Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 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. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.
Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? Why are we in danger every hour? I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
The second consequence of denying the resurrection is found in verse 14. If Christ has not been raised, then preaching the Gospel is meaningless, and faith is futile. The Greek word Paul used here in verse 14 is translated as “useless” in the New International Version. This is the same Greek word that has been used for what has been called the “kenosis theory” of the incarnation. It means an “emptying.” The theory is based on Philippians 2, where Paul said that Jesus emptied himself, not considering equality with God something to be grasped (v. 6). Rather, he emptied himself and became like us, a man, and died on the cross. The point here is that Paul is using the word “useless” in the same way. He is saying if there are no resurrections, then Jesus is not raised. And if Jesus is not raised, then our faith is emptied of all its substance.
We can preach morality; we can preach about God; we can preach about the meaning in the flow of history; but if you remove the resurrection from the Gospel, it just vitiates it all, because in Christianity we are dealing not chiefly with a philosophy. The men who taught in Greece before Paul came had philosophies. He says, “We are not talking about that. We’re talking about God’s intervention in history in a supernatural way, which has an impact on each one of us. If there is no resurrection then Jesus is not raised and this preaching that we’re going about doing is emptied of all its content and all its meaning.
I wish that liberal preachers, those who know that they do not believe in the supernatural, would listen to Paul at this point, because he is consistent and they are not. We have a lot of men in the pulpits who do not believe in anything supernatural and certainly do not believe in the resurrection. Yet, they go right on preaching. Of course, this is the reason why their churches are so bad, why nothing happens, and why people are not converted. Their churches become clubs where people of the same socio-economic level can pat one another on the back and look askance at those who come and do not fit in. Nothing of any spiritual consequence is happening, and no wonder. Those churches have lost the heart of the Gospel–the vicarious atonement of Christ on the cross for our sins, and his resurrection. As a result, nothing of eternal value happens.
I read an interesting poll some time ago about ministers. It compared their belief in the resurrection with the amount of education they had received. I do not remember the exact figures, but about 40 percent of the ministers who went into the ministry with only a high school education disbelieved the resurrection, leaving 60 percent who believed. For those ministers who had completed college the percentage of disbelief rose. In that group, about 60 percent disbelieved the resurrection and only 40 percent believed. For those ministers polled with a seminary education, the figure went up even higher; somewhere around 70 percent no longer believed in a literal, bodily resurrection. And if a minister managed to earn a doctorate degree in addition to his seminary education, the level of disbelief edged up into the eighties.
That is really tragic because it speaks of the muddled educational system in our seminaries among those who are supposed to be teaching the things of God. These findings call us back to the kind of logic Paul puts forth here in 1 Corinthians 15. I do not mind people disbelieving the resurrection if they are not convinced of it. No one is supposed to proclaim what he does not believe. But I do wish they would get out of the pulpits if they do not believe it, in order to make room for those of us who do. We have many young ministers who are looking for pulpits today. I think having our young men fill these pulpits and having these unbelieving men leave would improve our churches.
The third consequence of disbelieving the resurrection comes out in verse 15. Paul wrote, “More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.” What is a false witness? A false witness is a liar. Paul says this in slightly nicer language, but the fact remains that, if there is no such thing as a resurrection, the apostles would be liars. The reason for that lies in the requirements that were necessary for qualifying as an apostle, which we will consider in tomorrow’s lesson.