Know WHY You Believe
I CORINTHIANS 15:12-34
Paul’s teaching to the first century church at Corinth (in 1 Corinthians) was aimed at discrediting heresy and establishing sound doctrine. He wanted this group of believers to anchor deep in the historical/orthodox Christian faith as taught by Jesus and the Apostles. The truth of Christianity is timeless and we too must anchor deep in Biblical truth. Paul wanted the first century church to know what they believed and why they believed it. It is equally important that we know that today as well, some 2,000 years later.
During our current teaching series, The Creed, we’re walking through the important questions of our faith. Today we take a look at the WHY – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The resurrection is the lynchpin of the Christian faith. In 1 Corinthians 15:12-34, Paul is refuting those who were discounting the resurrection. In fact, he argues that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to the Christian faith, even to the point of stating “I’m willing to give my life for this truth” – which he did. As scholar William Barclay says, the Resurrection of Jesus proves that:
- Truth is stronger than falsehood.
- Good is stronger than evil.
- Love is stronger than hatred.
- Life is stronger than death.
Here are three things you need to know about the resurrection.
1. The resurrection of Jesus proves our faith and secures our future.
- 1 Corinthians 15:12-19: “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”
- Vs. 12 lays out what is the essential truth of the Christian faith: Jesus came, died, was buried, and rose again. Since Jesus rose from the dead, we too will rise.
- Vs. 13-18 solidifies that the resurrection is the lynchpin of the Christian faith. It proves Jesus is who He said He was and that He can do whatever He promises.
- Vs. 19 reveals that it’s not just about this life, but Heaven as well. If you continue to say Jesus didn’t rise, then you are gutting the Christian faith. As He was raised, we too will rise and spend eternity in heaven. This, Paul says, is the essence of the Christian faith.
- The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been called “the most attested fact in history.” There were a wealth of first-account sightings of Jesus after he rose from the dead. These were not merely fleeting observances of a shadowy figure by one or two people. There were multiple appearances to numerous people, several of which were confirmed in more than one gospel and by the creed declared in 1 Corinthians 15.
- The fact of the resurrection was so widely known, accepted, and talked about… it was central to the Early Church (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 10:41; 13:31). The amount of testimony and corroboration of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances are staggering.
2. The resurrection of Jesus shows God’s power and eternal plan.
- 1 Corinthians 15:20-28: “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the first-fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he ‘has put everything under his feet.’ Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”
- Vs. 20-28 really highlights God’s power, His plan, and that because of Christ all men will live. It reminds us that Jesus had to rise before we could rise and go to Heaven one day.
- How would you like to be one of those religious leaders who were responsible for Jesus’ death? Imagine folks coming up to you after saying, “You know the guy you just crucified? He’s back!”
- The resurrection is why half of the city became believers. Archeologists and historians tell us that within 20 years of the resurrection, Jerusalem, a city of about 250,000 people, had between 100,00 and 125,00 believers. Why? Because so many people had seen Jesus Christ!
- As you personalize this sacred truth, never forget something else that Paul said: “The power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is available to you to help you with your problems” if you have Jesus in your life and ask Him for His help. Trust Him. He is trustworthy!
3. The resurrection of Jesus fuels my hope.
- 1 Corinthians 15:29-34: “Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them? And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’ Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning; for there are some who are ignorant of God—I say this to your shame.”
- Vs. 30-32 – Here we find Paul declaring that they were convinced and passionate about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So much so that they were willing to give their lives. Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 as well and you’ll find the same thing. Paul is stating, again, what he believes – to the point of staking his very life upon it – otherwise he would be living cavalierly, like they were.
- Vs. 33-34 – In Paul’s final exhortation, he’s reminding the church at Corinth to not be misled. He tells them that the time to wake up is now. “To say there is no resurrection is not a sign of superior knowledge; it is a sign of utter ignorance of God.”
- The evidence is in and it is definitive. Here are 8 facts about the resurrection:
- Jesus’ empty grave is reported in extremely early sources that date so close to the event that they could not have been products of legend.
- The fact that the gospels report women discovered the empty tomb bolsters their credibility. In a culture where women were considered unreliable witnesses, surely the writers would have claimed men found the tomb vacant if they were fabricating the story.
- The site of Jesus’ tomb was known to both Christians and their opponents, so it could have been checked by skeptics.
- Nobody, not even the Romans or Jewish leaders, ever claimed the tomb still contained Jesus’ body. Instead, they claimed the disciples, despite having no motive or opportunity, had stolen the body — an outlandish theory critics have long since abandoned.
- The evidence for Jesus’ numerous post-resurrection appearances didn’t develop gradually over the years as mythology distorted memories of his life. Rather, the resurrection was the church’s central proclamation from the very beginning.
- According to psychologist Gary Collins, the appearance of Jesus cannot be attributed to hallucinations or wishful thinking.
- Apart from the resurrection, there is no reasonable explanation for why skeptics like Paul and James would have been converted, and ultimately died for their new-found faith.
- The miraculous emergence of the church in the very city where the crucifixion took place is inexplicable apart from the eyewitnesses telling the truth about seeing Jesus alive again.
British theologian Michael Green concludes that “the appearances of Jesus are as well authenticated as anything in antiquity… there can be no rational doubt that they occurred, and that the main reason why Christians became sure of the resurrection in the earliest days was just this. They could say with assurance, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ They knew it was He.” And we know it too. Like the first century church, we can confidently rejoice in the unwavering knowledge that Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose from the dead. That’s something worth celebrating this Easter season!