If Christ Be Not Risen—1 Corinthians 15:12-19


Levi Durfey




It seems unbelievable to us, but in Corinth, there were Christians who believed that Christ rose from the dead, but they, when they died, would not rise from the dead.


1 Corinthians 15:12 

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, 

how say some among you that 

there is no resurrection of the dead?  


Why were some Christians not believing that they would be raised from the dead? This is yet another case of Christians letting the culture influence the way they believe. 


It seemed right to them not to believe in the resurrection of the dead because that’s what most Greek and Roman people believed then. When the body died, they believed, that was it. The spirit would live on, but never again in a body. It didn’t seem like a big deal to believe the same thing as a Christian.


Our culture influences what we believe as Christians today also. In our day, the teaching of evolution is difficult for many Christians to get past in many ways. 


There is, of course, how Christians try to fit evolutionary teaching about creation into the Bible (such as Theistic Evolution). But evolution has affected every area of how we live, so it seeps into our lives in ways that we don’t even notice. 


Recently, I read a survey that showed that half of Americans don’t believe that humans are anymore special than animals (http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/nearly-50-americans-now-think-humans-not-special/). 


That is from the teaching of evolution and it affects how we live today. It’s why euthanasia and abortion don’t seem so bad to many people


It’s why animal rights activists are becoming more and more numerous. It’s even why pet owners treat their pets as little children, dressing them up and spending so much money on the comfort and care of their pets.


Ultimately, the teaching of evolution tells us that, since humans are the same as other animals, our destiny is also the same—we cease to exist after we die. 


The idea of a resurrection is impossible for unbelievers to believe. And also, many Christians face doubts about Christ’s resurrection and their own resurrection because of the prevalence of evolutionary teaching in our culture.


So the Corinthians had let their culture determine their unbelief in their own resurrection, while still believing that Christ rose from the dead. 


How does Paul handle this problem? He says that if there is no resurrection of the dead for believers, then neither was Christ risen from the dead.


1 Corinthians 15:13 

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, 

then is Christ not risen:  


That’s logical isn’t it? It’s like saying, if there are no cars, then there is no NASCAR racing. No resurrection of the dead, then Christ didn’t rise from the dead. Simple logic. 


But Paul does more, he goes on to list six negative results that would be true if Christ be not risen from the dead.


If Christ Be Not Risen, Then…



1 Corinthians 15:14a 

And if Christ be not risen, 

then is our preaching vain, 


The word “vain” (κενὸν, κενός, JNSN) means empty (see 1 Corinthians 15:10). If Christ hasn’t risen from the dead, then Christian preaching—gospel preaching—is rather empty and pointless.


Just look at how the world—which doesn’t believe in the resurrection of Christ or anyone else—considers the Christian preaching of the cross and gospel of Christ:


23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (1 Corinthians 1:23)


The world, whether Jew or Gentile, considers the whole idea of Christ being crucified for our sins and raised from the dead to be rubbish. 


Why? Because they don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And if Christ really hadn’t risen from the dead, well, preaching the gospel would be pointless.


Christians are often tempted to downplay the preaching of the gospel and magnify the preaching of practical principles in order to reach the world. The world will tolerate Christian preaching if the preacher focuses on practical things, like managing your money (but don’t mention tithing) or raising your children (but don’t mention spanking). 


Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is chocked full of practical principles for Christians to learn—for Christians to learn. We need to learn those practical things that God wants to teach us.


But Christ did rise from the dead, so Christian preaching is not in vain. It’s not empty. I can stand up here and speak a sermon with absolutely no practical application to your everyday lives. Not a word about how to use money wisely, or raise children, or be a good citizen. 


But if I preach Christ crucified, it will be the most important thing you can ever hear!


If Christ Be Not Risen, Then…



1 Corinthians 15:14 

And if Christ be not risen, 

then is our preaching vain, 

and your faith is also vain.  


What does it mean for our “faith” to be “vain”? It means that our faith was not well-founded. It would be like sitting in a chair with a broken leg—your faith in the chair would not have been well-founded.


We all desire something that we can trust completely. A woman marries a man who she thinks will always be faithful to her. A child, in spite of disobeying their parent, wants that parents to always be there for them. People are always looking for someone that they can count on through thick and thin.


Christ has risen from the dead, so our faith is not in vain, our faith is well-founded. Christ proved His love for us by dying on the cross for our sins. When someone is completely willing to give everything for you, you can know that they can be trusted completely.


If Christ Be Not Risen, Then…



1 Corinthians 15:15 

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; 

because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ:

whom he raised not up, 

if so be that the dead rise not.  


If Christ hadn’t risen from the dead, then everything the apostles had preached would have been a false statement. They would have been liars. If Christ hasn’t risen from the dead, then everything you or I have ever said about Christ to someone else would have been a lie.


But Christ has risen from the dead, so what the apostles said about the gospel is true. We can also be assured that when we speak the gospel, we’re speaking the absolute truth.


We live in a day where people think that truth is relative—that there is no absolute truth. I watched an interview with an actor who was asked if he thought that ISIS was evil. He said they were and then he said that anyone who thinks that they are right is evil. Here’s what he said:


There’s a problem in people thinking that there’s a right answer to something…what makes people dangerous is not so much being evil for the sake of being evil, but being right and unwilling to open themselves up to something—to the possibility of being wrong…I think that, to me, is dangerous. That is what I associate with…maybe…evil…because that’s unpredictable (Adam Driver).


Having the right answer makes someone unpredictable? Someone who doesn’t have any truth is unpredictable. 


But what this actor said about having the right answer makes you evil means that, sure ISIS is evil, but so is the Christian who speaks the gospel as absolute truth. This is what most people believe now. Having the right answer makes you a problem, not a solution.


But if Christ has risen from the dead, then we have been given the greatest, most amazing truth—the right answer. More than that, we’ve been given the duty to proclaim it. We are not liars or false witnesses when we speak the gospel, we are truth-tellers. 


We are not evil when we tell others the gospel. In fact, quite the opposite. If you had the cure for cancer, and you kept it to yourself, that would be evil. The greatest good any Christian can do is to share the gospel as the right answer to the cancer of sin.


If Christ Be Not Risen, Then…



1 Corinthians 15:16 

For if the dead rise not, 

then is not Christ raised:  

1 Corinthians 15:17 

And if Christ be not raised, 

your faith is vain; 

ye are yet in your sins.  


The Greek word here for  “vain” (ματαία, μάταιος, JNSF) is different from the word for “vain” in verse 14. Some scholars say that this one is a stronger word. It could be translated “futile” or “without result.” Your faith, if Christ be not raised, will not have any result. You will still be “in your sins.”


What does it mean to be in your sins? Well, it isn’t good. The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That means that we will “…be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). We will experience destruction every day forever.


Thankfully, God has provided a way of escape from such a dismal destiny. He sent His only Son, Jesus, to die for our sins. He died to pay the “wages of sin” for us. How do we know that He did this?


If someone came up to you and said, “I paid your mortgage (or those payments on that new car). You’re welcome.” What would you do before you stopped making payments? You would call the bank and say, “Is this really paid off? Can I get a receipt?”


That’s what the resurrection of Jesus Christ is—it’s a receipt that shows that He paid for our sins when He died on the cross. It’s the proof. So if He didn’t rise from the dead, then we would still be in our sins.


But Jesus did rise from the dead, so if you trust Him, you are not still in your sins, you are not destined for everlasting destruction. 


If Christ Be Not Risen, Then…



1 Corinthians 15:18 

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ

are perished.  


In the seventeen years of being a pastor, I’ve noticed that more unbelievers want non-religious funeral services or even no services at all. They’ll do a “Celebration of Life” or nothing at all. The cultural Christianity in our country is wearing off, so unbelievers are free to express their unbelief instead of pretending to be a Christian.


They don’t believe that Christ has risen from the dead, and they don’t believe that they will rise from the dead. So all the mumble-jumble that Christians say at funerals is just that—mumble-jumble.

And indeed, if Christ hasn’t risen from the dead, then all the funerals for Christians that I have done in the last seventeen years—and there has been dozens—have all been farces. 


All the words from the Bible, I’ve used to comfort people, like…


2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2–3)


…have been sugar-coated lies. And all the hope that we’ve had that the separation from our loved ones in Christ is only temporary, is just a crutch to help us not despair. 


But Christ has risen from the dead, so our loved ones in Christ have not “perished.” They are, at this moment, safe in the arms of Jesus. We can comfort one another with the assurance that we and they will rise again and meet Jesus in the air.


If Christ Be Not Risen, Then…



1 Corinthians 15:19 

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, 

we are of all men most miserable. 


If our hope is in the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, and it turns out that fact is wrong, well then…we would be the most miserable and pathetic of all people. The unbelievers would be right: 

  • We wasted our lives following Jesus, living in obedience to Him, perhaps even sacrificing for Him. 
  • We listened to hundreds of sermons from a book that is wrong. 
  • We taught Creationism to kids and filled their heads with false information. And Bill Nye the science guy is right, we’re evil.
  • We volunteered hundreds of hours teaching Sunday School and Vacation Bible School and baking cookies. All for what? 

Well, you might console yourself that you invested in your life in people. Maybe you taught some practical, moral things to kids, like honesty and not to lie and to be good helpers.


But really, if Jesus be not risen, then it all falls short. It’s a waste, and we’re a miserable people, and the anti-Christian atheists who complain about Christians are right.


But here’s the thing: Jesus did rise from the dead. This is all true. This is all real. We have hope and assurance that our sins are forgiven and Heaven is our real home. 


And if all we ever say to anyone is the completely non-practical words, “Jesus paid it all for you; Believe in Him and be saved,” it will be more than all the teaching about honesty and doing good social works that a million people could do in a million years! 


Because Jesus rising from the dead is the most important and most spectacular truth you could ever speak. Don’t be don’t be afraid of having the right answer: He has risen!

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