"IF CHRIST BE NOT RAISED…"
by Wayne S. Walker
Evidently there were some in the church at Corinth who were denying the future resurrection of the dead. They may have been followers of Hymenaeus and Philetus who said that the resurrection was pat already. However, there was an inconsistency. Christ was preched that He was raised from the dead. Yet, if there is no resurrection of the dead, as some said, then Christ could not have been raised. "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? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen" (1 Corinthians 15.12-13). This article is concerned with the consequences that Paul goes on to mention.
Christianity is vain. "And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty" (v. 14; all references marked simply v. come from 1 Corinthians chapter 15). The word translated "vain" in the King James Version means empty, devoid of substance or truth, having no content (James 2.20). If Christ was not raised, then the apostles’ preaching would be empty because from the very first they preached Christ’s resurrection as the basis for their message (Acts 2.22-24). And our faith would be in vain, because to be saved we must have faith in Jesus as God’s Son based on the resurrection (John 20.30-31, Romans 10.9-10). If this is not a fact, then our faith has no substance.
The apostles are false witnesses. "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" (v. 15). The mission of the apostles was to be witnesses of the resurrection, and thus of the Sonship of Jesus (Acts 1.8, 22). If such were untrue, they would be false witnesses, testifying to a falsehood. Yet, they willingly died for what they claimed to have witnessed (Acts 12.1-2). And they constantly condemned all lying (Ephesians 4.25). Furthermore, if we cannot trust their witness regarding the resurrection of Christ, we cannot trust them in anything that they say, including what to do to be saved (Acts 2.36-38), and even all the "good, moral teachings" of Christ (Acts 10.38-40).
Our faith is useless and we are still in our sins. "And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!" (v. 17). This is not a mere repetition. The word translated "vain" in the King James Version here is a different wod that means devoid of force, success, or result; useless; to no purpose; accomplishing nothing; having no effect; aimless; unprofitable (Titus 3.9). Faith is not just something to have. There is a purpose or reason in developing faith, and that is so that we might be justified from our sins (Romans 5.1). But a faith based on the resurrection of Christ would be useless to produce this result if Christ did not rise, since His resurrection is an integral part of God’s scheme for our justification from sin (Romans 4.24-25). Thus, those with such a faith must still be lost in sin.
The dead will never be raised. "Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished" (v. 18). In John 11.23-25, Jesus told Martha that those who believe in Him, even though they die, will live again. But if Jesus was not raised, then we have no basis to believe Him and, therefore, no expectation of living again. Paul makes a similar argument later in this same context (vs. 21-26). We believe that we shall be raised from the dead because Jesus was raised from the dead. And in 1 Thessalonians 1.13-18 He again points out that the belief that our loved ones who have died in Christ will rise again is contingent on "if we believe that Jesus died and arose." Any desire that we might have to see again loved ones in Christ who have gone on before must be dashed if Christ did not rise.
Christians are to be pitied. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable" (v. 19). Here, Paul makes an appeal to our own hope, which is of a home in heaven based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1.3-5). However, if we are hoping for something which will not and cannot come to pass because the foundation for that hope is groundless, then we are truly pitiable, since our faith in Jesus Christ who rose from the dead is "the substance of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11.1). Also, this hope is the motivation for patient waiting (Romans 8.24-25). If our hope has no basis, then it is foolish to wait patiently for it and deny ourselves the pleasures of life because we are hoping for something that is not going to happen. On second thought, in view of the various kinds of suffering that we must probably face in future life, everyone might as well just end it all now, if Christ is not raise.
Homer Hailey wrote, "The resurrection of the body of Jesus Christ, the very foundation rock of the Christian religion, is questioned today by many so-called scholars in the field of religion….The whole superstructure of the Christian’s salvation and hope rests on the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If evidence is sufficient to prove this fact, then faith follows; if not, the whole system collapses" (Internal Evidences of Christianity, p. 49). And Paul wrote, "But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (v. 20). Thus, based on the evidence presented to us in the scriptures, we believe and preach the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (—taken from With All Boldness; Jan., 2002; Vol. 12, No. 1; p. 12)