THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION
By Mark Moon
1 Corinthians 15:12-34
Key Verse: 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
In verses 1-11 we learn the gospel: Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. In verses 12-34 Paul teaches about the power of the Risen Christ. Paul tells why the resurrection of Christ is necessary, what the Risen Christ’s power is like, and a warning about bad company.
The Necessity of the Resurrection (12-19)
In this part Paul writes very logically, step by step, in order to explain why the resurrection of Christ is necessary. Look at verse 12. “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” Among the Christians in Corinth there were those who believed in Jesus, but whose faith was not rooted in the resurrection. They attended church and enjoyed fellowship. But whenever they heard the words, “the resurrection of Christ,” they drew the line in their minds and thought the resurrection was neither practical nor believable. So some of the Corinthians were saying, “There is no resurrection,” even though it had been preached to them. They did not deny the resurrection of Christ itself, but they renounced their own resurrection and eternal life although they received the gospel of life. Their faith was more concerned with their present situation than with man’s salvation from sin and eternal life. Their minds and lives were earthbound.
So Paul, in the following seven verses, explains why the resurrection is necessary as an argument to prove the resurrection is real. First, if there is no resurrection, the world is under the power of death. Look at verse 13. “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.” If there is no such thing as rising from the dead, then “not even Christ” has been raised. In fact, however, Christ was raised from the dead. Among all the names and faces of people who have died, only Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. In a vast field of death, Jesus Christ through his resurrection is the only seed of eternal life. But when they claimed that there is no resurrection, they denied the resurrection of Christ itself. Writing in the subjunctive mood, Paul helps them think about what the contents of the world would be if Christ had not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, then there is “never” “any” resurrection. If Christ has not been raised, then the world is nothing but death. The world would be full of graveyards and graves and dying people and evil people and evil spirits. In such a world, all the activities of all people end in death. All human beings are then the living dead with no hope. There would be no purpose or meaning of life other than mere survival. If Christ has not been raised, then the world is full of death and its destructive power.
Second, if there is no resurrection, faith in Jesus is useless. Look at verse 14. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Christian faith rests on the death and resurrection of Christ. We Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; but he died for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day and gave us a living hope in the kingdom of God. We Christians believe this and proclaim it to the whole world. So, if there is no resurrection, we Christians are just a bunch of liars. That is not the case. Because we believe in the resurrection of Christ, we become victors over the power of evil and death. Because we believe in the resurrection, we invest our lives in the work of the gospel and make daily sacrifices. Because God raised Christ from the dead according to his promises, our faith is not in vain.
Third, if there is no resurrection, we deny the almighty power of God. Look at verse 15a. “More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God…” The Bible says that after Jesus Christ had been in the tomb three days God raised him from the dead. This means that God is the Almighty Creator. Our God is the Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth by the word of his mouth. Our God is the Almighty who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. However, if Christ had not been raised from the dead, our God is not powerful. Moreover, we are found to be false witnesses.
Fourth, if there is no resurrection, we are still in our sins. Look at verse 17. “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” If Christ was not raised from the dead, he did not conquer the power of sin and death. If Christ did not conquer the power of sin and death, all human beings are still under the power of sin and death. But Jesus Christ was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures. Through his resurrection, God solved our sin problem (Jn 1:29).
Fifth, if there is no resurrection, Christians are to be pitied. Look at verses 18-19. “Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” “Those who have fallen asleep” refers to the faithful servants of God down through history who died in God, like Moses and Elijah. They denied luxury and comfort and suffered endlessly during their lifetimes for the sake of the Lord. If they had only died, just like everyone else, then their lives were foolish and pitiful. If Christ was not raised from the dead, then the mentality of seeking fleeting pleasures, “Let’s eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”–might be the best lifestyle for mankind (32b). If there is no resurrection, then those who participate in the remaining sufferings of Christ are the most pathetic people. But Jesus Christ was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures, and Christians are not pitiful people; they are the most glorious people in the glorious resurrection of Christ. We keep the faith and fight the good fight because we believe that the Risen Christ is our inheritance.
The Power of the Risen Christ (20-28)
In this second part Paul explains how great the power of the resurrection is. Look at verse 20. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.” The resurrection of Christ is not a theory or an idea. It is an historical fact. The resurrection of Christ is a demonstration of the power of God and a manifestation of the resurrection of believers. In the following verses, Paul explains two facts about the power of resurrection.
First, the Risen Christ has the power to give a man new life. Down through history everyone has had to bow down to the power of death. Great men and women in history, without intending to, have had to kneel down before the power of death. This tragedy became natural and was disseminated because all human beings are under Adam’s fall. Adam was the ancestor of the human race. He yielded to the temptation of the devil and disobeyed God’s absolute command. Because of his deliberate disobedience, sin came into the world, and the consequence of sin was death for everyone (Ro 5:12). However, look at verse 21b. “…the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man [Jesus Christ]”. As death came through Adam, the resurrection of the dead came through Jesus Christ. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive” (22). God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and made him the “firstfruits” of eternal life, a sign for the coming resurrection of believers. Whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16). The Risen Christ has life-giving power. In John 11:25, Christ proclaims, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die…” Read verse 22. “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive”.
Second, the Risen Christ has the power to restore the kingdom of God (24,25,27,28). Look at verse 24. “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” In the course of restoring the kingdom of God, the Risen Christ will first destroy all evil and unrighteousness. No matter how good many things of the world may seem, the world is full of evil. Where there is evil and unrighteousness, there is always fear and sorrow (Isa 8:22). Fear and sorrow make man miserable. But when the time comes, the Risen Christ will destroy all evil dominion, authority and power (24b).
Next, the Risen Christ will destroy death. Look at verse 26. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death is the fruit of sin. There are two kinds of death–first, physical death and then spiritual death—called “the second death” or eternal condemnation. Death is the last enemy of man. Death has a sting. During their lives, those who sin against God get many injuries and wounds both in body and spirit because of the sting of death. And after death they can’t just die; they have to live forever in the midst of the sting of death in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Look at verse 26 again. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” The power of death is imbedded in man and in the world beyond remedy. But the Risen Christ will destroy this last enemy of mankind, death, with his resurrection power.
Finally the Risen Christ will restore creation order. Read verse 24. “Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.” Read verse 28. “When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” Originally, there was one kingdom–the kingdom of God. But because of Adam’s disobedience, another kingdom came into the world–the kingdom of Satan. Satan was originally an angel of God. But in his vanity he abandoned God’s mission and became Satan, and he has ruled the darkness of the world ever since Adam’s fall. This Satan has been roaming around, capturing all unbelieving, wicked people and locking them in the dungeon of his kingdom. But when God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, he secured the complete destruction of the kingdom of Satan, and at the same time the full restoration of the kingdom of God. In the Risen Christ, God will once again be regarded as the Center of the universe. In the Risen Christ, the kingdom of God, the lost paradise, is restored. In the Risen Christ, man again obtains the privilege of entering the kingdom of God—that is, whoever believes in the Risen Christ. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the kingdom of God is fully restored. We will be rejoicing in eternal life with the full measure of happiness, love and peace forever and ever (Isa 11:1-9; Rev 21:1-4).
Do Not Deceived (29-34)
Look at verse 29. Through baptism for the dead, the Corinthians hoped that the dead could live again. But Paul said that without resurrection faith, this ritualistic baptism had no meaning. Paul knew that some of the Corinthians were sincere, even amidst the ritualistic church activities and the ridicule and disapproval of the general public. But they had reached their human limitation in keeping up their lives of faith. Paul knew that they had become shaky in their lives of faith because they had not taken deep root in resurrection faith. So Paul explained why he and his co-workers struggled to live a victorious life. It was because he and his co-workers believed that Christ is risen. So they lived like good soldiers of Christ. Look at verses 30-32. “And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I die every day—I mean that, brothers–just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.'”
Paul gives some final advice in verse 33. “Do not be misled [do not deceived (KJV)]: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.'” The bad company is those who live without resurrection faith. When they don’t have resurrection faith, their hard and diligent effort can be their source of strength. But sooner or later they feel that they don’t know why they have to work so hard to eat three meals a day. In other words, they do not find the meaning of life. When they don’t have the meaning of life they gradually become wild, and sink into deep fatalism. The meaning of their life’s existence can make them strong and wise. But when one has no meaning of his life’s existence, he loses his strength and wisdom and he becomes powerless. They put all their attention into what the world has to offer. The things of the world are impressive and desirable, but they are all temporal. What is more, such people live in sin only. Paul said in verse 34a, “Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning.” Paul said, “Stop sinning…” It meant that those who say, “I am a Christian,” but who do not have resurrection faith are sinning, because they are living double lives. May God help us to believe in the resurrection of Christ and to live by the power of the resurrection!