1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (MEV): Now if Christ is preached that He rose from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
This is a perfect subject to discuss given this time of year. Just as Paul transitions from demonstrating his own credentials as an apostle born at the wrong time and his preaching of the authentic Gospel, he points to the main thing in that Gospel.
Now, I am going to say something that may seem controversial yet nevertheless important. I do not intend to offend. We Christians (I include myself chiefly) love the cross. We sing if it. It adorns our churches. I am wearing one around my neck right now. The cross is great! By what happened there is bloody and gruesome. It was a transaction involving death. One where our death burden was laid on Another. It was satisfied completely giving all of us a respite from certain death. In a sense, the cross saves all of us.
It’s the resurrection!
That will be made very plain. Pay close attention how Paul explains it to the Gentiles in Corinth. They were Greeks. Grecian ideas of afterlife didn’t include bodily resurrection, and only spoke of an immortality of the soul. That idea came from Gnosticism which held that all of human weakness, sin, and death was in the body. Death was freedom from that bondage. Therefore, the idea of a resurrected body meant a return to the bondage of weakness and death.
Paul is correcting the error and explains the reality of a bodily resurrection and most important, the real hope that comes with it.
1 Corinthians 15:13 (MEV): If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not risen.
It’s simple… No resurrection… No risen Jesus. The risen and living Savior is essential to the Gospel. It is as essential as the cross, but more important.
1 Corinthians 15:14 (MEV): If Christ has not risen, then our preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain.
The resurrection is of utmost necessity to the Gospel. If it weren’t real, the Gospel Paul preached would be in vain. It could offer no real hope.
It’s a simple progression of logic:
No bodily resurrection, no resurrected Jesus.
No resurrected Jesus, no hope for anyone.
No hope, the Gospel Paul taught would really be a false witness. It quickly progresses to the real problem at the end of denying resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:15–17 (MEV): Yes, and we would then be found false witnesses of God, because we have testified that God raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up, if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ is not raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.
There is where the canker gnaws. (If I may borrow the line.) Paul is teaching that our sins are not washed away in the resurrection!
If Christ is not raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins.
There is a clear difference between what happened with the Savior’s death… And what happens after His resurrection. It is necessary to have an alive and resurrected Savior to take away our sins.
Don’t get me wrong. The cross is necessary for every human. We need the time it gives and that rest from execution, to seek the living offering and confess our sins. Only then are our sins removed.
It’s the cross, yes. But it’s the resurrection. It’s a living Savior Who can remove sin.