The Proof of Christianity (1 Corinthians 15:1-11)
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The Proof of Christianity
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
There are two questions we must face to appreciate today. 1) How do we know Easter is true? And 2) If it’s true, what difference does it make? God answers both questions in the Bible with Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church in I Corinthians 15. Turn there with me. The Corinthian church didn’t think Easter mattered. They thought death was the end of their body forever–when you’re dead, you’re dead.
But by denying a bodily resurrection, these Corinthians were actually questioning the entire Christian faith. If there’s no resurrection, then Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. And if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then He’s a phony. And if Jesus is a: phony, then Christianity is a fraud and all Christians are wrong. But if Christ did rise from the dead, then it proves Easter is true, Jesus is alive, and everything He said about Heaven and Hell is true. That means those who have Christ indwelling them are right and everyone else is in serious trouble.
That’s why today is a fork in the road of your life–if Jesus did rise, then He is real and the only way to be right with God. And if you don’t follow Him, eternal Hell awaits. But if He didn’t rise from the dead, then enjoy this service, go home, eat a great meal today and get as much out of life as possible–because this is all there is. Today you must choose–one path or the other. But how can we know for certain? Let’s look now at how Paul answers our doubts. He gives us four positive proofs in 1 Corinthians 15. How do we know Easter is true?
#1 The proof of PERSEVERANCE Verses 1 to 2
Listen to what God says in 1 Corinthians 15:1 to 2. “Now I make known to you, brethren, [literally, pay attention friends, this is important!] the Gospel [that’s the good news] which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.”
God asks us—”Did you hear the Gospel, the good news that God alone has provided salvation? Do you believe it? Then by faith, entrust your life to it, stand upon it–in other words, surrender to it.” Do you have a genuine relationship with God that came by putting all your trust in Jesus alone to save you now and forever? Is it just as real today as it was the first day you received Christ? It’s only true, Paul says in verse 2, “if you hold fast”–literally, if you continue to believe in and follow Jesus Christ! Our holding onto Jesus is an evidence that He’s holding onto us.
Maybe today you know of someone who turned away from Christ? When a so-called Christian says they believed in Jesus, or even lived like a Christian for a time, but later rejects Christ–God says they’re showing us their salvation was never real in the first place. They were able to let go of the things of God because they themselves were doing the holding. As 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.”
First Corinthians 15:2 says such a person doesn’t hold fast the word because his faith was never real–it was empty, it was vain. He can’t hold fast because he’s not held fast. Christ repeatedly spoke of three categories of people–believers, non-believers and make-believers. The make-believer has a phony faith that looks so real you can’t tell it apart from a real faith. Yet Jesus says the make-believer is on a wide road that looks like it’s going to Heaven, but actually leads to Hell. Some of the Corinthians had outwardly acknowledged Christ, verse 2, but they had not received Him–they didn’t stand in Him, were not saved by Him, and didn’t hold fast to His word, which Paul preached.
So where’s the proof that Jesus is real? Think about it. Despite their immaturity and many weaknesses, the fact that the Corinthian church even continued to exist was a strong evidence to the reality of Christ. Who but the risen, living Christ could have taken extortioners, thieves, adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals, liars and idolaters, that made up the Corinthian church, and transformed them into a community of Christians who endured in their walk with Christ?
The endurance of the Church of Jesus Christ through 2,000 years is evidence of His resurrection reality–that Jesus is real. In fact, every time you jot something down on your calendar, you’re testifying to the impact of Christ. When you write 2023–2023 years from what? From Jesus Christ, who changed all of history and has caused His mission and people to persevere through it all. His Word, the Bible and His people have survived skepticism, persecution, betrayal and disobedience–proving Jesus did rise from the dead and is alive today. But you’re thinking, that’s not enough for me. A lot of religions have been around a long time. So Paul adds, we know Easter is true because of the Word of God/the Bible.
#2 The proof of the BIBLE Verses 3 to 4
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” The prophecies about Jesus found in the Old Testament, written hundreds of years before His birth, prove the truth of Christianity. Truth is not what you think it is, truth is what God revealed it is. What is that truth?
Look again at verse 3, “For I delivered to you as of first importance.” Paul says, “I shared with you the number one priority–the Gospel.” The good news is how God can solve your biggest problem. Paul says it’s not a message I designed, but merely delivered to you, what God authored. This is the most important. In a sense Paul is saying, “I didn’t arrive with the life-saving drug, then talk about the weather. I gave you the medicine. Only the Gospel can cure you from the disease of sin. I didn’t just instruct drowning men how to swim.” Paul says, “I threw you the life preserver. The answer. Only the Gospel can save you from the eternal drowning of Hell.” So what’s this important message about? The Gospel means good news–the greatest sacrifice ever made. The Bible gives us the two main facts of the Gospel in verses 3 to 4.
Fact #1 Christ died for our sins and was buried
This is good news. Why did Jesus die? For our sins. What is sin? Sin is our selfish, proud independence–rejection of God’s rule and disobedience to God’s Law. Any wrong thought, unloving action, harsh word or bad attitude–which means we are all sinners, our nature is to sin. And the penalty for our sin, is death–not merely physical death, but eternal punishment in Hell forever, called the second death.
But God loves us so much, He had His own Son, Christ, pay the price for our sin–yours and mine. Really? Did Jesus’ death on the cross really satisfy all the righteous anger of God for every sin that’s ever been and ever will be committed? Yes! Isaiah tells us chapter 53, verses 5 and 6, “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities… 6Each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” All your sin falls on Him.
Does that mean everyone is a Christian? No. You must have faith in what Christ alone has done in order to gain forgiveness of sin in your own life. But some will say, “Jesus could never forgive my sin!” Really? God forgave Paul for murder, David for adultery and Mary for prostitution. No matter what you have done, Jesus Christ can forgive you if you turn to follow Him alone. Which leads us to the second fact about the Gospel.
Fact #2 Christ was raised on the third day
This is more good news–Jesus is alive. The word raised is in a tense that means Jesus was raised from the dead at a point in time, and He continues to be raised even now. But how do we know? Where is the proof? Did you see the proof Paul gives to convince us the Gospel is true? He says it twice in verses 3 and 4. What is it? “According to the Scriptures.”
“Scriptures” in this passage refers to the Old Testament. Jesus said several times we’d find prophecies about Him in the Old Testament, written hundreds (some thousands) of years before He was born. These prophecies and their fulfillment prove Jesus is God, who took on human flesh, died for our sins, was buried and rose from the dead to live as the only way to know God, go to Heaven, be transformed, know forgiveness and be right with God hnow and forever.
The Bible proves what Jesus said and did is true. You ask, “How does the Bible prove Jesus is real?” Think through just eight Old Testament prophecies and by using simple probability, try to answer one question–one man in how many men has fulfilled this prophecy? Then allow me to give a conservative estimate, in order for you to see how the Old Testament prophecies prove Christianity is real and the resurrection really did happen. We even want math majors to feel welcome.
First Micah 5:2–predicts Christ will to be born in Bethlehem
One man in how many, the world over, has been born in Bethlehem? Take the average population of Bethlehem, from Micah down to the present time, and divide it by the average population of the earth during the same period. You come up with 1 x 10 to the fifth (one man in one hundred thousand was born in Bethlehem).
Second Malachi 3:1—”Behold, I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me.”
Of the men who have been born in Bethlehem, one man in how many has had a forerunner to prepare his way? One in 10 to the 3rd power, or 1 in 1000.
Third Zechariah 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation: lowly, and riding upon. . .a colt, the foal of an ass.”
One man in how many, who has entered Jerusalem as a ruler, entered riding on a colt the foal of an ass? Let’s say one in 10 to the 4th power, 1 in 10,000.
Fourth Zechariah 13:6, “What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”
Christ was betrayed by Judas, one of His disciples, causing Him to be put to death–wounds being made in His hands. One man in how many, the world over, has been betrayed by a friend, with that betrayal resulting in him being wounded in his hands? It’s very rare to be betrayed by a friend, and still rarer for the betrayal to involve wounding in the hands. Let’s say 1 in 1,000, 1 in 10 to the 3rd power.
Fifth Zechariah 11:12, “And I said, give me my price; so they weighed for my price 30 pieces of silver.”
Of the people who have been betrayed, one in how many has been betrayed for exactly 30 pieces of silver? This would be rare–let’s say one in a 1000, 1 in 10 to the 3rd power. Again, I am assuming low, so you know I am not stacking the deck.
Sixth Zechariah 11:13, “I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.”
One man in how many, after receiving a bribe for the betrayal of a friend, returned the money, had it refused, threw it on the floor in the house of the Lord, then had it used to purchase a field from a potter? Was there ever another incident involving all of these items? One in 10 to the 5th power, or one in 100,000.
Seventh Isaiah 53:7, “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
One man in how many, after fulfilling the above prophecies, when he’s on trial for his life, though innocent, made no defense for himself? We will use one in 10 to the 3rd power, or 1 in 1000.
Eighth Psalm 22:16, “They pierced my hands and my feet.”
One man in how many, from the time of David on, has been crucified? One in 10,000 or 1 in 10 to the 4th power.
If these estimates are considered fair (I made them low), one man in how many men the world over will fulfill all eight prophecies–what’s the probability? By figuring all of our estimates together mathematically, we end up with 1 in 10 to the 28th power (28 zeros)—one more than an octillion. Now what’s the chance any man might have lived from the day of these prophecies down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies? We can answer this question by dividing our number by the total number of people who have lived since the time of these prophecies.
Conservatively, this ends up being 1 in 10 to the 17th power (17 zeros). There is one chance in 10 to the 17th power that one man could fulfill these eight prophecies—almost a quintillion, Let us try to visualize this probability, or chance. If you mark one of ten tickets, and place all the tickets in a hat and thoroughly stir them, then ask a blindfolded man to draw one, his chance of getting the right ticket is 1 in 10.
Suppose we take 10 to the 17th silver dollars and lay them on the face of the great state of Texas–that will cover the entire state two feet deep in dollars. Now mark one of these silver dollars and drop it from a plane. Then stir the whole mass thoroughly all over the state, with bulldozers for a month. Next blindfold a man and tell him he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must only pick up one silver dollar and get the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? The same chance the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man, from their day to the present. Incredible, isn’t it?
The Old Testament Scriptures, written long before the birth of Christ, prove that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh. They prove He is the only way to be right with God. Really? Sure–if you think my estimates are too high, then lower them as low as you like. But don’t forget, there are over 300 Old Testament prophesies concerning Jesus, not just eight. And the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew to Greek 200 years before Christ, not manipulated. In the business world, if an investment has nine chances in ten of being profitable, and only one chance in ten of being a failure, it’s usually a safe investment.
Who ever heard of an investment that had only one chance in ten to the 17th power of failure–yet we are offered this investment by God. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 12:3 to 4, “Christ is proven according to the Scriptures.” By submitting to Jesus Christ as our Master, we know from only these eight prophecies which only have one chance in ten to the 17th power of being wrong, and this investment will yield the wonderful dividend of eternal life with God forever in Heaven, and abundant life now in Christ. Any man who rejects Jesus as the only way to be right with God is rejecting a fact proved more absolutely than any other fact in history. It is proven by the Scriptures. There is still another indication.
#3 The proof of the APPEARANCES Verses 5 to 8
Look at verses 5 to 8–Christianity is proven by the post-resurrection appearances of Christ. “And that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8and last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
The New Testament points to ten main appearances of Jesus after He rose from the dead. The word “appeared” (used four times here) means to be seen—literally, to establish the reality of your sight with human eyes. Christ was really seen. He was not wished for nor imagined. As Luke wrote in Acts 1:3, “To these Jesus presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”
And look at who Jesus was undeniably seen by. Verse 5 says Jesus came to Peter. Why is Peter singled out here? To show that any sin–even denial and desertion can be forgiven. Peter had just denied Christ three times. But after rising from the dead, Jesus said make sure you especially tell Peter.
Then in verse 6, Jesus appeared to more than 500–many of whom were still alive 20 years later when Paul wrote to the Corinthians and could personally testify to the fact of His bodily resurrection, “We saw Him!” Verse 7 says Jesus also appeared to His half-brother, James. Can you imagine what it would be like for your brother to come back from the dead and declare to you He is the Son of God? If my brother did that, I would smack him. But James didn’t, because there was no denying it.
Then verse 8, Jesus appeared to Paul and transformed Him from Christian-killer, to Christ-proclaimer.
But what if they were all wrong? Good question. Just for a moment, let’s examine the other options. If Jesus didn’t bodily rise from the dead, then what could have happened? Here’s what skeptics say.
First Some say the believers went to the wrong tomb
This view states that just after three days, the women who reported the body missing had, in their emotional state, gone to the wrong tomb. But if this is true, then all the disciples went to the wrong tomb, the crack Roman unit ended up guarding the wrong tomb, all the Jewish leaders who wanted Jesus dead also forgot which tomb He was in, and the owner of the tomb, Joseph of Arimathea also forgot where his own tomb was–not very likely.
Second Some say the resurrection was just a wishful hallucination
This theory asserts all those who saw Jesus wanted to see Him alive so badly, they dreamed Him up in their minds, somehow saw Him and talked to Him–therefore they believed Jesus had risen from the dead. Not only is this view unsupported by the psychological principles governing the appearances of hallucinations, but also doesn’t make sense.
For this to be true, everyone who saw Jesus would have to have imagined Him. Then every one of His post-resurrection appearances would also have been a hallucination. Every one of the 500 who saw Jesus after the resurrection also imagined Him. And again, all the Jewish leaders had to do was to produce the dead body to disprove the Christian claim–which they didn’t.
Third Some say Jesus did not die on the cross at all, but that He just fainted, or swooned
This theory says Jesus didn’t really die–He merely passed out from exhaustion and the loss of blood. Medical knowledge was not good back then, so everyone just thought He was dead. So what do they say happened next? They speared Jesus in the side, blood and water flowed out (signifying death). They wrapped Him in grave clothes about six inches thick, with a goop which made those clothes as hard as a cast. Then they laid Him in a tomb, rolled a two-ton stone in the way and put four to sixteen trained Roman soldiers there to guard it.
Then what happened next was incredible. Some moisture from the cave began to form on Jesus’ forehead and He awoke two days later. Though He’d been tortured, crucified and speared, He unwrapped Himself from the inside of this gigantic cast over His entire body, He removed the two-ton stone over the entrance, beat up all the guards and ran away. After that, He told everyone He’d risen from the dead. Mmm–not likely.
Fourth A few say Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, but that the disciples secretly came, stole His body and claimed He rose from the dead
How did this happen? The depressed and cowardly disciples, who fled when Jesus was arrested, finally banded together into a crack fighting unit. And while all the guards were asleep (which meant their death, if they were caught), the disciples quietly tip-toed past the Romans without a sound, rolled the two-ton boulder back, and stole the body away. After that and for the remainder of their lives, each of them separately and together, claimed that Jesus was alive. A claim that each one suffered and died for—because history tells us . . .
1. Peter was crucified upside down
2. Andrew was crucified, yet shared Christ for days
3. Matthew died by the sword
4. John is the only one who died a natural death, but we’re told he was boiled in oil twice for his faith in Christ
5. James, the son of Alphaeus was crucified
6. Philip was crucified
7. Simon was crucified
8. Thaddaeus was killed by arrows
9. James, the brother of Jesus was crushed by stones
10. Thomas was thrust through with a spear
11. Bartholomew was crucified
12. James, the son of Zebedee died from the sword
If the disciples stole the body, then every one of them died for a known lie. Is that what happened? Jesus’ followers couldn’t have faced torture and death, unless they were convinced of His resurrection. Their testimony of the resurrection is proof of the reality of Jesus and the truth of Christianity. When someone says prove it, just point to the tomb. Buddha is still in his. So are Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Confucius and Mary–but the tomb of Christ is empty. Point to the lives of those Jesus appeared to and say, would you knowingly die for a lie? The post-resurrection appearances of Christ are proof. Add to these evidences, the final proof of this passage.
#4 The proof of a CHANGED LIFE Verses 9 to 11
Look at verses 9 to 10, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”
A changed life is an incredible proof of the reality of Christ. Before meeting Jesus, Paul was an intolerant, proud, temperamental, bitter, persecuting, religious bigot. But after his conversion, he became a patient, kind, enduring and self-sacrificing servant of God. He changed from Christian killer to Christian equipper, from a religion to a relationship, from a Law lover to a love giver, from a Jewish zealot to a Gentile evangelist. The risen Christ totally changed Paul’s life and He can change yours as well–if you seek Him.
What changes did Jesus make in Paul? The Bible records four major changes here God will produce in every Christian. This describes the real thing, not the phony religiosity of today. Are these true of you?
First Disclosure of your own sinfulness
Look at verse 9, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Paul openly admitted his sinfulness. What about you? Are you honest about your sin? First John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 10If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” Do you admit sin or excuse it? Confess it or ignore it? Blame others or blame yourself? You can’t become right with God unless you admit sin.
Second Dependence upon God alone
Look at verse 10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain.” Salvation is by grace. The heart of a Christian admits everything in life, minus your sin, is grace. God’s grace is giving you what you don’t deserve–that which you could never get for yourself. God’s grace gave you your family, home and your job. You say, “Hey, I work really hard to keep my job.” Yes, but who gave you the strength to work hard? Are you a self-made person or one who is dependent on God’s grace alone? You can’t know Christ, unless you depend on God alone.
Third Dedication to serve others
Paul writes in verse 10b, “But I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” A true Christian serves not because of guilt or pressure, but because Jesus has given us so much, we can’t help but give back to the one who gave us everything. Is that your heart? Is there any ministry in your life that can only be explained by God serving through you?
Fourth Devoid of self
Although Paul admitted he had “labored even more than all of them,” he wasn’t concerned about who got the credit. Look at verse 11, “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” It didn’t matter who did the labor or who got credit, as long as those separated from God turned to Christ. God gives Christians a heart of love that destroys the competitive spirit to be better than others. To Paul, it didn’t matter who hit the ball, as long as home runs were made.
How about you? Are you a genuine believer or a make-believer? I know Christ is real because Christ changes lives. He changed Paul’s. Christ changed my life, and if you look around you, you’ll see what an amazing difference He has made in the lives of friends, family and acquaintances at Faith Bible Church, as you’ll hear in this testimony.
Jesus can change habits, transform personalities, heal hearts, forgive guilt, mend marriages, fix families, restore relationships, break bitterness and give you a love for others you never thought possible. And remember, it isn’t you (“it’s no longer I who live”), but it’s Christ who lives in you and through you. Only Christ can live the Christian life. Changed lives prove Christ is alive right now, right here. The proofs of Christianity are undeniable–fulfilled prophecies, post-resurrection appearances, and changed lives. Does your life prove Jesus is alive–that He’s real?
1. Listen, a Christian not only knows about Jesus, but knows Him intimately and personally, like a friend–do you?
2. A real Christian is not one who made a decision about Christ once–but someone who has Jesus, through His Spirit, living in you. You are born again, made new–are you?
3. A Christian is not one who comes to church semi-regularly, but someone who has been so blessed, forgiven, cleansed and loved by God that he or she, out of gratitude, gives their whole life to Christ in devoted service, 24 hours a day–that’s a genuine Christian. Are you one? You can be. Believe He is God who died for sin, and rose from the dead. Turn from your sin in repentance–hate your sin that He died for. Embrace Him with your life by faith, knowing it means you will follow Him with your whole heart until Heaven. Depend on Christ. Let’s pray. Jesus proved to us, He alone is the only way to Heaven.
Listen to Acts 17:31, “God… has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” If you realize you’re a sinner who has gone his own way, or a phony Christian who has been living a lie, or a religious person who has never met Jesus personally, or an irreligious person who wants to be forgiven, or a disobedient believer who now needs to follow Christ–then respond to the Spirit of God and His Word. If the Lord is working in your heart, you will do anything to get to know Him. Cry out to Christ to change your life.
But be warned–Jesus said in Matthew 10:32, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” If you mean business before God, you will tell others. If God is working in your life, you will tell others. You will tell the one who invited you today. You will share with your family and friends. You will even tell us today–nothing will stop you, if God is working in your heart to draw you to Himself, or for you to get your heart right with Him today. Do not leave this campus without sharing with someone. Remember, there are only two paths–one in Christ, and one on your own.
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