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Is Belief in a Literal Resurrection of Christ Really Important

by Carl Westerlund

Is Belief in a Literal Resurrection of Christ Really Important

In 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 Paul states this truth in a way that shows what our lives would be if Jesus Christ had not risen from the dead.

The pagans had contaminated the Corinthians with their belief that there was no resurrection of the dead. Paul sees Christ’s resurrection as a guarantee that believers would experience life after death. He approaches the issue negatively by showing that they would miss so much, if the resurrection were not true.

However, let us take a look at this scripture by restating Paul’s argument from the positive point of view. The message of the resurrection states that because Jesus Christ lives, we too shall live.

1. The resurrection gives significance to our preaching.

Preaching provides the means for us to become Christians. “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty” (1 Cor. 15:14). The essence of this message is that Jesus Christ died, was buried and rose again. In this proclamation, the resurrection validates Christ‘s death on the cross as sufficient to make the Gospel the Gospel. We do not have a puny Gospel, shriveled up because it has no reality. Rather, our Gospel is robust and full of substance.

2. The resurrection gives substance to our faith.

Our faith is a response to what God says and does. Our faith is not some subjective vibration that we exude towards God to get what we want. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. The resurrection is the basis of faith. This faith centers on the person of Jesus Christ. Not only did He come as a real man, but also the resurrection proclaims Him to be God the Son with power. He was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4).

3. The resurrection gives confidence to its proclaimers that their message is true.

“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” (vv. 15-16).

Jesus boldly predicted that after He was killed that in three days He would rise again (Matt. 17:22; Mark 8:32; Matt. 17:22; Luke 9:22; John 2:18-22).

After the resurrection His followers affirmed that it had happened just as He had said it would. The life we experience with Jesus in our human existence brings rich rewards, but the best is yet to come.

For the believer the blessed hope is that we are going to be with Him, exalting Him as our Savior and doing that in His presence. We anticipate the time when we will know a deeper relationship with Him. We will give praise to the One who loved us and died for us. His resurrection guarantees that we will be with Him forever enjoying Him.

The great word is that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and because One has risen from the dead, others, too, can experience resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus proves the reality of the resurrection of all believers. God submits the resurrection as evidence that He really intervenes on behalf of mankind and that his messengers relay what is true.

4. The resurrection makes possible a real life apart from sin.

In contrast to our faith being empty, as indicated in verse 14, we have here a different word in verse 17 that emphasizes a lack of results. “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile…” Yet we see a faith that has paid the penalty that we deserved for our sins. Resurrection focuses on life, in contrast to the separation of death that comes from our sins. The finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross brings a right relationship with God, but it is the resurrection that has the positive effect of identifying us with the life of the Savior. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Rom. 5:10).

5. The resurrection gives hope that we will see again loved ones who have died.

“Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished” (v.18).
The believer is not like the cynic who says that the cycle of life ends in death. In the face of human death the believer anticipates with hope that once again he will enjoy interaction with those he has loved on earth. Jesus’ contacts with His disciples and others after His resurrection provide the model for believers experiencing reunion after death.

6. The resurrection gives hope that we will see Christ again.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming (vv.19-23).

The life we experience with Jesus in our human existence brings rich rewards, but the best is yet to come. For the believer the blessed hope is that we are going to be with Him, exalting Him as our Savior and doing so in His presence.

We anticipate the time when we will have a deeper relationship with Him. We will give praise to the One who loved us and died for us. His resurrection guarantees that we will be with Him forever enjoying Him.

The great truth is that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and because One has risen from the dead, others, can also experience resurrection.

If there were no resurrection the believer would be such a complete loser; yet the believer is a victor! Jesus Christ did come back conquering death and the grave, promising us resurrection as well.

Carl Westerlund

Carl Westerlund has been on the pastoral staff at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa since 1987, following 19 years of pastoral ministry in three other churches.