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1 Corinthians 15:12-19 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:57 mins 30 secs

The Logic of the Resurrection; 1 Cor. 15:12-19

The resurrection from the dead is clearly taught in the Old Testament in passage like Job 19:27 NASB "Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God." This is a recognition of physical bodily resurrection. Psalm 17:15 NASB "As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake." Ezekiel 37:1-14, the dry bones passage which is literally a picture of the resurrection of the nation Israel but it is based on the idea of a physical bodily resurrection. Daniel 12:2 NASB "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace {and} everlasting contempt." Jesus also taught a physical bodily resurrection in John 6:44 NASB "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day." The word "raise" is based on the noun anastasis [a)natasij]. It is the verb anasteo [a)nastew], meaning to resurrect. Then John 11:25 when Jesus replies to Martha and says: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies."

In 1 Corinthians 15:12 Paul begins to explain the significance and the importance of the gospel. NASB "Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" There were those in the early church who didn't believe in resurrection. In 2 Timothy 2:17, 18 Paul warns Timothy about two men who were teaching this false doctrine: "{men} who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some." What they meant by resurrection in Greek thought was that this was a mystical thing, a spiritual event that took place when you are saved and that Christ was "raised in your heart."

Resurrection was clearly taught in the early church. This was the consistent apostolic message. "If Christ is preached…" Paul is using a first class condition, indicating an assumption of reality in the initial clause—called the protasis. If Christ is proclaimed, and He is. Others are proclaiming Christ, and here the word "Christ" stands for all that Christ did on the cross and is a figure of speech for putting a name or person's name in place of all that they did or accomplished. Acts 2:22, 23, Peter on the day of Pentecost: NASB "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this {Man,} delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put {Him} to death… [31] he [David] looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. [32] This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses." In other words, this was part of the apostolic proclamation. Paul refers to it also in Romans 1:4 NASB "who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:12 "… how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" Paul is emphasizing the consistent message of physical bodily resurrection. He is simply asserting that this is the consistent message, so how can it be that there might be some in the congregation who continue to claim that there is no resurrection from the dead?

So we look at the logic of 1 Corinthians 15:12-19. To break it down there are five sentences or five statements that we have in this structure. It is important to recognize that because of the way Paul develops his thinking. The first sentence is the summary sentence and introduction in verse 12. Every one of these sentences begins with an "if" clause: "if" and the premise is assumed to be true. That shows a parallelism here. Verse 12 is a sentence; verse 13 is a sentence; verses 14 and 15 are one sentence; verses 16-18 again represent one sentence; verse 19 represents the conclusion. The second sentence is verse 13, a supposition: NASB "But if there is no resurrection of the dead…" What would the conclusion be? "… not even Christ has been raised." In other words, if you assume that there is no such thing as resurrection from the dead, then Christ could not have been raised from the dead. The words "has been raised" in verse 12 is the verb egeiro [e)geirw], perfect passive indicative. As a perfect tense verb it emphasizes the present results of a state that was accomplished in the past. In verse 13 he changes from egeiro to a synonym, anastasis [a)nastasij] which is resurrection, and then the phrase "from the dead." The interesting thing here is that he uses the genitive plural of the word "dead." In other words, it is a resurrection from the dead ones. The same phrase is used of Lazarus when he was in the grave. Lazarus was raised from among the dead ones. So it is a clear emphasis on the fact that this resurrection occurred from the grave yard. That means that he was already dead and buried. So the underlying assumption there is that Christ was indeed physically dead.

In the parallel of verse 12 he says, "how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" In verse 13 the parallel is that not even Christ has been raised. So verse 13 is a direct argument against their claim. What Paul is doing here is using a form of argumentation and structure all through this section which is called in the Latin a modus tonens, which means "the way of affirmation." In this is set up a certain logical structure in a sentence. For example, you may say, if Jesus Christ rose from the dead (the supposition that you are assuming to be true) then He is God's Son." That is the sentence, the proposition. Since the first part is true—Jesus Christ rose from the dead—therefore the conclusion is also true. What Paul is saying here is that if there is no resurrection from the dead then Christ is not raised.

In verse 14 Paul goes to the next level. NASB "and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain." In other words, if there is no resurrection from the dead Christ wouldn't be risen, and if Christ isn't risen then our proclamation is emptiness and your faith is also emptiness, and this isn't just some nice little point of historical truth, it strikes at the very core of what we are doing and means that both our preaching and our faith is emptiness, vanity, nothingness. Furthermore, he goes on to say, v. 15, "we [apostles] are even found {to be} false witnesses of God, because we testified against [the standard of] God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised." You can't just take part of the message and reject the rest, you have to take the whole. If they are lying about the resurrection they are also lying about God and you can't trust us. He begins with the conclusion and ends with the conclusion of his opponents and in between he shows what the natural consequences are of that assumption—that apostolic witness is completely false, not only about the resurrection but everything we say about God.

In verses 16-18 he goes to an even more practical level.1 Corinthians 15:16 NASB "For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; [17] and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins." Why would they still be in their sins? Because if Christ wasn't raised then Christ didn't die on the cross for your sins because His resurrection was a validation from God for His work on the cross. So if Christ didn't rise from the grave then there was no substitutionary atonement, so your sins weren't paid for and you are still in your sins. This is the point of verse 18: "Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished." The idea of falling asleep relates to the body being in the grave.

1 Corinthians 15:19 NASB "If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." In other words, if you don't believe in the physical bodily resurrection of Christ then you can't trust us in anything we have said about salvation, about anything we have said about God, you would have no future, there is no eternal life because there is no salvation because Christ is still in the grave, and we are to be pitied. Paul's argument is that just the opposite is true, that Christ is risen.