In 1930 a bright lawyer named Frank Morison started to write a book which was eventually, but not initially, titled “Who Moved the Stone?”As a scientifically minded man, his belief was that miracles do not happen. His aim therefore when he started to write was to do the world a favour by trashing the myth of Christ’s resurrection and strip the ‘miraculous garbage’ from the alleged resurrection ‘myth’. So, as a gifted lawyer would, he meticulously sifted the evidence with the intention of proving his thesis that because miracles don’t happen so dead men don’t rise. He would not be alone in our own time when plenty of people deny the resurrection. The issue of ‘Resurrection’ is the topic of the (effectively) concluding chapter of the Apostle Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 15. Clearly among the many problems in the dysfunctional Corinthian congregation there were issues over the resurrection of Jesus as well. In particular there were those who denied the resurrection as today (v12). So Paul gives the argument for the resurrection and the importance of it…..
A Resurrection Faith (vv1-4)
In verses 1-4 he includes a ‘Creed’, a Christian faith statement i.e. what Christians believe, indeed what Paul had preached to the Corinthians when he formed the church. It was this gospel that they had accepted and on which their faith rested, otherwise their faith was pointless. The gospel Paul had preached included the fact that “(Jesus) was raised on the third day”(v.4). This was the belief Morison wished to disprove.
The fact is that Christianity is not just a crucifixion (Good Friday) faith but a resurrection (Easter Sunday) faith. The resurrection of Jesus as a fact is the basis of Christian hope, new life, death overcome and eternal life for those united with Christ. Take the resurrection from the Christian faith and you don’t have a Christian faith.
Frank Morison searched for evidence to disprove this central belief of the Christian faith. However Paul cites evidence for Jesus resurrection in verses 5-11-let’s look at it-
Appearances (vv5-8) Paul lists the many people who actually were eye witnesses to the resurrected Jesus:- The apostle Peter, the 11 in the upper room, the 500 most of whom were still alive and would have been able to say if the story of Jesus resurrection was a lie. Also he mentions James, then all the Apostles and finally himself. A whole stack of people who could witness to the fact of the resurrected Jesus.
Change Another relevant piece of evidence is the change that took place in Paul himself the former persecutor of Christians (v9). Why did he forgo his position as a respected Jewish leader and religious teacher and change his status from one of power and respect to a loathed, himself persecuted and ultimately executed outcast if he knew the story wasn’t true?
Martyrdom We can also add martyrdom. Why did most of the Disciples also allow themselves to be martyred for what they of all people would have known to be a lie if Jesus wasn’t resurrected?
The Holy Spirit – Jesus had promised his disciples that he would be with them (and us) to the end of the age through the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18). If true we would expect see evidence of that in Christians. Paul claims evidence of the Grace of God, the Spirit of the resurrected Christ in himself (v10). This is the experience of every true Christian, the leading of the Good Shepherd in everyday life, the evidence of the resurrected Jesus in their life, without which they would not be where they are, or doing what they are doing. It is the presence of the Spirit of the resurrected Christ that drives Christians to often costly and dangerous ministry. That Jesus is alive may appear to many to be a story, but the main evidence for Christians today is the work of his Spirit that produces change, a drive to ministry, service and even death for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Resurrection Consequences (vv.12-19)
Paul says to the Corinthian congregation, if you deny that the dead can rise, then you realize that the man Jesus did not either (v13), and so our preaching of the gospel is useless and your faith is worthless. Further, we have been bearing false witness about God because we preached that God did raise Jesus as from the dead. (v15)
In effect, if Jesus bones are still to be found somewhere in Jerusalem then our faith is futile and there is a most terrible consequence, i.e .that “You are STILL IN YOUR SINS”! (v17) And it gets worse! If Jesus is still dead then Satan has won, our sin is not dealt with and we face the terrible prospect of standing before God to be judged on our sins! It also means that believers who have died, including our friends and family are lost.
If Christian hope in Christ is for this life only (v19) as some sort of moral guide or ethics teacher; if Christianity is just a crutch for getting through life as many accuse, then we are the most pitiable, wretched people. This is because there are no new starts, and no hope for life or eternity.
The lawyer, Frank Morison never wrote his original book to trash the “myth of the resurrection”, which he said became “a book that refused to be written”. This was because his research convinced him of the fact of the resurrection! Instead he wrote another book about “the resurrection we had to have”.
Jesus Is Alive! Praise God!