The Importance of the the Resurrection of Jesus – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

After he gives a list of eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus, Paul states clearly: the resurrection is the basis for the faith of the Christian (15:12-14). Paul says if Jesus Christ is not raised from the dead, our faith is useless. Paul’s point is that is Jesus was not raised, then it is rather stupid to believe Christianity. The world for “useless” here is “without content, without any basis, without truth, without power, empty words….”

resurrection of Jesus

Without a resurrected Jesus Christ, Christianity is the same as any other world religion with a dead founder. If there is no risen Lord, then we have a religion, not a relationship. This is the earliest written reference to the resurrection. The gospels and Acts are written as many as ten to fifteen years later even in the more conservative dating of those books. This is important because the belief Jesus was raised from the dead was present from the earliest days of Christianity. This is not a doctrine that developed over fifty or a hundred years.

If the resurrection is not a fact, then the preaching of the Gospel itself is false and those who believe the resurrection are pitiable (15:15-16). It is remarkable that the first witnesses to the resurrection described Jesus as “raised from the dead.” This is not the way a first century Jew would have expected to happen to Jesus even if they thought he was a great teacher or true prophet.

Based on the belief that Enoch and Elijah were translated from life into heaven, it would have been far more natural for the first disciples to describe what happened to Jesus as an ascension into heaven rather than a real death and a real resurrection. The fact that the first witnesses immediately understood that Jesus was really raised is likely based on the fact of his death. He was really quite dead, unlike Enoch (who was translated) and Elijah (who ascended in a fiery chariot seen by eyewitnesses).

Paul takes the argument further in the next few verses: If Jesus is still dead, then you are still in your sins (15:17-19). If there is no resurrection of Jesus, then the Christian faith is futile. If there is no resurrection, then Jesus is still dead. In the preaching of the earliest apostles, the resurrection serves as a proof Jesus was innocent. God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead. In Philippians 2:5-11, because Jesus was obedient and humble to death on the cross God raised him from the dead and set him at the very highest place in the universe, God’s right hand, and even knee will bow, and tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. If Jesus was not raised, then he has the status of a very good human teacher and is not at all the Lord of all creation.

If there is no resurrection of Jesus, dead believers have perished. It is likely some members of the Corinthian church had died. If there is no resurrection, then the dead are simply that, dead. If there is simply no resurrection, then even Jesus is still dead, something that is not possible according to the many witnesses Paul listed in the previous paragraph. This might be a kind of logical argument, although the reverse of what might be accepted today.

If there is no resurrection of Jesus, there is no hope in this life and Christians are most pitiable. Paul ties hope to his belief in the resurrection in several passages (1 Thess 4:13, he does not want the readers to grieve like the pagans who “have no hope”). To be pitied (ἐλεεινός) is to be in the most pathetic condition imaginable.

5 thoughts on “The Importance of the the Resurrection of Jesus – 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

  1. It’s interesting how Paul went about defending the belief that Jesus really died and was resurrected. In order to defend this point, Paul didn’t just state that Jesus had died and was resurrected. But rather Paul continues on with the defense by responding to the Corinthians with their own beliefs. In that, Paul’s argument is centered on questioning the Corinthians by statements of “if you believe this, then this is the result.” Although this may seem like an unusual method of defense, Paul uses the method in hopes of allowing the Corinthians to eventually come to the realization of their beliefs and to hopefully gain a better understanding of the gospel which Paul has been teaching.

  2. I have thought a lot about this in my personal studies of the Bible. It’s so interesting to me that the death of Jesus in a way empowers the resurrection’s salvific (Is salvific even a word? ) effect. Contrary to the typical assumption that death is a state of powerlessness and loss of, well, life, here death is the first step in the redemptive process. As the hymn says: “There is power in the blood!” And God even models the blood payment for sins all the way back in the Old Testament, think about the passover with the lamb’s blood on the doors, or any number of other examples. Death brings life! Jesus Christ died so that all people might live eternally in Heaven! This sort of stuff excites me a little bit. And it should! It’s good news!

  3. When I read this passage, I always picture Paul just ranting to his amanuensis being like, “If there’s no resurrection, then nothing matters! I’d be lying. You’d be believing something stupid! And this whole Christian thing is a scam!” We read throughout his epistles and accounts through Acts that Paul either had to be the one of the biggest scam artists in history going around the Roman Empire preaching a fake gospel, or he had to be so sure that Christ was the Messiah that he couldn’t stop telling people about him. This passage reminds me of the common phrase that Jesus was either a “lunatic, liar, or Lord.” The mere idea that Jesus rose from the grave is crazy, and its implications are beyond amazing. It is because of a humiliating death on a cross, that the whole population has the ability to be saved. I believe that because this message was so crazy, Paul was so passionate about it (which is seen in this passage). Not just for its shock value, but because he believed it! And a message like this must be shared if it’s really the truth!

  4. The resurrection of Jesus is an important story in the church. 1 Corinthian 15:12-14 states that the resurrection is the basis for the faith of the Christian. One key principle while reading through Long’s (2022) post was that “if there is no risen Lord, then we have a religion, not a relationship”. This shows that while being a follower of Christ, we build our relationship with Him each and every day. Without having a strong relationship with our Follower, we would be in a world of hurt. This brings us back to a teaching chapel we had on October 24, 2022 where Caleb mentioned that we all can do better in our prayers. Although we all pray in our own ways and have a different meaning to what prayer is, we all can intentionally do better to create a more meaningful relationship with Christ. There are three other points made if there was no resurrection of Jesus: the Christian faith would be futile, dead believers have perished, and there is no hope in this life and Christians are most pitiable. It’s interesting to see what our world would be like if there wasn’t a resurrection of Jesus. The main point that I got out of this information is that the resurrection brings us a strong relationship within the Lord.

  5. The resurrection is arguably the greatest event to occur in the biblical times. Without the resurrection, I believe many followers would truly question the power of God. God did so many wonderful things easily the most astonishing thing was raising Jesus from the Dead. Without the resurrection, we truly do not know the power of God and we all question what are religion truly means.

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