For tonight it’s 1 Corinthians, chapter 15. We come back to this chapter. This is a special series for a few Sunday nights from this great chapter on the resurrection. We have looked at verses 1 through 11 already, and tonight we come to verses 12 through 19, 12 through 19. But I think it would be helpful for me to read the entire portion from verse 1 down to verse 19, because it’ll set it in your mind. The apostle Paul writes, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas,” – or Peter – “then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
“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, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”
Verses 12 to 19 is a fascinating approach to affirming the utter significance and importance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as a foundation for believing in the resurrection of all people. The physical bodily resurrection of the Christian is the end of Christian doctrine. It is the goal that God has established in His redemptive purpose. He is gathering from human history a people who will be with Him not just in spirit, but in resurrected bodies in His presence to live forever, to praise Him and to serve Him. Resurrection is critical to the culmination of God’s redemptive purpose.
The Old Testament even makes it clear – and you can go all the way to the book of Job, chapter 19, verse 26, and hear the confidence of Job. He says, “And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” Even in the time period of the patriarchs back in Genesis they were aware of a coming resurrection of the dead. This was the promise of Jesus who said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”
When the apostles went out to preach, preach the gospel of Christ, this is what we read concerning their preaching in Acts, chapter 4, beginning at verse 1: “As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.” That was their message that believers would be raised from the dead in bodies suited for eternal glory. The apostle John writes in 1 John 3:2 that that body will be like the body of Christ after His resurrection. “We will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.”
In 2 Corinthians, chapter 4 and verse 14, we read the words of the apostle Paul “knowing” – he says – “that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus.” That has always been the hope of those who put their trust in the true God. The apostle Paul even gives a direct promise in Philippians, chapter 3, verse 20: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.” The same power by which He can subject the entire universe to Himself will be used to create transformed bodies like the body of the glorified, risen Christ.
First Thessalonians – just one other text – verse 17: “Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” That is talking about a resurrection. The previous verse says, “The dead in Christ will rise.”
So basic to our faith is resurrection. Christianity is a religion of resurrection, and I’ve been telling you that all people will be raised. Even the ungodly will be raised and given bodies suited for eternal punishment. But the message of Christianity is a message of resurrection. This body will go back to the dust from which it came, and God will give us a new body equipped for eternal life with Him in heaven. Now we aren’t having trouble believing that, but the Corinthians were; and I’m glad they were, because it allows for Paul to give us this powerful, powerful chapter which lays out for us a necessary understanding that we all should have of resurrection.
In the culture of the Corinthians, the idea of a resurrection was horrible, because they believed that death was being liberated from fleshly bodies. They flatly were taught in Greek and Roman culture dead men do not rise again. They believed in the immortality of the soul, but they denied the resurrection of the body – and we went through some of the literature, ancient literature in which that was articulated.
So there were people in the Corinthian church who were still having a hard time believing in the resurrection of the body. However, Paul begins by reminding them that they did believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was in that resurrection that their salvation came about, and it was in believing in that resurrection that they embraced Christ. He says, “This is part of the gospel” – chapter 15, verse 1 – “which I preached to you, the gospel which you received, the gospel in which you stand, the gospel by which you are saved.” And what is the gospel? That Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. “You already believe in the resurrection of Christ, so you believe in resurrection.”
They had not denied the resurrection of Christ or they couldn’t be saved, Romans 10: “If you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead and confess Him as Lord you were saved.” So he starts by saying, “You already believe in resurrection, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” That is central to the gospel. “And He has been raised so that we might also be raised.” The resurrection of the dead is a promise to all believers.
Now let’s come down to verse 12 where he introduces this most interesting approach to affirming the resurrection in a negative way. “If Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead – you believed it, you received it, you embraced it; we, the apostles, have been claiming it. So 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? How can you say literally there’s no resurrection of corpses,” – that’s the original – “how can you say that? How can some of you say that? Not all of you, but some of you deny the resurrection when you have already affirmed the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
The idea was that the afterlife was strictly spiritual, that the afterlife was kind of immortality – that was the free-flowing spiritual nature of the person preserved everlastingly, but not a bodily resurrection. Paul is saying, “If you deny resurrection you have delivered a death blow to Christianity.” In fact, he’s going to take us through a negative approach to this with seven disastrous results of denying bodily resurrection, and they are progressive. It’s quite a fascinating and unparalleled approach from a New Testament writer to do this.
But let’s see where he begins. “We” – verse 12 – “have been preaching Christ. We have been preaching and you have believed that He has been raised from the dead. How is it then that some among you are saying there’s no resurrection of the dead? You already have affirmed a resurrection from the dead in the case of Christ.” So he goes back to Christ. And here are his seven ramifications of denying resurrection.
Number One: Christ is not risen. Verse 13: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised.” This is the first devastating fact that must be faced. “If you deny bodily resurrection, then Christ is not risen.” That is simply a logical deduction. This is a contrary to fact statement, and if that statement is accepted as some in Corinth were accepting it, then there is no resurrection, then Christ did not rise from the dead.
Now when they’re talking about resurrection they’re talking about a human being being raised from the dead. They’re denying human resurrection. But Christ, after all, was a man, and that’s the connection Paul wants to make. Christ was a man. He died as all men die. If men do not rise from the dead and He’s a man, then He can’t rise, that’s the logic. If He is fully man, if the incarnation is true and He is fully man, and men don’t rise, then He didn’t rise.
We could go back into the New Testament and find how constantly the New Testament identifies Jesus as man. “He is a man” – Acts 2:22 – “approved of God.” First Corinthians 15 even says, “By man came the resurrection.” He is a man who was raised from the dead. Galatians 4:4 says, “He was born of a woman.”
First Timothy 2:5 says, “We have one mediator, the man Christ Jesus.” Hebrews 2:17, which we looked at this morning, says, “He was made like His brethren.” He was observed to be a man. “He was known by the people in His community” – according to Mark 6:3 – “as the son of a carpenter.” Even Pilate said in John 19:5, “Behold, the Man!”
John starts in his epistle, as we saw this morning, talking about the man Christ Jesus, who is God manifested. And He was heard by John, and seen by John, and touched by John. He was a man. Second John 7 says, “If anyone denies that He is a man in His incarnation, that is a damnable heresy to be avoided.”
In fact, there is so much in the gospels about His humanity that it’s unmistakable. Conceived in a woman’s womb – according to Matthew 1; born in a normal human manner – again in the 1st chapter of Matthew; circumcised – according to Luke 2; possessing a human soul – even refers to His soul being troubled, Matthew 26. He possesses a human body – unmistakably the testimony of John: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In Luke 2:52 we find that “He was growing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
He is seen in John 11 weeping. In Matthew 4 He is hungry. On the cross He is thirsty. In Matthew 8 He is sleeping. John 4 says He grew weary. John 11 identifies Him as feeling sorrow and grief. In Luke 22 He was punched in the face with fists. Matthew 27 tells us about His scourging and whipping. He was nailed to a cross. He died as men die. He had His side pierced. He was wrapped in linen and buried. He was a man, fully human. He died as a man and He arose as a man. That is critical for us to declare and affirm.
In the 24th chapter of Luke, verse 33, “They got up that very hour, returned to Jerusalem, found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them,” – this would be the disciples on the Road to Emmaus – “saying, ‘The Lord has really risen and appeared to Simon.’ They began to relate their experience on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread.
“And while they were telling these things,” – this is Sunday night of the resurrection – “He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be to you.’ But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hand and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. And while they still could not believe because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave Him a piece of broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them.’” He is demonstrating His post-resurrection humanity. He died as a man and He rose a man. Albeit a man with a new body, but nonetheless a man.
He is called in Acts the Prince of life whom God has raised. He came as a man, He died as a man, and He rose as a man. Paul’s point is, if there is no resurrection of men from the dead, then the man Christ Jesus could not be raised, and that is a death blow to Christianity.
And that leads Paul to his second point: All gospel preaching is therefore meaningless. All gospel preaching is therefore meaningless. Verse 14: “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain,” – empty, meaningless. If Christ is dead forever, then the content of apostolic preaching is lost, the whole gospel is subverted. Christ declared that He would rise from the dead. If He did rise, then He is who He said He was: Son of God, Savior of the world. If He did rise, then His sacrifice on the cross was accepted, His substitutionary work satisfied God, and God raised Him from the dead to validate that sacrifice. If He did not rise, if He did not rise, then there is no validation that His death had any value. There is no indication that God is at all satisfied. If He did not rise, there’s no good news to preach, there’s no assurance that His death meant anything at all, because the resurrection is the validation of His accomplishment on the cross.
Romans 1 begins, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead.” He is declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection of the dead. It is the resurrection that validates who He is.
In Revelation 1:18 it says – Christ speaking in the vision to John: “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.” All of the Christian gospel is dependent on the resurrection.
Romans 14:9, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” He had to rise to be the Lord of the living. The lordship of Christ is secured by His resurrections. Philippians 2 says that God exalted Him, highly exalted Him, gave Him a name above every name – which is the name Lord – and at that name every knee bows.
In raising Christ, God validated His atoning work, God demonstrated satisfaction with the provision He had made on the cross in our place, and God declared Him to be Lord and gave Him dominion over everything and everyone. Resurrection is critical to the gospel. This is the way God affirmed the work of His Son. To remove the resurrection is to destroy gospel preaching. If He did not rise, God was not satisfied. If He did not rise, He is not Lord. All gospel preaching is a sham, it is a hoax, there is no good news, He did not conquer death, He did not conquer sin, He did not conquer hell.
The angels lied when they announced at His birth, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy.” If Christ did not rise, the news is bad: another good, religious man failed humanity. If there is no resurrection, then Christ did not rise. If Christ did not rise, all gospel preaching is meaningless.
That leads Paul to a third point: Faith in Christ is worthless. Faith in Christ is worthless. Go back to that same 14th verse in 1 Corinthians 15, the end of the verse: “You faith also is vain.” And then he says the same thing down in verse 17: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, pointless, it’s a dillusion.” This is an inevitable consequence. The apostles are preaching a risen, living Savior who provided an atonement which God accepted and validated, a risen and living Savior who is now Lord and provides for us forgiveness and eternal life and resurrection. That’s the message of the apostles, that’s what they ask you to believe, Romans 10: “If you believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, and confess Him as Lord, you’ll be saved.”
The dead cannot save the living. If Christ is not risen, faith in Him is useless. It’s as useless as the preaching. If the gospel is a sham and a hoax, so is faith in that gospel. It would be like Psalm 73:13, “Truly I have cleansed my heart in vain.” It would be like following any false and damning religion. We might feel like Isaiah, who in Isaiah 49:4 said, “I have labored in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing.” If Christ is not raised, then all gospel preaching is meaningless, and all faith is worthless – not just yours, but everybody’s.
Think of Hebrews 11. Abel, who believed God, was a fool; Enoch, another fool; Noah may be the biggest fool of all, spending 120 years of his life in a monumental act of faith, only to die and perish; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Gideon, Samson, Barak, Jephthah, Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel – all the rest, all the rest who believed, who believed God, who believed that God raised the dead, all had foolish faith. All those, who by faith – the end of Hebrews 11 – conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put armies to flight. And women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection.
They were all fools, because there is no resurrection. They’re all dead. Those who were stoned, sawn in half, tempted, put to death with the sword, went about in sheepskins, goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground – all of these operating by faith were fools. It’s an empty faith if God did not raise Jesus from the dead. All the martyrs of the New Testament as well as the heroes of the Old Testament, all the saints of the ages throughout history down to this very day, all those who’ll put their trust in Christ and in the gospel have been misled and deceived.
If there is no resurrection, Christ did not rise. If Christ did not rise, the gospel is meaningless, faith is worthless. And then a fourth point: The apostles are liars. The apostles are liars. He says that essentially in verse 15: “Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified concerning God” – literally – “we testified concerning God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.”
Now what was the condition, the one qualification apart from being selected by our Lord? What was the one qualification necessary to be an apostle? Acts 1:22, any apostle had to be a witness of His resurrection, a witness of His resurrection. The apostles all were witnesses of His resurrection. In fact, at the beginning of chapter 1 of the book of Acts, they spent time with Him. They spent forty days with Him while He spoke to them after His resurrection concerning the things related to the kingdom of God; they were with Him. They were with the risen Christ; that was their testimony. All the way through the book of Acts the apostles are preaching Christ in His death and in His resurrection.
If there is no resurrection however, then Christ didn’t rise, the gospel is meaningless, faith is worthless, and all the preachers are liars. “We are also” – he says – “found to be liars. We’re discovered; the truth is uncovered. We are false witnesses concerning God.” In other words, “We are saying something about God that’s not true. We are saying God raised Christ, and God did not do that.” This is fascinating sort of dynamic here, because the apostles are pictured as witnesses brought into a court, and God is on trial, God is on trial, and God is claiming to have raised His Son from the dead. If that did not happen, then the witnesses who came in to declare that God did raise His Son have perjured themselves by preaching the resurrection of Christ if God did not raise Him from the dead.
Now as we know, throughout the New Testament, it is often repeated that God raised Jesus from the dead; also that Jesus had the power of resurrection in Himself. But often God raised Jesus from the dead is the way it is revealed to us in Scripture. If God didn’t raise Jesus from the dead and we say He did, we are part of a conspiracy; we are lying false witnesses.
The resurrection of dead men, if it doesn’t happen, then the resurrection of Christ didn’t happen. The gospel is a lie preached by liars, and faith in the gospel is a hoax. And it all goes together. You can’t just pull out the resurrection. Strange to think about it, but it is true, that there are within the framework of liberal Christianity, those who represent themselves as Christians, and even pastors and theologians who deny the actual resurrection of Jesus Christ, and carry on the Christian religion.
“The apostles” – says Paul – “if there’s no resurrection are not merely honest men who are trying to encourage people. They’re not really honest men who in sincerity have given some information that they thought was good.” Christianity is not advice. It’s not some kind of spiritual insight. If they’re preaching the resurrection and there is no resurrection they are liars.
They said Jesus rose, all the apostles, all the true Christian preachers; they’ve always said it, even to this very day. But the apostles said, “We saw Him. We touched Him. We saw the nail prints. We saw the scar in His side. We watched Him eat. We were with Him for forty days.” But if the dead don’t rise, then Christ didn’t rise; they’re all liars. And that means the whole New Testament is a hoax, it’s all a lie. All gospel preaching and all call to faith in Christ is a damning deception; it’s just another false religion.
And, oh, by the way, do you remember back in verse 3 of 1 Corinthians 15? Paul said, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” That means that not only are the New Testament preachers liars, but the Old Testament prophets are liars. The psalmist in Psalm 16 who said, “He will not allow His Holy One to see corruption, but will show Him the path of life,” – resurrection. It was a lie.
Turn for a moment to the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. It was in that chapter that Isaiah talks about resurrection without using the word. We know Isaiah talks about the Lord’s death. He will become a sacrifice for sin. “He was oppressed,” – verse 7 – “He was afflicted. Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, He didn’t open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living.” Being cut off – that’s an old expression for death. “He was cut off out of the land of the living.”
Verse 9 mentions His grave, as we saw this morning. It was supposed to be with wicked men, but He ended up with a rich man in His death, because He was buried in the tomb of the rich man Joseph of Arimathea. Clearly He is dead. The Lord was pleased that He would die. “The Lord was pleased” – verse 10 – “to crush Him, to render Him a guilt offering like any other sacrifice offered as a death on the altar.”
However, verse 10, “He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand. As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see and be satisfied.” Verse 12 says, “I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the booty with the strong; because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; bore the sin of many, interceded for the transgressors.”
How can someone who is dead see His offspring, future generations? He can’t. He can’t have His days prolonged. He can’t see into the future. He can’t receive an inheritance with the great and booty with the strong, unless there’s a resurrection. If you say that Christ did not rise, not only are all the New Testament preachers liars, but the Old Testament prophets are liars as well. And more importantly, since God claims to be the author of Scripture, God Himself is a liar. Proud liberal theologians who deny the resurrection will literally destroy Christianity to the degree that there’s nothing left. They need to abandon this religion altogether.
I was reading an article a few days ago. “If Jesus were living today would He become a part of Christianity? Would He identify with Christians?” The writer’s answer was, “No. No, He wouldn’t, because Christians are too concerned about social issues and not concerned enough about love and compassion, and that’s demonstrated because they make such an issue out of abortion and homosexuality. If Jesus were here today, He wouldn’t want to become a Christian, because He wouldn’t be connected to people who lack love and compassion.” This is written by a Christian.
If Jesus doesn’t rise from the dead you have no Christianity at all. To reduce Christianity to some kind of benign love and compassion to be defined by every person according to their own moral standard is not Christianity at all. The preachers in the New Testament are liars, the preachers in the Old Testament are liars, God Himself is a liar, even Jesus is a liar.
In the 16th chapter of John’s gospel, verse 13, just a few verses there: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and disclose it to you.” So not only – if there’s no resurrection, not only is God the Father a liar, because He didn’t raise Christ; not only is Jesus a liar, because He said He would rise and He didn’t; but the Holy Spirit who is the author of Scripture which says He rose from the dead is Himself a liar, and God is the devil.
Just to reset, Paul reaches back in verse 16 and regrips his premise. If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. That sets us on the same trajectory; if Christ is not raised, then the gospel is meaningless, faith is worthless, preachers are liars, God is a liar, Christ was a liar, Holy Spirit, author of Scripture is a liar.
There is a fifth serious issue if Christ did not rise: Sin is unforgiven, sin is unforgiven. Verse 17: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, because you are still in your sins.” If Christ didn’t rise – listen – sin killed Him, and sin held Him, and sin defeated Him. He is a condemned Christ, not a justifying Christ. If He did not rise, death won; and if death won, sin won, because death is the wages of sin.
For us to have forgiveness, for us to have forgiveness, someone had to conquer sin. Paul says, “If He didn’t rise, He didn’t conquer sin, and you are still in your sins. You are captive to the deadly sphere where all your sins surround and engulf you, and accuse you before God, like so many wolves about to tear you to shreds.”
If we want any hope of heaven, if we want salvation, we need a Savior who can free us from our sins, a Savior who can bring to us the full forgiveness of our sins. If there’s no resurrection, then there was no satisfactory payment for sin. If there’s no resurrection, there was no atonement, there was no redemption, the penalty was not paid in full. If the penalty is not paid, there is no reconciliation with God, there is no justification, there is no salvation, there is no life. If Christ is still dead, then we are all trapped in sin.
But Romans 4:25 says, “He was raised for our justification.” If the dead don’t rise, then He wasn’t raised, and we aren’t justified. Romans 4:25, “He was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.”
Again in Romans the 8th chapter, verse 33, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” If He didn’t rise, He’s not at the right hand of God interceding for us. Only as the risen Christ can He be the object of our faith.
Backing a little further toward the beginning of Romans, chapter 6, verse 3: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized” – or immersed into Christ Jesus – “have been immersed into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.
“Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” That’s because we died with Him and we rose with Him.
Only a living Christ can be to us wisdom, and sanctification, and righteousness, and redemption. He is the only one to turn to. “There is no other name,” – Acts 4:12. If He can’t do it, no one can. Christ not risen dooms and damns everyone; we are all without hope. In the words of Jesus Himself in John 8:21, “You will die in your sins; and where I go, you will never come.”
The resurrection is so critical. On the cross, the Bible says the apostles say the gospel declares that Christ paid the penalty for sin, took upon Himself the full fury of God’s wrath, and conquered death and sin. It was demonstrated in that He rose from the dead, because the grave could not hold Him. Sin had no power over Him. Hell’s carnival ended on the third day. He conquered sin for us; that is the gospel message; and in conquering sin for us, He conquered death for us.
Again, the apostolic preaching, Acts 5. Peter says in Acts, chapter 5 and verse 29, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.”
I love that word “Prince.” God exalted Him as a Prince, an archēgos, an archēgos. That’s a very interesting word used a number of different ways in ancient Greek. One I found interesting was that ships had a seaman onboard who was considered to be the archēgos. That word meant “pioneer” or “forerunner.”
It was a crew member who was a strong swimmer. If anything ever happened to the ship, this archégos would tie a rope around his waist, dive in, and swim to shore. He would find a place to attach the rope so that all the others could come along the rope to shore to safety. Jesus swam the waters of death and anchored the line for us. But if He drowned, we all drown. There’s no line; there’s no hope; He’s certainly not interceding for us, we are damned, and we have no one to help, no one at all.
There is a sixth statement that the apostle makes: If Christ did not rise, the dead in Christ have eternally perished. Verse 18: “Because you are still in your sins, then those who have fallen asleep” – that’s a phrase referring to death – “in Christ, believing in Him, have perished.” They’ve all gone to hell. Peter, James, John, Paul, all the apostles, all the early preachers, all the great preachers through history, the ancient preachers, the ancient fathers of the Christian faith, the reformers like Luther and Calvin and all the rest, they’re all in hell. Hell holds them all. Satan wins; God loses. They’ve all perished.
When all the believers close their eyes in death full of hope that they’re going to open their eyes and see Jesus, it never happened. They perished forever; never saw the one their souls loved; opened their eyes and saw nothing but fire, a kind of fiery darkness in hell. This is a crushing argument. The horrible consequence if Christ is not raised. If there is no resurrection, Christ is not risen, gospel preaching is meaningless, faith is worthless, apostles and preachers are liars, sin is not forgiven, and dead believers are damned.
And then there’s one more to wrap it up. Number Seven: Christians are the world’s most pitiful people. Verse 19: “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” If all of our hope in Christ was only for this life, only for here and now, we put all of our trust in Him, we are a pitiful lot of deluded souls. We have wasted our entire lives. Like every other false religion in the world, all meaningless. We have managed to live in illusion, and we gave up our life for it. We fight against sin, we fight against temptation, we struggle to please God, we study the Scripture, we desire to obey the Scripture, we bear the cross, we suffer reproach for Christ, we make sacrifices, we give, we serve, and it’s all an empty dream. We are pitiful people. If that’s all it is, just something for this life, what a waste, what a waste.
And then there’s verse 20: “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” But now Christ has been raised from the dead. The resurrection is a reality. The resurrection is a reality. That means that the gospel is true, faith is priceless, the apostles and prophets and Christian preachers proclaimed reality, sin is forgiven, believers who die are taken into eternal glory, and we are of all men most everlastingly blessed. I hope you have a new joy when you think about the resurrection.
Father, we are grateful again as always for the glory of Your Word. It explodes on our souls and our minds with its transcendent beauty and magnificence, clarity, and power. We look forward to the resurrection. We can say, “For to me to live is Christ, but to die is gain.” We long for that day when we leave this body and we receive a transformed body like the body of Your glory, O Lord, Your resurrection glory, a body that will be suited for things that we can’t even imagine – everlasting blessings; everlasting, holy, perfect, righteous adventure. But though they last forever will never be enough. Thank You, Lord, for life eternal.
Lord, we ask that You would give us a fresh and new gratitude for the resurrection, and that we would not forget that there are many who will rise to receive a body suited for hell; and we are called to proclaim the truth to them about death, about judgment, about resurrection unto judgment, and then about the gospel of grace. It’s our desire, Lord, that You would use us to bring people, to snatch brands out of the burning, bring people to the knowledge of the gospel and the glory of the resurrection. Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things that You’ve prepared for those that love You. But we know, we know that those things are going to be lavish, everlasting expressions of Your kindness and grace and love and mercy, and they will be enjoyed in a glorious resurrected form by all who put their trust in You.
Make us truly a people of the resurrection. Help us to talk about resurrection with friends, people we know. Help us to take Christianity to that point, that it’s not just about fixing issues in this life here and now – some of those never get fixed. It’s not about sucking the best out of the time here. It’s about living with the shining hope of resurrection unto eternal life. Help us to set our affections on things above and not on things on the earth. We look forward to the time when we are made like Christ and see Him as He is.
The gift of salvation overwhelms us. We are unworthy, undeserving, humbled, and grateful for such grace. And we desire to honor You and serve You in such a way that reflects our gratitude by obedience, by worship, by joy, and by eagerness to communicate gospel truth. Use us to that end we pray, Lord. We ask these things for Your glory. Amen. Amen.