If Christ Has Not Been Raised 1 Corinthians 15:1-22
1 Corinthians 15:12-22 The Facts of our Faith
It is hard to believe, but there are actually some people that call themselves “Christian” and do not believe that Jesus bodily resurrected from the dead. Some say “his spirit” raised. Others say “the story of the resurrection is simply a nice fable (like the virgin birth or the parting of the Red sea).” Yes, there are “Christians” who don’t believe that those stories are real either. In fact, many “Christians” do not believe that the Bible is wholly true and “God breathed” even though it says so itself (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but back to the resurrection for this is the series that we embark upon for the next four weeks: Evidence for the Resurrection.
Let me begin by saying that if the bodily resurrection of Jesus is not true then there is absolutely no point in being a Christian at all. “If only for this life we hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 1 Corinthians 15:19 Our faith is entirely based on the premise that we have a living God! If God is dead then why are we here in church on Sunday? If God is dead then why follow His word? Where is the “good news?” As the Apostle Paul said, “By this gospel we are saved, if we hold firmly to the word…otherwise, we have believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:2 In fact, “If Christ has not been raised…we are still in our sins” and will die in them (vs.17).
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Eye-witness Accounts
The Apostle lays out the facts for us in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11. Paul dealt with numerous controversial issues that were problems in the church at Corinth. In his first epistle he dealt with the issue of the resurrection. At the time, some were teaching that there was no resurrection of the dead! Paul makes the point to write that – in that day, you could actually find and talk to people who were personal eyewitnesses of Christ after His resurrection – people who saw Him, heard Him, ate with Him, and spent time with Him. Paul goes through the order of such people in verses 5-8 and his list harmonizes perfectly with all the gospel accounts. Most likely the gospels of Mark and Matthew were already written before Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians although some disagree.
Dating the Gospels: Dating the gospels is very important. If it can be established that the gospels were written early, before the year 70 A.D. (when the destruction of Jerusalem occurred thus fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy: Luke 19:41-44), then we would have good reason for believing that they were written by the disciples of Jesus Himself (as accredited). If they were written by the disciples, then their reliability, authenticity, and accuracy are better substantiated. Also, if they were written early, this would mean that there would not have been enough time for myth to creep into the gospel accounts since it was the eyewitnesses to Christ’s life that wrote them. Furthermore, those who were alive at the time of the events could have countered the gospel accounts and since we have no contradictory writings to the gospels, their early authorship as well as apostolic authorship becomes even more critical.
Though some say that the New Testament was written 100-300 years after Christ died (which undermines its accuracy), the truth is, if we are to believe what is written in it, then it was written before the close of the first century by those who either knew Christ personally, had encountered him, or were under the direction of those who were His disciples. Paul says “what I received I passed on to you” (vs 3). He was talking about the gospel that he had received from Jesus’ apostles. This statement is followed with one that says that eyewitnesses were still living at the writing of his letter. 1 Corinthians was written in about 55 AD when Paul was around 50 years old. Jesus had been crucified (AD 30-36) no more than twenty years before when Paul was in his thirties. Paul and Jesus were contemporaries. The evidence for the resurrection then is backed up by first hand documentation from eyewitnesses and supported by those who were contemporaries of the historic event. If written statements about the resurrection had been embellished they would have been dismissed and not passed down through history as they have been— especially since it was an event that Roman and Jewish leaders would want silenced.
Historical Eye-witness Documentation Romans 8:31-39
The Bible has been well established as a historical document and the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection written in it cannot be denied. Below is a list of these testimonies:
- Mary Magdalene (tomb) Jerusalem: Early morning Sun. Mk. 16:9-11; Jn. 20:11-18
- Other women (tomb) Jerusalem: Early morning Sun. Mt. 28:8-10
- Cleopas & another near Emmaus: Sun. Afternoon Mk. 16:12-13; Lk. 24:13-32
- Peter alone in Jerusalem: Late Sun. afternoon Lk. 24:33-35; 1 Cor. 15:5a
- Disciples & others (not Thomas) Jerusalem: Sun. eve. Lk. 24:33-39; Jn. 20:19-25
- Disciples with Thomas Jerusalem: Mon. (8 days later) Mk. 16:14; Jn. 20:26-29
- Seven disciples fishing in Galilee: A few weeks later Jn. 21:1-25
- Disciples (GC) Galilee: Near end of 40 days Mt. 28:16-20; Mk. 16:15-18; 1 Cor. 15:5b
- 500 people in Galilee: Near end of 40 days 1 Cor. 15:6
- To James (Jesus’ half brother) in Jerusalem: Near end of 40 days 1 Cor. 15:7a
- Apostles (Asc.) Bethany: 40th day Mk. 16:19; Lk.24:50-52; Acts 1:4-11; 1 Cor. 15:7b
- Paul Damascus Rd.: About 2 years later Acts 9:3-5, 22:7-8, 26:14-16; 1 Cor. 15:8
- Note: The account in Lk. 24:33-39 and Jn. 20:19-25 (absent Thomas) are the same even though Luke writes “they found the Eleven”. The phrase “the Eleven” was a title for the disciples after Judas killed himself, formerly called “the twelve” and again called such after Matthias was added: Acts 1:12-26. This understanding reconciles both Thomas’ doubt, the “third appearance to disciples” written in John 21:14 and Paul’s use of the phrase “the twelve” in 1 Cor. 15:5b. (inclusive of Matthias who must have been present when Thomas was not : see 5.)
James Believed: During Jesus’ ministry, His brother James was a skeptic (see John 7:5). He was likely among the family members in Mark 3:21-35 who thought that Jesus was insane! We know that James later led the Jerusalem church (Gal. 1:18-2:1-10; Acts 15:13-21). According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:7, Jesus appeared to James. undoubtedly this appearance made James a believer who would later even be martyred for his faith.
The Apostles: All twelve Apostles (Matthias included) and Paul preached Jesus as long as they lived. Every Apostle was severely persecuted for their belief in the risen Christ. All but John are verified to have died as martyrs for the gospel. They obviously all believed that Jesus had risen. Their knowledge of the resurrection, like Paul’s (Romans 8:31-39) must have compelled them.
The Growth of the Church: Historically the growth of the church through the ages—beginning with one man and a small band of disciples to become what is the largest religion in the world—is in and of itself a testament to the fact that Jesus did indeed raise from the dead. If He did not then there is certainly a lot of people who are to be “most to be pitied”, as Paul said.. I do believe in the testimony of these eyewitnesses, but there is still so much more evidence to show in the lessons ahead. He has risen. He has risen indeed!