Date:     4/20/03

Text:     1 Corinthians 15:12-20

Title:     The Most pitied person……Really?

Theme:  The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our Christian faith.

Pastor Hsueh


For this past month, General Brooks briefed daily the reporters on the progress of the war in Iraq. In a professional and as a matter of fact way, no matter what the situation was in the battlefield, he would say, “the coalition forces are proceeding according to the plan.” Every day, we followed the movement of the army, from Kuwait to Baghdad. However,  what if the Iraq Information Minister was right that the coalition forces were nowhere to be seen on the Iraqi soil? What if the US and British forces never moved beyond the Kuwaiti border?

There was a parallel situation in the Corinthian church 2000 years ago. Paul had preached on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Then someone started teaching that there was no such thing as the resurrection, and therefore Jesus could not have risen from the dead. If so, how would this affect the Christian church, both past and the present?

    In this passage, Paul patiently explained to the believers at Corinth the consequences if Jesus had not risen from the dead. He pointed to them that the reality of Jesus' resurrection is the foundation of the Christian faith. First, he point out that

I. If there is no resurrection, preaching would be useless.

        Vs 14, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless….” If the coalition forces were never on the Iraqi soil, one immediately would recall the words uttered by the General Brooks, General Franks and Defense secretary and Donald Rumsfield. Same with Paul. If there was no resurrection, he immediately thought of his words, his preachings.

    In v1 and 2 of this chapter, Paul wrote that he went to Corinth, preached the gospel. He preached about the historicity of Jesus. Jesus was a real person, he really died and was buried. And on the third day, he was raised from the dead. The Corinthian believers heard, received and were saved by this gospel message. They had also taken a firm stand for this gospel. Paul worked harder than anyone for this gospel, he was persecuted for what he preached.

    If there was no resurrection, then all his preaching was in vain, useless and empty. All the work he put into preaching the gospel would also be useless and meaningless. Quite a somber conclusion, isn't it?

    Our world has known many great preachers. 150 years ago, thousands would come out to Boston Commons to listen to Jonathan Edwards preach on: Sinners in the hand of an angry God. After the sermon, they would cry for mercy. Then there was Charles Spurgeon in London, known as the prince of preaching. Later we had Moody and now Billy Graham. Graham has been preaching the same gospel for almost 60 years.

   In the 20's, there was John Sung of China. After receiving his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Ohio, he felt called by God to preach the gospel message to his own kindred, and returned to China. As the boat entered Huang Pu Giang, he threw the diploma and an honorary golden key into the sea. His preaching brought about great revivals in China and SE Asia. Later there was Wang Ming Dao, known for his preaching and uncompromising stand against the Japanese and Communists. He was imprisoned for more than 20 years.

        In addition to this, we have thousands upon thousands of ministers preaching that Jesus was a real man. He lived and died for our sins. He was Christ, meaning that he is also God. He died for us so we can be at peace with God. You too have been telling others about this message.

    Now, if there was no resurrection, and therefore Jesus would not have risen from the dead, then all this preaching would have been meaningless.

II.     If there is no resurrection, believers’ Faith is useless.

    Vs 14b, 17, “…our preaching is useless and so is your faith…..And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” If there was no resurrection, besides the preaching being useless, so is our faith. We believe in the apostolic teaching. We believe in the creator God. We believe that Jesus is the son of God, he is God. When he died on the cross, it was for our sins. He bore the punishment that was due us. Because he was punished, we are saved from God's wrath.

    The Corinthian believers understood this. When they put their faith in Jesus Christ, they also came out of their rotten and sinful life-style. They were persecuted and despised because of their faith in Jesus.

    Now, if there were no resurrection and Jesus was just an ordinary man who died on the cross, it would make no sense to teach that his death would take away our sins. If there were no resurrection, then our faith would be useless and empty. We would be like fools, believing in something that never occurred; that never was there in the first place. Our sins are still here and the promise of forgiveness would be totally empty. Not only this, our expression of faith through Sunday worship, loving one another, sharing the gospel with others would be a waste of time and energy, just another meaningless religious activity.

III.   If there is no resurrection, believers are all False witnesses.

    v15,"more than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God,...."Not mistaken witness but false. That is, we are liars about God. If Christ had not risen from the dead, whenever Paul told others about God and Jesus, he was lying. When we tell others about how Jesus still lives today in our hearts, we are also lying. If we say that we'll have eternal life by believing Jesus, we are lying. Whenever we sing of Jesus' resurrection, we are lying. As a matter of fact, we have been lying for the last 30 minutes. The master piece: Messiah, is nothing but a great piece of music built on religious fantasies.

    If there is no resurrection, Christians are the greatest liars on earth.

IV.    If there is no resurrection, believers are the most miserable people on earth.

    v18,19,"Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men."

Here Paul is saying, if there is no resurrection, then when we, believers die, that will be the end. There is no future hope. If the hope we've preached and talked about applies only to this present life, how sad it is. One basic element of this Judeo-Christian faith is that there is hope beyond this world. Abraham believed that God would raise the dead, so he was ready to offer his only son as a sacrifice to God. Job in the midst of his suffering said, “And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.” (Job 19:26). Paul in Romans 8:18ff, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. …….. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. …...” In a very broken and imperfect world, a world full of pain and suffering, we wait for the coming of Christ. When he comes, he will transform this into the perfect world. This is our hope.

If there is no resurrection, then there will not be a second coming. Then Karl Marx was right to say that religion is the opium of the people, numbing their senses to present suffering and injustice. Faith in Jesus is only a mean to subdue us making us less sensitive to present adversities. The Christian faith is but an emotional crutch.

   No wonder Paul says, if there is no resurrection, then we are to be pitied more than all men. Its like if the coalition forces never made it beyond the Kuwaiti border, then the world, and especially the Americans and the British are really pitiful, right?

V.  The reality of resurrection brings about the certainty of hope.

    If Paul's arguments stopped at verse 19, how sad it is. There would be no more sermons, no more missions and no more bibles. We might as well go home and lock up this building for good. We might as well join millions of others who stay home this day because they do not believe in the resurrection. If we continue to believe in a lie, we are really the most pitiful persons on earth.

    In v20 is a strong BUT. “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead..” There was a resurrection and because of this, everything is different. Preaching is no longer just an oratory act. Preaching is God's way of speaking to His people, helping them to understand His written word. Through the preaching, God brings individuals to him. Through preaching, God's people are convicted of their sins, they are given the assurance of the forgiveness of sins. We are comforted and encouraged in the midst of troubles and discouragements. Preaching is God's means of drawing His children closer to Him.

    Our faith is not useless either. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, the content of our faith is true. And we are not liars either. For what we tell others about God and Jesus are all truth.

Because of his resurrection, we know for sure that Jesus was not only a historical figure, but that he is alive today. Because he is raised from the death, we know for sure that he not only died for our sins, but he also has the power to forgive our sins so we are reconciled to God Because he is alive today, we can know for certain that he is present with us and among us. As we go through the ups and downs of life, he is there walking beside us.

Above all, because Jesus is risen, we have this future hope. The Scriptures tell us that while we are on earth, there'll be plenty of suffering and pain. We suffer from the consequences of sins in our personal lives. We experience pain, injustice because of others’ sins and wrong doings. We suffer physically and emotionally, because this is an imperfect world. We live in the rummage of human brokenness.

But because of Jesus' resurrection, we can rise beyond the present pain and look forward to the day when we'll see our God face to face. There'll be no more sufferings and pain. He’ll wipe our tears away. Because of resurrection, we know that now, we believe in and love Him without seeing Him, but there'll come a day, when we'll be in His presence forever and seeing him face to face. This is our hope.

On this Easter morning, it is our desire that we Christians need to recapture this conviction of hope. It was a generation ago that many Christians were labeled as too heavenly minded that they were no earthly good. All they could think of was heaven, the end of the world and Christ's coming. They don’t seem to belong to this world. But today, it seems to be the opposite. God's people sometimes are too earthly minded that we are no heavenly good. We are so indulged in our earthly dreams: our prosperity and accomplishments that we give little thought to the reality of God's kingdom and his coming again. We live as if there is no hope tomorrow.


During this past month, I not only followed General Brooks’ briefing, but also more interested to find out what the Iraqi Information Minister had to say. General Brooks told us about the presence and the progress of the coalition forces. The Iraqi Information Minister told us about the non-existence and the defeat of the Americans. General Brooks and the reporters told us about the army occupying the Baghdad International Airport. Yet the Information Minister told us that the American army was nowhere to be seen within Baghdad. Well, in the end, General Brooks was right. There was the US Army, and they did enter Baghdad. People in Iraq now have a chance to turn a new leaf in their history.

Paul’s logic in this passage is quite clear and straightforward. If Christ has not risen from the dead, then the believers are the most miserable people on earth. However, The Scriptures, God's Word, tells us that Jesus did rose from the dead. After his resurrection, he showed himself to the 12 disciples. Jesus also appeared first to more than 500 people. They were the eyewitnesses in that first century. Paul himself had a personal encounter with Jesus leading to his conversion. Jesus'' disciples were changed from cowards into a courageous group, turning the world upside down with their zeal and teachings. First hand eyewitnesses and circumstantial evidences all pointed to his resurrection.

Because Jesus had indeed risen from the dead, we, his followers, have strength and direction in the present life. And we also look forward to a day, when we’ll be with him, seeing him face to face.

Following the same logic, if Christ has risen from the dead and yet we refuse to believe him, then we will have become the most miserable persons on earth.