Life-Study of 1 Corinthiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider two matters in 15:12-28: Paul’s rebuttal to those who claimed there was no resurrection, and the history of resurrection.
Verse 12 says, “But if Christ is preached that He has been raised from among the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” In this chapter the apostle deals with the Corinthians’ heretical saying that there is no resurrection of the dead. They were like the Sadducees (Matt. 22:23; Acts 23:8). This is the tenth problem among them. It is the most damaging and destructive to God’s New Testament economy, worse than the heresy of Hymenaeus and Philetus concerning resurrection in 2 Timothy 2:17 and 18. Resurrection is the life pulse and lifeline of the divine economy. If there were no resurrection, God would be the God of the dead, not the God of the living (Matt. 22:32). If there were no resurrection, Christ would not have been raised from the dead. He would be a dead Savior, not the One who lives forever (Rev. 1:18) and is able to save to the uttermost (Heb. 7:25). If there is no resurrection, there would be no living proof of justification by His death (Rom. 4:25), no imparting of life (John 12:24), no regeneration (John 3:5), no renewing (Titus 3:5), no transformation (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18), and no conformity to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). If there were no resurrection, there would be no members of Christ (Rom. 12:5), no Body of Christ as His fullness (Eph. 1:20-23), and no church as Christ’s bride (John 3:29) and the new man (Eph. 2:15; 4:24; Col. 3:10-11). If there were no resurrection, God’s New Testament economy would altogether collapse and God’s eternal purpose would be nullified.
In verse 12 Paul refers to the preaching that Christ has been raised from among the dead. This indicates clearly that the apostles preached the resurrection of Christ. According to the book of Acts, the preaching of the gospel was mainly the preaching of Christ’s resurrection. Although the apostles emphasized the resurrection of Christ, today’s Christian preaching stresses the crucifixion much more than the resurrection. We, however, must follow the apostles to emphasize resurrection as well as crucifixion.
Verse 13 continues, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised.” This is the first point of Paul’s rebuttal. It is a fact that Christ has been raised from among the dead. How, then, could some say that there is no resurrection? If there were no resurrection, then Christ could not have been raised from among the dead.
In verse 14 Paul says, “And if Christ has not been raised, then is our preaching vain; your faith also is vain.” The Greek word rendered vain means empty, void. Without the living Christ in resurrection, both the preaching of the gospel and our faith in it would be empty and void, having no reality. Preaching the death of Christ without preaching His resurrection would be vain. The resurrection of Christ is what causes our preaching to become vital and prevailing. Such a preaching would never be in vain. Furthermore, apart from Christ’s resurrection, our faith would also be vain. Without the resurrection of Christ, both our preaching and our believing become vain. This is a very serious matter.
In verse 15 Paul goes on to say, “And we are found also false witnesses of God, because we witnessed concerning God that He raised Christ, Whom He did not raise if indeed the dead are not raised.” This is another strong point in Paul’s rebuttal.
In verse 16 Paul says, “For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised.” Then verse 17 says, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” The Greek word rendered futile means fruitless, worthless. Without Christ resurrected to live in us as our life and as everything to us, our faith in Him is fruitless, worthless, and without any issue like the impartation of life, freedom from sin, victory over Satan, and growth in life. The word futile used here is even stronger than the word vain found in verse 14. Something that is vain is empty. But the word futile indicates labor without result, work without any gain. If there is no resurrection, we may still believe, but eventually nothing results from our believing. Hence, our faith becomes futile.
Furthermore, according to verse 17, if Christ has not been raised, we are still in our sins. Christ’s death saves us from the condemnation of our sins, not from the power of sin. It is His resurrection life that delivers us from the power of sin (Rom. 8:2). If Christ were not resurrected, we would still remain in sins and under the power of sin.
Sins are one thing, and the power of sin is something else. Because sins brought in condemnation, we became sinners full of sins, and there was condemnation upon us. But through Christ’s death, that condemnation has been removed. Thus, the death of Christ has saved us from the condemnation of sins. But His death cannot save us from the power of sin. The condemnation of sins is objective, whereas the power of sin is subjective. Being saved from the condemnation of sins can be accomplished once for all. But to be saved from the power of sin is a lifelong matter and a daily matter, even a moment-by-moment matter. The problem we all have with our temper illustrates our need to be saved daily from the power of sin. You have been saved from the condemnation of sins, but you still need to be saved from your temper.
When someone asks you if you have been saved, you need to answer in a proper way. You may answer with a question: “Do you mean saved from hell and from God’s judgment, or saved from the power of sin?” Then go on to say, “You ask me if I have been saved. Now I want to ask you if you have been saved from your temper.” Who can say that he has been completely saved from his temper? We need to help others realize that we have been saved from sins, but still need to be saved from the power of sin. To be saved in this way we need resurrection power.
According to Romans 8:2, the law of the Spirit of life frees us from the law of sin. The law of sin actually denotes the power of sin, just as the law of gravity actually refers to the power of gravity. Only resurrection life can deliver us from the power of sin and from the law of sin. Resurrection life contains a law that is more powerful than the law of sin. An airplane can fly because of the operation of a power that overcomes gravity. In like manner, we can overcome the power of sin by the operation of Christ’s powerful resurrection life.
In verse 17, Paul does not write in a philosophical way or in a theoretical manner. He appeals to the experience of those who argue against resurrection and then uses their experience to defeat them. In other words, Paul’s rebuttal is very practical. Should anyone say that there is no resurrection, then Christ has not been resurrected. Then what shall we do concerning the power of sin? For this, we need resurrection.
In verse 18 Paul continues his rebuttal: “Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” Those who have fallen asleep are dead (1 Thes. 4:13-16). Here the word perished means never to be resurrected, but to remain in death forever. If Christ has not been raised from among the dead, then those believers in Christ who have died have perished. They believed in Christ in order to be saved. But if Christ has not been raised, they will not be resurrected either. On the contrary, they will remain in death and perish. This is Paul’s argument. By this we see once again that he argued concerning resurrection in a practical way.
I had an experience of dealing with a doctrinal argument in such a practical way more than forty-five years ago. One day I met a dear Christian friend on the street. At first he spoke to me in a polite manner, saying that he praised the Lord that He was using me. But eventually he went on to say that he could not agree with teaching that genuine believers may be put in darkness when the Lord Jesus comes back. Instead of arguing with him doctrinally, I asked him a practical question: “Brother, let us take care of the present age. Do you believe that there are no genuine believers in Christ who are in darkness today?” He had to admit that many believers still live in darkness. Then I went on to ask, “Brother, then how about those believers when the Lord Jesus comes back?” This is an illustration of arguing with opposers in a practical way and not in a theoretical way.
Verse 19 says, “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” If there is no resurrection, we shall have no future and no hope for the future, such as Christ as our hope of glory (Col. 1:27), the lot of our eternal blessing (Dan. 12:13), the reign with Christ in the millennium (Rev. 20:4, 6), and the reward of the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14). Once again, Paul’s argument is very practical.
Paul then inserts, in a parenthetical way, something concerning the history of resurrection in verses 20 through 28. He again argues concerning resurrection in a practical way in verses 29 through 32. In verse 32 he says, “If after the manner of men I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Paul was willing to suffer by the resurrection life and for resurrection. He knew that there will be a day of resurrection, and that in resurrection there will be a reward.
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