I Corinthians 15:12–34. The Resurrection. Positive Arguments.

Key Notes: The Resurrection was witnessed by many. Everything rides on the Resurrection. Christ is our representative. Are the Dead already raised? Resurrection is ahead of us.

Paul begins this chapter by spending eleven verses simply "reminding" the Corinthians of the central tenet of the Gospel he presented to them, which they had readily accepted:  Christ's resurrection. He does not reveal his motives until verse 12 when he says, "...how do some some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?"

Paul, who has clearly announced each new topic as he starts it, here decides to wait 12 verses to declare his objectives. It appears that he is trying to establish common ground with the Corinthians, so that he can use that to launch into his argument against the most grievous of errors – a denial of the resurrection of believers. He often uses his introduction to disarm his readers.

In Paul's mind, Christ's resurrection was an indisputable fact. He know of literally hundreds of people who testified that they saw Jesus after his crucifixion – many who were still alive, people who could be consulted and cross-examined, people who, decades later, were all telling the same story. That's about as much proof as any historical event (before the advent of the camera) ever enjoyed. The resurrection, although astonishing, is well-attested and hard to dispute on historical grounds.

Conclusion 1:
If Christ is risen, then resurrection from the dead is not impossible.

Negative arguments fo Christ's Resurrection:
If indeed there is no resurrection from the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if that's true

1.Our preaching is in vain.
1. Your faith is in vain.
3. We are liars and false prophets.
4. You are still in your sins.
5. The dead have truly perished.
6. We are the most pitiful people in the world.

Point 4. asserts that Christ's resurrection is necessary for forgiveness of sins. Usually Paul asserts that it is Christ's death which accomplishes this. How is His resurrection involved in the remission of sins?
Point 6. suggests that our lives are pitiful without Christ's resurrection. Why? Is not the Judeo-Christian ethic a wise code of conduct, Christ notwithstanding? Yes, and no.

*Jesus would not be victorious over sin and death if He Himself was mastered by death and the assumption is that He would not be victorious over sin either.
*Jesus would be proven a liar and false prophet. He prophesied that He would be resurrected. Jn.2:18–22.
*He saves us by interceding for us constantly at the Father’s right hand. Heb. 7:25

Paul asserts that he would have to be an idiot to live the life he lives if Christ had not been raised. In fact, in verse 32 he recommends hedonism as the most reasonable philosophy for those who don't hold to a future resurrection.

Why is Paul's life foolish without a resurrection? Because Paul has been foregoing all the pleasures and comforts of this life in an all-out pursuit of the pleasures and comforts of the next life. Even Jesus endured the cross "for the joy that was set before Him". (Heb. 12:2). Hedonists, both of them. But they are hedonists who recognize that the best that this world has to offer is but a sniff of the aroma wafting from the heavenly kitchen, where our banquet is being prepared.

Moreover, the Christian life is impossible to live in our own power. If Christ is not alive today to sustain us, it is futile to think we could live out our moral commitments.

Conclusion 2:
If resurrection of the dead is impossible, then Christ has not raised from the dead.
And if Christ has not been raised, our theology and practice makes no sense.

15:20 But Christ IS raised from the dead. There are profound implications in this idea as well. Paul does not list them, because he has already made his point. However, it will do us good to make another list, the reverse of the first.

  1. Our preaching is not in vain, it is fruitful and effective.
  2. Our faith is not in vain, it is well-founded. God is willing and able to save, and is worthy of our trust.
  3. We are not liars. We speak the truth, and will be vindicated.
  4. We are no longer in our sins. They are completely washed away. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
  5. The dead have not truly perished, but live even now in the Spirit, and will rise again one day.
  6. We are not to be pitied above all people. We should be the most enviable of all people!
  7. Christ's resurrection, as far as Paul is concerned, has now been established. That was the aim of the first two arguments. The second two will attempt, in a similar fashion, to prove the future resurrection of all believers based on Jesus' resurrection.

15:20 Christ is the first-fruits. First-fruits is an agricultural concept – the first take of the harvest. It is what is offered to God in faith that He is going to provide more. The implication is that Christ's resurrection is evidence that there is more to come.

15:21–22 Christ is the representative head. Why bring up Adam and original sin here? Because in Adam all men died. Adam is an example of federal headship – he represented the entire human race and the fate of the entire human race followed his. So too is Christ the head of the church – He represents the entire church and the fate of the entire church is dependent upon His. Implication:  God's people will, like Christ, be raised from the dead.

Those who reject the doctrine of original sin on the basis of personal justice or individual accountability are losing too much. If we deny the concept of federal headship, we deny the very means by which God confers Jesus' righteousness to us.

15:23–28 Each in its own order. This is another seemingly odd deviation from the topic. Why go into a discussion of eschatology (end times theology) here? If we assume that Paul is still constructing a coherent argument, then we conclude that the Corinthians' errors concerning the raising of the dead stem from errors in their eschatology. This makes sense, because some commentators have noted an "over-realized" eschatology reflected throughout the Corinthian correspondence.

What is an over-realized eschatology? We all believe that Christ's death and resurrection brought about a new chapter in the story of God's redemption, and we all believe that there's another chapter after this one where God completes his work. However, we do not all agree as to exactly how much of God's work has been completed now, and how much remains. An "over-realized" eschatology places too much of God's work in the "already completed" category. "Already you have become kings!" (1Cor. 4:8).

Allow me to reconstruct the Corinthians' thought process in a way that, in my mind, brings this whole chapter together. They initially believed Paul's message about God's plan of salvation, including Christ being raised from the dead, then resurrecting believers from the dead, and finally returning again to gather them to Himself. But they may have come to the conclusion that the resurrection of believers had already happened, and that Jesus' return was the only thing remaining. IIThes.2:2

This isn't so far-fetched. After all, Matthew 27:51–53 relates that there was indeed a resurrection of the dead concurrent with Jesus' crucifixion:

"And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split; the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; ...and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many."

And Paul himself preaches that believers that have died and been raised with Christ, are new creations, and even now citizens of a heavenly city. It is not a huge leap from there to conclude that the resurrection of the dead has already occurred, and is indeed occurring on a daily basis as believers are baptized into new life. This may be why you see the Corinthians focused on "speaking the language of the angels" (ICor.13:1) and "abstaining from marital relations" (I Cor.7:3–7)-- attempting to live the lifestyle of heaven.

And then a few years passed, and church members started dying. How could this happen? Where was Jesus? What happened to eternal life? Perhaps death is the end after all. Perhaps Christ only came to give us hope in this life. Perhaps we should "eat and drink, for tomorrow we die".

These may be the misconceptions that Paul is confronting. That is why he must explain the order of things to come. Christ has been raised from the dead, and has ascended to the heavenly throne. However, there is still work to be done. He must subdue all things to Himself before he returns, and the last thing He will subdue is death. So death is still operative in this era, and the resurrection is still to come.

Conclusion 3:
Christ's resurrection proves not only that the dead can be raised, but that they will.

prepared by Greg Meyer, edited by A.MacKinney.