Faith and Logic in the Resurrection
Paul’s support of resurrection, is one of faith and logic.
1 Corinthians 15:12-15 (NKJV)
The Risen Christ, Our Hope
12 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? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 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.
Paul now beings to demonstrate that the Corinthians’s view on resurrection was self-contradictory with their Christian message. First, Paul asks the question if the heart of the Gospel message itself claims that Jesus was resurrected, then how can the Church also preach that there is no such thing as resurrection. If we hold that there is no such thing as a dead body coming back to life, then by necessity we would be saying that Christ’s dead body was never resurrected either. And if Christ was never resurrected as our Gospel message claims, then our preaching is in vain. Once again, the word vain means empty or amounting to nothing. In other words, if Christ didn’t actually rise from the dead, then he is preaching a worthless message to the world. More importantly, if the message the church is preaching to others is worthless, then the church’s faith is also empty and worthless. Our belief in something is only as sound and valuable as the
object of our belief. If we place our trust in something that is worthless, then our trust in that something is itself worthless. I think many unbelievers go through life assuming that generic faith will save them. That even if they happen to place their trust in the wrong thing or wrong person, God will nevertheless give them credit for the sincerity of
their trust. It’s very fashionable these days for people to describe themselves as spiritual.” And for people to talk about “belief in Christ” in abstract terms, as in “I’m a person of strong belief,” without ever defining the object of their belief. But blind trust12 is not saving faith, according to scripture. And neither does sincerity. You can be sincerely wrong and die in your sins and that is the point Paul is making here, he points out that they cannot simultaneously claim trust14 in Christ while at the same time denying the
very object of that trust.15 Christians have belief in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ because we find our hope in believing that just as the Son was raised from the dead, so shall we. To reject the resurrection is to reject Christ. Moreover, Paul says in verse 15 that if the testimonies of resurrection are not true, then all the apostles are false witnesses. These men were universally lying about the resurrection, because all say that Jesus died and was resurrected. They all testified that Jesus rose from the dead. But if the entire concept of resurrection is false, then we have no choice but to conclude that all the apostles were frauds and liars. If so, then why do the Corinthians care about anything Paul or an other apostle says concerning Christ and Christianity?
Why bother with any of it if you believe that the cornerstone claim is nothing but a lie?
Imagine you were on a jury hearing testimony from a witness in a trial when you learned that a key detail in a witnesses’ testimony turn out to be a lie. Would you trust anything else this witness said? No! Likewise, Paul says the church is taking a self-contradictory stance concerning Paul’s testimony. The church is willing to accept Paul’s word that Jesus was Lord and that the Gospel saves them from sin and that they have become
children of God by faith. And yet they believe resurrection is impossible, which means
Paul was lying when he testifies that Jesus resurrected. C.S. Lewis made a similar observation about those who say Jesus the man was a good teacher or even a prophet of God, yet they don’t believer His claims to being God in the flesh. That is a mutually self-contradictory stance, which C.S. Lewis summed up in his book Mere Christianity with the phrase “liar, lunatic or Lord.” Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic or He was truly Lord. He can’t be merely a good teacher, because He claimed to be one with God. He can’t be a good role model or prophet because He told people who unless they follow Him, they will not see the Father. The only sensible stance we can take is that Jesus was a liar or a lunatic… or He was truly Who He said He was: Lord. This is the dilemma facing the church in Corinth. They cannot reject resurrection as a concept while still embracing the Gospel. They cannot follow Paul and Apollos as leaders in the church
while simultaneously thinking they are lying about key facts. They cannot say they believe in the Gospel while rejecting its source of hope. So Paul brings this chain of logic to its inevitable conclusion.
1 Corinthians 15:16-19 (NKJV)
16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
If resurrection isn’t possible, then those believers who have already died in Christ have perished. Paul uses a euphemism for death: sleep. To sleep in the context of a discussion of resurrection is a reference to dying. Paul asks what would it mean for those believers who have already died if resurrection never happens. It would mean that these people will never again live. They were allowed to live once, but then they have perished. The Greek word for perish is apollumi, which means to be utterly
destroyed. To cease to exist at all. In other words, without the promise of resurrection, we would have to conclude that our present life on earth is the only life we have. And if that were true, then the hope we have been given in Christ is an earthly hope only.
The benefits of placing our trust in Jesus cannot extend past the grave, and so what good are they at all? Adopting the Christian viewpoint means placing yourself in a
position of suffering. It means self-denial in an attempt to obey the Lord. It means hardship. And it goes no further than that, then of what value was it? Paul says if it were true that we perish when we died, then we are the most pitiful of all men on earth. While the rest of the world at least gets to enjoy their brief life on earth, we would be suffering for the sake of Christ but to no reward. For scripture tells us that the rewards of our service to God come in a future time on earth. But we can only enjoy those future moments if we’re alive again to experiencing them. Jesus made this same observation during an encounter with the Sadducee’s, which was a religious sect within Israel that also rejected the notion of resurrection. As Jesus was addressing their challenge to Him concerning resurrection, He answered them this way –
Luke 20:37-38 (NKJV)
37 But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’[a] 38 For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.”
Jesus reminded the crowd that God made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. That covenant promised these men they would inherit the land of Canaan one day. But all these men died without having received those promises in their lifetimes. Therefore, the only way God can remain true to His promises is if these men live again one day. And in that future day, the Lord will finally fulfill His promises to them to give them the land. And then they will enjoy the inheritance God promised. So Paul has concluded his correction of the church for their foolish thinking on the matter of resurrection.
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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