In our first essay in this series we noticed that Paul lays a sure foundation for his entire polemic concerning the truth of the gospel, the resurrection from the dead. What we have here is a beautiful model for all Christian apology; only thus can the truth of the gospel be successfully defended against all the onslaughts of unbelief. One must stand foursquare in the truth of what is revealed in the Scriptures.
That must be the status quo!
Such must be the point of departure in all argumentation for the truth. We cannot meet the enemy on the basis of his arguments; such a conflict is decided in favor of the enemy ere it is really begun. One thus grants unbelief the right of argumentation. This Paul does not do for one minute. His starting point is in the truth of the Gospel.
And then there are two pillars of the truth which stand, and which were preached and believed. They are (1) that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and (2) that Christ arose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures. (See verses 3, 4.)
That this was preached by Paul and all the other eyewitnesses of the living and glorified Lord, and that this was thus believed by the Corinthians, is the end of all contradiction. Thus the Apostle had received the gospel-message from the Lord, and therein the believers were saved.
Those who deny this, in earnest, simply are branded unbelievers. For either they are deniers of the truth, or Paul and the witnesses of the resurrection are false witnesses. It is an either-or situation. Here is no open forum where unbelief and faith can discuss the questions of life and death. Here is the church, the pillar and ground of the truth, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her.
In this passage under consideration Paul will show to the believers to what dire consequences the denial of the resurrection of the dead must needs lead. The passage here under consideration reads as follows:
“Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up if so be the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable.”
Looking at this passage it strikes our attention that Paul shows here the dire consequences for life anddeath, if Christ is not risen from the dead. In a very masterful way he shows the consequences that this has for the (1) content of the Gospel, (2) the preachers and witnesses of the resurrection, (3) the believers of the Gospel and who hope in Christ. What a complete triad. All education posits these three: (a) subject matter, (b) instructor, (c) pupil. In the verses 12-14 Paul shows the consequences for the content of the Gospel if Christ is not raised. In verse 15 the apostle demonstrates the dire consequences for the preachers of the Gospel, if Christ is not raised. Finally, in the verses 17-19 he shows what awful and far-reaching implications this would have for the believers, if Christ be not raised.
When Paul here thus reasons he does not reason as a mere logician; he does here not reason simply from an abstract principle, from the general to the particular. Thus for instance he does not simply say: If there be noanimals, then there are no cows, hogs or sheep. That would be reasoning from the general to the particular. Or another instance: if there be no flowers, then there are no roses, lilies and violets. He does not reason from the abstract concept of “resurrection” to Christ’s resurrection. Paul, is not a philosopher. Paul is a witness of the resurrection. He argues not premises but facts. He argues from the one fact to the other; he reasons from cause to effect and from effect to cause! The resurrection of Christ is the cause in this case, and the resurrection of the believers is the effect! He reasons from the fountain to the water, and conversely. If there is no water then there is no fountain! If finally, the dead do not rise, those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, in the blessed resurrection, then that must be proof that Christ never arose as the resurrection and the life.
Here we see the truth demonstrated that a matter is not true because it is logical, but that it is logical because it is true. We believe and, therefore, we know!
Notice the grand starting point. “Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead . . .” This is a conditional sentence. It states that matter in this condition as a condition of fact. Christ is preached that he is raised from the dead. Then all denial and questioning of this truth is per se heretical. And it is a heresy of no mean consequence. It will result in the loss of everything that the believer holds dear, and of what is preached.
For notice, that the grand truth of the gospel is that Christ is risen. He is in a constant and abiding state of glory at the right hand of God! See verses 4, 12, 13, 14; 16, 20. In all of these passages Paul employs the perfect tense. The degree of action is here considered fulfilled and finished up to the present moment! He is now in the glory which he had from God before the foundation of the world. He is exalted far above all principality and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.
Such is the fact of what is preached.
However, then no one can truthfully say: there is noresurrection, blessed resurrection from the dead.
For notice that the truth of the resurrection is really, from a certain point of view, the very center of the Gospel story. It is the turning point from all defeat into victory. If no resurrection, then also no gospel of victory over death. Death is in such a case not swallowed up of life. Then death has the victory. Then there is no glad-tidings.
Does not Paul say, “If Christ is not raised . . . . our preaching is vain, and your faith is vain also”? Is then our faith based upon a glorious fact? Is it based at all upon a fact? Of course not! In that case there is not any truth at all to what is proclaimed. It is empty of all content! Then we do not have a living Lord, but a dead Christ. Then Christ’s death was not the propitiation for our sins, it had no power, it fulfilled no divine justice of God. Then the Cross is powerless to save, and to lead to the resurrection. All the preaching is then empty. Yes, and faith is then also empty. We believe then a nothing!
Let not the deniers of the truth of the resurrection then pride themselves that they would still have a message of hope, hope in a-dying world!
Then all is nothing.
Both as to what is preached and as to the believing of it!!
But there is more. Then also, says Paul, “we are found to be false witnesses of God.” Yea, what a tremendous hoax all preaching is. It is then the most consummate deception possible. Men are then sent to hell with an imaginary heaven and salvation. The preacher is then a deceiver than which there is none conceivably greater.
If Christ is not raised, he is still in the grave, is he not? Has anyone then possibly been able to have seen his resurrection. Is then not the common report among the Jews more possibly correct, that the resurrection is a “story” concocted by the disciples? And is then the conclusion not far more warranted that the “disciples stole the body” of the Lord, and hid it elsewhere, while the Roman watch which Pilate had ordered at the grave slept? Forsooth, then no one can truthfully say that he was an eye-witness of the resurrection! He who says that he is such a witness is a blatant liar. Nothing less! Such a person is then not simply mistaken. He cannot then say “that is the way it is to the best of my knowledge”! He is then branded before God, devils, angels and men, who are then all damned, as the greatest deceiver. They raised the hopes to the highest point, only to plunge their gullible followers into the abyss of eternal disappointment!
For if the dead are not raised Christ was not raised.
If finally the dead meet their eternal, dismal and horrible disappointment â€• it is because Christ was then not raised!
What cogent and powerful polemic, which appeals to the faith and hope of the believers!
And now one final master stroke of polemic on the part of Paul. Look at that great host, the innumerable hosts of the church throughout the ages. They hoped in God. Yet, we read the solemn truth in Hebrews 11:13: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things make it manifest; that they are seeking a country of their own.” And to this we may add what we read in,Hebrews 11:39-40 : “And these all having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, God having some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.” Look at that “cloud of witnesses.” How hopeful they are. They greet the resurrection from afar. Did not Abraham, Isaac and Jacob enter into the cave of Machpelah in this faith and hope?
Fools are they?
If Christ is not raised from the dead, they fell asleep in Christ in vain. What a terrible awakening. They expected to open their eyes in heaven, in Abraham’s bosom, and they bare with the rich man in hell! All their life they cleansed themselves in vain in hope. And their number grew, and grew! But to what avail if Christ is not raised. Are they not still in their sins? Did they notperish in their sins?!
And are then we not simply hoping in Christ for thislife?
There is then no future life, no ages to come!
Look at the men of this world. They live in sin. Merrily they go to hell. Is that then not better? At least they will not be disappointed. But we? Of all men we must then needs be most miserable, most pitiable. And yet there is then no one to show pity. Would one here not sing the praise of the fools? (De Lof der Zotheid.)
But, thanks be to God, such is not the case. Christ is risen. He is at the right hand of God. He lives. He is the resurrection and the life.
Thus it was preached to us and thus we have believed.
And His truth shall stand!