Now, my brothers, I want to speak about the Gospel which I have previously preached to you, which you accepted, in which you are at present standing, and by which, if you remain faithful to the message I gave you, your salvation is being worked out—unless, of course, your faith had no meaning behind it at all. Phillips
This is how Paul opens the new section of his letter to Corinth. In what we now label chapter 15, Paul teaches about the resurrection. He wants all of us followers to grasp the fundamental importance of resurrection to our faith. He adds, For I passed on to you Corinthians first of all the message I had myself received—that Christ died for our sins, as the scriptures said he would. Phillips
Look first at that last phrase, as the scriptures said he would. For ancient Romans as well as for modern Americans, we must understand and accept that God gave us a script for how the Messiah would appear, preach, die, and defeat death. Anyone claiming to be the Messiah—and many have claimed it—and does not defeat death is an imposter. Putting our trust in someone who does not defeat death does us no good.
In today’s reading, Paul gets at the one central truth of Christianity. Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there’s no resurrection, there’s no living Christ. And face it—if there’s no resurrection for Christ, everything we’ve told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you’ve staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there’s no resurrection. MSG
Paul is dealing with Greek/Roman—and American—believers here. Jews believed God would raise the just and the unjust at the end of time. Even in Jesus day, there was much debate about what form that resurrection would take, but they agreed that it would be physical.
Greeks could not easily grasp the physical notion. Greek philosophers taught that what we call the soul might survive death some way, but never the body in any form. As a result, many Greek/Roman followers of the Way continued to reject a bodily resurrection of Jesus.
Paul says to them: you are dead wrong; full stop. You must accept that Jesus’ body stepped out of the grave. If you reject that teaching, you’re doomed.
Okay, he was a little less blunt. If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. MSG
That’s why every one of the Four Gospels spends most of their writing on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus; and why they spend time mentioning all the people Jesus appeared to in bodily form.
Paul described it this way: 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. ESV
To reject physical resurrection is to reject Christianity. At the time Paul was writing—about a decade before the first Gospel—there were hundreds of people alive who had seen Jesus; he talked with them, he ate with them, he let them touch him. His physical body was changed. He could walk through walls and change his appearance, but the body was as solid as our own.
From the first day, hundreds of theories have been created to explain the disappearance of the body in the tomb and the appearance of Jesus over the next few weeks. I could argue against all of them, but the end result is: I believe.
Be righteous and do good.