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Christian saved by grace through faith.

The Logic of the Resurrection

 

It should probably come as no surprise that one of the leading parallels between the relationship of followers of Christ and the world is a preponderance of anti-intellectualism.  It is a common human condition.  We simply do not want to think.  From our ever-increasing entertainment choices, to social media, to a desire to “veg-out”, to how we approach the Scriptures, believers are hemorrhaging from a failure to engage the mind in any semblance of coherent thought.

I’ve faced these battles in Bible studies from those who no longer attend because they want their “daily bread” and do not desire to have their thoughts challenged or informed by Scripture, to those who are not interested in a “head knowledge” study, but prefer more to discuss relationships and peel back layers of feelings.  In fact, one could actually make the argument that the chief reason why Christendom is a mile wide and an inch deep is due mainly to anti-intellectualism, though certainly other factors have had influence as well.

However, this does  not describe the burden that Scripture places on followers of Christ.  The mind is central to the Christian faith.  We are to love the Lord with all of our mind, renew our mind, set our mind on things above, set our mind on the Spirit, and serve the law of God with our mind, among other noteworthy passages.

Keep in “mind” that I am NOT saying believers need to be super-smart, have high IQ’s, or have advanced degrees in theology.  We need only remember that exactly none of our Lord’s disciples had any theological training prior to their calling.  They were mostly humble fisherman (and other ignoble professions) yet they spent three years learning at the feet of their Master.

What I am saying is that the mental capacity that we have been given, whatever that may be on an individual level, should be fully devoted to God and labor in understanding and applying the Scriptures.  A lazy, anti-intellectual mind is antithetical to Christ.

With this long introduction out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the 15th chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians and look at his divinely inspired appeal to the mind as the third and final proof of the resurrection.  Recall that in a prior post we introduced Proofs 1-3  and saw that first and foundation was the Authority of Scriptures, followed by the eyewitness experience of those who witnessed the risen Christ.  Here we’ll expand on the third proof, namely the Logic of the Believer’s Resurrection found in 1 Cor. 15:12-19

12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

This may be somewhat difficult to follow, but let’s exercise our minds and attempt to follow the line of thought being communicated.

The apostle uses no less than six IF/THEN statements of logic and summarily includes at least nine consequences for denying the resurrection.  First, we must note the basis for the logical argument of the bodily resurrection of believers is rooted in the bodily resurrection of Christ and, as we have seen, is supported both by Scripture and eyewitnesses.

That established, we find the following statements of logic in our passage:

1. IF Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead
(THEN) how can some of you say there is no resurrection

2. IF there is no resurrection of the dead
THEN not even Christ has been raised.

3. IF Christ has not been raised
THEN our preaching is in vain
And your faith is in vain

4. IF the dead are not raised
(THEN) not even Christ has been raised

5. IF Christ has not been raised
(THEN) your faith is futile
And you are still in your sins
THEN those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have    perished

6. IF in Christ we have hope in this life only
(THEN) we are of all people to be most pitied

We can summarize this argument by looking at the consequences of denying the bodily resurrection, an error that the Corinthians had apparently fallen into in one form or another

Consequences of Denying the Bodily Resurrection

  1. Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead
  2. The Apostolic preaching is in vain
  3. Believers (Corinthian) faith is in vain
  4. Misrepresentation of God; God is a liar
  5. Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead
  6. Believers (Corinthian) faith is futile
  7. Believers (Corinthian) are still in their sins
  8. The dead in Christ has perished; i.e. annihilationism
  9. Believers (and Apostles) are most to be pitied.

The Apostle’s point through this argument is just how nonsensical it is to deny the bodily resurrection of believers.  By stating this in the form of a logical argument, he creates a divinely inspired, airtight argument that appeals to the mind of the believer to THINK.

Think about the resurrection of Christ and its implications, particularly that of the bodily resurrection and the hope that it gives believers. Think about what it is that you believe and why.  Think about all the promises of God that hinge first on Christ’s own resurrection and then on the resurrection of His people.  Think about how the resurrection brings final deliverance from sin.  Think about those who have gone before us that now enjoy the presence of the risen Lord and anticipate the resurrection of the their bodies to glory.  Think on these things.

The mind set on Christ is never a mind wasted.

Preaching the Resurrection

 

Recently, we’ve been working through the introduction of one of the longest (and in my opinion, more difficult) chapters in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 15.  We’ve seen the foundational importance of the resurrection of Christ, not only in proving the bodily resurrection of believers, but foundational to the Gospel message altogether.  In this post, we’ll return to Acts, where we first began with a look at the background for Paul’s missionary journey to Corinth, this time to explore the significance of Christ’s resurrection as it pertains to the development and growth of the early church.

Written by Luke, Acts picks up where his Gospel left off, namely with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In the opening verses we read,  He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. Acts 1:3

Later in this same chapter we find being a witness to Christ’s resurrection as a requirement for apostleship, Acts. 1:22.  In the latter half of the book, Christ’s resurrection becomes a major stumbling block to Jewish religious leaders and the reason for the Apostle Paul’s trial in Acts 24.

The centrality of the resurrection theme in Acts cannot be understated.  Not only is it prominent in the introduction, and boldly proclaimed  throughout the missionary journeys of Paul, but it takes a preeminent role in the sermons of Acts which largely connect the book of Acts thematically.  Alan Thompson notes,

“In Acts the resurrection is the climax of God’s saving purposes, and it is on the basis of the resurrection that the blessings of salvation may be offered.  The reason for this appears to be that in the resurrection of Jesus, the hoped-for resurrection age to come has arrived already, and it is because of the arrival of the age to come that the blessings of that age may now be received.” (Thompson, pg. 79)

In that book, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus, Thompson provides a table of each of the evangelistic sermons from Acts and breaks down the components of each sermon.  Common among them is proclamation (preaching) of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Every single sermon, if we may call them that, delivered with evangelism in mind, i.e. to an audience of unbelievers contained the components of the Gospel outlined by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, culminating with the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Among those evangelistic sermons identified by Thompson are Acts 2, 3, 4, 5, 10 – Peter; Acts 13, 17 – Paul.

With this intentional focus on evangelistic preaching in mind, we must ask a few questions by way of application.

How often do we hear evangelistic sermons?  My experience has been one of two options: 1. The sermon has an evangelistic appeal tacked onto the end 2. The sermon has no evangelism focus at all.

Second, are we to tailor our sermons in our Lord’s Day worship services towards evangelism?  If yes, then we run the risk of alienating the brethren who are there to worship and be edified.  If no, then where and when are these evangelistic sermons supposed to take place?

This of course is the dilemma of the modern worship service.  Should they be broad and attractional with an evangelistic focus or narrow and deeper for the edification of believers?

One thing is clear – the apostolic preaching of the resurrection was central to the growth of the early church.  It wasn’t an add-on and it wasn’t altogether neglected.

 

An affiliate link to Thompson’s book on Christianbook.com may be found below:

826285: The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke"s Account of God"s Unfolding Plan (New Studies in Biblical Theology) The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan (New Studies in Biblical Theology)
By Alan J. Thompson

3 Resurrection Proofs

 

Having introduced the 15th Chapter of First Corinthians with an overview of the gospel foundation upon which the Apostle Paul will base his argument for the bodily resurrection of believers, we turn our focus now towards the three methods of argumentation the apostle will use to support his conclusions:

  1. The Authority of Scripture
  2. The Eyewitness Experience
  3. The Logical Argument

Each of these proofs are utilized to establish the unquestioned validity of Christ’s bodily resurrection from the grave.  The first of these we looked at in our last post from this series, so we will only briefly touch upon it again here.

In the opening verses of this magnificent chapter, we found two appeals to the Scriptures marked with the phrase, “according to the Scriptures,”  first, for the death of Christ for our sins and second for His resurrection on the third day, each of which served to under-gird the gospel

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

This first proof, an appeal to the authority of Scripture, is critical because it is the sure footing of all subsequent proofs.  Meaning, Scripture is the final authority.  Scripture is the very Word of God.  It is His divine revelation to mankind.  It is theopneustos, God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:15).  This concept is often abbreviated with the post-reformation slogan of Sola Scriptura, Latin for Scripture Alone, i.e. that Scripture alone, not experience, not tradition, not philosophy or logic, is the final authority in the life of a believer.

This notion is summaraized in the 17th Century Westminster Confession of Faith:

“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

We mentioned briefly in the previous post how this appeal to Scripture was, in general, an appeal to Scriptures testimony as a whole to the death and resurrection of Christ.  However, we also mentioned a few specific passages that either prophesied or anticipated the coming suffering and glory of our Lord.  This is Paul’s first proof of Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection, namely because Scripture, i.e. the Word of Almighty God, said so.  And that is sufficient.

The second proof of the resurrection of Christ is the experience of the eyewitnesses.  The order here is important, first Scripture, then experience.  The Apostle Peter makes a similar conclusion in

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[i] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21

In chapter 15 of First Corinthians we read of the details concerning these eyewitness testimonies to the resurrection of Christ:

  1. Cephas (Peter)
  2. The Twelve
  3. 500 Brothers at one time
  4. James
  5. All the Apostles
  6. Paul

Significant to this list is obviously Peter and the ministerial reputation that surrounded him, by God’s grace, particularly in the Jerusalem church and his sermon at Pentecost.  Paul’s audience here was most likely familiar, if nothing more, with the name of Peter.  Then we see the 12 and 500 at one time.  Next is James, the half-brother of Jesus.  He is a significant mention because during our Lord’s earthly ministry, James did not believe that Christ was the Son of God.  Like most brothers, he probably felt disdain towards his own brother.  However, here we see that an “atheist” in the sense of denying the deity of Christ, was witness to the resurrection of Christ.  Not only that, but James came to believe in Christ unto salvation.  Not only that, but James became a pillar in the first century church.  Of final significance is the Apostle Paul, who spends several verses establishing his own apostlicity before moving onto the third and final proof which we’ll look at below.

We must pause and ask, “Why is the eyewitness testimony so critical?”  Because it validates the historical aspect of the resurrection.  It wasn’t a myth.  It wasn’t fiction.  Someone didn’t come and steal the body and now we don’t know where Jesus is.  There were actual eyewitness accounts, each corroborating the other.  In order for the resurrection of Christ to be fiction, every single one of the more than 500 eyewitness testimonies would have to be recanted, and then each of them would have to be able to tell and spread the same exact lie.

Additionally, we may recall that Old Testament judicial action could be taken on the basis of 2 or 3 eyewitnesses (see Deut. 19:15,  Num. 35:30, et.al).  In our own day, eyewitness testimony is no less important.  As it pertains to Christ, we have not 1, or even 2-3, but over 500!  Each testifying to the historical fact of our Lord’s resurrection from the dead.

This brings us to the third and final proof for the resurrection of Jesus Christ as defined and employed in the 15th Chapter of 1 Corinthians, namely the logical argument.  Again, there is an order to these proofs.  If Paul had placed logic first, or if Paul had placed experience first, perhaps his argument for proof would have been an appeal to man, but he doesn’t.  He begins with Scripture as the basis – an appeal to God- then to experience, and now engages the mind with a logical argument of why the resurrection must be true.  Within his own argumentation, Paul has now provided 3 witnesses for the testimony of the resurrection.

Reading through 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 we can summarize the logical flow of the argument as follows:

  • The passage utilizes at least 7, and possibly more, IF/THEN combinations or implied combinations to establish the logical conclusions of denying the resurrection of Christ.
  • The passage provides no less than 9 Consequences for denying the resurrection

This third proof is given more attention, likely because the Corinthians did not deny nor have difficulty with the first two.  The Apostle, always keenly aware of his audience realizes that the disconnect lies between the facts of Christ’s resurrection and the subsequent implications of it.  It is upon this third proof of the Apostles that we will direct our thoughts towards in the next post.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is absolutely fundamental to the gospel.  It is a non-negotiable for salvation.  It isn’t enough to believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins, you must believe He rose from the dead because, among many blessings and benefits, it validates His exclusivity as the Son of God and the sufficiency of His sacrifice. As chapter 15 unfolds, it will become clear how the Christian hope for their own bodily resurrection from the dead finds its source in the “first-fruits” of Jesus Christ.