“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (ESV – Read the chapter)
Pay close attention to Paul’s argument and his conclusion here because this is perhaps the single most important argument in the whole of the Scriptures in terms of its central importance to the Christian faith. The resurrection is the historical event on which the whole of the Christian faith rests. If we can successfully prove this one thing, everything else that we claim to be right and true flows from it. Everything. Without it, the whole structure of the faith crumbles and falls into the dust. If you were to choose one truth claim of the Christian faith to make sure someone else believes and understands, this is the one.
And look here for why. If there was no resurrection, then Christ did not defeat death. If Christ did not defeat death, then we are still stuck in our sins. We have no access to life. We are playing a complex game that ultimately has no purpose. We are giving our lives for a lie. We are denying ourselves many of the pleasures of this world for no reason.
What’s more, Jesus is a liar if there is no resurrection. He said that He would be raised from the dead on the third day after He was killed. A claim like that, absent justification, makes someone either an insufferable egomaniac or else a lunatic. Or both. You are forced to see everything they say through the lens of crazy. In other words and again, the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the lynchpin of the whole of Christianity. If it’s not true, none of the rest of it is.
So, how can we know it’s true? There are many arguments out there, but perhaps the most well-known and important is Gary Habermas’ “Minimal Facts Approach.” His argument is that nearly all scholars accept these twelve facts about the resurrection whether or not they believe it is an actual, historical event. And if these are all true, then the best explanation of them is that the resurrection really did happen just as the Scriptures proclaim it. These 12 facts are:
- Jesus died by crucifixion.
- Jesus was buried.
- His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
- The tomb was empty on the third day.
- The disciples had experiences they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus.
- The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers.
- The resurrection was their central message.
- They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem.
- The Church was born and grew.
- Orthodox Jews who believed in Christ made Sunday their primary day of worship.
- James (Jesus’ doubting half-brother) was converted to the faith after experiencing the resurrected Jesus.
- Paul was converted to the faith.
Of these, 1, 5, and 6 are the most important. Based on this argument, though, we can have great confidence that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead and that our faith is not ever in vain.