So far we've noted two major implications if Christ is not risen. First, he would be utterly unqualified to be a savior. Second, there would be no salvation: no justification, no sanctification, no glorification. We now turn to the third and final conclusion that a dead Christ would demand.
If Christ is not risen, we who believe in him are fools. Perhaps the word "stupid" would be more appropriate, but I recently learned from a precious five-year-old girl that Christians shouldn't use that word.
Why use such harsh language? Because Paul does in 1 Corinthians 15:14-15. There he declared that "if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised."
We, in effect, are guilty of blasphemy if Christ is not risen. How so? By lying to people about God, declaring that he raised Christ from the dead when in fact he did no such thing.
Consider the countless missionaries who have devoted their lives to a lie, if Christ is not risen. Consider the countless throngs whom they've led to faith in a dead Christ rather than a living one. Consider those who've lost their lives in the service of a myth, a fable, an utter fabrication. If Christ is not risen, all is for nothing. Your hope is baseless, your faith is futile, your beliefs are worth less than those who still leave cookies and milk for Santa Clause on Christmas Eve.
Paul went on in 1 Corinthians 15:19 to make his point as pointed as possible: "If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." There are many who deserve our pity. We feel sorry for those who are victims of devastating natural disasters, whether tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, or mudslides. We pity those who are born with HIV because of the reckless sexual antics of their mother or father. We pity the homeless, those convicted of crimes they haven't committed, and a host of others.
But we Christians are most to be pitied, for we have staked our eternal destiny on a fairy tale. We have built our lives and made our decisions and chosen our mates and spent our money and raised our kids and denied ourselves for a pie-in-the-sky, by-and-by dream that lacks any historical or empirical or substantive reality.
So, too, the early disciples. Some have argued that the disciples knew Jesus didn't rise from the dead but fabricated the story to justify their commitment and sustain the struggling Christian movement. If so, I suppose their conversation on the matter would have gone something like this:
"Hey, Peter. Matthew, Philip, John, and the rest of us have been thinking. It's not much fun hiding in fear of the Romans and the Jewish leaders. So, why don't we make up the story that Jesus actually came back to life! That way we will be guaranteed incredible persecution and pain and opposition. I mean, some of us will get tortured and beat up and whipped. We will probably lose our families and friends, our homes, money, and pretty much everything else. And a few of us might even be lucky enough to get stoned to death or beheaded!"
Peter, stroking his beard, then scratching his head, looks up and says: "Yeah! Sounds like a really good idea. Let's go for it!"
I'm sorry, but even moderately sane people don't deliberately concoct what they know to be a lie for the purpose of bringing destruction and devastation on themselves and all they hold dear.
But Christ is risen! Therefore,
(1) We are NOT in our sins, for he has not only died but has been raised as proof that his sufferings on our behalf were fully sufficient to satisfy the wrath we deserved.
(2) We are NOT powerless in our struggle with the flesh, for the Spirit of Christ has come and dwells within to empower and convict and enable and lead.
(3) We DO have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, who intercedes on our behalf at the throne of grace.
(4) We CAN exult in tribulations and distress, trial and adversity, knowing that the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is yet to be revealed.
(5) We DO have a basis for our faith and a valid message to proclaim to a lost and dying world.
(6) A day IS coming when Christ shall return and receive his own to himself.
(7) We DO have hope for the final resurrection and glorification of the body, when our lowly frame will be conformed to the image of Christ himself.
How does this affect you? Is it a cold, dead doctrine? Or is it the joy of your life, the bulwark of your faith, the basis and foundation of your daily experience?
So, in conclusion, let's call roll among the dead:
"Julius Caesar?" . . . "Here!"
"Muhammad?" . . . "Here!"
"Buddha?" . . . "Present!"
"Ghandi?" . . . "Yo!"
"Joseph Smith?" . . . "Here!"
"Jesus?" "Jesus?" "Where is Jesus?"
The only reply is that of the angel, who said to the women at the tomb on that glorious Easter morning:
"He is NOT here! For he has risen, just as he said!"