I Corinthians 15:13-20
(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Above is a painting of the empty tomb by Joseph Juvenal. I chose this representation because it shows not just that the tomb of Jesus is empty, but also in the distance the three crosses on the hill of Calvary (see Luke 23:33). But there is another represen- tation that I like, of what it says in John 20:6 and 6: “Then Simon Peter…saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.” A small detail, perhaps. But this depiction was the only one of more than a hundred others brought up on my computer that showed this truth.
Our featured Scripture is rather long. But in I Corinthians 15:13 through 20, the apostle Paul makes a persuasive argument from a negative perspective concerning the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ:
...if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 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. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has be- come the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
The Corinthian church was founded and built up by Paul who stayed for a year and a half in the city of Corinth (located on the Achaian penninsula of southern Greece). But the Achaian way of thinking was most likely quite progressive! Athens was only 40 miles away to the east, and it is said in Acts 17:21 of that city’s residents and visitors, “…all the Athenians and foreigners who where there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” It is reasonable then to assume the same fascination with “…some new thing…” also was evident in Corinth! And this could be why the Corinthian church members had difficulty being grounded in the basic teachings of Christianity!
One of the problem areas concerned the resurrection! Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:12, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Let’s examine the apostle’s argument in the next eight verses of I Corinthians 15, and see if we can also be persuaded of the importance of the resurrection:
I Corinthians 15:13 – “…if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.”
- First of all, the resurrection of the Messiah is prophesied in the Old Testament!
✡ Psalm 16:9 through 11 – “...My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, nor allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life...” (see Acts 2:29-32 where Peter applies this prophesy to Jesus). ✡ Psalm 49:15 – “...God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall receive me.” ✡ Psalm 71:20 – “You, who have shown me great and se- vere troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up from the depths of the earth.” ✡ Isaiah 53:10 – “...it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief; when You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall pro- long His days....” ✡ See also I Kings 17:17-24; II Kings 4:18–20, 32–37; Job 19:25-27; Isaiah 26:19, 20; Daniel 12:2, 3; Hosea 6:1, 2.
- Jesus prophesied numerous times of His resurrection!
✞ Matthew 12:40 – “...as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” ✞ Matthew 16:21 – “...Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things... and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” (see also Mark 8:31; 10:33, 34). ✞ Matthew 17:22, 23 – “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and the third day He will be raised up.” (see also Mark 9:31). ✞ John 10:17 and 18 – “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and...power to take it again.” ✞ Matthew 27:63 and 64 – So well-known was Jesus’ own prophesy of His resurrection, that the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pilate with this request: “... we remember...how that deceiver said, ‘After three days, I will rise.’ Therefore command that the tomb be made secure...lest His disciples...steal Him away, and say...‘He has risen from the dead.’”
- The apostles, and other disciples of Jesus, certainly believed in, and preached forth the fact of the resurrection! It was because they themselves had experienced the risen Jesus! In I Corinthians 3 through 8, Paul gave this summation of the appearances of the resurrected Christ:
Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and ...He was buried, and that He rose again the third day ac- cording to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
- Although there are several New Testament passages that imply the preaching of the resurrection, here is what is recorded in the book of Acts concerning the testimony that directly emphasizes the rising again of Jessus Christ from the dead:
✞ Acts 2:22 through 36 – In Peter’s Pentecost sermon, he emphasizes that Jesus rose from the dead by the power of God! ✞ Acts 3:26 – Peter, after healing the lame man in the name of Jesus, said this in his second sermon: “To you [Israelites] first, God, having raised up His servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turn- ing away every one of you from your iniquities.” ✞ Acts 4:10 – Having been arrested by the Sanhedrin, Peter testified about the lame man’s healing: “... let it be known to you all...that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.” ✞ Acts 10:38 through 40 – When the Lord sent Peter to open the gospel to the Gentiles, this is what he emphasized in to Cornelius and his family and guests: “...Jesus of Nazareth...they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly....” ✞ Acts 13:27 through 30 – Paul and Barnabas, on their first missionary journey, preached in Antioch of Pisidia (in Asia Minor): “...those in Jerusalem, and their rulers...asked Pilate that He [Jesus] should be put to death. [After He was crucified] they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead.” ✞ Acts 17:18 – In Athens, Paul encountered “...cer- tain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers...[who] said, ‘He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,’ be- cause he preached to them Jesus and the resurrec- tion.” (see also Acts 17:31, 32). ✞ Acts 23:6 – Paul made his defense before the Sanhe- drin after he had been arrested in the temple the day before: “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrec- tion of the dead I am being judged.” ✞ Acts 24:15 – At Caesarea, in his defense before the Roman governor Felix and his Jewish accusers, Paul again emphasized the resurrection: “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” (see also Acts 24:21). ✞ Acts 25:19 – Felix, who followed Festus as governor of Judea, was visited by King Agrippa. The governor rehearsed Paul’s case before the king, mentioning this point of a previous hearing: “When [Paul’s] ac- cusers stood up, they brought no accusation against him ...as I supposed, but had some questions against him...about one, Jesus, who had died, whom Paul af- firmed to be alive.” ✞ Acts 26:22 and 23 – Paul was granted a hearing before Governor Felix and King Agrippa: “...to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying... that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”
If the resurrection was so prominent
in the preaching and witnessing
of the apostles and the early believers,
should we not be emphasizing this truth also,
that Jesus Christ is the living Savior
and Lord of all!