“THE EMPTY TOMB—THE CORNERSTONE OF CHRISTIANITY”

I Corinthians 15:1-11                                                       March 27, 2005

 

INTRODUCTION: Just as the heart pumps life-giving blood to every part of the body, so the truth of the resurrection of Jesus gives life to all areas of Christian faith. The resurrection is the pivot on which all Christian truth turns and without this none of other truths would matter much. Without resurrection, Christianity is just another religion.

       The resurrection was the focal point of every other truth Christ taught. He told His disciples that “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed and after three days rise again.” (Mark 8:31; 9:9, 31) And He said, “I am the life and the resurrection, he who believes in me shall live even if he dies.” (John 11:25) The first two sermons preached by His disciples after Pentecost both focused on the resurrection of Christ. (Acts 2:14-36; 3:12-26)

       Paul, the most respected of the Disciples, spent the whole chapter 15 in his writing to the early Christians at Corinth, reiterating, reinforcing, explaining and affirming the truth of the resurrection of Christ. He listed many convincing facts from many different aspects of Christian faith in the very early days to set the record straight that it is a fact the Christ did rise from the dead. Let us examine some of these facts:

 

EVIDENCED BY THE EARLY CHRISTIANS:  (15:1-2)

1)      By the early messages: The first Christian messages preached to the new world by Peter, the early spokesman of the new truth focused entirely on the fact of the resurrection and the power in it. (Acts 2, 3) The very first message brought more than 3,000 converts into the first church. When Paul presented the gospel to the people at the metropolitan city of Corinth, he also focused on the resurrection. No one will focus on something that is false and no false teaching will bring people to repentance and salvation.

2)      By the early believers: Paul said, “The gospel I preached to you, which you also have received and hold fast,” (1-2) indicated the truth of resurrection was received and held on as the center piece of their faith. These were the first generation Christians who had the first hand knowledge of the truth of the resurrection. They could find out the truth if they had any doubt. People in Jerusalem as well as those in Corinth and other Roman cities of the day all have heard the truth of resurrection. No false message will convince these skeptics of a new faith.

3)      By the power of the Holy Spirit: Even the early believers were under severe persecution, they were scattered all over from Jerusalem to Samaria and to other regions bearing witness of the risen Christ, healing the sick and baptizing many. The power which brought Jesus from the dead empowered these new Christians in a movement of missions. That power continues to energize millions of believers through the 2,000 years of history, to commit themselves in missions to bring others to the Living Christ.

 

EVICENCED BY THE SCRIPTURES: (15:3-4)

       The second proof of Christ’s resurrection was the fulfillment of the prophecy in the Old Testament, the Scriptures. The Old Testament clearly predicted the death, the burial and the resurrection of the Messiah. Since most of the early believers were Jews, if not all, they all were familiar with the Scriptures about the facts of the Messiah.

1)   The Old Testament prophecy: Jesus, Peter and Paul quoted or referred to many references in the Old Testament such as Gen. 22:8, 14; Psalm 16:8-11; Ps. 22; Isaiah 53; and Hosea 6:2, over and over again predicted the death, burial and resurrection of the Christ. The Old Testament was the authority of the Jewish believers at the time. Quoting the fulfillment of the O. T. as evidence carried the authority of the fact of resurrection.

2)   The New Testament Gospels: (John 5:39, 46-47; 20:9; Matt. 12:17-21; 2:23; 3: 3; 4:14; 8:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:56; John 1:45; etc) There are so many references in the Gospels that claimed the life of Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament. In Isaiah 53, the most detailed record on the death, burial and resurrection of the coming Messiah clearly depicted the last days of the life of Jesus. Unless it is God’s words written by His prophets, no one may claim such accuracy.

3)   Jesus predicted His death and resurrection: (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:32; 27:63; 28:6; etc.) These references were also recorded in all the other 3 gospels. Jesus repeatedly predicted His death and resurrection to the disciples to prepare them of His departure and His plan in bringing them to Himself when He returns to receive them. (John 14:1-3)                                                           

 

EVIDENCED BY THE EYE WITNESSES:   (15:5-7)

       Through out history the testimony of responsible and honest eyewitnesses has been considered one of the most reliable forms of evidence in a court of law. The third evidence on the resurrection of Christ is in that form.

1)    By the women:  (Matt. 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-11; Luke 24:1-10; John 20:1-18) These were the women who came to the tomb on the morning of the third day, bringing with them spices ready to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. They had never dreamed of seeing the risen Jesus. They were greatly astonished by the risen Lord and were told to bring the news to His disciples.

2)    By Peter and the Twelve: Jesus appeared to the disciples when they were in the upper room, fearful of the circumstance. (John 20:19; Luke 24:36) In another appearance, He showed Himself to Thomas, the doubter. (John 20:26-29) The cardinal requirement of being an apostle is witnessed the risen Lord. In order to authenticate the apostleship of the new apostle, Jesus appeared to him on his way to Damascus. (Acts 9:1-9)

3)    By many others: Jesus appeared to two of his followers on their way to Emmaus, taught them teachings of the Messiah in the Old Testament and had supper with them at night. (Luke 24:13-31; John 20:26-29) Paul also mentioned the appearance of the risen Christ to 500 at one time. We have no record in the Bible on this appearance. But they must be people whom the Twelve were all familiar personally because 12 years later, Paul said still more than half of the 500 were still alive.

 

RESSURRECTION: THE CORNERSTONE:  Paul devoted the whole long chapter 15, a total of 58 verses, in discussion and defense of the resurrection. It must be of utmost importance that he would use so much attention and defense it so vigorously.

1)    Resurrection guarantees our resurrection: (15:12-19) One of the hopes of eternal life is believers’ resurrection and that is hinged on the resurrection of the Christ. If Christ did not rise, then the early Christians faith in Him will be futile and pitiful. (15:17, 19)

2)    Resurrection guarantees our eternal life:(15:20-54) Since no mortal bodies may inherit the kingdom of God, resurrection is a must for believers of Christ to have eternal life. Without the resurrection of Christ, there is no hope for believers to be in God’s kingdom.

3)    Resurrection defeats the power of Death:. (15:55-58) Death, from the very beginning, is the symbol of sin and punishment. (Gen. 3:19) Resurrection is the proof of the acceptance of God on the atonement paid by Jesus for all men and their sins. It is the only proof that our sins were forgiven and we will be with the Lord and God in eternity. This is of vital importance.

 

CONCLUSION:   Many of you may not be interested in knowing the proofs and evidences of the resurrection of Christ, especially the details we have just presented. Just think of it: if there were no resurrection of the Lord, then He is never God, never the Savior, there will be no power of changing life, no born again, no forgiveness of sin and no salvation. Then the Bible has no use and we have no foundation to believe in. There will be no hope for mankind forever.

       But we do have the facts of the resurrection, the promise from the Lord that He will come back to take us to be with Him. There will be the Lamb of God sitting on the Throne of Judgment and we as children of God will be with Him forever.

       So, celebrating Easter or the RESURRECTION is more than just a ritual. It is an important part of our faith for now and forever. Make sure you have that guarantee of a seat in heaven down the road by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior now, today.

       May the power of the risen Lord be with you! ! !