If Christ Be Not Raised
Your attention is invited to a study of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The importance of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is suggested by the fact that, according to one writer, it is mentioned directly one hundred and four or more times in the New Testament. Though the resurrection of the body of Jesus is the very foundation rock of the Christian religion, it is questioned today by many so-called scholars in the field of religion. Some of the present theories are: there was a resurrection of His cause which, it should be mentioned, was never buried but which was just being born!
Our study at this time concerns itself with the items of salvation involved in the resurrection of Jesus, as set forth by Paul in I Cor. 15.12-19. In this passage the apostle is refuting the position extant in Corinth that there is no resurrection of men; he does this by associating the Christian with Christ in such a way as to show that if Christ was not raised, then the whole structure of Christianity. .falls- to the ground: Let us read his own statement:
Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed o f God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised. Far if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
We note five things affirmed by the apostle if Christ be not raised:
(1) "Then is our preaching vain." Why? Because the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the heart of the gospel. The apostle wrote in this same chapter, "Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you . . . For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures" (vv 1, 3-4.) This was the very heart and core of their message. The resurrection was the supreme proof from God in confirming the claims of Jesus. When the Jews had asked for a sign, Jesus had replied, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet: for as Jonah was three days and nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt. 12:39-40). Paul appealed to this when he affirmed of Christ: He "was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; even Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 1:4).
Not only is the resurrection the supreme proof that Jesus is Christ, but if no resurrection, the message of the gospel is robbed of its life; and is a dead message. John said of Jesus, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men" (John 1:4) ; to which Jesus adds, "I am the resurrection and life" (John 11:25). Deny the resurrection of Jesus and the message is dead, robbed of its life and of its hope. Evidence on this point is seen today on every hand; the preaching of the modern "social gospel" has failed, it has no power to transform the lives of men. It takes a living Christ to give life to men; He lives and gives life because God raised Him from the dead.
(2) The apostle says, "Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God." From the first sermon preached the apostles had testified to the great fact of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In his sermon to those who had demanded the death of Christ (preached just fifty days after his resurrection), Peter charged and affirmed,
Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, d mart approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst o f you, even as ye yourselves know; him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge o f God, ye by the hand o f lawless men did crucify and slay; whom God raised up, having loosed the pangs of death; because it was not possible that he should be holder of it (Acts 2:22-24).
And likewise in all of his other sermons recorded in the book of Acts, Peter affirmed the same fundamental fact.
The apostle Paul contended for the same in his preaching, an example of which may be taken from his sermon preached in Athens on Mars Hill. Having charged the heathen philosophers with worshipping in ignorance "an unknown God," the apostle concludes, "The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent; inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world of righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31).
Now the point is just this: the apostle says, "If Christ hath not been raised, we are found false witnesses of Christ," because they had testified in all their preaching that God had raised Him. If the apostles can not be believed at this point, how can they be believed on any point? If we cannot believe them as witnesses, away goes our faith even in a "historical Jesus," for it is on their testimony that we believe what we do about Jesus; and when faith in Him is gone, all hope topples to earth; for our hope for eternal things rests upon our faith in Him, which stands or falls upon the resurrection.
But, turning it around, if the apostles are to be believed at this point, they must be believed in all things they taught; and if believed, then Jesus is Lord and Christ and must be obeyed, because He possesses all authority in heaven and earth.
(3) The apostles say, if Christ hath not been raised, "Your faith is vain." Faith that saves is faith in the Christ who God raised, not faith in merely a good or great man. Jesus claimed to be the Christ, and, as quoted above, this claim should be verified by the sign of Jonah; i. e., his death, burial and resurrection. If no resurrection, his claims are a hollow mockery.
Everyone who knows anything about the Christian religion recognizes it as a religion of faith; but faith in what? Faith in the divinity of a person; one who rested His claim to that divinity upon His resurrection from the dead. But FAITH relies upon TESTIMONY, and testimony on FACTS. The fundamental fact of that faith is the resurrection of the one who is to Christianity what the sun is to the solar system. If He be not raised, then the testimony has been false, our faith is vain, for there is no fact believed, only falsehood. This is the process of Paul's reasoning.
(4) "Ye are yet in your sins." But why yet in our sins? asks someone. Was not the blood shed for remission of sins? We answer, It was. But the life represented in that blood must needs be represented before the Father by an appropriate high priest, according to Hebrews, chapters nine and ten. Only Jesus Christ fullfills the demands for such a high priest. Note, in discussing His merits as such a high priest, the author of Hebrews affirms of Him in His priesthood, that He "hath been made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life" (7:16); that "he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (v. 25); and that "the word of the oath, which was after the law, appointed a Son, perfected for evermore" (v. 28). For Jesus to have fulfilled these statements concerning Himself, He had to have been raised from the dead. The inevitable conclusion is, if He hath not been raised from the dead He is no high priest; if He is no high priest the blood is of no avail, "ye are yet in your sins." Friends, can you not see how futile and empty the message of one who denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?
(5) The apostle continues, "Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished." This means that all those fond hopes that we and our fathers cherish for loved ones now gone on have been in vain; there is no hope; they have perished and so must we perish with them. All hope of life beyond this rests upon the resurrection of Jesus. Writing of Jesus, the apostle Peter said, "He was manifested at the end of the times for your sake, who through him are believers in God, that raised him from the dead, and gave him glory; so that your faith and hope might be in God" (I Pet. 1:20-21). According to Peter, then, if no resurrection, then neither faith nor hope. Hope may be defined as "desire plus expectation." Without the resurrection there may be the desire, but there is no hope of its realization, for expectation of its fulfillment rests upon the promise of Christ; but he also promised to rise on the third day. If no resurrection that promise failed, if it failed, so may all the rest; consequently, hope crashes to earth for lack of a support.
Just here let me raise another question: How do we know, on what grounds do we believe that there is a part of man that shall live beyond this life? What is our guarantee to immortality? The apostle says of Jesus Christ, He "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim. 1:10). But if no resurrection then no gospel, and if no gospel no assurance of immortality. With Paul we are forced to conclude that the whole superstructure of the Christian religion rests upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead: our hope of a resurrection from the dead, of heaven, of God, all rest upon this sublime fact.
On the ground of Christ's resurrection the apostle argues that death does not end all, therefore appeals for steadfastness in all things on the part of God's people. We urge you to consider the evidence which may be adduced, believe the testimony, put your faith in a glorified Christ, obey from the heart His gospel, and live in hope that looks beyond the grave. Be not carried away by vanities of modern wisdom so-called.
(Ed. note: the above article came from a tract by Bro., Hailey, which is now out of print.)
Truth Magazine, V:10, pp. 22-24