The Resurrection of Christ
1 Corinthians 15:3-4. "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures."
Our faith is rooted in the history and reality of the resurrection of Christ. Without, we have nothing, but with it, we see much of our faith confirmed.
Why is the Resurrection is Important?
In vs. 13-17, Paul makes the necessity of the resurrection absolutely clear. He says, "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. . . And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" Here Paul teaches us that without the resurrection, we have nothing. If Jesus is not raised, our faith is foolish. If Jesus had not been raised, then it would mean that He was wrong and not the messiah. He said He would be killed and raised. If this had not happened, we would be forced to conclude that He was wrong.
What if we found the body of Christ? I once asked a class this question. "If they found the body of Christ tomorrow, would it alter your faith?" To my amazement, many people said no. But this is not what Paul says in this passage. He makes it clear that without the resurrection, our faith is empty and foolish.
Thus, Paul makes it clear that the resurrection is essential to Christianity. Without it, our faith is foolish.
Is There Reason to Think it Happened?
The resurrection is not the only possible explanation for the empty tomb, but it is clearly the best. Some have suggested that the disciples went to the wrong tomb, that Jesus didn't die, that the disciples stole the body, or were simply hallucinating. But none of these explanations fit with the evidence.
In vs. 5-8, Paul gives some of the evidence that establishes the resurrection. He says that Jesus "was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all, He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time." In a court of law, one of the best types of evidence is eye-witness testimony, and this is what Paul provides in these verses. He points out that Jesus was seen by:
- Cephas. ( 5)
- Luke 24:34. "The Lord has risen and has appeared to Peter!" He was once a coward and a failure. But Peter is now the chief witness for Jesus Christ.
- The Twelve. ( 5)
- Matt. 28:17. "When they saw Him, they worshiped Him."
- Over 500. ( 6)
- Jesus appears to 500 in one place at one time. Paul mentions here that this claim can be substantiated.
- James. ( 7)
- John 7:5. "For even His brothers did not believe Him."
- I Cor. 15: 7. "After that, He was seen by James."
- Acts 1:12-14. "These (the 12) all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers."
- Acts 15:13. James addresses the Jerusalem council, which affirms the Gospel of Christ as the means of salvation. "And after they had become silent, James answered…"
- Gal. 2:9. "And when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived that grace had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship."
- James 1:1. "James, a bondservant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ...
- Paul. (vs. 8-9)
- Acts 8:1, 3. "And Saul was consenting to his (Stephens) death . . . As for Saul, he made havoc of the Church, entering every house and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison."
- Acts. 9:1. "Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…"
- Acts 9:4. "Then he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying Saul, Saul why are you persecuting men?"
- Acts 9:6. "So he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what do you want me to do?"
Thus, we can rationally conclude that Jesus was raised from the dead. This is the only explanation that seems to fit with the facts.
What Hope Does This Give Us?
In vs. 20-22, Paul speaks of the victory that comes to us through the resurrection. He says, "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 of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ, all shall be made alive." Paul tells us that by the resurrection of Christ, we gain life. Because Jesus has been raised from the dead, we have hope of eternal life. He tells us that because Christ has been raised from the dead, so shall we be raised from the dead. Whereas in Adam, we gained death; in Jesus, we gain life. Thus, the resurrection assures us of the victory that we have in Christ.
- John 11:25-26. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."
- I Thess. 4:14-18. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words."
Thus, in Christ, we gain assurance of our victory over death. He gives us the hope and peace of eternal life.