Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians 15

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.

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.

 

 

Foundations of the Gospel

 

Building on the introductions to Paul’s missionary journey at Corinth and the issues he faced there, we find the apostle beginning the most substantial portion of his First Epistle to Corinth, chapter 15.  Here he is concerned with correcting errant views on the Doctrine of Christ’s Resurrection and subsequently the bodily resurrection of believers.  We may recall that the city was largely a melting pot of people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds.  The influences upon the city were from Greek culture, as well as Roman, Jewish, and that of all those who had access to the city through its two major sea ports.

Also, we may recall the details of this missionary journey were captured for us in Acts 18 where we saw one of the fundamental objections to Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel was Christ’s resurrection.

It is this pillar of the Gospel that he aims to expound upon as he introduces 1 Corinthians 15:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

His discourse on the defense of this precious doctrine of the resurrection begins with a review of the Gospel, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you.”  It is the foundation of this gospel message that we are principally interested in examining in this post.

Paul begins by way of reminding the Corinthians of the gospel message that he preached to them and the impacts that it has had upon them.  Namely that it is this gospel which they received, upon which they stand, and through which they are being saved.  We may note here, in verse 3, the reference by Paul to the present on-going aspect of salvation.

He buttresses these statements of assurance with an exhortation unto perseverance in the faith, “if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain“.  This is by no means an affirmation that believer’s may lose their salvation, rather it is a declaration that true faith will persevere, will continue believing and continue holding fast, will continuing being saved.  Whereas those of a false faith, A la 3/4 of the soils in the parable from Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 and those in 1 John 2:19, fall away and prove their profession a shame.

After this prologue, which really could serve as the introduction to its own letter, the Apostle breaks down what this gospel message includes, principally the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

The first pillar of the gospel mentioned in our passage is the death of Christ. The death of Christ is the purpose for which He came into the world.  It is the manner and means through which God has redeemed a people for Himself.  Note here the application of His death, i.e. for our sins.  The little word “for”, huper in the Greek, is significant for its usage in connection with the substitutionary death of our Lord.

This first pillar is supported with an appeal to the authority of Scripture.  Clearly, the reference to the Scriptures here is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Christ’s death.  It is inclusive of ALL previous divine revelation of God as recorded in Scripture, but may also specifically refer to such passages as Gen. 3:15, Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, etc.

Second, we see the pillar of the burial of Jesus.  This may seem insignificant as compared to our Lord’s death and resurrection, however it affirms the first and anticipates the second, therefore serving as a critical link between the two.  His burial states emphatically that He died, thereby meeting the demands of the law and ultimately satisfying the wrath of God for all those who would believe.

Remember also that the burial of Christ was a point of controversy and thought by the Romans to be an opportunity for Christ’s body to be stolen such that the propagation of the “lie” of his resurrection would be made greater than the “lie” of His declaration of being God’s Son (Matthew 27:62-66).  Furthermore, the burial of Christ is a critical pillar because it serves as an apologetic against those who deny the burial of Christ, such as Islam, or those who assume only a spiritual resurrection.

Finally the significance of the burial may be seen in the place in which Christ was buried, namely a Garden.  This brings full circle the idea of the first Adam’s death (spiritually and then physically) in the first Garden and the Last Adam’s burial and subsequent resurrection (physically and then glorified) in the Garden (See also Romans 6:1-4).  It therefore is a connecting point of biblical themes all of which have their yes and amen in Christ.

Third, and the final pillar of the gospel foundation described in this passage, is the resurrection of Christ on the third day, again in accordance with the Scriptures.  The resurrection of our Lord is the validation of His declaration that He is the Son of God, His life of perfect obedience, His defeat of death, and His fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption (John 19:30).   It is the proclamation of victory over sin, death, and the devil.  It signals the inauguration of the reversal of the curse of sin and death, the enthronement of the King, and as we will see the firstfruits of all subsequent resurrections.  Furthermore, the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection and inclusion of it into the Gospel is the basis for the bodily resurrection of believers.  Therefore, this final pillar is not tangential to Paul’s forthcoming argument for the resurrection of believers, but is indeed its foundation.

One additional point to be noted concerning the second reference of “according to the Scriptures”.  This fascinating detail is again affirmation of submission to the authority of Scripture and a testament to its fulfillment.  Taken individually, it highlights several key prophecies of Christ resurrection.  Most notably that of Jonah (1:17, cf Matthew 12:40), Hosea (6:2) , and those made by the Lord Himself (Matt. 12:40, John 2:19; Matt. 16:21, 17:23, 20:19).

The Apostle Paul, by way of Divine inspiration is laying the foundation of the Gospel upon which he will build his doctrine of the bodily resurrection, first of Christ, which we have seen here, yet ultimately of believers.  Though there is much disagreement over sections of this mighty chapter dealing with the millennium, the kingdom, and aspects of the eschatology of resurrection, these foundational pillars of the Gospel are non-negotiable.

This is the gospel which has been preached.  Have  you believed it?  Are you standing upon it?  Are you being saved by it?  If so, hold fast to it.

For the Glory of God

 

**Image Credit: http://www.kevinbrownlee.com/2012/01/21/81/