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There have always been people who deny the concept of life after death. And, similarly, there have always been those who deny the reality of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. This denial has significant implications, which Paul addresses in his first letter to the Corinthians.

In a summary of the Gospel Paul briefly mentions the death of Christ for our sins, his burial and his resurrection. He then lists the witnesses of the resurrection, most of whom were still living at the time he wrote. He states that both he and the other apostles preached this message of the death and resurrection of Christ, and that it was this message that the Corinthian Christians had originally believed [1Corinthians 15:1-11].

It is apparent, however, that the whole concept of resurrection was being denied by some preachers and some Christians in Corinth [1Corinthians 15:12].

To correct this serious alteration of the message Paul made the following emphatic points about the importance and significance of the resurrection:

If there is no such thing as resurrection of the dead then Jesus Christ has not been raised [15:13,15,16].

If Christ has not been raised the gospel is useless [15:14].

If Christ has not been raised Christian faith is useless and futile [15:14,17].

If Christ has not been raised the apostles had misrepresented God when they taught that God raised Christ from the dead [15:15].

If Christ has not been raised then Christians are still unforgiven [15:17].

If Christ has not been raised those who died trusting him, are lost [15:18].

If there is no resurrection, then those who believe Christ was raised are to be more pitied than all other men [15:19].

If Christ has not been raised the commitment of the apostles to preach the gospel of Christ’s death and resurrection, in the face of persecution and threat of death, is absurd [15:30-32a].

If Christ has not been raised then the rational thing to do is to abandon God and faith [15:32b].

Paul’s point is clear: the whole of Christian knowledge, faith and commitment depends on the factuality of the real, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The cross is powerless and meaningless unless it is followed by the resurrection.

But, Paul states, ‘Christ has indeed been raised from the dead’ [15:20].

The indispensable implications of this fact are:

The resurrection of Christ validates the gospel promise of resurrection life for those who believe [15:20,23].

The resurrection undoes and reverses, for those who acknowledge Jesus Christ, the loss of spiritual life incurred by Adam for all of his descendants [15:21-23].

The resurrection of Christ is both the decisive beginning and the guarantee of the defeat of all that is opposed to God [15:24-28].

The resurrection of Christ affirms the reality of the Christian’s present victory over the destructive and damning trilogy of law, sin and death for those who believe in him [15:56-57].

In the light of this extreme necessity and significance of the resurrection let us take heed to the encouragement of Paul when we are tempted into downplaying or dismissing its importance: ‘Stand firm. Let nothing move you’ [15:58]. Because of the resurrection of Christ our faith, our commitment, our labour for him ‘is not in vain’ [15:59].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2010, 2021