“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15: 13-14
There are certain, fundamental teachings of the Christian faith without which our faith simply crumbles and falls. The incarnation of Jesus, for example, is one such doctrine. It tells us that Jesus is both God and man. To be sure, this is a mystery but it is nonetheless the truth and if Jesus is not true God and true man he could not have died the death of sufficient worth to pay for our sins. The incarnation is a must.
Likewise, so is the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Either Jesus took our sins to the cross with him (as the Scriptures tell us) or he didn’t. If he didn’t, and if his cross was not substitutionary, then his death did nothing and means nothing. Instead of being the greatest act of love history has ever witnessed, it becomes merely the tragic death of a well-meaning Rabbi. Without the cross, we all would remain in our sin and our faith would be in vain.
So it is with the resurrection as well. As we look back on our celebration of Easter Sunday, St. Paul makes that perfectly clear in the above passage from 1 Corinthians. “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
Paul is addressing those in Corinth who taught that there was no resurrection of the body. Their skepticism reflected the Greek culture surrounding them. At best they believed in a “spiritual” resurrection where at a person’s death, his soul was taken by the ferryman across the River Styx to the gloomy world of the shades.
Paul, however, bluntly tells them that this position is untenable and in direct contradiction to the Christian faith. The bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead is essential to what we believe. His resurrection was the ultimate goal of his saving work on the cross. Jesus came not simply to die but to defeat death once and for all. His resurrection is the proof that death, the last great enemy we all face, has been defeated. The hallmark of our faith is that because Jesus lives, we too shall live.
This is fundamental, not minor. We are not talking about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin here. We are talking about whether or not we who die shall all live! So fundamental is this that Paul tells us that if the resurrection of Jesus is not true, then all we believe is a lie. We might as well just pack up our bags, sell off the church property, and throw a huge party and “ . . .eat and drink for tomorrow we die,” (1 Corinthians 15: 32).
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep,” (1 Corinthians 15: 20) and to mark this most wonderful truth, we celebrate his resurrection each Easter. Our faith is not in vain for Christ our Lord, on the third day, stepped forth from that tomb in which he was buried. He was dead but now he lives. However, Jesus was only the first to step forth from the grave, there are more to follow, meaning, you and me and all who believe. All that Jesus did in life, his death and his resurrection, was so that we might live.
This is the hope of our faith. It is a hope that leads to life eternal and as long as the church exists on this earth, as long as we live in this world, we boldly and loudly proclaim, “Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!”
Lord God, how can we begin to give you thanks for the gift of life you have granted through Christ our Savior? Help us each day to live in the joy of Easter and his resurrection from the dead for in it we see our future life of eternal peace and happiness with you. In Jesus’ name. Amen