurrection. They’re liars, too. And you know what comes out of it that’s worst of all? You make Jesus into a liar. Listen, if the apostles are liars, then what am I going to do with the New Testament? Can I believe it? No, not if it’s written by liars.
“Well, they say they didn’t mean to be liars.”
Yeah, but how do I know where they missed it? See, if I can’t believe in the credibility of these men, then I’m really lost, because that does it for the Scripture. At least the liberals are consistent there; they not only deny the resurrection, they also deny the authority and the truthfulness of Scripture, because it’s obvious they go together.
But you know what’s the worst thing of all? You make Jesus into a poor victim, because Jesus, in John 16 said to those same apostles who would write the New Testament, He said, “I’ll send the Spirit, and when My Spirit comes, He will lead you into all” – what? – “truth.” And the sad part of it is, if you just deny one little thing like bodily resurrection, you have made Jesus into a liar. The Holy Spirit didn’t keep them from error and lead them into all truth if they told lies. And they told lies if Christ didn’t rise. And Christ didn’t rise if dead men don’t rise.
Then 16 restates the major premise of his argument, “If the dead rise not” – remember – “then is not Christ raised.” Now, that’s – summary of all that he said, and it’s also a kicker for what he’s about to say, which is the second part. The first part he has treated theologically. The first part has been a look at what happens to our theology. The second part, the last three disastrous results of denying bodily resurrection are personal. Not what happens to our theology, what happens to us if we deny dead men rise, which results in denying the resurrection of Christ.
Christ has not risen. Gospel preaching is useless. Faith is empty. Apostles are liars. And now we get to us, in verse 17, sin’s power is unbroken. We’re still in our sin. Look at verse 17, “If Christ be not raised” – now it gets to us – “your faith is vain” – before, he was saying our preaching is vain, and then your faith is vain. Now he really singles in on us – “your faith is vain because you are still” – what? – “in your sins.” If Jesus didn’t rise, you know what happens? Sin killed Him and held Him dead.
You know, it was sin that killed Jesus. Did you know that? He died on the cross not of His own sin, but of the sins of the world put upon His back. He died because He was made sin for us, and sin killed Him. And you know something? If He didn’t rise, sin killed Him so dead that He couldn’t come back. And sin won if He didn’t rise. And He didn’t rise if dead men don’t rise.
You see, people, to benefit us, our faith must forgive us our sins. Our faith must bring us to the place where we’re delivered from sin and guilt and punishment. “If it doesn’t do that, it’s useless faith,” he says in 17. If Christ isn’t raised, your faith is dumb because it doesn’t do a thing with our sin. It can’t deal with sin. And if it can’t deal with sin, it can’t help you.
You see, because the wages of sin for us is – what? – is death, and that’s eternal death, and that’s spiritual death. And if Christ couldn’t handle it, and He couldn’t overcome it, then we’ll have to do it ourselves and pay the price. And our faith is ridiculous and useless. We can’t put faith in Christ with any sense at all if Christ’s act cannot take away our sin. It’s a waste. But if there’s no resurrection, then He didn’t conquer sin. Sin conquered Him; it killed Him and kept Him dead. There’s no reconciliation; there’s no justification’ there’s no salvation; there’s no life. If Christ is still dead, then every believer is still dead in trespasses and sins, and there’s no deliverance. Not at all.
As long as Christ, our surety, was held by Satan, as long as He was held by death and not released, then the debt was never paid, and we’re still liable. But in Romans 4:25, bless God, it says, “He was raised for our” – what? – “justification.” He came out of that grave.
The Bible says when you put your faith in Christ, you’re united with Him. If He died and stayed there, we died and stayed there, too. But if He came out of the grave, so we come to walk in newness of life. “Only as the living Christ” – Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30 – “can He be made unto us wisdom, and sanctification, and righteousness, and redemption.” He couldn’t keep us; He wouldn’t save us; He couldn’t do anything for us if He wasn’t alive. And there’s nobody else to turn to, because Acts 4:12 says salvation is in Him. And if He couldn’t pull it off, we’re dead, folks. We’re dead. And what Jesus said to those leaders in John 8:21, “You will die in your sins,” was true of Him and of everybody else if He didn’t rise.
There’s two elements here. If Christ doesn’t rise, number one, He didn’t pay the penalty for sin in full an come back to grant us life. Sin killed Him if He didn’t rise.
Secondly, if He didn’t rise, He’s not alive today to intercede for us and to keep on cleansing us, and to keep on forgiving us. And His life is not there, Romans 5:10, to hold us and keep us. He couldn’t save us, and He can’t keep us if He didn’t rise. That’s why it’s so important that we believe that He did rise. That’s why Peter said what He did in Acts 5:29. Peter and the other apostles answered and said, “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew and hanged on a tree, and Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Savior and give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
God did raise Him, and God made Him a Prince. And the word in the Greek is archēgos. That’s a word that means front runner, pioneer. Seamen had a guy on the ship who was the archēgos, and he was the strongest swimmer. And when they would come to shore, and they would get into the billows and the waves, and they didn’t know whether they could get the ship to shore and how they would get the people safely, this guy would take the rope, and he would tie it around his waist, and he would dive in, and he would swim through the turbulent waters. And because he was a strong swimmer, he would get to the shore, and he would take the rope, and he would tie it around a rock or a tree, and the rest of the people would come along that rope to safety and the shore. But it was the archēgos who took the rope and anchored it.
And Jesus is the Prince, the Archēgos. He swam through the waters of death, and death couldn’t hold Him, and death couldn’t drown Him. And He got to the shore, and He anchored the rope, and the rest of us have come along behind. But if Jesus drowned, then we’re going to drown, too. If He’s doomed, we’re doomed. If Jesus didn’t rise, then sin killed Him, and sin’ll kill us. And there’s nobody interceding for us now to make it any different if Jesus didn’t rise. And He didn’t rise if dead men don’t rise.
The next conclusion in Paul’s thinking follows immediately on what I just said. Sixthly, he says, “The dead in Christ have all perished.” The dead in Christ have all perished. Listen, if dead men don’t rise, Christ didn’t rise. And if Christ didn’t rise, all faith is empty. Everybody’s still in his sin, and everybody who ever died with his faith in Jesus Christ is damned. That’s Paul’s statement.
Look at verse 18, “Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” That’s it. Their faith is as vain as ours. Peter, James, John, Paul, beloved Stephen, all of them are in eternal torment. So is Augustine. So is Luther. So is Calvin. So is Billy Sunday. So is D. L. Moody. So is your grandmother who loved Jesus. They’re all in hell if the dead rise not, and Christ didn’t rise, and you’re still in our sins when you die. Hell holds them all. Satan won; God lost if the dead don’t rise.
Every believer who ever closed his eye in death, full of hope to open them and see the face of Jesus Christ, perished forever and never saw Him whom their soul loved if the dead don’t rise. They were damned with everybody else in sin if Jesus didn’t rise. It’s a crushing argument, people. You can’t just take a little, small variation out of Scripture. Not this one. Because if the dead don’t rise, Christ isn’t risen, preaching is useless, faith is empty, apostles are liars, sin is unforgiven, and dead believers are damned.
And lastly, summing it all up, that means Christians are the world’s most pitiful people, verse 19. The Christians are the world’s most pitiful people. “If in this life we have hope in Christ only” – the Greek has the “only” right at the end of the clause – “If in this life we have hope in Christ only, we are of all men the most to be pitied.” The “only” goes at the end of the clause.
And what it means is if in this life we have put our trust totally in Christ – in other words, that’s it; we put all our eggs in one basket, and if it isn’t true what we’ve hoped about Christ, we are a pitiful bunch. Because can you believe what we’ve been through for the last 2,000 years? Pretty dumb. If in this life we have hope in Christ only, if we’ve got nothing else going, then believe me, anybody who’s a Christian knows that you become a Christian when you’ve got nothing else going but Christ. Right? When you commit totally to His lordship, no other gods, no other tolerance. So, every Christian has Christ only, and our whole hope is in Christ. Hey, folks, if Christ doesn’t work, I haven’t got anything to fall on. How about you? This is it. I’m a one-horse shay I’m telling you. And if it isn’t in Jesus, we are a pitiful bunch. And believe me, it isn’t, he says, if the dead don’t rise and Christ didn’t rise.
We’ve wasted our lives. What a pitiful bunch. All those people – imagine all these people been fighting against temptation, struggling with sin, seeking to please Christ, obeying the Scripture, having Bible studies, bearing the cross, suffering reproach, trying to witness. And it’s all a bunch of baloney. What a bunch of dumbbells. This is not easy, folks. We are to be pitied. What a waste.
“But” - says Paul; look at verse 20 – “But now is Christ” – what? – “risen.” Amen? Listen, He is alive. He did rise. It’s all true. The resurrection is essential.
Listen as I summarize this. The resurrection is essential, number one, because the resurrection proves truth is stronger than the lie. Now listen, Jesus came. He said, “I am the truth.” And His enemies wanted their lies. And so, they killed the truth. And if the truth stayed dead, then the lie won. If the enemies of Jesus succeeded in obliterating Him, falsehood won, truth lost.
The Earl of Morton, Regent of Scotland, during the great Reformation time sent for one of the great Reformation leaders by the name of Andrew Melville. He said to Melville, “There will never be quietness in this country till half-a-dozen of you be hanged and banished.”
“Tush, tush,” said Melville, “threaten your courtiers in that fashion. It is the same to me whether I rot in the air or on the ground. Let God be glorified: it will not lie in your power to hang or exile God’s truth.” End quote.
Listen to this; the resurrection is the final guarantee of the indestructibility of the truth. The truth came out of the grave. Second, the resurrection of Christ proves that good is stronger than evil. The forces which crucified Jesus were the forces of evil. “You are of your father the devil,” He said in John 8:44. And if there’s no resurrection, then evil won, and the very moral principle of the universe, the holy nature of God is in peril, because – because evil is winning.
But if Jesus comes out of the grave, the good wins, and the evil is destroyed. And the resurrection then is the final guarantee that good is indestructible, and evil will be destroyed.
Thirdly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that love is stronger than hate. Jesus came to the world as the love of God incarnate. He faced a world of hate. They hated Him so bitterly they killed Him, and if He stayed dead, hate won and love lost. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the triumph of love over all of hate.
A poet wrote, “I heard two soldiers talking, as they came down the hill./The somber hill of Calvary, bleak and black and still./And one said, ‘The night is late, these thieves take long to die.’/And one said, ‘I’m sore afraid, and yet I don’t know why.’/I heard to women weeping, as down the hill they came/And one was like a broken rose, and one was a like a flame./One said, ‘Men shall rue this deed their hands of done.’/And one said only through her tears, ‘My son, my son, my son.’/I heard two angels singing, ere yet the dawn was bright/And they were clad in shining robes, robes and crowns of light./And one sang, ‘Death is vanquished.’ And one in golden voice/Sang, ‘Love hath conquered, conquered all, O heaven and earth rejoice.’”
The resurrection proves that love conquers hate. Lastly, the resurrection proves that life is stronger than death. Death couldn’t hold Him.
William Barclay tells the lovely little story of a church in England, in London. It was all decked out for harvest celebration at Thanksgiving, beautifully decorated, the folks all ready to come. On the communion table in the front of the church was a great sheaf of corn to symbolize the thankfulness of their hearts for God’s provision. They never met. There was an air raid, and the church was bombed into bits.
“The months passed on,” says Barclay, “and the people in the community noticed amidst the rubble some green shoots coming out of the ground. Summer came, and the shoots flourished. And in the autumn there was a flourishing patch of corn growing in the midst of the rubble. Not even the bombs and the destruction could kill the life in the seeds that were just lying on the table. So it is with life. Life conquers death because Jesus conquered death, and now is Christ risen.” Let’s pray.
Father, thank You for just filling us up so much with this great truth, the glory of resurrection. Oh, God, help us to know this is so basic. Thank You for resurrection life, in Jesus Christ, amen.
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