Summary: In this sermon we examine the evidence for the resurrection of Christ.
We continue our study in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians in a series I am calling Challenges Christians Face.
In our study of his letter to the Corinthians Paul has just concluded a long discussion regarding spiritual gifts. He now turns his attention to an issue about which he has heard. Paul heard that some in the Corinthian church were saying that there was no resurrection of the dead (15:12). The entire chapter 15 is devoted to addressing this issue.
One of the challenges that Christians face is the issue of what happens to our bodies when we die. Paul began by providing proof for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, because the resurrection of our bodies is dependent upon the resurrection of Jesus, as we shall in the coming weeks. Let’s learn about this in a message I am calling, “The Resurrection of Christ.”
Let’s read 1 Corinthians 15:1-11:
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy 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. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is either the supreme fact of history or else a gigantic hoax.
This seems to have been realized in the days of the first-century Church. On the one side, there was a little company of men and women who turned the whole world upside down by their passionate proclamation of the resurrection, which had transformed their lives. On the other side, there were those who vehemently denounced the whole story as outright blasphemy.
We find it hard to see the issue so clear-cut, for we live in an age that is tolerant and suspicious of all fanaticism. Most people have no desire to attack the Easter message. And yet they only half believe it. To many it is a beautiful story, full of spiritual meaning. Why worry, then, whether or not it is a literal fact of history?
But that is missing the point. Either the resurrection of Jesus Christ is infinitely more than a beautiful story, or else it is infinitely less.
If it is true, then it is the supreme fact of history, and to fail to adjust one’s life to its implications means eternal loss.
But if it is not true, if Christ has not risen, then the whole of Christianity is a fraud, foisted on the world by a company of consummate liars, or, at best, deluded simpletons.
Even the apostle Paul realized this when he wrote, in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
So that is the issue, and it is vital for us to come to a decision about it one way or another. Today, I want to examine the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I. The Empty Tomb
The first evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the empty tomb.
A. False Theories for the Empty Tomb
Ever since the disciples began to proclaim that Jesus had risen from the dead, some have denied the historical resurrection and have tried to come up with ways of explaining the evidence through alternative theories. Let me briefly list some of these alternative theories and show why they are false.
1. Unknown Tomb Theory
One of the earliest false theories presented to explain everything away is that the tomb of Jesus was unknown.
In Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, DC, we have the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. With Jesus, the opponents claim that it is the case of the Unknown Tomb.