What if? (Part 1)

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, 2 if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 

10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. 12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 

1 Corinthians 15:1-19

Let’s begin with a very good question: What if all that we claim to believe about the Bible really isn’t true? In fact, I’ve thought it before. What if Christianity isn’t true? 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. Today, we’re going to unpack these 19 verses from 1 Corinthians 15.

What if our faith is futile? What if we are still in our sins? What if those who have fallen asleep are lost? What if our hope in Christ is only for this life? 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. You do not have to have blind faith! God does not even expect this. Our faith is not futile! The Scriptures are trustworthy. How can we be so certain? Hebrews 11:1 states Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 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 the testimonies of Jesus’s closest friends as evidence. What if the Gospel is not true?

First, what exactly is the gospel? 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—If Jesus arose from the dead, then He is who He claimed to be—the Son of God. Because of this, we then must believe everything He said. The Christian faith lives or dies based on the validity of the resurrection. Without the resurrection, our faith is in vain. Without the resurrection, we are still dead in our sins, without hope and should be pitied more than all men. Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad, and other religious founders performed no miracles and did not rise from the dead. Jesus offered his many miracles and his resurrection as evidence for his divinity. Did Jesus really arise from the dead? Can we know this beyond a shadow of doubt?

The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God, and the Christian faith is absolute truth. — Henry Morris.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I want you to consider five testimonies as evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. First, consider the testimony of changed lives.  Look back at verses 1-2. Paul is simply reminding the Corinthian believers that they believed the gospel and are standing firm. Their changed lives serve as evidence of the power of the gospel. Who but the risen Christ could take a group of sinners like these Corinthians — 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 Christ. They all fled.

Peter was crucified upside down because he did not consider himself worthy to die the same way his Lord died. Andrew was crucified. Matthew died by the sword. John was exiled to Patmos. James, son of Alphaeus, was crucified. Philip was crucified. Simon was crucified. Thaddaeus was killed by arrows. James, the brother of Jesus, was stoned to death. Thomas was speared. Bartholomew was crucified and James, son of Zebedee, died by the sword.

They went from denying Jesus to dying for Jesus. Why? Because they had seen the risen Christ.

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.

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. 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!