Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
– 1 Corinthians 15:1-9; 12-19
Someone asked me one day, “What if all that we claim to believe about the Bible really isn’t true?” Well, that is a very good question. In fact, I’ve thought it before. What if Christianity isn’t true? And how can we be certain that the Christian faith is not some grand hoax?
In this series entitled What if? we are going to consider the evidence that supports the Christian faith. Begin by reading 1 Corinthians 15:1-9; 12-19 (above).
What if our faith is futile? What if the Scriptures are not trustworthy? What if those who have believed before us were wrong? What if? As we spend time in God’s Word, I want you to know beyond a shadow of doubt that your faith, if it is in Christ, is based on solid evidence. And, you do not have to have blind faith! God does not even expect this. The Scriptures are trustworthy. How can we be so certain? 1 John 5:13 states, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” Let me ask one final what if, and then offer five testimonies as supporting evidence. What if the Gospel is not true?
First, what exactly is the gospel? This is something that every Christian should be able to explain. Look at verse 3. “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.” That is essentially the Gospel—Jesus died, was buried and then he arose from the grave and went around for 40 days appearing to people. The Christian faith lives or dies based on the validity of the resurrection. If Jesus arose from the dead, then He is who He claimed to be—the Son of God. And because of this, we then must believe everything He said. Do you buy into this line of reasoning?
So, the question is, did Jesus really arise from the dead? What evidence do we have that supports the Christian’s belief that Jesus arose from the grave? To answer this question, let’s consider five testimonies as evidence. Here is the first one—the testimony of changed lives. In verses 1-2, Paul reminds the Corinthian believers not only what they believe but why they believe it. He points to their changed lives which stand as evidence of the power of the gospel. Who, but the risen Christ, could take a group of sinners like these Corinthians who were thieves, adulterers, fornicators, liars and worldly pagans, and transform them into a living church?
Look beyond these Corinthian believers to the early disciples. Their lives were radically changed. Before Jesus arose from the dead, they betrayed him. They all fled. But after they saw the risen Christ, their lives were transformed. They were not only willing to die for their faith, but did.
How about Paul? He was out persecuting the church, arresting Christians, putting them on trial and then executing them. Then, he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus and his life was never the same. He went from persecuting the church to defending the church and from attacking Christians to reaching out to the lost. All throughout the history of the church, for the last 2000 years, we have the testimonies of changed lives—changed because they encountered the risen Christ.
What about you? Have you encountered the risen Christ? Do you know what separates Christianity from every other religion? No other religion has this concept of a personal relationship with God who changes lives. Only Christianity holds to this idea. In fact, Christianity is not really a religion. Christianity is about a relationship with God through His risen Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The first evidence that we have that Jesus arose is that of changed lives. Next week, we will consider two other testimonies as evidence that Christ is risen! Stay tuned. Amen!