Raised – Undeniable

Open to 1 Corinthians 15 – we will be there for the next four weeks.

All Scripture is inspired but there are some chapters in the Bible that are especially meaningful – 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 8, Philippians 4, Hebrews 11 and certainly 1 Corinthians 15 would make the short list of great chapters in the New Testament.

A little background on Corinth.

  • Paul had been there for 18 months.
  • Corinth was a significant city in the region and an important location for a church.
  • Corinth had a lot of issues.  It is the soap opera church on the New Testament. Sex, lawsuits, rivalry, idolatry, charismatic gifts – Corinth had it all and Paul had a lot of teaching to do.
  • I think they are trying. They seem to be in contact with Paul even though he has now in nearby Ephesus. There seems to be correspondence between the church and Paul as indicated by these verses:

1 Corinthians 7:1 (NIV) — 1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”

1 Corinthians 8:1 (NIV) — 1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.

1 Corinthians 12:1 (NIV) — 1 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.

1 Corinthians 16:1 (NIV) — 1 Now about the collection for the Lord’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do.

They seem to have sent Paul questions that he responds to in each one of these sections.

But in addition to responding to questions, Paul also has some things he wants to add – some things that he knows are important and maybe will be able to help them with these other issues. One of these is the great chapter on love in 1 Corinthians 13 – in the midst of answering questions on spiritual gifts Paul urges them to seek the most excellent way of love. Another matter he feels he must address is our chapter we are looking at – 1 Corinthians 15.  He has a reminder for them. Let’s look at how this great chapter starts:

1 Corinthians 15:1–2 (NIV) — 1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

I want to remind you of the gospel – what it really is all about. All these other issues are important but let’s not forget what the real issue is. What is at the very center of the gospel? What is it that you believed in at first? What is it that you really stand for?  We can lose sight of that, can’t we?

Churches can get caught up in issues. Not that there aren’t some important issues we have to deal with, but sometimes we can be distracted with things that are not at the center of our faith. We can get distracted from what the gospel is all about. And it is this that we have to hold firmly to.

I have to admit, there are some things that I can go either way with. We even see this in 1 Corinthians. Paul say that eating meats offered to idols can be an individual matter. He even seems to think that getting married or staying single is an individual matter – you can serve God in either situation. But there are some things that are non-negotiable and Paul is going to talk about one of those things.

Let’s continue reading on:

1 Corinthians 15:3–4 (NIV) — 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

First importance – isn’t that a curious phrase. Some teachings are more important than others. Some teachings are not up for grabs. Some truths are absolutely essential. There are some beliefs that define the gospel. And here it is:

Christ died for our sins – we were lost without him. His death atoned for our sins. We have forgiveness only because he die. He was the sacrificial lamb that takes away the sins of the world. Scripture is all about this. Paul may be thinking of Isaiah 53:

Isaiah 53:4–6 (NIV) — 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Christ was buried. I always though this was odd. Why is this so vital? His body was snatched away and hidden. He was actually buried just like dead people are. He wasn't buried in some unknow location. His tomb is noted. It was in Jerusalem. This fact eliminates any conspiracy theory centered around the body being hidden.

Christ was raised on the third day. The tomb was empty. Jesus came back to life. And this is where Paul will go with the rest of the chapter. Apparently, some people were denying the resurrection.  Look later in verse 12-13:

1 Corinthians 15:12–13 (NIV) — 12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.

Paul says the resurrection is not an option – Jesus was raised. He will use that term 19 x’s in this chapter.  He was raised ….. It’s undeniable.

The resurrection – this is important!! It may be hard to believe, but there is no other way to understand it. The gospels clearly teach that Jesus was dead and then he was alive.

It’s not surprising that people don’t believe and have offered many alternative readings of the gospels.  Maybe he just passed out and was resuscitated in the tomb. Maybe the apostles stole the body and spread the rumor. Maybe it was some hallucination – they wanted him to be alive so badly the apostles just imagined it. Maybe is wasn’t a bodily resurrection. Maybe Jesus was just resurrected in the hearts of the believers. It wasn’t Jesus who was resurrected, it was their faith in him that was resurrected. Anything but a dead person came back to life.

Scripture and Paul will have nothing to do with these theories. Christianity depends on the fact, the historical fact, the Jesus really died, he was buried, and he really came back to life.

But even Paul knows this is hard to believe so he proceeds with giving a list of people who can verify it:

1 Corinthians 15:5–8 (NIV) — 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

Here's the witness list:

Cephas, Peter. Of course, he appeared to him. He was one the leaders. And Peter talked about it. On the day of Pentecost Peter gives the first sermon and guess what he talks about?

Acts 2:22–28 (NIV) — 22 Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him: “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” 

In fact, go through the sermons in Acts and they all talk about the resurrection.

The Twelve, the apostles. The gospels talk about several meetings Jesus has with them. And this is a real person. He eats with them. Thomas feels the wounds from the crucifixion. This is no hallucination.

500 believers. Paul goes on to add that many of them are still alive almost challenging them to go investigate on their own. The resurrection is not just attested by the few people closest to him, but by a crowd of 500. 

James. This is probably Jesus’ brother which is especially interesting given what John says about Jesus’ brothers in John 7:

John 7:1–5 (NIV) — 1 After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

James very well may have become a believer when Jesus appeared to him after the resurrection. This James becomes a leader in the church and the author of the NT book of James.

After James, then to all the apostles. In addition to the 12 Jesus had others who were spreading the word.

And then Paul says, “He appeared to me.” It was different that the other apostles who lived with him, but Paul makes the claim that his encounter with Jesus was as real and valid as any of the others. And here’s the deal, Paul was not looking for the resurrection. In fact, he was Saul who was trying to extinguish this faith. And then Paul goes on to say that it is the resurrection that changed his life.  Let’s continue on in 1 Corinthians 15:

1 Corinthians 15:9–10 (NIV) — 9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

How else can you explain the complete 180 degree turnaround in his life? Why else would Paul become so obsessed with spreading the gospel? This new life has brought him nothing but pain and hardship but when he see someone who was dead and is now live it changes you! The resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation for the drastic change in Paul’s life!

Paul is saying it loud and clear – the resurrection is undeniable!

One more thing – Paul is not making this up. Look back in verse 3:

1 Corinthians 15:3 (NIV) — 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

What Paul is talking about has been taught for years now. This writing is around AD 55 and this may be the earliest written account of the resurrection as 1 Corinthians was written even before the gospels. But note that this is just over 20 years from the event. That’s not too long! Think about 9/11/01. No one would deny that that actually happened. Many of us saw that on our TVs. There are eye-witnesses that can testify that the towers actually fell. That airplanes actually rammed into those buildings.

The resurrection falls into the same category. It was a verifiable historical event that is undeniable. And if we believe that creator God could breathe life into a lump of dirt and dust and Adam became a living person, why couldn’t he breathe life into a dead body?  Paul says this is what happened.  And look at 15:11:

1 Corinthians 15:11 (NIV) — 11 Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

The resurrection – this is what we preach and this is what we believe! Jesus was RAISED!