Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 15 to address two questions.
Question one: Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Can we be certain? Paul’s first answer is found in 15:1-7. He cited the consistent nature of gospel preaching as one proof of the certainty of the resurrection. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, as evidenced by burial, then rose from the dead on the third day, as evidenced by the eyewitness reports.
Question two: If Jesus did rise from the dead, what difference does that make in my life? What are the implications for me? Using his own personal testimony in 15:8-11, Paul shares how the resurrection provided hope for transformation. Through that resurrection, he transformed from leading persecutor of the church to the leading apostle. If Paul could experience that level of transformation, we can experience life change as well!
Beginning in 1 Corinthians 15:12, Paul moves to the second argument defending the certainty of the resurrection. Scholars have pointed out that Paul uses the philosophical rhetoric known as Reductio ad Absurdum. Reductio ad Absurdum is a philosophical argument that takes a proposition and challenges it by taking the consequences of the proposition and reducing it to the most ridiculous outcome. His line of logic is found in 15:12-19, and is based upon seven “ifs.” Check this out:
1. IF Christ is preached as risen, how can you say there is no resurrection?
2. IF there is no resurrection, then Christ has not been raised.
3. IF Christ is not raised, then the content of preaching is empty and lacking substance.
4. IF the dead are not raised, then we are false witnesses.
5. If the dead are not raised, then Christ was not raised and was proven to be deserving of condemnation. He was a false prophet. The accusations were true and Jesus was guilty as charged.
6. IF Christ has not been raised, then your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins, and those who have died have perished as ones irretrievably lost.
7. IF our hope in Christ is for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone else for living in delusion.
The rest of this section is focused on the second set of implications of the resurrection. Tomorrow I’ll begin sharing how the resurrection impacts our lives between the time of transformation and our time of death. The resurrection provides a hope that sustains.