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THE RESURRECTION: HERE WE STAND

   


 

“THE RESURRECTION: HERE WE STAND”

 

 

 

An Expositional Lecture on 1 Cor. 15:1-8

 

By: Dr. Roger Pascoe

 



Introduction

We live in a very confused secular culture, don’t we? Confused because, on the one hand, it seems to have rendered moral standards and religious convictions almost irrelevant through relativism and pluralism, and yet, on the other hand, paradoxically, people are chasing after a popular sort of spirituality, as they desperately attempt to find peace and security in a tumultuous and insecure world.

But confusion isn’t limited to the secular world.  Theological confusion abounds in both the Christian church and academy, as seemingly endless attacks are launched on the traditional understanding of truth, and in the process demeaning, diluting, and even denying the gospel itself.  Open theism, of course, is a typical example of a new theology that strikes at the very root of our traditional understanding of the nature and character of God, and this by well-known theologians, pastors, and authors.[1]

This is a day when we must defend the gospel.  Yet, our defence of the gospel today is, in some ways, no different than in previous eras of history.  The gospel has always been under attack, even from the very beginning of Christianity (cf. 1 Tim. 1:3-4).  Paul defended the gospel in writing to the Galatians, whom he feared were being seduced into believing another gospel of a different kind (Gal. 1:6-7).  And in the Corinthian church, there were those who were questioning many things, including the critical doctrine of the resurrection itself.

In this connection, I want to engage you today in an expositional study of 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, so that the clarity and authority of holy Scripture come to bear on the fundamental aspects of the gospel on which we stand.  Thus, the title of this lecture is: “The Resurrection: Here We Stand.”

My thesis is that “the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a non-negotiable, essential component of the true gospel.”  Without the resurrection, we only have good teachings and Jesus was merely a good man.  With the resurrection, we have divinely inspired and empowered teaching and Jesus was God.  Here we stand.  This is the beachhead, if you will, of Christian doctrine, for, as John MacArthur succinctly puts it, “True New Testament Christianity is a religion of the resurrection.”[2]

Background

Jesus himself clearly and repeatedly prophesied his impending death and resurrection from the dead (Matt. 12:38-40; 20:17-19; 27:63; Mk. 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:32-34; Lk. 18:33; 24:7, 46; Jn. 2:18-22; 10:17-18).  Moreover, the fact and the doctrine of the resurrection were fundamental to the accounts of the gospel writers and to the testimony of the apostles both in their sermons in Acts and the epistles.[3]  Their gospel stood or fell on the truth of the resurrection.  As John Warwick Montgomery comments in connection with Paul’s Areopagus speech in Acts 17:19-31, “he presents Christ’s resurrection as the capstone of his case for the truth of the gospel.” [4]  Montgomery goes on to say, “In his stand before Agrippa and Festus (Acts 26), [Paul] not only assumes that these sin-blinded sinners can evidentially arrive at the facticity of the resurrection (‘Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?’) but appeals to a common ground of evidential knowledge (‘The king knows of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner).”[5] 

In fact, it was the truth of the resurrection that motivated the disciples to subsequently give their lives for Christ and the gospel.  Once they had met the risen Christ, nothing could stop them preaching their message – not ridicule, torture, imprisonment, or martyrdom.  The resurrection was the fundamental premise of what they believed and preached.

Such is the power of the gospel to change, challenge, and charge men and women who otherwise would have given up.  And so it is still today.  We do not follow, worship, and preach about a dead Christ, but the Christ who died and rose again.

Nonetheless, despite the commonly held belief in the one true gospel and its essential premise of the resurrection, there were still sceptics in the early church who questioned its veracity.  So it was in Corinth, where some were challenging the whole concept of the resurrection of the dead.  It is to this issue that Paul devotes the entire 15th chapter as he refutes their position in his most explicit and detailed teaching on this essential truth.

The Commonly Believed Gospel (1-3a)

To rightly understand this chapter, it must be seen in the context of Paul’s continuing defence of himself against the criticisms of the Corinthians concerning his apostleship and his message, a defence which is rooted in his witness of the resurrected Christ.

It is important to understand, as Gordon Fee points out, that “Paul is not here setting out to prove the resurrection of Jesus.  Rather, he is reasserting the commonly held ground from which he will argue against their assertion that there is no resurrection of the dead.”[6] 

First, Paul reminds them that the gospel which he is declaring to them now is not some new, alternative, or different gospel but (1) the same gospel he had “made known” to them in the past (1a); (2) the same gospel which they had previously “received” (1b) – i.e. they had believed it and accepted it by faith as true, necessary, and applicable to them; and (3) the same gospel which they were continuing to uphold (1c), for it formed the foundation of the faith on which they were presently standing.  So, Paul is affirming that he is reiterating to them the commonly believed, traditional gospel message and the God-given method of spreading that message - namely, by one receiving it, delivering it to others, who, in turn, receive it, defend it, and proclaim it to still others.

Furthermore, Paul says, this is the same gospel “by which also you are being saved” (2a).  The present, passive, indicative form of this verb (swzesqe) implies that God’s saving power and grace in their lives had been effective and was continuing to be effective in that they were now still the recipients of divine life.  This is not something they had received but then lost.  Their salvation was a continuing, present reality with the future implication that the gospel they had received in the past, and by which they are now being saved, is the same one which guarantees their future possession of it.

But there is a condition to this reality – “if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain” (2b).  The “if” here introduces a conditional clause that indicates that there is no doubt in the apostle’s mind that they were, indeed, holding fast to the word which he had preached to them.  This is an “if” of reason, not an “if” of doubt.  He is saying, then, “I make known to you the gospel… by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you…and I know you are holding it fast.”  To hold it fast (katexw) means to continue in it, to steadfastly adhere to it, to faithfully retain it.  The definitive test of genuine saving faith is not verbal profession only, but continuing adherence to the truth of the gospel – “holding fast the word I preached to you.”  Genuine believers are those who receive the gospel and hold it fast.  And, this was true of the Corinthians – they were saved, their faith was genuine, and the reality of this was being reflected in their standing firm on the gospel Paul had preached to them. [7]  “If this were not the case,” Paul says, “you would have believed in vain, to no avail, with no purpose” (17).  

Paul is not suggesting here that you can be saved and lost again – in fact, quite the contrary.  But he is saying that it is possible for someone to make a disingenuous confession of faith, which later becomes evident in their not “holding fast the word.”  Though he was confident of the reality of the Corinthians’ salvation, the same could not be said of everyone else who professes Christianity. 

Paul’s warning is implicit – without continuing adherence to the foundational elements of the gospel, which he is about to define, any confession of faith is futile, baseless, empty, and without purpose.  That’s why the Scriptures speak of some who profess belief but are not actually saved - their faith is spurious.[8]  The Scriptures do not support the notion that you can genuinely believe and receive the gospel at one time, and then subsequently let it go, renounce it, and turn away from it.  As one commentator puts it, “Faith must exhibit perseverance in the teaching and application of the gospel to be genuinely active.”[9]  To turn away from the truth of the gospel which you once professed is to “have believed in vain” (2) – to never have been truly saved; to be a mere professor.  Those who do not continue to “hold fast the word” of the gospel declare by their action that their profession was carnal, religious, temporal, and, therefore, of no lasting, saving value.[10]

If the gospel has no continuing, permanent, spiritual, and eternal value to you anymore, then you cannot be considered a genuine Christian.  On the other hand, those who continue to cherish, stand upon, proclaim, and defend the gospel are eternally secure (Jn. 10:28).  They are God’s children and can never be anything other than God’s children. 

Underscoring what he has already alluded to in verse 1, Paul now in verse 3 wants to be very clear that the gospel, which he declared to them initially and of which he is reminding them here, is consistent with the tradition of the Christian church.  “For I delivered (handed down) to you as of first importance that which I also received” (3a).  In other words, he says that this gospel is not a new invention but God’s established revelation, which he himself had believed prior to proclaiming it to them (Gal. 1:11-12).  Some translations read “first of all” and  others read “of first importance.”  While both would accurately translate the text, the context would seem to indicate that Paul is not claiming priority of his teaching in terms of time, but that what he preached to them was a priority in terms of importance, for it was the very essence of the Christian gospel.  As Michael Green points out, “On its truth or falsity the whole Christian case rests.”[11]

Like them, he had “received” the gospel.  He doesn’t elaborate on how and when he received it, although we know that, in the first place, he received it in his conversion experience on the Damascus road, when he met the risen Christ (Acts 9:1-7).[12]  But the point is that he isn’t expecting them to believe something that he did not fervently believe and preach himself, nor does he expect them to believe something that differs from the traditional gospel that the Christian church in general had embraced and taught - a gospel, as becomes immediately clear, that was firmly rooted in Christ’s death and resurrection.  For as Fee affirms, “The two basic tenets of the Christian faith, atonement through the death of Christ and a high Christology based on the resurrection, were well formed before Paul came on the scene.”[13]

What is this traditional Christian gospel, then, on which Paul is insisting?  What are the basic and vital components that Paul asserts must be believed in order for us to be saved?  Well, he now explicitly states what he means by “the gospel” in verses 3 and 4.  Some scholars think that this is a recital of a creedal confession of the early church, with which the Corinthians would have been very familiar.  Whether that was so or not doesn’t really matter.  What matters is that the gospel, according to Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is comprised of two primary components supported by two no less vital corollary truths, all of which are of the greatest significance and cannot be compromised, if we are to maintain and defend the truth of the gospel.  The first primary component of the gospel is Christ’s death, and the corollary truth is his burial (3b-4a).  The second primary component of the gospel is Christ’s resurrection, and the supporting truth is his post-resurrection appearances (4b-8).[14]

I need to point out here, that though Paul’s focus in 1 Corinthians 15 is the resurrection, because he is refuting specific error that was floating around the church at Corinth, nonetheless, he is not indicating that any one aspect of the work of Christ is more valuable than the other.  The work of Christ is an indivisible whole.  Undoubtedly, that’s why Paul here is careful to state the gospel in terms of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  We cannot be saved without the death of Christ on the cross, nor can we be saved without the resurrection of Christ.  Nonetheless, to quote Michael Green again, we must emphasize that “the cross of Jesus is the very core of the gospel.”[15]  Or, as John Stott puts it,

“The gospel includes both the death and resurrection of Jesus, since nothing would have been accomplished by his death if he had not been raised from it.  Yet the gospel emphasizes the cross, since it was there that the victory was accomplished.  The resurrection did not achieve our deliverance from sin and death, but has brought us an assurance of both.  It is because of the resurrection that our ‘faith and hope are in God’ (1 Pet. 1:3, 21).”[16], [17]

Now, in affirming these critical elements of the gospel, Paul’s authority is clearly the Scriptures.  What Scriptures?  Well, certainly he would be thinking of O.T. Scriptures like Psalm 16:9-11; Psalm 68:18; and Psalm 110:1.  But I think he is also embracing the entire Old Testament testimony to the death of the promised Messiah in the phrase “according to the Scriptures.”  As he says in Acts 26 before King Agrippa,

“Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing to both small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come – that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22-23).[18] 

Paul’s gospel, then, was the same gospel that the O.T. prophets had declared and which Jesus confirmed in speaking with the two on the road to Emmaus, namely, the entire O.T. Scriptures that speak of him (Lk. 24:25-27). 

The Essence of the True Gospel

Now, let’s look at each of these essential, biblical aspects of the true gospel.

1.  Christ’s death. 

The true, essential gospel affirms “…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (3b).

Notice that Paul does not refer to “Jesus” here but “Christ.”  He wants to be sure that his audience understands that the One who died for our sins according to the Scriptures is none other than the “anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ.”  He is the One of whom the Old Testament Scriptures had spoken, the promised Deliverer, who would accomplish redemption by means of his substitutionary death.  This is the One who, according to Isaiah, was “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities,” upon whom was the “chastisement of our peace” and by whose “stripes we are healed,” upon whom “the Lord laid the iniquity of us all,” the One who “was led as a lamb to the slaughter,” the One who was “cut off from the land of the living,” who was stricken for the “transgressions of (his) people”, and who “made his grave with the wicked but with the rich in his death, because he had done no violence nor was any deceit in his mouth” (Is. 53:5-6; 8-9). 

He is the One to whom the sacrifices, offerings, and feasts of the O.T. pointed, as they continually reminded the children of Israel of their redemption from Egypt, their salvation from certain death, their exodus from bondage, and their means of acceptance before God through the blood of another.[19]  He perfectly fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies concerning the redemption of his people through suffering, death, and resurrection (Isa. 53:10-11; Ps. 22; Ps. 16:9-11).  This is the Redeemer whom God through the prophets promised would come and die for the sins of his people.  And now Paul says, this same One, the Christ, “died for our sins.” 

“Christ died.”  Both Christ’s enemies and friends knew he had died.  The experienced soldiers who executed him pronounced him dead, for they did not break his legs as was their custom to hasten death, but “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (Jn. 19:31-34).  A pierced pericardium was incontrovertible evidence of death.[20]  Pilate was certain that Christ had died, for though at first he was surprised that Jesus was dead already, when the centurion confirmed that it was so, he gave permission to Joseph of Arimathea to take the body of Jesus for burial (Mk. 15:44-45).  The murderous crowd of spectators would have made sure he was dead, for they had taunted him, saying, “If you are the Son of God come down from the cross and we will believe” (Matt. 27:40-44).  Jesus’ friends who embalmed his body with spices, wrapped it in burial clothes, and placed it in the tomb must have been sure he was dead.

“Christ died.”  He didn’t die, as some would assert, merely as a perfect example to us of supreme obedience to God, although that’s true (1 Pet. 2:21).  Nor did he die merely to demonstrate the extent of God’s love to us, although that also is true (Rom. 5:8).  He certainly didn’t die as a helpless victim (Jn. 10:18), nor as a martyr.  Then, why did he die?  

Well, to start with, as John Stott rightly points out, “Before we begin to see the cross as something done for us...we have to see it as something done by us” – a reality that Horatius Bonar so eloquently expressed:

“Twas I that shed the sacred blood;

I nailed him to the tree;

I crucified the Christ of God;

I joined the mockery.” [21]

Christ’s crucifixion was not solely Pilate’s responsibility for the decision he made, nor solely the work of the Roman executioners who nailed him there, nor solely due to Judas’ betrayal, nor solely the consequence of the angry demonstrations of Jesus’ accusers.  Christ died because the human race in sinfulness rejected him; men with wicked intent crucified him, men among whom we must take our place, for had we been there we would have done the same.  We were represented by those who screamed, “Not this Man, but Barabbas!...Away with him! Crucify him...We have no king but Caesar!” (Jn. 18:40; 19:15).  Although Peter’s words were directed specifically at the Jewish antagonists of Christ, nonetheless, we identify with them when Peter said: “Him...you have taken and with lawless hands, have crucified and put to death...You delivered (him) up and denied (him) in the presence of Pilate...You denied the holy One and the just...(you) killed the Prince of life...The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree” (Acts 2:23; 3:13-15; 5:30).  His death was the direct consequence of his rejection by a sinful human race.

But there’s more than that here.  For surely there is also the sense that Christ died on our behalf as our Representative.  We needed a divine representative as our Advocate to effect reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Jn. 2:1-2), and as our Mediator to establish a new covenant with God (Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25).[22]  As the writer of Hebrews points out, “He was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death crowned with glory an honour, that He, by the grace of God, should taste death for everyone... (for) in all things He had to be made like his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Heb. 2:9, 17; cf. 2:14; 4:15; 5:1-10).[23]  He died as our Representative.

But is that all that Paul is saying here?  No, this is surely an all-embracing statement concerning the atoning work of Christ.  Paul is not only affirming the fact that Christ died as a consequence of a wicked act, nor only that Christ died on our behalf as our Representative, but that Christ died in our place, as our Substitute – “Christ died for our sins.”  As George Smeaton puts it, our sins were “the meritorious cause of Christ’s death.”[24]  It’s one thing to represent someone, to plead their case, as a lawyer on behalf of his client before a judge, to be identified with someone in the closest way.  That requires intimacy of knowledge of the one you represent, empathy for them, earnestness to achieve the best result for them, to do whatever you can to help them in their need.  But it’s quite another thing to be their substitute – not merely to represent them but to take their place, so that their actions, their sins, their history, their guilt and the indictment against them become yours and they, in turn, are imputed with your good standing before the judge.  That’s what Christ did.  He died as our Substitute, knowingly facing and bearing the consequent punishment for our sins in our place.  As Simon Kistemaker writes, “Christ not only represents us before God but also takes our place by dying for our sins on the cross”[25] – so that his righteousness is imputed to us, and we stand before God, the Judge, on the same basis as He.

He didn’t die for his own sins; He died for our sins.  He died because he was a willing and vicarious substitute and sacrifice for our sins (Isa. 53; Heb. 7:27; 9:26; 10:12-14; Matt. 20:28; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 Jn. 3:16).  We were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).  We were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12).  We were lost and because of his great mercy and love he came to redeem us by taking our place so that we could be justified freely by his grace before God (Rom. 3:24-26).  We were estranged from God by sin and needed to be reconciled to Him, and the only person who could accomplish that was Christ as our perfect Substitute, the One who was “holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26).  His death alone could free us from our bondage to sin - its penalty, its power, its pleasure, and ultimately its presence (Eph. 1:7; Rom. 3:24; Tit. 2:14; 1 Pet. 1:18).  His death alone could satisfy the wrath of a holy God against our sin by bearing that wrath and punishment for us (Rom. 3:25-26; Heb. 2:17; 1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10).  His death on the cross alone could reconcile us to God and restore peace (Rom. 5:1, 10-11; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20-22).

That’s why He “bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24; cf. Heb. 9:28).  That’s why He “died for the ungodly” when “we were still without strength” (Rom. 5:6).  That’s why He “demonstrated God's love toward us...while were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8).  That’s why He “gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4).  That’s why He “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).  That’s why He “loved us and gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2; cf. 5:25).  That’s why He “gave himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for himself his own special people” (Tit. 2:14).  That’s why “He who knew no sin” was “made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).[26]

This, then, is a simple and succinct summation not only of the representative nature of Christ’s death but also of the substitutionary nature of His death, which, as Gordon Fee states, is “the primary tenet of the Christian faith.”[27] 

The true gospel affirms that “Christ died for our sins.”  Now Paul moves on to the supporting evidence…

2.  Christ’s Burial. 

The true gospel affirms “…that he was buried” (4a).  The burial of Christ at first glance may seem redundant to us, as we would assume that someone who died was also buried.  But this affirmation of the burial of Christ serves to give credence to the previous statement that Christ died for our sins.[28] 

Burial marks both the finality and reality of death.  It is the end of the dying process, if you will.  But more than that, the burial of Christ is an important factor in the apologetic of the resurrection, for if Christ had not been taken down from the cross and buried in a tomb, not only could the sceptics and enemies of Christ argue that he didn’t really die at all, but their corollary argument would also be that he certainly didn’t physically rise again from the dead either.  His burial was a necessary precursor to his physical resurrection.  Without the affirmation of his burial, sceptics could convincingly assert that rather than actually dying, he merely swooned or fell into a coma from which, at the last minute, he revived; or, that his friends took him down from the cross prior to his expiration.  In fact, they could say, there was no death, no burial and, therefore, no resurrection from the dead.[29]

Both the historical record of the gospels and the careful preaching of the apostle Paul safeguard the truth that “he was buried.”  “They took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb,” Paul preached to the rulers of the synagogue in Antioch (Acts 13:29).  “He was buried,” Paul confirms here to the Corinthians.  Christ was buried in a borrowed tomb, which was sealed with a stone and guarded by Jewish guards (Matt. 27:65-66).  The gospel writers are very careful to detail the extent to which the Jewish authorities went to prevent any possibility of a bogus resurrection (Matt. 27:62-66).

If ever there was a burial that was highly attested to and securely guarded it was this one, in order to ensure to the unbelieving world that Christ “died and was buried.”  Just as he did not come down from the cross, so he did not escape from the tomb.  How could he possibly have rolled away the stone in a post-comatose condition?  Nor did his disciples steal his body when the guards were sleeping.  Why would they concoct a conspiracy about Jesus and attempt to cover it up as martyrs for his cause, if he had not actually risen from the dead?  Besides, how could they steal his body without the soldiers preventing them?  And certainly, his enemies didn’t steal the body or they would have later produced it to discredit the testimonies of his resurrection.  No one stole the body.  If they had, they certainly would not have left the grave clothes perfectly in place, would they?  That was the very evidence that caused John to “see and believe” (Jn. 20:6-8).  No, the stealing of the body was a fabrication of the chief priests and elders, in their desperate attempt to explain what had happened, so much so that they bribed the soldiers to perpetrate the lie (Matt. 28:11-15).

Paul says, the true gospel affirms that Christ died for our sins and he was buried.  But the story does not end there, for unlike any other death and burial, this was followed by... 

3.  Christ’s Resurrection. 

The true gospel affirms “…that he was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures” (4b).  As burial follows death, so, for Christ, resurrection follows burial.  God did not leave him in the grave, nor allow his body to experience corruption, as Psalm 16:10 accurately prophesied.

Rather than “he was raised,” a better translation would be “he has been raised” in order to show the perfect tense and the passive voice of the verb.  The perfect tense indicates that what happened once in the past continues to be true and beneficial in the present.  He continues to be raised.  He has not died again, as Lazarus and others did.  Christ has been, and continues to be, raised from the dead.  And the passive voice clearly reflects the truth that God raised him from the dead, a truth that the apostles preached vigorously and continuously in Acts ( Acts 3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 37).  God was both active and powerful in raising Christ not only from a sealed and guarded tomb, but from the dead (cf. Eph. 1:19-20).  Human agents might have been able to break the seal, although they didn’t.  Human agents might have been able to overcome the guards, although they didn’t.  But only a divine agent could raise him from the dead.

Again, Paul appeals to “the Scriptures” as the authority for his assertion that Christ was raised on the third day.  As in verse 3, this must be another reference to those messianic O.T. texts that prophesy of his resurrection (e.g. Ps. 16:8-11; 110:1; Isa. 53:10-12).  But where do we read about the third day?  Kistemaker and Fee agree that though there is no single reference to the third day in the O.T., taken in combination there is evidence - such as God’s restoration of Israel on the third day (Hos. 6:2); and Jonah inside the fish for three days (Jon. 1:17), which Jesus himself quotes in connection with his resurrection (Matt. 12:40).[30] 

The true gospel, then, affirms that Christ died for our sins.  The true gospel affirms that Christ was buried.  And, the true gospel affirms that Christ has been raised from the dead on the third day.  How do we know for sure that Christ rose from the dead?  We know for sure because of...

4.  Christ’s Appearances.   

The true gospel affirms that, after his resurrection, “he was seen.”  We know it for sure because Scripture says that Christ’s resurrection was fully attested.  Not only does the true gospel affirm that Christ has been raised from the dead, but the true gospel also affirms “that he was seen” after his resurrection.  By citing a list of identifiable and known eyewitnesses, the claim “that he has been raised again on the third day” is greatly strengthened.  This is the supporting truth to the claim that “Christ has been raised.”  Eyewitness testimony gives both credibility and authority to the proof of Christ’s resurrection.  It would be one thing to claim “that he was raised”, but apologetically it is much more powerful to add “and he was seen.”  Just as Christ’s death and burial were real and physical, so Christ’s resurrection was real and physical, not metaphorical or metaphysical.  This is further emphasized by Paul in choosing to say that “he was seen”, rather than “he appeared.”  An appearance could be construed as a vision or explained away as some sort of post-resurrection hallucination, or even wishful thinking, as some would assert.  But the reality is that they saw him corporeally with their eyes. 

Eyewitnesses testified to the empty tomb (Matt.28:5-6; Mk. 16:5-6; Lk. 24:3-4; Jn. 20:6-8).  The empty tomb is evidence that he is alive.  “Why do you seek the living among the dead…He is not here; he is risen as he said.”  The last thing the enemies of Jesus wanted and the thing they feared the most, was an empty tomb (Matt. 27:63-64).  And that’s exactly what occurred.  Despite carefully sealing the tomb with a stone, and despite setting an enemy guard, to the horror of his antagonists and to the delight of his followers Christ arose from the dead, the physical evidence of which was the empty tomb, witnessed by the women and John and Peter.

Eyewitnesses testified not only to the empty tomb but also to Christ’s bodily resurrection.  After his resurrection, he was not a spirit or some sort of apparition.  He spoke to them and blessed them (Jn. 20:21).  They were able to touch his body, for, as Jesus said, “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Lk. 24:38-39; cf. also Matt. 28:9; Jn. 20:17, 27).  They recognized his appearance (Jn. 21:7).  They walked beside him (Lk. 24:13ff.), ate with him, and fellowshipped with him (Lk. 24:30, 42-43; Jn. 21:10-14).  He rose physically from the dead.

The true gospel affirms that eyewitnesses testified to Christ’s bodily, post-resurrection appearances.  Paul is very specific in naming those to whom Christ appeared.  First, “He was seen by Cephas” (5a)[31] presumably referring to that moment when Peter’s relationship with Jesus was restored.[32]  After Peter, Christ was seen by “the twelve” (5b),  an expression referring to the special group of men whom Jesus chose to follow him in his ministry, who were witnesses of his resurrection and founders of the Christian church.  Presumably, this was the occasion of his second behind-closed-doors appearances to his disciples, when Thomas the sceptic was present (Jn. 20:26-29).  These were the men whom Christ would commission to bear the good news of the gospel throughout the middle east and Europe, men whose witness of Christ’s resurrection rendered them credible, reliable, and fearless witnesses.

Then he was seen by “more than five hundred brethren at once” (6a).  Evidently, this was an identifiable group, since Paul knew that many of them were still alive at the time of his writing (6b) – living people who could testify about what they had experienced, and who could be interrogated by anyone who doubted the truth of Christ’s resurrection, as some of the Corinthians did. 

“After that, he was seen by James” (7a).  Though there are three different James’s in the N.T., most scholars think that this refers to Jesus’ half brother, the significance of which is that he, together with Jesus’ other brothers, had not believed in Jesus prior to his death (Jn. 7:5).  But by the time of Christ’s ascension, the sceptic had become a believer and is identified with the rest of the apostles (Acts. 1:13-14).[33] 

Eyewitnesses testified not only to Christ’s pre-ascension appearances but also to Christ’s ascension appearance.  Perhaps this is what Paul is alluding to when he says, “Then (he was seen by) all the apostles” (7b).  The term “all the apostles” embraces a larger group of followers than just “the twelve,” all of whom witnessed him collectively after his resurrection, probably at his final appearance at his ascension (Acts 1:6-11). 

So, of all the witnesses of Christ after his resurrection, Paul is very careful to select not only those of Christ’s intimate followers (the twelve), but also those who  might be the least likely to attest to his resurrection (namely, those who had previously denied him [Peter] and disbelieved him [James]), as well as broader groups (five hundred; all the apostles), whose testimony, to be credible, would undoubtedly have to be unanimous.  In other words, the reality of the resurrection is so important that it is attested to not merely by those close to Christ, not merely by those who were formerly part of his relatively obscure group of disciples, nor merely by private individuals whose testimony might be suspect,[34] but rather it is affirmed by a broad, credible, objective group of witnesses, who were prepared to uphold the truth of it even if that meant death.

Not only did eyewitnesses testify to the truth of the resurrection in Christ’s pre-ascension appearances and ascension appearances, but the final eyewitness testified of Christ’s post-ascension appearance.  “Then last of all He was seen by me also,” Paul says, “as by one born out of due time” (8).  Paul constantly referred back to his conversion experience.  Still to this day, personal testimonies of those who are converted to Christ are powerful evidences of the grace of God and the reality of the gospel.  This was certainly true of Paul’s testimony, not only because of the dramatic, supernatural nature of his conversion but also (1) because he was a prominent persecutor of the church; (2) because he became the apostle to the Gentiles; and (3) because he was the last human being to see and hear the resurrected Christ.  “Last of all he was seen by me,” Paul says (cf. Acts 9:1-19).

To give a sense of the uniqueness of his conversion experience, Paul describes it in terms usually used to refer to the abnormal birth of a baby, perhaps an abortion, a miscarriage, a premature birth, or a physical impairment – one abnormally born, “born out of due time.”[35]  Not only does this convey the idea of abnormal timing, in this case abnormally late (compared to the other apostles), but also the abnormal circumstances under which it took place.  Long after Christ’s earthly post-resurrection appearances to the other witnesses, Paul says, “Last of all He was seen by me also, as one born out of due time.”   His new birth was untimely in the sense that though he was “called by God from his mother’s womb” (Gal.1:15-16), nonetheless, he did not become a follower of Christ at the same time as the other apostles but, on the contrary, was actively engaged in persecuting the church, until Christ arrested him on the Damascus road.  Unlike the others, he had not participated in the ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension experiences of the other apostles, but, conversely, he had participated in persecuting those who had believed their message.  Nonetheless, this unlikely person, at such an unlikely time, in such unlikely circumstances met the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1) and he had been saved by God’s grace. 

By Christ appearing to him in this miraculous way, Paul too became an “eyewitness” of the resurrected Christ and as such is included with all the other apostolic witnesses (Acts 1:22).  No wonder, then, that he is absorbed with the death and resurrection of Christ in his sermons recorded in Acts and in his writings in the epistles, particularly, in our passage in 1 Corinthians 15.

Conclusions

The reality is that the death and resurrection of Christ are historical fact.  Granted, there are some, who, like those who deny the historicity of the holocaust, vigorously contend that the resurrection of Christ is fiction, such as Rudolph Bultmann, who claimed that “the resurrection is not itself an event in past history.”[36]  But the evidence to support the resurrection is too compelling to be rationally denied,[37] and, as Ravi Zacharias says in “Can Man Live Without God”: “No event in history has been so subjected to scrutiny and analysis as this claim of Jesus.”[38]  And John Frame writes: “The fact is...that the resurrection is as well established as any fact of history – indeed better than most, for it is attested by the Word of God itself.”[39]  Not only do all the Gospel writers consistently agree on their testimony, but the other apostles also corroborate their witness.  Further, no believable, naturalistic explanations of Jesus’ resurrection have ever been put forward.  None of the enemies of Jesus has ever presented contradictory evidence, the most convincing and final of which would be to produce Jesus’ body.  And besides, if the resurrection were not true, why on earth would the disciples have been willing to risk their lives for an event that didn’t happen?  Why would the entire Christian church for the last 2000 years root its belief in an event which didn’t occur?  Such a belief system would be lunacy.

The truth is that as the result of a gross miscarriage of justice,[40] Jesus was condemned for contravening Jewish law (namely, making himself God), he was put to death, he was buried, and on the third day he rose again.  That’s historical fact, which any rational person, who believes documented history can and should believe.  But, that he died for our sins, as our substitute, and rose again for our justification, that’s biblical truth, which only Christians accept by faith.  The gap between belief in the historical death of Jesus and belief in his substitutionary, atoning death and physical resurrection can only be bridged by the grace of God, through faith, under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.

From the incontrovertible evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, I conclude that Jesus was who He said he was, God manifest in flesh (Jn. 1:14).  Why must this conclusion be so?  Does the resurrection of Christ from the dead necessarily prove his deity?  I resoundingly answer, “Yes!”  Death is the most basic human problem and the ultimate enemy of the human race, an enemy over which we have no power and to which we must in the end succumb, for as Scripture attests, “It is appointed unto man once to die” (Heb. 9:27).[41]  If someone dies and subsequently rises again from the dead, at the very least we would have to admit that such a person is like no other human being.  But more than that, if we are totally honest and logical in our thinking we would have to conclude that such a person is God, in whom alone lies the power of life (Jn. 1:4; 10:10).  God alone has the right to give life or to withhold it (Job. 2:21).  Therefore, we must surely conclude that Christ’s resurrection from the dead is proof of his power over death (Jn. 11:25; Heb. 2:14) and, thus, his deity.  He is the Creator God who could not be held captive by death.  In rising from the dead, Jesus conquered man’s ultimate enemy and, as a consequence, all those who believe in him receive eternal life as a benefit of his resurrection (Jn. 11:26; 14:19). 

But, you may counter, Lazarus rose from the dead (Jn. 11:38-44); the widow of Nain’s son rose from the dead (Lk. 7:11-14); Jairus’ daughter rose from the dead (Lk. 8:41-42, 49-56).  Yes, but notice some very important differences from Christ’s resurrection: (1) none of them claimed deity; (2) they didn’t raise themselves from the dead; (3) nor did they predict their death and resurrection; (4) in fact, they all eventually died again in the normal course; and (5) in all these cases, the act of resurrection was attributed solely to Jesus himself!  In contrast, not only did Christ rise from the dead, but he actually predicted his own death and resurrection three days later, and accomplished it with no human help.  To predict your own death and the exact date of your own resurrection is the work of God alone.  Thus, Paul asserts elsewhere, that God has declared Jesus “to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). 

Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate proof of his deity, which he claimed for himself (Matt. 16:16-17; 26:63-64), which the angels had predicted at his birth (Lk. 2:11) and which they affirmed at the empty tomb (Lk. 24:6).  If Jesus Christ is not God then his claims (1) to be able to forgive sins (Mk. 2:10); (2) to be worthy and accepting of worship (Lk. 5:8); (3) to be the executor of judgement at the last day (Matt. 25:31ff.); and (4) to be able to impart life (Jn. 11:25; 10:10), all are false, for Christ himself rested all these claims on his resurrection (e.g. Matt. 12:39-40).  But he rose from the dead and  proved conclusively to his disciples and to all subsequent believers that he was, as Peter confessed, “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16).

But, you may ask, why is the resurrection of Christ essential to the gospel?  The resurrection of Christ is essential to the gospel because it verifies that his self-sacrifice on the cross atoned for our sins.  It is the proof that his atonement was fully accepted by God (Acts 2:24; Rom. 1:4; Eph. 1:20).  If he had not risen from the dead, then we would have to conclude that he was a liar, an impostor, or a mad man, and that he was not who he said he was.  Only a perfect man could atone for our sins (2 Cor. 5:21).  This perfect man was none other than the Son of God himself.  As George Smeaton puts it, “The scope of the atonement, with its validity and efficacy, would all have been neutralized, if the Surety, who went down to death under the sins of His people, had not risen: we should yet be in our sins.  When he rose, therefore, it was undeniable evidence that our sins had been expiated by His death.”[42]

Christ’s resurrection is essential to the gospel because it demonstrates his omnipotence.  Anyone who has power over death, man’s ultimate enemy, must himself be far greater in nature and essence than any human being.  This power can only be attributed to our omnipotent God, who “controls all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3) and who “is the author and sustainer of life (Rom. 4:!7; 1 Tim. 6:13; Jn. 1:4; 10:10; Job 2:21; Col. 1:16).

Christ’s resurrection is essential to the gospel because it became the nucleus of the message of the early church – that is, Jesus and the resurrection (Acts 4:2, 33; 17:18).  This was an event like no other, which, for the apostles, provided abundant and final proof that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 17:2-3) as he said.  If he was who he said he was, then he is worthy of their allegiance and worship.

Christ’s resurrection is essential to the gospel because Christians now derive their power for living from his resurrection power (Phil. 3:10).  For the believer, Christ’s resurrection is the “first-fruit” (precursor, foretaste) of our own resurrection (Rom. 6:5; 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:20-26; Phil. 13:10-11, 21; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; 1 Pet. 1:3; Rev. 20:5).  More than that, it is the guarantee of our resurrection and eternal union with him.  Christ’s resurrection is important because it is now our object and motivation for living.  We live for him now as those who will one day be resurrected by him to be forever with him.  This gives a certain character to our lives.  We are “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13).  We are waiting “for God’s Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10).  “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to his glorious body, according to the working by which he is able even to subdue all things to himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

The essential nature of Christ’s resurrection can be argued effectively by asking the question, “What if he had not risen from the dead?”  Paul answers that question for us.  If that isn’t true, he says, “your faith is empty” (14), “you are still in your sins” (17).  He says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people the most pitiable” (19).  If Christ is not risen, we will not rise.  If Christ is not risen, he was not the Messiah, our sins are not covered, we are lost forever.  If Christ is not risen, our faith is blind and baseless.  If he is not risen, our message is a lie (12-19). 

But, the truth is, Paul says, “Christ is risen from the dead and has become the first fruits if those who have fallen asleep” (20ff.), and at the last day the trumpet will sound,  the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed, death will be swallowed up in the great and glorious victory which is ours through Jesus Christ, our Lord (51ff.).  And, that, Paul says, is the gospel truth.  It is the truth of God on which our faith rests for time and eternity.

I like how Octavius Winslow expresses this.  He says, “Is Jesus alive at the right hand of God?  Then the debt is paid, and justice is satisfied.  Is Jesus alive at the right hand of God?  Then the Father is well pleased in the work of His Son, and He ‘rests in His love, and rejoices over His church with singing.’  Is Jesus alive?  Then every promise shall be fulfilled, and all the blessings of the everlasting covenant shall be freely bestowed, and I, a poor worthless sinner, yet resting upon His atoning work, shall live also.”[43]

When my wife and I were in Ukraine at Easter time in 2004, we were privileged to participate in an Easter service.  Before I preached, I followed their Easter tradition by saying, “Christ is risen.”  In response, the congregation stands and fervently replies, “He is risen indeed!”  This is repeated three times.  I found it a very compelling and attractive tradition, for it vividly reminds us of the basis of all that we believe and hope for.  That’s what sets Christianity apart from all other world religions and gives life and meaning to our faith, isn’t it? - that the One in whom we believe, follow, serve, worship, proclaim, and defend is not dead.  He is alive!   

The good news is that the true gospel affirms that the cross was not the end but the beginning, for Christians do not worship a dead man but a living Saviour; we do not mourn over a sealed grave but rejoice in an empty tomb; we do not preach a temporal message but a life-transforming gospel; we do not merely honour the memory of a good man but we commemorate the Son of God; we do not fear death but trust Christ’s victory over death; we do not await the grave but we await the moment when we will be with and like Christ.

And so, as I stated at the outset, my thesis is that “the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a non-negotiable, essential component of the true gospel.”  Buddha died and his remains have gone to ashes.  Mohammed died and has never been heard from since.  Joseph Smith died amid a hail of bullets, and never revived.  Only Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and is coming back again, as he said: “I am he who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forever more. Amen.  And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” (Rev. 1:18). 

May God enable us to be faithful in defending the true gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness, with fervency, boldness, and accuracy.  May Paul’s prayer request in Ephesians 6:19 be ours, “that utterance may be given to us, that we may open our

mouths boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel.”



SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Calvin, John.  1 Corinthians.  Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries.  Eds. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance. Trans. John W. Fraser. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960.

Edwards, Jonathan.  History of Redemption, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1.  Revised and corrected by Edward Hickman.  Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1834, reprint, 1995.

Fee, Gordon D.  The First Epistle to the Corinthians.  The New International Commentary on the New Testament.  Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.

Frame, John.  Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction.  Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 1994.

Green, Michael.  The Empty Cross of Jesus.  London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1984.

________.  Christ Is Risen: So What?  Tonbridge: Sovereign World, 1995.

Hodge, Charles.  Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians.  Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprint, 1994.

Kistemaker, Simon J.  Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians.  Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993.

Loscalzo, Craig A.  Apologetic Preaching: Proclaiming Christ to a Postmodern World.  Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000.

MacArthur, John Jr. 1 Corinthians.  The MacArthur New Testament Commentary.  Chicago: Moody Press, 1984.

Montgomery, John Warwick.  Faith Founded on Fact: Essays in Evidential Apologetics.  Newburgh, Indiana, Trinity Press, 1978.

Prior, David.  The Message of 1 Corinthians.  The Bible Speaks Today.  Ed. John R. W. Stott.  Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985.

Smeaton, George.  The Doctrine of the Atonement According to the Apostles.  Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1870, reprint, 1978.

Stott, John.  The Cross of Christ.  Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986.

Winslow, Octavius, The Work of the Holy Spirit.  Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1840, reprint, 1991.

Zacharias, Ravi.  Can Man Live Without God.  Foreword by, Charles Colson.  Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994.

 



[1] This is, undoubtedly, an age that Paul described, “when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4, ESV).

[2] John MacArthur, Jr., 1 Corinthians, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 398.

[3] E.g. Acts 1:21-23; 2:22-36; 3:14-15; 4:1, 10, 32-33; 5:29-32; 10:39-41; 13:29-39; 17:3,18,31-32; 23:6-8; 24:15-21; 26:23; Rom. 1:1-4; 4:24-25; Rom. 6:4-5, 9; 7:4; 8:11; 9:17; 10:9; 1 Cor. 6:14; 15:1ff.; 2 Cor. 4:14; Gal. 1:1; Eph. 1:20; 2:6; Phil. 3:10-11; Col. 2:12; 3:1; 1 Th. 1:10; 4:14; 2 Tim. 2:18; Heb. 6:2; 11:35; 1 Pet. 1:3-8, 21; 3:21-22.

[4] John Warwick Montgomery, Faith Founded on Fact: Essays in Evidential Apologetics (Newburgh, Indiana: Trinity Press, 1978), 78.

[5] Idem.

[6] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987), 718.

[7] This, of course, is confirmed elsewhere about them – for example, when Paul addresses them as “brethren” (1:1) and when he affirms of them that “such were some of you (i.e.  fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals etc.) but you were washed…sanctified...justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). 

[8] MacArthur cites the examples of the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:1-23); and Matt. 7:22-23.

[9] Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 527.

[10]  Cf. Matt. 7:22-23; 25:11-12

[11] Michael Green, The Empty Cross of Jesus (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1984), 96.

[12] And he undoubtedly also received it from the other apostles who were eyewitnesses of Christ’s death and resurrection, and with whom he consulted after his conversion (Acts 9:27-28; Gal. 1:18-19).

[13] Fee, 722.

[14] Fee, 723ff.

[15] Green, 11.

[16] John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 239. Stott explains it in more detail this way:

“We need to be clear about the nature of the relation between the death and resurrection of Jesus, and careful not to ascribe saving efficacy to both equally…It is by the blood of Jesus that God’s wrath against sin was propitiated, and by the same blood of Jesus that we have been redeemed, justified, and reconciled.  For it was by his death, and not his resurrection that our sins were dealt with…Nowhere in the New Testament is it written that ‘Christ rose for our sins’…Of course, the resurrection is essential to confirm the efficacy of his death…But we must insist that Christ’s work of sin-bearing was finished on the cross, that the victory over the devil, sin and death was won there, and that what the resurrection did was to vindicate the Jesus whom men had rejected, to declare with power that he is the Son of God, and publicly to confirm that his sin-bearing death had been effective for the forgiveness of sins.  If he had not been raised, our faith and our preaching would be futile, since his person and work would not have received the divine endorsement.  This is the implication of Romans 4:25, which at first sight seems to teach that Christ’s resurrection is the means of our justification: ‘He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.’  Charles Cranfield explains: ‘What was necessitated by our sins was, in the first place, Christ’s atoning death, and yet, had his death not been followed by his resurrection, it would not have been God’s mighty deed for our justification.’  In addition, because of the resurrection it is a living Christ who bestows on us the salvation he has won for us on the cross, who enables us by his Spirit not only to share in the merit of his death but also to live in the power of his resurrection, and who promises us that on the last day we too will have resurrection bodies.

“James Denney expresses the relation between Jesus’ death and resurrection this way: ‘There can be no salvation from sin unless there is a living Saviour: this explains the emphasis laid by the apostle on the resurrection.  But the living One can be a Saviour only because he has died: this explains the emphasis laid on the cross.  The Christian believes in a living Lord, or he could not believe at all; but he believes in a living Lord who dies an atoning death, for no other can hold the faith of a soul under the doom of sin.’” (The Cross of Christ, 237-238).

[17] Other quotes:

a) Jonathan Edwards: “As the incarnation of Christ was necessary in order to his being in a near capacity for the purchase of redemption; so his resurrection and ascension were requisite in order to the success of his purchase.”[17] Then Edwards goes on to quote Rom. 14:9, “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” [Jonathan Edwards, History of Redemption, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1, revised and corrected by Edward Hickman (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1834, reprint, 1995), 585].

b) John Calvin: “The commencement (initium) of our salvation is in His death...and its completion (complementum) in His resurrection.” [John Calvin, 1 Corinthians, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, trans. John W. Fraser, eds. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1960), 314].

[18] See specific O.T. Scriptures that speak directly of this – e.g. Ps 2:7; Isa 53; Hos. 6:2; Gen. 22:8.  Cf. Messianic allusion in Ps. 22:1; 14-18.

[19] E.g. the Passover, the Day of Atonement, Abraham and Isaac (“God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering) etc.

[20] As Michael Green says, this was “proof positive that Jesus was dead,” 93.

[21] Stott, 58-59.

[22] Kistemaker, 529.

[23] As the second Adam, through his “righteous act” on our behalf, “the free gift came to all men” (Rom. 5:18; cf. 5:19).  He identified himself with us in our humanity and in our need, and we received the benefit of his righteousness.  He represented us in our desperate need and estrangement from God.

[24] George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Atonement According to the Apostles (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1870, reprint, 1978), 207.

[25] Kistemaker, 529.

[26] Because he died as our Substitute, Christ is also our Advocate, who intercedes on our behalf, pleads our case before God (1 Jn. 2:1).  Because he is our Substitute, Christ is also our Mediator - He mediated a new covenant between us and God, a covenant in his blood, shed for us (1 Cor. 11:25; Lk. 22:20; 1 Tim. 2:5).  Because he is our Substitute, Christ is our Saviour, Redeemer.  He died to redeem us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13), from the world (Gal. 6:14), from sin, and from Satan (Heb. 2:14-15; cf. 1 Tim. 2:6).  He has redeemed us to God by his blood (Rev. 5:9).  He has given us eternal life by faith in him (Jn. 3:16; 1Jn. 5:11; Jn. 5:24; 1 Thess. 5:10).

[27] Fee, 723.

[28] See Fee, 723.

[29] Such theories include the Passover Plot, the chariot of the gods etc.

[30] Kistemaker, 530-531; Fee, 727-728.

[31] Aramaic for Peter (1 Cor. 15:5; Lk. 24:34).

[32] Perhaps Peter is mentioned first (1) because of his leadership position among the disciples and in the Jerusalem church; or (2) perhaps because of his public denial of Christ and subsequent remorse, to which the grace of Christ responded in restoration as soon as they met after the resurrection (Mk. 16:7; Jn. 21:15-19).  No wonder that Peter emphasizes in his sermons in Acts and his epistles the death and resurrection of Christ (see footnote 1). 

[33] In addition, not only is James significant because of his prior unbelief and his relationship to Jesus, but also, like Peter, because of his leadership position in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; Gal. 2:9; Acts 21:18-19).

[34]  i.e. they could be lying or mistaken.

[35] Fee points out that this term was also used to describe “something horrible or ‘freakish’” and he speculates as to whether the term was actually used by the Corinthians as a pejorative description of  Paul’s physical weakness or “freakish” appearance, or as a play on Paul’s name which means “the little one.” Fee suggests that this might explain Paul’s digression about himself as the least of all the apostles (see Fee, 733).  

[36] Cited in Green, The Empty Cross, 106.

[37] For discussions on this subject, see: John Warwick Montgomery, Faith Founded on Fact (Newburgh, Indiana: Trinity Press, 1978), 75-79; “The Jury Returns” in Evidence for Faith: A Juridical Defence of Christianity  (Dallas: Probe Books, 1991), 331-337; and Robert C. Newman, “Miracles and the Historicity of the Easter Week Narratives” in Evidence for Faith, 275-295.

[38] Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1994), 161.

[39] John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 1994), 146.

[40] Stott, 48.

[41] Further, it is the most distressing and yet totally unavoidable problem of human existence.  Death is the most important event of life, but an event which all people would prefer to avoid. 

[42] Smeaton, 207.

[43] Octavius Winslow, The Work of the Holy Spirit (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1840, reprint, 1991), 95.

Related Topics: Resurrection