The Risen Christ - 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (Part 1)

At the start of Easter week the BBC released the results of a poll on people's beliefs in the resurrection. The headline read:

Resurrection did not happen, say quarter of Christians

Note what that's saying. It's not that a quarter of the population of the UK don't believe - that wouldn't surprise us at all and from the figures it seemed to be that actually half the population don't believe. What it's saying is that a quarter of people who identify as Christians, don't believe.

That would probably shock us, especially if it translated into a quarter of people in our church. 1 in 4 of us! It should shock us, as we'll see, and it should get us to question people's definition of what a Christian is, if they think they are a Christian but don't believe the resurrection.

But it's not a new problem. Paul faced a similar issue with the Corinthian church as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:12-13.

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? (1Co 15:11-12 ESV)

In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul argues as follows:

1. Jesus did physically rise from the dead.
2. So we too will be raised from the dead.
3. And it will be physical resurrection although with a glorified body.

Appropriately I hope for Easter I'm focusing on the first of those in a few blog posts, becasue as Christians it is critical that we believe Jesus rose from the dead.

1. Hold Firmly to the Gospel (vv.1-2)

In a sense Paul starts with what he wants from the Corinthians and us. He wants us to hold firmly to the gospel. To stand firm in the message of Jesus death, burial and resurrection.

That's the focus in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2.

1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. (1Co 15:1-2 ESV)

He wants to take them back to the message of the gospel that they first heard from him, Paul. He reminds them twice that it was the message that he preached to them - so if someone is coming in and changing it, they need to think very carefully about who they will believe.

It is the message that they received. The message on which they have taken their stand. And they must stay with that message. It is the only message that will save them, i.e. bring them forgiveness of sins and rescue from them from judgement and hell. They must hold onto it, or all will be lost. TheY will have believed for nothing.

We are too often frightened to talk in such serious and urgent terms today about faith. But the Easter message is serious and urgent, because it's a message we must hold onto firmly or risk everything - our salvation and our eternity.

I spoke recently to someone who isn't holding to firm to the message as far as I can see, despite identifying as a Christian. They asked me if I thought they were a Christian. What a hard question that is to answer these days. Not hard in the sense that it was hard to know what the answer is - I think it's very unlikely they are. Hard because it seems so impolite to say to someone who thinks they are a Christian that they're not.

But should it be really hard?

Paul is speaking to the Corinthians and to us warning us that we must hold firm on this gospel. Or all is lost. We have believed in vain. Our faith, such that it is, is pointless. If this is true, we must say it mustn't we?

Maybe you've increasingly found yourself taking the name Christian, but not believing the core truths of Jesus. Maybe you're one of those 1 in 4 who don't believe the resurrection, but still like to take the name Christian. Well if that's you then your faith - such as it is - is pointless. You won't be saved, because you don't believe the gospel. You may take the name Christian, but you aren't one.

It's a challenge too when we have to say it to people. I found it very difficult to be straightforward with that person. It's wasn't even easy for me to say it to the congregation this Easter Sunday morning. Somehow it's easier to deal with people who make no pretence about being Christians than it is to tell people who think they're Christians, that, in fact they're not. I expect you might find that too. I guess we all have friends and family members. People who claim a Christian faith, but don't actually believe it. Apparently that's at least 1 in 4.

But if we love them, we tell them.

So how significant is the resurrection in this message Paul preached? What else did it contain? Well hopefully we'll look at that in the next blog on these verses.

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