In our Sunday School class at PRC, we have begun a study on defending the faith, apologetics. What we are studying is a little different than the average apologetics study. This one is not about giving the class a particular set of arguments to help them respond to particular objections to the faith. Instead, this one is aimed at helping them to navigate the difficult conversations they might have with wisdom.
Because we are in this course, I immediately find it interesting when I read something in Scripture with powerful apologetic interest. So, when my daily reading took me through 1 Corinthians 15, it got my attention.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul needed to respond to an odd heresy that had arisen in the church in Corinth. It seems that among the people in the church were some who denied the possibility of physical resurrection. They simply could not wrap their minds around the idea that people who had died would eventually, physically come to life. This is probably due to the influence of certain philosophies that held that matter was in itself low, dirty, and evil while spirit was good. So the people could not fathom the idea of a physical existence after death.
But Paul made a simple argument from the basic facts of the gospel to show the Corinthians that belief in Jesus requires belief in physical resurrection. Why? Because the gospel absolutely hinges on one singular fact: Jesus rose from the dead. In that argument, Paul shows us that there is one simple truth that rises to the highest level when we defend the faith. There is one question that has to be answered. And the answer to that question will ultimately have everything to do with a person’s beliefs. Did Jesus rise from the dead or not?
1 Corinthians 15: 14, 17-19 – 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.… 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.
Take note here, as Paul presents the one thing that would render the entire religion of Christianity meaningless, futile, and useless. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christianity means nothing.
But, if Jesus did rise from the dead, what does that mean? The alternative must be true. If Jesus went to the cross, died, and then came back to life three days later, he has proved by an amazing miracle that all that he has ever claimed about himself is true. Jesus did all that he did in accord with the Scriptures. He came to earth as Scripture promised. He lived a perfect life and died as a sacrifice as Scripture promised. And he rose from the grave as Scripture promised. And all our faith hinges on that final truth. All of our faith stands or falls on the fact that Jesus is now alive.
So, every person must consider the question, “Do I believe that Jesus is alive?” If you do, then entrust your soul to Jesus and follow him. If you do not, then Christianity ultimately has nothing to offer to you. But, before rejecting the notion that Jesus is alive, also understand that there is a great deal of historical evidence to point us to the fact that Jesus really is alive, that he really did rise from the grave on the third day, and that through his resurrection, he changed the world and the lives of many forever.
I am fully convinced that Jesus is alive. I am fully convinced that, because Jesus is alive, I too will live even after I die. Jesus promises forgiveness of sin and resurrection to new life for all who come to him in faith. And I would urge any person to come to trust in Jesus and find that life.
Christians, I would also urge us to see that the New Testament always makes the resurrection of Jesus the final argument related to defending the faith. The New Testament writers did not tend to make their arguments about other things. Yes, they told the story of Jesus. But it was always on the resurrection that a person’s faith either stood or fell. So let’s remember that the resurrection, the fact that Jesus is alive, is the big point of contention. Is Jesus alive? Then worship him and follow him. Is he dead? Then ignore Christianity and any other religion that claims life after death. It’s really that simple.