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1 Corinthians 15:3-4 by Robert Dean
Series:1st Corinthians (2002)
Duration:1 hr 2 mins 53 secs

Evidence for the Resurrection; 1 Cor. 15:3-4

Verses 3 & 4 do not give us the content of the gospel; this is not a definition of the gospel, through there are many people who take it that way. This is the foundation of the gospel.

1 Corinthians 15:3 NASB "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, [4] and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." There are two elements here stylistically set apart by that phrase "according to the Scriptures." There are two elements that Paul taught as the foundation of the Christian life. First, he died for our sins. This is the essence of the gospel. The phrase there utilizes the Greek preposition huper [u(per] plus the genitive, which means to die in place of someone, it is the idea of substitutionary atonement. This is important because when we use the English preposition "for" it can have various shades of meaning. So it is preferable to translate it that "Christ died as a substitute for our sins."

The passage that Paul has in mind is Isaiah chapter 53. The modern Jewish interpretation is that the suffering servant (the theme of this section of Isaiah) is Israel, the Jews. But this is talking about an individual, not the Jewish nation. That interpretation among the Jews did not come into vogue until the Middle Ages because it was a reaction to Christianity. In the early rabbinical thought this was a reference to the Messiah, they understood it that way, and in is interpreted and handled that way in the New Testament; it is applied to an individual. In reaction to that rabbinical theology developed a late interpretation that this applies to Israel or to the Jewish nation as a whole.

Isaiah 53:2 NASB "For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot [emphasizing His humanity], And like a root out of parched ground; He has no {stately} form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him." There was nothing striking about Jesus in His physical appearance. In contrast we see the rejection and reaction to Him in v. 3. "He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him." Man as a whole did not accept Him. [4] "Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried…" This is a reference to His payment for our sins. "…Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted." In other words, man looked at Jesus as being rejected by God because He hung on the cross as a criminal, but in contrast to the human viewpoint position, [5] "But He was pierced through for our transgressions [substitutionary atonement], He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being {fell} upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed." So this doctrine of substitutionary atonement isn't something that is developed in the later church, it is not something that just popped up on the scene by the apostles, it is not something that Jesus conjured up from His own gradual self-consciousness of some sort of religious Messiahship, it is something that is grounded in the Old Testament.

Then the second element in the foundation of the gospel is in 1 Corinthians 15:4 NASB "and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." Once again, the resurrection was not something that was a surprise. Jesus announced it to His disciples on several occasions but it was also foretold in the Old Testament. It is according to the Scriptures, that is the ultimate standard. Then beginning in verse 5 Paul goes on to list other witnesses. The first evidence is the Scriptures. That is the starting point—it is not history, it is not logic, it is not empiricism—then the historical evidence confirms the Scriptures. What Paul is emphasizing in verse 4 is the central role of the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ which is foundation to the Scripture, and that becomes the theme for the rest of this chapter. 

Seven points of the importance of the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ

1)  The physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is Scriptural. He didn't just have a sort of idealistic resurrection which is what can be seen in some of the movies that Hollywood turns out. Matthew 28:1-11; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20.

2)  The physical bodily resurrection was prophesied in the Old Testament. Jonah 1:17; Psalm 16:10, 11.

3)  The physical bodily resurrection demonstrates Christ's deity.

4)  Without a physical bodily resurrection there is no Christianity.

5)  The whole doctrine of the post-salvation Christian life is meaningless without a resurrection. Romans 6:4 NASB "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life."

6)  The physical bodily resurrection energized the disciples. These cowards, who were running and hiding when the Lord was arrested, for the next forty to sixty years were men who were going to give their lives for the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is the message that they proclaim and the message that they will die for. What could possibly explain the change in their behaviour unless they actually did see the physical risen Jesus Christ.

7)  The physical bodily resurrection of Christ becomes the pattern for the physical bodily resurrection of every believer. He is the firstfruits.

What do the Gospels say about the resurrection? There are various attempts to try to explain away the resurrection. Mark 15:15-20 describes what happened to Jesus before He went to the cross. NASB "Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. [16] The soldiers took Him away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium), and they called together the whole {Roman} cohort. [17] They dressed Him up in purple, and after twisting a crown of thorns, they put it on Him; [18] and they began to acclaim Him, 'Hail, King of the Jews!'  [19] They kept beating His head with a reed, and spitting on Him, and kneeling and bowing before Him. [20] After they had mocked Him, they took the purple robe off Him and put His {own} garments on Him. And they led Him out to crucify Him."

John 19:34 NASB "But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out." The piercing of the spear did not cause His death but it is a sign that He is already dead. Blood and water indicates that there has been a separation that has taken place in the blood, indicating that there was death.

The liberal critic comes along and says that His body was stolen by the disciples. But this would not explain the fact the fact of their regaining their courage and the reality that many of them gave their life for the gospel they preached. You don't give your life for something you know to be a fraud. What we do know about the Lord Jesus Christ and His burial is more than we know about any Old Testament person or any member of royalty in Babylon, Egypt, Greece or Rome. What they did was establish a guard. There was a concern because of Jesus' announcement of His resurrection that perhaps the disciples might try to steal the body. Matthew 27:62 NASB "Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, [63] and said, 'Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, "After three days I {am to} rise again." [64] Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, "He has risen from the dead," and the last deception will be worse than the first.' [65] Pilate said to them, 'You have a guard; go, make it {as} secure as you know how'. [66] And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone."

John 20:1 NASB "Now on the first {day} of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone {already} taken away from the tomb. [2] So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, 'They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him'. [3] So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. [4] The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; [5] and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying {there;} but he did not go in. [6] And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying {there,} [7] and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. [8] So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed."