What Paul is Telling Us about the Real Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1–11)

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Stuart Chase - 1 Apr 2018

What Paul is Telling Us about the Real Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1–11)

On Good Friday, Christians around the world commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Resurrection Sunday commemorates the historical fact that Jesus did not remain in the tomb. The resurrection is historical fact—and it must be embraced as historical fact, or else the Christian faith is meaningless. That is the burden of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. The historicity of the gospel is on trial and, as evidence, he calls three witnesses to the stand.

Scripture References: 1 Corinthians 11:1-11

From Series: "Miscellaneous"

Sermons in this series are once-off sermons preached by various church members.

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In the December 2017 edition of the National Geographic magazine, American archaeologist-turned-journalist, Kristin Romey, contributed a story titled, “What Archaeology is Telling Us about the Real Jesus.” She writes, not as one doubting the existence of a person named Jesus of Nazareth (though she acknowledges that there are some who do so), but as one who seeks to sift historical fact from religious fiction as she walks the path that Jesus walked according to the Gospel accounts.

The article closes with Ms. Romey, on Easter 2017, standing inside Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a shrine that was built over the place where (tradition claims) Jesus was buried.

Today, on my Easter visit, I find myself inside the tomb again, squeezed alongside three kerchiefed Russian women. The marble is back in place, protecting the burial bed from their kisses and all the rosaries and prayer cards rubbed endlessly on its time-polished surface. The youngest woman whispers entreaties for Jesus to heal her son Yevgeni, who has leukemia.

A priest standing outside the entrance loudly reminds us that our time is up, that other pilgrims are waiting. Reluctantly, the women stand up and file out, and I follow. At this moment I realize that to sincere believers, the scholars’ quest for the historical, non-supernatural Jesus is of little consequence. That quest will be endless, full of shifting theories, unanswerable questions, irreconcilable facts. But for true believers, their faith in the life, death, and Resurrection of the Son of God will be evidence enough.

Ms. Romey’s conclusion is that, for Christians, historical fact is “of little consequence.” All that “true believers” need is their “faith.” It is blind faith, not historical fact, that establishes the spiritual significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As I read the article, I could not help but think how differently the New Testament writers understood the evidence they presented for the history and claims of Jesus. For the writers of the New Testament, and for Christians throughout the ages, it was (and is) of paramount importance that the gospel message is rooted in historical events. Only if the facts of the gospel are rooted in history can the believer “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The claims of Jesus Christ have always been a matter of debate among sceptics, but in recent years there has been an upsurge in scepticism about his existence as a person. In 1988, Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson released a book titled He Walked Among Us, which examined evidence for the historicity and claims of Jesus Christ. In the introduction to that book, the authors write,

Did Jesus ever live? Most scholars will admit that a man known as Jesus of Nazareth did live in the first century and that his life was the source of various reports which circulated about him. Only a few insist that Jesus never lived at all.

The real question, the authors argue, is not whether Jesus of Nazareth ever lived, but whether he was who he claimed to be.

I remember reading that book in the early 1990s and resonating with the authors. In my (limited) experience in those days, I had met few people who denied the existence of Jesus, but many who rejected his claims. Fast forward to the present and the landscape has changed somewhat.

A recent survey in England revealed that forty percent of adults do not believe that Jesus was a historical figure. In 2007, an initiative called The Jesus Project was set up in the United States to launch a five-year investigation into whether or not Jesus ever existed. (The initiative was defunded after two years when concerns were raised by some within the project about its effectiveness.) Raphael Lataster, a lecturer in religious studies at the University of Sydney, and author of There Was No Jesus, There Is No God, concludes, “There are clearly good reasons to doubt Jesus’ historical existence—if not to think it outright improbable.” Another sceptic, writing for the American Atheist magazine, has expressed his opinion that “it is more reasonable to suppose he never existed. It is easier to account for the facts of early Christian history if Jesus were a fiction than if he were once real.”

It is probably worthwhile noting that the scepticism surrounding the existence of Jesus is less popular among serious scholars than it is among unscholarly sceptics. For her part, Ms. Romey considers such scepticism to be “flights of fancy,” which archaeological work “tends to bring … down to literal earth.” Still, even if they will grant the existence of a first-century Palestinian religious teacher named Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified under Roman law, even sceptical scholars draw a line at affirming the historicity of the resurrection.

But what does the Bible say? Does the Bible give us reason to affirm, with any amount of confidence, the claims of Jesus as presented in the Gospels? The answer is a resounding yes, and that is Paul’s burden in 1 Corinthians 15.

On Good Friday, Christians around the world commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Resurrection Sunday commemorates the historical fact that Jesus did not remain in the tomb. The resurrection is historical fact—and it must be embraced as historical fact, or else the Christian faith is meaningless. In the text before us, Paul places the historicity of the gospel, as it were, on trial and, as evidence, calls three witnesses to the stand.

The Witness of the Church

As his first witness, Paul calls to the stand the Corinthian believers themselves.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

(1 Corinthians 15:1­–2)

The conversion of the pagan Corinthians to Christianity was evidence, in and of itself, of the historicity of the gospel claims. In the first century, Corinth was a city that, even by pagan standards, was infamous for moral corruption. More than one historian has observed that, in classical Greek, “Corinthian” became more than just a proper noun to describe a citizen of the city; it also became a verb to describe anyone who was guilty of gross immorality and drunken debauchery. To be accused of being “corinthian” was an insult of the highest moral calibre. Paul bears witness to this reality when he writes of the pre-conversion state of the Christians in Corinth: “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you.” But the gospel message of Christ resurrected had “washed” and “sanctified” and “justified” those who were formally “corinthian” (1 Corinthians 6:9–11).

To return to our text, Paul is implying that the drastic nature of their conversion was itself witness to the reality of the resurrection. If the claims of the gospel were not true, the power it professed would not be a reality in Corinth. But the fact that lives were changed was powerful testimony to the reality of the resurrection.

Josh McDowell recalls a time when he was sharing his salvation testimony with a history class. The professor interrupted him: “Look, McDowell, we’re interested in facts, not testimonies. Why, I’ve met scores of people around the world who have been transformed by Christ.” And that is exactly the point. If the resurrection was simply a myth, it would not have the transforming power that it has displayed for two millennia across the world.

In his book Why is Christianity True? Edgar Mullins tells the story of a former drunkard who had turned sober after converting to Christianity. When he was challenged that his religion was a delusion, he replied,

Thank God for the delusion; it has put clothes on my children and shoes on their feet and bread in their mouths. It has made a man of me and has put joy and peace in my home, which had been a hell. If this is a delusion, may God send it to the slaves of drink everywhere, for their slavery is an awful reality.

It is terribly sad that the Corinthians had come to doubt the veracity of the resurrection. If the resurrection was a myth, the Corinthians would have no power to “stand” and no hope of “being saved” (v. 1). The veracity of their conversion and the hope of final salvation depended squarely on the historicity of the resurrection.

Let me state this very clearly: If the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not historical fact, then Christianity has nothing to offer those who desire change in their lives. But the fact that the Christian faith bears witness to millions of changed lives over the last two thousand years is powerful evidence that Jesus Christ is alive. If you find yourself in the trenches of sin, and wish to see true, lasting change in your life, the resurrection of Christ is your only hope.

The Witness of the Scriptures

Paul’s second witness on the stand is Scripture itself.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

(1 Corinthians 15:3–4)

Jesus’ disciples constantly stumbled over his claims that it was necessary for him to die. At times, they just didn’t understand what he was telling them (John 13:21–29). At other times, they seemed to be so oblivious to what he was saying that they just deflected and started focusing on him coming into his kingdom (Matthew 20:17–21ff). At one point, Peter even directly rebuked Jesus for suggesting that he would die and rise again in Jerusalem (Matthew 16:21–22). Even after the resurrection, it did not immediately dawn on them what had happened (Luke 24:25–27, 44–45).

How could the disciples have been so obtuse? Simply because they didn’t understand the Scriptures. Paul made it clear that the death and resurrection of Christ was clearly foretold in the Scriptures. Jesus made the same claim in Luke 24. Anyone familiar with the scriptural record had no excuse to not understand the need for Christ to die and rise again.

When Jesus spoke to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, he told them that it was “necessary” (as testified by Scripture) for him to die and rise again (Luke 24:25–27). He later told his disciples that his death and resurrection, prophesied in the Scriptures, “must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44–46). Why was it “necessary” that these things “must be fulfilled”?

In our text, Paul tells us that three things happened “according to the Scriptures”: First, “Christ died for our sins”; second, “he was buried”; and, third, “he was raised on the third day.” (Technically, “according to the Scriptures” is not applied to his burial, but the fact that his burial is sandwiched between his death and resurrection, which are each said to be “according to the Scriptures,” implies that his burial was likewise “according to the Scriptures.” Indeed, we will talk below about how the Scriptures prophesied his burial.) Let’s consider the significance of these three events—and why it was “necessary” that each of them “must be fulfilled.”

That Christ Died for Our Sins

The Old Testament prophesied, and the New Testament claims as history, “that Christ died for our sins” (v. 3a). According to the Bible, God created humans to be in eternal fellowship with him, but when our first parents sinned, they brought death upon humankind. Death is not merely a natural part of the human experience; death is an unnatural enemy that exists because of sin. Paul made this truth clear when he wrote, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

Sin is any word, thought or deed that is contrary to God’s commands—whether by commission or omission. When you say, think or do anything that God says you may not say, think or do, you have sinned against him. When you fail to say, think or do anything that God says you must say, think or do, you have sinned against him. And the penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23).

But we should note that death, as we typically think of it, is only part of that penalty. The Bible tells us that the death that ends our life on earth is not the final word—because after death comes judgement (Hebrews 9:27). Jesus is coming back one day, and he will raise everyone who has ever lived from the dead. At that point, those who have not received the forgiveness of sins will face a second, eternal judgement (John 5:28–29). Paul speaks about that judgement in this way:

This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

(2 Thessalonians 1:5–10)

Death. Eternal Destruction. This is what our sin earns us. And that is why “Christ died for our sins”—to deliver those who believe in him from eternal destruction. In the famed words of John 3:16: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Do you wish to escape the penalty of eternal destruction? Do you wish to receive eternal life rather than to perish? If so, you must believe that Christ died for your sins—that his death on the cross was an act of substitution, that he died in your place so that you can be delivered from death to life. In the words of Jesus, “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14–15).

That He Was Buried

The second thing that happened, according to the Scriptures, is “that he was buried” (v. 4a). As noted above, Paul does not, strictly speaking, apply “according to the Scriptures” to this fact of history, but the Scriptures certainly did anticipate Jesus’ burial. Jesus considered Jonah’s three days in the belly of the fish a prophetic illustration of his own three days in the tomb (Matthew 12:40). Isaiah foretold that Messiah would be assigned a “grave with the wicked” (53:9).

Despite the fact that the burial of Christ is given attention in all four gospels, it is a historical reality to which we tend to give little thought. But it is, in fact, a significant element of the gospel story, for at least three reasons.

First, the burial proves that he really died. Some sceptics, particularly in the nineteenth century, theorised that Jesus never really died, that he only passed out but later revived. The historical facts surrounding his burial make this claim laughable.

A trained Roman centurion certified to Pilate that Jesus was dead (Mark 15:44–45). Joseph of Arimathea (a member of the Sanhedrin) and Nicodemus (a ruler of the synagogue) concurred (John 19:39). Jesus’ body was carefully and ritually prepared for burial, and no one seemed to notice during this process that he wasn’t really dead. His body was placed in a new tomb, which was then sealed with a large stone (Matthew 27:59–60).

If these were not historical facts, a resuscitation might be considered probable, if extremely unlikely, but his burial—and the manner in which he was buried—proves that he was dead.

Second, as we have seen, the burial fulfilled Scripture. As Jonah was in the belly of the fish for three days, Jesus was in the tomb for three days. And while the gospel writers don’t specifically cite Isaiah 54:9, in which it is prophesied that Messiah would be associated with “a rich man” in his death, as fulfilled prophecy, Matthew specifically draws attention to the fact that Joseph, in whose tomb Jesus was buried, was a rich man.

Third, there is theological significance to Christ’s burial. Paul says that, in baptism, we are buried with Christ (Romans 6:4). In the same way that burial removes the dead body from the society of the living, so we who have died to sin are, in a sense, removed from a life of sin through baptism. In baptism, we testify that we have not only died to sin, but we have been buried to it. As James Montgomery Boice says, “To go back to sin once you have been joined to Christ is like digging up a dead body.”

That He Was Raised On the Third Day

The third historical fact, according to the Scriptures, is that Jesus “was raised on the third day” (v. 4). That is why we gather for worship on Resurrection Sunday. That is why, in fact, we gather for worship every Sunday. Sunday is the Lord’s Day because it is the day on which Jesus rose from the grave. And every Sunday, believers around the world gather into communities called churches to celebrate the fact that he is risen.

What is the significance of Christ’s resurrection? We could spend Sunday after Sunday unpacking the significance of the resurrection, but let me briefly state four significances.

First, the resurrection is significant because it fulfilled biblical prophecy. Christ’s resurrection, says Paul, happened “according to the Scriptures.” David prophesied the resurrection when, speaking prophetically of Christ, he wrote, “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Psalm 16:10). Peter specifically cited this psalm as a prophecy of the resurrection when he preached on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22–28). Paul preached in Acts 13:32–34 that Psalm 2:7 was a prophecy of the resurrection. The resurrection was a prophetic necessity.

Second, the resurrection is significant because it proves that Jesus was who he claimed to be. Throughout his ministry, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, which is precisely why the religious leaders conspired to kill him (John 19:7). But this was no empty claim. Indeed, he “was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The resurrection proved his claims to divinity.

Third, the resurrection is significant because it proves that Jesus accomplished what he claimed to accomplish. Shortly before he died, Jesus cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). In uttering these words, he claimed to have paid the full penalty for sin. Sin and death were defeated, and so it was not possible that death should hold him. Had he never risen from the dead, his claims to have defeated death would have been empty. The resurrection was, as it were, the divine proof of payment that the debt of sin had been cancelled.

Fourth, the resurrection of Christ secures and guarantees the future bodily resurrection of Christians. This is really Paul’s burden in the bulk of this chapter. In the latter half of 1 Corinthians, Paul answers a series of questions that the Corinthian believers posed to him. The specific question with which he is concerned in 1 Corinthians 15 regards the future resurrection of believers: “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (v. 12).

The resurrection of Jesus guarantees a future resurrection for believers (vv. 12–34). The bodily resurrection of Jesus guarantees a future bodily resurrection for believers (vv. 35–57). Together, the reality of Christ’s bodily resurrection and the promise of our bodily resurrection give us steadfastness and immovability in our faith (v. 58).

The Witness of the Witnesses

Of course, all of the above is purely hypothetical if Jesus did not actually rise from the dead. That is why Paul calls his third witness to the stand:

and that 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. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

(1 Corinthians 15:5–11)

For Kristin Romey, the quest for the historical Jesus “will be endless, full of shifting theories, unanswerable questions, irreconcilable facts.” Paul, however, leaves no room for debate. The historicity of the resurrection is attested not only by the witness of the church and of the Scriptures, but also by eyewitness accounts. It was not only claimed that Jesus rose from the dead, he was seen to have risen from the dead.

Paul specifically lists six post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to six individuals or groups of individuals. This is not an exhaustive list of all Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. We know, for example, that Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene and some of the other women at the tomb, and that he appeared to Cleopas and another disciple on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13–35). Neither the women nor Cleopas and his travelling partner are mentioned here. Perhaps these specific examples are listed because the Corinthians, in one way or another, would have had easy access to these individuals to question them about their claims. Regardless, the thrust of the argument here is that the resurrection was an event that carried eyewitness testimony.

Briefly, Jesus appeared, first (at least of the apostles) to Peter (Cephas) (v. 5a). Peter was the rock on which Jesus had promised to build his church (Matthew 16:17–18) and he took the early leadership of the apostles in Acts. We do not know the exact timing of this appearance to Peter, but we know it must have been after his appearance to the women by the tomb, and likely before his appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Having appeared to Peter, the Lord, second, appeared to the Twelve (v. 5b; see John 20:19; Luke 24:36). Judas had killed himself by this point, so there were actually only eleven disciples left, but they were still known collectively as the Twelve. Since one qualification of apostleship was an experience with the bodily resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22), it was crucial that Jesus appear to and commission his disciples. It was also necessary for them to be convinced of his resurrection if they would be witnesses of the resurrection.

Third, the Lord “appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time” (v. 6). While it has been suggested that Jesus appeared simultaneously to five hundred different people in different locations, it is more likely that these five hundred were gathered together in the same place at the same time. “Most” of these five hundred were “still alive” when Paul wrote, “though some have fallen asleep” (v. 6b). The significance of this is that these witnesses were available to corroborate their claims. They could be interviewed and interrogated by the Corinthians.

The fourth individual to whom the resurrected Jesus appeared was “James” (v. 7a). The mention of “all the apostles” following James’s name seems to suggest that this James was an apostle, though Jesus also had a half-brother named James. James the son of Zebedee, brother of John, had already been executed when Paul wrote this, so it is likely that the James in question here was James the less (James the son of Alphaeus), though it is conceivable that it was Jesus’ half-brother.

Fifth, Jesus appeared “to all the apostles” (v. 7b). According to the Gospels and the early chapters of Acts, Jesus actually appeared to the apostles a number of times during the forty dates between his resurrection and ascension. Paul conflates these many appearances into just a couple not because he doubts the claim of many appearances, but simply because he wants to stress, once again, that any of the living Twelve could verify the claims of resurrection.

Sixth, and finally, Jesus appeared to Paul. Unlike the other eyewitnesses, Paul saw Jesus both post-resurrection and post-ascension. The word translated “last of all” means last in a series of events and suggests that Paul was the last one to see the risen Lord. Others may have seen Jesus in visions (e.g. John in Revelation), but Paul was the last to see (and to be commissioned by) the physically resurrected Jesus.

The Corinthians had access to many—literally, hundreds—of eyewitnesses to the resurrection. And since all saw the same thing, all could bear credible witness to it, and their testimony could be “believed” (v. 11). Eyewitness testimony is always considered the strongest form of evidence, and Jesus’ resurrection has tremendous eyewitness testimony to it.

Thomas Arnold, the British historian and educator of the early-to-mid nineteenth century, summarised the testimony in this way:

The evidence for our Lord’s life and death and resurrection may be and often has been shown to be satisfactory. It is good according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece as carefully as every judge summing up on an important case. I myself have done it many times over, not to persuade others but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair enquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.

The Verdict

Paul has called three witnesses to the stand: the Corinthians, the Scriptures, and the eyewitnesses. We have heard their testimony. The question, is, what now? What will you do with the evidence that has been presented?

Unbeliever, what will you do with the evidence presented? Paul said that it is by the power of these historical events that we are “being saved.” What do we need to be saved from? The answer is, God! As an unbeliever, you need to be saved from the wrath of God against your sin. You need to be saved from eternal death. Jesus died and rose again so that those who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life. As we have already seen, when Jesus returns, he will do so “in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” And what is the vengeance that he will inflict? “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:5–10).

Do you realise that your sin earns you nothing but death—the second death (Revelation 20:14; 21:8), eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46)? The only means of escape from this eternal punishment is repentance from sin and faith in the crucified, buried and risen Lord Jesus Christ. Your own merit will earn you eternal destruction; Jesus Christ’s merit will earn you eternal life. Will you believe the historical record and then call upon the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life?

Believer, what must you do with the evidence presented? First Corinthians 15 is the longest chapter in this letter, and at the end of it all—after defending the historical reality of the resurrection—Paul writes, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labour is not in vain” (v. 58).

Marion Soards says that the resurrection is “the basis for [the Christian’s] future hope and current living.” Only if Jesus really rose from the dead is the believer’s “labour … not in vain.” If Christ never really rose, then everything we do as Christians is pointless. Conversely, if Jesus did rise from the dead (and he did!), it should drive us to do everything that we do consciously and actively for his glory.

Only if Jesus Christ is alive, do the exhortations that Paul gave to the Corinthians make any sense! Only if Jesus Christ is alive, does it make sense for the church to strive for unity amongst its members (chapters 1–4). Only if Jesus Christ is alive, does it make sense for Christians to pursue a God-honouring sexual ethic (chapters 5–6). Only if Jesus Christ is alive, does it make sense for Christians to strive for godly marriages (chapter 7). Only if Jesus Christ is alive, does it make sense for Christians to put others first rather than pushing for their own rights (chapters 8–10). Only if Jesus Christ is alive, does it make sense to order the church in a way that brings honour to God (chapter 11). Only if Jesus Christ is alive, does it make sense to use our gifts not for personal gain but for the benefit of the body (chapters 12–14).

Only if he rose from the dead (and he did!) do we have any hope beyond this life. One atheist assesses life and its purpose in this way:

Life is cast up between nothing and nothing. Death is its boundary and its supreme possibility. To freely accept death, to live in its presence, and to acknowledge that for it there is no substitute and into it one must go alone, is to escape from all illusions and to achieve genuine dignity and authentic existence.

Jean-Paul Sartre suggested that humans are caught between “the absurdity of life’s origin and the fear of life’s extinction.” William Provine said, “There are no gods, no purposeful forces of any kind, no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I will be completely dead. That’s just all—that’s going to be the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life.”

As Paul argues that, if Christ did not rise from the dead, the above sceptics are absolutely right: the Christian faith is futile and we are still in our sins, destined for eternal death. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, it is foolish for Christians to face ridicule and persecution for their faith. Indeed, if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then this life is all that there is, and we may as well eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. The Christian faith has no power to transform lives if it is based on a lie.

But, as it is, Jesus did rise from the dead. As James Denney puts it, “The New Testament preaches a Christ who was dead and is alive, not a Christ who was alive and is dead.” This truth—and this truth alone—empowers our faith and spurs our obedience.

The evidence has been presented. The witnesses have spoken. The question remains, what will you do with Jesus Christ?