1 Corinthians Chapter 15 is one of the foundational passages of the whole Christian Bible, for in it, the apostle Paul explained the implications of the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
In Paul’s day, a classical Greek education taught that physical resurrection was not only scientifically impossible, but spiritually undesirable, as the spiritual was considered far superior to the physical.
Because Jesus’ resurrection sounded not only implausible (or impossible), but also spiritually inferior and primitive, a growing number of Greek lecturers within the Christian community had begun to teach there would not be a physical resurrection of the dead one day, and Jesus’ resurrection was purely spiritual.
Paul knew this teaching would gut the faith, drain it of the lifeblood of Jesus, and leave it shriveled and dead in the charnel house of empty religions.
The resurrection is the fulcrum for the whole of the Christian faith—everything comes back to that.
Paul explained the resurrection is the most important doctrine of the Christian faith. It proves Jesus’ deity, and that His sacrifice for sin was complete and accepted. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the whole structure of Christianity collapses.
- If He isn’t risen, we won’t rise from the dead either, we stay dead
- All the apostles are liars, and Christianity is one big scam
- God has been terribly misrepresented
- Faith in Christ is totally pointless, there’s nothing to have faith in
Paul reminded the Corinthian believers of the first century church’s creed, “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised on the third day, all in accordance with the Scriptures.”
Because this is true, Paul was saying, we can count on being resurrected when Jesus returns for us, we can count on death finally being destroyed, along with sin, corruption, evil, and all the rest.
As proof, Paul cited numerous, respected eye-witnesses to Jesus’ bodily resurrection. In fact, according to the gospels, that list includes:
- Mary of Magdala
- Mary the mother of James
- Salome and other women
- Cleopas and his companion on the way to Emmaus
- Several times to the disciples in small groups
- Jesus’ brother James
- Thomas, along with the rest of the disciples
- 500 people in one gathering
- Many times to those who had traveled with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem
- 40 days of intensive teaching for 120 people including the disciples and Jesus’ closest followers
- And finally, to Paul himself
The earliest Christians did not just endorse Jesus’ teachings, they were convinced they had, themselves, seen Jesus physically alive after His crucifixion. They traveled with Him, touched Him, heard His voice, listened to His teaching, spent time in conversation with Him, felt His breath, cooked and ate with Him.
That is what transfixed their hearts and minds.
That is how they received Jesus’ living Spirit on Pentecost.
That is what changed their lives and started the church.
- Every single disciple was willing to be martyred for his belief.
- James, Jesus’ brother, and Saul of Tarsus were both hardened skeptics who became believers after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them – they, too, were willing to be martyred for their belief.
- Pentecost happened – the giving of Christ’s Spirit because Jesus had been glorified.
- In the first 5 weeks after Jesus’ resurrection 10,000 Judeans became believers in the resurrected Messiah.
Of the volumes of written material still around from that time period, no one, not even Josephus, tried to refute the eye-witness accounts of Jesus’ resurrection. The best they could come up with was to call it magic.
Everything Paul did and taught was traced back to this core truth of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus’ appearance, in His physical, glorified body is what converted Paul. The reality of Jesus’ physical, as well as spiritual, reign over the whole world, the living God, waiting to return to earth to gather up His own, and then to judge all humanity, gripped Paul.
We really are the most to be pitied if the resurrection is not real.
Because, as Paul pointed out, we can never really know peace, joy, or even happiness, for that matter. Underneath it all would be that low, ominous thrum of our own incompatibility with God . . . knowing what we know about holiness and purity, not a day would go by without dreading the thought of God’s coming cleansing of the cosmos of all that corrupts and kills.
But Jesus is risen!
And He is going to return in the twinkling of an eye, the old body will pass away in that moment, and will be raised up as the new body.
We may not be exactly like we are now.
What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain.
But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body.
Not all flesh is alike, but there is
* One flesh for human beings
* Another for animals
* Another for birds, and
* Another for fish.
* There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies,
But the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another.
There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.
So it is with the resurrection of the dead.
What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.
It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.
It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.1 Corinthians 15:36-44
So, you and I, we are like seeds, right now. When we are planted in the ground in death we change. At Jesus’ return—so said Jesus, and Paul, and John—the seed will disappear as the new body grows up from what was locked up inside the seed.
You know, even as I finished writing that, I could see, in my mind’s eye, some of you throwing confetti in unbridled elation, anticipating that “great and glorious” day.
And for some of you, your scientific (Greek) brain kicked in and balked. It’s just too weird, isn’t it, it sounds primitive and uneducated, it sounds like crazy talk.
Yep, Paul might have said. It sure does. Nevertheless,
For the believer, all you are and do is founded upon
Jesus’ death and resurrection
There are some Christian doctrines that allow for differences of interpretation.
But these truths are not debatable.
[Jesus is alive! | FreeBibleImages.org, the LUMO Project]