Friends, let me go over the Message with you one final time - this Message that I proclaimed and that you made your own; this Message on which you took your stand
and by which your life has been saved. (I'm assuming, now, that your belief was the real thing and not a passing fancy, that you're in this for good and holding fast.)
The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it;
that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says;
that he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers,
and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time, most of them still around (although a few have since died);
that he then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him;
and that he finally presented himself alive to me.
It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don't deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God's church right out of existence.
But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I'm not about to let his grace go to waste. Haven't I worked hard trying to do more than any of the others? Even then, my work didn't amount to all that much. It was God giving me the work to do, God giving me the energy to do it.
So whether you heard it from me or from those others, it's all the same: We spoke God's truth and you entrusted your lives.
Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection?
If there's no resurrection, there's no living Christ.
And face it - if there's no resurrection for Christ, everything we've told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you've staked your life on is smoke and mirrors.
Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ - sheer fabrications, if there's no resurrection.
If corpses can't be raised, then Christ wasn't, because he was indeed dead.
And if Christ wasn't raised, then all you're doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever.
It's even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they're already in their graves.
If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we're a pretty sorry lot.
But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.
There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man.
Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ.
But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming,
the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father.
He won't let up until the last enemy is down -
and the very last enemy is death!
As the psalmist said, "He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them." When Scripture says that "he walked all over them," it's obvious that he couldn't at the same time be walked on.
When everything and everyone is finally under God's rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God's rule is absolutely comprehensive - a perfect ending!
Why do you think people offer themselves to be baptized for those already in the grave? If there's no chance of resurrection for a corpse, if God's power stops at the cemetery gates, why do we keep doing things that suggest he's going to clean the place out someday, pulling everyone up on their feet alive?
And why do you think I keep risking my neck in this dangerous work?
I look death in the face practically every day I live. Do you think I'd do this if I wasn't convinced of your resurrection and mine as guaranteed by the resurrected Messiah Jesus?
Do you think I was just trying to act heroic when I fought the wild beasts at Ephesus, hoping it wouldn't be the end of me? Not on your life! It's resurrection, resurrection, always resurrection, that undergirds what I do and say, the way I live. If there's no resurrection, "We eat, we drink, the next day we die," and that's all there is to it.
But don't fool yourselves. Don't let yourselves be poisoned by this anti-resurrection loose talk. "Bad company ruins good manners."
Think straight. Awaken to the holiness of life. No more playing fast and loose with resurrection facts. Ignorance of God is a luxury you can't afford in times like these. Aren't you embarrassed that you've let this kind of thing go on as long as you have?