The Consequences of Denying a Bodily Resurrection
1 Cor 15:12-19 teaches us there are seven serious spiritual consequences for not believing in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
As we’ve talked about in previous weeks, the big picture of 1 Corinthians chapter 15 is the physical, bodily resurrection of not just Jesus, but of you and me.
Paul is arguing that just as Jesus was bodily raised from the dead, so will all who believe and trust in Him. Our bodily resurrection is a fact that we should believe in since, he assumes, we already believe it’s true of Jesus.
Philippians 3:20-21 is one of the key passages that clearly teaches we’re going to have a glorious body like Jesus’ body:
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
So, in other words, we are going to have a body, and it will be our body, only a better, glorified body (See also John 5:28; John 11:25; John 6:44; John 11:25; 2 Corinthians 4:14; Colossians 3:4).
But many of the Corinthians didn’t believe this. They had been influenced by the Greeks who taught the soul is immortal and would continue on forever, but not the body. They believed the physical body is just a temporary shell for the spiritual and only worth being discarded.
But that’s not the teaching of Scripture. When God created man out of the dust of the ground he declared him to be not just good, but very good (Genesis 1:31).
So Paul is reasoning with the church along these lines and in verse 12, he asks a central question:
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
See, if you believe Jesus' body was raised from the dead then why don't you also believe your body will be raised from the dead? Makes sense, right?
That’s the question, and the obvious answer is that we have no good reason not to. There's no excuse for denying the resurrection of the dead, but there are some very serious consequences if we do.
If we want to persist in denying our own bodily resurrection then not only are we persisting in error, but we're dismantling our entire faith. The consequences, according to Paul, are spiritually disastrous.
He says this in seven different ways. First, he says that if you deny a bodily resurrection then...
1. Christ is Not Risen
Verse 13 says, “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised.” See, if humans aren’t resurrected then not even Christ is resurrected because he, too, is fully human.
You might say it’s different for Jesus because He was only half human. No, that’s wrong. Jesus was fully human, 100% man and 100% God at the same time.
And I want to take some time to show you from the Bible that Jesus is fully human, because it's so important. If we deny Jesus’ full humanity then we might as well believe that Christ hasn't been raised at all.
Jesus' Full Humanity
OK, so let’s look at some verse that teach Jesus is fully human. Look at Acts 2:22 with me:
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—
Jesus is a man. It's a statement of fact. In addition, 1 Corinthians 15:21 says,
For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
Again, Jesus is a flesh and blood man, like Adam, except his body was resurrected which gives the dead hope for their own resurrection (see also 1 Timothy 2:5).
Jesus, the man, is fully human, and he has to be as Hebrews 2:17 says:
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
Jesus had to be made like us in order to pay for our sins. He is 100% man and he has to be in order to take on God’s wrath that is meant for us. This is what is meant by “propitiation.”
So, Jesus being fully human isn't a side issue. If he’s not fully human then he didn’t fully suffer on our behalf and that’s a very big spiritual problem for us. To deny the bodily full humanity of Jesus is a very serious matter, as John says in 2 John 7...
For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
In other words, to deny that Jesus came in the flesh is the same as aligning yourself with the devil and it doesn't get any more serious than that.
Jesus' Resurrected Body is a Physical Body
Now, just so we are perfectly clear that when the Bible speaks of Jesus' resurrection it means a physical, bodily, fleshly resurrection, we need to look at one more scripture.
And, again, this is so important because Paul and John are essentially saying if you deny that Jesus' physical body was resurrected then you’re denying Christ himself.
Luke 24:36–43 says,
While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.
While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them.
Spirits don't have flesh and bones, but Jesus did, even after his body was glorified. Spirits don’t die; ghosts don’t need resurrection, human beings do. And after his resurrection, he ate a meal just to make sure they understood it was really him in the flesh.
If we deny this, then according to Paul, we might as well deny the resurrection of Christ altogether. Again, 1 Corinthians 15:13 says, "But if there is no resurrection of the dead not even Christ has been raised."
OK, so we spent a little longer on this first point because it's so important.
Secondly and thirdly, if we deny the bodily resurrection of the dead both…
2-3. Preaching and Faith are Vain
1 Corinthians 15:14 says,
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.
In other words, it's "useless or of no advantage" to believe anything that is preached from the word of God. I might as well preach about unicorns or fairies because it will do you about as much good.
If Jesus’ body didn’t rise from the dead, then there is no benefit to believing in him, because what good is it to say you believe in Jesus if he was actually a liar and a lunatic?
Further, if Jesus didn't rise from the dead then He isn't God. A god who can’t get his body out of the grave is no god at all.
We may call him our Lord, or the head of the church, but if he didn’t rise from the dead He isn’t any of those things, no matter what we say. He’s just a figment of our imagination.
So, denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus means first, Christ isn't risen, and second and third, our preaching and faith are vain, and fourth…
4. The Apostles are False Witnesses
1 Corinthians 15:15 says,
Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised.
In other words, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then the apostles are liars and we can’t believe anything they say. So, we either believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and our own bodily resurrection or we believe none of it. We don't get to pick and choose because these beliefs all stand or fall together.
As Paul summarizes for us again in 1 Corinthians 15:16, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.” These two beliefs go together.
Fifth, if we deny the resurrection of the dead...
5. You are still in your sins
Verse 17 says,
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.
See, if there is no bodily resurrection of Jesus then sin and death have won. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) so sin and death must be overcome by Christ in order for our sins to be overcome, too. But if Christ has not been raised our faith in Him as our substitute is worthless.
Sixth, not only do we have no hope but neither do any of our loved ones because...
6. The dead in Christ have perished
1 Corinthians 15:18 says,
Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
Perished means "lost, never to be seen again." In other words, if there is no resurrection of the dead then you're never going to see Aunt Sally, or your husband or wife again after they die. Once someone dies, that's it, if there is no resurrection of the dead. You might believe they are in heaven right now but that's just wishful thinking if there is no bodily resurrection. It all stands or falls together.
And, lastly, number seven, obviously if there is no resurrection of the dead...
7. We are the Most Pitiful People
1 Corinthians 15:19 says,
If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
See, if we believe like the Greeks did that this body of ours is just a temporary shell for what really matters, that it's only our spirit that's important, then we are truly a pitiful people because we are in essence, perhaps unknowingly, denying the only hope any of us have.
For the Greeks and the Gnostics, who believe only the spirit is good, the only way for them to gain salvation is to transcend beyond the body into a completely spiritual state. But this view, even though it's still taught in some churches, is completely rejected by Scripture.
Christ's mission on the earth was not to rescue our spirits trapped inside "evil bodies" but to bring resurrection life to what God created in the garden and called "very good."
For the Christian, then, the body is not a thing to transcend, but to resurrect. To deny this is to deny the very heart of what it means to trust in Christ because Christ came to earth to redeem and restore not just our souls, but our bodies, too.
God’s wonderful plan is stated so positively for us in 1 Corinthians 15:20 which says,
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.
Christ isn't just alive — he's the first fruits of everyone else who will be bodily raised from the dead, too. Someday, our bodies will be like his body. Physical and material, yes, but also perfect and glorified, without sin, as God intended them to be from the very beginning.
More about this next time. But for now rest assured that our faith is not in vain if we believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead.
Finally, please listen to this hymn called "See, What a Morning" by Keith and Kristen Getty. It has powerful message of hope for those who trust in God’s salvation plan.