I Corinthians 15.3-20
3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that
Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4And that he was
buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater
part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8And last of all
he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
9For I am the
least of the apostles, that am not meet 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 which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured
more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with
11Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye
12Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how
say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have
testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that
the dead rise not.
16For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ
17And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet
in your sins.
18Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are
19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all
men most miserable.
20But now is Christ risen from the dead, and
become the firstfruits of them that slept.
Last Lord's Day I was preaching at Bethel Chapel, Guildford, Surrey. My text in the evening was I Corinthians 15.13-20, which I give above with the preceding verses. Around the corner from Bethel is the building shown above. I have always thought it must have been a chapel, but only recently was my old suspicion, that it was the Unitarian chapel, confirmed. Now the Unitarians deny the resurrection of Christ. They hold that He was a mere human teacher who probably died on the cross and remained dead, but that his teaching is still very valuable and wise. Nonsense! He is true Almighty God, the eternal maker of all things. He rose from the dead on the third day, confirming all that He did.
If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christianity is nonsense! It is a Satanic lie. As Paul says:
"If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what
advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we
die. " (I Cor. 15.32)
If it's not true, then we are all hopeless and helpless. Without the resurrection, Jesus died as a blasphemer, and He was nothing more - no more nonsense about Him being a 'wise teacher', please!
And that is where this old chapel comes in. It's a youth centre now. And quite right too! If Christ has died and is still dead, then close the churches, turn them into something useful!
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept."
This is a fact! the Christian confession is not "you ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!" No, at the risk of conflating two hymns, it's: you ask me how I know He lives? The Bible tells me so! Gresham Machen makes the point in his article 'History and Faith':
"History is relentlessly plain. The foundation of the Church is either
inexplicable, or else it is to be explained by the resurrection of Jesus from
the dead. But if the resurrection is accepted, then the lofty claims of Jesus
are substantitated; Jesus was then no mere man, but God and man, God come in the
flesh." (Selected Shorter Writings of J. Gresham Machen (Presbyterian
and Reformed, 2004), P. 105)
The Unitarian, rejecting both, is powerless, and it was only natural for the chapel to close. No Easter, no Pentecost, no Church.
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that
Jesus lives! thy terrors now
can no longer, death, appall us;
Jesus lives! by this we know
thou, O grave, canst not enthrall us.