1 Corinthians 15:20
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept.
I. OUR LORD'S RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD IS THE PLEDGE AND EARNEST OF ALL CHRISTIAN HOPE.
1. That it should be the corner-stone of Christian doctrine strikes at the root of all religious theories which ignore the miraculous in Christianity. The story of Christ begins and closes with the supernatural — the incarnation and the resurrection.
2. It is constantly represented as the supreme fact in Christianity.
(1) Christ often foretells it as such (Matthew 17:9; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22; Matthew 12:40; John 2:19; John 11:25, etc.). He thus committed Himself to a test by which His claims might be proved, or the reverse.
(a) If He did not rise men would know He was a self-deceiver, if not an impostor.
(b) As the Holy Son of God He could not remain in the power of death, which is a penalty for sin.
(c) As such, moreover, He might give Himself up to death for a time, to secure a great end in the economy of salvation, but He must have life, indestructible, in Himself — must rise.
(2) The apostles made it the supreme fact in their preaching (Acts 4:2; Acts 1:22; Acts 4:33; Acts 23:6; Romans 4:1; Romans 6:5; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 1:3; 1 Peter 3:21).
3. It was established by evidence which admitted no question in the mind of St. Paul, long the bitter opponent of Christianity (vers. 5-8).
II. WHY SO MUCH STRESS IS LAID ON THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
1. It was the confirmation of all His promises as the founder of a new religion.
(1) Had He lain in the grave the proof to which He appealed, of being sent to save men, would have been wanting.
(2) His resurrection was a confirmation of His claims by the Eternal Father.
(a) Of His claims to be an atoning sacrifice for sin. Of His being, in reality, the Son of God. "Declared to be the Son of God, with power," etc.
(b) Of His having entered into His glory at the head of the new spiritual kingdom He had founded.
(3) In the presence of His resurrection all doubts vanish from the minds of the apostles as to His being able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Him (vers. 14, 17-19; cf. Romans 8:34).
(4) But, now that He is risen, all is bright with a glorious hope. "He was raised for our justification, having obtained eternal redemption for us." "We have an advocate with the Father." "He ever liveth to make intercession for us."
2. It was the pledge of our own resurrection and future happiness. The words spoken over the tomb of Lazarus come back with awful power from the heavens now Christ is risen .... I am the resurrection and the life." Those, also, spoken to His disciples — "Because I live ye shall live also."(1) In Him humanity conquered death. The destiny of man linked with Him. He is the first-fruits. the streamer that heralds the day. The bud of spring that foretells the glory of June.
(2) He has thus brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. The contrast between the darkness of the future before Christ and its holy radiance since. Caesar demanding that Cataline should be spared since death ended existence. Cicero bewailing his daughter's death without a ray of hope beyond earth.
(3) Christ's resurrection has "begotten us again to a lively hope." It has attracted us to the eternal world as the home of our Elder Brother.
3. It is the constraining impulse to a holy life.
(1) To be like Christ the ideal of His followers, since He showed us the path by which alone we can gain a happy immortality. Gratitude and love draws out the heart to an absolute devotion to His service, that service being a holy life. As He has risen, so we are constrained to seek a spiritual resurrection from our old selves to newness of life, to be like Him, and hereafter rejoin Him.
(2) His resurrection has secured us heavenly grace to assist us on this course (Acts 2:23: John 16:7).
(3) The resurrection of Christ is a pledge of the future triumph of His kingdom. "All power given Him in heaven and on earth." "He must reign."
(Cunningham Geikie, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.