Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen!

Now, if we preach Christ as raised from the dead, how can some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  Further, if Christ has not risen, our preaching is pointless, and so is your faith… and you are still in your sins.  So, this means those who fell asleep in Christ are dead—for if our hope in Christ applies only to this life, we are the most pitiful of all people.

However, Christ is risen from [meaning, “out of”] the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.  As death came through a man, so will the resurrection of the dead come about by a man.  Just as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. [1 Corinthians 15:12, 14, 17-22]

Not until the 15th chapter does Paul drop the bombshell, “If Christ has not risen, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.”  Perhaps this is me, but if not believing in the resurrection is such a showstopper, why does Paul wait for 15 chapters to say so?  The implication must be: Though the resurrection is critical, our faith is not limited to such a truncated view.  Otherwise, Paul squandered pen and parchment to write the earlier portions of 1 Corinthians.

Consider how the faulty theology of many Corinthian Christians skewed their lives.  Filled with the secular worldview of their day, they belittled those they regarded as foolish (4:10).  In self-interest, they defrauded others (6:7-8), focused on their desires (7:5), and didn’t defer to those with a weaker faith (8:7).  Unlike Paul, many used Christian freedom as an excuse to do whatever they wanted, not to serve their brother (9:19, 10:23).  Each strove to be his own master, not serve under the banner of Christ (11:3), but high-jacked his spiritual gifts for himself (12:15, 14:28).

Now, Paul speaks to some refusing to believe in the resurrection.  At the root of this is their refusal to live a cross-shaped life in service to others.  In both doctrine and practice, each person put himself in a position of authority to decide his theology, which also affected how he lived.  Are we any different?

The Old Testament prophesied of the Messiah’s vindication over death.  Here and now, we begin our entrance into immortality (Wisdom 1:15; 3:2, 6).  Through Christ, God will crack open our graves (Ezekiel 37:12-14), repossess our bodies (2 Maccabees 7), and transform them for glory (Daniel 12:1-3).

Let’s follow how Paul “proves” the resurrection to the likes of those Corinthians.  First, he mentions six occasions when people witnessed Jesus in His post-resurrection state.  To emphasize the certainty of Jesus coming back from death, Paul used the rhetoric of repetition.  Spot the repeated words and phrases in the original Greek.

[Jesus] appeared [ophthe] to Cephas,

   then [eita] to the Twelve;

      next, He appeared [epeita ophthe] to more than five hundred,

      next, He appeared [epetia ophthe] to James,

   then [eita] to all the apostles;

He appeared [ophthe] also unto me.

Though not accepting the resurrection is heretical, this is a symptom of a deeper problem.  Each person thought of himself as the Church, not as a member of the Church, whom the Spirit joined to Christ.  The Apostle didn’t seek to correct a misinformed opinion from honest confusion but to confront their “disease.”  To them, a better status here mattered more than their life in Christ, revealed by His death and resurrection!

So, what belief system did some of them have?  For them, the sin-corrupted flesh of the body didn’t need to die (or be transformed for those still alive when Christ returns).  Only the spiritual mattered since they considered the physical body to be a “shell.”  This development brought little value for the body, which Paul implied earlier to them (1 Corinthians 6:12-14).

First, they imported a skewed understanding of the spiritual.  Gifted with wondrous abilities from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:1, 4:8, 12:1), they thought these made the body unnecessary.  With the Spirit coursing inside them, they awaited the day to discard the body.  They yearned to become pure, spiritual beings, freed from their physical hindrances,

Why does all this stuff about matter, matter?  Hey, we all believe in Jesus.  Let’s not quarrel and “major in the minors”!  First, the body must be significant since God created us with bodies before the Fall into sin.  Here’s what Paul teaches—if the resurrection of the dead isn’t real, Christ isn’t raised.  Now, if He didn’t rise, my preaching is a waste of time, as is your faith.

Nevertheless, Christ did die and rise from the dead.  Ah, now redemption from sin and death becomes possible.  In vs. 20, don’t miss Paul’s emphasis—the resurrection is “out of” the dead, which means this isn’t only something spiritual but involves the body.  To deny the resurrection from the dead is the same as denying Christ’s resurrection from death.

Only in Christ, crucified and risen, can we experience freedom from the grip of sinfulness and death through faith in Him.  Only because He rose and conquered death, can our union with Him guarantee a future resurrection and everlasting life (Romans 6:3-5).

Eternal life doesn’t consist of our soul in heaven with God, devoid of a body.  Without the reality of the resurrection, Jesus is but another rabbi who tried to renew Israel and failed.  Without the resurrection, all faith is futile, and your sins are still entrapping you.  Your salvation comes from Jesus’ death and resurrection, delivered to you in Word and Sacrament.  Anything else sells you short.

The resurrection affirms death and sin’s corruption do not speak the final word; no, Jesus does.  At the cross, the premiere religion of ancient time (Judaism) and the world’s best system of justice, conspired to torture a Jewish rabbi to death.  Thank God, our Lord’s story didn’t end here, for after the cross came the resurrection victory.

No one escapes the aftermath of the first Adam, which is why we age, suffer sickness, and die.  The Spirit, however, will raise those “in Christ,” the work of the second Adam, Jesus.  Only He reverses the sin, curse, and ensuing death from Adam.

Without a real victory, you are without real salvation.  The resurrection of believers is the completion of God’s mystery in Christ.  Your resurrection to come will complete the Word of the ancient prophets, revealed in Jesus Christ (Romans 16:25-26).

Yes, Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!