First Corinthians 15 is a chapter brimming with cruciform language. The apostle Paul’s symphony to the Church at Corinth crescendos into a 58-verse movement whose melody is the resurrection. From the first word to the last, Paul endeavors to draw the readers’ attention to the veracity of the resurrection. His argument for its essentiality is adamantly sound, as he rests his case on Christ alone. He moves from case to case to prove and show why and how Christ risen from the dead is absolutely fundamental to everything else in the Christian life. The gospel itself finds its footing in the truth of the resurrection.
Paul, in one of the boldest claims in all of Scripture, writes, “If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation is in vain, and so is your faith.” (1 Cor 15:14) Without the resurrection, this whole thing is worthless. (1 Cor 15:16–17) It’s pointless. Empty. Void. Nothing but the ramblings of a crazy cult that’s holding on to a hokey superstition about some nobody carpenter from Nazareth who made some even crazier claims about religion. We of all people “should be pitied more than anyone” for ascribing to this belief if it’s not true. (1 Cor 15:19) “But as it is,” continues the apostle, “Christ has been raised from the dead.” (1 Cor 15:20) Jesus did rise. It’s an incontrovertible fact of faith that Christ rose and walked out of the grave, leaving the coldness of death behind. He rose from that darkness and carried out of the redemptive mission of the Father. And so it is that the gospel’s not worthless. It’s not void. It’s not nothing. It’s something. It’s everything!
Because of the great fact of the resurrection, the clang of vain babblings is replaced with triumphant anthems proclaiming Christ’s victory. All the darkness of man’s rebellion is infused with heavenly light and hope. The ruinous fall of the first Adam was undone by the resurrection of the Second. It is the great eucatastrophe of the gospel. The empty grave is the great reversal of the cross. What appears to be defeat is victory in disguise. What looks visceral and violent is pure and righteous. What seems to be surrender is actually insurrection. The resurrection, in fact, is an overthrow of all that opposes life. It’s an invasion of death’s domain. Indeed, the resurrection is the executioner of Death itself. (1 Cor 15:26)
What’s more, we’re made to share in this gracious revolution. “For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Cor 15:21–22) By faith, we, too, are made to snatch victory from the jowls of death. “Believing in his resurrection, we believe our own,” writes John Angell James; “for he rose not as a private individual, but as our representative.”1 Christ took his Kingdom by dying. And so will we.
The power of Christ’s resurrection is extended to all of us by grace. His crucifixion is yours. His resurrection is yours. His life is yours. The reverie of the resurrection is “so will I.” Just as Jesus rose from the dead, so will you. So will I. Because the Savior left the grave behind, so will you. So will I. Because of grace, your death isn’t final. It’s not even fatal. As the incarnation is the first movement in the invasion of grace, so is the resurrection the victory cry. For, in the resurrection, death itself is defeated. (1 Cor 15:26, 54–55) Death is no more. It’s been defanged. The death of death sounded when Christ cried, “It is finished.” “For God has put everything under his feet.” (1 Cor 15:27) Yes, including death itself.
“Death, the engulfer, is himself engulfed,” says Alexander Maclaren. “Death, the conqueror, is conquered utterly and forever.”2 And we, too, are “more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Rom 8:37) We, too, stand in the victory Christ secured. (1 Cor 15:58) The multitude of your sins cannot bar you from having a share in this glorious overthrow of sin and death. By grace through faith, we’re all made partakers of the “newness of life” that grace brings with it. (Rom 6:4–11) And just as Christ walked out of that tomb with death’s carcass in his wake, so will you. So will I.
And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I!
John Angell James, Christian Hope (London: Hamilton, Adams, & Co., 1858), 194.
Alexander Maclaren, St. Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians (To II Corinthians, Chapter V) (New York: Armstrong & Son, 1910), 251.