1Co 15:15-18 “Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.”
Since there were a number of Jews in the congregation at Corinth, the Ten Commandments would have been well known to them. Paul points to the law of God to reinforce the gospel he has preached to them by reminding them that the law says “Thou shalt not bear false witness (Exo 20:16, Mat 19:18, Rom 13:9). If God did not raise Christ from the dead, then he is guilty of breaking this commandment.
Throughout his declaration of the resurrection, he refers to Jesus only as “Christ.” In this way, he is emphasizing the anointing of God upon the Messiah. He is constantly reminding them that he is not just talking about a man, but about the glory of Israel and the light of the Gentiles (Luk 2:32). Everything they and we have hoped for (both Jew and Gentile) unravels if God has not raised up Christ from the dead.
In verse sixteen, Paul makes a very telling statement. If we hold the position that the dead do not rise, then we hold the position that Christ is not raised. Paul is declaring to the church at Corinth that they cannot on the one head claim to believe that God raised Christ from the dead and on the other deny that the dead will be raised. He then points directly to the effect of such a belief.
If Christ is not risen from the dead, our faith is vain. It has no substance or power. Faith is a useless myth based on a lie. This is what the world would readily have us to believe. The end result is that we have no salvation from our sins. They are still our burden to carry and ultimately fall beneath.
Not only does the denial of Christ’s resurrection affect us in our walk of faith, but it reaches everyone who has gone before us. If Christ is not raised, then there is no resurrection of the dead. Those that we have lovingly referred to as being asleep in Christ are not asleep: they are perished (fully destroyed – see Strong’s). Without the resurrection of Christ, we are lost; those who have gone before us are lost; those who will come after us are lost. There is no hope if there is no resurrection.
Now, let us return to Paul’s opening statements in this chapter. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1Co 15:1-4).”
Our affirmation or denial of the resurrection does not change the resurrection. What it does change is our joy and peace as we face falling asleep, both for ourselves and those who have gone before. There is a daily deliverance (salvation) in holding on to the gospel that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again according to the scriptures. In this we find the confidence that our sins are forgiven.
May we ever have the grace to declare unflinchingly that God raised up Christ from the dead!