Summary: The Theological and Personal Consequences of No Resurrection from the Dead.
You may be here this morning because of tradition, curiosity or the urging of others. If you are our guest this morning, you may wonder why we do what we do. We are here today not because of tradition, although we do celebrate this date each year. We are here today not because we discuss interesting things, although the discussion of what is in God’s perfect word is fascinating and equips for every good work. We are here this today not because we just want to interact with others, even though the camaraderie, comfort and encouragement of others is substantial. We are here this morning because Jesus Christ, who existed for all eternity as God, was born of a woman, lived a perfect life, suffered, died and rose again.
Christ’s death and resurrection in space and time, as bona fide historical events, actually set Christianity apart from all its major rivals. Later Western religions that developed in part in reaction to Christianity do not claim deity or resurrections for their originators, merely prophetic status (e.g., Mohammed in Islam or Joseph Smith in Mormonism). Older Eastern religions do not even require the actual historical existence of their founders for their beliefs and practices to make sense. In some ways they are more akin to philosophies than to historical truth-claims (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism) (Norman Anderson, Christianity and World Religions (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1984).).
Without the appeal to historical facts, we have no way of mediating between the competing claims of largely parallel personal experiences. Mormons, Buddhists, and Christians alike often testify today to some strong feeling or spiritual encounter that “confirmed” the truth of their faith. But since these three religions contradict each other at important points, all cannot be simultaneously true. Christians must appeal to more than a personal testimony; they must recognize the historical evidence that is on their side (Blomberg, C. (1994). The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians (308). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.).
In spite of the fact that the resurrection of believers is taught in the Old Testament, in the teaching of Jesus during His earthly ministry, and in the teaching of the apostles, serious doubts about it have infected many people today as it did of the Corinthian Christians. It is those doubts that the Apostle Paul forcefully counters in 1 Corinthians 15. God infallibly spoke through Paul when he wondered:
1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (ESV)
The construction of the sentence here (ei with the indicative) implies a condition that is true. The Corinthians believed in Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1, 11) and that He was presently alive (emphasized by the perfect tense of egeirō, as/has been raised). How then could they logically deny the general truth of resurrection? Since Christ has been raised, resurrection obviously is possible. That Christ is raised from the dead means that Jesus has been raised by God the Father from death. Paul’s teachings about resurrection are remarkably unequivocal: resurrection is at the center of everything Christians are asked to believe. Ten times in this short passage he employs one form or another of the Greek verb “to raise” (egeirō). Six times the verb occurs in the perfect tense, indicating the completed action with a present implication (Van Harn, R. (2001). The lectionary commentary : Theological exegesis for Sunday’s texts (219). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.).
The "some of you" (τινες) were almost certainly Gentiles, brought up under the influence of Greek philosophy, not Jews with Sadducean prejudices. Possibly they held that matter was evil, and that it was incredible that a soul, once set free by death, would return to its unclean prison. Or they may have been influenced by a popular form of Epicurean materialism. They had been brought up in the belief that at death existence either ceases entirely, or becomes so shadowy as to be worthless: in any case the body perishes utterly (Robertson, A., & Plummer, A. (1911). A critical and exegetical commentary on the First epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians (346–347). New York: C. Scribner’s Sons.)
• One of the greatest myths of Christianity is that it is just, so called, heavenly minded. Christianity rejects that there is no real hear and now, or that we are just to live for here and now. Christianity clarifies what the here and now is all about and to live right now for something greater than here and now.
In verses 13–20 the apostle demonstrates that the resurrection is not only possible but essential to the faith, by giving seven disastrous consequences, four theological and three personal, that would result if there were no resurrection: (1) Christ would not be risen; (2) preaching of the gospel would be meaningless; (3) faith in Christ would be worthless; (4) all witnesses to and all preachers of the resurrection would be liars; (5) Everyone would still be in their sins; (6) all former believers who have now died would have eternally perished; and (7) Christians would be the most pitiable people on earth.