Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. (1 Corinthians 15: 12-14)
Most Greeks did not believe that people's bodies would be resurrected after death. They saw the afterlife as something that happened only to the soul. According to Greek philosophers, the soul was the real person, imprisoned in a physical body, and at death the soul was released. There was no immortality for the body, but the soul entered an eternal state. Christianity, by contrast, affirms that the body and soul will be united after the resurrection. The church at Corinth was in the heart of Greek culture. Thus many believers had a difficult time believing in a bodily resurrection. Paul wrote this part of his letter to clear up this confusion about the resurrection.
Some of the Corinthians were teaching that there is no resurrection. These opponents of Paul may have been denying the reality of Christ’s resurrection. They may also have been teaching that the resurrection is only spiritual rather than physical. Or they may have been teaching that the resurrection had already happened (2 Tim. 2:18). Whatever the case, they contradicted the essential teaching that Christ had been physically raised from the dead and that believers in Him will someday also be resurrected.
The resurrection of Christ is the center of the Christian faith. Because Christ rose from the dead as He promised, we know that what He said is true- He is God. Because He rose, we have certainty that our sins are forgiven. Because He rose, He lives and represents us to God. Because He rose and defeated death, we know we will also be raised.
Word Focus: Resurrection - (Gk. anastasis) (1 Cor. 15:12, 13, 21, 42; Acts 17:32; Rom. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:3) G386: The Scriptures often speak of Christ’s resurrection with the phrase that is literally “resurrection out from among dead ones.” This is the wording in the first half of 1 Corinthians 15:12 and in other verses (Acts 17:31; 1 Pet. 1:3). When Scripture speaks of the resurrection in general, commonly the phrase is “a resurrection of dead ones.” This is the wording in the second half of 1 Corinthians 15:12 (1 Cor. 15:13, 42). In Romans 1:4, Christ’s resurrection is spoken of as “a resurrection of dead ones.” The same terminology is used in 1 Corinthians 15:21, where the Greek text literally reads: “For since through a man death came, so also through a Man came a resurrection of dead persons.” This shows that Christ’s resurrection included the resurrection of believers to eternal life. When He arose, many arose with Him, for they were united with Him in His resurrection (Rom. 6:4, 5; Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1).
Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1 Corinthians 15: 15-19)
Paul listed several people, including himself (1 Cor. 15: 5-8), who had witnessed the resurrected Christ. To deny the Resurrection was to deny the truth of their testimony. Christ’s death without His resurrection would not succeed in saving us from our sins (1 Cor. 15:17). Without the resurrection of Christ, those who are asleep in Christ—the dead—have perished or been destroyed. The Greek word translated futile in this passage speaks of something that has no results. Without the resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith brings no forgiveness and no future life in God’s presence.
Why does Paul say believers should be pitied (1 Cor. 15:19) if there were only earthy value in Christianity? In Paul's day, Christianity often brought a person persecution, ostracism from family, and, in many cases, poverty. There were few tangible benefits from being a Christian in that society. It was certainly not a step up the social or career ladder. Even more important, however, is the fact that if Christ had not been resurrected from death, Christians could not be forgiven for their sins and would have no hope of eternal life. If Christians have no hope for the future, the pagans could justifiably consider Christians fools since believers would have suffered for nothing.
Father God, I want to thank you for the power of the Resurrection. My Lord, You died on that cross for me and You arose from the grave and conquered death so I could someday be in Your presences. Lord I humbly fall to my knees and praise you for what You have done in my life. Lord, You have removed all condemnation from me and set my soul free. Thank you Lord for thinking of me when you were hanging there on the cross. Thank you Lord for my great salvation that is so rich and free. I pray this all in Jesus' name. Amen.
References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.