Agonizomai: 1Cor 15:12-19 - Raising Grave Objections

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

1Cor 15:12-19 - Raising Grave Objections

12-19 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

The whole point of Paul re-outlining the gospel they first received is to confront false ideas and teachings which were present in the Corinthian church. The first of these is the heresy that introduced the concept that there is no resurrection of the dead. Sadducee-ism. Unbelief. Anti-supernaturalism. Cynicism. Call it what you will it is poison to the sheep and a denial of the gospel, which is why it is plainly heresy.

And Paul explains why this heresy is so dangerous. What is the problem with it? Well, there are several. One is that the whole gospel itself rests upon the principle of death and resurrection. Take away resurrection and you take away Christ’s resurrection. Take away Christ’s resurrection and you gut the gospel, for reasons to be explained later.

Another problem is that, if it is true that there is no resurrection, the Apostles are all liars and misrepresenters of God - so why believe anything that they say? If this essential piece of the gospel is a lie, then how can the other essentials, also propagated by the very same Apostles, be received as true? A liar is a liar and he may tell some truth, but how to distinguish what is and isn’t true out of that person’s mouth is impossible. If they misrepresent God in one respect then how can they be trusted to speak the truth about him in others? Did Christ actually die, or is that also a lie? Was He God in the flesh or is that an exaggeration?

The theology behind death and resurrection is essential to salvation. It must be believed or there is no salvation. This doesn’t mean you have to be a theologian, but that you must believe rightly about God in this particular matter. Mess up here and you are in grave danger. Mess up here and you will become a second stage GES free-gracer, like Zane Hodges and his ilk who, in their haste to reinforce the true doctrine that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone have gone a step too far, and have stripped the gospel of its content; they say that believing in Jesus is all that is needed but they say that the "why" is unimportant. They do not define which Jesus one must believe in.

What was it that actually happened when Christ died and rose again that makes belief in these things so vital to our salvation? I’m not just talking about the penal substitutionary atonement. That happened and that is vital. But we must have something more than the fact that it happened. We must have faith in the fact that it happened. The events themselves do not save the unbelieving mass of reprobate humanity. What saves some of them is faith in those events as something personally accomplished for them and their own individual sin. And it is this aspect that death and resurrection that we must relate to. We died with Him and we are resurrected with Him, if we believe. And we do believe, if He died for us personally, according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.

This is not just fanciful imagery. It is not just a sentimental picture. In the spiritual realm it is an absolutely uncontrovertible fact that is apprehended by faith. We are so joined to Christ that he identifies with us and we with Him eternally. We are of one will essentially though we are trainees left in sinful flesh precisely for the purpose of our training. But we must be careful even here because our faith does not make the facts real. Our faith apprehends the facts. And our faith is itself the gift of God that comes with regeneration. Faith and repentance are our acts, but they are acts granted to us by God. When we believe that we are united to Christ in His death and resurrection we are living out what God is working in us.

Now think what it would mean not to believe that we are united to Christ in His death and resurrection - to deny it or to ignore it. To do either of these is to disbelieve in the fact that Jesus took our sin with Him and upon Him, making us right with God and bringing us out from under all condemnation - past and future. And it is also to disbelieve that He is now with us and in us, and we in Him, as our eternal life. He is our life. He alone is good. He doesn’t make us good - He makes us anew in His image and power. He dwells in us, never to depart for all eternity. We are wedded to Him in a way that reflects the union of the Persons of the Trinity. We are ourselves, but we are one in perfect will and purpose with another. Our essential nature is and will be like His essential nature because this is what He wrought for us in His death and resurrection - making it both possible by His death under God’s justice and effectual in God’s love by his resurrection.

Apart from an understanding and belief in these things by assenting to the facts of His death and resurrection, Christianity is just another religion. It is earth bound - carnal - of the flesh. A person can have all sorts of knowledge about these things but unless he believes them he will prove to be a religionist - a false professor, and apostate and an eventual reprobate ... that is, unless the grace of God grants him repentance and faith. In fact, in a religion without union with Christ bringing both forgiveness and life eternal (in the here and now) Christians would be illogical dupes, without hope in the world.

But Christianity is not primarily about the here and now; it is about eternity. More than that, it is about eternity in the here and now. The Christian is unique because he exists in a state that most men do not. He is an citizen of heaven living in a perishing world. He is the vehicle by which eternity touches history. He is in the world, but not of the world. He belongs to the kingdom of God - out of place here, but willing to abide as long as God pleases. He is already eternally alive - he just extends into temporal reality in his very real temporal body. He works, he feels, he bleeds and he dies - just like every other person on earth - just like His Saviour - because, like every other person he is human. But His hope and faith are in the finished work of Christ and his life is, even now, hidden with Christ above.


Blogger Antonio said...

What was the content of saving faith for the Apostle Peter? Did the content of faith that he had only have a three year shelf-life?

11:34 pm  
Blogger agonizomai said...


I find your questions to be cryptic; in fact they are so cryptic that I'm having a hard time connecting them to anything I said in the blog post.

Judging by your Avatar, I would guess that you are a GES supporter - so the comment might have something to do with my passing reference to to GES beliefs. But that's as far as I can get with what you said. Clarify if you want, but please relate your comment to the post in a specific and cogent way, with the clear understanding that I'm not at all interested into getting into a wrangle about the GES view of the gospel, or providing a platform for their views to be aired.

If you've read the blog any further than just this article, you'll see that I'm about to leave the country on a vital personal matter, so you might have to wait a while for a response.


12:20 am  

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