Paul’s Testimony of the resurrection of Jesus
For the church the resurrection of Jesus’ body is central to the gospel itself. It is the basis for hope of our eternal life. So, if the resurrection isn’t true, both for Jesus as well as for us, then the hope which we put our faith completely in disappears. The question to ponder is why should anyone care whether Jesus is or is not the solution to overcoming death? Why should anyone give Jesus a second thought? If, when I die and that is the end for me. The claims, if any, or teachings about eternal life I had placed my hope in, is pointless. Thus, putting Jesus in the same category as other false religions with no basis of truth. And therefore, without believing in the Gospel how can I possibly believe in the resurrection of Jesus?
This is the basis of Paul’s concern. The Corinthian Church was accepting the teachings of false teachers and started rejecting the truth about their future promises. It was a sign they never accepted the true gospel Paul taught them first. And because of that, they had believed in vain. Their belief had no substance and was therefore, empty.
The resurrection is the key element of the gospels. It is the basis of our hope. Paul again shares the truth of Jesus’ resurrection by mentioning many eyewitnesses of Jesus after He had risen and not it was not just solely on Paul’s testimony.
1 Corinthians 15:3-7 (NKJV)
3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas (Peter), then by the twelve. 6 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. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
Jesus was resurrected and was alive again after His death and burial. This is what Paul taught the Corinthian Church initially. When Jesus died on the cross it was the ushering in of Christianity. Because of His resurrection. Paul reminds the church that it is not by his account only, that others also witnessed the risen Christ. Jesus appeared to Peter the first the day of His resurrection.
Luke 24:34 (NKJV)
34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!”
Then later that same night Jesus appeared to the rest of the 12 after He was resurrected. Here the twelve is referring to the eleven plus Matthias who replaced Judas by the throwing of lots. Another reminder that Paul never considered himself as one of the twelve apostles. He wasn’t called to be an apostle until much later when he was on the road to Damascus. What better testimony than to have the apostles affirming the resurrection of Jesus. To further support this truth of Jesus’ resurrection, was His appearance to over 500 believers who saw their risen and much alive Lord. The mention of the 500 witnesses only appears here in 1 Corinthians. However, it is highly likely, since it has only been about 23 years since Jesus’s resurrection when Paul wrote this letter that the stories were still being told about Jesus’s appearances and that even some were still alive and around now who personally witnessed seeing the Savior after His resurrection. In addition to the apostles and the 500, Jesus also appeared to His half-brother James (the author of the Book of James in the NT)
The establishment of the early church was built on eye-witness testimony, backed by spiritual power through apostolic gifting. These apostles along with other disciples had firsthand accounts of Who Jesus was and they continued His teaching. They taught of Christ’s fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. And gave an account of what they experienced when the resurrected Lord appeared before them.
Why did anyone believe their testimony in the first place? We could expect many people would dismiss their testimony as simply the rantings of a crazy sect of religious fanatics.
In fact many people did come to that conclusion. However, some stilled believed by the power that is in the Spirit.
John 15:20 (NKJV)
20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.
In Paul’s day the church was founded and grew on the testimony of a few men; and this is the same basis how the church grows today. The followers of Jesus today share the message of Who Jesus is and what He had done during His three years of ministry on Earth. Even today, that message is being preached to the ends of the world showing how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. We can also trust in our own eyewitness testimony of the resurrection of Jesus. Our eyewitnesses are found in the New Testament as the authors of the New Testament books. Note, the requirement for any writing in the NT before it could be included in the canon of scripture was that New Testament scripture had to be written by an apostle. We have such apostles who came face to face with the resurrected Lord. We have their eye-witness testimony still today in the form of the Gospels and the letters. Truly, we’re in the same situation that the early church found itself in,bringing a message to the world that many will reject but some will receive.
It’s a message that must be accepted on faith in God’s word. Just as the early church grew from those who had faith in the eye-witness testimony of men Christ chose to carry that message. Today the church grows on the basis of faith in the word of God, where these same testimonies have been recorded for our sake. This is why Paul says elsewhere.
Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Finally, Paul reminds the church that he also saw the risen Lord*
1 Corinthians 15:8-11 (NKJV)
8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
In his role as an apostle by God’s grace, Paul says he is the least of them. He was not chosen like the other apostles during Jesus’ time as the incarnate man before the resurrection, Nor did he experience the receiving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. His moment came on the road to Damascus when Jesus appeared to him several years after Jesus first appeared after His resurrection. But Paul still experienced after the resurrection of Jesus, the resurrected Lord face to face and in that moment receive the Holy Spirit. Paul says he was the last to see Christ risen. And he (Paul) said he was born out of due time. Paul was confident his appointment as an apostle was on the same level as the other apostles. But accepting his apostleship was received in a different manner. Meaning his commissioning of an apostle was much different than the first twelve. Paul wasn’t appointed by the Lord in the early days of Christ’s ministry as were the other apostles.
Paul didn’t spend three years walking with Christ before His death and in fact, before he was an apostle, Paul was the chief persecutor of the church. So in these ways, Paul certainly did not have the typical entry into his apostleship. Nevertheless, Paul says by the grace of God, he is what he is as an apostle. By God’s unmerited favor – and nothing else – Paul became the apostle, who then founded the Corinthian church. It is through the resurrection of Jesus that Paul was able to make such claims of God’s grace.
Through God’s grace and mercy Paul’s life of disobedience, ignorance and hatred toward God’s people were overlooked by God and the Lord called Paul into faith and commissioned him to accomplish great things. And we have hope in God’s mercy to Paul for it is evidence to us God’s mercy in our lives also, because of God converting a man like Paul. No matter when we came to faith, whether late in life or it took a long time for us to realize our faith before we walked in it or if our talents are lacking or there might be physical, financial limitations or if we have some emotional baggage encompassed by self-doubt. Even if our past included many sins and shameful behaviors we can feel a sense of assurance as we are shown, as with Paul to be mindful these things are not barriers to God’s grace and mercy. By the resurrection of Jesus, the life we had before Christ does not dictate our usefulness to God. Or our talents or weaknesses are not limitations to God’s power working through us. For our reputations as unbelievers went to the grave with Jesus. Thus, giving us opportunities to serve Him in a new life.
Romans 6:4 (NKJV)
4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Paul acknowledges that God’s grace given to him wasn’t in vain. He says he labored more than the other apostles. Paul may have gotten a late start but he did not waste his opportunity. As is evidence through his journeys and his writings which make up a great portion of the New Testament. During the time from Jesus’ ministry to when Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church there had been many apostles with some we never hear about. Not even their names are mentioned. Others we know their name, like Matthias. However, there is no record of his or the unnamed apostle’s work recorded in scripture. A couple of possibilities of why they are missing may be they did not work as hard and did not accomplish great things or they just were not as diligent or dedicated to the task the Lord appointed to them. We do not know what the truth is in that regard, but today we face a similar choice in our walk with the Lord. Like Paul, we can take the grace we’ve received and make the most of it. Or we can choose to squander our opportunity to serve the Lord and cause God’s grace to be given in vain. To be empty in our heart and our lives. But in what we know, we should be seeking to imitate Paul’s example.
To sum it up, Paul again reminds the Corinthian Church the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and that many eyewitnesses testified to the reality of Christ’s raising from the dead.
It is the resurrection of Jesus that we have received the grace of God. Not of our own doing but through the faith of Jesus we are saved that we believe in His death, burial, and 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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