What do these names have in common? Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Babe Ruth, J.R.R. Tolkien, Beethoven, Mozart, Elizabeth Taylor, and Michael Jackson. The only thing in common among all the names is that they are all dead. Now if I were to add the name “Jesus” to this list would it change your answer? Jesus died, but He didn’t just die—He conquered death. He conquered death through His resurrection.
There are many modern attacks on the truthfulness of Christ’s resurrection. Have you watch documentaries on the Discovery Channel or History Channel that dispute the facts of the resurrection? There are also many books like The God Delusion [Richard Dawkins], God is Not Great [Christopher Hitchens], or the popular book The Da Vinci Code [Dan Brown] that do not buy the idea of the resurrection of Jesus. Some people think Jesus disappeared to Hawaii where Elvis, Hitler and JFK are all hiding out in a bunker playing poker. Others seem to think that Jesus was swooned or asleep; He couldn’t have been dead and then resurrected.
How would you address theses attacks? What difference does it make if Christ had a bodily resurrection? Without a bodily resurrection all of Jesus’ claims would be false and followers of Christ would have no hope of eternal salvation. His resurrection is the foundation of the gospel and your faith. Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity and its core truth claims would not hold any weight nor would your faith. Paul faced a similar situation with the church that he planted at Corinth.
You can have complete confidence in the reality of Jesus & His message [1 Corinthians 15:1]
Gospel. What comes to mind when you see that word? Gospel literally means “good news” or “breaking new.” Before discussing the good news, let’s discuss the bad: You deserve death; there’s nothing that you can do to earn salvation because sin condemns you to eternal death and separation from God. But the Good News is the gospel!
What is the gospel? The good news is that God loves His creation so much that He came down from heaven for you [Philippians 2:5–11], lived for you [John 14:19], died for you, and rose from the dead for you [Romans 4:25]. And if you respond through repentance of sin and have faith in Christ, He blesses you with eternal life [John 3:16]. Paul says that you must “take your stand” on the gospel. What does he mean? You must base your life on its truth [cf. 15:58]. By taking a stand for the gospel you are demonstrating confidence in both the Messenger and His message.
You can know the reality of the gospel because you can experience it now [15:2]
When Paul said, “by this gospel you are being saved,” he wasn’t speaking about something just in the past but something present too. The idea that one is “being saved”—while salvation is instantaneous—means you can still experience the power of the gospel on a daily basis. How is your life different since you became a Christian? Today you can experience the gospel in your decisions, your relationships, your school activities, your work, and your life—right now. The gospel not only changes your future destiny, but your present realities.
What do you think Paul meant when he said, “Otherwise, you have believed in vain”? He was emphasizing that true faith endures over time. In Hebrews 3:14 it says, “For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” An enduring commitment to the gospel shows genuine faith in Christ. Real followers of Christ do not give up when life gets hard, or doubts come like a flood, or you just don’t feel like following today.
Your faith has significant evidence for the case of the resurrection [15:3–8]
The detective shows on TV [i.e. NCIS, Monk, Psyche, etc.] solve cases by following evidence and eyewitnesses, and that’s what Paul did too—he followed evidence of the dead and of the living. When Paul referred to the witness of the dead; he read the prophets from long ago who foretold what Jesus would accomplish. Can anyone say with confidence who will be the president of the United States in 20 years? Who will be the hit band or movie star in the year 2145? Prophets foretold in detail Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection hundreds of years beforehand.
Fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies: Genesis 3:15 (the seed of the woman will crush the serpent), Genesis 12:3 (the seed of Abraham will bless all nations), Psalm 2 (the supremacy of God’s Son), Psalm 22 (the description of His death), Isaiah 7:14 (the virgin birth), Isaiah 9:6 (the deity of the Messiah), Isaiah 52:13–53:12 (the specifics of His death, including taking on our sins), Isaiah 53:11 (His resurrection), Micah 5:2 (the place of His birth), and Zechariah 9:9 (His entering Jerusalem on a donkey). These prophecies show us that Jesus is God and Savior.
Paul adds another line of evidence—the evidence of the living. What effect do eyewitness testimonies have on a court case? It usually serves to prove or disprove an event. In 1 Corinthians 15:5–8, we see other eyewitnesses to Jesus resurrection: Peter, the Twelve, more than 500 others, James, the apostles, Paul himself. Why do you think that Paul emphasized the testimony of these eyewitnesses? Eyewitness testimony is always more powerful than secondhand information, and some of these were still alive and could tell their stories [one eyewitness could be duped, but over 500?]. Both the living and the dead come together to build a case for the resurrection of Christ.
You can have the hope of being raised from the dead, just as Jesus was [15:20–24]
Let’s say I had a mystery bag full of food. Without knowing what it was would you be willing to try it? No body wants to be the first one to try it. This is like what Christ did. He tasted death, so you would have to be afraid. His death and resurrection give you hope.
Paul calls Christ the firstfruits. This phrase has its roots in the Old Testament, usually refers to the Jewish practice of offering the first of a crop to the Lord in recognition that the entire harvest belongs to Him [cf. Leviticus 23:9–14; 1 Thessalonians 4:14–17]. During the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the priest waved the firstfruits of the harvest before the Lord, and a perfect lamb was sacrificed [Mark 14:12]. Jesus’ death and resurrection occurred during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Jesus Christ was the perfect Lamb of God who was sacrificed to pay the price for your sins. His resurrection was a sign of the future resurrection of all believers.
Christ’s resurrection marked the beginning of a heavenly harvest of the kingdom of God. When Christ comes again, all who belong to God’s kingdom will be resurrected. How does that truth offer hope? Christ was raised, so you will be too. Death is not final for believers. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” [John 11:25-26]
“Without the belief in the resurrection the Christian faith could not have come into being. The disciples would have remained crushed and defeated men. Even had they continued to remember Jesus as their beloved teacher, His crucifixion would have forever silenced any hope of His being the Messiah. The cross would have remained the sad and shameful end of His career.” William Lane Craig
Jesus’ bodily resurrection is the heart of the gospel. Because God raised Jesus from the dead, the hope that you have in Him is certain. The evidence for Christ’s resurrection is clear. You can be confident in your faith. Make know the reality of His resurrection as you live out the gospel.
Many times in His earthly ministry, Jesus brought hope to hopelessness. Every day, you see people who feel hopeless and need the gospel. Paul wrote a letter to the Corinthian church to remind them of the gospel. Write a letter to someone who needs to hear about the resurrection. Instead of writing what they need to do, tell them what you know about Jesus—and how the gospel has impacted you. Take ownership of what you know; write to encourage others in the gospel.