Summary: This gives Paul's teaching on how denial of the real. bodily resurrection of Jesus unravels the foundations the truth and the hopes of the Christian faith
BIBLE MESSAGES ON EASTER
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Annual Sermons Volume 1
IF CHRIST BE NOT RISEN (1 Cor. 15:12-29)
Before the Bishop James Pike met his untimely death in the Palestinian desert he wrote a blasphemous book, “But This I Do Not Believe.” Each sermon was a denial of a major doctrine of the Christian faith. One doctrine the Bishop could not believe was the resurrection of the believer’s body at the Second Coming.
Harry Emerson Fosdick, the spokesman of modern Liberalism often said he believed in the survival of personality and in the immortality of the soul but he could not believe in the resurrection of the body. A Sunday School teacher once told me that one phrase in the Apostle’s Creed he could never repeat or believe was “the resurrection of the dead.”
This was the problem at Corinth. Some could not believe in the resurrection of the death. They were not denying Christ’s resurrection but ours. When we die, our bodies go to the grave, but our spirits go at once to live in conscious fellowship with Jesus Christ. Paul said that to be absent from the body was to be present with Jesus (2 Cor. 5:8). Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:43). That very day their bodies were taken down and placed in the earth to decay. But their spirits were in Paradise, in heaven. The Book of First Peter (3:18) says that while our Lord’s body was in the grave, He went in the spirit and preached to the spirits in prison, those who had disobeyed Noah. Three days later however, His Spirit was clothed with His body. And for us, it may be three thousand years, but we shall have the same experience. We shall return with Jesus (1 Th. 3:13), and our bodies will rise up from the grave and be changed (1 Cor. 15:42-45), and shall clothe our spirits throughout eternity.
I can understand how devout Christians find this difficult to believe. I know that when a person is buried at sea and the fish eat his body that when those fish are eaten, his particles can be in another human being. I know we will not have the exact same body because flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50).
But when a thing is difficult, this does not mean it should be denied. We must learn to believe what God says and let Him take care of the details. Sad indeed is the fact that some cannot understand or explain it. Paul, in these verses, shows the awful implications of such doubts. Question marks, like vultures, circled over the church at Corinth and threatened to rob Christianity of its meaning. Paul’s basic remark is that if we are not going to really rise from death bodily, then Jesus did not rise bodily.
He says this three times, “Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (V. 12). “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised” (v. 13). “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised” (v. 16).
Thus if you deny that we will have a bodily resurrection at the last day you really deny that our Lord was resurrected. And denying this you tear the very heart out of the Christian faith. Without the resurrection of Jesus there is no faith worth believing (14-16) and no salvation worth receiving (17-19).
I. NO FAITH WORTH BELIEVING (15:14-16)
First of all, Paul says, if Christ did not rise then there is no message to preach in our churches and there is nothing worthwhile for you to believe. He says our preaching is vain and our faith is vain.
1. No Faith in God’s Love.
If Jesus Christ did not rise from the grave then we have absolutely no basis for the belief that a God of love is in control. The events on Mount Calvary are a horrible snapshot in a moment of time that reveal the terrible kind of world in which we live. There we have injustice and cowardice and cruelty and hate and pain and bloodshed and greed and murder. And the haunting question is – Is this all there is to life?
Does evil always win? That lovely body, bruised, beaten, shamed and bleeding – is it only to be food for the worms? Is Satan the ruler of this world? Or is God? Our reply is the empty tomb. Our reply is the risen Lord. Our reply is the new age to come when the resurrected saints of God will live forever in the new heaven and the new earth. This is why Easter gives meaning to Christmas.