Easter

Let's Pretend Jesus Isn't Raised

An Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Paul is going to use a specific type of conditional statement throughout this section where what he does is says, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it is true that Christ isn’t raised. I want to demonstrate your bad thinking by taking it to its logical conclusion. Let’s play this thing out together.

Jesus of Nazareth was God and man united in one person. That one person died. The body stopped breathing, no pulse, no brainwaves, no circulation. The soul lived on, as is the cause when we die. Then the body of Jesus was raised in newness of life, in resurrection power, and his soul was reunited to his body. 

If you deny the bodily resurrection, then you deny this reality. We don’t have enough details to know how the Corinthians who were struggling with this doctrine reconciled these things. It is suggested that perhaps they denied the humanity of Jesus. The challenge I see is that Paul doesn’t ever correct them for disbelieving in a resurrected Christ. It seems to me that they were believing that Jesus was raised. The problem then is that there other position is inconsistent.

What Paul does next is not an argument for the resurrection. He doesn’t appeal to their faith and say, “think of how sad and hopeless you would be without the resurrection… it must be true.” It isn’t emotional reasoning. It isn’t working backwards from faith. It isn’t a proof. Paul gives the evidence before and after this paragraph. Here he is playing out the fact that all of Christianity hangs on whether or not Jesus actually rose bodily from the grave or not.

If you are playing Jenga, theology-edition, the crucifixion block is the one block that will always knock the entire stack over. It is a lynchpin, it is a keystone, it is the essential ingredient. You takeaway Jesus conquering the grave and you lose Christianity.

So, Paul now adopts that line of thinking. Let’s play this thing out to its logical end. I’m going to take up this new premise: Jesus did not rise from the dead. With that new premise in mind here are six necessary conclusions that will result.

6 Tragic Consequences if Christ Isn’t Raised (1 Cor. 15:12-19)

Paul’s argument is established in vv. 12-13, repeated in v. 16

  1. Preaching is pointless (14a)
  2. Believing is worthless (14b)
  3. Apostles are misleading (15)
  4. Salvation is nonexistent (17)
  5. Death is decisive (18)
  6. Christians are pathetic (19)

1 Corinthians 15:12–19—12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.