When people talk about Jesus’ resurrection, they have many questions. So also did the early church ask many questions about the resurrection.
In his commentary on the resurrection in I Corinthians 15, Paul mentions some of these questions, which he answered for the people of his day. His answers are still truth today.
¥ What if Christ had not been raised?
¥ What kind of body did Christ have?
¥ What kind of body will we have?
¥ Does Christ’s resurrection affect our understanding of death?
Today let’s talk about the first of these questions: “What if Christ had not been raised?”
In our daily life we have a lot of what-if questions, which can be mind-boggling to ponder. Take a ride through the slums of a large city. You will see poverty, rundown housing, crowded living conditions, and crime. You might ask yourself what your life would be like if you had been born in these conditions.
Now take a ride through the neighborhoods of the elite. The houses are large, the lawns and flowers are beautiful. Wealth and social status is evident.
I remember one of those rides when I was young. We drove along the Eastern Promenade that looked out on the Atlantic Ocean. The spacious houses were beautifully decorated for the Christmas season and the cars were large and well-polished. We knew who lived in some of the homes, and we would point them out to others: “This is where a prominent surgeon lives. This is a famous professional ballplayer’s home. This one belongs to the owner of a large department store.” Oh, it was fun and I wondered: “What if I lived in one of these homes? Would I like it?”
But then, just a few miles down the road, you would find yourself in the dilapidated part of the city where it was dark with few, if any, decorations. Only a few people were walking on the streets, and you locked your car doors and prayed you wouldn’t have a flat tire. What would I be like today if I had been raised in that environment? Perhaps I would not be here, but would have died of some childhood disease after never being taken to the doctor.
What if I had been raised in a home where the family never went to church? What if my parents had not believed in the importance of education and did not encourage their children to go to school? How different my life would be!
Paul takes this “what if” to a far deeper level when he asks, “What if Christ had never been raised?”
He answers this question this way:
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (v. 14).
What would our worship services be like if Christ had not been raised? We would not have a living Lord, but a dead martyr. Sermons might give a lesson in moral living, but that is something we could get from other organizations. We could talk about the Good Samaritan and learn that we must love one another.
Although these lessons are important subjects for the pulpit, they are not the core of the gospel. The gospel presents a living Lord who gives us hope and walks with us while we live on this planet. This same Lord brings us into the heavenly kingdom when these years on earth are over. We are his forgiven children in Christ.
This type of preaching is often heard at funerals. If Christ had not been raised, how do you comfort those who mourn? Memories would be your only source of comfort. We might go so far as to talk about life after death where we depict an eternal coffee party with our earthly friends, regardless of whether they were Christians on earth or not. After all, everyone would be saved. It is pretty empty for it is only the product of our human imaginations.
Paul goes on answering the question, What if Christ had not been raised?
“More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God . . .” (v. 15).
We would talk about a God of love who may be likened to a senile old grandpa. There would be no mention of godly righteousness. We would often talk to unbelievers trying to convince them that we are all God’s children, even though the Bible tells us that this relationship is ours only when we have been born again in Christ.
We would feel sorry for the addict and assure him that he is a strong person. If he would only make up his mind that he is not going to indulge again in drugs or alcohol, he could live a sober life.
This is a false witness, for the power to overcome such addictions is not within our heads, no matter what our intelligence may be. The power is only within God, who will bring that person back to sobriety.
If Christ has not been raised, the whole idea of Christianity is a hoax.
“If all that we have is hope for this life, we are to be pitied more than all men” (v. 19).
Think of it! If Christ has not been raised, then Christianity is of little value. It is simply two thousand years of nothingness, another unrealistic philosophy of life. Billions of dollars have been invested in something with no lasting truth.
However, Paul discounts all this foolishness and he shouts,
“But Christ has been raised from the dead and in that resurrection we have hope” (v. 20).
Christ’s resurrection ushers in a new age. Death came through Adam. Life comes through Jesus Christ. In Christ, all men have conquered sin. Our living Lord has returned to his Father, and so shall we when our stay in this life is over.
And so we conclude our discussion on the question of what if Christ had not been raised.
We are humans, and Satan prowls among us. Doubts come, and we have our what-if moments. But when those doubts begin to weigh on us, we can turn to Paul’s inspired commentary in I Corinthians 15 to help us with them, for Christ lives.
We do have an Easter. Praise God! Through this message of the resurrection, life is different. It presents us with an eternal hope.