But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
"Christ not risen!" What follows? Apostolic "preaching is vain, and your faith is also vain." This is pressing the matter home with startling energy. But how could the logical consequence be otherwise? Christ Jesus, Son of God, had assumed man's physical nature, had been born of a woman, had eaten and drunk and grown like other men, had conformed to the laws of human corporeity, had been "made under the law" of providence, and taken all its requirements upon himself; and hence, if "made like unto his brethren," he rose from the dead just as he had been incarnated, under the general law of humanity. From the beginning to the end, no break occurred in his career; it was human throughout, and just as human when he rose from the grave as when born of the Virgin Mary. To be sure, a glory beyond the human was in him and around him - the glory of the eternal Sonship - but the human was never lost or swallowed up, never even obscured, by the mysterious awe of the Divine investing him. In this view of the matter, Christ rose because he was a man among men, and by virtue of a law which found in him its highest manifestation, just as all other laws of humanity had realized in him their sublimest expression. But what of our preaching as apostles? If he has not risen (risen he cannot be unless there is a general resurrection), then "we are found false witnesses of God." Nothing else but false witnesses, "because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not." Deluded men we cannot be; victims of excited and overwrought senses; innocent enthusiasts; - all this is impossible; and we are downright deceivers. Is this credible? Go back and read the roll of testifiers: St. Peter and the twelve, the outstanding fact of their testimony being Jesus and the resurrection; then the five hundred brethren, next St. James, and I myself. Can you Corinthians believe a thing as absurd as this, that we are all false witnesses? So much for apostolical preaching. He had put their preaching as apostles and the faith of these Corinthians in the same category; they were each "vain," that is, "empty, groundless, unreal" (Kling). Now, then, he urges that if there be no resurrection, "Christ is not raised." If Christ be not risen, what object has your faith? To believe in his atoning death, you must believe in the necessary sequel and counterpart of that death, his resurrection, since the two facts are inseparably united. Admit his death, deny his resurrection, and "ye are yet in your sins." Is this credible? On the hypothesis of no literal resurrection, three things up to this point of the argument have been made clear, viz. Christ's death was in vain, apostolic preaching of Christ crucified was in vain, and Christian faith was in vain. What a new Ecclesiastes is here! "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." But was this all? If a denial of man's resurrection necessitated the rejection of Christ's resurrection; if the loss of his resurrection swept away his atonement, seeing that there was no proof of its validity, and hence no assurance of pardon and peace; if the nullification of the atonement destroyed the value of preaching and the worth of believing; - could there be any addition to the amount and quality of these dreadful consequences? Yes; the train of evils following this new doctrine of no resurrection was lengthened out still further; for "they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." All departed Christians are lost. There is no heaven for them, and the touching words, "fallen asleep in Jesus," are mocking rhetoric. Again, the thought recurs - Was this credible? Another vanity must be superadded: affection for the departed, the tenderest and holiest of all human feelings, that which perfects the love unable to obtain its complete growth while the object lived to the eyes and was clasped in the arms; this most beautiful and noble affection is idle sentimentality, for they have "perished." At this point something more than logical reasoning is involved. The deepest instinct of the soul in its human relationships is in issue. Is this instinct a cheat, a falsehood? We, the apostles and the five hundred brethren, are not the only "false witnesses," but your nature, the very core of your nature, is a deceit and mockery. You have lost your Christ and his apostles, lost your faith, lost your friends. Nothing precious is left; you dare not trust your firmest instincts. "Most miserable!" Could there be a greater torture? "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." The hope of being with him hereafter, of seeing and enjoying him, of becoming more and more like him, - this is our heaven of anticipation; the crown is "a crown of righteousness;" the eternal reward is nearer and fuller communion with him. But this hope is all vain. Himself uncrowned, himself left to the dishonour of the grave, what can Christ be to you and what relief afford you - you of all men most wretched? Other men resign themselves to their dreams of earthly joys, seek the pleasures of sense and find them, fall down and worship Satan and get their kingdoms of power and wealth and passion. These you have denied yourselves and put far from your pursuits. Heaven has been enough for you. But lo! this heaven is a vain hope, a fleeting creature of fancy, and you are the victims of a supreme folly, the lowest on earth in hopeless misery. This mournful picture is not allowed to detain the eye, for St. Paul immediately says (ver. 20), "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept." There is the fact of his resurrection; there is also the doctrinal import of the truth with respect to believers; so that after showing the absurdity of the opposite view, be now lays down a positive assertion in conformity with the first stage of his argument. Christ has risen, but in what character and relation? The answer is, "The Firstfruits of them that slept." A vast harvest is in the future, and he is the Firstfruits. Was not the first sheaf a specimen of the matured field, a thank offering to the God of providence, a pledge of the full ingathering? In all things he was to have "pre-eminence," and consequently in this, that he was "the first begotten of the dead." Previous resurrections had occurred, but in no sense were they "firstfruits," since no representative or mediatorial character appertained to them, nor did they involve the idea of a Divine covenant. The significance of Christ's return to life is that, having been "reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." The specialty of his vicarious sacrifice gives specialty to his resurrection, which is the beginning of his exaltation to be a Prince and a Saviour, "for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins." And in this, humanity appears historically no less than prospectively: "Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." It is, in each instance, a race fact he is contemplating, and he sees the race as existing in the natural headship of Adam and in the spiritual headship of Christ. "As in Adam all die" a natural death, "even so in Christ shall all be made alive" - restored to existence as it consists in the union of soul and body. Further on, St. Paul specializes the difference between Adam and Christ; here and in the context, it is the similarity of attitude towards the human family which he presents. To see the unlikeness, we must first see the resemblance, and, accordingly, he institutes a parallel between the two, Adam and Christ, as preparatory to the divergence which he introduces when discussing other aspects of the resurrection. The union of body and soul, by which human nature is constituted, belongs in itself to the natural order of the universe, and therefore offers a common platform on which Adam and Christ alike stand, the one as causing death, the other as the restorer of life forfeited. St. Paul never loses sight of nature and natural order. Everything that he says of Christianity either asserts or implies something back of Christianity. If, as often happens, he describes it as a scheme of restoration, there is always an original system, vast in reach and compass, to which it is subordinate. And if, as frequently occurs, he is showing that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," reference is still had to a primary or normal condition as having been transcended by substituting a higher for a lower form of life. In congruity with this habitual method of thought, fundamental to all his other habits of mind, and without which he could not have been the thinker he was, he traces here the resemblance of Adam and Christ in their respective headships of the human family. But has Christ such an identification with our race as to put his resurrection, time and circumstances considered, on a level with our rising from the dead? No; he stands alone. "Every man in his own order." There is an order, a rank, a succession, and the headship of Christ is attested as before in the figure of the "firstfruits." "Afterward they that are Christ's at his coming;" the long interval between the first and second coming of Christ illustrating his majesty as the risen Lord, and ripening a harvest worthy of him as the "firstfruits." If, then, the ages are to witness the success of his power as "a Prince and a Saviour," and if the final demonstration of his glory as exalted to the right hand of his Father be reserved for the resurrection of his saints and its attendant events, this result must be of the nature of a consummation. Viewed as a system within a system, it must be limited by conditions, must have instruments and agencies, must have various adjustments of means to ends, and the ends in turn accommodated to ulterior purposes, all which go forward to an era of grandeur. A perpetual scheme of this kind is inconceivable. It involves the trial of certain definite and clearly announced principles, the coworking of God and man, the test operation of peculiar motives and sentiments; in brief, the idea of probation in the most educative and august shape it could assume. Are we the only learners in this school? Worlds have brotherhood as well as men, and the network, too delicate for any eye to see all the filaments even here, is spread over spaces unmeasured by the visible firmament. It is a mediatorial economy under which we live, nor can any reader of the New Testament doubt that the universe is affected in some way, though the manner and extent are mysteries, by this mediatorial rule. Inasmuch, then, as it is mediatorial, this system cannot be permanent, and hence "every man in his own order" presents the conception of a successional development, which must, at some period, reach its crisis and pass away. "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power." What is it that shall terminate? The previous verses (20-23) throw some light on this subject. Humanity is represented therein as to its contrasted forms, and these forms are Adam and Christ. Contrast is our chief mode of knowing objects in this world, and we are unceasingly dependent on its activity. It is a mark, however, of the weakness of our faculties and the limited sphere in which they are confined. Now, these contrasted forms of humanity as embodied in Adam and Christ shall vanish away, because they belong to our knowing "in part" and are only disciplinary for that "which is perfect." All the conflict between our nature in Adam and our nature in Christ having ended, and its connections with preternatural agents having come to a close, and that close triumphant on the side of the Lord Jesus, every sign of this sort of rule, authority, and power, shall disappear from the universe. We may venture to suggest that some hint of this is given in the forty days. The posthumous life of the risen Christ has dropped off the outward marks of its former rule, authority and power. No discussions are held with scribes and Pharisees; no snares are laid to entangle him; no repelling on his part the charges of sabbath breaking, confederation with Beelzebub, and blasphemy in claiming to be the Son of God; but the battle has closed, and the Victor fresh from the grave is victor over Sanhedrim and Herod and Pilate, and henceforth the Holy Spirit orders the struggle between the forces of good and evil. But on a far wider arena, and with an infinitely grander display of majesty, will the Lord Jesus Christ consummate his victory over earth and hell when he resigns to God the Father his delegated sovereignty as the Mediator. As in the forty days no winds and waters were to be stilled, no demoniac crossed his path to call forth his power, no exertion made in the exercise of authority and rule over those inimical to his divinity, but conflict was swallowed up in conquest; so now, the end having been attained of mediatorial government and all opposition put down, what befits him so royally as to resume the ancient characteristics of his Sonship as the second Person in the holy Trinity and take the glory of eternal ages back, long ago resigned, to his bosom? Does this require that his humanity shall be laid aside? By no means. Turn again to the forty days. Humanity then manifested in him a semi-glorified state. Over time and space he was conqueror, nor was he amenable to any law of flesh and blood, but enjoyed the immunities of a "spiritual body." Yet, notwithstanding, he was most human, and in his voice the old tones were tenderer and sweeter, so that Mary k , and symbolize the redeemed sanctity of each, there is good reason for jeopardy; otherwise none at all. By his love for this Church, by his joy in its members, he protests that his own jeopardy is so great as to warrant the statement, "I die daily." Outward circumstances beset him with so many perils and the inward pressure was so heavy and constant, as that he suffered like a dying man, day by day. To particularize; if (metaphorically) he had "fought with beasts at Ephesus," what advantage was it if the dead rise not? Was he facing all these terrible risks, hour by hour, to preach a gospel that left Christ imprisoned in the sealed grave of the Sanhedrim, and that it was vain to preach and vain to believe, and that made baptism a nullity? Was it for this that he underwent so much distress? "Let us eat and drink." If the body has no part or lot in the grace of Christ, and has no future, let us make the most of its enjoyments in the present life. "Tomorrow we die." No punishment can be inflicted on the body hereafter, since it has no hereafter; "Let us eat and drink." And yet beware; deception is always possible, and deception is certain in this instance. "Evil communications corrupt good manners;" so that poet and apostle, Menander and St. Paul, are at one as it respects association and intercourse, and their effects on practical life. Then follows the warm exhortation: "Awake to righteousness" - "an exclamation full of apostolic majesty" (Bengel) - "and sin not." Such views as he had condemned came from a want of the knowledge of God. More than this, it was humiliating that such errors were found among the Corinthians. "I speak this to your shame." The argument, as conducted to its present point, has included a number of particulars, each luminous in itself, each reflecting light on the general course of the idea foremost in his mind; and from the wide range, reaching to the end of the mediatorial kingdom, he returns to himself as daily dying for the sake of these truths. On the other side, what is the landing place? It is, in Epicurean morality and practice, the deception and corruption and shame of "Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die." And as he comes back from this extensive circuit of thought, convictions far more profound than earthly logic, and emotions deeper than earthly love, press themselves into utterance while he reminds these Corinthians how far astray they had gone, "not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God." - L.
Now if Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection?1. Our religion is not based upon opinions, but upon facts. Whatever your "views" may be, is a small matter; what are the facts of the case?
2. When those outside the Church deny the gospel facts, we are not at all astonished; they are unbelievers, and they are acting out their own profession. But when men inside the Church deny the resurrection, then is our soul stirred within us. Paul's argument begins, If there be no resurrection —
I. CHRIST IS NOT RISEN. Now —
1. The apostles bore witness that Christ had risen.
2. "But," says one, "Christ might rise, and yet not His people." Not so, for Christ is one with His people. When Adam sinned, the whole human race fell in him, for they were one with him. In Adam all died. Now, Christ is the second Adam, and all believers are one with Him; and because He rose again, they must rise again; He lives and they shall live also.
II. APOSTOLIC PREACHING FALLS (vers. 14, 15). For —
1. The apostles were false witnesses. When a man bears false witness, he usually has a motive for doing so. What motive had these men? Surely they were the most extraordinary false witnesses who ever lived. What were their morals?
2. If we suppose that they were mistaken about this matter, we must suspect their witness about everything else; and the only logical result is to give up the New Testament altogether.
III. FAITH BECOMES DELUSION.
1. It is the belief of a lie. Take this home to yourselves: if He did not literally rise, this faith of yours, that gives you comfort, which has renewed you in heart and life, which you believe is leading you home to heaven, must be abandoned; it is fixed on a falsehood.
2. The trial will be too great for faith to endure, since it has for the very keystone of the arch the resurrection of Christ from the dead. If He did not rise, your faith rests on what never happened; and certainly your faith will not bear that trial. When you are sure that "the Lord is risen indeed," then you feel that there is something beneath your foot that does not stir.
IV. YE ARE YET IN YOUR SINS. For then —
1. There is no atonement made. Christ died, and by His death obtained the full discharge of all our obligations. But His rising again was the token that He had discharged the whole of the dread liabilities.
2. There is no life for those who are in Christ. If He were still slumbering in the grave, where would have been the life that now makes us joyful, and now makes us aspire after heavenly things?
V. ALL THE PIOUS DEAD HAVE PERISHED.
1. One phrase must be explained by the previous one; if Christ is not risen, they are yet in their sins. They died, and they told us that they were blood-washed and forgiven; but if Christ rose not from the dead, there is no saint who ever died, who has had any real hope; he has died under a delusion, and he has perished.
2. If Christ be not raised, the godly dead are yet in their sins, and they can never rise; for, if Christ did not rise they cannot.
VI. OUR SOURCE OF JOY IS GONE (ver. 19).
1. Believers have given up sensuous joys. If we consider the mirth of the worldling to be no better than the husks of swine, and there be no bread for us, in the fact that Christ rose from the dead, then we .are hungry indeed.
2. We have now learned superior things — holiness, communion with God. Now if, after having tasted these superior joys, they all turn out to be nothing, then we are indeed of all men the most miserable.
3. We have had high hopes that have made our hearts leap for joy. We have been transported with the full conviction that our eyes "shall see the King in His beauty," etc., and if that be not sure, then are we of all men the most miserable.Conclusion: Everything hinges upon a fact, and if that is not a fact, it is all up with us.
1. Our eternal hopes do not depend upon our moral condition; for these men in Corinth would not have been better or worse if Christ had not risen from the dead. The reason of your being safe is not the result of what you are, but of what He did.
2. The great hope you have does not hinge even upon your spiritual state. You must be born again; but still, your ultimate hope is not in what you are spiritually, but in what He is.
3. Your being forgiven and saved depends not upon your sincerity and your earnestness. You may be very sincere, and very earnest, and yet be wrong all the while.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. CHRIST HIMSELF IS STILL DEAD (ver. 13). The suborned report of the Roman guard is true, the Sanhedrin after all is triumphant, ye are worshipping a corpse.
II. THE GOSPEL IS A DELUSION (vers. 14, 17).
1. "Vain is our preaching."
2. "Vain also is your faith." Ye have been putting your trust in a myth.
3. "Ye are still in your sins." The proof that Jesus is the Saviour lies in His resurrection (Romans 1:4); but if Jesus has not been raised, then He is not the Son of God — you have no Saviour, your fate is still among the unforgiven.
III. THE APOSTLES ARE LIARS (ver. 15). Observe how St. Paul puts his own personal veracity and that of his fellow apostles into direct issue.
IV. THE SAINTLY ARE LOST (ver. 18). If it is the fact that there can be no resurrection of the dead, then Christian morality is a failure. The Heavenly Father puts no difference between His children and the beasts that perish.
V. THE LIFE IN CHRIST IS A MISERY (ver. 19.) To profess Christ means self-denial, persecution, martyrdom. Moreover, Christianity awakens within us loftiest aspirations which can never be satisfied in this world. But if there is no resurrection, then we Christians are of all men the most to be pitied.
(G. D. Boardman, D.D.)I. AS TO THE APOSTLES. We are "false witnesses" — liars, the whole twelve of us. Peter heard Him say, "Lovest thou Me?" I heard Him ask, "Why persecutest thou Me?" We have risked our lives for the pleasure of telling a lie which has landed us in poverty and disgrace. What do you take us for? Men now try hard to find some standing-place between the assertion that Jesus was the Christ of God, and positive denial of His claims. They talk of His "moral influence"; what! the moral influence of an impostor? Jesus claimed a place which no ordinary man can claim without blasphemy. Yet we never accuse Him of blasphemy or madness.
II. AS TO THE DISCIPLES.
1. Theirs was an empty faith, and they were yet in their sins. An empty or void faith is one which has no centre, an empty thing like a soap-bubble, a filmy something floating in vacancy. For faith must have a person to whom to cling. Faith towards God will be strong or weak according to our conception of what God is. But if God sent Christ into this world, and then treated Him so as the Crucifixion indicates, what kind of a God is that to trust in? What an appalling mystery that the Creator, whom we call Father, should evolve into being such a soul as that of Jesus, simply to dash it into nothingness! No doubt of this being a devil's world then.
2. They were yet in their sins. The idea that Christ lifts us out of our sins, is one of which we cannot make too much. But if man is to die the death of the swine, why may he not live the life of the swine?
III. AS TO THOSE WHO HAVE FALLEN ASLEEP. They are perished. Fallen asleep in Christ! Suggestive word — so full of rest and quietude! But those of whom we thus think are not in this beatific state. If Christ be not risen, they are perished. We cannot believe that. Our loved ones are gone hence. Their going was a loss to us; oh, how great! Where is he? she? The idea of immortality is in my mind. How did it get there? How could it get into a mind not preadapted to receive it? Then this intuition is corroborated by Jesus the Christ. "In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you." "Now see," says one, "what these sceptics require us to believe: that all those who have shed a sunshine upon earth, and whose affections were so pure and good that they seemed to tell you of eternity, perished utterly as the selfish and impure! You are required to believe that the pure and wise of this world have been wrong, and the selfish and sensual all right." But how can we believe it? The thing is impossible. The resurrection of Jesus the Christ says that they who have fallen asleep are not perished; they are in His keeping to whom all power is given in heaven and on earth. Perished! Why, even the material does not perish; it changes, but that is all. Why the spiritual?
(Reuen Thomas, D.D.)
1. For, first of all, it is clear that the course of the world is a course of progress — progress frequently hindered by lapses and retrogressions. It is surely, then, natural — and none the less natural because of the retrogressions of Mohammedanism — to believe that this great law of progress and ascent should apply to religious knowledge and religious conduct and religious aspiration; and that Christianity should contain illuminations brighter and more heavenly than any of the religions which preceded it.
2. The inherent wonder of the resurrection is not greater than the inherent wonder of many every-day occurrences. In itself, and apart from the frequency of its occurrence, a birth is more marvellous than a resurrection; it is more marvellous that a life should begin to be than that its existence should be renewed and prolonged. If resurrections were as frequent as births, births would be considered more marvelous than resurrections.
3. But the non-recurrence of the resurrection, instead of being unreasonable and unnatural, is just the opposite. For why has there been only one resurrection in the long history of mankind? Simply because, during the whole course of that long history, there has been only one Christ. The resurrection was as natural, as necessary, to the Christ, as death is natural and necessary to us. The perfections of His holiness, and the prerogatives of His Sonship, made His corruption impossible and His resurrection a necessity. If the Son of God has, indeed, taken human flesh, then, I ask you, which is the more reasonable and the more credible supposition — to believe that His body never saw corruption, or to believe that His body is dead, eternally dead?
4. This, moreover, is our answer to those who affirm that the resurrection of Christ goes contrary to the laws of nature. For who, we ask, shall say what was the law of nature in the instance of the Christ? If there had been many Christs and only one of them had risen, while all the others had turned to corruption, then we should rightly have deemed that the one resurrection was contrary to the laws of nature operating upon the Christs. But as there has been only one Christ, we have no means of judging what were the laws of nature in His case, except from what actually happened to Him.
5. And what is the alternative of rejecting the resurrection? The alternative is that Christianity is founded on a falsehood; and that Christ and His apostles are deceivers and untrue.
(Canon Diggle.)at gospel facts: — Conclusions resulting from the denial of —
I. THE GENERAL RESURRECTION.
1. The non-resurrection of Christ. What is true of the whole is true of all the parts. If no man can rise from the dead, then Christ is still numbered amongst the dead.
2. That departed Christians are no more. Those thousands who accepted Christ, lived according to His teaching, and who quitted this world have perished — can you believe it? Are they quenched in eternal midnight?
3. That there is no mere pitiable condition in this life than that of Christians. It is implied —(1) That there are men in a pitiable condition on this earth.(2) That the pitiable condition exists in different degrees.(3) That the degree of pitiableness is regulated by hope. Man is always hoping, and therefore enduring one of the greatest elements of suffering, viz., disappointment.(4) That the hope of a Christian if false will make him, of all men, the most to be pitied. The higher the object of our hope, and the more of the soul that goes into it, the more overwhelmingly crushing will be the disappointment. The man who has thrown his whole soul into Christianity, and who reaches a point when he is convinced of its imposture, is at that moment of all "men the most miserable."
II. CHRIST'S RESURRECTION.
1. That apostolic Christianity is vain.(1) It is an empty phantom, a worthless fiction. The resurrection of Christ was the foundation stone m the temple of Paul's teaching. Take that stone away, it falls and becomes worthless rubbish.(2) We are impostors; can you believe this? What motives have we to impose? Either supposition is eternally inadmissible.
2. That the faith of the disciples was vain. What a wreck of faith is involved in the denial of Christ's resurrection! Vain is —(1) Faith in the credibility of historic testimony. On what stronger historical testimony can any fact rest than that of the resurrection of Christ?(2) Faith in the accuracy of philosophic deduction. The rapid progress of Christianity in the Roman Empire in its first stages, and its subsequent influence throughout, the world, reveal a mass of phenomena which you cannot account for if you deny the resurrection of Christ.(3) Faith in the moral value of character. Did a nobler character than Christ's ever exist? And yet if He rose not then is He an impostor.(4) Faith in the righteous government of God. If a Being so transcendently excellent as Christ is to be crushed for ever in the grave, then where is the justice of Heaven?
3. That the followers of Christ are still in their sins. But the Christians at Corinth were conscious that they had got out of their sins. "Such were some of you, but ye are washed," etc. Consciousness, the highest ultimate argument, protested against Paul's statement that they were still in their sins, hence it goes to verify the fact of the resurrection of Christ.
(D Thomas, D.D.)
If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen
(M. Dods, D.D.)
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vainI. PREACHING IS NOT IN VAIN.
1. It has power.
2. Effects moral miracles.
II. FAITH IS NOT IN VAIN. It brings —
III. THEREFORE CHRIST IS RISEN.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
I. THE WHOLE GOSPEL STANDS OR FALLS. It is emptied of its contents. There is nothing in it. A dead Christ makes a hollow gospel; a living Christ makes a full one. If the Resurrection goes —
1. The supernatural goes; if the Resurrection remains, the door is opened for the miraculous. We hear that all miracle is impossible. The historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ shatters all such contention. That fact is the key of the position. Like some great fortress standing at the mouth of the pass, as long as it holds out, the storm of war is rolled back; if it yields, all is surrendered.
2. All the peculiarity of Christ's nature goes with it. His life is full of claims to a unique position. Is He in the grave still? If so, there is no use in mincing the matter, Jesus Christ's talk about Himself was false. But if He has risen, then He is "declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead."
3. The special character and efficacy of His death goes. If He lies in the tomb, then it is idle to talk of sacrifice for sin; but if He has come forth from the grave, then we have the great Divine attestation to the acceptableness of His expiation. So, if all these things go, what is left is not Christianity: yet a great many think all is left — viz., the beauty of Christ's words, the loveliness of His character, His position as our Pattern. Yet, says Paul, if that is all I have to preach, I have nothing but an empty shell to preach.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE WITNESSES STANDS OR FALLS. The apostle puts his finger upon the real state of the case when he says, "This is the question: Are we liars or are we not?" He points out, too, the palpable improbability, when he says that, if so, they are "false witnesses of God" — men believing themselves to be servants of the God of truth, and thinking to advance His kingdom by telling a monstrous falsehood. But the vulgar old theory has been long abandoned, and now the men that least accept the apostles' theory are those who abound in compliment to their moral elevation, to the purity and beauty of their religious character. But Paul would have said to them, "I do not want your compliments; my business is to tell a plain story. Do you believe me, or do you not?" They talk about illusions. Strange illusions that sprung up in a soil that had nothing in it to prepare for them! There was no expectation which might have become parent of the belief. Illusions shared by five hundred people at once! We are shut up to the alternative, either Christ is risen or these noble lives of self-sacrifice and lofty morality are the spawn of a lie.
III. THE FAITH OF THE CHRISTIAN STANDS OR FALLS. Twice the apostle says, according to A.V., "Your faith is vain." But the two words are not the same. The first means "empty." The second (ver. 17) means "having no effect." A dead Christ makes —
1. An empty faith. There is nothing for faith to lay hold of. It is like a drowning man grasping a rope's end swinging over the side of the ship which is loose at the other end and gives; or like some poor creature falling down the face of a precipice, and clutching at a tuft of grass, which comes away in his hand. A dead Christ is no object for faith. Faith is empty of contents unless it grasps the risen Lord; and if it lays hold of Him, it is solid and full.
2. A powerless faith. A religion which does not bring conscious deliverance from sin, both as guilt and as tendency, is not worth calling a religion. Unless for the Resurrection, we have no ground of belief in the expiation and sacrifice of the Cross; and unless we have a faith in a Christ that lives to help and quicken and purify us, we shall never really be delivered from the dominion of our sins, nor live a life of purity and of righteousness.
IV. THE HEAVEN OF CHRIST'S SERVANTS STANDS OR FALLS. A dead Christ —
1. Means dead Christians (ver. 18). The one thing that makes immortality certain is the fact of Christ's resurrection. A living Head means living members; a dead Head means members dead.
2. Makes deluded Christians (ver. 19). People say, "What a low notion that is! Would it not be better to be a Christian than not if there were no future life? Did not the Stoic philosophers, who said, "Virtue is its own reward," reach a higher level than this apostle? I do not think so. Notice, he does not say they are most to be pitied, because of any sorrows or trouble that they have had here, but because the nobler the hope the more tragic its disappointment. And of all the tragedies of life there would be none so great as this, that Christian men cherishing such aspirations should all the while have been clutching a phantom, grasping mists. If we, journeying across the desert, are only cheated by mirage when we think we see the shining battlements of the eternal city, which are nothing but hot air dancing in empty space, surely none are more to be pitied than we. On the other hand, a living Christ turns these hopes into certainties, and makes us, not the most pitiable, but the most blessed of the sons of men.
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
I. IN THE CREDIBILITY OF HISTORICAL TESTIMONY. If their testimony is not to be taken, history is worth nothing.
II. IN THE CERTAINTY OF PHILOSOPHICAL DEDUCTION. The rapid prevalence of Christianity in the Roman Empire, in its first era, and its subsequent influences throughout the world, present a mass of phenomena, of which you have no philosophic cause, apart from the resurrection of Christ. Deny that, and you find all history teeming with effects of which yon can find no sufficient cause.
III. IN THE WORTH OF HUMAN CHARACTER Character is the foundation of confidence; and earth never had such a character to inspire human confidence as that of Christ. But if He rose not from the dead, then He is an impostor, and there is no character for us to trust.
IV. IN A FUTURE STATE OF EXISTENCE. Whatever probable evidence we may discover of a future state, its power depends on Christ's resurrection.
V. IN THE MORAL GOVERNMENT OF GOD. If a being like Christ is to be smitten and crushed for ever by wickedness, then where is Divine justice?
VI. IN THE POWER OF MORAL EXHORTATION. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things," etc. This is the most powerful of all exhortations, yet it is delusion if Christ be not risen.
(W. Johnson Fox.)
If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised
(L Cochrane, A.M.)
And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins
I. THAT GOD HAS NEVER, IN ANY SUPERNATURAL WAY, SPOKEN TO MAN.
1. There is no other religion that can be put into competition for a moment with the gospel as having claims to a supernatural origin. Of course, Judaism you would reject; and Mohammedanism, which is a mixture of Judaism, Christianity, and heathenism, in about equal proportions.
2. We come to systems of philosophy. Plato differed from Socrates in a great variety of modes. And what was the relation of Aristotle to Plato? But what is the condition of affairs to-day? A friend, who has been reading nothing but philosophy for twenty years, testified to me that he has not in all his library two works which substantially agree. But upon the assumption that philosophers do agree, how can they be authenticated? Can a system of philosophy span the river that separates us from the future state? Is it possible for a system of philosophy, without instruction from God, to interpret properly the plans of God, involving the whole course of human life and the final adjustments of eternity? And there will be nothing supernatural in it.
3. Now, let us look at it upon the basis of Nature. J.S. Mill logically argued that Nature is a contradictory witness. Look at her on one side, and she seems to say, "The Being who made us is good." Look at her on the other side, and she seems to say, "He is not good."
II. THE MOST ELEVATING PRECEPTS WE HAVE ARE WITHOUT A DIVINE SANCTION. Take, e.g., the Golden Rule. Some say that it can be found outside the Bible, and I will not deny it; but if it is, it is found without a Divine sanction. No man, according to the Scriptures, can love his neighbour as himself unless he first loves God and recognises the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Now take the specific applications of the Golden Rule. If the gospel be not true, the Sermon on the Mount is a purely human production. "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Why? "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven"; and there is no kingdom of heaven if the gospel be not true.
III. THE NOBLEST EXAMPLES ARE FICTITIOUS. The Book of Job must take its place by the side of Shelley's "Queen Mab," as a mere creation of human fancy. The character of Christ is but a rhapsody. Paul's character is entirely inexplicable; and even Peter must be set down as a myth if the gospel be not true.
IV. IT IS FOLLY TO THINK OF PARDON FOR SIN. In nature there is no proof, of any kind, of forgiveness. If the gospel is not true, a man cannot incur guilt, and therefore may dismiss the idea that he is guilty. It his conscience says he is, he can say to it, "You are a presumptuous usurper. There is no law, and I cannot be guilty." But men cannot do that; they know that they are guilty. But the man who has a sense of guilt, if the Bible be not true, has no power to secure its obliteration from his conscience.
V. THERE IS NO REGENERATIVE INFLUENCE. When a man for twenty-five years has tried to keep good resolutions, and has broken them, and has to acknowledge at the end of that time that be has made little progress in purifying his heart, he will do one of two things, according to his temperament: he will sadly relinquish the effort to obtain moral purity, or he will continue on without hope or any inward peace. The gospel of Christ declares that there is a regenerative influence. Now, if the gospel be untrue, there is none such; consequently, to doubt the gospel is to doubt whether there be anything which can possibly make men pure and good.
VI. THERE IS NO COMFORT IN TROUBLE. It has been said by a French writer that philosophy conquers past and future evils. Dr. Johnson represents Rasselas as going to hear a philosopher, who taught him how to subdue his passions and to conquer trials without any difficulty. The next day, however, Rasselas found the philosopher tearing his hair and walking up and down in great agony. "Why this grief?" asked Rasselas. "Oh!" said the philosopher, "my only daughter, the light of my home and comfort of my old age, is dead!" "But, certainly," said Rasselas, "the philosophy which you so eloquently descanted on yesterday comforts you now? "Oh, no," cried the philosopher, wringing his bands; "what can philosophy say to me now, except to show me that my condition is inevitable and incurable?" Rasselas went to Imlac and told him what he had heard, and he replied, "They preach like angels, but they live like men." The gospel does offer comfort to every class of afflicted persons, and Tom Moore only told the truth when he said, "Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal"; or, as I would say, earth has no sorrow that the gospel does not offer to heal. But if the gospel be untrue, all these offers of consolation are baseless.
VII. THERE IS NO STRENGTH FOR TEMPTATION. How is a man to subdue his passions and propensities? Probably four-fifths of the persons who reject the gospel have sophisticated themselves into the belief that what is natural cannot be wrong. But there are men who reject the gospel that never have done that, and they keep on through life struggling and failing. Now the gospel offers to man several kinds of helps.
1. The commands of Almighty God.
2. Promises for every situation of trial and difficulty.
3. Holy examples of men of like passions with ourselves.
4. The privilege of taking these commands and of strengthening his faith by them at the very throne of grace.But if the gospel be untrue, every promise and command in the Bible may be thrown aside as a matter without any foundation in fact.
VIII. THERE IS NO ANSWER TO PRAYER. A distinguished rationalistic preacher ceased to preach, and a friend asked him why he stepped. Said he, "I liked the preaching, and could have got along with it very well as long as I lived; but there was one thing I could not get along with at all, and that was prayer. I did not expect my prayers would be answered, and never believed they would; and to stand up before the congregation and address the Deity as if I really believed that prayer produced a result, seemed to me too much like hypocrisy." No man will long pray who has not a specific promise upon which to rest.
IX. THE INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE IS IMPERILLED. This cannot be sustained without a religious sanction, and never was in the history of this world. The heaviest strain on human nature is chastity, and it cannot be sustained unless the obligation rests upon a solemn accountability to God, and the human race cannot sustain it without religious sanction after marriage, and never have. Polygamy, on the one hand, and either spiritual or carnal or free love on the other, would certainly spring up, as they have done, to run riot all over the world.
X. YOU UPROOT THE WHOLE IDEA OF FUTURE ACCOUNTABILITY, and the question of whether a man will live or die becomes a question of logic. What reason is there why a man utterly dissatisfied with life should not commit suicide? Suppose the case of a man wile has lost all his friends, his property, and his reputation? He is too old to begin again. Prove that he ought not to commit suicide. I cannot, unless you give me the gospel. You cannot find an instance of a sane, devoted, intelligent Christian, remitting suicide: but you can produce a hundred instances of irreligious men not insane committing suicide. The reason men are committing suicide, and making such a trifling thing of it, is the spread of infidelity, the spread of doubts as to future accountability.
XI. EVERYTHING WITH REGARD TO A FUTURE STATE OF HAPPINESS MUST BE REMANDED TO THE REALM OF CONJECTURE. No man can prove a future state in any proper sense of the term. If you could show it to be probable, you could not determine the mode of existence, or the relation between the future and the present life, or get any means whatever to do so. Then, if the gospel be not true, let us face the issue and strike out, "In My Father's house are many mansions." Conclusion: Is it rational to believe that God has given no voice to man? Is it rational to believe that the noblest precepts are without a Divine sanction, etc.? It is not! Rather than believe that, I would believe "There is no God!" But because I cannot say there is no God, I must say that He has spoken to man; and because I must say that, I must believe that the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has a supernatural origin.
(J. M. Buckley, D.D.)
Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perishedI. THEIR CHARACTER. In Christ.
II. THEIR CONDITION. "Fallen asleep," implying —
III. THEIR DOOM. "Perished" — impossible. Then the assumption is false; Christ is risen, and they must also rise.
(J. Lyth, D.D.)
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