"But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
"More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.
"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men." (1 Corinthians 15:12 19, NIV84).
All of Christianity rises or falls on account of the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb on that first Easter Sunday. Without the Resurrection, the cross is meaningless.
Apart from the cross and resurrection, the very life of Jesus of Nazareth is meaningless. Jesus could not have been a good moral teacher with the claims we see Him making.
The great folly of many today is that they want to reduce Jesus to some mere religious teacher, an ethicist, and deny the claims of Scripture.
They do not realize that if the claims of Scripture are false, if Jesus did not rise on the third day, all of Christianity fails; you may as well go somewhere else, because as Paul says in our text above, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile."
Since the resurrection of Christ, men, who choose not to put their faith in Him, have sought to discredit it. One of the first lies circulated was by the Jewish leaders, who hearing the soldiers report, bribed them to claim the disciples stole the body (See Matthew 28:11-15).
In past columns, I have written about why this early lie is preposterous.
The disciples were hiding in terror after the crucifixion; why would they risk breaking the Roman seal over the tomb, what does that say about their character? How could they overcome the 1,030 guards that Josephus claims were guarding the tomb?
That would have been quite a feat, 11 men beating a garrison of trained soldiers and temple guards.
All of that aside, the issue is, why in the world would the Jewish leaders have to spread the rumor that the disciples somehow managed to steal the body while the soldiers slept (never hearing the commotion as these men moved a larger than normal stone back away from the entrance of the tomb)?
There is only one explanation: the body was gone. That is a fact of history which all of the feeble attempts to explain away cannot in fact explain away.
Men have called it a legend. They have late dated Scripture claiming that it was written so far after the fact, that we can't really know if it is true.
They forget that we have older and more numerous copies of the New Testament than we have for any other ancient writing.
But just for the sake of argument, let's concede for a moment the contention that it is not until sometime in 300 A.D. that we get our texts.
Still, the question has to be raised, what then would cause the men who were closest to Jesus, who deserted him in His darkest hour, who went into hiding out of fear of being next, to suddenly burst upon the scene as the bold and courageous Apostles who, with the exception of John, went to horrible deaths proclaiming the resurrection?
Lest you be tempted to discount that question, remember that we are talking of non-biblical historical accounts of those facts.
By the way, there have been many who have attempted to disprove the Resurrection in their attempts to discredit Christianity.
Those who have at least been honest as they entered their quest have been converted by the incontrovertible evidence of the Resurrection. One man stated that it takes more faith not to believe in the resurrection of Christ from the dead than it does to believe it.
Simply put, if there was not a bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead, there is no Christian message. You who are trying to be Christian while claiming not to believe a literal resurrection account are self-deceived.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. Visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.