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? (1 Corinthians 15:12)
How Could They Say That?
The members of the body of Christ in Corinth were in a dilemma. Paul referred to them as a church of God. They were called those who had sanctified themselves to Jesus Christ. The letter is addressed to those who were the saints of God. Their example was known everywhere as those who called on the name of Jesus Christ. The Corinthian church was enriched in everything by Christ. As people of God, they had been called into the fellowship of the Son of God, Jesus Christ the Lord. In his letter, the apostle Paul refers to the Corinthians as brethren multiple times. For all practical reasons, the church at Corinth was a model church with all the proper credentials of the pattern of New Testament teaching.
Paul commended the church for their good character as a church of God. Still, he began a long discourse rebuking, chiding, admonishing, instructing, and seeking to correct many false ideas that had permeated the church. Among the many issues facing Corinth, Paul tries to understand how some brethren in Corinth taught there was no resurrection of the dead. There are many things fundamental and essential to the doctrine of Christ. Believing that Jesus was the Son of God is paramount. Accepting that Jesus was crucified on a cross, died, and was buried, arising on the third day, was without question. The whole tenor of faith rested upon a risen Savior. If Christ did not rise from the dead, faith was futile. It is impossible to be a baptized believer if one does not accept that Jesus rose from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God.
Remarkably, there were those in the Corinthian church that did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. The text does not indicate they denied the resurrection of Jesus. They were teaching the impossibility of the resurrection from the dead in its general sense. Gnostic influences may have led the Christians to try and explain how a man could rise from the dead, what body he would have, and how a person could live in a spiritual body. Paul would address all of these questions. It seems they were trying to unpack the wisdom of God with the tools of men, which is an exercise in futility. Paul will explain through the Holy Spirit the nature of the resurrection, but there are still many questions at the end of the day.
Obviously, if there is no resurrection of the dead, all the stories in the Old Testament and the stories of Jesus and His disciples raising the dead were lies. The greatest lie would have been the resurrection of Jesus – if the dead do not rise. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, faith would be useless. Go home and eat, drink, be merry, and die. There is no purpose to life – if there is no resurrection from the dead. Everything a Christian lives and dies for is useless when the resurrection is denied. There were saints in Corinth who were abandoning their faith for the wisdom of men.
When men turn away from Bible study and prayer, their hearts fill with the wisdom of human reasoning. In time, left unchecked, this will lead the simple-minded away from the only truth that will save them. It is hard to imagine people of God teaching there is no resurrection from the dead. To hear that taught today would be incredible but not surprising. The people of God deny many basic tenets of the gospel—obedience, marriage and divorce, righteousness and holiness, church leadership, and worship. The church of Corinth was a place of great trouble because they began to listen to the wisdom of the world instead of the message of the cross. There is no hope in the cross if there is no empty tomb. An empty tomb means that all of God’s people receive a tomb that will be emptied one day for an eternal crown. Praise God and come quickly, Lord.