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Christ: The Ultimate Proof of Resurrection- I Corinthians 15:12-22

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

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Introduction: Jesus is Our Hope Beyond the Grave

There is a very powerful story that I once heard of a little girl whose home was near a cemetery, and in order to go to the store, she had to follow a path that led through the cemetery. But this little girl never seemed to have any sense of fear, even when she returned through the cemetery at dusk. Someone said to her, "Aren't you afraid to go through the cemetery?" "Oh, no," she replied, "I'm not afraid, for my home is just beyond it."

Are you afraid of the cemetery?

Not if you are a Christian and know that your Home is just beyond it.

We don't need to fear death anymore because it has been conquered by our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ the day that He rose from the dead. Christian apologist, Henry Morris once said these powerful words:

“The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God, and the Christian faith is absolute truth.”

That is what Paul is dealing with in I Corinthians 15:12-22. There were those in Corinth that claimed that there was no resurrection from the dead. As we said in a previous sermon, they were probably gnostic heretics that taught that flesh was evil, and that spirit was the only thing good. So, the goal for them, was to escape the frail, evil body.

Paul begins this section by telling the Corinthians that it was belief in the resurrected Christ that brought them to the Christian faith in the first place. In the first 12 verses of I Corinthians 15 he reminded them of the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Central to that message was the fact that Jesus died, was buried and was raised bodily from the grave. Paul gives proof from the Scriptures themselves that teach the fact of the resurrection. Then he turns to a myriad of eyewitnesses to the resurrected Lord. And finally, he gives himself as a special witness who went from being a persecutor and murderer of Christians, and destroyer of the faith, to one of the greatest apologists for the gospel this world has ever known. And it was all because he had seen and talked with Jesus after He was bodily raised from the dead.

Now, in these next verses, (12-22), Paul is proposing a nightmare scenario to the believers who are being led to abandon their faith in a bodily resurrection. He asks: "What if the Gnostics are correct and there is no resurrection of the dead? What are the consequences of your new belief system?" Sadly, the results would be very grim.

Let us look now at these verses and see what Paul tells these believers in order to begin to shake them out of their self-imposed nightmare. Here are his exact words:

"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? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty, and your faith is also empty. 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—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive."

As Paul points out, the very first result of the nightmare hits at the heart of our faith. It is the fact that our preaching and our faith are totally worthless, if there is no bodily resurrection from the grave.

I. Our Preaching and Faith Would Be Worthless (12-14)

Christian author and radio talk show host Hank Hanegraaf once wrote this:

“What happened as a result of the Resurrection is unprecedented in human history. In the span of a few hundred years, a small band of seemingly insignificant believers succeeded in turning an entire empire upside down. As has been well said, ‘They faced the tyrant’s brandished steel, the lion’s gory mane, and the fires of a thousand deaths,’ because they were utterly convinced that they, like their Master, would one day rise from the grave in glorified, resurrected bodies.”

But, like Paul wrote, if there were no resurrection of the dead, then Jesus Himself would still be dead and buried. And all of those sacrifices of martyrs would be for nothing. These people could have lived like the rest of the world. They could eat, drink and be merry, because tomorrow they would die and be forgotten in some grave somewhere, never to be heard from again. Martyrdom for your faith makes perfect sense if Jesus is alive, and heaven is real. But it is totally foolish if the dead are not raised, and Jesus is still in the grave as well.

However, Paul takes it one step further by saying that all of the witnesses and preachers of the resurrection would be liars.

II. The Witnesses and Preachers of the Resurrection Would Be Liars (15)

This would be an even more serious charge back then. Because Paul just got finished telling the Corinthians that there were literally hundreds of witnesses of the resurrected Christ before His ascension into heaven. You might get away with saying that some were deceived. However, if that were true, there would have to be deceivers who were lying about what, or who they had seen during those 40 days that Jesus was on earth after he came out of the grave.

Further, if the dead aren't raised, what they said that they had seen, that is the resurrected Christ, would be impossible. God would be the only one who could have done this miracle, and if it didn't happen then, obviously, He didn't do it. Because of this, these preachers would not only be liars, but they would be causing others to say that God was a liar. And that would lead some to blaspheme God who cannot lie. Instead of bringing glory to God the Father, the preaching would, rather, bring shame to His holy name.

And, as bad as that is, for us who have placed our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, it would get even worse. We would still be in our sins.

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III. The Believer Would Still Be in Their Sins (16-22)

The whole reason that Jesus Christ came to die in the first place was to be a substitute for the sins of the world. The Bible says that man is a sinner. We've all done things that offend a holy God. Romans 3:23 tells us plainly that:

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

God, by nature, is holy. He is separate from sin and cannot stand it. For sin is a rebellion against His sovereignty and rule over the universe. Habakkuk 1:13 says that God's eyes are too pure to look upon evil.

The punishment for our sin is death (Romans 6:23). We all die physically and are born spiritually dead. Physical death is the separation of body and spirit. Spiritual death is man's separation from God due to his sins and sinful nature. Further, if a person goes to his grave being spiritually dead, he or she will be separated from God in hell, and finally the Lake of Fire for all of eternity (Revelation 20:11-15).

The good news of the gospel is that God the Father sent His one and only Son to be our substitute for sin. He became a man, lived approximately 33 years. He lived a perfect sinless life that we could never live. Then, by dying on the cross, He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (II Corinthians 5:21). He took all of our sins upon Himself and gave to us His righteousness. So, that when God the Father looks on the believer, He doesn't see our sins any longer. He sees the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ in us.

Because of that, we can now live with a holy God for eternity in heaven. We are now heirs and joint heirs with our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:17). All that He has is ours because of faith in Him. All because of the amazing grace of God!

One day Jesus is coming back as King of Kings and Lord of Lords to take all who believe in Him to be with Him in heaven. This is our glorious hope for the future.

But none of that is possible without the resurrection of Jesus Christ bodily from the dead. His resurrection is proof that God the Father accepted His sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Without that, verses 18-19 tell us this:

"Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied."

The bottom line is that resurrection must occur for the Christian faith to be possible. And thank God that there is ample proof that Jesus' rising from the dead did occur. There is much evidence that demonstrates the truth of it. Not the least of which is the empty tomb itself.

Of all the leaders of other religions, Jesus Christ is the only one who was dead and is now alive. Indeed, He proclaims in Revelation 1:17–18 that He is alive forevermore! No other religious leader dared in history, or dares today to make such a claim, which, if not true, is utterly preposterous.

Paul doesn't leave this section either, without repeating once again that Jesus is alive. In verses 20-22 he says:

"But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those wo are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For, as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive."

This idea of 'first fruits' here is totally wonderful. As mentioned in the Old Testament, first fruits were the best of the harvest given to God. They signaled more to come and were sacrificially given as a sign of reverence and obedience. Here, in these verses, Jesus is referred to as the first fruits of the resurrection. He is the first installment of the harvest of eternal life in which His resurrection will both lead to and guarantee that all of the saints who have died will also be resurrected.

Scripture teaches that one day, all believers will have a body like Jesus' glorious body that will never get sick, never grow old and will never die! What a marvelous future we all have in Christ!

Conclusion

I love to read good sermon illustrations. And I found this one from an unknown author on the website moreillustrations.com. It tells us that:

"Some years ago, a popular English novelist wrote a book called When It Was Dark. The story centers about the efforts of a wealthy unbeliever to discredit Christianity. He endeavors to do this by attempting to discredit the Resurrection. In that respect his logic is sound, for if the Resurrection can be discredited, Christianity is overthrown. This man hired venal archaeologists to fake a discovery of the body of Jesus in the neighborhood of Jerusalem. On the tomb was an inscription testifying that the owner of this sepulcher stole the body of Jesus and hid it there. The novel then goes on to describe the ultimate effect of such a discovery, if accepted as truth, upon the Christian world, upon the Christian Church, and upon civilization in general. In powerful passages he shows how, gradually, the Christian Church crumbles and collapses; how men and women go back to lust, cruelty, and animalism; and how the flame of hope dies out in every human heart.

Had the body of Christ ever been found, or a grave in which it could be proved that his body had been placed, other than that of Joseph of Arimathea, the Church would indeed disappear, and the sun of human hope would set in the darkness of an ever-ending life. But thanks be to God, now is Christ risen from the dead! On that empty tomb is the epitaph written by the angels, the epitaph that ends all other epitaphs—"He is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him!" (Luke 16:6)"

I thank God, that I serve a risen Savior. If He were to come back today to take me, and all of those who have faith in Him, away to be with Him forever in the Rapture of the Church, we would never have to know what it is like to have our bodies experience death. They would be changed instantly in the twinkling of an eye from mortal to immortal.

However, if He should tarry and we experience death like everyone else before us, then we still don't have anything to fear. All is not lost. He will give us another body better than the one we have now that will last forever.

Christ has conquered the worst enemy mankind has ever had. He has defeated death! Death has met His master. And one day death too will die. Until then, let us trust Jesus Christ for our future. For because of Him, we truly have a glorious one! May we eternally thank our Lord and Savior for the resurrection!

© 2022 Jeff Shirley

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