The Centrality of the Resurrection

1 Corinthians #26. An exposition of 1 Corinthians 15:1-19. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, July 31, 2011.

The heart.  That little mussel tucked away in your chest.  Without it – there is no life!  The heart pumps life-giving blood to every part of the body.  The heart of the Gospel is the resurrection.  The resurrection gives life to every other area of Gospel truth.  The resurrection is the pivot on which all of Christianity turns.  Without the resurrection the other “truths” of Christianity would not matter much.  Without the resurrection Christianity would just be so much wishful thinking.  The message of the New Testament is the message of the risen Christ and that message finds its greatest expression in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians.  This is the earliest biblical account of the resurrection written less than three decades after the fact.  G. Campbell Morgan declared that, “In all literature there is no greater passage in diction, in dialect, or in dynamic.”  It is an extraordinary chapter.  As we near the end of our study of this book we are going to slow down and take a careful look at this chapter.  This evening we’ll consider the first 19 verses.

Text: 1 Corinthians 15:1-19

In this chapter Paul gives the fullest and most important treatment in the Bible of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.  Let’s be clear, by resurrection we mean the creative act of God whereby the bodies of dead people are raised to life.  This is a distinctively biblical concept.  You’ll not find this in paganism.  There are allusions but little direct information in the Old Testament.  Resurrection hope can only come to full flower after Christ conquered death and the grave.

Understand this passage is about the resurrection of the body, not the immortality of the soul.
While related these are not the same, they are not interchangeable.
It is also important to note Paul is talking about the resurrection of believers in this text.
Unbelievers will be raised as well but that is not the focus of this passage.
We are not sure how or why questions concerning the resurrection have been raised.

It is clear there were those in Corinth who denied the resurrection (12) but what precipitated this discussion we do not know.

There are at least two contributing factors:

  1. Jewish converts and their perspective.
    Judaism did not put much stock in an after life.  There are a few passages in the OT which hint at an after life but not many.  Judaism looked for a Messiah to relieve their present suffering.  They expected Messiah to establish an earthly kingdom here and now.  Resurrection was a stumbling block for the Jews.
  2. Greek converts and their perspective.
    The Greeks believed in the immortality of the soul but they believed that the body was the prison of the soul.  This is the result of their dualistic way of thinking.  Within Greek philosophy the spirit was good while the body (material) was evil.  So they rejected as foolish the notion of a bodily resurrection.

The church at Corinth was made up of both Jewish and Greek converts.  For whatever reason there were those in the congregation who struggled with the whole concept of resurrection and thus Paul set out to explain why the resurrection matters.  Paul makes it clear that…

Thesis: The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is essential to the Christian faith.

It is not an optional belief.
It is not a secondary concern.
It is essential, it is at the core of the faith.
Essential = absolutely necessary, that which is inherent.
Remove the resurrection and there is no Faith, no Christianity.

Paul sets forth four facts demonstrating the essential nature of the resurrection.

  1. The fact that the resurrection of Christ is essential to the Gospel.  (15:1-5)
  2. The historical testimony to the reality of the resurrection.  (15:5-10)
  3. This is the message universally preached by all the apostles and the one you believed.  (15:11)
  4. The resurrection is fundamental to salvation and tied to all the other doctrines of our faith.  (15:12-19)

The doctrine of the resurrection is a precious doctrine, essential to our faith.  To deny it is to deny the faith.  My God grant us the faith to embrace it, glory in it, proclaim it and live in the blessed hope of it.

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