Series: 1 Corinthians
The Devastating Consequences If There Is No Resurrection (1 Corinthians Sermon 59)
August 23, 2020 | Andy Davis
1 Corinthians 15:12-19
Resurrection of Christ, Justification, Resurrection
Pastor Andy Davis preaches an expository sermon on 1 Corinthians. The main subjects of the sermon are the logical consequences of there being no true bodily resurrection.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
So turning your Bibles to 1 Corinthians Chapter 15, if you're not there already, we're looking at these verses, verse 12-19, and as we look at these verses, the question that emerges in my mind more than anything else is how do I know that my life is significant, how do I know that my life will mean anything at all? Is there any worth and value to my life and yours as well? And that's a question that presses itself on our minds, everyone has it, Christian, non-Christian alike, the search for significance. A few years ago, I heard a powerfully moving song called “The Green Fields Of France.” It was written about the immeasurable tragedy of World War 1. It was written from the perspective of a traveler who's walking through the green fields of France, comes to a cemetery entirely dedicated to soldiers that fell in that war and he rests by the grave side of one young man named Willie McBride and he sings to the young man, the dead man, he notes that he was only 19 when he joined the great fallen in 1916. Maybe the Battle of the Somme, something like that. And in the next stanza the song speaks of being forgotten by those that he once loved, this is what it says, "And did you leave a wife or a sweetheart behind, in some loyal heart is your memory enshrined, and though you died back in 1916, to that loyal heart you're forever 19? Or are you a stranger without even a name, forever enshrined behind some old glass pane, in an old photograph, torn tattered and stained and faded to yellow in a brown leather frame?" This concept troubles all of us that a few years from now, a few decades from now, there would be not a person on planet earth that even knows that we ever lived. That all that could happen at best would be some old faded photograph of us that no one can identify at all, that our lives actually were entirely worthless, they were stripped of all significance by the passing of time.
When I was in high school, there was a song by Kansas, the rock group Kansas, called “Dust in the Wind,” gets at the same idea. The lyrics go this way, "I close my eyes only for a moment, and the moment's gone, all my dreams passed before my eyes, a curiosity. Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind.” Same old song, "Just a drop of water in an endless sea. All we do crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see. Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind." Well, is that a concept we should wrestle with? I think so.
There's an entire book of the Bible devoted to that theme, the Book of Ecclesiastes. And in Ecclesiastes, the preacher, we don't know who he is, traditionally, people have seen him as King Solomon, maybe, maybe not, it doesn't matter. But he identifies himself as a king in Jerusalem, and he had lived a very prosperous and successful life, he had built great buildings, including many different houses for himself to live in. He had planted lush gardens with amazing fruit trees and irrigated them by systems that he himself devised. He enjoyed all the pleasures of life, food, wine, music, he drained every moment, every moment of his life for all the pleasure it could give him. He was brilliant. He was accomplished. He was rich, he was powerful, he was everything a person could be and achieve and have in this life; he had it all. But here was his conclusion as an old man, "Everything is vanity of vanities." another translation, “meaningless, utterly meaningless. What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.” Ecclesiastes 1:14, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and all of them are meaningless, all of them are vanity, a chasing after the wind." Then in Ecclesiastes 2:11, it says, "When I had surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Nothing was gained under the sun.”
Well, the whole book of Ecclesiastes is a study of life under the sun, and I think it is a perfect complement to this section of 1 Corinthians 15 that we're gonna study today, an extended meditation, I think, the book of Ecclesiastes, an extended meditation on: what if there is no resurrection from the dead? What if this life really is all there is, then what? What if all you get is 70 or maybe 80 years, and you live and you do lots of stuff, but then you die and within a couple of generations, no one knows that you ever even existed. Is it not truly meaningless, vanity of vanities or dust in the wind? So the apostle Paul ruminates on this for the whole section of the text we're looking at today, if, if, if, if, if. What if? You see in this text, that word, what if? If, if, if Christ, if there is no resurrection, if Christ does not... That's what he's doing. And whereas, Ecclesiastes takes it out practically, what happens if there is no resurrection. It doesn't mention that that's what he's talking about, but it is. If this life is all there is, these are the practical implications. Well, Paul does it theologically. He takes this concept out to its logical end theologically. And that's what's before us today.
I. The Challenge to the Resurrection… Then and Now
So point one, the challenge to the resurrection, then and now. The resurrection itself is challenged. It's a challenged doctrine. Greek philosophy challenged it, the idea that the pure spirit was incarcerated in the prison house of the flesh and that you wanted to be liberated from that physicality, it was a dualistic way of looking, flesh is evil, spirit good, that kind of thing. And that had infiltrated, it seems, the Corinthian church, because in verse 12, if you look at verse 12, this is the key concept that Paul is dealing with for the whole chapter, “How can some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead?” That's what he's dealing with. So some of you are saying that. So the Greek philosophers challenged the concept of the resurrection from the dead, so also many Jews of that generation challenged the concept of the resurrection. The Sadducees openly denied that there is a resurrection; Jesus dealt with them in his life. Nowadays we have challenges to the resurrection as well, scientific materialism. I mentioned many times, Stephen Hawking, the physicist, atheist, basically, evolutionary viewpoint, everything comes from atoms, it all comes, it's material and chance and time, that kind of thing. It all just came together. So what that means is all of your inner life, all of your dreams, your hopes, your thoughts, your plans, what you love, all of those internal things are just biochemical illusions, that when your brain is dissolved by death will go, they have no meaning, they're gone. There are challenges still to the doctrine of the resurrection.
Now, Paul's approach here is to prove the resurrection. The backdrop is in verse 12, “some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead,” so he begins by going back to the gospel. I'm gonna remind you of the gospel. We're gonna go back over it. “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, he was buried, he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. So he goes back over the facts of the gospel. And when he says “according to the Scriptures,” all of this was predicted, the death of the Messiah, the resurrection of the Messiah, these things were predicted in Old Testament prophecies, but not only that, there's historical proof that we've already walked through, eyewitness testimony: the 12, James, 500 brothers and sisters who saw the resurrected Christ with their own eyes. “Most of them still alive,” Paul says, “though some have fallen asleep. And then I myself saw him on the road to Damascus. I myself, the apostle of the Gentiles,” Paul says, “saw the resurrected Christ,” so that's eyewitness testimony.
But now he goes into the theological and logical aspect, which he will unfold for the next number of many verses, even beyond today's section. Who is Paul arguing against here? Is he arguing against cultured despisers of Christianity? People who are so erudite and the philosophers of his age and all that; is he dealing with that, the irreligious atheistic mocker? I think not. Because the way he argues in these verses, he brings it out to horrendous conclusions that are not horrendous for those people. They're like, "Yeah, exactly, you are a bunch of frauds; there is no resurrection." So he's not arguing against them, that's what they think anyway. No, he's arguing what we would say within the camp, within the church, within the walls of the church, spiritual walls, there are people, Corinthian church members who are saying there is no resurrection from the dead, look again, verse 12, "How can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?" Now, we don't know how many of the Corinthian church denied resurrection or how influential they were, but Paul has to deal with this, he has to address it. And he spends 58 verses on this topic, that's how important this is.
Now, perhaps these people taught that resurrection is kind of a spiritual ideal, it's an idea that then has a transforming effect on the way you see life; it just affects your moral behavior. This is very much like classical 19th century liberalism, which on the quest for the historical Jesus, the demythologizing that happened with liberal theologians, they're saying, "Well, we know that didn't happen. Those miracles and the deity of Christ and the resurrection, none of that happened. It does represent the fondest hopes and dreams of people, etcetera, but all that really matters is what effect Christianity has on you, on your heart, on your family life, on your behavior. It doesn't really matter whether Christ rose from the dead or not.” So that's just same thing. And so Paul is arguing against that, “so also the miracles are spiritualized, they didn't really happen, but how does it make you feel? Does it give you hope? Does it inspire you today to live a better life?” That's the whole approach to liberal Christianity. So Paul is arguing, I think, against false doctrine within the ranks and here in these verses shows the logical outcome of their doctrine that resurrection is impossible, and they really should be, if they're genuine Christians, horrified at these logical conclusions, it should be absolutely repulsive to them. So that's what he's doing.
And here we see, I think, the role of logic in the Christian life; we are called on to think, called on to reason. Paul is very logical, he reasoned in the synagogue and in the marketplace day by day, he was preaching a reasonable gospel. You look at the book of Romans, there's so much logic in it, if this is true, then that's true and then how much will the other be true as well, that kind of thing, it's very logical. Jesus did the same thing. "Consider the lilies of the field. If that's how God closed the grass of the field, which is here today, tomorrow thrown in the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" He's logical, he's reasoning. Isaiah 1:18 says, “‘Come, now let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow. Though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you're willing and obedient, you'll eat the best from the land, but if you resist and rebel, you'll be devoured by the sword, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” Let's talk about this, let's reason together. Christianity is a reasonable religion. Logic then, is sound thinking and part of salvation is to learn how to think rightly, to think soberly and to reason out our faith based on the word of God. Based on the word of God. So Paul's logical tactic here is what's sometimes called a reduction to absurdity. “If your doctrine is true, let's spin it out as far as it'll go, and let's see where it takes us, and if you find that every step of the way has been logically connected and you end up there, then go back to the start and say, ‘This must not be true.’" And that's what he does, reduction to absurdity. So he takes out this viewpoint and he comes to seven conclusions that should be detestable to any Christian. What are they?
"Logic then, is sound thinking and part of salvation is to learn how to think rightly, to think soberly and to reason out our faith based on the word of God."
Well, first, if resurrection itself cannot happen, if there is no resurrection from the dead, number one, Christ himself has not been raised, and then number two, then all Christian preaching is vanity. It is worthless. It is useless. Number three: then all faith in Christ would be worthless, including yours and mine. Fourth, then all witnesses to the resurrection are false. Fifth, then all human beings are still in their sins. Six, then all dead Christians are eternally lost. We'll never see them again. And then number seven, all suffering Christians are to be most pitied of all people on the earth, these are the seven conclusions he comes to. Now, I have to say, if you don't think those conclusions are devastating, you're almost certainly not a Christian. If you're like, "No, I can live with all that", it's like, "Okay, well, we know where you are then." So for me, this is reprehensible. We do not wanna go there. Let's walk through each of them. The devastating consequences if there is no resurrection.
II. The Devastating Consequences if there is no Resurrection
So if there is no resurrection from the dead, number one, then Christ himself has not been raised. Look at verse 13, "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised." So if resurrection itself is a logical, scientific philosophical impossibility, then Christ himself has not been raised, makes sense. He is not the exception that proves the rule. He himself would have succumbed to the inevitable. When he breathed his last on the cross, outside the city gates of Jerusalem; that would have been his last moment of existence. Beyond that all his teachings and moral examples would have been rendered null and void for he claimed he would be raised on the third day, and if he has not been raised, he is exactly what his enemies said he was, a liar and deceiver of the people. We can't cherry pick some of the moral examples of Jesus and say, "He's a good moral teacher, an admirable individual." C.S Lewis just dispensed with this in the Lord, Liar Lunatic trilogy. Remember, he says, "He claimed to be God, he either is or isn't. And if he is, you should worship him as Lord, but if he isn't, then either he knew it or he didn't, and if he knew that he was not Lord, but claimed to be, then he is a liar of the worst order. If however, he really believed he was God, and he wasn't, then he was insane. 'Cause he's surrounded by a fierce Jewish monotheism and they would have told him somewhere along the line that that view was inappropriate, but you cannot,” as CS Lewis says, “go in for the patronizing nonsense that Jesus is a great moral teacher if he actually hasn't been raised from the dead.”
Secondly, if resurrection itself is impossible, then Christ has not been raised from the dead, “And if Christ has not been raised from the dead [verse 14], our preaching is vanity [or useless].” Preaching itself is useless. Paul's 18-month ministry in Corinth was a complete waste of time. In fact, all the church planning that Paul did was a waste of time throughout Asia, Asia Minor and Greece; that would have been useless, vanity of vanities, chasing after the wind. It would have been better for the pagans to just stay with their pagan lifestyle, he's a disturber of the peace, he came in and troubled everything, upset the apple cart and for nothing, it was useless. And it was a waste for Paul to walk through all of the issues he was walking through, the details of his preaching against factions and divisions or against- on church discipline or on marriage and all that. Forget it. The whole thing's a waste of time. So I'll just stop and just talk about this moment right here, you all can go home. This is preaching right now, right? This is Christian preaching. So it's just a waste of time. To make it relevant, right here, right now, I am wasting my time. I don't think I am, so I'm gonna keep going. But it would be a waste of time if Christ had not been raised.
Thirdly, then “if Christ has not been raised,” if there is no resurrection, and then quickly “Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Your faith is vanity of vanities. He makes it very personal. Each one of you, he says to the Corinthians, you are wasting your lives, you're wasting your time; your faith is useless. And I'm gonna extend it across 20 centuries now to us. You who got up this morning and got in your cars and came here, you have wasted your time this morning. Those of you that are watching livestream, you are wasting your time if Christ has not been raised, that's what he was saying. And not only that, but all of our Christian lives, our faith is bigger than just believing in Jesus, it's everything connected, our Christianity, our giving to the poor and needy, all the missionary work that we've done, evangelism, all of the whole system of the Christian faith that's unfolded for 20 centuries was useless. All of it.
Fourthly, then all witnesses to the resurrection are false. Look at verses 15-16, “More than that, we are found to be false witnesses about God [it's very significant], 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.” So Paul has already said that his preaching was useless, vanity, but he's going beyond that now, he's saying actually the preaching was fraudulent, it was a lie, and in his case, claiming to be an eyewitness, a willful lie. He is a liar. He claimed to have seen the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus and that was the basis of his call into ministry, his call to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, was his seeing of Christ. You know in the book of Acts, that account is given three times, three lies in the Book of Acts, the whole story would now be rejected as an official lie, it's a fraud, a fraud.
But not only that, the apostles who stood in downtown Jerusalem, fearlessly preaching that they had seen Christ raised from the dead, absolutely no fear of their own death, they were willful liars too. They were not only that, they were willing to die for a lie, 'cause they did die. So then I guess we would have to believe the official Jewish story about what happened to the body, because now we need an answer for what happened to the body, because Christ has not been raised from the dead, so the official story in Matthew 28:13 was his disciples came during the night and stole him away while we, the soldiers, were asleep. Now, when I preached through that I said that's so completely untenable, because then the people knowing the Roman army would have to ask them, "Why are you still alive?" They would have killed you. You were put on sentry duty and you fell asleep. But I won't go down that rabbit trail, I'm just saying that's not tenable, but etcetera, that must be... Something like that must have happened because Christ has not been raised from the dead, so whatever happened to his body, I don't know, it's a mystery. We gotta figure that out, but he has not been raised. And they knew it was a lie. Now, beyond that, all of the great preachers and missionaries of 20 centuries of church history, we're standing on a foundation of lies, we're not the same level of liars as the eyewitnesses, but we are basing our lives on a lie. So that means Augustine, Chrysostom, Martin Luther, John Calvin, George Whitfield, John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, all of these that preached the resurrection, the whole thing is a fraud. The whole thing comes crashing down; it's based on a lie. All of it. That they were, all of them, deceived, every one of them, and based their lives and their preaching on a lie.
Fifthly, then all human beings are still in their sins, verse 17, "If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." Do you understand the significance of that? You are still in bondage, in slavery to sin. You're still under the wrath of God, as John 3:36 says, "Whoever rejects him will not see life, but God's wrath remains on him." It says in verse 3 of our chapter, "Christ died for our sins, according to the Scripture,” but he didn't then, because it was in the resurrection of Christ from the dead that his atoning death was proven acceptable to a holy God. Our vindication is found in the resurrection from the dead. When Christ said “It is finished,” then God said, "Yes, it is finished" by raising him from the dead. As it says in Romans 4:25, "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." For our justification, but also his, if you take justification as vindication, but if you just wanna keep it as justification, Romans 4, his resurrection is part of our forgiveness of sins, it's the finish of the transaction, Christ died for his sins, God accepted it by raising Christ from the dead. But if Christ has not been raised from the dead, Paul says, we are on our own, we have no mediator, the God-Man, between us and- the human race and God; we have no mediator. We who are walking in darkness have seen no great light. There is no light. We are like the whole world: dead in our transgressions and sins and bondage to Satan. We are like the rest of the world without hope and without God in the world. We stand moment by moment under the just wrath of God, waiting for condemnation to come, if Christ has not been raised.
Sixthly, then all dead Christians are eternally lost. Verse 18, “Then those who also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” Dead believers, Old Testament saints, Old Testament saints. Think about that great Chapter, Hebrews 11, the hall of faith. John McArthur calls it the hall of fools, based on this chapter, based on the logic... If Christ has not been raised from the dead, they're all fools. All of them: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, and the Prophets, all of them looking ahead to the resurrection of the Christ, which did not happen, so they wasted their lives. Abraham should have stayed in Ur of the Chaldees as a moon worshipper if there is no resurrection from the dead, we'll never see them again. We're not gonna sit at table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 'cause there is no resurrection from the dead. What about Job? Job 19:25-27, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end, he will stand upon the earth and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh, I will see God. I myself will see him with my own eyes, I and not another, how my heart yearns within me.” Is that not a fiery faith in the resurrection from the dead in the midst of his misery? Of course it is. But he's a fool, if there is no resurrection from the dead. This isn't going to happen, Job 19 is never gonna happen. In his flesh, he's not gonna see anything, it's done when he dies.
And all of the heroes in The New Testament and all the heroes of church history beyond, they all died in a lie, they all died in deception if Christ has not been raised from the dead. And then, we should actually at Christian funerals, grieve like the rest of the world who have no hope. We should wail and grieve because this loved one in the casket, we'll never see them again. We'll never see them again. And those of you that are consoling yourself about some incredible Christians that have made all the difference in your life, would have gone on, so you say to be with the Lord: a grandmother, grandfather, a mother or father, a friend, a mentor, dead. They've perished if there is no resurrection from the dead, you'll never see them again. And all of the millions of Christians who died well, they fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith, they died in hope, filled with hope, with their family standing around their bedside, looking down at their radiant faces, and they're saying things like, "I know that for me the best is yet to come." The whole thing is fraudulent. Let me just tell you one thing, I can't keep this going much longer, but it won't go much longer, Paul couldn't keep it going much longer either, but just hang in there. We have one more point. This is so dreary.
But number seven: then all suffering Christians are most to be pitied on earth, look at verse 19, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." Now, this is a challenging verse. Don't just blow through it. Just read it. Is it true of you? Not necessarily. But was it true of Paul? Let's just stick with Paul for a minute. Was it true that 'we' at least means Paul? I think it definitely refers to him. Well, why would it be true that Paul is worthy of more pity than any other person on the face of the Earth. Well, look what he gave up, he was a ladder-climbing Jew, well connected with some of the richest Jews on earth because they were just filthy rich through the- Annas and Caiaphas and all those guys at the Sanhedrin, they were just running a corrupt religious machine and making tons of money. The moneychangers, remember, that Jesus drove out of the temple? Paul was in with those people, and so everything you could want in this life was his. He was heading for the corner office, I don't think they had a corner office, but he was going there. Threw it all away because he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. Well, what was his life like after that? You know what his life was like after that? I've said before, I'll say it again, I don't think I know anybody in church history who suffered as much and as long as the apostle Paul. No one. His credentials trumps everybody else's in church history, everybody. It's incredible.
Now, Jesus promised that suffering Christians could look ahead beyond the resurrection to rewards that would last for all eternity. He said in Matthew 5:11-12, "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me, rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." You can look ahead, if you're suffering for Christ, you can look ahead to a great reward, but that includes the resurrection. If there is no resurrection, that's gone. There's no reward. What about Paul? 2 Corinthians 11:24-27, "Five times I received from the Jews the 40 lashes minus one." Five times his back was shredded. It's incredible. "Three times I was beaten with rods." So that's different than the other five beatings. "Once I was stoned." That usually kills you. That's execution. But he survived somehow. "Three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I've been in danger from rivers and danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea, in danger from false brothers, I have labored and toiled and often and gone without sleep, I've known hunger and thirst and often gone without food, I've been cold and naked. I did all of that for the hope of the resurrection." He says it plainly in Philippians 3, "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." “I traded them in.” “For what?” “That life that I just described. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.” A few verses later, Philippians 3:10-11, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Do you see how all that goes away if Christ has not been raised? We are, of all people, the most to be pitied.
So I would extend that then to all Christians who suffer for the gospel, who suffer because they're Christians, who suffer extremely to spread the gospel. Think about Stephen who saw heaven open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God in his resurrection body. That isn't true if Christ has not been raised. And Stephen died in hope of the resurrection. James the first apostle to be martyred, Peter crucified upside down for his faith in Christ. Those who wet the sands of the Coliseum with their blood, whom Tertullian calls, “The blood of martyrs, seed for the church.” Seed for the church, fraudulent, a waste if Christ has not been raised. When you think about our brothers and sisters who have suffered and are suffering in persecuting countries now, who are incarcerated and many of whom have in fact been put to death, if Christ has not been raised, they are of all people to be pitied. They wasted their lives. So this is a challenge to us in the affluent comfortable West. Is it true of us? Not necessarily. This one line isn't necessarily true of everyone, because what Christianity has done in the west is set up a socio-economic system that has produced huge amounts of peace and order and prosperity, and we've come along and benefited under the umbrella of people who suffered for the faith in previous generations. So it's not necessarily true that we are of, all people on planet earth, the most to be pitied, that's not true, 'cause we're not necessarily suffering the way Paul and Peter and the others have suffered, but it is true of Paul. And he says in verse 19, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."
So I consider verse 19 a challenge to me that I'd be willing to step out more in faith, to be willing to suffer some in this world, to be willing to lose some things for Christ in this world so that there is more and more sense that verse 19 could be true of me. Well, honestly, that's enough of Paul's argument. Amen? I'm ready to move on. And even though the scripture listing is just up to verse 19, is it okay if I just go ahead to verse 20? I'm going to whether you say it is or not, but I sense that many of you are nodding, “Please, let's go on to verse 20.” "But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." Amen. Hallelujah. And not just for he himself alone, but he is the first fruit of a vast harvest and we're included.
III. The Delightful Reversal of them All
So if the resurrection from the dead is not impossible, let's flip all of those seven back over. What do you say? Let's flip them. Then Christ himself has indeed been raised just as he said. And not only that, he is vindicated in all his claims, all of them. He is in fact the Son of God, God the Son. Because it says in Romans 1:4, "Through the spirit of holiness, Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead." Jesus Christ our Lord. So he was vindicated as God. Secondly, he is vindicated, as what he said, "The only way to God." If Christ has been raised from the dead, then his statement, "I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me." is completely vindicated. So what that means is all the other faiths are proven fraudulent by his resurrection from the dead, all of them.
And not only that, his role as mediator is established, his role as sitting at the right hand of God interceding for you for you is established, and his role as the future judge of all the Earth is established as Paul preached in the Areopagus. Acts 17:31, "God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." So you wanna know how we know Jesus is the judge of all the Earth? By his resurrection from the dead. Jesus put it this way, because he is the Son of Man, God has entrusted all judgment to him. So when the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory and all the nations will be gathered before him. And he, he will separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he'll put the sheep, the believers, on his right and he'll put the goats on his left. He has the right to do it. And how do we know that? Because Paul says, God raised him from the dead. That's how we know.
Secondly, then all Christian preaching is not useless, but powerful. “I'm not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” So Christian preaching is powerful, not useless. Nothing has changed the unfolding history of the earth as much as the gospel of Jesus Christ, the proclamation of the gospel, witnesses going forward to proclaim Christ died and Christ is risen and by faith in him, your sins are forgiven. That has had the most impact of human history than anything else there has ever been.
"Nothing has changed the unfolding history of the earth as much as the gospel of Jesus Christ, the proclamation of the gospel, witnesses going forward to proclaim Christ died and Christ is risen and by faith in him, your sins are forgiven."
Thirdly, then all faith in Christ is not useless, including yours, dear brothers and sisters; you're not wasting your lives, not at all. Your faith is precious, of worth greater than gold, Peter says. It's valuable. And it will result in eternal life. You're going to live forever. As it says in Acts 10:40-43, "God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins in his name." So is that true of you? Do you believe in a crucified, resurrected Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins? That's what God is offering to you today, right now, that's the gospel.
Fourthly, then all witnesses to the resurrection over 20 centuries were telling the truth, Christ has been raised from the dead, and we who never saw him but have based our lives on the eyewitness testimony recorded in the New Testament, we have built on a solid rock that will never move. The eyewitnesses played a unique role in redemptive history, we didn't see with our own eyes, but the apostles did and they wrote it down, and they testified to what they've seen and we believe it and it's not a lie.
Then fifth, it is possible, then, for human beings to be saved from their sins. More than just possible, if you have believed in this gospel, you are saved from your sins. The wrath of God will not come on you; you're not lost. Six, then all dead Christians are not eternally lost, none of them are. We will see those people again. Isn't that beautiful? So we don't grieve like those who have no hope at a Christian funeral, we don't grieve like those who have no hope. We will see each other again.
And then seventh, then all suffering Christians all over the world and in every generation are not the most pitied on Earth, but they will be for all eternity the most honored in heaven. Now, I want to create in me and in you, a yearning to be one of them. I don't think everybody gets equal honors in heaven, not at all. Some people suffer more than others for Christ, but those that suffer are not to be pitied. And Jesus said to them, "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven."
So applications. Obviously, the first and greatest I just touched on a moment ago. Just be certain that your sins are forgiven, be certain that you yourself believe this, this is required for your own salvation. You have to confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead – this is not an option. Secondly, let's reject liberal Christian (so-called) theology. It really does matter whether Christ is raised from the dead or not, it's not just a matter of how it makes you feel. And so the quest for the historical Jesus is over, friends, read about him in the pages of the New Testament. Amen. There it is, you don't have to quest for the historical Jesus and demythologize, any of that. Just read it and believe it. Christ really did those miracles, he really did heal those people, he really did feed the 5000, he really did walk on water, he really did rise from the dead. And so we don't need to embrace that actually, it's poison. It's just simple poison. History matters. It really did happen. Then thirdly, life is not vanity of vanities. I really believe 1 Corinthians 15 is the big answer, the vigorous answer to the depressed preacher of the book of Ecclesiastes. I know he wrote Scripture, the Lord wanted him to write what he wrote, but it's phenomenal pre-evangelism, that's all it is. It's really how lost people, pagans and unbelievers should think about life. Read Ecclesiastes, think like this, if there is no resurrection from the dead, but if there is, now look at verse 58, if Christ has been raised from the dead, then nothing is vanity of vanities, and especially not your service to Jesus, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord," why, Paul? “Because you know that your labor in the Lord is not vanity of vanities,” it's not meaningless. It actually is eternally consequential. Isn't that exciting? Doesn't that make today exciting, doesn't that make this week exciting? God has gone ahead of you, Ephesians 2:10, and prepared good works of eternal consequence for you to do and they are not in vain. So let's labor for the Lord.
Fourthly, let's be holy. This is Paul's personal application. If there is a resurrection from the dead, some day we're gonna give an account to Christ for everything done in the body, whether good or bad. So you should be holy. If you don't wanna talk to Jesus about it personally on judgment day, then don't do it. This is what Paul says in Acts 24:15-16. "I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked, so I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." Vertically, horizontally, I try not to sin because there is a resurrection. Be holy, and then fifth, be willing to suffer more for the gospel than you do, be willing to step out in faith, be willing to take some insults, to take some hits. I believe that it's going to get harder and harder in America to be a bold, clear Christian witness. It's gonna get harder, not easier. I see that in our surrounding culture, it's more hostile to Christianity than it was 10 years ago, so that gives us an opportunity, doesn't it, to suffer for Jesus, to speak bold words of hope to people who are without hope and without God in the world.
Close in prayer. Lord, thank you for this time to study 1 Corinthians 15, these verses incredible, and I thank you for the way Paul reasoned through the implications if there is no resurrection from the dead, but we thank you for the triumphant statement in verse 20 that Christ has indeed been raised and, God willing, we'll look at it next week, what does first fruits mean? How are we part of that vast harvest of resurrected people that will live forever in resurrection bodies? Lord, we look forward to that. Help us by faith, O Lord, to walk in holiness, to walk in bold witness, to do the good works you have for us to do, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.