Notice also that the part of Paul’s gospel that was “of first importance” was that “Christ died for our sins” (15:3). Unless humanity is sinful and God is wrathful, then there was no need for Christ to die for our sins. These twin truths are the foundation of the gospel.
Not only is Christ’s death for our sins an essential part of the gospel, but so is His resurrection from the dead. If this chapter teaches us anything, it teaches us that the concept of resurrection is a major tenet of Christian doctrine. Some in Corinth, however, like the Sadducees who once challenged Jesus (Matt. 22:23), denied it. Yet to deny the possibility of resurrection is to deny Christ’s resurrection and to make false witnesses out of hundreds of Jesus’ contemporaries, including the eleven apostles. If Jesus didn’t come back to life, we would have to wonder why at least 10 of 11 were willing to die for something they knew was a lie.
If Jesus was not resurrected, then He was a liar, because He promised He would rise from the dead; He was not the Son of God; our sins have not been forgiven; and the Holy Spirit does not live in us. “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19). You might as well throw your Bible in the trash (and unsubscribe to HeavenWord Daily, by the way).
According to Paul, if Christ has not been raised, we might as well go on sinning, because holiness is unimportant. This indicates that if one believes that Christ has been raised, it is vital that he or she lives obediently. Note that among all Paul’s words about the doctrine of the resurrection that he plugs holiness: “Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning” (15:34). His concluding statement at the end of this long chapter about the resurrection is also an admonition to obedience: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (15:58).
Thank God Jesus has been raised from the dead! And the risen one promised a resurrection for the righteous and the wicked.
Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29).
The resurrection of the righteous will take place when Jesus returns, but the resurrection of the unrighteous will not take place until 1,000 later (Rev. 20:4-5, 13).
Believers who are alive when Jesus returns will also receive new bodies “in a twinkling of an eye” (15:52). What will those new, resurrected bodies be like? They will not be “flesh and blood,” but will be “spiritual,” “heavenly,” “glorious,” “powerful,” “imperishable” and “immortal.” Those bodies will never grow old or die. Eternal youth! Great news for the over-thirty crowd!
The only verse in the entire Bible that speaks of people being “baptized for the dead” is the one we just read today in 15:29, so it is difficult to interpret what Paul meant. I’ve never read a satisfying explanation. But surely the practice of Mormons, who search genealogical records in order to be baptized on behalf of their deceased ancestors to gain them some spiritual status is not what Paul had in mind. Such a doctrine denigrates Jesus’ sacrifice, superseding it by a relatives’ quick dip, which becomes one’s ticket to heaven. Can you imagine someone suffering in hell who one day is tapped on the shoulder by a demon who says, “Lucky for you that your grand nephew just took a little dip under the water and repeated your name…now you can get out of here and go to heaven with the saints and angels!” Seems somewhat unlikely, doesn’t it?