“Carl” was the red light at every intersection of decision. Carl was not his real name, but what he did was regrettably real. Whenever our important committee faced a decision, you could count on Carl to play the “devil’s advocate.” His two big words were “what if.” And with those two words, he could add hours to any meeting.
Carl came to mind when I read 1 Corinthians 15:14-20. In order to confront erroneous teaching and fearful doubters, the Apostle Paul played the same “what if” game. While he begins with celebration over the Resurrection of Jesus, Paul says that if Jesus is still dead, the negatives are staggering.
For one thing, if Jesus is still dead, preaching is senseless. We don’t need missionaries, sermons, or altar calls. The church has no reason to exist if Jesus is still in the tomb.
Next, faith in God is futile, if Jesus did not rise from the grave. Why trust a God who will not or cannot keep His promises?
Then, to be more personal, Paul pointed out that if Jesus remains deceased, then Christians are giving a false witness to the world. Christian music and personal evangelism are lies that must be stopped, if Jesus is still dead.
Paul was dealing with an issue in the Corinthian church where a small group had accepted a false doctrine. They refused to believe that the physical body of Jesus had actually revived and come up out of the tomb. This led to the fallacious belief that those Believers who had died thinking that Christ would resurrect them from the grave, were wrong.
Paul met this issue head on, and argued that if God could not raise Jesus from the grave, there was absolutely no hope for the resurrection of the dead in Christ, either. The ramifications are terrible. If Jesus is still dead, then we are all living in sin, totally lost, and without any hope for eternity. How grim.
Recently, I stood in a historic cemetery where tombs were dated back to the 1850’s. Many of the stones were engraved with the promises of Scripture that Heaven was the destiny of those buried beneath. The thought came to me, “God, the story of the Resurrection of Jesus has to be true. These people are depending on it!”
It is interesting to note that the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ was the main theme of every Apostle who preached the Word. They were bold in their witness and totally convinced because they had actually seen Jesus alive. They knew the story to be true because they had their own personal experience. They were convinced.
Finally, the Apostle Paul stops playing the “what if” game, and pounces on the truth. In 1 Corinthians 15:20 he unequivocally states, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Hallelujah! Christ is alive. He came out of the grave and is seated at the right hand of the Father. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul confirms that Jesus is coming back for the dead in Christ and for us who are alive and wait. What a Day that shall be! Happy Resurrection Day!