1 Corinthians 15:12-20 – You Cannot Believe in Just Half the Gospel and Be Saved.
This letter of Corinthians was written by the apostle Paul. It is believed that the letter was written around 55 AD. The letter deals with spiritual and moral issues that had arose in the church since Paul’s preaching there in 50 AD. The main emphasis on this of Chapter 15 verses 12-20 deals with the Athenian philosophers of the Epicurean and Stoic beliefs concerning death and the resurrection, and their influence on the church.
The Epicurean believed that when one dies, they simply no longer exist. The Stoic believe that when we die, our soul is absorbed into the soul of the universe, there in no individual conscience. These two philosophies originated between 341-313 BC. These two philosophies are still very prevalent in today’s one world philosophy.
They are portrayed in popular writings and movies like Star Trek and Star Wars. Among the other thoughts in these philosophies are man’s oneness with the energy of the universe, the end justifies the means, and that everything that happens to a man is a cause and effect relationship, man has no real will of his own, or Kharma. For this selection in Corinthians we are concerned with the beliefs of what happens after one dies and the resurrection beliefs in modern churches.
There are many Christians today that don’t believe that a body can be resurrected out of the grave. They make silly arguments about the condition of the body, the decay, or it the person was mutilated or burned to death. This becomes their basis to say that the physical body cannot be raised. The dead will not come out of the grave.
In 2006 a poll released by the Scripps Howard News Service and posed on the Ohio University Survey Research Center website stated that only 65% of professing “Born Again” Christians believe in the physical resurrection of Christ.
A more recent poll released in 2014, by Thomas D. Williams, PH.D., showed that 3 out of 4 Americans believe in some sort of life after death, but only 37% believe in a bodily resurrection from the dead. This is from Americans who have some sort of “religious affiliation”. What seems to be an odd trend is that those with higher educations are more likely to believe in life after death of some sort.
The frightening aspect is that those who call themselves “Followers of Christ”, and “Born Again” in increasing numbers do not believe in the resurrection of the body, and do not believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead. Christians are rejecting one of the fundamental beliefs of their own religion because of improper discipleship and ignorance of the full gospel. For an answer to this heresy we turn to Paul’s writings to the Corinthians.
Paul tells us that it is necessary to believe in the resurrection of the body. You have to believe in the whole gospel or none of it. The resurrection is not just a fable made up to give us a false since of security.
Let us begin at verse 12 in 1st Corinthians chapter 15.
V12. Now it Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is not resurrection of the dead?
Paul is saying here that this is essential to the gospel. Remember he is speaking to believers. Paul says if you have believed on Jesus, that you have then been baptized as an outward showing of your faith, then how can you deny the resurrection? This is inconceivable to Paul.
Romans 10:9-10 “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
I can hear Paul saying, don’t you remember what we preached to you? Don’t you remember how we told you that even the Apostle Thomas had his doubts because he did not see what the others saw? Don’t you remember how we testified to you that Jesus appeared again to the disciples and told Thomas, and I quote;
“Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27)
So this is what we preach, that Christ died and is risen again, because you cannot be saved unless you believe that He is risen. This being so, if you confess that Christ is risen, then how can you not believe there is a resurrection of the dead? The Greeks looked at themselves as very logical and philosophical people, Paul appeals to this reasoning they were so proud of. It is illogical to say you believe that Jesus rose from the dead so you could have eternal life, but don’t believe you will be resurrected.
V13. But if there is not resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.
Here Paul starts his logical argument. He says, “OK. Let’s say that there is not resurrection of the dead.” Let us say that a dead body cannot rise from the grave. Let’s forget about the story of Lazarus, and how Jesus raised him from the dead. If when a man dies he simply ceases to exist, or he is absorbed into the cosmos, then it is impossible for Jesus to have risen from the grave. If this is what you believe concerning death, then you cannot believe that Jesus arose, it is not logical. Even though there were other examples that we have been told about. The scriptures tell us about a resurrection and a judgment to come.
Let’s forget about how Psalm 19:9-10 prophesies about Jesus and says, “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.”
Let’s even forget how the scriptures of Daniel tell us in 12:2 about a general resurrection of the body where it is written, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”
If there is no resurrection of the dead…. Then Christ did not rise either…. That is the first argument. If you don’t believe in the dead rising from the grave, then you cannot believe that Jesus rose from the grave. Why….? Because Christ, while being the Son of God, was also human. He died and was as dead as any other human. Yes he was sinless, a sacrifice. Stay with me now, in order for a sacrifice of death to be complete, something has to die in it’s place. You see, Jesus was, “dead as a doornail.” As we say in south-east Texas.
How do we know that Jesus was a man? The scriptures testify to it:
- Acts 2:22 “Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God…”
- Galatians 4:4 says Jesus was born of a woman
- 1 Timothy 2:5 says that there is only mediator between God and Man and that HE is the Man Christ Jesus
There are at least 12 other references in the New Testament that describe how Jesus, wept, felt tired, slept, spit, breathed and so on, testifying that he was not some ethereal presence, but a real flesh and blood human being.
V14. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.
So in following that thought process, the deeper reality would begin to sink in. If there is no resurrection of the dead, and Jesus therefor did not rise from the grave, because it is impossible for a man to be raised from the dead. Then there is no basis for what we preach.
The whole of the apostolic preaching was the crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. That was the whole point of the message! Therefore, if you believed our preaching, and it was not based on fact, then you have believed in nothing. Christianity itself is empty.
There was never a claim that Mohammed rose from the grave. There was never a claim that Buddha rose from the grave. In fact neither of them said they were the Son of God. But Jesus said he was the Son of God. In fact in Matthew 12:38-40 Jesus says that a sign of Him being the Son of God would be His resurrection.
V15. 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.
Paul goes farther, he says that if you do not believe in the resurrection of the Dead, and by extension do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and we have testified that we have seen his resurrection… then we are liars, and false witnesses. You cannot believe anything we say. If you cannot believe in the simple doctrine we put forward to you, then you cannot believe anything else.
V16. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.
Truth be told, if it is not possible for the dead to rise, then Christ did not rise. If a man cannot come back from the dead, then Christ could not have come back from the dead either.
V17. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!
Now Paul shows why it is so important to believe in the resurrection of life. The physical resurrection of Jesus. IF Jesus is not risen, then Jesus is not alive and with the Father, then you have believed a lie. So your faith is unfounded, and there is no forgiveness of sins. You have not mediator for men. Death is still inescapable. Now you have a real problem to fear. You have to enter into eternity within your fallen, unforgiven state. You will be condemned.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6.32)
V18. Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
This means that those who have been martyred for the cause of Christ have died in vain. Those who believed and have passed on, are lost forever. This also means all of the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs have also died in vain, because they prophesied about Jesus and His resurrection. The prophets of old looked forward to the resurrection. If a man cannot be resurrected, then Jesus could not have been resurrected. If Jesus was not resurrected and the whole thing was made up. If it was all made up then you cannot believe in a lie. If it is a lie, then there is no hope for mankind in Jesus. If the resurrection was a lie then so is the rest of the gospel, and all who have died, have died in sin. That means that the war in Heaven is over and that God lost. Everyone is doomed. If Jesus did not accomplish our salvation, then no one can.
V19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
If all this has been a lie, and we have believed in vain, then we are the stupidest people on Earth. If we live a life to show love toward one another, and selfless sacrifice in gratitude for the hope of life we have in Jesus, and there is no basis for this belief, then we have been fools. If we have put others first, and been beaten, and tortured, lost our homes, jobs, and even family ties for Christ sake, and it is a lie, then we are the most miserable people on the face of the earth. It is right for others to call us stupid and mistreat us, because we deserve it. We have purposely made ourselves a victim. If the only benefit to believing in Jesus, in this life, is to be a good person, then we have wasted our lives. Because we don’t believe in Jesus just to live a good life.
- The scriptures tell us that none is good! (Matthew 19.17)
- There is none righteous (Romans 3.10)
- Everyone, altogether has become filthy and can do no good, NO NOT ONE! (Psalm 53.3)
V20. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
How do we know Jesus was resurrected? We have witnesses; that is how know he was resurrected.
”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 seen by Cephas, and then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once,…” 1 Cor 15:3-6a.
Paul tells us, Hey, I myself have seen Him, Peter has seen him, the scriptures testify to God’s plan, and even 500 believers have seen him… All at the same time! This is not made up, there are too many witnesses.
Jesus himself told us that the sign of His being the Son of God would be “the sign of Jonah”. How Jonah was in the belly of the whale 3 day, so would the Son of Man be in the ground for 3 days, then he would rise. This is God’s testimony of Jesus. This is His Word fulfilled! – Amen
Jesus rose from the dead, he physically came out of the grave! This is a sign that we are forgiven. This is God’s signature at the end of the letter! He is saying, “Here is the guarantee!
If Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, then sin killed him. If sin killed him then death was not subdued. But… scripture tell us that the resurrection of the dead out of the grave is not only possible, but that it will occur for everyone. You do not need to believe it is possible for you to be resurrected. But you do need to believe that Jesus was resurrected in order to avoid being condemned by your own lack of belief, not God’s. Listen to John 5:28-29.
John 5: 28-29 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”
Therefore, we know that the resurrection of the dead is possible. Therefore we know that the resurrection of Jesus is not only possible, but that it did occur. It occurred as a testimony of the forgiveness of sins, and of the resurrection of life.
We also know that there is a day coming when everyone will be called up out of the grave and brought to judgment. Those who have believed in Jesus will be rewarded. Those who have not believed, those who were filled with how intellectually important they were, will be brought to face their condemnation. But there is hope! There is hope in Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was slain for the remission of sin.
By God raising Jesus from the dead it means that God was satisfied with the sin offering made by Jesus. In Romans 4 the scriptures tell us about how Abraham’s faith in God being able to do what He said he would do was enough for God to impute righteousness to Abraham. Having faith in God to do what he said He would do concerning Jesus, also imputes righteousness to us.
“It shall be imputed to use who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, Who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.” (Romans 4: 24-25)
The resurrection of Jesus is a testimony from God that the sacrifice Jesus made for our sin, is acceptable to God, and that believing in this is how righteousness is imparted to us.
Romans 5:8-10 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Romans 8:11 says, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”
The grace of God is that we have eternal life through Jesus Christ, the proof of that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus was resurrected, we will also be resurrected to eternal life.
How do we know that Jesus physically arose?
- John 20.17 – Jesus tells Mary not to touch him yet because He still has to ascend to the Father.
- Acts 20.11 – Tells us that Jesus ate with the disciples
- Luke 24.38-39 – “Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”
Paul wrote to the Corinthians explaining, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15.20-22)
So I ask you today. Do you believe that there is life after death? Do you believe that a man can be brought back from the dead? Do you believe that Jesus was raised from the dead as a sign, that as the scripture records, and even Jesus himself told, that the sign of Jonah would be the only sign given concerning his atonement?
If you do then you need to confess it.
Acknowledge to God and to man, that Jesus was resurrected and that He is the only mediator between the Father and man.
He is because he lives. – Amen