In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul defended the key truth of Christianity. On this occasion his goal was to remind the believers of the gospel message which they had believed as a result of his preaching. He needed to do this because some were saying “there is no resurrection of the dead” (15:12 NIV). So there was some doubt about whether they understood the gospel message or not (15:2,13,16). The Message The essence of the gospel message is that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and then raised on the third day to die no more. Paul claimed it to be the most important of all messages. He also said it was “according to the Scriptures,” meaning that this central part of God’s plan to rescue mankind was prophesied in the Old Testament (Is. 53:5-9; Ps. 16:9-10).
Of course we also believe this message “according to the Scriptures,” because we can only know about these events through the writers of the New Testament. Therefore, as the Lord told Thomas, we can be blessed as “those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn. 20:29).
Paul wrote that the risen Lord appeared to six different groups of people. Christ’s resurrection was witnessed by many who were still alive at the time these verses were written including the apostles, James and more than 500 men. In Jewish law, the testimony of two or three witnesses was sufficient to confirm the truth in a matter (Dt. 19:15; 2 Cor. 13:1). Elsewhere we read that after His resurrection, Christ also appeared to Mary Magdalene and the two travelling to Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-35; Jn. 20:10-18).
If anyone wanted to verify the accuracy of Paul’s report, they could have checked with any of the eye-witnesses who had seen Jesus walking around after His resurrection. They could confirm that the dead body couldn’t be found by the Jewish leaders.
Able To Be Verified
This core of Christianity is a series of historical events that are able to be verified. There were numerous witnesses and four of these wrote the gospels. Their accounts were preserved when scribes diligently copied the original documents. There are thousands of ancient manuscripts of portions of the New Testament in museums – more than any other historical literature. The oldest are papyrus from the second century AD.
The Preacher’s Theme
Paul emphasized that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” and “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Because if this were the case, then Christ’s death had no more value than anyone else’s death and Christianity would just be a prop to get through this life, and of no eternal value.
The witnesses of Christ’s resurrection were transformed into great preachers and were the founders of the Church. As a result, faith in Jesus became so prominent that it eventually took over the Roman Empire that had originally persecuted it. This passage ends as it began by emphasizing that the gospel message that Paul preached and they believed was that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day (1 Cor. 15:11). He then ascended into heaven and is now at God’s right hand (Mk. 16:19).
By George Hawke
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org