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6 results if Jesus had not been resurrected

Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach
Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

As marvelous as Jesus’ resurrection is, Christians often forget much of its significance. We often assume the resurrection, failing to think about it as deeply as we ought or to teach it as frequently as we should. That is why we must reflect on the significance of Jesus’ resurrection, not just on Easter, but all year long, for a consistent, maturing faith.

In 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, the Apostle Paul rebukes the church because some have denied the possibility of bodily resurrection, and others have spiritualized resurrection. Paul shows how inconsistent that is with the Christian faith because Christianity teaches that Jesus bodily rose from the dead. Here, Paul gives six results of the Corinthians’ false understanding of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, which, in turn, helps believers to appreciate its great significance.

First, if Jesus had not been raised, then Gospel preaching would be worthless.

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Paul unfolds the significance of Jesus’ resurrection in verse 14. “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain.” If Christ had not been raised from the dead, all evangelism and Gospel preaching would be worthless. All efforts to tell friends, family, and neighbors about Jesus would be a complete waste.

But notice verse 20. “But now Christ has been raised from the dead.” All evangelistic work IS worth the effort, time, toil, energy, and finances put into it! All ministries aimed at reaching out to the lost ARE worthy of prayer, support, and time. Christ’s resurrection turns this implication on its head. If Gospel preaching is vain apart from Jesus’ resurrection, then it is significant because He has been raised.

Second, if Jesus had not been raised, then faith in Christ would be worthless and meaningless.

In our culture, people say things like, “You just have to believe. You need to have faith.” This wasn’t the Apostle Paul’s take on faith, though. Paul’s view in verses 14 and 17 was that, apart from Jesus’ resurrection, faith is a complete waste of time. Some have said, “Even if they proved Jesus never bodily rose from the dead, I wouldn’t give up on faith. I’d still have my faith.” Paul’s response would have been, “Why would you have your faith? It would be utterly meaningless!”

But because Christ has been raised from the dead, faith is not meaningless, if, it is in the resurrected Savior. Our faith is worthwhile because we believe, not in a dead savior, but in a Risen Lord! When we have faith in Jesus, we are trusting the One who died, rose again, and lives forever as the Triumphant Lord!

Third, if Jesus had not been raised, then the Bible would be a false witness about God.

Paul and his fellow apostles would be liars about God if Jesus had not been raised because their message was that God had raised Jesus from the dead. This is serious. What Paul is saying in verse 15 is that the New Testament is a book of lies if Jesus is not alive today.

But because Christ has been raised from the dead, the apostles and the New Testament are true witnesses of God and His redemptive acts! Jesus’ resurrection means that our Bibles are completely faithful and worthy of our trust. Whenever we have the privilege to share the Gospel, we are telling the truth about God.

Fourth, if Christ had not been raised, our sins would still rule over us.

There are two implications presented in verse 17.

First, we would be under the power of sin. In Romans 6:11, Paul said, “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” If the resurrection did not happen, then the power of sin would rule over our lives. Not only this, but we would remain under the penalty of sin. In Romans 5:10, Paul wrote, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. We would still be under the wrath of God if Jesus did not rise from the dead.”

But because Christ has been raised, sin’s power has been broken in believers, who are also free from sin’s penalty. Romans 8:1 is true for us who are in Christ through faith: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The significance of Jesus’ resurrection is that we are alive to God in Christ and dead to sin.

Fifth, if Jesus had not been raised, Christians would have suffered divine judgment at death.

Paul’s argument in verse 18 is that deceased believers would be under divine judgment, as would all future Christians at death if Jesus had not been raised from the dead. If Jesus had remained dead, then the apostles, missionaries who died for the cause of Christ, and believers throughout church history, are in hell. And someday if Christ had not been raised, we would be, too.

But now Christ has been raised from the dead. God’s judgment has been satisfied through Christ’s death and resurrection! There is hope for forgiveness, salvation, and sinners beyond the grave! All saints who have gone before are rejoicing in Jesus’ presence because He has been raised from the dead. And, someday, when we face death, these words can comfort our souls.

Sixth, if Christ had not been raised, Christians would be the most pathetic people in the world.

“If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” Verse 19, perhaps, just doesn’t ring true in our American culture of peace, joy, prosperity, happiness, and heaven as the cherry on top of it all. So, if Christ has not been raised, and we will not be raised, so what? At least we had a good life, right?

Here’s how Paul saw the Christian life, however: It’s a war against sin, unbelief, and false teachers; and it’s a war for the souls of peoples of every tribe, tongue, and nation. If I’m fighting this war and giving my life for it, and at the end, I’m not raised from the dead, I’m a fool!

The real question is not, Why did Paul think the Christian life was not worth it apart from resurrection? but, Why do we think it is? Jesus’ resurrection should be moving us to make choices and sacrifices that are absurd in the world’s eyes.

But because Christ has been raised from the dead, Christians are the most blessed people on the planet. In the end, we give up nothing, and we get everything by being raised from the dead. Anything we sacrifice will be returned to us a thousand-fold. The solution to self-centered living that says, “I don’t want to die every day and I don’t want following Jesus to cost me,” is to remember the significance of Jesus’ resurrection.

Has, perhaps, Jesus’ resurrection become nothing more than a slogan to us? If Christ had not been raised, evangelism and faith would be worthless, the New Testament would be a book of lies; everyone would still be in sin, facing condemnation at death, and our lives would be the most pathetic on earth. But now Christ has been raised from the dead. Now, evangelism is worthwhile, our faith is significant, the New Testament is absolutely true, we are free from our sins, we have hope beyond the grave, and giving our lives for the kingdom of Christ is the wisest decision we can make — all because of the all-significant, all-glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Dr. Robb Brunansky is the Pastor-Teacher of Desert Hills Bible Church in Glendale, Arizona. Follow him on Twitter at @RobbBrunansky.

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