Written by Paul J Bucknell on May, 12, 2023
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Jesus’ Resurrection and the Gospel
Christians believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is alive and valiantly leads us. The more the church of God owns and believes this truth, the more she glows and grows.
The church is Christ’s bride. Her relationship is not one from the memory of the past but an ongoing one from the present into the future. We have a living relationship with the Living Lord, just like many years ago when He walked on the earth He spoke the words of Matthew 11: 28-30, He still says,
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”
The evil one, meanwhile, does his best by keeping people from believing. He facilitates a group of religions and philosophies to distract our attention from Christ. They are poor forgeries. Some, like the Mormons, will name Jesus Christ, but they do not mean Jesus in the Bible. Others will talk of other saviors, but God has only resurrected Jesus Christ from the dead and given Him rule over all. Christianity differs from other religions because of our faith and obedience to the resurrected Jesus Christ.
Either Jesus’ resurrection happened or not. The Bible, with its four Gospels were written by different people and perspectives, all testifying of the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus, Himself, said in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”
A week before He died on the cross, Jesus authoritatively taught and demonstrated His power when He raised Lazarus from the dead. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”” (John 11:26-28)
Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” Although this was before Jesus Christ died, the truth is the same. Jesus is the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Him shall live even if he dies! When we dismiss this truth of Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we refuse to live in light of Jesus Christ’s Lordship.
People deny the resurrection for several reasons, but they don’t have any firm substance. I agree that making the following points do not prove or make the resurrection true. There is much convincing evidence, however. In my mind, I would call it proof, but not in the repetitive scientific understanding. We have many reasons to believe in the resurrection but no good reasons to dismiss it.
Consider these four common reasons why some people reject the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Take a moment to reflect on any doubts or uncertainties about its authenticity. Upon closer examination, you’ll discover that the evidence supporting Jesus Christ’s resurrection is much more compelling than any arguments against it. Personally, I have unwavering faith in the resurrection. Whenever doubts or negativity arise regarding my teachings, I turn to the resurrection of Jesus Christ as an indisputable truth. No other explanation aligns with the facts that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and rose again, now reigning and supporting His followers.
Let’s hear Paul the Apostle’s clear statement.
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (1 Cor 15:1-8).
Let’s examine these four groups that, without proper grounds, quickly dismiss Jesus Christ's resurrection as untrue.
1. Spiritualists (1 Cor 15:1-4)
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas” (1 Cor 15:3-5).
It is believed by some that Jesus' resurrection did not occur, and these individuals, known as spiritualists, reject the notion of material reality while recognizing the existence of the spiritual world. This philosophy is influenced by the teachings of Plato, which posit that spiritual things are the purest and most ideal. Similar beliefs are held by Hindus, Buddhists, and Christian Scientists, who assert that distancing oneself from base bodily influences promotes good health and greater authenticity. The New Age movement, which draws from Eastern religions, also embraces this philosophy, as did the Gnostic cults that were popular following Jesus' lifetime. It is thought that Paul addressed these beliefs in his letters to the Corinthians.
However, while the body can be the source of evil actions, it is not inherently corrupt. Christians believe that the Holy Spirit resides within them, and that their actions align with this spiritual essence. When Christ took on a physical body and was resurrected, it demonstrated that the body is not inherently wicked and can be used for good. Though the body can be enslaved by lust, the Spirit can liberate it, enabling the body, through redemption, to serve Christ both in this life and in the new creation.
Paul believed and taught the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ rather than only in spirit. This is what Paul said in one of his defenses from Acts 23:6-8,
“But perceiving that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, Paul [began] crying out in the Council, "Brethren, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees; I am on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead! And as he said this, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and Sadducees; and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor an angel, nor a spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.”
Let’s look at more detail what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15.
“Christ died” (1 Cor 15:3)
Paul first mentions in 15:3 that Christ died: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” The depth of his argument is hidden in the selective words he uses. If you are aware of the teachings of the Gnostic cult, you will notice very clearly what Paul did and did not say. Notice that Paul did not say Jesus died; he said Christ died.
The Gnostics thought that Christ’s Spirit left Jesus just before He died. They said Christ’s Spirit only came upon Jesus the human for a while but left before the man Jesus died. They followed their reason, and philosophical belief that taught the spirit is good, but the body is evil. Christ, being perfect, couldn’t, in their minds, have a body.
But Jesus was Christ, and Christ died. The anointed one of God had a body, and that body died. The Gnostics couldn’t accept that the body was good. God, however, stated that what He created, matter, was good. Christ taking on the human form is consistent with this viewpoint; matter is inherently good.
“Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor 15:3)
Christ also died “for our sins.” Paul describes Jesus’ sacrificial death. Some might not call it substitutional, but the “for our sins,” the propitiation, and Isaiah 53 seem to teach this. It would, however, be insufficient to conclude that Christ dying for our sins served only as an extension of pity in His spirit. Absolutely not. His death served as a propitiatory sacrifice (1 John 2:2), where He physically died “for our sins.” It was not a death in thought but an actual death. The Jews did not just take a sacrifice to the altar to be thought dead. It was never adequate to imagine your 1 year–old calf died on the altar. No, the animal was cut, and the blood drained. Jesus did have a body, which was sacrificed for our sins, the sins of His people. His blood poured out when stabbed, proving His death. This necessary death is further evidence that Jesus Christ had a body, and this body died and therefore needed to be raised to live.
“Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3)
The resurrection is not a made-up story, but God writes the story ahead of time. All the events are consistent with what was predicted hundreds and thousands of years before. Check out Isaiah 53!
I agree that eighty years ago, this was difficult to prove to the critic because our oldest Hebrew Old Testament (OT) texts were only about 600-700 years old. Old liberalism is dying out because its arguments have been proven false. They assumed that miracles were only stories and that the Bible was written after the facts. For example, they would say all the Old Testament prophecies that came true were written after the situations occurred. They twisted the Bible to fit their anti-miraculous tone of scripture.
But in the 1940s, they found the Dead Sea Scrolls, which proved the OT prophetic scriptures regarding Christ’s death and resurrection were written before the time of Christ and verified the accuracy of scripture. Before this time, our most recent OT texts were only hundreds of years old. This discovery of ancient scrolls and texts gave us texts more than 1500 years earlier, essentially destroying the liberals’ arguments. The accounts of the Messiah’s body being pierced and placed in a rich man's tomb yet killed by the wicked all verify that Jesus Christ had a body that lived, died, and was resurrected. It wasn’t a pretend body. This was just as God said it would be many hundreds of years earlier. Let me give you one of many, many examples from Psalm 22:14-18 written by David back around 1,000 B.C. when there was no such thing as crucifixion,
“And all my bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It is melted within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And my tongue cleaves to my jaws; And Thou dost lay me in the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones. They look, they stare at me; They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots.” (Psalm 22:14-18)
The horrible death, the murder, the piercing of hands and feet, the counting of the bones from hanging on the cross, the audience, the dividing of his garments, and the casting of lots for them.
Until 1968, there was no explicit reference to binding crucified victims with nails rather than ropes. But in June of 1968, there was discovered four cave tombs. “A large 7-inch spike had been driven through the heel bone, and both legs had been fractured. Haas reported: “Both the heel bones were found transfixed by a large iron nail. The shins were found intentionally broken. Death caused by crucifixion.” (A Ready Defense by McDowell, p. 223.)
“Christ was buried” (1 Cor 15:4)
I’ll lastly mention that Christ was buried. Only bodies are buried. Christ was buried. You do not bury spirits. In Taiwan, I remember people sending spirits away. Sometimes they would put mirrors at the entranceways to scare off the spirits sending them in another direction. China is famous for zigzag bridges to confuse the water spirits from overwhelming the people crossing.
One does not bury spirits but bodies. Christ was buried just as Isaiah 53:9 says about 600 years before Christ died, “His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth” (Isaiah 53:9).
Paul countered this mystical or spiritual death and resurrection in this passage. Just as Christ died, so He was bodily raised. To deny Jesus Christ’s resurrection because we are uncomfortable with the pure and holy being associated with the body would counter the facts of Jesus, death, burial, and resurrection. Christ is Alive!
2• Rational Materialists
There has been a strong emphasis on materialism in the last hundred years. Capitalists, communists, evolutionists, or those caught up in the world commonly deny the resurrection because of the alleged lack of empirical evidence.
Since they have not seen a person resurrected, they find it difficult to believe a resurrection could happen. This demand for only materialistic interpretations of the world is lessening with the onslaught of New Age teachings. However, there is still a heavy dose of materialism to kill off any proper discernment. If these materialists accepted the resurrection, they would need to believe in a world in which their senses were not totally in control and able to decipher.
We must admit that our senses can discern many things. Science specializes in observing the material world, but this does not mean we can’t guess on how things interrelate. Many people do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ because of this anti-miraculous or spiritual viewpoint—not because it cannot happen. They cannot prove their viewpoint either.
But we must be careful with this conclusion which at first seems rather logical but, in the end, is relatively weak.
- First, we must not assume we know how everything works. For example, although we know how to describe life, we would be hard-pressed to say we could create or even explain it.
- Second, we must admit to experiences and knowledge outside our own. A researcher and student by profession admits this. A doctor, by changing medicines and procedures, admits to increased knowledge and limited knowledge.
Simply put, we must acknowledge that we do not understand everything. The materialists cannot prove there is no spiritual world. They don’t even believe it to prove it. It is just like the man who only can see black and white to deny such a thing as color. The lack of perception does not mean a lack of existence.
Turning back to scripture, we need to face the facts that a risen Lord Jesus Christ “appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:5-6). And lastly, Jesus appeared to Paul after His resurrection, the writer of this book: “and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also” (1 Cor 15:8).
If Jesus did not come alive, were these disciples all dreaming? Were they all in a plot to fool the world, even though many of them would have to die for this plot? I sincerely don’t think so. These occurrences happened regularly enough that a whole generation of convinced believers began to spread this news. Although they were not scientists, they knew the difference between the dead and the living. They knew Jesus was dead but now alive. They had to come to grips with a process that Jesus Himself performed while living and happened in His life.
Are we clever to learn from their life experiences? The apostles died for their faith. At least we should not be dogmatic that it is impossible.
3• Rational Historicists
A third reason people deny the resurrection is that they do not believe it is historically plausible. This reasoning is closely tied with the materialists who reject the resurrection, but the argumentation is focused on historical grounds. They don’t believe it happened historically. It was all a reinterpretation of the events to soothe the disciples. When I was in High School, the Passover Plot had been recently introduced, which gave a detailed account of how the disciples stole Jesus’ body and revived Him. What amuses me so much is that we have historical records that affirm that His resurrection did happen; their claims don’t challenge its historicity.
What makes something historical? Does not history become history when there are reliable eyewitnesses of some certain event? The greater the number of witnesses, the more consistency in their reports, and the more written documents form solid historical events. Why would people accept these unsubstantiated accounts of Jesus not dying, his body being stolen, etc., which have no historical backing? What makes the bogus accounts more reliable than the event recorded down?
4• Worldly Pleasing
This brings us to the fourth reason people deny the resurrection. Many people do not like the implications of Jesus’ resurrection. If Jesus Christ did come alive, people are accountable for their actions. If the old Epicurean philosophers were right, “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” one’s behavior would be shaped by getting the most out of the moment that pleases the flesh. (Actually, the greatest pleasure stems from obedience, not disobedience.) The resurrection builds accountability into all aspects of life, which can be uncomfortable for those hiding dark deeds. Jesus says, “For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20).
We should be wise enough to observe our tendency to escape the wrong things we have done. How many of us have protected ourselves by lying? The easiest way to avoid accountability is to not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ; deny His Lordship. Listen to Paul when he was discussing with Felix, the governor from Acts 24:24-26,
“But some days later, Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he was discussing righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, "Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you." At the same time, too, he was hoping that money would be given to him by Paul; therefore, he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him.”
The world does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and develops thought systems insulating their unbelief from the truth. They want a secure worldview, even though it is wrong and cannot be substantiated.
For example, I was reading in one book how men less than 1,000 years ago thought that the continent of Africa was an extended land mass. Because they thought this way, they never even considered exploring going around Africa (from Europe) to the West Indies. They used land routes or chose to go around the world, thinking there was no extra land mass in the middle. This was another wrong conclusion. Our decisions are not the best because the wrong perspectives shape them.
If it weren’t for moral accountability, people would not be so unfair to the historical account of Jesus Christ. The above reasons are all rather flimsy reasons to deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have many eyewitnesses, all corroborating each other’s testimony. We have the empty tomb. We have the change Jesus Christ is now making in different people’s lives, as we heard at the baptism. (Jesus has greatly changed me too!)
I ask you to check out the facts. I have a book by an antagonist who wanted to prove the falseness of the resurrection. But his first chapter, entitled “The book that refused to be written,” explains that when a fair and objective inquiry concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ is done, one will only prove the resurrection did happen.
Jesus Christ is alive today. He is Lord and Savior. He wants you to stop resisting Him and to listen to His soft and gentle call. Jesus still calls out,
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and YOU SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light” (Mat 11:28-29).
Or perhaps even more relevant to today’s discussion, we can listen to Jesus’ words,
“24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:24-26)
We have nothing to lose but everything to gain to stop considering Jesus Christ’s resurrection as a religious event but as an actual, historical event, and respond to Jesus who is now alive. Seek Him to take away all your sin!