Summary: Paul clarifies for the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15 why the Resurrection is the critical element of the Christian faith. It is not just a belief to be believed. It is a belief to be lived.



1 CORINTHIANS 15:12-33, 50-58

It was the first day of the week. Probably a little bit earlier than a sunrise service. Three women were making their way through the dimly lit streets of the community.

They are on their way to anoint the body of Jesus of Nazareth for burial. Everyone around had heard of Jesus. The events of the past few days; his parade style arrival in town; the raucous he had raised in the temple; his in-your-face confrontation with the religious leaders; his trial; his crucifixion and his death; had captured the attention of the community. Even the event of his burial had caused some commotion.

But they remembered that a stone had been ordered placed in the doorway of the tomb, and it had been sealed closed. There was no way that the stone could be moved. The stone, in the shape of a 6 or 7 foot disk, nearly one and a half feet thick, had been set in its grooves. It would take no less than several horses to pull it out.

The conversation the rest of the way to the tomb centered on how the stone could be moved, so burial preparations could be made. Could you imagine their surprise then, when they arrived at the tomb and found the stone removed from the entrance?

They went inside. And there sat a young man. He was dressed in a pure white robe. It was strange that he would be sitting in the tomb. He had caught them off guard and they were more than a little uneasy about him being there.

But what he said is what will never be forgetten. "Don't be afraid. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. Look at the place where they laid him. Go, go tell the disciples, he is alive as he said."

He's alive! He's alive!

In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul takes and codifies the place of the resurrection as a principle piece of Christian doctrine:

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Michael Green in Man Alive!: “Christianity does not hold resurrection to be one among many tenants of faith. Without faith in the resurrection there would be no Christianity at all. The Christian church would never have begun. The Jesus movement would have fizzled out like a damp squib with the crucifixion. Christianity stands of falls with the truth of the resurrection. Once disprove it, and you have disposed of it."

Have you ever tried to imagine what it would have been like to have been a witness to the resurrection? Have you ever placed yourself back in time to experience the excitement of the resurrection appearances? If you have, ultimately, you have had to wrestle with the question, "So what? What difference does the Easter message make?"

For Paul the answer is simple. The Easter message is the pivot point of Christian theology.

To answer “Why does the Easter message matter?” we should start with the question “What if the resurrection didn’t happen?”

If the resurrection didn’t happen …

Our faith is useless and futile (vs. 14, 17)

14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. – Useless means empty without substance.

Let’s make a deal! Monte Hall, now Wayne Brady … Let's Make a Deal is also known for the various unusual and crazy costumes worn by audience members, who dressed up that way in order to increase their chances of being selected as a trader. The show is based around deals offered to members of the audience by the host. The traders usually have to weigh the possibility of an offer for valuable prizes, or undesirable items, referred to as "Zonks".

These “Zonks” are the worth of our faith without the resurrection.

But since the resurrection occurred …

Our faith is validated and needs to be preserved (vs. 58)

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm.

"Firm" is a construction term. It refers to the foundation of the building. The building is built on a solid foundation. It is not built on a foundation which is steadily shifting, like sand on the seashore.

Become firm like the foundation of a building. Become solidly grounded, so that no matter the attack that is made, you can stand.

Don't let others push you around with their ideas of the gospel. Don't even believe it, if an angel comes with a different message, then the one you heard. Don't be moved from a solid conviction that Jesus did raise from the dead.

When I was growing up in Rock Falls, in the neighborhood there was a small neighborhood store. About half of the store was full of candy for neighborhood children. I would make frequent trips to that store for the pick-and-choose candies. He had several kinds of candy from which you could pick and choose 10 pieces for a quarter. But there was one specific kind, which I did not like, so I never chose it.

There are some who would approach the Christian faith in the same way. They do not believe that miracles could possibly occur. And the resurrection is obviously miraculous. It is something they choose not to believe.

But we cannot enter into Scripture with that same mentality. We cannot approach the Bible and say, "I like this Jesus, but I don't like that Christ. I like the idea of love, but not the idea of service. I like the idea of Jesus' sacrificial death, but not that he rose from the dead.

That is true as well today. People want us to believe in a God who is loving and accepting, but is no longer holy and justice. They talk about God’s love, and use it as a sham to cover the pillow of sin upon which they lay their heads.

How can they do that? Because Christianity is a dead faith that needs to be redefined, recast for a new generation. Those prescientific beliefs need to be discarded, and we are left to pick and choose what we like about Jesus, and leave the rest behind.

The entire gospel is wrapped around a belief in the resurrection. If we loose that element of our faith, Christianity has just become another of the world religions. There is nothing real to offer.

Become convinced. Don't move away from that conviction, no matter what happens. "Stand firm."

If the resurrection didn’t happen…

We are still lost, dead in our sins (vs. 17, 18)

17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.

Futile means that the purpose is not achieved.

But since the resurrection occurred …

We are made alive (vs. 22)

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Parallel Ephesians 2:1-5

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, (We were the living dead. Dead. Not sick, not dying, not having an off day—dead.) 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

I’ve never been one who was into the horror movie scene. When all the slasher movies of the 70’s and 80’s began to come out, I didn’t see a one. When they were released on VHS, I watched only about 15 minutes of one of the Jason movies. Those movies just didn’t do it for me.

However, when I was around 6 to 8 years of age, I would sometimes stay up with my oldest sister late nights on Saturday and watch “Creature Feature” on WGN – B movies to the hilt, with all of the classic monsters – Dracula, Frankenstein, the Were Wolf, and the Thing. But, nearly without exception, what scared me the most were the Zombies – the soulless living dead – those who when in at a moment of lucidity ask the living to deliver them from their dark life of death.

That resembles the picture Paul is painting here - The soulless zombie wandering lifelessly through this existence. “These people are physically alive, but their sins have rendered them spiritually unresponsive, alienated from God, and thus incapable of experiencing the full life that God could give them.” (LAB Commentary)

4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions (even when you were a spiritual zombie)—it is by grace you have been saved.

Good Friday red ribbons – Easter white ribbons.

“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”

If the resurrection didn’t happen…

We are to be pitied (vs. 19)

19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

No one likes to be felt sorry for …

But since the resurrection occurred …

We have a reason for hope (vs. 54-57)

54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

If the resurrection didn’t happen…

All of our spiritual efforts are a waste of time (vs. 29-32)

29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? 30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? 31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,

for tomorrow we die.”

But since the resurrection occurred …

All of our spiritual efforts are worth it (vs. 58)

Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

Now that you have this assurance of resurrection, find your place to serve.

The term work is the same term Paul uses of his own personal ministry. The term actually means ministry. It is not the minister's job, for we have all been called to be ministers. We all have a responsibility to serve.

The other term labor can best be described from my childhood. My step-dad always planted a large garden. The first couple of years, I was not allowed to work in the garden because I was yet too small. I would go out and sit by the edge of the garden and watch him work.

One day my turn came. As we went out to the garden, my step-dad gave me the hoe, and led me over to the bell peppers, were he thought I couldn't do too much damage, and I got to work.

I was probably no more than 5 minutes, but it seemed like an hour. I turned and said, "Dad this is work." He said, "Yes". And I replied, "You don't seem to understand this is hard work."

Labor is hard work. The work that caused you to perspire, and to become physically fatigued. It is work that takes all of the energy you have, and drinks it away.

Find a place of ministry that you can pour yourself into. Find a place to serve that you can give your undivided devotion. And once you have found that place to serve, get to work with all the vigor that you can muster.

Notice the example of Paul in verses 30-32. He gave his ministry his all. He took abuse from people who acted like wild animals. He placed himself in situation were execution due to his faith was at least a possibility. He gave his service everything he had.

Why? Paul brings back out the “Let’s Make A Deal” term, useless, again in verse 58. But this time he emphasizes that it is worth it. You won’t be “zonked”. This is not a bait and switch.

If the resurrection didn’t happen…

We become victims of corrupting influences (vs. 33-34)

In verse 33, Paul quotes from the Greek poet, Menander, "Bad company corrupts good character." The word "company" can be taken in one of two senses. The first sense is the idea of companionship. The second is the idea of conversation.

I think both senses are at work here. The believers have cozied up with others who don’t believe that dead people can come back to life. In their conversation with these anti-resurrectionists, the church people begin to lose their hold on the belief in Christ’s resurrection. And once conviction is lost, once the solid foundation had been removed, sin is inevitable.

Some of us are far too careless about who we let have an influence on us. Yes, we are called to engage with the world outside of the church, but often rather than being an influencing witness, we find ourselves being the ones influenced.

No wonder there was so much sin within the Corinthian church. No wonder Paul had to confront them about their tolerance of a young man living with his step-mother. No wonder Paul had to confront them about their divisive spirit. No wonder Paul had to confront them about their lack of love for each other. No wonder Paul had to confront them concerning their abuses of the Lord's Supper.

For when the Corinthians had lost their moorings in the conviction of the resurrection, they wandered aimlessly in a sea of sin, sinking, and yet unconcerned.

But since the resurrection occurred …

We are called to be transformed (vs. 34, 49, 52)

58 Let nothing move you. – don’t we swayed by any bad company.

In verse 34, Paul says, "Come back to your senses." This phrase carries the idea of waking someone from their drunken stuper. Paul is in essence saying those who have denied the resurrection are punch drunk, and we know the trouble people get in when they are under the influence.

Timothy captivated by the drunk guy at a Rockies game.

And he refers to those who are perverting the gospel as "some who are ignorant of God."

But tucked very neatly between those two phrases is the imperative, "Stop sinning." The verse tense for this phrase suggests that the sin is presently being practiced. It is time to “Stop it, just stop it.”


Culminating in our future transformation: 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.


It was 24 years ago, on Feb. 27, 1991, at the height of Desert Storm, that Ruth Dillow received a very sad message from the Pentagon. It stated that her son, Clayton Carpenter, Private 1st Class, had stepped on a mine in Kuwait & was dead.

Ruth Dillow later wrote, "I can’t begin to describe my grief & shock. It was almost more than I could bear. For 3 days I wept. For 3 days I expressed anger & loss. For 3 days people tried to comfort me, to no avail because the loss was too great."

But 3 days after she received that message, the telephone rang. The voice on the other end said, "Mom, it’s me. I’m alive." Ruth Dillow said, "I couldn’t believe it at first. But then I recognized his voice, & he really was alive." The message she had received was all a mistake!

She said, "I laughed, I cried, I felt like turning cartwheels, because my son whom I had thought was dead, was really alive. I’m sure none of you can even begin to understand how I felt."

Yet, there is one who can know how she felt … not because we have had a son returned to life, but because the Son of God is no longer in the tomb.