12.) Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13.) But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.
14.) And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty, and your faith is also empty.
15.) Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—in fact the dead do not rise.
16.) For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.
17.) And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!
18.) Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
19.) If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
In the message last week (I Cor 15:1-11), Paul began his argument for the resurrection of the dead by stating two points of common ground, two points on which he knew the Corinthians agreed with him: 1) that he didn’t measure up as an apostle and 2) that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Remember, there was a group in the Corinthian church who claimed there was no resurrection of the dead for the believers. Also remember that this thinking stemmed from the Greek mindset of an everlasting soul, but not an everlasting body. As far as these persons were concerned, the body would be corrupted beyond repair.
In today’s Scriptures, Paul begins by asking a question, “If it has been proclaimed that Christ is raised from the dead, how do some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” In other words, you say on one hand that you believe that Christ was raised from the dead, but you also say you don’t believe in the resurrection of the believer from the dead. He goes on to tell them that they can’t have it both ways. Either there is a resurrection or there is not a resurrection. If what they said was correct, and there is no resurrection for the believer, then there was no resurrection for Jesus, either. In these 8 verses, Paul uses the word risen or raised up seven times. In the Greek, this means to go from death to standing, and it is in the present perfect tense; therefore, it is continual, without interruption or end.
Paul then tells them that if Christ is not risen, then “our” preaching (literally, proclamation of the Gospel) is empty. That everything they have heard and seen is a farce, a lie, without meaning or truth of any kind; and their faith (which is used by Paul as saving faith, the belief in Christ’s finished work and our justification) is also a farce, a lie, without meaning or truth of any kind.
Notice in verse 14 Paul says “our” and in 15 he uses the word “we”. He doesn’t say “I” or “me” or “mine”. Go back and read verse 11, where he reminds those who are causing this division, those who claimed to follow Peter, Apollos or someone else besides Paul, that “we” preached the same Gospel and you believed the same gospel. In other words, this thought process of no resurrection of the dead did not come from Peter, Apollos, Paul or any other preacher of the Gospel!! It came from outside the Gospel message, and it was not what they first believed…
Paul continues with the idea that if what the Corinthians proclaimed was true, then Peter, Apollos, Paul, and others were false witnesses and were claiming for God something which God did not do; thus, they were breaking one of the commandments found in Deuteronomy. (In the fourth chapter of that book, God tells Moses to tell the people not to add or take away from the commandments He is leaving with them, that they may dwell long in the land in which they are about to go and possess.) Now, some in Corinth might have been willing to claim these things regarding false witness by Paul, but not about their favorite leader, the one they claimed to follow.
Paul then tells them that if the dead do not rise, which includes Jesus, then their faith is futile. There is no forgiveness of sins. They are all living in their sins. If there is no resurrection, there is no forgiveness, because there is no justification. And there is no justification because there is no resurrection. You see, the crucifixion is not complete without the resurrection!
It all goes back to an understanding about the Day of Atonement in the Jewish belief system. Even today the Day of Atonement is the holiest day in the Jewish year. They just celebrated Passover, and that is a major celebration, but the Day of Atonement is the most reverent and solemn. It is a day of fasting and repentance. It is not a feast day, but a day of confessing and seeking forgiveness. Even many non-religious Jews will honor this day.
During the times of the Tabernacle and the Temple, the people would bring their sacrifices. Numbers 28:7-11 says,” On the tenth day of the seventh month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall afflict your souls. You shall not do any work. You shall present a burnt offering to the LORD as a sweet aroma; one young bull, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year. Be sure they are without blemish. Their grain offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil: three tenths of an ephah for the bull, two tenths for the one ram, and one tenth for each of the seven lambs; also one kid of the goats as a sin offering, besides the sin offering for atonement, the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and their drink offerings.” And Leviticus 16: 30-34 tells us, “For on the day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you that you may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments. Then he shall make atonement for the most Holy Place (Holy of Holies), and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year.”
To make atonement, the High Priest would take some of the blood from the sacrifice of the young bull, place it in a bowl, and enter the Holiest place first. This was the only time all year that it would be entered sacramentally. (In the wilderness, it would have to be entered by the Levites in order to take down and reset at their new location). But when it was set up permanently at Shiloh and then the temple, the High Priest and only the High Priest was allowed to enter, and only on one day, the Day of Atonement. He would take the blood and with a hyssop branch dip it into the blood seven times and shake it those seven times at the Ark of the covenant. Then he would do the same inside the tabernacle at the door of the tabernacle and on the priests and the people gathered at the door of the tabernacle and the altar of burnt offerings. The belief was that the standing of the High Priest was the standing of the nation. If God saw the High Priest as righteous, He would accept this offering. Then, the High Priest would be allowed to leave, the people would be forgiven, and all would be good for the nation until the next Day of Atonement. However, if God didn’t see the High Priest as righteous, He would strike him down, and the people would not be forgiven, and all would not be good for the next year. There were bells sewn along the bottom of the High Priest’s robe so the people could hear him moving. They also tied a rope around one of the priest’s legs so that if God struck him down, they could pull him out. Remember, no one was allowed to enter the holiest place except he who consecrated as High Priest. The High Priest’s exit from the Holiest place meant that God had accepted their sacrifice, and they were forgiven and justified in the sight of God. In effect, the High Priest carried the sins of the nation in the bowl of blood into the holiest place. See the connection here? Jesus bore our sins upon the cross and carried them into the tomb. The resurrection meant His sacrifice had been accepted!! With the acceptance of the sacrifice, we have forgiveness and receive justification. No resurrection = no forgiveness and no justification.
Paul tells us in his letter to the Hebrews that Jesus is our High Priest and that His priesthood is eternal. He sits at the right hand of the Father, which means not only is His sacrifice accepted, and we are thus justified and forgiven, but also because he paid the price with His own blood and His own life, the work of atonement is done forever. Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. He sits because the work is finished. And all we have to do is believe and receive.
Next, Paul addresses this errant thinking even more sternly. If there is no resurrection, then those would have died in Christ are lost (Paul says “have perished”). The Greek here means totally destroyed. Not only is there no forgiveness or justification for the living, but those who died in the faith died believing in a lie. Died unsaved – not forgiven and not justified. If there is no resurrection, then what do we put our hope in? What hope is found in the cross with no empty tomb? What hope is found in the cross with no forgiveness available? What hope is found in the cross with no justification? NONE! Without the resurrection, there is no power. Without the resurrection, the finished work on the cross is just a finished life.
Paul wants the believers in Corinth to see the foolishness of their argument.
Unfortunately, there are many in the church today who are willing to accept a Christianity without power. They accept Jesus, not as Lord and Savior (although those words are used) but as a teacher and example of how to live a good life. There are those who question the stories of healing and signs and miracles, not believing that they really happened but were just symbols of life. And always there are those who question the authority of Scripture, picking and choosing what they want to believe, or what they can agree with. Some even think that serving humanity in Christ’s name is the same as serving Christ and allowing Him to work through us to bless humanity. One viewpoint is like asking “What would Jesus do?” The other is like asking, “Lord, what would you have us do?” The first is based on what we think; the second is based on searching out His will. The first is based on creating Christ in our own image; the second is based on submission to a holy and righteous God who through His grace allows us to be recreated into His image…
The good news is, there is a resurrection! Jesus was raised from the grave. It is continual, complete, and eternal. Because there is a resurrection, we are able to walk in His power. We are able to believe in the authority and truthfulness of His Word. Because there is a resurrection, we are able to walk in His forgiveness and justification in this life. Because there is a resurrection, those who have fallen asleep in their faith will not see destruction or corruption but a new incorruptible body. Because there is a resurrection, we have hope – confident expectation – not only in this life but also in the life to come.
He is Risen! And so are we!
Remember to continue to claim Psalm 91in the first person.
Now may the God who raised our Lord Jesus Christ from the grave, resurrect you life today. That you may walk in the power of our resurrected Lord and the presence of His Holy Spirit! AMEN