Does it really matter that much what we believe? In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul gives a clear answer: Yes, it matters. Belief in Christ’s resurrection is fundamental to one’s faith. If Christ has not been raised our faith is useless.
Some of us have no problem believing that Christ rose from the dead. Perhaps we’ve grown up with the faith, and it simply has made sense to us. Or we’ve been convicted by our sin and have come to Christ, recognizing our only hope is in Him. We can’t imagine not believing in Christ’s resurrection – or in Christ’s coming, his death, and our deliverance from sin! Our faith has been a gift that we have cherished. To those of us for whom that is the story, Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15 might seem a bit excessive to us, even if we admire his passion.
Others of us, though, aren’t so sure. We question: how can one just believe it? How do you not have questions? Or doubts? Either about the resurrection, God, or faith in general. Paul makes a great logical argument, and this belief seems reasonable, but we’re still not sure that Christ has risen. There’s no real proof. There’s no rigorous scholarship that can guarantee that the events reported in the Bible are true.
These two groups don’t get along that well. One side finds the other ignorant for not having questions and the other group finds the questioners to not have enough faith. And we in the church don’t really know what to do that, so we often pretend there is no issue.
Nonetheless, my experience with graduate students has taught me that there is indeed an issue – one that is causing a lot of pain, disconnect, and even mistrust. A lot of people wonder whether the resurrection or even this whole Christianity thing is really true. And they are taught to be ashamed of their questioning and doubt (and please be quiet about it already). Or they quietly walk away to places where they are allowed to wonder and doubt. And often those are places where Christianity and Jesus and the resurrection get lost behind other important causes and teachings.
The church actually has a long tradition of questions and doubting. It is, after all, because of the doubts of the Corinthians that Paul has even written this letter. The force of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15 makes it obvious that the Corinthians were clearly not sure about the resurrection. To the Corinthians, resurrection of the dead was simply too strange. The culture around them didn’t believe in resurrection, so how could they?
These people, who lived close to the actual time of Christ’s resurrection, were unsure that it happened. Today, we are hundreds of years further. We live in a culture that has put scientific reasoning above so much else – so if you can’t prove it, it’s not true. Or if you do believe it’s true, it’s because you just haven’t learned to reason well enough. As for those of us here and in society who have concluded that reason is not always the answer to all our problems, we have instead become tolerant of everything – and any crazy idea is okay to believe. Whether it’s true is irrelevant.
In the midst of all of this skepticism, how can one believe in the resurrection?
I wonder if those of us who’ve grown up in the church truly realize how crazy it is to believe in the resurrection. We know Paul’s argument about why you need to believe the resurrection – because otherwise your whole faith is useless and you’re stuck in your sins. And so we think it makes sense because it has always been a normal part of our lives.
However, as Paul says in the first chapter of 1 Corinthians – Christ crucified and thus, by inference also his resurrection – is foolishness to the Greeks. Believing in the resurrection is truly absurd.
It is not because we are smart enough – or dumb enough – or even too scared to question – that we believe. Instead it is grace. When you believe something wholeheartedly – something that to the rest of the world makes no sense – that is grace. And growing to believe something that you yourself think makes no sense – that, too, is grace.
Taken from Brenda’s sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s 17 and 1 Corinthians 15, preached on September 25 at River Terrace Church.