Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 ESV
Essential to the gospel message is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Paul spent the entire opening paragraph of this chapter making that point clear. And he claims that the Corinthians had believed the message of the gospel, including the part regarding Christ’s resurrection. And yet, there were those in the church in Corinth who rejected the idea of the resurrection of the dead. This may have been due to their dualistic background. In their minds the body was deemed as evil and non-spiritual. So any idea of the body someday being resurrected or redeemed made no sense to them. Yet Paul regularly taught the resurrection of the body. In his second letter to the believers in Corinth, he wrote:
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. – 2 Corinthians 5:1-15 NLT
He assured the believers in Rome:
…we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. – Romans 8:23-24 ESV
As far as Paul was concerned, the resurrection will involve both our body and soul. We will be glorified. Just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead, so will we. And yet, there were some of the Corinthians who had rejected this idea. They had a hard time believing that God would redeem and glorify their bodies. So Paul has to logically address their concerns and misconceptions. Paul states, quite matter-of-factly:
For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. – 1 Corinthians 15:13-14 NLT
In other words, if you want to reject the idea of the resurrection of the body from the dead, then you have to reject that Jesus Himself was resurrected. Because, as Paul stated earlier, Jesus walked from the tomb with a resurrected body and was seen and recognized by more than 500 eye-witnesses. Paul himself had seen Jesus in His resurrected body on the road to Damascus. Remember what Paul said was of “first importance”. Jesus died, was buried, was raised on the third day, then He appeared to Peter, the disciples, more than 500 believers at one time, to James, and to all the apostles. And He did all this in His resurrected body, which was recognizable to all who saw Him. Even the wounds from the nails and spear were still visible (John 20:27). To reject the resurrection of the body was to reject the resurrection of Jesus. And without the resurrection there is no gospel. There is no good news. Paul exposes the serious consequences of their logic: “if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised” (1 Corinthians 15:16 ESV). But it gets even worse than that.
And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. – 1 Corinthians 15:17 NLT
In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! – 1 Corinthians 15:18 NLT
The resurrection of Jesus was proof that His death had satisfied the just demands of God. He had paid the penalty for the sins of man and God had accepted His sacrifice. Paul writes in his letter to the church in Philippi: “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV). The resurrection of Jesus was part of His glorification. “Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8:34 ESV).
It is because Jesus was raised from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father that we have hope. There is more to come. We have not been saved for this life, but for a life to come. Our glorification will not take place in this life, but in the one to come. “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while [in this life], he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10 NLT). But if we reject the reality of the resurrection, we have no hope. Paul puts it in blunt terms: “if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NLT). We are to be pitied because we still face death and the condemnation that comes as a result of our sins. Without the resurrection, our sins remain unpaid for and our death sentence still hangs over our heads. We may not be able to explain the resurrection. We may have a hard time understanding just exactly how God will accomplish the resurrection. But its reality is assured and our hope in it is essential. That is why the author of Hebrews described faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV). It is the resurrection of Jesus that allows us to have faith in what we hope for – our own future resurrection. It allows us to believe in what we can’t see – the future redemption of our bodies. Because He lives, we can trust that we will one day live with Him.
God sent His son, they called Him, Jesus;
He came to love, heal and forgive;
He lived and died to buy my pardon,
An empty grave is there to prove my Savior lives!
Because He lives, I can face tomorrow,
Because He lives, all fear is gone,
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living,
Just because He lives!
– Bill Gaither, Because He Lives