Summary: An Exposition of 1 Cor. 15:1-11
Illustration: One Sunday I went to church with a college buddy of mine. It was a good church; it had good preaching, good singing, and an overall good attitude. But one thing really bothered me. The churches name was Corinth Baptist Church. I thought to myself, why in the world would anyone want to name their church that.
In fact, the Corinthian church probably had more problems than any other church in the New Testament. But one problem stood out above all others, some in the church had begun to doubt the bodily resurrection from the dead (15:12).
Some may say that this topic is not really and big deal, and in truth some churches treat it like its not. But the resurrection from the dead is a central theme of the Christian faith.
Why? Because Jesus rose from the dead. If this is not true then that changes everything.
Many have questioned and attacked this truth for as long as the church has been around, because they know that if this truth crumbles, the church crumbles with it.
Here in 1 Cor 15:1-11 Paul gives a great defense of this truth.
We can know for certain that Christ has been raised from the dead.
Do you believe that tonight? Do you believe that you can know beyond any shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ is alive and well and seated at the right hand of the Father this very minute.
Paul gives us three “proofs” so that we can know for sure that Jesus Christ is really raised from the dead.
The first proof that Paul gives us is…
I. The Proof of Our Salvation (vs. 1-2)
We can know that Jesus is alive because of our salvation.
Even though Paul has had to correct many errors and incorrect practices in the Corinthian church, he is still writing to a group of people who have had their lives changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (1:2,4-9)
Without a doubt, this gospel, which was preached to them, which the received, which transformed their lives included the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
In fact, without the Jesus’ resurrection there would be no gospel at all.
Paul then, uses the fact of their salvation, and transformed lives, to show the Corinthian believers the reality of Jesus resurrection.
If Jesus is not raised the Paul says that they have believed “in vain”. The phrase “in vain” literally means empty or without cause. If Jesus has not been raised then there is no cause for us to believe in Him.
Later on in this same chapter Paul will say that if Christ has not been raised the “our preaching is in vain” and “your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins.” (15:14,17)
Put plain and simple, if Jesus is not alive, then none of us are saved.
Transition: Paul knows that sometimes we may have doubts even about our salvation, so He gives us another, more reliable source.
II. The Proof of the Scriptures – (vs. 3-4)
The Old Testament points to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Paul says that this message of the gospel and the resurrection is of “first importance”. It is not a side note of the church, it is the main theme.
He notes that Christ’s death for our sins is according to the scriptures. Passages like Isaiah 53 and traditions like the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16) clearly point to the substitutionary death of Jesus on behalf of the people.
But just as much as Christ’s death is foretold in the Scriptures, so is his resurrection. Passages like Psalm 16:8-11 are used by the early church to point to this fact. Even traditions such as the firstfruits (Lev. 23:9-14) are used to refer to the resurrection. Want more? Just look at the illustration of Jonah that Jesus uses Himself to point to His resurrection.
Even if we are unsure of ourselves, we can be sure of God’s Word. It never fails, it never changes, and it clearly and accurately foretold the resurrection of Jesus long before the Corinthians began doubting it.
Transition: Paul still wants to leave no doubt in the minds of his readers of the reality of Christ’s resurrection, so he gives them one more proof.
III. The Proof of Eyewitnesses – (vs. 5-11)
The reality of Jesus’ resurrection has been confirmed by numerous eyewitnesses.
For those who would doubt the testimony of God’s Word, or the reliability of the Corinthians salvation, Paul now gives a list of eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ.
He lists Peter and the other apostles. They were convinced of this truth of the resurrection, because they gave their life to tell others about it.
He then tells of a group of more than 500 that Jesus appeared to all at once. Hallucinations are one thing, but 500 people seeing the same thing at one time holds some water. Paul even says that most of these folk are still around to go ask about it.