Friday, October 20, 2017

The Hope of the Resurrection

"For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost." (1 Corinthians 15:16–18)

Sometimes we hear that people in the ancient world were more superstitious than people of today. Thus, it is maintained that for these unsophisticated people, the idea of someone rising from the dead was not strange. Actually, though, people did not rise from the grave any more frequently in the ancient world than they do today (<chuckle>). The idea of resurrection is no more “strange” to us than it was to them.

There were people in Corinth who doubted the reality of the Resurrection. This doubt had infected the church there, and so Paul addresses the problem in 1 Corinthians 15. In the course of his arguments he touches on something relevant to our consideration of suffering.

In verse 16, Paul states that if it is true that nobody ever rises from the dead, then it inevitably follows that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead either. Then he draws consequences from such a belief. First, in verse 17 he points out that if Christ was not raised from the dead, then the whole Christian faith is in vain. It is futile and pointless. It is pitiful insanity.

Beyond this, Paul points out that if Christ has not been raised, then there has been no forgiveness of sins. Christ’s resurrection was God’s public declaration that the problem of sin had been vanquished. So, if there is no Resurrection, then there is no forgiveness of sins. Finally, in verse 18 Paul points out that if Christ has not been raised, and if there is no forgiveness of sins, then our friends and relatives who died in faith are all lost. We will never see them again. They have vanished either into non-existence or hell.

Paul uses these negative conclusions to point us to the positive affirmations of the faith: Christ has been raised; therefore, our sins are forgiven, and we and our loved ones who died in faith will be raised from the dead also. This comfort is given to us in the face of suffering and death. Take a few moments to reflect on Paul’s arguments, and make this comfort your own.