Hope bigger than death – 1 Corinthians 15
“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:13–14 NIV11)
If the resurrection isn’t true then you can forget about everything else.
If Jesus was just a carpenter from Nazareth who lies in a dusty tomb somewhere in Palestine then Christianity is worthless. It’s untrue. It offers nothing of value.
Make no mistake, historical Christianity, founded in the gospels and the letters of Paul, has only ever known an account of Jesus that says He is alive. Paul says to the Corinthians that resurrection is as essential as the cross itself.
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4)
What is at stake if this is not true?
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)
Salvation has failed if Jesus is not raised. Faith fails. Indeed Paul goes on to describe the ‘hope’ that would remain in a resurrection-less world,
“If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”” (1 Corinthians 15:32)
Fill up on food and booze. Death is the destination of all. Chuck it in! That’s how Paul describes the husk of life that would be left if this wasn’t true. And this is what we see isn’t it? Good people for whom death is the Grim Reaper doing their very best to avoid the brutal fact that 100% of people die and if there’s nothing beyond the grave then only our pleasure in the moment matters.
But that is not the Christian.
Christians are first and foremost resurrection people! And we need resurrection after death or we won’t be able to be equipped to enjoy eternity. Just like trying to enjoy a single bottle of milk for a month we all understand that our broken down and decaying bodies could never last for eternity – they would simply spoil and fade.
“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 15:50)
God’s plan is better than that. God will make us fit for heaven.
“For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:53)
Resurrection enables us to take a recognisable but eternal form that is ready for forever!
What’s the practical application of resurrection for Christians? Your hope is founded on the historical reality attested by multiple witnesses that Jesus is raised from the dead. Because He is raised you can know you are forgiven. Because He is raised you can know that you will be raised too. Because you have this hope everything else is changed. Death is not the end. Life is the end – for all who trust in Jesus.
I’ll leave the last word of application to Paul himself,
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
“Dear Heavenly Father, Your great power raised your Son from the dead after He had paid the price for our sins. We stand in awe of the fact that this is true. Fill our hearts with faith. Fill our hearts with expectation. Fill our grief with hope. Give us a hope-filled engagement with this world even as we long for the day of great resurrection when all who trust in You will see You face to face. Amen.”
Grace and peace,