If? Christ be not risen.

By Leigh Fuller.

The embalmed remains of Lenin, the great revolutionist of Russia used to lie in a crystal casket in a tomb in Red Square, Moscow. Thousands of people waited in line for hours to view the remains and pay homage to him. The inscription on the casket read. “He was the greatest leader of all peoples, of all countries, of all times. He was lord of the new humanity. He was savior of the World.”

All is now ended for Lenin, his ideology finished; his statues broken in pieces, his tomb remembered no more. There is also in London a vast underground vault at St Paul’s Cathedral. On tomb after tomb are seen the words “here lies the body of………., past Kings and Queens, famous Generals, Statesmen, great artists and musicians, all lie in silence in this vault or mausoleum.

How different it is with the tomb of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. WE do not find the epitaph “here lies the body of Jesus Christ, King of the Jews, Savior of mankind.” We do not know for sure if the tomb said to be that where his body was taken is the actual one, let alone have an epitaph inscribed on it. All we have are these words from an angel, “He is not here, He is risen.”

Earthly greatness is usually found after death and the grave. The greatest demonstration of Christ’s power began at the grave, when He conquered death and rose Himself from the dead. John 2: 19-21.

The Apostle Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit writes to the Corinthian Church about Christ’s Resurrection.

“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead then is Christ not risen:

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” I Cor 15: 12-17.

It would seem from Paul’s treatment of the doctrine of the Resurrection of Christ that the Corinthian Church had members who doubted that it had really happened. This is not startling news as Paul had to correct them on many other issues also. They were baby Christians; they were a carnal Church; in nearly every chapter of Corinthians Paul was issuing rebukes and corrections.

Verse 12 Paul says “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Mankind has always asked this question. “Is there life after death? Or is there nothingness?" Job said in Job ch 14 “if a man die, shall he live again?”

There has always been a persistent conviction that death cannot be the end of our lives. The grave is not the victory of our enemy Satan. In fact Paul in the very same chapter says, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” 1 Cor 15: 55.

St Augustine one of the early Church Fathers said , “the mind of men will never rest until it rests in God.”

A well known Christian writer, Josh McDowell was an atheist and set his mind on doing a search for evidence that would disprove that God never existed, Christ never walked the earth, and was never crucified or rose again from the dead. After an extensive search over several years, Josh came to the conclusion that, we either call Christ a liar, a lunatic, or LORD. Josh was born again and the Lord has used him in a mighty way.

Another atheist, Lee Strobel set out on the same road of discovery to prove the same facts as Josh. Lee also became convinced that there was a Case For Christ; He was who He said He was.

Paul in our passage was testifying to the evidence for the resurrection, placing before the Corinthians the facts so that they would not believe in vain. Sometimes we need a reminder ourselves.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:”

It was apparent to Paul that some had forgotten the significance of the resurrection to their faith. The power of the Gospel still stands or falls on the fact that Christ did rise. Doubt this Biblical fact and you too are in a dangerous situation. “your faith is futile, you are still in your sins.” 1 Cor 15: 17.

When doubt enters the mind the enemy has a foothold. Give him an inch here and he will take a mile. Doubt will always prompt a series of questions. As we look back at our passage you will notice Paul repeats the little word “IF”

Verse 2……saved if….

Verse 13…..if no resurrection…

Verse 14…..if Christ is not risen…

Verse 16….if the dead do not rise….

Verse 17….if no risen Christ-faith is futile…

Verse 19….if hope in Christ only in this life…we are most pitied…

The Armenian Doctrine does not teach that “once saved, always saved.” A quote out of the Wesleyan Commentary says,

“There are three aspects to every believers salvation, namely,

1. The fact that Christ has saved him.

2. The fact that he is presently being saved.

3. And the hope that he will be finally saved{Eternally}.

Vital Christian experience always consists in present spiritual involvement with the living Christ.”

Paul is presenting anew, or refreshing again the Corinthians believers minds because some had failed to continue in the faith by denying the resurrection of Christ. We in the modern Church may not openly deny this, but it is a sobering thought says one writer, “that one may have believed unto salvation of his/her soul , only to ultimately lose the cherished prize of Eternal Life because he/she neglected their faith. Faith is exercising our Christianity; without exercising our limbs become useless, without exercise the mind grows numb, so it is with our working out our salvation.”

In verse 5 of 1 Cor 15 Paul recounts some of those who saw with their own eyes the resurrected Christ. He was seen by Peter, by the Apostles, then by over 500 at once, and lastly Paul’s own dramatic meeting with Him on the road to Damascus, changing a persecuting Saul into the Apostle Paul.

I am sure that the ordinary person on the street is not aware of the amount of historic evidence for the resurrected Christ. I myself was truly amazed when I read Josh McDowell’s book “Evidence that demands a Verdict.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica uses up more space describing the ministry and life of Jesus than many famous documented people such as Aristotle, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Buddha, Confucius, or even Napoleon Bonaparte. In fact Napoleon said of Jesus Christ,

“I tell you I know men, and I tell you Jesus Christ is not man………everything in Christ astounds me. His Spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me………one can find absolutely nowhere , but in Him alone, the imitation or example of His life………I search in vain in history to find a similar to Jesus Christ or anything that can approach the Gospel. Neither History, nor Humanity, nor Ages, nor Nature, offer me anything that I can compare or explain it. Here with Christ is extraordinary.”

Verses 8-10 Paul asserts his authority as an Apostle, but also admits his unworthiness because of the persecution of the early Christians. You may remember he sought them out to imprison them; he even stood and held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first Christian martyr to death.

In Verse 10 Paul says that God’s grace was not in vain, for he sought to labor more abundantly to win souls to Christ to atone for his past wrong doings. Are we, I wonder motivated to labor for the harvest of souls for the Kingdom. Are even motivated at all.

Paul in verse 11 stresses unity, whether I or them, the Gospel is preached the same now as it was then. But as in the days of the Corinthian Church false teachers abound, proclaiming Christ is not risen. But we today do not have to rely on faith and testimonies alone. We have information on the internet at our fingertips to add credence to our faith.

It has been said that “Faith in the resurrection is the very keystone of the arch of the Christian faith, and, when it is removed, all must inevitable crumble into ruin,” This is what Paul is writing to prevent in the Corinthian Church. Remember a little leaven spoils the lot. Up until now he had reviewed the facts and reiterated the first hand evidence, now the perverters of the Gospel have to be answered.

Paul now begins to apply logic to the situation. He states the negative results in verses 13-14. If we don’t believe in the fact that Christ rose again from the dead, how will any man rise. This is the core of the Good News! Christ who was truly man, paid the penalty for our sins on the Cross. He died, he was buried as a man, but as Christ the Son of God rose from the dead. This assures ALL who believe on Him by faith the very same resurrection. Paul goes on in verse 14, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” Simply put, we have wasted our time and effort with a Gospel of no substance. Not only that, but the other side is that your faith has been in vain also. No hope of salvation here or after death. The whole Gospel is a sham!!!

Is the Gospel a sham??? Paul in verse 15 says false witnesses are making it such.

“Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.”

Note that they are false witnesses for God, but in reality they are on the side of the Devil spreading a false Gospel. We know that the Apostles did proclaim the Word of the Lord under the harshest trials and persecutions, all but one were martyred; they carried one message to their Eternal reward, “Christ is risen, risen indeed.” Only John the Revelator survived and he was scarred it is said, for the rest of his life when boiling oil was poured over him.

In the days after Christ’s resurrection, the rulers of the Jews could have easily stopped the Gospel message; but they were silent. “The simple disproving, the effective challenge, of the fact of the resurrection would have dealt a death blow to Christianity; and they had every opportunity….if it were possible.” John Stott continues “the silence of Christ’s enemies is as eloquent proof of the resurrection as is the witness of the Apostles.”

The past 2,000 years of Christian witness under severe torture has declared that the message is true. Fox’s Book of Martyrs describes in detail the horrific deaths of many Christians. Many tied to poles, covered in tar and set alight to act as torches for Roman noblemen to go to the Coliseum to watch many others torn apart by wild animals.

Closer to home in 1956 the world was stunned at the death that five American missionaries killed by the fierce Auca Indians in South America. Even more stunning is the fact that the wife of one of those killed would go to the very same tribe forgiving them to preach the Gospel. Two years later at a baptism service in the Auca village four of the killers confessed Christ as Lord of their lives. Nearly the whole village converted to Christianity.

Richard Wurmbrandt’s book Tortured For Christ also contains a powerful testimony not only to the degree that that the enemies will go to force a renunciation of a Christians faith, but also to the strength and fortitude that can be drawn from anchoring oneself fully in Christ Jesus.

Is not the above facts horrific and on the other hand heroic. How would our faith stand up? Many of us fail under far less intimidation every day when we do not speak of Christ in our work place or to friends.

To deny the resurrection means that our sins are not forgiven, we have given up hope of a pardon: If so it denies Christ’s atonement; Christ was mocked, scourged, and beaten. Crucified for naught.

Paul is telling the Corinthians that they have placed their faith in a futile gospel; you will die in your sins. Not only you but those loved ones who have gone before, what hope have they got. “False Gospel, False Hope…. NO HOPE.”

“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” Paul says you are to be pitied if you deny the resurrection. If their or our hopes do not go beyond the grave, if the sting of death has not been removed for the believer in Christ, we are to be pitied or more miserable than most others because others outside of Christ live hopeless lives now.

We as Christians have made our choice to deny the life of the world; we deny ourselves the pleasures of this world to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. We are not to store up treasures here but our riches are stored in Heaven. We are to be the least instead of the greatest, serve instead of being served. If Christ is not risen, our cherished hopes, our Heavenly rewards are in vain.

“But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power." 1 Cor 15: 20-24.

The preceding verses are a wonderful assurance. There are no more “Ifs” Paul declares the certainty, as all in Adam died, all who are Christ’s will rise and live Eternally with Him.

Faith in Christ is conditional, we must remain in the faith, and we must push on to the finish line. We as Christians are on the narrow path looking for the narrow gate, and the Word says “Few will find it”. It is no trouble to on the board path, it is smooth and easy, a piece of cake, as the saying goes.

Many will say, “Hey I went forward to the Altar ten years ago and said the sinners prayer, I’m OK, I’ll just wait for the rapture.” This is the attitude of many lukewarm Christians. Whether it has been 10 years, 10 months, or just 10 weeks the little word “IF” can crumble your new faith in Christ. It won’t matter if I just miss Church this week once; it won’t matter "IF" I just forget to pray and read the Word of God; Of course it matters, if Paul had to warn Christians in his day the danger is just as great today.

I could say as Paul did to the Galatians “Oh foolish Galatians I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ to another gospel.” Or I could say as John wrote in Revelation Chapter three and verses 15- 16.

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou were cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.”

The Devil is a real enemy. It is his aim and the mission of his minions to cause Christians to doubt the Biblical facts of the resurrection. If he can insert a little of his poison into your mind without you resisting he has gained a foothold. Once this beachhead is gained he can further his assualt on salvation even.

We are told to "take captive every thought in obedience to Christ." 2 Cor 10:5. If you do not do this and test every thought many will come from the enemy of your soul. This is why Paul says in 1 Timothy 4: 1,

"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;"

Paul again makes a powerful statement in 2 Tim 4:2-5.

"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."

We are living in the last days I believe. There is a great falling away. The social gospel, the seeker friendly service, the liberalism in the Churches all add to the fact that we must be diligent; we must not believe all we hear from the pulpit or read on the internet. It must be tested by the Word of God. We must have our spiritual eyes open to the subtile traps of the enemy.

The only way to avoid his traps is to have a daily quiet time communicating with the Lord Jesus Christ; develop a habit of reading the Word of God from a proved text not a modern paraphrase, then and only then you will be able to remove the little word "IF" from your mind.

"But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 2 Tim 4: 5.