During this week after Easter, we are thinking about Paul’s longest section of teaching on the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15.
Some in Corinth were teaching that Jesus had not really been raised from death. Paul responds,
‘But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?’ (1 Corinthians 15:12)
Having given a list of witnesses to the resurrection in 15:4-8, some people seem to think that they know better. Paul goes on to teach what would be the results if it turned out that there actually had been no resurrection.
‘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. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.’ (1 Corinthians 15:13-19)
Firstly, without the resurrection, Jesus is not alive. He’s not kept His word. His death for sin contains no victory over sin and death.
Secondly, the message of the gospel - the death and resurrection of Jesus for sin - turns out to be a false message and doesn’t have the power to save. In fact, it's a message that is a lie; its proponents warrant God's judgement.
Thirdly, our hope of life after death and future resurrection turns out to be nonsense.
Paul responds to these resurrection deniers with,
‘But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.’ (1 Corinthians 15:20)