1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the primary proof of Christianity. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, he was not the person he claimed to be, and cannot save us from our sins. But if Jesus did rise from the dead, everything he taught is true. No religious teacher has better credentials than Jesus Christ.
This is why we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law (Luke 16:17), said Jesus. Since Jesus believed the Bible, right down to the spelling, that is what we believe.
We do not begin with the inerrancy of Scripture, and argue to the resurrection; we begin with the resurrection, and argue to the inerrancy of Scripture. We know that Jesus rose from the dead because we have eyewitness testimony found in the gospels. Then we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture because that is what Jesus taught. If we do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, we are not disciples of Christ on that point.
From the perspective of the New Testament, Christianity stands or falls with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The apostles were not afraid to base everything on the resurrection, because they knew for themselves that it actually happened. It is the Father’s Amen, to the Son’s It is finished (John 19:30).
1 Corinthians 15:19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
Some people say they would like to believe in Christianity, even if it is not true, because it’s the best way to live. Paul considered that to be absolute nonsense. Anyone who gives away time, talent and treasure for a religion that is not true is to be pitied. But Christianity is true, and Paul knew it. Therefore, he could spend his life in service to the King, and be assured of his reward. The same is true for all who believe in Jesus Christ today.
1 Corinthians 15:52 For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Many have wondered what our resurrection bodies will look like, but no clear answer is given. [W]hat we will be has not yet been made known (1 John 3:2), wrote John. But Paul provided a few clues for us to think about. He described our future bodies as glorious, powerful and imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).
Imagine living forever in a glorious and powerful body, with a mind to match. Imagine eyes so powerful that they could function as microscopes and telescopes. Instead of five senses, why not more? (Randy Alcorn). Since God is the source of beauty, how beautiful will his glorified children be? What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived—the things God has prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9), wrote Paul.
1 Corinthians 15:55 Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
Ever since our first parents sinned (Genesis 3:6), life has been a journey to the grave. We start off well enough, but signs of decline appear in our twenties, or even sooner. Our bodies struggle and our minds decline—slowly at first, then more rapidly, until we return to the ground from which we came. The killer bee of sin stung our first parents, and the venom was so powerful it kills all their children.
It was a warm summer day, and the windows were down as a family drove home from church. A bee flew into the car, and the little girl in the back began to scream. Her father turned around, just enough to grab the bee, and it stung his hand. When he opened his hand, the bee began to fly again, but it could no longer sting, because the stinger was in the father’s hand.
Likewise, Christ was stung in the hand when he was nailed to the cross, and he removed the sting of death when he rose from the grave. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The most brutal form of athletics in Corinth was the gladiatorial games, in which contestants fought to the death. Combatants were normally slaves, but free men were known to compete, since the victors earned a great deal of cash. The stakes were high, of course, and there was no prize for second place.
We too were in line to fight, and our opponent was death itself. He was undefeated, and our chances were slim to none. Then Christ stepped in, and took our place. Nailed to a cross, he appeared to lose at first, but then he triumphed over death by his resurrection. Now he shares his victory with all who believe. Therefore, we can say with Paul, thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:58 Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
The church’s job is to announce the victory that Jesus won for all who believe in him. This is done by starting churches all over the world, until everyone has heard. The work is seldom easy, and often appears to fail, so Paul assured us that our labor in the Lord is not in vain.
If you build the world’s tallest building, it could be destroyed, and your labor would be in vain. If you build a successful company, it could disappear, and your labor would be in vain. There is only one endeavor that is completely guaranteed, and that is the kingdom of God. Our labor in the Lord will never be in vain.
1 Corinthians 16:22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!
This would have come as a jolt to everyone who heard it. How could the same apostle who wrote an entire chapter on love (1 Corinthians 13) conclude his letter with a curse on anyone who does not love the Lord?
Having just considered the death of Christ for his people, and his gift of eternal life, Paul’s heart was aflame for Jesus Christ. He clearly saw that not loving Christ is the height of ingratitude, and worthy of a curse. This could even be a call for eternal punishment.
This agrees with John the Baptist who said, Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them (John 3:36). Every good thing we have is a gift from Jesus Christ, and not to return his love puts us in league with the devil. If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed!
Reflection and Review
Why do we believe the Bible is inerrant?
Why do we need to know that serving Christ is never a waste of time?
Why does Paul pronounce a curse on anyone who does not love Jesus?