Many people don’t believe in a literal bodily resurrection of Christ; others don’t believe it matters. The Corinthians, too, were confused about the meaning of the resurrection, and so Paul wrote to dispel their confusion and to tell them the significance of Christ’s resurrection.
We need the same truths today. Here are four reasons why the resurrection is relevant from 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.
1. The resurrection proclaims salvation (15:1-2).
The resurrection is the moment all heaven broke loose. It’s the eucatastrophe of the story of the universe. And because Jesus’ resurrection can’t be contravened or circumvented, it’s the well-spring and foundation of surest joy!
Paul reminds the Corinthians of what they have already received and what he has already taught them. It wasn’t something that he came up with, nor is it something that Christians throughout the ages have invented, created, or re-amalgamated.
Paul doesn’t say, “I submit this to you for your consideration, get back to me…”
Nor does the Gospel allow for individual customization. There is no right to private interpretation. This is the very essence of objective truth. It’s not subjective or relative. It’s a true truth that must be received “as is,” without editing it for aesthetics or softening it up to make it easier to swallow.
That’s why I wish the American church would stop treating the resurrection like it’s the heartworm medicine you put in a hot dog to trick the dog. No gimmicks or gadgets will commend the death-proof king. His resurrection is awesome enough. It is God’s power unto salvation.
We must come to terms with the truth of the Gospel, because it won’t be changed to come to terms with us. The most important issue is not interiority or the “inner you.” It’s not about what makes you comfortable, but what took place on the cross and at the empty tomb.
Our acknowledgement or lack of acknowledgement doesn’t change the facts of the Gospel or resurrection. There is one Gospel, one faith, one mediator, one death and one resurrection
2. The resurrection requires explanation (15:3-5).
Paul writes this letter to the Corinthians because the church at Corinth had been experiencing moral compromise. The very Gospel itself had fallen into disrepute and the resurrection with it.
This isn’t uncommon even today. Many Christians today call for a doctrine-less Christianity — a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of belief. They feel that Christianity is more attractive if it’s non-literalistic and non-exclusivistic. However, there is no Christianity that is non-literalistic and non-exclusivistic. This form of post-modern Christianity isn’t Christianity at all. There’s no doctrine or truth to it.
Church leaders: Don’t metaphorize the resurrection into “new opportunities” or “starting over in life.” It’s literal death and life. Christianity is a religion of resurrection. Without the resurrection of Christ, the church local and the church universal are just a social club going to hell.
A criticism of Christianity is often that we care too much about the truth. This, however, is exactly what the apostle Paul sets out as our first priority in verse 3 of the passage, “as of first importance.” This wasn’t some “plan B.” It was God’s original plan. He was going to glorify Himself though the cross and the resurrection from the start.
The apostolic authority is based upon the Gospel — the authority of the Bible and the Bible alone. Repeatedly, Paul emphasizes “according to the scriptures.” We can’t trust tradition, experience or reason. We could never “reason” our way from sin to the cross. Only revelation will get us there. This is why one can’t claim to be a Christian and yet deny the truths that exist in Scripture, because even Christ’s death, resurrection and the fulfillment of the prophecies was according to the scriptures.
This is how we are to live: according to the scriptures. Paul points this out plainly as he shows that our faith is in vain without this truth. There’s no Christianity without the empty tomb because the triumph is in the resurrection, and the resurrection points to an empty tomb. To edit this part of the Gospel is to remove the very basis of the faith.
3. The resurrection provides certainty (15:6-7).
The church didn’t create the resurrection accounts; the resurrection accounts created the church. And the resurrection gives certainty that the Gospel saves. God’s faithfulness is revealed by consistency in nature.
Many people were witness to Christ’s resurrection — over 500 people. The resurrection really happened. They didn’t have to take Paul’s word for it. There were literally hundreds of people who would attest to it. Jesus is alive.
You can be certain about the resurrection and must stake your life upon it. It should be our life project to continue to read the whole of Scripture, looking for what it teaches us about Christ, His resurrection and His Gospel. We receive the promises based upon our belief of this fact.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is why I get up in the morning. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is why I can sleep at night. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is why I do what I do in the way that I do it every day.
Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
This is the Gospel, which can be reduced no further. The resurrection is the sum and substance of the Gospel of Christ. There are not two versions of Christianity; it’s an objective reality — a true truth for our salvation, not simply for our intellectual consideration. We receive the promises based upon our belief of this fact. If we are not raised, there IS no hope. If the Gospel is not true, and if we don’t believe, we are still dead in our sins.
4. The resurrection produces humility (15:8).
Profundity tops out at this: God saves sinners through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
This kind of certainty causes humility. Paul said he was “untimely born.” The Greek words here mean “born too young to survive.” This is a world that makes us cry out for the one to come. Paul saw Christ with his own eyes. Jesus’ life gives life, and Paul rejoices in this.
He was the last of the apostles. Paul was a demonstration of God’s grace to the world; this brought him humble joy as the last and least of the apostles. God takes those spiritually dead, resurrects their spirits, and will one day resurrect their bodies, as well.
The pain we experience leads us to hope in the resurrection. God loves you not because of anything in you. It’s a testament to God’s grace. We should be comforted by those named in Scripture here as witnesses: Peter denied the Lord, James scoffed at Him, and Paul persecuted Him. Those are the kinds of people Jesus saves.
There is joy in thinking little of ourselves and much of Christ. Humility is to lean on Christ alone, think less than nothing of ourselves, and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as our all in all. Your hope is not in what you wish Jesus would provide, but in what is yours already by means of His life, death and resurrection.
What are you trusting in--the resurrected Christ, or yourself?