1Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. 6After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all He appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. 9For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them - yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. 11Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed. 12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and was buried. He descended to the dead.
On the third day He rose again.
Billy Graham once told Time magazine, “If I were an enemy of Christianity, I would aim right at the Resurrection, because that is the heart of Christianity.”
Ever since the beginning of the Christian Church, there has been a clear understanding within the Church of the absolute necessity of the Resurrection of Jesus.
It is without doubt a major cornerstone of what we believe.
So it should come as no surprise that the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus is also the main focus of attack of those who oppose the Gospel of Christ.
Before Jesus ascended to Heaven, He left a very simple but profound instruction for His followers. We know it as the Great Commission – a call for them (and subsequent generations of Christians) to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.
The very first Christian sermon on record was preached by Peter in Acts 2, and he concludes it with these words: “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36)
This was a bold and decidedly dangerous statement to make, unless of course, if he could substantiate it.
The challenge facing Peter was this: Jesus had been put to death, and Peter believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and in so doing, made Him Lord and Christ.
The Book of Acts records a number of Christian sermons, and the common denominator is the fact that Jesus Christ is risen.
The death and subsequent resurrection were the focal point of early Christian preaching, and it remains the focal point of the Christian Church today. (Or at least it should be…)
If we do not consistently preach and proclaim that Jesus died for our sins, but conquered death by rising from the dead, then we have failed as a Church.
We have the task of teaching the world to live up to certain moral standards, and there are many other social issues that we must preach and teach about, but the focus of our teaching should ALWAYS be this: Jesus Christ, born, crucified and risen from the dead.
As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:13-14, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
There is a lot of modern preaching these days which focuses on Jesus as Saviour, but not enough on the Lordship of Christ, which was certainly a priority in the first century. There is nowhere near enough preaching today on submission to the Lordship of Christ.
The resurrection is what gives Jesus both authority and Lordship. He is not some dead prophet like other religions have. He is alive today and He continues to rule and reign, and if we are going to believe that, we must submit to His authority and Lordship.
In the early days of the Christian Church, there was a call for lives to be changed as a result of the resurrection of Christ. Paul said to the Colossian Church in chapter 3, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
In a very real sense, Paul is saying that not only was Jesus risen from the dead, but so were His followers.
The question we need to ask ourselves is this: If we insist that Jesus is risen from the dead, is that resurrection reflected in the changes we see in our own lives, and if not, why not?
Let’s put it another way: Is Jesus my Lord and Saviour, or is He just my Saviour?
We need to consider the absurdity of just what Peter and his friends were preaching in those early days: A simple Jewish carpenter who had a gift for healing and teaching was put to death and rose from the dead.
One can only imagine the hostility and the ridicule they must have faced, so how on earth did they manage to get anyone to take them seriously?
The answer is quite simple – they argued the resurrection, and they argued it from historical fact.
If someone says to you that they struggle to believe all that the Bible says is true, do what the apostles did: Go straight to the resurrection.
Believing the resurrection of Christ, the foundational teaching of the Christian faith, does not require a leap of blind faith. It requires a simple examination of the facts. Our faith is based on historical, provable events.
So what are these facts?
The first fact is this: Jesus was put to death and buried in a tomb. Some of His followers went back to the tomb after the Sabbath to find that the stone had been moved away from the entrance, and the body was missing.
The second fact is that the followers of Jesus who were in disarray and scattered in fear when Jesus was put on trial and put to death because they thought they’d be next, were suddenly back together within a few days, and they were totally transformed.
The people who planted and established the very first Christian Churches were completely under qualified and unsuited for such an important project, but they succeeded. They did it!
Acts 4:33 says “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.”
Thirdly, there were numerous and consistent reports that various people had seen Jesus alive.
The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, “What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all He appeared to me also.”
The resurrection of Jesus is not wishful thinking. Any reasonable person who examines the documented evidence of the empty tomb, the transformed disciples and the reports of eyewitnesses will come to the only logical conclusion: Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
The absolute necessity and importance of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ for the Christian Church cannot be over-emphasised. It is crucial to what we believe and stand for.
1 Corinthians 15:14 says quite simply, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
Without the physical resurrection of Jesus, we have nothing, so let’s take a closer look at some of the facts.
In the early 20thcentury an English freelance writer by the name of Albert Henry Ross, an outspoken opponent of the Christian faith, knew that if he could disprove the doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus, then the whole theory of the Christian faith would come tumbling down like a house of cards. And he was right. If you can prove the resurrection was a lie, then so is everything else the Christian faith stands for. So he began researching in order to write a book about the ‘lie’ of Christianity.
Those of you who have done the Alpha course would have heard this story before, but it is well worth retelling.
After Ross analysed the facts, he did write a book under the pseudonym Frank Morison. But by the time he wrote it, he himself was a Christian. The title of the book is ‘Who Moved The Stone?’
Now we already know from Biblical and other historical sources that Jesus was a real person, and that He was crucified. Even Albert Ross/Frank Morison acknowledged that, so in his initial attempts to debunk the Christian faith, he offered three alternatives to the theory of resurrection.
The first alternative was that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross, but had just fainted, recovered and woke up in the tomb.
Roman soldiers were experts at execution. Jesus was flogged and beaten before He was crucified. Many people died from the flogging alone and didn’t even make it to the cross.
Jesus was crucified on Friday, the day before the Sabbath, and no one was allowed to be executed on the Sabbath, so the soldiers had to make sure that anyone crucified on the day before must be dead before sunset on Friday, which signified the beginning of the Sabbath. John tells us that the legs of the other two men crucified with Jesus were broken in order to speed up their deaths, but Jesus’ legs weren’t broken, because it wasn’t necessary - He was already dead.
John 19:33-34. “When they came to Jesus and found that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.”
We now know that this flow of blood and water is the separation of clot and serum – a medical phenomenon, which only occurs after death. This was not known at the time, but this is clear medical evidence that Jesus died on the cross.
Then there is the large rock which was always placed at the entrance of Jewish tombs. It took three or four strong men to move this rock – how could one man, after being beaten and hung on a cross for six hours have the strength to move it on his own?
The second alternative was that the disciples stole the body, and then gone around claiming that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Matthew 27:62-66. “The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, His disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that He has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.’
‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”
The Roman soldiers were expecting the disciples, and were guarding the tomb, so it would have been impossible for them to steal the body.
The third alternative was that the authorities stole the body.
But once the disciples started telling everybody that Jesus had risen from the dead, all they had to do was produce the body, but they couldn’t, because there was no body to produce.
The evidence that Jesus rose from the dead is overwhelming.
John Copley was three times the Lord Chancellor of Great Britain in the 19thcentury and he once wrote “I know pretty well what evidence is; and I tell you, such evidence as that for the resurrection has never broken down yet.”
Another famous quote comes from Charles Darling, a former High Court judge in England who died in 1936. He said “We, as Christians, are asked to take a very great deal on trust; the teachings, for example, and the miracles of Jesus. If we had to take all on trust, I, for one, should be sceptical. The crux of the problem of whether Jesus was, or was not, what He proclaimed Himself to be, must surely depend upon the truth or otherwise of the resurrection. On that greatest point we are not merely asked to have faith. In its favour as living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true.”
There are many other arguments and writings, both ancient and recent which argue the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, and those who insist on denying it, calling it a fable or just a downright lie are ignoring the plain facts. They have been deceived.
But the bigger question is this: Why the resurrection? What does it mean to you and me today?
There is no doubt that raising a dead person is very dramatic, and is bound to grab our attention, but apart from that, why did God raise Jesus from the dead?
Firstly, it was so that God could show His acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice.
All our attempts to please God fall on deaf ears. The Bible tells us repeatedly that God will not accept our good deeds. The sacrifice of Jesus is the only acceptable sacrifice. By raising His Son from the dead, God gave Jesus His seal of approval.
Another reason for the resurrection is to conquer our biggest fear – death.
While we still have to face physical death, Jesus has shown through His resurrection that He has power over our biggest fear.
Thirdly, Jesus was raised from the dead in order to fulfill His eternal purpose.
God’s original purpose was to create a universe and a humanity with which He could share an intimate fellowship.
Human beings though, thwarted God’s original purpose when we chose to abuse the gift of free will.
R C Sproul once wrote, “Every sin is an act of cosmic treason, violates the rightful rule of God, and insults His infinite glory and perfection.”
This resulted in us being cast adrift from God, but thanks to His grace and love for us, God’s eternal purpose has never changed. The glory of the Gospel has reversed the curse of the Fall.
God took the initiative, and took on human form, because His just nature demands that a price must be paid for human sin.
We now have the choice: We can choose to believe that Jesus paid the price of that betrayal, that cosmic treason, or we can pay the debt of our sin ourselves.
The problem with the second option is that although we are able to pay the debt, we will spend all of eternity paying it.
No-one in Hell will ever be given a receipt with the words ‘Paid In Full.’
The only means of God fulfilling His eternal purpose is by incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension – a task which only God Himself could undertake in the person of Jesus Christ.
A true Christian Church will always preach Jesus Christ risen from the dead.
It matters that Jesus was an actual human being. It matters that there was an actual virgin birth. It matters that Jesus was actually crucified. And, perhaps most important of all, it matters that He was actually resurrected from the dead.
If an actual, physical resurrection from the dead did not happen, then there is no point to following Christ. Our Christian faith would be hopeless. Literally. Everything stands and falls on the resurrection being a historical reality.
It can be so tempting to focus on the morality of Jesus, or His teaching, or His example, but, important as all these things are, they are not the crux of why Jesus came. At the heart of everything is the cross where He was crucified and the empty grave He left behind once resurrected.
Take these away and you’re left with nothing but the emptiness of man-made religion and philosophy.
This defeat of death by the resurrection of Jesus wasn’t something simply for Him. What it has done for us is to open the door to eternal life for everyone, and the end of death itself. Everyone who puts their trust in Jesus, the Bible tells us, will not die, but have everlasting life.
Now of course, people die every day. From our limited, human point of view, death doesn’t seem to be very defeated at all. But this is why we need to see with the eyes of faith.
How? By looking at Jesus. Jesus overcame death, received a new body, and became the first to receive what we will all, in time, receive too.
The promise of a resurrected life is for us if we believe in Him.
1 Corinthians 6:14 says “By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also.”
The dead in Christ shall all be raised up again. For the time being, our physical bodies may continue to die, but we die with the knowledge that, at the right time, when Christ returns, we shall be raised up. We will receive a new, physical body - just like Jesus - that will never know death again.
And we will spend all of eternity with Jesus. This is the hope that we have.
This is why the resurrection is so central to the Church.
Without the resurrection, the entire narrative of the Bible completely breaks down. Everything stands or falls on this one moment in history. Without it we have nothing.
This is about an actual, historical event - or it is nothing.
Let’s go back to our text from 1 Corinthians 15 again: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”
(1 Corinthians 15:13-19)
Even though we will still die physically, eternal life actually starts now.
Eternal life is not simply for the next life. It is for now. Look at the total transformation in the lives of the disciples of Jesus after the resurrection.
In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
The resurrection of Jesus opens the door to that life now. The completion and ultimate fulfillment of that resurrection life is our promise, signed, sealed and delivered by the death and resurrection of Christ.
This is our hope, and this is why we can say, “I believe in Jesus Christ, suffered, crucified, dead and was buried. Buton the third day He rose again.”
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Luke 24:1-8
How would you answer critics who call the resurrection of Jesus ‘the stuff of fairy tales?’
Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-19
The historical facts, and the arguments for and against the resurrection of Jesus are well recorded, and have been written about extensively, but the reasons for the resurrection are of far greater importance.
How do you understand these verses from 1 Corinthians 15?
Discuss their significance in your group.
The doctrine of the atoning death of Jesus for our sins is of vital importance to the Christian faith, but the resurrection completes the picture.
Why do you think the resurrection of Jesus is so crucial to our faith?
Read John 10:10
What do you think Jesus meant by these words?
How do they apply to our lives here and now?
Close by discussing Philippians 3:10-11
What do we mean when we talk of living a life of “resurrection power?”