April 30, 2006

Logically The Undeniable Doctrine

Preacher: Randy Smith Series: 1 Corinthians Scripture: 1 Corinthians 15:12–19


Logically The Undeniable Doctrine

1 Corinthians 15:12-19
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Pastor Randy Smith

Paul's writings in the Bible are often a reaction to specific problems within the churches in which he ministered. And his answers to refute error and provide correction are often presented in a very logical manner. Our text this morning is a classic example.

Yet before I present the logical response from Paul to a very serious error in the Corinthian church, I would like to present the logical response from another brilliant Christian mind to a situation every human being must and will at one point of his or her life contemplate. The author was the seventeenth-century mathematician, Blaise Pascal, and the situation is belief in the existence of God.

According to "Pascal's Wager" belief in the existence of God is basically a "no-lose" situation. (As I simplify his thesis) If one believes in God and there is a God, such a person has made an extremely wise choice. Yet if one chooses not to believe in God and there is a God, such a person has made a very poor choice. And even if one chooses to believe in God and there is no God, such a person upon death will never know the difference and during the course of the individual's life will experience many benefits such as hope, peace, values and friendship.

The logical conclusion? No matter how you look at the situation, it is wise to believe in God. In Pascal's own words, "Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. …If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is."

What do you think? Would the Apostle Paul have agreed with such logic?

We'll come back to that question, but for now let's examine the logic of the Apostle Paul regarding a very serious doctrinal error in the Corinthian church. Correct belief is essential! And in this case, many (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12 - "some among you") were in grave error concerning the resurrection of their bodies upon death.

Last week we learned how they denied this doctrine. Following the Greek culture of their time, they believed that anything physical was evil. They had no problem with the soul going to heaven upon death, but could not accept the fact that the body will also one day be resurrected. As the Greek contemporary, Plato, said, "(The) soul (is) entirely fastened and welded to the body and is compelled to regard realities through the body as through prison bars" (Phaedo, 82D-E). The body was the tomb in which the soul was imprisoned. Salvation was the souls departure from the body. However, rather than the soul fleeing forever from the body like a trapped bird fleeing forever from a cage, the Scriptures teach our body will one day be raised to a celestial realm as well. Such a thought was difficult for this church to accept, but such a thought according to Paul was essential for them to accept.

How important is this doctrine? Disbelieve this simple doctrine and you have not only discredited the Christian faith, but you have also forfeited your own salvation.

As you can see in verse 12, Paul responds to the Corinthian's error. "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?"

The preaching and reception of the gospel brings us back to verse one when Paul said, "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved" (1 Cor. 15:1-2a). Verse 11 also says the same thing. "Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed." And what is the gospel the Apostles preached in harmony? Verses 3 and 4 declare that it is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostles preached this gospel. The Corinthians believed this gospel. So Paul is absolutely astonished that they accepted the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but they have denied their own. The consequences to that error are staggering!

You see, if we deny the resurrection of believers, we must also deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Verse 13, "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised." The same thought is restated in the beginning of verse 16 as well. "For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised."

For the past two Sundays we have taken an exhaustive look at the beginning of this chapter that proves the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As you will recall, I presented the five most powerful attacks against the Resurrection and then used the material from verses 1-11 to refute all of them. Paul went through great lengths in these verses to prove the reality of Christ's resurrection and the Corinthians appeared to have accepted his testimony (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1, 11).

Now in verse 13 he turns it all upside-down by saying if we deny our physical resurrection, we must also deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Both the resurrection of Jesus Christ and our resurrection are so inextricably linked, if we deny one, we will need to deny the other as well.

You can see where this church stood. They were only given two options. Were the Corinthians prepared to forsake their Greek philosophy or were the Corinthians prepared to recant their belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? One had to go. Which one would they choose?

In fear that they might choose the latter (as do Jehovah Witnesses), Paul presents six consequences in verses 14-19 that are built on the decision that denies the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As you will see this morning, logically, disbelief in the resurrection of our bodies denies the resurrection of Christ's body. And the denial in the resurrection of Christ's body results in a devastating outcome.


First, if we deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, all preaching ever conducted throughout the history of the church, says verse 14, has been in vain (kenos). Literally, it has been meaningless, empty and without substance.

The preaching of the Apostles has been useless. The sermons from Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, C. H. Spurgeon, and John Piper have been worthless. Your Growth Group discussions and Sunday schools lessons have been futile. Even our time together this morning is without purpose. Apart from the resurrection of Christ, churches would be wise to close their doors, call their missionaries home and discard their Bibles. Christianity should be thrown in the growing trash bin of dead religions.

Apart from the Resurrection, not some, but all the teaching of Jesus should be dismissed. Jesus clearly proclaimed His own bodily resurrection (Jn. 2:19-21) and this did not happen if the dead in Christ are not raised. The man should not be given the benefit of doubt and accepted as a moral teacher or worthy philosopher. If there is no Resurrection, He a liar, or at best, a man that is completely out of his mind. For these are the only logical conclusions if Jesus did not return from the dead with a body.

If such were the case, would the man, says Paul, be worthy of our preaching?


Furthermore, not only is our preaching in vain, but our faith is also in vain (kenos) as verse 14 indicates. Verse 17 repeats the thought. "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless (mataios)."

You see my friends; faith in and of itself does not save. Our faith is only the necessary link to the object in which we are seeking salvation. Some have faith in the stars. Others have faith in Buddha. Still others have faith in themselves. All of us have faith. All of us are trusting in something or someone for significance, satisfaction and salvation. So the question is not whether or not you have faith. The question is who or what is the recipient of your faith?

I'm sure most if not all of us in this room are trusting in Jesus Christ. And we would all concur that greater faith in any other object or person is the epitome of idolatry. The God who told us to approach Him through His Son, Jesus Christ, said we are to have none other above Him. Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity is "to have first place in everything" (Col. 1:18). This is how we as Christians are expected to live our lives. And this is what we proclaim to others as the necessary road to salvation.

However, says Paul, apart from the Resurrection, faith in Jesus Christ is both "vain" and "worthless." A dead Savior cannot give life or change lives so why would be so foolish to give Him our trust if His body is still decaying in some remote Palestinian tomb?

How would you feel if you were dying of cancer and a friend told you, "I know of a terrific doctor. Just come with my and I will introduce you to him." You get into the car and your friend drives you to the local cemetery and pulls up in front of a large tombstone and says, "Here he is!" Would you trust that doctor?

When the object of our faith is flawed or in this case dead, all faith regardless of its strength is useless.


Third, if there was no resurrection of Jesus Christ, then we, according to verse 15, "are even found to be false witnesses of God." Why is that? The verse continues, "Because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised."

Do you realize what Paul is saying!

If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised (cf. 1 Cor. 15:13). And if Christ has not been raised, and we teach He was, we are not only liars, breaking the Ninth Commandment (Ex. 10:16), but we also testify for God regarding something He never did. In other words, as ambassadors for God we are telling people, moreover staking our whole message on something that is completely untrue and misrepresenting His works.

You are a false witness against God. I am a false witness against God. The Apostles were tremendous false witnesses against God. And the largest false witness against God would be Jesus Christ. Think about it for a moment!

Whenever we speak on behalf of God, from the pulpit to the private conversation, we must be sure to be accurate in all our remarks. We are representing the Creator and our "thus saith the Lord" better be what He has truly said and done. Listen to how God spoke to the false prophets through Jeremiah. "I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied" (Jer. 23:21). There is judgment on the self-appointed witness for God.

If there is no bodily resurrection, there is no resurrection of Jesus Christ. And if there is no resurrection of Jesus Christ and we are telling the world there is, we have become false prophets in the eyes of God.


Fourth, if there is no resurrection of Christ, His death had no value. And if His death had no value, we, verse 17, "are still in (our) sins"

The one truth that separates Jesus from every other religious leader is that He, and only He, came back from the dead. The Scriptures declare that His primary purpose for coming to earth was to die for the sins of humanity. Remember verse 2? "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." That was His claim. That was His action. And for three long days the world waited for His vindication.

Making the claim and conducting the action, as wonderful as they were, do not substantiate the validity of the atonement. Yet our faith has a sure foundation because God the Father accepted the work of Christ and proved it to the world by bringing Him back from the dead. As we read in Romans 1:4, "(Jesus) was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead." It has been said that the Resurrection is God's exclamation mark or Amen to the death of Christ.

In other words, if there be no Resurrection, the death of Christ has no value. Satan has not been defeated. Death still retains its sting. And we are still in our sins. And since the wages of sin is eternal death (Rom. 6:23), we remain unreconciled to God and are left without any hope of ever entering His presence.

As one author said, "If the Resurrection is not historic fact, then the power of death remains unbroken, and with it the effect of sin; and the significance of Christ's Death remains uncertified, and accordingly believers are yet in their sins, precisely where they were before they heard of Jesus' name" (Sparrow-Simpson, A Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels, p. 514).


The fifth point naturally follows. If there is no forgiveness found in Jesus Christ, verse 18, "Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished."

Paul said in 1:18, "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." We believe those who are on Christ's team are on the winning side. However, the scenario is reversed if there is no Resurrection. The German Proverb that says, "Those who live in the Lord never see each other the last time" is a fairytale. All the Christians who have gone before us, all of our departed loved ones in Christ whom we long to see throughout eternity have perished and are utterly lost, forever separated from the presence of God. Apart from the Resurrection, the peace we enjoy at every Christian funeral is shattered. Our hope is gloom. Their homegoing is hell.


The logical conclusion to all of this is mentioned in verse 19. "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied."

If Christ has not been raised: The Apostle's preaching is worthless, our faith is vain, our witness is false, our sins still remain and our dead loved ones in Christ have forever perished. What does that say about us who are placing so much faith in Jesus Christ?

One Commentator answered, "If Christ has not been raised, then our hope is nothing more than whistling in the dark. Christians have become pathetic dupes, taken in by a colossal fraud. Their transformation and glorious spiritual experiences in this life are all make-believe. They are most pitiable of all human beings because they have embraced Christ's death and suffering in this life for nothing" (Garland, 1 Corinthians, p. 703).

Apart from the Resurrection, "The Christian life," say another author, "Would be a mockery, a charade, a tragic joke" (MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, p. 413).

No Resurrection and the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11 has become the "Hall of Fools." These dear souls were mocked, scourged, imprisoned, afflicted, ill treated and put to death all in vain. Their suffering is without purpose. Their hope for a "better resurrection" is dashed on the rocks of futility.

Apart from the Resurrection, Paul, the writer of this verse would have been idiotic to endure the intense persecution that he did and devote his entire life to a meaningless cause.

And you, brothers and sisters in Christ are the fools the unbelievers claim you are if Jesus Christ did not come back from the dead. You too "of all men are most to be pitied."

Or are you?

I return to "Pascal's Wager." For the sake of discussion, let's pretend as Paul did, there is no Resurrection. And let's pretend your bodies just returned to the dust the moment you died. Would you still have made the best choice in this life being a Christian?

According the Pascal you chose wisely. According to Paul you made a foolish choice. Who's right?

Using the logic of Pascal you might say, "I made some great friends along the way. My family learned values and morals through the teaching of the church. I had fun with likeminded individuals. I felt good by helping others. And even if I return to the dust in the earth, I had hope and peace in my life right up to the second of my departure. Therefore I agree with Pascal and say I made a wise choice following Christ." That seems reasonable and quite convincing.

But, my friends, consider this: Agreement with Pascal is disagreement with Paul. And disagreement with Paul is disagreement with Scripture.

I believe this proves much of our Christian thinking is defective. And I believe it is defective regarding where we choose to draw the line between Christian behavior and unchristian behavior.

Many feel the antithesis to the behavior Christ expects is simply "eat, drink and be merry." As I heard it said this past week, "If I wasn't a Christian, I'd be a party animal. I'd drink daily, abuse drugs and sleep around." While our flesh may lead us to believe those are attractive options, even the unbelievers will say those do not bring true happiness.

No, I believe the line is not to be drawn between gross hedonism and what we call "Christianity" (promoting pleasure and avoiding discomfort), but between what we call "Christianity" and biblical discipleship. Many Christians would agree with Pascal because they are not pursuing Christ as their first love, because their actions are no different than those of millions of unbelievers who are accomplishing the same feats.

For example, let's say you attended more than Sunday morning and made it a point to come out Wednesday evening and seek the face of God on behalf of the church. Let's say you are committed to a ministry that involves many unrecognized hours of preparation. Let's say you put more than your spare change in the collection plate and made it a point to begin your givings at 10%. Let's say you are daily persecuted at work and by your family for sharing your faith. Let's say you attended the church workday yesterday as a family instead of participating in traditional recreation. Let's say you pursued the radical life of self-denial and cross bearing that Jesus commands all His followers (Lk. 9:23). I can keep going…

My friends, if you are making these commitments, and I know many of you are, you are the biggest fool on the planet if there is no Resurrection.

So I ask you, are you making the "sacrifices" where you can really say, if this Christianity thing is a fraud I have made some tragic decisions? That depends on how you are living your Christian life. Pascal was wrong. Paul was right.

For a moment, let's consider the testimony of Paul himself. In Philippians 3 Paul recalls his status before the Damascus Road experience. "Circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless" (Phil. 3:5-6). Men honored Paul. He enjoyed a life of comfort. He indulged his flesh with righteous efforts toward spiritual merit.

But when he became a Christian the Scriptures say that he had forsaken these ways for the righteousness of Christ. "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 2:7-8). Paul traded his glory for the ability to glorify another.

Not only did Paul lose his prestige, but he also suffered from tremendous physical persecution in internal stress for the cause of Christ (2 Cor. 11). In other words, if there is no resurrection, Paul made a terrible mistake. His wager cost him a comfortable life as a Jewish rabbi under Roman citizenship and he suffered and made sacrifices in vain.

Our faith is not blind, but there definitely is a wager and the wager is much larger than Pascal ever imagined. Can you say, "The lifestyle I have chosen as a Christian would be utterly foolish and pitiable if there is no resurrection?"

I hope you will give serious thought to that comment. But as we close, Paul reminds us in verse 20: "But now Christ has been raised from the dead." It's almost as if he wakes up the Christian from the logical argument he presented in verses 12-19 and says, "It was only a bad dream! Yes, there are grave consequences if there is no Resurrection, but it's true! Jesus really did come back from the dead!"

And because Jesus came back from the dead:

  • Our preaching is not worthless. Romans 1:4, "(Jesus) was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead."

  • Your faith is not in vain. Acts 5:31, "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins."

  • Our witness is not false. Acts 3:15, "But (you) put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses."

  • We are not in our sins. Romans 4:25, "He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification."

  • The dead in Christ have not perished. 1 Thessalonians 4:14, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus."

  • And we are not to be most pitied. Romans 6:5, "For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection."

The inspired Word speaks to us this morning. Do you see the consequences of denying a bodily resurrection? Do you see the consequences of denying the resurrection of Jesus Christ? And do you see the consequences of a life that is not sold-out for Jesus Christ? Are you of all men most to be pitied if there is no Resurrection? Logically, how do you respond?

other sermons in this series

Apr 22


Edification or Self-Exaltation

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 14:1–40 Series: 1 Corinthians

Apr 15


Everything Minus Love Equals Nothing

Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1–13 Series: 1 Corinthians

Mar 18


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Preacher: Randy Smith Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:21–27 Series: 1 Corinthians