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SCRIPTURE REFERENCES » 1 Corinthians 15:10-28

Sermon: 1 Corinthians 15:12–28: Christ Has Been Raised From The Dead

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:12–28

“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:12–28, ESV)

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Introduction

I’ve selected this passage for today assuming that you are familiar with the story of Christ’s crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection as recorded for us in the pages of Holy Scripture, particularly, the Gospels. Jesus the Christ was crucified, he died, was buried, and on the third day he rose from the grave. If you wish to read about these things — which would be a wonderful thing do, either on your own or with others on this Lord’s Day — then you can open to the end of any of the four Gospels to find an account of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Matthew chapters 27 and 28, Mark 15 and 16, Luke 23 and 24, and John chapters 19 through 21 all testify to the truth that Jesus the Christ was crucified, died and was buried, and that he rose again on the third day. 

I’ve selected this passage for today assuming that you are familiar with this story, for this passage —  1 Corinthians 15:12–28 — does not tell the story of the resurrection of Christ. Instead, it establishes that without the resurrection of Christ, our faith would be empty, meaningless and vain. Stated positively, the fact that Christ was raised from the dead on the third day changes everything. When Christ raised from the dead he demonstrated that he was not just another teacher, or a great moral leader, but is in fact our conquering Savior. He defeated sin and death when he was raised up to live forevermore. And this he did for us, and for all who  believe upon him, so that we might have life eternal in his name.  

In verse 12 of 1 Corinthians 15 we learn something about the situation which made it necessary for Paul the Apostle to write on this subject. Evidently there were some within the church of Corinth who did not believe that there would be a resurrection at the end of time.  Exactly what they though is not clear from the text, but one thing is certain — they did not believe that believers would be raised in the future. This is why Paul wrote “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” Evidently some within the church in Corinth believe that Christy was raised from the dead, but they denied that believers will be.

This is a bit of a tangent, but I must say that I take a bit of comfort in Paul’s letters to the church in Corinth. They reassure me that it is not unusual to encounter trouble within Christ’s church. The church will always struggle against sin and false doctrine. I don’t mean to say that we should be content to live with the sin and false doctrine in our midst, but we should not be surprised when we encounter. The question is, what we do in responce to it? And the scriptures provide us with ample guidance here. 

In verse 12 of 1 Corinthians 15 Paul begins to address a doctrinal error within Corinth. Some believed that there would be no resurrection, even of believers, at the end of the age, and so Paul set them strait. Listen again to his reasoning. “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” He is drawing attention to their inconsistency. On the one hand they said, there is no resurrection. And on the other hand they said, Christ was raised. And Paul replied by saying, how can that be? If there is no resurrection, then Christ did not raise. But if Christ did rise, then we also should expect to rise with him, if we are united to him by faith.  The two things, you see — Christ’s resurrection and ours — are inextricably tinkled together. 

After establishing this principle, Paul then begins to show how central the resurrection of Christ is to the Christian faith.  He does this in two parts. Firstly, in verses 14-19 he tells us how things would be “if Christ has not been raised.” Secondly,  in verses 20-28 he tells us how things are because Christ has, in fact, been raised from the dead.

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If Christ is not raised…

In verse 14 we learn, first of all, that if Christ is not raised, then our faith is empty and without effect. There we read,  “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” 

The resurrection of Christ from the dead is so central to our faith that Paul says, if you take that away — if you take the historical, bodily resurrection of Christ away — then our preaching (meaning the preaching of the Apostles, and all preaching from that time onward) is empty, without content, untrue and ultimately ineffective.  

Brothers and sisters, you should know that there are many in this  world who call themselves “Christians” who do not believe that Christ was actually raised from the dead, but consider it a myth. Why they insist on having the name “Christian”, I do not know. It would be far better — far more honest — if they would admit that they are not Christians at all, but are something else. They might be moral people; ethical people, but they are not Christians. For Paul himself has said,  “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” It is an empty faith.    

Secondly, Paul says that if Christ has not been raised, then he and the other Apostles would be found misrepresenting God. Look with me at verse 15. If Christ is not raised then, “We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.”

It is not a good idea to misrepresent to God. And Paul, along with the other Apostles and the elders that had been appointed in the churches, had been preaching that God was the one who raised Christ from the grave.

Listen to Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentacost. Acts 2:22: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:22–24, ESV). And a little bit later in that same sermon Peter said that Christ “was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses” (Acts 2:31–32, ESV). 

Listen again to Peter’s preaching, this time in Solomon’s Portico. He spoke to the Jews when he said, “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:13–15, ESV)

You are noticing a theme, no doubt. What was at the heart of the evangelistic preaching of the early church? The Apostles preached about Christ, and in particular they wanted everyone to know that he rose from the grave. “To this we are witnesses”, Peter said. They were witness to the life of Christ. But in particular they were witnesses to his death and resurrection. They saw him raised. 

This testimony that “God raised [Christ] from the dead” is found on the lips of the Apostles throughout the pages of the book of Acts. And it also appears in Paul’s writings. In Romans 10:9 we read, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, ESV). This same message also appears in 1 Corinthians 6:14, only about nine chapters previous to the text that we are studying today. There we read, “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Corinthians 6:14, ESV). This is the teaching of the Apostles. “God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.” The  two things, Christ’s resurrection, and ours are inextricably linked together. 

Paul and the other Apostles had testified repeatedly saying, “God raised the Lord.” This was at the heart of their message — “God raised [Christ] from the dead”. And if it was not true, then these men would be found misrepresenting God.

Thirdly, we learn that if Christ is not raised, then we are still in our sins. Look with me at verse 16 of 1 Corinthians 15. There we read, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:16–17, ESV)

Paul repeats himself a bit in these verses. Again he states his argument that “if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.“ And again he says, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile”. The Greek word translates as “futile”  here in verse 17 is different than the Greek word translated as “vain” in verse 14. The meaning of these two words is very similar. In verses 14 the emphasis might be upon the ineffectiveness of our faith if Christ is not raised. If Christ is not raised your faith does not really accomplish anything. It is empty, without effect, a waste of time. Here in verse 17 the emphasis might be upon the worthlessness of our faith if Christ is not raised. If Christ is not raised your faith is futile, empty and worthless. This is all repetition.

In verses 17 something is new is said though. “And if Christ has not been raised… you are still in your sins.” I love the way that Calvin explains this verse. He says, “For although Christ by his death atoned for our sins, that they might no more be imputed to us in the judgment of God, and has crucified our old man, that its lusts might no longer reign in us, (Rom. 6:6, 12;) and, in fine, has by death destroyed the power of death, and the devil himself, (Heb. 2:14;) yet there would have been none of all these things, if he had not, by rising again, come off victorious. Hence, if the resurrection is overthrown, the dominion of sin is set up anew.” 

Those are beautiful words, I think. The point is this: Though it be true that Christ atoned for sins by his death on the cross, none of that would have mattered if he would have remained dead. We would still be in our sins if Christ did not rise, for then we have not have a victorious Savior, but rather a defeated one. 

Fourthly, we learn that if Christ is not raised then those who have died in the Lord are hopelessly lost. This is what Paul means when he says in verse 18, if Christ is not raised “then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.”

He has already established that if Christ is not raised then we who are living are still in our sins. You see, there is now power in Christ if he is not raised. Whatever we say about what he did on the cross to pay for sin, to defeat the evil one, to earn an eternal reward, means nothing if remained in that tomb. Our faith would be vain and futile if this were true. And nothing illustrates this more than to talk about those who have “fallen asleep”, as Paul puts it. If Christ himself did not have victory over death and the grave, then there is no hope for those who have themselves died and gone into the grave. They  simply have perished.  They are hopelessly lost if Christ is not risen. 

Fifthly, we learn that if Christ is not raised then our hope is for this life only, and we are of all people most to be pitied. Verse 20: “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” 

Two things: First, do you see that if Christ is not raised then our hope is for this life only? If Christ did not rise, then he did not defeat death. He does not have the power to do anything for us beyond the grave. Perhaps he could be of some use to us in this world as a moral example, as a demonstration of  God’s love, etc. But if he did not rise,  then he cannot do anything for us beyond the grace, for he himself would have been consumed by that, just as we will be. 

Secondly, Paul puts it most bluntly when he says, if this is true that Christ is not raised, then “we are of all people most to be pitied.”  

Why would Paul say this? Why would he say that Christians — those who have faith in Christ — are pitiful people, if Christ  is not raised? Doesn’t he know that following Christ is great blessing even in this life? Doesn’t he realize how joyous it is to know Christ in this life? Certainly he does! It was Paul himself who said that he counts “everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus [his] Lord. For [Christ’s sake he had] suffered the loss of all things and count[ed] them as rubbish, in order that [he] may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8, ESV). Paul knew very well the blessing of walking with Christ in this world. Every other pleasure and honor seemed as rubbish to him in comparison. 

But Paul also knew something else. He knew from experience that being a Christian in this world is very difficult.

The Christian is called to resist the temptations of the world the flesh and the Devil.

The Christian should expect to be disciplined by the Lord. 

The Christian should expect to suffer a degree of persecution in this world. 

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Peter 4:12–16, ESV)

Brothers and sisters, the resurrection of Christ from the dead is so central to the Christian faith that if Christ is not risen, “our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God… your faith is futile and you are still in your sins…” and  “those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” In fact, “if in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:12–19, ESV).

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But in fact Christ has been raised…

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.” That is what we read in verse 20.

Paul testified to the fact of Christ’s resurrection in the previous passage when he wrote, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1 Corinthians 15:3–8, ESV). The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John testify to the fact of Christ’s resurrection. The Apostles, when they were alive, testified to the fact of Christ’s resurrection. They saw him, and they were witnesses. Many others saw him  too. Indeed, Christ appeared in his resurrection to “more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom [were] still alive”, at the time when Paul wrote to the Corinthians. If Christ is not risen our faith is futile. “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.” 

And what does this mean for us? It means that our preaching and our faith  is not in vain, but is powerful and effective. It means that we are correctly representing God when we say that he raised Christ from the grave. It means that our sins have been atoned for — washed away by the blood of the lamb — if we are united to him by faith. It means that those who have died in the Lord are alive with him in spirit as they eagerly  await the resurrection of their bodies. It means that not only to we enjoy Christ in this live, but we have a hope that goes beyond the grave.  Far from being “of all people most to be pitied”, we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us. For [we are] sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37–39, ESV).

This is precisely the point that Paul goes on to make when he says in verses 20, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20, ESV). 

What does it mean that Christ is the “firstfruits”? It means that he is the first of many. What happened to him will also happen to us if we are in him. Christ’s resurrection guarantees our resurrection. Because Christ is risen, we know for sure that we too will be raised. You see, Christ did not rise from the grave for himself only, but so that he mighty “bring many sons to glory”, as Hebrews 2:10 so beautifully reveals. Christ was not merely and individual who was raised up. He was the “firstfruits” — the first of many to rise unto life eternal. 

Paul then explains why Christ is the firstfruits in verse 22 when he says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22, ESV). Christ is the firstfruits because Christ was and is a federal head and representative of others, just as Adam. 

Adam lived as a representative of others. His obedience would have meant life for others. His disobedience meant death for others. And who did Adam represent? He represented all who descended from him. To be born into this world is to be born in Adam. And to be in Adam is to be dead in trespasses and sins.    

Christ also lived (and died and rose again) as a representative for others. And who did Christ represent in his life, death burial and resurrection? He stood in the place of all who were given to him by the Father from all eternity (see John 17). These are all who ever have and ever will place their faith in Jesus the Christ. To be in Christ is to have life everlasting. “In Adam all die”,  but “in Christ shall all be made alive.” 

But there is an order to things, brothers and sisters. That is what Paul says in verse 23: “But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:23, ESV). No one has come to enjoy their resurrection body yet except Christ. I can  think of only two possible  exceptions — Enoch and Elijah. All who have died having placed their faith in Christ, either before or after his coming, do indeed live in the presence of God. But they live in God’s presence in the spirit while their bodies lie in the grave. Christ was raised bodily. He was the first of a many who would be brought to glory in and through him. “Then at his coming [that it to say, his second coming] those who belong to Christ”, will also be raised. 

Verse 24: “Then comes the end, when he [Christ] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24, ESV). At the end of time the dead in Christ will be raised. At the end of time “the kingdom” of Christ will be delivered “to God the Father”. By the way, this is what Adam was to do. He was to labor to promote and to advance God’s kingdom as a faithful servant of God to the glory and honor of God. When Adam failed, Christ has succeeded. Christ, on the last day, will deliver the kingdom of which he is Lord, to God the Father. 

Verse 25: “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25, ESV). Again, there is a process, friends. Christ is ruling and reigning now. His rule is supreme and absolute. But every enemy of his is progressively being brought under his feet. 

Verse 26: “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26, ESV). Death is something that we still must experience. It is the way that we pass from this life into the next one. If we are in Christ we will pass from life to life. If we are in Christ we will pass “from life to life. Those not in Christ will pass from “death to death” (see 2 Corinthians 2:16). At the end of time, death itself will be destroyed by Christ for all those who are in him. This is why the Christian can say, “‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55–57, ESV).

In verse 27 Paul sites Psalm 8 when he says, “For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his [that is, Christ’s] feet.’ But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:27–28, ESV). 

What is the meaning of this? Paul is saying that all things have been made subject to Christ. But there is one exception. God has not and will not be made subject to Christ. God is the one exception, for he is the one “who put all things in subjection under [Christ], so that God may be all in  all.”

Do you see, therefore, that when Christ was raised from the dead it for our good and to God’s glory?

It was for our good because Christ was the firstfruits. He raised, not fro himself, but for us so that we might be raised up with him at the end of time. 

And it was for God’s glory because Christ is establishing God’s kingdom. The kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of God are one in  the same. The kingdoms of Christ will advance in this world until it is fully established, with all things being made subject to Christ. And at that time Christ will “deliver the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power”, all the glory of our great God and King. 

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Conclusion  

So tell me, friend. Does it matter whether or not Christ was in fact raised from the dead?

And do you believe that he has been raised? Have you done what Paul says we must do if we are to be saved from our sins? “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9, ESV)

And if you have believed upon Christ, are you aware of how rich you  are in him. We deserved God’s wrath because of our sin, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4–7, ESV).

Friends, are you eager to grow in your knowledge of Christ Jesus?

Are you eager to share that knowledge with others?

Brothers and sisters, it is good that have given special attention today to the resurrection of Christ. Indeed each Lord’s Day we gather to give worship to God through Christ who was risen on the first day of the week, but today, in a special way, we gather to say, he is risen… he is  risen indeed.   

Posted in Sermons, Study Guides, Joe Anady, 1 Corinthians 15:10-28, Posted by Joe. Comments Off on Sermon: 1 Corinthians 15:12–28: Christ Has Been Raised From The Dead


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