A Denial of the Resurrection Destroys Our Christian Faith
O Lord Jesus, my precious Savior and living Redeemer—fill my heart with faith, my lips with praise, and my life with confidence as I enter Your presence and that of Your dear Father this Easter Day for worship. Send Your Spirit this day to renew me and my fellow believers. May the fact of Your resurrection remove any and all fear from our hearts, so that we might confess You with boldness, knowing that You are beside us to guide, direct, and bless us! I seek these blessings in Your saving name. Amen.
CHRIST IS RISEN FROM THE DEAD!
Part I. A Denial of the Resurrection Destroys Our Christian Faith!
Thanks to You, O Christ victorious!
Thanks to You, O Lord of Life!
Death has now no power over us.
You have conquered in the strife.
Thanks because You did arise and have opened Paradise. Amen. [TLH 207:2]
Text: 1 Corinthians 15:12-19
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. 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.
In Christ Jesus, our resurrected and living Savior, dear fellow-redeemed:
“Oh, the sweet joy this sentence gives, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives!’” [TLH 200:8]
A resurrection? It just doesn’t make sense! A resurrection from the dead doesn’t make any sense at all. When was the last time you saw something that was truly dead come back to life? We see death in all kinds of ways all the time…but a resurrection? No. A resurrection from the dead defies common sense.
This is the reason why the women visiting Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning fully expected to find a body. The seemingly impossible idea of a resurrection is why they were so afraid after seeing the angels and hearing their message. Mark reports that the women didn’t say anything at first because they were so afraid (cf. Mark 16:8). Luke reports that when the women did tell the disciples, they greeted the news with great skepticism and that the women’s words seemed like idle fairy tales (cf. Luke 24:11).
The Sadducees, a Jewish sect in Jesus’ day, knew that a resurrection from the dead didn’t fit human logic or make sense to their reason, so they didn’t believe in a resurrection from the dead at all.
When Jesus did raise three individuals from the dead—the youth at Nain (Luke 7:11ff), the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:41ff), and Lazarus (John 11:1ff)—the reaction of the people was profound. There was disbelief, sheer amazement, and fear.
When Paul came to Athens and began preaching, the Athenians were eager to listen because they were always eager to hear something new (Acts 17:16ff). They listened up to the point when Paul began speaking of the resurrection of the dead. Then they decided they had heard enough, it was too much even for their curious ears, and they told Paul they’d talk about it again another day.
Doubts and disbelief concerning a resurrection from the dead still abound today. This includes efforts to explain away Jesus’ resurrection. Some contend that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, He merely passed out. Then in the cool damp air of the tomb he revived. Others suggest the whole thing was a hoax set up by the disciples who took away Jesus’ body, or grave-robbers. Another theory is that Jesus didn’t bodily arise from the grave, but rather that the Bible means only to say that He rose spiritually and lives spiritually in our hearts and lives.
A resurrection from the dead just doesn’t seem right by human standards and makes no common sense. However, what all of these doubts forget is that we have an uncommon Savior.
Doubts concerning the resurrection from the dead were a problem in Corinth. Some in the congregation said that there is no resurrection from the dead. Paul points out that if it is true that there is no resurrection from the dead, then Christ isn’t raised from the dead either. You can’t have it both ways, denying the resurrection from the dead and at the same time believing that Jesus rose from the dead.
If there is no resurrection, then by logical deduction, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, Paul says, then there is a whole host of problems that destroy the Christian faith and make it worthless.
If Christ is not raised from the dead, it makes God a liar. In today’s Old Testament reading, Job spoke of a living redeemer and a resurrection from the dead. In Psalm 16, God foretold that the Savior’s body would not see corruption in the grave. He would rise from the dead. Jesus had on more than one occasion told His disciples that He would suffer and die on the cross and then on the third day would rise from the dead. He told Martha that He is the resurrection and the life. All of this is nothing but a lie if Jesus did not rise from the dead.
If Christ is not raised from the dead He is a liar and if He lies in one place, why not another and thus the whole Word of God is cast into doubt. Would we want to put faith in a liar? No way!
If Jesus is still dead then His body is still in the grave, and if it is still in the grave we are placing our faith in a dead Savior whose body has wasted away to nothing. Is that meaningful faith? No way. In the hymn leading up to the sermon we sang of the many ways our living Savior serves us. If Christ is not raised then all of those statements change: He is dead to bless me with His love…He is dead to dry my tears…He is dead to comfort my fears? [cf. TLH 200] Does that make sense? No way!
If Jesus isn’t raised from the dead we are worshipping and putting our trust in a liar and a dead man. That would be bad enough, but even beyond that, if Jesus is not raised from the dead, God’s whole plan of salvation has failed and is left in ruined tatters. God is very clear that we sinners deserve eternal death in Hell because of our sins (cf. Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 6:23, et. al.). God is holy and just and as such cannot simply turn a blind eye to sin and ignore it as if it isn’t there.
Therefore, the only way salvation could be accomplished for sinners is if someone would be born without sin, and live a perfect life under the Law of God to fulfill God’s expectations for us. Jesus was born sinless and lived a perfect life—check! Salvation is on track.
A Savior from sin would also have to lay down that perfect life in payment for all of the sins committed. In order for such a sacrifice to be worth anything it would have to exceed the value of a mere man. Jesus, the Son of God, suffered the agonies of Hell and laid down His life for us on the cross—check! Salvation is still on track.
Then in order to truly conquer sin and death—the fruit of sin—this Savior would need to triumphantly rise again after being dead. If Christ is not raised, our Savior’s “run at salvation” ends at the grave and so does our faith. If the Savior didn’t defeat death, then death defeated Him. If death defeated Him who is our substitute in these matters, then it has defeated us and we can’t be saved, we are still in our sins. And what good is that!? “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” [v.17]
If our salvation is left empty because of a grave that isn’t empty, then our faith is ruined and there is really no value to our faith whatsoever. Then our faith is just what some skeptics suggest—merely a way to make us feel good by believing a bunch of lies and used as a crutch upon which to rely in this life. Or as Paul put it, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” [v.19]
John writes near the end of his Gospel account: “Truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). If there is no resurrection there’s not much point in those words and not much faith created by them. There’s not much value in believing the word of a dead lying Savor who couldn’t complete God’s plan of redemption. A denial of the resurrection destroys our Christian faith. Anything less than a genuine physical resurrection is false, empty, and worthless.
Rejoice that the eyewitnesses were present to see Jesus alive. Rejoice that their testimony was recorded for us. God’s Word is true. Our Savior lives!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah, and Amen!
—Wayne C. Eichstadt